November 9, 2012

Voting for Darwin
Many scientists were outraged when a video surfaced in October of Representative Paul Broun, a Georgia Republican who chairs the House Science Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, saying that evolution and embryology were “lies straight from the pit of hell.” Broun was running for re-election unopposed, so it seemed there was little they could do. But a write-in campaign for Charles Darwin attracted nearly 4,000 votes, and other write-in votes went to “Bill Nye, the Science Guy,” Big Bird, and “Anyone but Broun,” The Athens Banner-Herald reported. (Inside Higher Ed)

Are Suicides More Common in Wealthier Neighborhoods?
The study’s authors do point to findings that higher income generally lowers suicide risk. For example, an individual with family income less than 10,000 dollars (in 1990 dollars) is 50 percent more likely to commit suicide than an individual with income above 60,000 dollars. The twist comes when you look at low-income individuals who live in high-income areas. According to the study, they face greater suicide risk than those living in low-income areas. The study’s authors call it a “behavioral response to unfavorable interpersonal income comparisons.” (Josh Sanburn, TIME)

Positive Visions of the Future
Our environment is a mess, we have a nasty tendency to misuse technologies, and we’re becoming increasingly capable of destroying ourselves. But civilizational demise is by no means guaranteed. Should we find a way to manage the risks and avoid dystopic outcomes, our far future looks astonishingly bright. Here are seven best-case scenarios for the future of humanity. (George Dvorsky, io9)

Jen Shang

Jen Shang understands the power of prayer—to open wallets. Shang, who bills herself as the only philanthropic psychologist in the world, recently advised a religious organization to tinker with a direct-mail fund-raising solicitation, to encourage potential donors to pray before deciding to give. (David Wallis, The New York Times)

How to Create a Mind

When it comes to the human brain, many scientists believe that we are incapable of understanding how it works because we lack the tools and intelligence to measure its mind-blowing complexity. Others are starting to question that notion, and to subtly redefine the task. In How to Create a Mind, futurist Ray Kurzweil has ridden into battle for the challengers. (Laura Spinney, CultureLab, New Scientist)

Category: Field Notes


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