November 16, 2012

Could Attention to Global Climate Change Decrease Support for War?
Climate change has the clear potential to cause conflict, as migrants flee no-longer-habitable areas and nations fight over increasingly scarce natural resources. But newly published research offers a more hopeful scenario. It presents tentative evidence that fears of a warming planet could bring earthlings together in a common cause. “Increased awareness of the shared threat of global climate change can, at least under some circumstances, reduce support for war, and promote efforts at peaceful coexistence and international cooperation,” writes a research team led by psychologist Tom Pyszczynski of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. (Tom Jacobs, Pacific Standard)

Oldest Known Stone-Tipped Spears Discovered
Human ancestors were fashioning sophisticated hunting weapons half a million years ago. An analysis of stone points from a site in South Africa called Kathu Pan 1 indicates that they were attached to shafts of wood and used as spears. The finding pushes the earliest appearance of hafted multicomponent tools back by some 200,000 years. (Kate Wong, Scientific American)

Scanning the Brains of Rappers to Study Creativity
Siyuan Liu and Allen Braun, neuroscientists at the U.S. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders in Bethesda, Maryland, and their colleagues had 12 rappers freestyle in a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine. The artists also recited a set of memorized lyrics chosen by the researchers. By comparing the brain scans from rappers taken during freestyling to those taken during the rote recitation, they were able to see which areas of the brain are used during improvisation. (Daniel Cressey, Nature)

Einstein’s Genius
Many researchers have assumed that it took a very special brain to come up with the theory of relativity and other stunning insights that form the foundation of modern physics. A study of 14 newly discovered photographs of Einstein’s brain, which was preserved for study after his death, concludes that the brain was indeed highly unusual in many ways. But researchers still don’t know exactly how the brain’s extra folds and convolutions translated into Einstein’s amazing abilities. (Michael Balter, ScienceNOW)

Words and Their Meanings
Now, for the first time, patterns of brain activity have been matched with the meanings of specific words. The discovery is a step forward in our attempts to read thoughts from brain activity alone, and could help doctors identify awareness in people with brain damage. (Douglas Heaven, New Scientist)

BOOK
Can Animals Be Moral?

The book, Can Animals Be Moral?, suggests social mammals such as rats, dogs, and chimpanzees can choose to be good or bad. And because they have morality, we have moral obligations to them, said author Mark Rowlands, a University of Miami philosopher. “Animals are owed a certain kind of respect that they wouldn’t be owed if they couldn’t act morally,” Rowlands told LiveScience. But while some animals have complex emotions, they don’t necessarily have true morality, other researchers argue. (Tia Ghose, LiveScience)

Category: Field Notes

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