November 19, 2012

Buddhist Nuns Visit CERN
A dozen kung fu nuns from an Asian Buddhist order displayed their martial arts prowess to bemused scientists at CERN as their spiritual leader explained how their energy was like that of the cosmos. The nuns, all from the Himalayan region, struck poses of hand-chops, high-kicks, and punches while touring the research center where physicists at the frontiers of science are probing the origins of the universe. (Robert Evans, Reuters)

People Have Higher Pain Thresholds After Performing Music or Dancing
University of Oxford psychologist Robin Dunbar and his colleagues argue that their results “at least provide prima facie evidence that music generates the kind of endorphin ‘highs’” that can trigger cooperation—the sort of behavior that was essential for human society to evolve. (Tom Jacobs, Pacific Standard)

Our Emotional Response to Art
The sweeping lines and blocks of color in abstract art prompt us to respond emotionally in ways that we do not really understand. Now computers are getting in on the act, and the results could add a new dimension to the weird world of artificial creativity. (Hal Hodson, New Scientist)

Should a Professor Be Allowed to Require Civility?
A new kind of “civil” rights debate is brewing at Queen’s University in Ontario. At issue is the “civility clause” psychology professor Jill Jacobson included in her third-year course syllabus, which some view as encroaching on free speech rights. A formal complaint launched against Jacobson earlier this year has come to light in recent days, inciting a Canadian media firestorm, and the university is now reviewing the policy. (Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed)

Defining Science and Religion
Andrew Brown: I am quite happy to say that science could function as a religion, in some modes and in some societies, while at the same time functioning as science. And it ought to be perfectly possible to distinguish between the two uses. Here’s how. (

Science Friday Sues Creationist Radio Program “Real Science Friday”
NPR’s Science Friday is a multimedia machine with radio broadcasts on NPR, podcasts, online content, and more. It’s backed by the Science Friday Initiative, which performs additional outreach intended to help give the public access to the latest in science. Bob Enyart’s program also has all of the above (the radio program, the podcasts, the YouTube videos). But it lacks the backing of a foundation—and the science part. (John Timmer, Ars Technica)

The Half-Life of Facts

The point, according to Samuel Arbesman, an applied mathematician and the author of the delightfully nerdy The Half-Life of Facts, is that knowledge—the collection of “accepted facts”—is far less fixed than we assume. In every discipline, facts change in predictable, quantifiable ways, Arbesman contends, and understanding these changes isn’t just interesting but also useful. (David Shaywitz, The Wall Street Journal)

Category: Field Notes


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