November 30, 2012

Reading Emotion in Body Language
Photos of athletes in their moment of victory or defeat usually show faces contorted with intense emotion. But a new study suggests that people actually don’t use those kinds of extreme facial expressions to judge how a person is feeling. Instead, surprisingly, people rely on body cues. (Nell Greenfieldboyce, Morning Edition, NPR)

Described for the first time in Science, Spaun—the Semantic Pointer Architecture Unified Network—is the brainchild of Chris Eliasmith, a theoretical neuroscientist at the University of Waterloo in Canada, and his colleagues. It stands apart from other attempts to simulate a brain, such as the ambitious Blue Brain Project, because it produces complex behaviors with fewer neurons. (Ed Yong, Nature)

When Guitarists Play Together
The brain waves of two musicians synchronize when they are performing a duet, a new study found, suggesting that there’s a neural blueprint for coordinating actions with others. (LiveScience)

Ice on Mercury
Indeed, Mercury, the closest planet to the sun, possesses a lot of ice—100 billion to 1 trillion tons—scientists working with NASA’s Messenger spacecraft reported. Sean Solomon, the principal investigator for Messenger, said there was enough ice there to encase Washington, D.C., in a frozen block two and a half miles deep. (Kenneth Chang, The New York Times)

Televangelist Pat Robertson on Creationism
“You go back in time, you’ve got radiocarbon dating. You got all these things, and you’ve got the carcasses of dinosaurs frozen in time out in the Dakotas,” Pat Robertson said. “They’re out there. So, there was a time when these giant reptiles were on the Earth, and it was before the time of the Bible. So, don’t try and cover it up and make like everything was 6,000 years. That’s not the Bible.” (Dan Merica, CNN)

Are We Being Turned Into Cyborgs?
Last year, the number of Internet users topped 2.4 billion—more than a third of all humans on the planet. The time spent on the screen was 16 hours per week globally—double that in high-use countries, and much of that on social media. We have changed how we interact. Are we also changing what we are? We put that question to three people who have written extensively on the subject, and brought them together to discuss it with Serge Schmemann. (International Herald Tribune Magazine)

Evolution Must Be Taught at Free Schools in England
The new rules state that from 2013, all free schools in England must teach evolution as a “comprehensive and coherent scientific theory.” The move follows scientists’ concerns that free schools run by creationists might avoid teaching evolution. (Judith Burns, BBC News)

Category: Field Notes


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