December 4, 2012

What Curiosity Has Discovered on Mars
NASA’s Curiosity rover has indeed found something in the Martian dirt. But so far, there’s no definitive sign of the chemical ingredients necessary to support life. A scoop of sandy soil analyzed by Curiosity’s sophisticated chemistry laboratory contained water and a mix of chemicals, but not complex carbon-based molecules considered essential for life. (Alicia Chang, Associated Press)

Near Death Visions
Sitting atop clouds fluffy and white, heaven may be waiting. We can’t prove that it is not. But rather than helping to clarify, the near death experience, not dependent on death, only points to an ever interesting and complex human brain, nothing more. (Kyle Hill, Scientific American)

More on Money and Happiness
Most recently, a study of rich and poor countries finds that individual wealth, material possessions, and optimism are linked to greater well-being. The findings are contrary to one theory on happiness, which suggests while the rich are happier overall than the poor, increases in income don’t give happiness a boost. “We’ve found that rising income does lead to rising happiness, but it depends on people being optimistic, not having sky-high desires, and the average person being actually able to afford more things,” psychologist and study researcher Ed Diener of the University of Illinois said in a statement. (Jeanna Bryner, LiveScience)

Nostalgia Could Keep You Warm
Indulging in nostalgia could be an effective way to combat cold temperatures, according to new research that shows the fuzzy, heart-warming feeling has real body-warming effects. “Nostalgia is experienced frequently and virtually by everyone, and we know that it can maintain psychological comfort. For example, nostalgic reverie can combat loneliness,” Tim Wildschut, a psychology researcher of the University of Southampton in England, explained in a statement. “We wanted to take that a step further and assess whether it can also maintain physiological comfort.” (LiveScience)

Using Animal Behavior to Teach Robots to Deceive
Deception is something that people do all the time—and it plays an important role in military strategy. Now some researchers are trying to figure out how to get robots to do it, by looking at the behavior of squirrels and birds. (Jesse Emspak, Discovery News)

Why Are Older People More Vulnerable to Fraud?
One explanation may lie in a brain region that serves as a built-in crook detector. Called the anterior insula, this structure—which fires up in response to the face of an unsavory character—is less active in older people, possibly making them less cagey than younger folks, a new study finds. (Elizabeth Norton, ScienceNOW)

Category: Field Notes

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