December 12, 2012

Language Barrier
Mark Pagel: Languages act as powerful social anchors of our tribal identity. How we speak is a continual auditory reminder of who we are and, equally as important, who we are not. Anyone who can speak your particular dialect is a walking, talking advertisement for the values and cultural history you share. What’s more, where different groups live in close proximity, distinct languages are an effective way to prevent eavesdropping or the loss of important information to a competitor. (New Scientist)

Information in the Origin of Life
Instead of trying to recreate the chemical building blocks that gave rise to life 3.7 billion years ago, scientists should use key differences in the way that living creatures store and process information, suggests new research detailed today in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface. (Tia Ghose, LiveScience)

More on the Religiousness of America
Frank Newport: It is increasingly likely that other changes in the practice of religion and spirituality among Americans will spring up in the years ahead. These changes don’t mean that religion as a whole is becoming less relevant, only different. Religion remains a fundamentally potent and prevalent force in American society today—and one that is likely to remain so in the years ahead. (The Washington Post)

Does the Universe Have a Purpose?

It’s a profound question, and scientists disagree on the answer. In a new Minute Physics video, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson says he cannot give a conclusive answer but argues that the universe is more random and less purposeful than many think it is. (Dominique Mosbergen, The Huffington Post)

Nature and Poetry

When two leading scholars get together to swap stories, you might expect the conversation to meander to unexpected places. This was certainly the case last week at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, where evolutionary biologist E.O. Wilson and former U.S. poet laureate Robert Hass had a freewheeling discourse that became lost in the mysteries of nature. (Amy Maxmen, CultureLab, New Scientist)

Category: Field Notes


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