February 13, 2013

Could Brain Activity Predict Which Love Will Last?
In the journal Neuroscience Letters, a research team led by Stony Brook University psychologist Xiaomeng Xu provides “preliminary evidence that neural responses in the early stages of romantic love can predict relationship stability and quality up to 40 months later.” In a small-scale study, lovers who showed certain levels of activity in specific parts of the brain were more likely to be together three and a half years later—and, if together, were more likely to feel committed to their relationship. ( Tom Jacobs, Pacific Standard)

Young Bonobos Give Consolation
Although bonobos are known as the “empathic” apes, researchers previously thought that comforting behavior was too complex for juveniles to grasp. But studies at the Lola Ya Bonobo sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo revealed that the youngsters often consoled the losers of social squabbles. Researchers also found that apes raised by their mothers were more likely to offer comfort than orphans. (Ella Davies, BBC Nature)

What Makes Ex-Gang Members and Political Extremists Choose an Anti-Violence Path?
In two settings of extraordinary violence—gangland urban America and the Middle East of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—what makes some people act heroically and empathically toward others? Like many of their peers, study subjects had rough early lives and experienced deep personal tragedy. But researchers found that these ex-gang members and extremists—aka “transformers”—tended to be securely attached to parents or other inspiring role models in childhood. Even more importantly, they had personal, meaningful encounters with the “other side.” (Bonnie Tsui, The Atlantic Cities)

Charitable Giving and “Scope Insensitivity”
When asked to give money to help some number of needy people, say 100, we ignore the number 100. We can’t verify that number anyway, so instead we substitute easy-to-read cues, like our feelings for a single needy person. We focus on a prototype of all needy people. Christopher Hsee of the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business has been using this cognitive principle to come up with practical advice for those in the philanthropy business. (Wray Herbert, The Huffington Post)

Don Juan Pond
At 40 percent salinity, the pond is the saltiest body of water on the planet. It’s 18 times saltier than the ocean. Even though it’s in Antarctica, it’s so salty that it never freezes in conditions that get to 40 degrees below zero. But how does it get all that salt? New research from Brown University seems to have uncovered the answer, and it could mean that ponds like Don Juan Pond are possible on Mars. (Rose Eveleth, Smart News, Smithsonian.com)

Public Opinion Survey on the Exploration of Mars
Americans are confident we’ll get there eventually, and once they were told there are currently two operational NASA rovers on the planet, 67 percent of people agreed the United States should send both humans and robots there. (Rebecca Boyle, Popular Science)

The Missouri Standard Science Act
Instead of being quiet about its intent, it redefines science, provides a clearer definition of intelligent design than any of the idea’s advocates ever have, and mandates equal treatment of the two. In the process, it mangles things so badly that teachers would be prohibited from discussing Mendel’s Laws. (John Timmer, Ars Technica)

Category: Field Notes

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