February 28, 2013

Dennis Tito’s Big Announcement
This week, the Inspiration Mars Foundation, a newly formed nonprofit organization, announced plans for a mission to Mars launching on January 5, 2018 and arriving at the planet in August of that year. Dennis Tito, who in 2001 became the first space tourist to visit the International Space Station, heads the foundation. The trip will be funded primarily by philanthropic donations—but Tito has committed to personally covering the first two years of mission development, no matter how much it costs. (Jacob Aron and Lisa Grossman, New Scientist)

Psychological Challenges of a Crewed Mission to Mars
While humans have a long history of setting off into the unknown on our own planet and in the immediate vicinity, space travel beyond low-Earth orbit and the moon—and what it means for the mental well-being of human crews—is a new frontier. (Jane Lee, National Geographic)

Pessimism About the Future Could Have Health Benefits for Older Adults
A growing body of research has credited the power of positive thinking for contributing to good health and a longer, happier life. But a new study out of Germany suggests people who are pessimistic about their futures—specifically older people—may find greater life satisfaction down the road than their more optimistic peers. (Sarah Boesveld, National Post)

The Games Neanderthals Didn’t Play as Children
April Nowell: I think that it is only through years of “training” their unique brains through fantasy play in childhood that modern humans were able to create fantastical symbolical artworks like the Chauvet bison-woman. The shorter Neanderthal childhood, combined with their lack of complex fantasy play, influenced the adults they became, and the artifacts they left behind. (New Scientist)

Why Do We Care Whether Animals Can Appreciate Art?
One of the things that’s often presented as uniquely human is art. We have Picasso, Monet, Banksy, and Michelangelo. Animals do not. And yet, curiously, we seem to be obsessed with understanding whether or not animals can make and understand art. (Rose Eveleth, Smart News, Smithsonian.com)

More on the John Freshwater Case in Ohio
State Supreme Court justices sparred with lawyers on Wednesday in a heated hour of arguments over the extent to which a now-fired public school science teacher had the right to push his religious beliefs in class. (Julie Carr Smyth and Andrew Welsh-Huggins, Associated Press)

BOOKS
The God Argument

The book is in two halves—the first is philosopher A.C. Grayling’s case against religion; the second outlines the humanist alternative, which is “an ethics free from religious or superstitious aspects, an outlook that has its roots in rich philosophical traditions.” (Bryan Appleyard, New Statesman)

Category: Field Notes

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