March 5, 2013

The Story Behind the Hunt for the Higgs Boson
For almost half a century, physicists had chased its quantum ghost through labyrinths of mathematics and logic, and through tons of electronics at powerful particle colliders, all to no avail. Now it had come down to the Large Hadron Collider, where two armies of physicists, each 3,000 strong, struggled against each other and against nature, in a friendly but deadly serious competition. In physics tradition, they were there to check and complement each other in a 10-billion-dollar experiment too valuable to trust to only one group, no matter how brilliant and highly motivated. (Dennis Overbye, The New York Times)

Persistence of Psychopathy
In a new study, student volunteers who scored higher on a test of psychopathy acted more ruthlessly toward partners in a behavioral economics game when they felt disrespected by those partners or were unlikely to see them again, researchers report in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The findings suggest how psychopathic traits can exist in the population and be advantageous. (Tanya Lewis, LiveScience)

Our Relationship With Dogs
Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods: We often think of evolution as being the survival of the fittest, where the strong and the dominant survive and the soft and weak perish. But essentially, far from the survival of the leanest and meanest, the success of dogs comes down to survival of the friendliest. Most likely, it was wolves that approached us, not the other way around, probably while they were scavenging around garbage dumps on the edge of human settlements. The wolves that were bold but aggressive would have been killed by humans, and so only the ones that were bold and friendly would have been tolerated. (National Geographic)

Not All Scientists Are Atheists
Sylvia McLain: I really hate to be the one to break the news, but scientist is not synonymous with atheist. Scientists also don’t all have the same gender, race, sexual orientation, or political ideology, much less religion or lack thereof. Whether or not a person is religious, with respect to their vocation as a scientist, is completely irrelevant. Just like sexual orientation, race, and gender should be irrelevant to being a scientist. (Occam’s Corner, The Guardian)

EXHIBIT
Extinction: Not the End of the World?

It’s not something that you would expect London’s Natural History Museum to extol, but its new exhibition says extinction may not be so bad after all. “Extinction, like death, is a natural part of life,” declares a sage epigraph at the start of this thoughtful exhibition. “Extinction isn’t necessarily the end of the world, it could be just the beginning …” The exhibition aims to make visitors question their ideas on extinction. (Shaoni Bhattacharya, CultureLab, New Scientist)

Category: Field Notes

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