July 9, 2013

Using a New Embryo Screening Method
Connor, a healthy baby boy, has made history. He is the first child to be born after his parents had the entire genomes of a batch of their IVF embryos screened for abnormalities, with the intention of picking the healthiest for implantation. The technique could increase the number of successful pregnancies from IVF. And although the researchers stopped short of actually sequencing the boy’s genome, the advance is proof that this could be done—potentially ushering in an era of designer babies. (Linda Geddes, New Scientist)

Benefits of Nostalgia
After a decade of study, nostalgia isn’t what it used to be—it’s looking a lot better. Nostalgia has been shown to counteract loneliness, boredom and anxiety. It makes people more generous to strangers and more tolerant of outsiders. Couples feel closer and look happier when they’re sharing nostalgic memories. On cold days, or in cold rooms, people use nostalgia to literally feel warmer. Nostalgia does have its painful side—it’s a bittersweet emotion—but the net effect is to make life seem more meaningful and death less frightening. (John Tierney, The New York Times)

Grief Among Animals
In the July issue of Scientific American, anthropologist Barbara King of The College of William & Mary makes the case that animals ranging from ducks to dolphins may grieve when a relative or close companion dies. In so doing she departs from a long-standing tradition among animal behaviorists of assiduously avoiding projecting human emotions onto other animals. Not all animal responses to death qualify as mourning, however. (Kate Wong, Scientific American)

The Potential Health Benefits of Choral Singing
The heart rates of people who sing in a choir quickly synchronize with one another. The discovery may offer clues to the health benefits of group singing. (Paul Marks, New Scientist)

“Intelligent Design” Advocate Guillermo Gonzalez Hired at Ball State University
Ball State University’s hiring of a high-profile supporter of intelligent design just weeks after it launched an investigation into another professor accused of teaching creationism has left First Amendment watchdogs scratching their heads. The university was within its rights in hiring Guillermo Gonzalez, but his lectures and writings will be subject to scrutiny throughout his probationary period, lest unscientific views be presented as fact in science courses, those watchdogs say. (Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed)

UK SETI Research Network
A group of British astronomers are hoping to launch a new mission to search for signs of extraterrestrial life in space. The group of scientists from 11 U.K. universities have dubbed themselves the UK Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Research Network, and are currently petitioning the government for a small part of the U.K.’s science budget. (James Vincent, The Independent)

Category: Field Notes

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