December 4, 2013

Merriam-WebsterMerriam-Webster’s Word of the Year Is “Science”
Merriam-Webster stuck primarily to look-ups on its website, recording a 176 percent increase for science when compared with last year. “The more we thought about it, the righter it seemed in that it does lurk behind a lot of big stories that we as a society are grappling with, whether it’s climate change or environmental regulation or what’s in our textbooks,” said John Morse, president and publisher of Merriam-Webster Inc. (Leanne Italie, Associated Press)

More on Religion and Charitable Giving
David Campbell: Rather than religious beliefs, we found that the “secret ingredient” for charitable giving among religious Americans is the social networks formed within religious congregations. The more friends someone has within a religious congregation, the more likely that person is to give time, money, or both, to charitable causes. In fact, even non-religious people who have friends within a religious congregation (typically, because their spouse is a believer) are highly charitable—more so than strong believers who have few social ties within a congregation. (TIME)

Grief and Resilience
Derek Thompson: One afternoon in October, I visited George Bonanno, perhaps the most renowned grief researcher in the United States, at Teachers College, Columbia University, to talk about his research. His lab might be trailblazing, but the mission is classically conservative. By studying grief like any other psychological condition, he has exposed the history of bereavement research to be a thread of fables. (The Atlantic)

Could You Be Cruel to a Robot?
For Kate Darling, a researcher at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, our reaction to robot cruelty is important because a new wave of machines is forcing us to reconsider our relationship with them. When Darling described her Pleo experiment in a talk in Boston this month, she made the case that mistreating certain kinds of robots could soon become unacceptable in the eyes of society. She even believes that we may need a set of “robot rights.” If so, in what circumstance would it be OK to torture or murder a robot? (Richard Fisher, BBC Future)

Should Chimps Be Recognized as Legal Persons?
Chimpanzees are not people, no matter how they are dressed up for commercials, but perhaps they are close enough that they deserve some of the same rights humans have. That is what an animal rights group claimed on Monday when it filed a classic writ of habeas corpus, that revered staple of American and English law and tired cliché of detective fiction—not for a human being held unlawfully, but for Tommy, a chimpanzee in Gloversville, New York. (James Gorman, The New York Times)

Category: Field Notes

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