December 5, 2013

town of NewtownThe Morality of Listening to the Newtown 911 Recordings
What does it say about you if you listened to the 911 tapes of the Newtown school shooting when they became available? What does it say if you not only listened to them but first went looking for them? (Jeffrey Kluger, TIME)

On Einstein’s Famous Quote About S&R
Jerry Coyne: “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” This quote is often used to show both Einstein’s religiosity and his belief in the compatibility—indeed, the mutual interdependence—of science and religion. But the quote is rarely used in context, and when you see the context you’ll find that the quote should give no solace to the faithful. (New Republic)

How Google Autocompletes “Scientists Are …”
Phil Plait: The “scientists are stupid” and “scientists are liars” suggestions are troubling. Can it be that most people really think this? I decided to follow through, and see what pages are actually recommended by Google if you use these suggestions. What I found is that yes, many of the pages linked do make these accusations—and they come from the usual suspects, such as fundamentalist religion sites, or climate change deniers. No surprise there. And some are satirical pages, clearly meant as parody. But it’s not hard to find page after page, site after site, sincerely making these claims about scientists. What do we make of this? Is all hope lost? (Bad Astronomy, Slate)

Why Scientists Are Baffled by Ancient Human DNA From a 400,000-Year-Old Fossil
The fossil, a thigh bone found in Spain, had previously seemed to many experts to belong to a forerunner of Neanderthals. But its DNA tells a very different story. It most closely resembles DNA from an enigmatic lineage of humans known as Denisovans. Until now, Denisovans were known only from DNA retrieved from 80,000-year-old remains in Siberia, 4,000 miles east of where the new DNA was found. The mismatch between the anatomical and genetic evidence surprised the scientists, who are now rethinking human evolution over the past few hundred thousand years. (Carl Zimmer, The New York Times)

Signs of Water Found in the Atmospheres of Five Planets Outside Our Solar System
The five exoplanets with hints of water are all scorching-hot, Jupiter-size worlds that are unlikely to host life as we know it. But finding water in their atmospheres still marks a step forward in the search for distant planets that may be capable of supporting alien life, researchers said. (Mike Wall, Space.com)

Category: Field Notes

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