February 27, 2014

© 2014 Microsoft CorporationOur Bias Blindness
We can easily spot prejudice in others, but we’re oblivious to our own, insisting on our impartiality in spite of any and all evidence to the contrary. Newly published research suggests this problem is actually worse than we thought. It finds that even when people use an evaluation strategy they concede is biased, they continue to insist their judgments are objective. “Recognizing one’s bias is a critical first step in trying to correct for it,” writes a research team led by Emily Pronin and Katherine Hansen of Princeton University. “These experiments make clear how difficult that first step can be to reach.” (Tom Jacobs, Pacific Standard)

The Origin of New Ideas
Mark Turner: We hit upon new ideas, lots of them, on the fly, all the time. They arise constantly in our minds, and sometimes tumble out to influence other minds and change the world. How do we do it? How does our thinking leap beyond our existing knowledge to make new ideas? The answer is that we blend multiple ideas that are already in our minds, and these blends contain new ideas that didn’t exist before. (New Scientist)

Looking at the Brains of Monkeys Taking the Prisoner’s Dilemma Test
This game, the “prisoner’s dilemma,” is a classic test of strategy that involves the simultaneous evaluation of an opponent’s thinking. Researchers have now discovered—and manipulated—specific brain circuits in rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) that seem to be involved in the animals’ choices, and in their assessments of their partners’ choices. Investigating the connections could shed light on how social context affects decision-making in humans, and how disorders that affect social skills, such as autism spectrum disorder, disrupt brain circuitry. (Sara Reardon, Nature)

Doubling the Number of Known Exoplanets (by Adding Another 715)
These new planets are all in multi-planet systems and are relatively modest in size—most of them smaller than Neptune. Four of the new planets are about twice the size of Earth and are in orbits that put them in what is considered the habitable zone of their stars, at a distance that could allow water to be in a liquid state at the surface. There are surely more habitable-zone planets out there, scientists said in the teleconference. (Joel Achenbach, The Washington Post)

Super-Earths Might Not Be So Super for Life
A nice neighborhood doesn’t necessarily guarantee that your house is livable. Likewise, even if a planet orbits within the so-called Goldilocks zone surrounding its parent star where conditions are neither too hot nor too cold, its atmosphere may be hostile to life, a new study suggests. Even “super-Earths,” orbs with masses that fall between one and 10 times that of our planet and therefore offer some semblance of similarity to Earth, might be uninhabitable. (ScienceShot, Science)

More on Three-Person In Vitro Fertilization
A controversial IVF technique that could help prevent the transmission of certain genetic disorders is not quite ready for human clinical trials. That appeared to be the general consensus among advisers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) who met to discuss a technique that could prevent women affected by various mitochondrial diseases from passing their conditions to children. The method has provoked controversy because it involves combining genetic material from two different women’s egg cells. Crossing an ethical line that many have drawn, the genetic changes introduced by the procedure could also be passed on to future generations. (Gretchen Vogel, Science)

Category: Field Notes

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