March 5, 2014

© 2014 Microsoft CorporationWhen Kids Begin to Show a Racial Bias in Their Perceptions of Other Children’s Pain
Psychologists at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville surveyed a sample of mostly white children at age 5, 7, and 10. The children rated how much pain they expected two other children—one black and one white—would feel in certain situations, like biting their tongue or hitting their head. The 5-year-olds reported that the two children would feel about the same amount of pain. But a weak racial bias emerged in the 7-year-olds, and by age 10, the children showed a “strong and reliable racial bias” in that the white child would feel more pain than the black child. (Macrina Cooper-White, The Huffington Post)

The Islamic Calendar and the New Moon
Religious authorities in each country conduct their own lunar observations, so cloudy skies can delay the start of a new month by a day or two in some countries relative to others. This means that Muslims around the world can get slightly out of sync when marking festivals and the start and end of the holy month of Ramadan. Radio observations could bring calendars more into line, says a team led by Yaser Hafez at the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, the Saudi Arabian science agency in Riyadh. (Jacob Aron, New Scientist)

Human Longevity
J. Craig Venter is the latest wealthy entrepreneur to think he can cheat aging and death. And he hopes to do so by resorting to his first love: sequencing genomes. On Tuesday, Venter announced that he was starting a new company, Human Longevity, which will focus on figuring out how people can live longer and healthier lives. To do that, the company will build what Venter says will be the largest human DNA sequencing operation in the world, capable of processing 40,000 human genomes a year. (Andrew Pollack, The New York Times)

What Separates Us From Other Animals?
Thomas Suddendorf: I’ve repeatedly found two major features that set us apart: our open-ended ability to imagine and reflect on different situations, and our deep-seated drive to link our scenario-building minds together. It seems to be primarily these two attributes that carried our ancestors across the gap, turning animal communication into open-ended human language, memory into mental time travel, social cognition into theory of mind, problem solving into abstract reasoning, social traditions into cumulative culture, and empathy into morality. (Slate)

Tonight’s Episode of “Through the Wormhole”
The 10 p.m. Science Channel production combines the question of whether a supreme creator exists with the always-popular inquiry into life beyond our planet. (Ethan Sacks, New York Daily News)

Category: Field Notes

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