March 31, 2014

MultiverseGravitational Waves and the Multiverse
The multiverse is one of the most divisive topics in physics, and it just became more so. The major announcement last week of evidence for primordial ripples in spacetime has bolstered a cosmological theory called inflation, and with it, some say, the idea that our universe is one of many universes floating like bubbles in a glass of champagne. Critics of the multiverse hypothesis claim that the idea is untestable—barely even science. But with evidence for inflation theory building up, the multiverse debate is coming to a head. (Clara Moskowitz, Scientific American)

Appreciative Gain After Pain
In the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, University of British Columbia psychologist Alyssa Croft describes a study of nearly 15,000 French adults. Those who had gone through painful life events, ranging from divorce to serious illness, were more likely to take time to appreciate transitory delights, such as gazing at a waterfall they happened upon while taking a hike. This heightened ability to enjoy the moment (which is not shared by people still struggling with traumatic experiences) helps explain the phenomenon of “post-traumatic growth.” (Tom Jacobs, Pacific Standard)

Suspending Life
Neither dead or alive, knife-wound or gunshot victims will be cooled down and placed in suspended animation later this month, as a groundbreaking emergency technique is tested out for the first time. Surgeons are now on call at the UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to perform the operation, which will buy doctors time to fix injuries that would otherwise be lethal. (Helen Thomson, New Scientist)

Training for Mars
Creating a permanent human settlement on Mars by 2025 will require serious training. To prepare its future astronauts for the task, the Netherlands-based private spaceflight project Mars One announced its plans to construct Earth-based outposts that replicate the cramped, isolated, crazy-making conditions of a Red Planet colony. (Rose Pastore, Popular Science)

Our Stuff: Why It’s Human Nature to Own Things
Humans are materialistic by nature, but we have an odd relationship with the things we own. Possessions enrich our lives but they also come at a cost, both environmental and psychological. In these articles, we take stock of our ambivalent relationship with material goods, size up the things that a modern human actually needs, consider the ways possessions define us, and ponder the future of ownership. First, we look back at the evolution of our instinct for stuff. (New Scientist)

Q&A
Howard Wettstein

Gary Gutting: This is the fourth in a series of interviews about religion that I am conducting for The Stone. The interviewee for this installment is Howard Wettstein, a professor of philosophy at the University of California, Riverside, and the author of The Significance of Religious Experience. (The Stone, Opinionator, The New York Times)

MOVIES
Noah

Neither tearing down religion, nor evangelizing for it, the film tries to split the difference—the rarest of feats these days. (Matt Patches, Vulture)

Category: Field Notes

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