July 28, 2014

Alexander Gerst
A Different Perspective
Alexander Gerst: What came to my mind at the time of this photo was, if we ever will be visited by another species from somewhere in the universe, how would we explain to them what they might see as the very first thing when they look at our planet? How would we explain to them the way we humans treat not only each other but also our fragile blue planet, the only home we have? I do not have an answer for that. (European Space Agency)

Oneness Beliefs and Pro-Environmental Behavior
Christians still lag behind members of other faiths in terms of eco-friendly behavior. But newly published research finds a different foundational spiritual belief is associated with environmentally friendly attitudes and actions: The notion of interconnectedness, or the essential “oneness” of creation. This idea, usually associated with Buddhism but attractive to the growing number of Americans who consider themselves “spiritual but not religious,” was linked to concern for the environment in a new study. What’s more, this attitude drove behavior: In one survey, people attracted to the “oneness” idea were more likely to give money to a pro-environment cause. (Tom Jacobs, Pacific Standard)

Powerful and Coldhearted
Michael Inzlicht and Sukhvinder Obhi: On the basis of a study we recently published with the researcher Jeremy Hogeveen, in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, we contend that when people experience power, their brains fundamentally change how sensitive they are to the actions of others. (The New York Times)

Behaving Selfishly
Toshio Yamagishi et al tested 564 adults who lived in “a relatively wealthy Tokyo suburb.” The headline result was that 7 percent of the participants displayed “Homo economicus” behavior both in the Dictator Game, and in the more complex Sequential Prisoner’s Dilemma. That is, 7 percent of people always chose to maximize their own expected payoff, regardless of how this disadvantaged anyone else. Who were these 7 percent? (Neuroskeptic, Discover)

An 18th-Century Medical Report of a Near-Death Experience
To his surprise, Dr. Phillippe Charlier found a modern description of near-death experience from a time in which most people relied on religion to explain near-death experiences. (Bahar Gholipour, Live Science)

The End (and Bad Luck) of the Dinosaurs
There’s never a good time for an asteroid impact, of course, but debates have roiled among scholars for decades over whether volcanoes or a long-running decline in species may have played a bigger role in the demise of the dinosaurs. Now a Biological Reviews journal report concludes that the asteroid or comet that created the Yucatan’s Chicxulub crater was indeed the likely leading culprit. Other factors, most notably a vulnerable sub-population of big plant eaters, essentially left the dinosaurs ripe for the asteroid wipe-out. (Dan Vergano, National Geographic)

Category: Field Notes

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