September 12, 2014

Credit- Wilhelm HofmannReligious and Nonreligious People Are as Likely to Commit Moral and Immoral Acts
Dan Wisneski and his fellow researchers found that religious and nonreligious people commit similar numbers of moral acts. The same was found to be true for people on both ends of the political spectrum. And regardless of their political or religious leanings, participants were all found to be more likely to report committing, or being the target of, a moral act rather than an immoral act. They were also much more likely to report having heard about immoral acts rather than moral acts. However, there were some differences in how people in different groups responded emotionally to so-called “moral phenomena,” Wisneski said. (Elizabeth Palermo, Live Science)

The Impact of Wearing a Hijab on Body Image
A study published in the August edition of the British Journal of Psychology suggests that the hijab actually offers some protection against the body dissatisfaction that plagues many Western women. (Alice Robb, New Republic)

Link Between Sunshine and Suicide Rates
The fact that suicide rates tend to peak in springtime has long puzzled scientists. But now, a new study in Austria shows that in any season, a couple of sunny days may mean higher suicide rates. (Bahar Gholipour, Live Science)

Professional Networking Can Make Us Feel Dirty
According to research out of the University of Toronto, professional networking feels icky for good reason. Relationships formed based on a career need, rather than for sincere friendship, trigger our moral disgust—linked, in turn, to physical feelings of uncleanliness. (Samantha Cole, Fast Company)

“Resetting” Human Stem Cells
British and Japanese scientists have managed to “reset” human stem cells to their earliest state, opening up a new realm of research into the start of human development and potentially life-saving regenerative medicines. In work described by one independent expert as “a major step forward,” the scientists said they had successfully rebooted pluripotent stem cells so they were equivalent to those of a 7 to 10-day-old embryo, before it implants in the womb. (Kate Kelland, Reuters)

September 11, 2014

Social Connection Modulates Perceptions of AnimacyNeed for Social Connection Makes Faces Seem More Animate and Alive
“Even though two people may be looking at the same face,” explained lead researcher Katherine Powers of Dartmouth in a press release, “the point at which they see life and decide that person is worthy of meaningful social interaction may not be the same—our findings show that it depends on an individual’s social relationship status and motivations for future social interactions.” (Jesse Singal, Science of Us, New York Magazine)

Strong Social Connectedness Appears to Affect the Survival of Wild Female Baboons
Wild female baboons with stronger social connections to both female and male baboons live longer than females with weaker ties, researchers report September 10 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The study is one of the first to show that male-female bonds can boost a female baboon’s health and survival. The finding also supports the idea that survival may be a big benefit of strong relationships in social mammals other than humans. (Ashley Yeager, Science Ticker, Science News)

First Clinical Trial That Will Test Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells on Humans
Unlike embryonic stem cells, iPS cells are produced from adult cells, so they can be genetically tailored to each recipient. They are capable of becoming any cell type in the body, and have the potential to treat a wide range of diseases. The RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology trial will be the first opportunity for the technology to prove its clinical value. (David Cyranoski, Nature)

Hidden Monuments Discovered Around Stonehenge
Researchers from Birmingham University used high-tech equipment to map 17 ritual monuments in the area. That’s in addition to the iconic circle of stones that has stood there for thousands of years. Professor Vincent Gaffney, the project leader, tells NPR’s Robert Siegel that researchers found a large amount of new archaeological sites dating to the period of Stonehenge, as well as later and earlier periods. They were, he said, small “henge-like” monuments like Stonehenge, “but perhaps better interpreted as small chapels.” (Krishnadev Calamur, The Two-Way, NPR)

Science And Spirituality: Could It Be?
Marcelo Gleiser: Are we fundamentally wrong in placing science and spirituality in a warring field? Can reason lead us to transcendence? To most people, this is an impossible, even absurd, proposition: Reason is the opposite of grace or spiritual transcendence, given that it operates under strict adherence to rigid rules and to an unshakeable skepticism. How can analytical thinking become so malleable as to allow for this emotional and, even more radically, spiritual impact? (13.7: Cosmos and Culture, NPR)

September 10, 2014

© 2014 Microsoft CorporationIs Humility Attractive?
A team led by Daryl Van Tongeren conducted three studies that tested whether participants valued humility in a potential date and were more inclined to forgive a partner they perceived as humble. (Temma Ehrenfeld, BPS Research Digest)

Sequencing the DNA of Ashkenazi Jews
The authors of the new study come from nearly two dozen research groups in New York City, Belgium, and Israel. Many of the co-authors are not Jewish, but they are interested in studying this group because it is genetically isolated (since Jews have historically married within their faith, their gene pool is closed). That makes it easier to identify genes linked to specific diseases, like Parkinson’s and cancer, links that could well apply to non-Jews as well. (Karen Kaplan, Los Angeles Times)

Competition to End Aging
The Palo Alto Longevity Prize, announced yesterday at a shindig in San Francisco, is offering 1 million dollars to scientists who can solve two aging-related research challenges. (Mitch Leslie, ScienceInsider, Science)

Harvey Whitehous
Harvey Whitehouse’s fascination with religion goes back to his own groundbreaking field study of traditional beliefs in Papua New Guinea in the 1980s. He developed a theory of religion based on the power of rituals to create social bonds and group identity. He saw that difficult rituals, like traumatic initiation rites, were often unforgettable and had the effect of fusing an individual’s identity with the group. (Steve Paulson, Nautilus)

How to Predict the Unpredictable

This book is a guide to outguessing people and computers by detecting their decision-making patterns. It’s also a tutorial in how to prevent others from anticipating your own behavior. (Jonathon Keats, New Scientist)

September 9, 2014

© 2014 Microsoft CorporationShared Pain Can Promote Cooperation and Bonding
A new study from Australia suggests rituals such as arduous initiation rites serve a real purpose. It reports experiencing physical discomfort is an effective way for a group of strangers to cohere into a close-knit group. ”Shared pain may be an important trigger for group formation,” a research team led by psychologist Brock Bastian of the University of New South Wales writes in the journal Psychological Science. “Pain, it seems, has the capacity to act as social glue, building cooperation within novel social collectives.” (Tom Jacobs, Pacific Standard)

The Experience of Mathematical Beauty
Mathematicians have long likened the experience of mathematical beauty to that of visual and musical beauty. Now scientists in England and Scotland have determined that despite the abstract nature of mathematics, mathematical beauty is linked to activity in the same region of the brain as beauty from sensory sources. (Seth Newman, Scientific American)

Collaborative Abilities of Fish
As demonstrated in a series of experiments published in Current Biology, coral trout not only solicit the help of moray eels when they hunt, but also pick their hunting partners wisely. They know when they need help, and quickly learn which eels best provide it. It’s a seemingly simple yet surprisingly sophisticated cognitive trick. “Prior to our study, chimpanzees and humans were the only species known to possess both of these abilities,” said zoologist Alex Vail of England’s University of Cambridge. (Brandon Keim, Wired)

About AtheistTV
David Silverman: There are so many things to learn in the real world that even a hundred lifetimes isn’t enough to explore them all. We don’t need to make things up. What makes the truth beautiful and wonderful is that it’s true. I think that’s magnificent, and more worthy of attention than any gods, ghosts, psychics, or aliens could ever be. (New Scientist)

“Strengths and Weaknesses” Bill in Ohio
John Timmer: Recently, we covered a bill that was introduced in Ohio to deemphasize teaching the scientific process and open the door for people to object to scientific instruction on political grounds. While under consideration, the text of the bill has been modified considerably. Gone is the language about politics, and in its place is a provision that uses language promoted by a think tank that supports intelligent design. (Ars Technica)

The Proactionary Imperative: A Foundation for Transhumanism

Carl Elliott: In The Proactionary Imperative, sociologists Steve Fuller and Veronika Lipinska aim to “provide a comprehensive intellectual justification for the emerging progressive movement of transhumanism”—a cultural and philosophical movement with its own journal, and even, for a time, its own parliamentary representative, in Italy. Specifically, the authors are interested in what they call the “indefinite promotion” of “our seemingly endless capacity for self-transcendence, our ‘god-like character’, if you will.” (New Scientist)

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