Jan 7, 2015 0
Studying Religious Experience in the Brain
The researchers want to see more than religion’s registry on the brain. They want to know whether it differs across sects, or by intensity of belief. They want to see what genes it activates, what hormones it releases, and how it relates to social behaviors. Can the same basic circuitry produce Mother Teresa and the Sept. 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta? If so, how? To approach even speculative answers to such questions, the researchers have to capture what goes on in the brain of a believer during a religious moment. (Geoffrey Mohan, Los Angeles Times)
Is This the Site of Herod’s Palace?
It started 15 years ago with plans to expand the Tower of David Museum. But the story took a strange turn when archaeologists started peeling away layers under the floor in an old abandoned building adjacent to the museum in Jerusalem’s Old City. They knew it had been used as a prison when the Ottoman Turks and then the British ruled these parts. But, as they carefully dug down, they eventually uncovered something extraordinary: the suspected remains of the palace where one of the more famous scenes of the New Testament may have taken place—the trial of Jesus. (Ruth Eglash, The Washington Post)
Who Are You?
Some people will tell you that they have a clear sense of who they are, and that their sense of self is stable over time. Psychologists refer to this as having high “self-concept clarity.” In a new study, Jean Guerrettaz and Robert Arkin shine a spotlight on these self-proclaimed self-knowers. The researchers find that their confidence is often fragile, and that somewhat paradoxically, it is people confident in their sense of self whose self-esteem is most undermined by challenging questions about who they are. (Christian Jarrett, BPS Research Digest)
Kepler Has Found More Than 1,000 Exoplanets
The telescope has also spotted 3,200 additional planet candidates, and about 90 percent of them should end up being confirmed, mission scientists say. Furthermore, a number of these future finds are likely to be small, rocky worlds with temperate, relatively hospitable surface conditions—in other worlds, planets a lot like Earth. (In fact, at least two of the newly confirmed eight Kepler planets—which were announced in Seattle during the annual winter meeting of the American Astronomical Society—appear to meet that description, mission team members said.) (Mike Wall, Space.com)
Did My Brain Make Me Do it? Neuroscience and Morality
Despite some divergent perspectives on the roots of human behavior, two experts—a neuroscientist and a neuroethicist—agreed at a AAAS event that humility is in order when scientists study or attempt to manipulate the human brain. This is true now more than ever as advances in research outrace society’s ability to resolve related questions of free will, ethics, and morality, they said. (Kathy Sawyer, AAAS)