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A lack of empathy is the root of all evil

Why a lack of empathy is the root of all evil - Features, Health & Families - The Independent
. . . Human cruelty has fascinated and puzzled Baron-Cohen since childhood. When he was seven years old, his father told him the Nazis had turned Jews into lampshades and soap. He also recounted the story of a woman he met who had her hands severed by Nazi doctors and sewn on opposite arms so the thumbs faced outwards. These images stuck in Simon's mind. He couldn't understand how one human could treat another with such cruelty. The explanation that the Nazis were simply evil didn't satisfy him. For Baron-Cohen, science provides a more satisfactory explanation for evil and that explanation is empathy – or rather, lack of empathy. "Empathy is our ability to identify what someone else is thinking or feeling, and to respond to their thoughts and feelings with an appropriate emotion," writes Baron-Cohen. People who lack empathy see others as mere objects. Empathy, like height, is a continuous variable, but for convenience, Baron-Cohen splits the continuum into six degrees – seven if you count zero empathy. Answering the empathy quotient (EQ) questionnaire, developed by Baron-Cohen and colleagues, will put you somewhere on the empathy bell curve. People with zero degrees of empathy will be at one end of the bell curve and those with six degrees of empathy at the other end. Baron-Cohen provides vignettes of what a typical person with x-degrees of empathy would be like. We're told, for example, that a person with level two empathy (quite low) "blunders through life, saying all the wrong things (eg, 'You've put on weight!') or doing the wrong things (eg, invading another person's 'personal space')." Being at the far ends of the bell curve (extremely high or extremely low empathy scores) is not necessarily pathological. It is possible to have zero degrees of empathy and not be a murderer, torturer or rapist, although you're unlikely to be any of these things if you are at the other end of the empathy spectrum – level six empathy. "You could imagine someone who has low empathy yet somehow carves out a lifestyle for themselves where it doesn't impact on other people and it doesn't interfere with their everyday life," says Baron-Cohen. . . .

Fermi Labs may have discovered a fifth fundamental force of nature

The current four forces are: Gravity, Electromagnetic, Strong Nuclear and Weak Nuclear. Though some people believe the Strong and Weak forces are properly classified as being electromagnetic. AFP: US atom smasher may have found new force of nature
WASHINGTON — Data from a major US atom smasher lab may have revealed a new elementary particle, or potentially a new force of nature, one of the physicists involved in the discovery told AFP on Wednesday. The physics world was abuzz with excitement over the findings, which could offer clues to the persistent riddle of mass and how objects obtain it -- one of the most sought-after answers in all of physics. But experts cautioned that more analysis was needed over the next several months to uncover the true nature of the discovery, which comes as part of an ongoing experiment with proton and antiproton collisions to understand the workings of the universe. "There could be some new force beyond the force that we know," said Giovanni Punzi, a physicist with the international research team that is analyzing the data from the US Department of Energy's Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. "If it is confirmed, it could point to a whole new world of interactions," he told AFP. While much remains a mystery, researchers agree that this is not the "God Particle," or the Higgs-boson, a hypothetical elementary particle which has long eluded physicists who believe it could explain why objects have mass.

March 31, 2011

Science! Masturbation calms restless leg syndrome

Masturbation calms restless leg syndrome - health - 01 April 2011 - New Scientist
Too much of it will make you go blind – or so you might have been told. But for some, masturbation might have a real clinical benefit: it can ease restless leg syndrome (RLS). The insight could provide sweet relief for the 7 to 10 per cent of people in the US and Europe who suffer from the condition. RLS is a distressing neurologic disorder characterised by an urge to move the legs. It is usually associated with unpleasant sensations in the lower limbs such as tingling, aching and itching. The exact causes of RSL have yet to be pinpointed, but brain autopsies and imaging studies suggest one contributing factor is an imbalance of dopamine – a hormonal messenger that, among other things, activates the areas of the brain responsible for pleasure. It is suspected that dopamine imbalance is responsible for some of the symptoms of Parkinson's disease.