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March 01, 2010

Liberalism, atheism, male monogamy linked to higher IQs

Liberalism, atheism, male sexual exclusivity linked to IQ - CNN.com
The IQ differences, while statistically significant, are not stunning -- on the order of 6 to 11 points -- and the data should not be used to stereotype or make assumptions about people, experts say. But they show how certain patterns of identifying with particular ideologies develop, and how some people's behaviors come to be. The reasoning is that sexual exclusivity in men, liberalism and atheism all go against what would be expected given humans' evolutionary past. In other words, none of these traits would have benefited our early human ancestors, but higher intelligence may be associated with them. "The adoption of some evolutionarily novel ideas makes some sense in terms of moving the species forward," said George Washington University leadership professor James Bailey, who was not involved in the study. "It also makes perfect sense that more intelligent people -- people with, sort of, more intellectual firepower -- are likely to be the ones to do that." . . .

February 28, 2010

Photo Gallery: Monsters from the depths of the sea

Deepest Part of the Ocean -- frozenly.com *Thanks, Maureen!*

Antarctic iceberg the size of Luxembourg may disrupt global weather

mertz_amo_2010057.jpg Collision Calves Iceberg from Mertz Glacier Tongue, Antarctica : Image of the Day
At 94 kilometers (58 miles) by 39 kilometers (24 miles) in size, the B-09B iceberg is comparable to the state of Rhode Island, which is wider but not quite so long. After lingering near the Mertz Glacier in Eastern Antarctica for several years, the massive iceberg collided with the glacier tongue on February 12 or 13, breaking it away from the rest of the glacier.
Vast Iceberg Dislodged in Antarctic Collision
...satellite images show that the recently calved Mertz iceberg is moving into the Adelie Depression, a coastal basin between the Mertz Glacier and the French Antarctic station of Dumont D'Urville to the west. This depression is one of the major sites of dense water formation which drives the world's deep ocean circulation. The dense water is formed from ocean water that circulates onto the continental shelf and interacts with the glacier tongue, and by high rates of sea ice formation in an area of unfrozen sea water surrounded by ice near the glacier. The future position of the two giant icebergs will likely affect local ocean circulation, sea ice production, and deep water formation, the scientists said.

February 23, 2010

British investigation finds that homeopathy is "useless and unethical"

MPs' damning verdict: Homeopathy is useless and unethical | Martin Robbins | Science | guardian.co.uk
Today the Science and Technology Select Committee delivered its verdict on homeopathy and it was devastating. The committee has called for the complete withdrawal of NHS funding and official licensing of homeopathy. This should come as no surprise to anyone who witnessed the almost farcical nature of the proceedings, with the elite of homeopathy mocked by their own testimony. Peter Fisher, director of the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital, spewed forth the sort of dialogue that wouldn't look out of place in a Terry Pratchett novel. As the report drily observes: "Dr Fisher stated that the process of 'shaking is important' but was unable to say how much shaking was required. He said 'that has not been fully investigated' but did tell us that 'You have to shake it vigorously [...] if you just stir it gently, it does not work'. Quite. It's hard to say which is more ridiculous: the sight of a grown man speaking this nonsense, or the fact that after 200 years homeopaths apparenly haven't bothered to "fully investigate" how much shaking is required for their remedies to work. And yet, bizarrely, these people expect to be taken seriously. In this they have failed spectacularly. The select committee report has brutally inflicted the 21st, 20th and 19th centuries on this 18th century magic ritual, and under inspection it has fallen apart.
*Thanks, Bret*

February 18, 2010

British scientists redesign how cells build proteins (this is huge)

Life's code rewritten in four-letter words - life - 17 February 2010 - New Scientist
More extraordinary still, it could eventually lead to the creation of new or "improved" life forms that incorporate these materials in their tissue - possibly even organisms with bulletproof bodies. In all existing life forms, the cell's protein-making machinery reads the four chemical "letters" of DNA - called nucleotides - in triplets to make chains of amino acids. Each three-letter word embodies the code for a single amino acid or tells the cell to stop making a protein chain. Not any more. Jason Chin at the University of Cambridge and his colleagues have redesigned the cell's machinery so that it can also read the genetic code four letters at a time. In this way, Chin's team has boosted the number of amino acids that can be built into a protein from the 20 covered by the existing genetic code to 276. That's because Chin's new code creates 256 possible four-letter nucleotide words or "codons", each of which can be assigned to an amino acid that doesn't currently exist in living cells.