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February 17, 2009

In 20 years chocolate could be virtually extinct

ABC News: A World Without Chocolate?

Scientists say that now it is chocolate's sustainability that needs to be monitored. The Ghana-based Nature Conservation Research Center warns that chocolate may become as rare and expensive as caviar within 20 years.

A number of factors, including climate change, are affecting the farming and production of cacao, or the cocoa plant.

Howard Shapiro, global director for plant science and external research for confectionery manufacturing Mars Inc. of McLean, Va., said measures must be taken soon to prevent shortages of chocolate.

"If nothing was done, and the temperature was to rise, and the rainfalls were to change and drought became more prevalent ... without looking into new farming practices, then there should be a problem, and there might likely be a problem," he said.

February 16, 2009

Science: Writing makes you happy

A diary makes you happier and helps brain cope with emotional upsets, psychologists say | Science | guardian.co.uk

Dear diarists take heart. Writing about your feelings can help the brain overcome emotional upsets and leave you feeling happier, psychologists have found.

Brain scans on volunteers showed that putting feelings down on paper reduces activity in a part of the brain called the amygdala, which is responsible for controlling the intensity of our emotions.

Psychologists who discovered the "Bridget Jones effect" said it worked whether people elaborated on their feelings in a diary, penned lines of poetry, or even jotted down song lyrics to express their negative emotions.

. . .

"Writing seems to help the brain regulate emotion unintentionally. Whether it's writing things down in a diary, writing bad poetry, or making up song lyrics that should never be played on the radio, it seems to help people emotionally," Dr Lieberman said.

February 13, 2009

The internet isn't making you stupid, special interest groups pushing misinformation is making you stupid

The internet isn’t making you stupid. People are making you stupid. | Blog | Futurismic

[Proctor] has developed a word inspired by this trend: agnotology. Derived from the Greek root agnosis, it is “the study of culturally constructed ignorance.”

As Proctor argues, when society doesn’t know something, it’s often because special interests work hard to create confusion. Anti-Obama groups likely spent millions insisting he’s a Muslim; church groups have shelled out even more pushing creationism. The oil and auto industries carefully seed doubt about the causes of global warming. And when the dust settles, society knows less than it did before.

“People always assume that if someone doesn’t know something, it’s because they haven’t paid attention or haven’t yet figured it out,” Proctor says. “But ignorance also comes from people literally suppressing truth—or drowning it out—or trying to make it so confusing that people stop caring about what’s true and what’s not.”

February 12, 2009

Court rules that vaccines do not cause autism

Court says vaccine is not to blame for autism

The key issue is that no one has been able to replicate the original research that suggested a causal link.

WASHINGTON – In a big blow to parents who believe vaccines caused their children's autism, a special court ruled Thursday that the shots are not to blame.

The court said the evidence was overwhelmingly contrary to the parents' claims — and backed years of science that found no risk.

"It was abundantly clear that petitioners' theories of causation were speculative and unpersuasive," the court concluded in one of a trio of cases ruled on Thursday.

February 09, 2009

Are children bad for a marriage?

Op-Ed Contributor - Till Children Do Us Part - NYTimes.com

The answer is yes if the children are unplanned, if one of the partners is unwilling or ambivalent, or if people are forced to give up their jobs and lives to raise the baby. Which I suppose should all be filed under "duh."

Over the past two decades, however, many researchers have concluded that three’s a crowd when it comes to marital satisfaction. More than 25 separate studies have established that marital quality drops, often quite steeply, after the transition to parenthood. And forget the “empty nest” syndrome: when the children leave home, couples report an increase in marital happiness.

. . . most studies finding a large drop in marital quality after childbirth do not consider the very different routes that couples travel toward parenthood.

. . .

The Cowans found that the average drop in marital satisfaction was almost entirely accounted for by the couples who slid into being parents, disagreed over it or were ambivalent about it. Couples who planned or equally welcomed the conception were likely to maintain or even increase their marital satisfaction after the child was born.

Marital quality also tends to decline when parents backslide into more traditional gender roles. Once a child arrives, lack of paid parental leave often leads the wife to quit her job and the husband to work more. This produces discontent on both sides. The wife resents her husband’s lack of involvement in child care and housework. The husband resents his wife’s ingratitude for the long hours he works to support the family.