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May 20, 2008

1 in 8 U.S. science teachers teach Creationism in the classroom

16% of US science teachers are creationists - being-human - 20 May 2008 - New Scientist

Despite a court-ordered ban on the teaching of creationism in US schools, about one in eight high-school biology teachers still teach it as valid science, a survey reveals. And, although almost all teachers also taught evolution, those with less training in science – and especially evolutionary biology – tend to devote less class time to Darwinian principles.

US courts have repeatedly decreed that creationism and intelligent design are religion, not science, and have no place in school science classrooms. But no matter what courts and school boards decree, it is up to teachers to put the curriculum into practice.

"Ultimately, they are the ones who carry it out," says Michael Berkman, a political scientist at Pennsylvania State University in University Park.

But what teachers actually teach about evolution and creationism in their classrooms is a bit of a grey area, so Berkman and his colleagues decided to conduct the first-ever national survey on the subject.

Warning: Using a mobile phone while pregnant can seriously damage your baby

Warning: Using a mobile phone while pregnant can seriously damage your baby - Health News, Health & Wellbeing - The Independent

Women who use mobile phones when pregnant are more likely to give birth to children with behavioural problems, according to authoritative research.

A giant study, which surveyed more than 13,000 children, found that using the handsets just two or three times a day was enough to raise the risk of their babies developing hyperactivity and difficulties with conduct, emotions and relationships by the time they reached school age. And it adds that the likelihood is even greater if the children themselves used the phones before the age of seven.

The results of the study, the first of its kind, have taken the top scientists who conducted it by surprise. But they follow warnings against both pregnant women and children using mobiles by the official Russian radiation watchdog body, which believes that the peril they pose "is not much lower than the risk to children's health from tobacco or alcohol".

How a magnet turned off my ability to speak

How a magnet turned off my speech - Telegraph

For this remarkable demonstration of how to boggle a brain, the professor is wielding what looks like a giant black key against my head.

I am reciting a nursery rhyme as he moves the coil about and delivers a high powered pulse, signified by snapping noise, a twitch on my scalp and an unpleasant, though pain free, nervy feeling in my mouth.

. . .

Finally he located my Broca's and the train of pulses stopped me in my tracks. I wanted to recite the rhyme but stumbled and stuttered as my speech area was disabled.

Intriguingly, I could still sing Humpty Dumpty as he buffetted my Broca's: it turns out that singing is controlled by the right side of the brain, the opposite hemisphere to the one he stimulated.

May 19, 2008

Biological basis for creativity linked to mental illness

News@UofT -- Biological basis for creativity linked to mental illness -- September 30, 2003

The paper is from 2003, but still interesting.

Sept. 30, 2003 -- Psychologists from U of T and Harvard University have identified one of the biological bases of creativity

The study in the September issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology says the brains of creative people appear to be more open to incoming stimuli from the surrounding environment. Other people's brains might shut out this same information through a process called "latent inhibition" - defined as an animal's unconscious capacity to ignore stimuli that experience has shown are irrelevant to its needs. Through psychological testing, the researchers showed that creative individuals are much more likely to have low levels of latent inhibition.

"This means that creative individuals remain in contact with the extra information constantly streaming in from the environment," says co-author and U of T psychology professor Jordan Peterson. "The normal person classifies an object, and then forgets about it, even though that object is much more complex and interesting than he or she thinks. The creative person, by contrast, is always open to new possibilities."

May 12, 2008

Carbon dioxide levels at global high

World CO2 levels at record high, scientists warn | Environment | guardian.co.uk

The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has reached a record high, according to new figures that renew fears that climate change could begin to slide out of control.

Scientists at the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii say that CO2 levels in the atmosphere now stand at 387 parts per million (ppm), up almost 40% since the industrial revolution and the highest for at least the last 650,000 years.

The figures, published by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on its website, also confirm that carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas, is accumulating in the atmosphere faster than expected. The annual mean growth rate for 2007 was 2.14ppm – the fourth year in the past six to see an annual rise greater than 2ppm. From 1970 to 2000, the concentration rose by about 1.5ppm each year, but since 2000 the annual rise has leapt to an average 2.1ppm.