Growing doubt that gravitational waves were actually detected

Nature has an article up describing the problems with the BICEP2 results that are now being identified by various scientists.  It's actually the second one I've seen them publish on this. The astronomers who this spring announced that they had evidence of primordial gravitational waves jumped the gun because they did not take into proper … Continue reading Growing doubt that gravitational waves were actually detected

‘Free choice’ in primates altered through brain stimulation

When electrical pulses are applied to the ventral tegmental area of their brain, macaques presented with two images change their preference from one image to the other. The study is the first to confirm a causal link between activity in the ventral tegmental area and choice behavior in primates. via 'Free choice' in primates altered … Continue reading ‘Free choice’ in primates altered through brain stimulation

Beauty is determined by both biology and culture

Science can't determine values, and this includes aesthetics, beauty.  But that doesn't mean science has nothing to say about beauty.  As this article at PolicyMic indicates, it can study what most of us see as beauty and explore the reasons why we see it as beautiful. The primary reason we are alive is to reproduce … Continue reading Beauty is determined by both biology and culture

SpaceX reveals the new crewed Dragon V2

Very cool.  SpaceX has been making a lot of news recently, announcing one breakthrough after another.  Their current unmanned Dragon capsule has made multiple successful supply runs to the ISS.  Now they've revealed a version that can transport humans. The most eye popping aspect of it is the SuperDraco rocket engines on the capsule itself that … Continue reading SpaceX reveals the new crewed Dragon V2

On the biology of race

Scientia Salon

the-different-human-races-from-natural-history-of-the-animal-kingdom2by Massimo Pigliucci

The biology of human races is back in the news, big time. This is because of a new book by former New York Times journalist Nicholas Wade, A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History [1].

The basic thesis of the book is that human races are real, and that their genetic differences — which according to Wade evolved rapidly after the invention of agriculture — account for much of the behavioral differences among human groups, as well as for the success of some and the failure of others.

Here is a sample of quotes from Wade himself, to give you an idea of what he is up to [2]:

[Trying to explain why Western societies have been capable of developing advanced democracies while others haven’t] “Conventionally, these social differences are attributed solely to culture. But if that’s so, why is it apparently so hard for tribal societies…

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On theories of why civilizations collapse and our own times

After my post on the Bronze Age collapse and resulting discussion, I looked at other material about the collapse of civilizations, but after doing that, realized that I have some thoughts about what might be necessary for developing a theory about why collapses happen, what areas of expertise you need to have a chance at formulating … Continue reading On theories of why civilizations collapse and our own times

Interstellar travel: Raising children in space

BBC Future has an article looking at how living in space might effect humans and society, and asking, among other things, should we have babies in space? “Mars,” sang Sir Elton John in Rocket Man, “ain't the kind of place to raise your kids.” Sir Elton might be lacking in Nasa-related experience, but he had a … Continue reading Interstellar travel: Raising children in space

We might find extraterrestrial life soon, but intelligent life?

Forbes has an article up noting that many scientists, including Seth Shostak, are now saying that we could find intelligent extraterrestrial life in the next twenty years.  I definitely think we might find extraterrestrial life in that time frame, but I'm pretty skeptical that it will be intelligent. I've written about this before, but the … Continue reading We might find extraterrestrial life soon, but intelligent life?

Americans may be more scientifically literate than evolution questions show

Dan Kahan has an interesting post showing that when Americans are asked the, "Did humans develop from earlier species?" question, it matters how it is asked.  As it's usually asked, when people answer, they are often asserting a religious cultural identity.  But if it is asked with the qualifying "according to the theory of evolution", … Continue reading Americans may be more scientifically literate than evolution questions show