Monday, February 15, 2010

Links for the week of 2/8/2010

Physical sciences:
Scientists from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel figure out how to get water to freeze at different temperatures by modifying the electric charge on the surface it is sitting on. (ScienceNews)

Plastic water? misc.ience describes how scientists are able to make hydrogels that retain their shape, but are made almost entirely out of water.

Researchers at the University of Maryland shed light on how Egyptian bats track their prey. Rather than firing sound waves directly at it, they shoot to either side. This makes them less likely to locate prey, but once they have found it, they can follow it more accurately. (EcoTone)

Beware mussels bearing "gifts": Neuroskeptic describes a study of amnesia caused by toxins in shellfish.

It's now fairly common knowledge that bees dance to tell other bees where to find food. But a recent study in Current Biology shows that they also use short buzzes to tell each other not to go to a dangerous location. Ed Yong at Not Exactly Rocket Science describes the study.

Female crickets can apparently warn their young of environmental dangers: baby crickets born to mothers hunted by wolf spiders are more likely to freeze and hide when they detect the spiders. (Not Exactly Rocket Science)

Sociology/human psychology:
Also from Neuroskeptic: A study of whether antipsychotic medication can reduce psychotic experiences in marijuana users.

If you want to encourage altruism, lead by example...and cleaning that bathroom might not hurt, either. A recent study suggests that watching other people perform good deeds increases the observer's altruistic tendencies. Interestingly, smells associated with cleaning also seem to increase altruism. (Psych Central; Not Exactly Rocket Science)

Daniel Hawes at Ingenious Monkey-20 two 5 has an excellent pair of posts on factors affecting girls' success in math.

A number of bloggers have written about Inuk, an ancient Greenlander whose entire genome was recently sequenced. Gene Expression describes the genetic relationships between Inuk's people (which anthropologists call the Saqqaq) and other human groups. Ed Yong describes what we know about his appearance, and how we know it.

John Tierney of The New York Times describes a sociological study conducted using the Times' own records. As it turns out, articles that inspire awe and those that deal with complex topics are the most likely to be forwarded on. (I wonder if there might be selection bias--perhaps readers of The New York Times are more likely to be interested in complex or awesome topics?)

Is religion necessary for morality? A common belief (for lack of a better word) is that religions originally developed to provide a basis for morality--i.e., to give the members of the society rules to follow to keep the society functioning. A recent analysis of studies in moral psychology, however, suggest that religious training and beliefs do not affect how people make moral decisions. Instead, the authors suggest, religion may have filled other needs in early society, such as the need to feel in control of one's surroundings. (björn brembs blog)

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