• Articles in order of date – most recent at the top
  • Please email us with relevant news articles or petitions


Comet landing: Philae finds organic molecules
Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The Philae comet-lander has found traces of organic molecules on the surface of the comet 67P.

The initial sample data from the robot probe also found that the surface was much harder than imagined, the scientists report.

The lander control centre in Cologne, operated by German Aerospace Center (DLR), say Philae has uncovered much about the comet in spite of a rough touchdown in a less-than-perfect spot.

Read more

Beyond Good And Evil: New Science Casts Light On Morality In The Brain
August 7, 2014 | 6:16 AM | Carey Goldberg

Harvard brain scientist Joshua Buckholtz has never forgotten a convict he met back when he was an undergrad conducting psychological tests in prisons. The man had beaten another man nearly to death for stepping on his foot in a dance club.

“I wanted to ask him,” he recalls, “‘In what world was the reward of beating this person so severely, for this — to me — minor infraction, worth having terrible food and barbed wire around you?’ ”

But over the years, Buckholtz became convinced that this bad deed was a result of faulty brain processing, perhaps in a circuit called the frontostriatal dopamine system. In an impulsive person’s brain, he says, attention just gets so narrowly focused on an immediate reward that, in effect, the future disappears.

Read more

Can money buy happiness?
8 August 2014 | Neil Levy | Head of Neuroethics at The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health

If survey data are to be trusted, there’s a surprisingly weak relationship between money and happiness. As national incomes rise, happiness does not increase.

Consider this: happiness in the United States has been stable for the past 50 years, although at the same time living standards have doubled. The same holds true for the United Kingdom and Japan.

Read more

Trust is unconsciously determined, thanks to the amygdala: study
6 August 2014 | Emma Saville

The part of the brain responsible for the fight-or-flight response also plays a key role in unconsciously processing a face’s trustworthiness – in a matter of milliseconds.

A study published today in The Journal of Neuroscience shows the amygdala, a brain structure typically associated with primal responses such as fear, can also subconsciously process information about a human face and determine its trustworthiness in a fraction of a second.

Researchers from New York University used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to monitor subjects’ amygdala activity while they were shown a series of real and computer generated faces with slight changes in “trustworthy features”, such as higher inner eyebrows and more pronounced cheekbones.

Read more

God’s beliefs mirror our own
5 August 2014| University of Chicago

Assumptions religious people make about their God’s beliefs largely mirror the ones they already have – even when those beliefs fluctuate.

Researchers at the University of Chicago examined seven separate studies which ranged from surveys to nueroimaging. They found that when believers are asked to speculate about God’s views the same part of the brain that thinks about their own beliefs is activated.

Read more

The Brave New World of Three-Parent I.V.F.

In August 1996, at St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, N.J., a 39-year-old mechanical engineer from Pittsburgh named Maureen Ott became pregnant. Ott had been trying for almost seven years to conceive a child through in vitro fertilization. Unwilling to give up, she submitted to an experimental procedure in which doctors extracted her eggs, slid a needle through their shiny coat and injected not only her husband’s sperm but also a small amount of cytoplasm from another woman’s egg. When the embryo was implanted in Ott’s womb, she became the first woman on record to be successfully impregnated using this procedure, which some say is the root of an exciting medical advance and others say is the beginning of the end of the human species.

Read more

The curly fry conundrum: Why social media “likes” say more than you might think
Published on 3 Apr 2014 | Jennifer Golbeck | Ted Talk

Much can be done with online data. But did you know that computer wonks once determined that liking a Facebook page about curly fries means you’re also intelligent? Really. Computer scientist Jennifer Golbeck explains how this came about, how some applications of the technology are not so benign — and why she thinks we should return the control of information to its rightful owners.

See YouTube

Private traits and attributes are predictable from digital records of human behavior
Michal Kosinskia, David Stillwella, and Thore Graepelb | Edited by Kenneth Wachter, University of California, Berkeley, CA, and approved February 12, 2013 (received for review October 29, 2012)

We show that easily accessible digital records of behavor, Facebook Likes, can be used to automatically and accurately predict a range of highly sensitive personal attributes including: sexual orientation, ethnicity, religions and political views, personality traits, intelligence, happiness, use of addictive substances, parental separation, age, and gender.  The analysis presented is based on a dataset of over 58,000 volunteers who provided their Facebook Likes, detailed demographic profiles, and the results of several psychometric tests.  The proposed model uses dimensionality reduction for preprocessing the Likes data, which are then entered into logistic/linear regression to predict individual psychodemographic profiles from Likes.  The model correctly discriminates between homosexual and heterosexual men in 88% of cases.  For the personality trait “Openness,” prediction is accuracy is close to the test-retest accuracy of a standard personality test.  We give examples of associations between attributes and Likes and discuss implications for online personalization and privacy.

View PDF Online

How to Cope with Uncomfortable Uncertainty
Dec 19, 2013 |By Tori Rodriguez

A need to know is linked with anxiety

Joy is not the only experience that people try to avoid, to their detriment. Many people cannot tolerate the feeling of uncertainty, and according to mounting evidence, this fear affects mood and health. Intolerance of uncertainty is linked with mental disorders such as anxiety and depression, researchers confirmed in a paper in the June 2013 issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychology; their results also revealed a strong link to panic disorder.

Read more

Stephen Hawking: “There Are No Black Holes”
Jan 27, 2014 |By Zeeya Merali and Nature magazine

The notion of an “event horizon,” from which nothing can escape, is incompatible with quantum theory, Hawking says.

The notion of an “event horizon,” from which nothing can escape, is incompatible with quantum theory, Hawking says

Most physicists foolhardy enough to write a paper claiming that “there are no black holes” — at least not in the sense we usually imagine — would probably be dismissed as cranks. But when the call to redefine these cosmic crunchers comes from Stephen Hawking, it’s worth taking notice. In a paper posted online, the physicist, based at the University of Cambridge, UK, and one of the creators of modern black-hole theory, does away with the notion of an event horizon, the invisible boundary thought to shroud every black hole, beyond which nothing, not even light, can escape.

Read more

Out of the tropics: study finds source of mammal diversity
29 January 2014 | Ella Kelly | Editor at The Conversation

Picture a tropical rainforest, with thousands of species per hectare, and it’s quite easy to believe that up to three quarters of all plant and animal species are found in the tropics. But what makes the tropics so species-rich compared to areas closer to the poles?

This question has concerned scientists for centuries with a common theory being that species may actually evolve faster in the tropics, and go extinct less often. Yet there has been no evidence to support this long-held idea … until now.

Read More


The Psychological Power of Satan
How a belief in “pure evil” shapes people’s thinking
By Piercarlo Valdesolo, Scientific America, 29th October 2013

Justice Antonin Scalia and Keyser Soze agree: the greatest trick the devil could ever pull is convincing the world he didn’t exist. Fortunately for them, the devil does not seem to be effectively executing this plan. Some 70 percent of Americans, according to a 2007 Gallup Poll, believe in his existence. This personification of evil has implications beyond the supernatural, influencing how we think about what it means for people to be “pure evil.” And as we prepare to playfully celebrate the wicked and depraved on Halloween night, it’s worth pausing to reflect on some of the psychological and behavioral consequences of these beliefs.

Read more

Disclaimer: we have links on our website that we think will be of interest to our members but we do not necessarily endorse the views and opinions expressed on those linked web-pages.