Posts Tagged: science

Memory Excavation

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Guernica examines the intersections of science, emotion, and memory by way of an exchange between novelist Rivka Galchen and neuroscience professor David Linden, featured in the Rubin Museum’s Brainwave series.

“As Linden explains in his book, ‘memory retrieval is an active and dynamic process.’ Thus recollecting past experiences—reliving them again and again or retelling them to others—subtly modifies the memories we keep.

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Worst. Water Bed. Ever.

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The Animal Kingdom, specifically the marine insect known as the water skater, has devised a new use for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, using the expanse of pelagic plastics as a space to lay its eggs.

The Patch, now 100 times bigger than it was in the ’70s, has a formidable impact on the ocean ecosystem as it spreads pollutants and its smaller bits are ingested by marine life at a tremendous rate.  With the addition of a more robust water skater population destabilizing the food chain, the Patch may very well be the most troubled neighborhood in the seven seas.  Here’s to hoping they develop a mutant appetite for high-density polyethylene.

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Our Brains On Art

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“While Rembrandt was an astonishingly talented artist, our response to his art is conditioned by all sorts of variables that have nothing to do with oil paint. Many of these variables are capable of distorting our perceptions, so that we imagine differences that don’t actually exist; the verdict of art history warps what we see.”

Jonah Lehrer explores how the brain perceives art.

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Migrations Map

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Here is a map to help you visualize human migration over the course of our 200,000 year existence. Using data based on mitochondrial DNA difference, the map models migratory patterns as humans “moved outward from Africa into Asia, and later the Americas, Indonesia and Australia.” The visual distinguishes between land and water or temporary land/ice bridges, while highlighting genetic populations and the extent of ice.

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Family Tree Shake-Up

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Fossils found in a South African cave may be “the most plausible known ancestor of archaic and modern humans,” argue the scientists who discovered the bones, citing the combination of apelike and human features in the newfound species—dubbed Australopithecus sediba.

Some scientists disagree that the fossils represent a transitional link between the australopithecines and humans, suggesting instead that the discovery provides important evidence of the extensive diversity of australopithecine apes and the difficulty of determining which is actually the ancestral species.

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Happy Words Win

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Headed by the University of Vermont’s Isabel Klouman, a team of researchers did a massive language study that revealed an optimistic tendency of the English language—there are more positive words than negative. Compiling words from years of the New York Times, tweets, popular song lyrics and Google Books, they then analyzed the most common from each source, and finally rated each word’s relative positivity from the 10,122-word list.

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The Creative Impulse: A Duet of Sorts

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There is a romantic idea that great genius emanates from the tower.

The novelist, the philosopher, the architect, all retreat to their places of solitude to channel their minds and await inspiration. A few hours, days, months, years later, they emerge with a masterpiece.

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If Science Says Facial Hair Is Sexy, It’s Sexy

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“Results suggest that facial hair is worn to enhance a man’s marriage prospects by increasing physical attractiveness and perception of social status. Men shave their mustaches, possibly to convey an impression of trustworthiness, when the marriage market is weak and women might fear sexual exploitation and desertion.”

A new study shows that facial hair “increas(es) physical attractiveness and perception of social status.” (via Andrew Sullivan)

I mean, they used a regression.

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Morning Coffee

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NY Times on how your brain physically manifests abstract ideas and the Tanzanian Spray Toad.

The Hubble has detected an alien spacecraft (or just a comet or something, whatever).

The universe is hella closer to death than we thought. (via Gerrycanavan)

“Don’t you ever link to anything nonscience related?” Here are some pictures of a frozen house in Detroit.

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