Friday Coffee Break, Gangnam Style!

Every Friday at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense! our contributors pass around links to new scientific results, or science-y news, or videos of adorable wildlife, that they’re most likely to bring up while waiting in line for a latte.

My apologies for the lateness of this Korean version of the Friday Coffee Break!

From Sarah:

Starting off on a light note this article describes how dogs can “catch” yawns from humans but only after they are old enough to understand empathy and emotion.  Also from Sarah, has anybody wondered why no mention of the dreaded “C” word (aka Climate Change) has come up at any of the presidential debates?  This blog post from the NYTimes discusses that issue.

From Noah:

Rogue scientist and entrepreneur Russ George dumped tons of iron dust in the Pacific Ocean off the west coast of Canada, “calling it a “state-of-the-art study,” said his team scattered iron dust several hundred miles west of the islands of Haida Gwaii, in northern British Columbia, in exchange for $2.5 million from a native Canadian group. The iron spawned the growth of enormous amounts of plankton, which Mr. George, a former fisheries and forestry worker, said might allow the project to meet one of its goals: aiding the recovery of the local salmon fishery for the native Haida. ”

From Jeremy:

Does taking Ritalin increase individuals enhance desire for social conformity?  This study here postulates that there may be some element of connection between increased dopamine levels brought on by taking Ritalin and conforming to social norms.

From Devin:

This link (which at the time of publishing this story appeared to be broken) is a tumblr page dedicated to “things I learned as a field biologist.”  Hopefully the link gets fixed soon.

From Jon:

Given the overabundance of awesome links and a couple medically related ones, I’m going to end this post with a fun video!  Did you know that the lyrics to Gangnam Style is a satire poking fun at the wealthy Gangnam district in Seoul and also discusses how the singer likes the kind of lady who enjoys the freedom of a cup of coffee. I figured given this connection it was only perfect to end the month of October with the Gangnam Style theme!

I’m a total science fiction geek and couldn’t help myself.  There are quite a few other well done parodies of the original video as well such as Obama Style, Mitt Romney Style and even Gunman Style.  Enjoy!

The Data on Science and Religion

This post is a guest contribution by Amy Dapper, the proprietor of Evolve It!, a blog about (sometimes) cool (mostly) science-y things. Amy is a PhD student at Indiana University studying evolutionary theory.

Religious beliefs, or more likely disbelief, tend to be a hot topic on science blogs, particularly those with a evolutionary bend.  However, when these topics come up there is often more opinion than science, which is why I was excited to see an research article in last weeks edition of Science titled ‘Analytical Thinking Promotes Religious Disbelief’ [1].  The article, authored by Will M. Gervais and Ara Norenzayan, uses a series of five studies to build a causal link between analytical cognitive processes and religious disbelief.  I thought it would be fun to delve into the science behind their audaciously titled article for my guest post here at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense.

The authors approach understanding the cognitive underpinnings of religious belief and disbelief using the dual-process theory of human thought.  This theory posits that we use two distinct and separate systems for reasoning.  The first, creatively termed System 1, is intuitive and produces a rapid response based only on prior knowledge and experience.  Previous research has found that individuals who rely more heavily on this intuitive cognitive system are more likely to believe in supernatural entities, and thus tend to have stronger religious beliefs [2]. On the other hand, System 2 is rational and produces a slower response based upon logic and reasoning that, when employed, often overrides the conclusions of System 1.  The authors hypothesize that, in contrast to System 1, this analytical cognitive system promotes religious disbelief.

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