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Topics - Recusant

1
Science / Male Hormones and Religiosity
It appears that men with higher levels of "androgens" are less likely to be religious.

"Older men with higher levels of sex hormones could be less religious, study suggests" | ScienceDaily

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The level of sex hormones such as testosterone in a man's body could influence his religiosity. A new study by Aniruddha Das of McGill University in Canada in Springer's journal Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology now adds to the growing body of evidence that religiosity is not only influenced by upbringing or psychological makeup, but physiological factors could also play a role.

[. . .]

From the analysis of over 1000 men, Das found that men with higher levels of the sex hormones testosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) in their bodies had weaker religious ties.

"Religion influences a range of cultural and political patterns at the population level. Results from the current study indicate the latter may also have hormonal roots," says Das. "There is therefore a need for conceptual models that can accommodate the dynamic interplay of psychosocial and neuroendocrine factors in shaping a person's life cycle."

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From the "Results" section of the abstract; full paper available free here:

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Higher baseline levels of both testosterone and DHEA prospectively predicted religious ties, whether measured through attendance at services or network connections to clergy. Moreover, contrary to arguments of sociocultural modulation of androgens, the pattern of associations was most consistent with hormonal causation of religious connections. Results were robust to a range of time invariant and time varying confounders, including demographics, hormone supplements, and physical health.
2
Science / Seagoing Neandertals?
Intriguing idea, and not particularly outlandish.

"Neandertals, Stone Age people may have voyaged the Mediterranean" | Science

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Odysseus, who voyaged across the wine-dark seas of the Mediterranean in Homer's epic, may have had some astonishingly ancient forerunners. A decade ago, when excavators claimed to have found stone tools on the Greek island of Crete dating back at least 130,000 years, other archaeologists were stunned--and skeptical. But since then, at that site and others, researchers have quietly built up a convincing case for Stone Age seafarers--and for the even more remarkable possibility that they were Neandertals, the extinct cousins of modern humans.

The finds strongly suggest that the urge to go to sea, and the cognitive and technological means to do so, predates modern humans, says Alan Simmons, an archaeologist at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas who gave an overview of recent finds at a meeting here last week of the Society for American Archaeology. "The orthodoxy until pretty recently was that you don't have seafarers until the early Bronze Age," adds archaeologist John Cherry of Brown University, an initial skeptic. "Now we are talking about seafaring Neandertals. It's a pretty stunning change."

[. . .]

[R]ecent evidence from the Mediterranean suggests purposeful navigation. Archaeologists had long noted ancient-looking stone tools on several Mediterranean islands including Crete, which has been an island for more than 5 million years, but they were dismissed as oddities.

Then in 2008 and 2009, Thomas Strasser of Providence College in Rhode Island co-led a Greek-U.S. team with archaeologist Curtis Runnels of Boston University and discovered hundreds of stone tools near the southern coastal village of Plakias. The picks, cleavers, scrapers, and bifaces were so plentiful that a one-off accidental stranding seems unlikely, Strasser says. The tools also offered a clue to the identity of the early seafarers: The artifacts resemble Acheulean tools developed more than a million years ago by H. erectus and used until about 130,000 years ago by Neandertals as well.

Strasser argued that the tools may represent a sea-borne migration of Neandertals from the Near East to Europe. The team used a variety of techniques to date the soil around the tools to at least 130,000 years old, but they could not pinpoint a more exact date. And the stratigraphy at the site is unclear, raising questions about whether the artifacts are as old as the soil they were embedded in. So other archaeologists were skeptical.

But the surprise discovery prompted researchers to scour the region for additional  sites, an effort that is now bearing fruit. Possible Neandertal artifacts have turned up on a number of islands, including at Stelida on the island of Naxos. Naxos sits 250 kilometers north of Crete in the Aegean Sea; even during glacial times, when sea levels were lower, it was likely accessible only by watercraft.

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3
It seems to indicate a deep ocean hydrothermal vent bacterial biota.

"3.77-billion-year-old fossils stake new claim to oldest evidence of life" | Science

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These tubelike structures, formed of an iron ore called hematite, may be microfossils of 3.77-billion-year-old life at ancient hydrothermal vents.
Image Credit: Matthew Dodd


Life on Earth may have originated in the sunless depths of the ocean rather than shallow seas. In a new study, scientists studying 3.77-billion-year-old rocks have found tubelike fossils similar to structures found at hydrothermal vents, which host thriving biological communities. That would make them more than 300 million years older than the most ancient signs of life on Earth--fossilized microbial mats called stromatolites that grew in shallow seas. Other scientists are skeptical about the new claims.

"The authors offer a convincing set of observations that could signify life," says Kurt Konhauser, a geomicrobiologist at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, who was not involved in the study. But "at present, I do not see a way in which we will definitively prove ancient life at 3.8 billion years ago."

[. . .]

Taken together, the structures and their chemistry point to a biological origin near a submarine hydrothermal vent, the team reports online today in Nature. That would make them among the oldest signs of life on Earth--and, depending on the actual age of the rocks, possibly the oldest.

That doesn't necessarily mean that life originated in deep waters rather than in shallow seas, Papineau says. "It's not necessarily mutually exclusive--if we are ready to accept the fact that life diversified very early." Both the iron-oxidizing bacteria and the photosynthetic cyanobacteria that build stromatolite mats could have evolved from an earlier ancestor, he says.

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4
This is interesting. I'd like to see the data.   

"UA Study Shows Stark Differences in How Conservatives, Liberals See Data"

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Conservatives are less interested than liberals in viewing novel scientific data, according to a psychology researcher at The University of Alabama.

Dr. Alexa Tullett, assistant professor of psychology at UA, recently conducted the project, titled "Is ideology the enemy of inquiry? Examining the link between political orientation and lack of interest in novel data." The article will be published in the Journal of Research and Personality in August.

In three separate studies, Tullett and colleagues offered participants in both the Deep South and West Coast a chance to view data on three topics: the justness of the world, the efficacy of social safety nets and the benefits of social media. Participants were given no advanced knowledge of what the data would tell them. Tullett found that conservatives were less interested in viewing empirical data than liberals in all three studies. Moreover, conservatives were more skeptical about the value of science compared with liberals. These differences suggest that conservatives and liberals may differ with respect to the kinds of information they find persuasive in the context of political debate, Tullett said.

5
Science / The AWAKE Project at CERN, and Silliness
The AWAKE project at CERN had its first test in the middle of last month. Sharp-eyed wearers of tinfoil hats found the weather that took place in the area at the time to be highly alarming: "Bizarre 'Portal-Shaped Clouds' Form Over CERN During The 'Awake Experiment'"

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There are some "major concerns" about what the scientists at CERN are doing these days.  The European Organization for Nuclear Research, more commonly known by the acronym "CERN", is purposely smashing particles into one another at astonishingly high speeds.  Just last month, the researchers working at the facility began a new experiment called "Awake" that uses "plasma wakefields driven by a proton beam" to accelerate charged particles.  On June 24th, pictures of some extremely bizarre "portal-shaped cloud formations" were taken in the area just above the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.  Could it be possible that there is some sort of a connection between this new "Awake" experiment" and these strange cloud formations?  And precisely what do the researchers hope to "awaken" anyway?

. . .

On top of everything else, the people running CERN decided to choose a logo that seems to contain "666"...





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At least now we know what a "portal" looks like.

6
I think this is amazing news.

"First human CRISPR trial given go-ahead: your questions answered" | New Scientist

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The CRISPR gene editing revolution is happening even faster than we expected. Many thought human trials of therapies using the technique were still years away. But yesterday, a US federal committee gave its nod of approval - meaning the first trial could start later this year. The therapy is designed to treat cancer but the main purpose of this first trial is safety. If it succeeds, it will encourage many other groups to start testing treatments that involve CRISPR.

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