18 December 2005

Sci-Fried in the Sun

I did try to do this on Friday...and my browser kept crashing.

The first article of note is more political than scientific: Christmas & Congress. Apparently Congress in its infinite inanity has passed a law to fight attempts to ban mention of Christmas. *looks at holiday ads; looks at tv programming; looks at holiday cards; sighs*

On the topic of religion in the media, an interesting review of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It's long, but there are some good thoughts. One interesting one from the actress who portrays the Witch: "The Christians are welcome," she says, with composed irony. "As everyone is welcome. Honestly, the connection had to be explained to me. And the more I got to know about Lewis ... I know he was a very devout Christian and that he was capable of writing, as he did his entire life, very obviously Christian tracts. This is not one of them." Ummm... if the connection had to be explained to her, she did not attend very many Easter services. Ah well. She goes on to say that she sees it as almost anti-religious: "What I mean by that is that it's about children learning to draw not on any kind of dogma or doctrine but on their own resources, outside of the box. Outside their family, outside parental guidance, outside anything. The thing about Narnia is that it takes you to the heart of yourself, your own conscience and your own experience, and so I think it is so much wider than any religion could be, actually." (I might say more about this after I've seen the movie, but I would disagree based on the book itself)

Okay, now from cultural perceptions to mental ones. It seems that self-discipline is a stronger indicator of academic performance than IQ. This really shouldn't be that much of a surprise. Also, Americans may have differerent brain structures from the rest of the world because we're descended primarily from immigrants (if this link dies, I've got a back-up copy saved; NYTimes has odd archiving policies).

Also, some thoughts on mind control. Specifically, subliminal messages. It turns out that subliminal messages are most effective when combined with a directly related non-subliminal message (at least according to one study). Without the non-subliminal stimulus, people who saw "beef" as a subliminal message were more likely to be hungry, but not more likely to choose beef over other foods.

The other side of mind control, using MRI scans to control pain, is a more advanced version of biofeedback. A bit impractical for wide usage, but interesting.

On the more physical side of things, humans and fish have a common pigment gene and a nearby star has a dust ring around it that could indicate the presence of planets. The star is "only" 137 light years away.

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