Disperse or Be Microwaved
And other news from science and technology.
Scientists proposed rules for humanizing monkeys' brains. It's more ethical to test human brain stem-cell therapies in monkeys than in people, but near-human species such as chimpanzees have the highest risk of developing human abilities as a result. This report says the risk is low but can't be ruled out.
A study indicatesprayer for ill, faraway strangers doesn't help. Previous studies suggested prayer might help, but skeptics thought those studies were skewed by psychological benefits of praying for oneself or being part of a religious community. This study eliminated those factors. Believers in prayer responded by rejecting the falsifiability of God's power.
Scientists are asking the pope to clarify the Catholic position on evolution.They're disturbed by a senior cardinal's recent suggestion that Catholics can't accept Darwinian randomness.
Republicans are preparing to flood the Senate with "alternative" stem-cell bills to lure senators away from a stem-cell research bill that the president would have to veto. The alternatives avoid killing embryos, but it would take time to make them work. (For Human Nature's take, click here.)
Some drugs for Parkinson's can cause compulsive gambling. Some people taking the drugs also showed "abnormally increased appetites for food, alcohol and sex." These results are rare. Evidently the drugs "affect parts of the brain that are crucial for regulating behavior."
Cell phones make driving four times more dangerous even with hands-free devices. The devices cause no significant difference, confirming that the distraction is the conversation, not holding the phone.
A prominent Catholic cardinal is challenging evolution. The cardinal, widely seen as a potential future pope, says Catholicism could accept that species have common ancestors but not "an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection." He thinks evolution should be taught as only one of many theories. Some critics worry that a fight will hurt the teaching of evolution; others worry that it will hurt Catholicism.
The Senate might reject an embryonic stem-cell research bill and spend the money instead to try to get embryonic stem cells without destroying embryos. ESCR backers aren't sure whether to support the alternatives or to fight them because they'll take money from ESCR. Opponents aren't sure whether to support the alternatives or to fight them because they create creepy, embryolike things. (For Human Nature's take, click here.)
A study outlines ways to grow meat in labs. We could engineer it to be healthier, and it would help the environment, since by one estimate 21 percent of human-generated carbon dioxide is produced by animals we use for food. Unmentioned benefit: We would kill fewer animals.
Latest Human Nature columns: 1) The forced marriage of stem-cell opponents. 2) The lesson of the Schiavo autopsy. 3) Mandatory pregnancy: A true story. 4) Abortion and responsibility. 5) The coming war over IVF. 6) Bush's hypocrisy on stem cells and the death penalty. 7) The evolution of creationism. 8) Why GPS tracking is good for felons. 9) If steroids are cheating, why isn't LASIK?
Will Saletan covers science, technology, and politics for Slate and says a lot of things that get him in trouble.