Researchers at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute have discovered that a pair of molecules work together to kill so-called ?self-reactive? immune cells that are programmed to attack the body?s own organs. The finding is helping to explain how autoimmune diseases develop.
Computers may be getting faster every year, but those advances in computer speed could be dwarfed if their 1's and 0's were represented by bursts of light, instead of electricity.
“Five studies examined whether the practice of regifting-a social taboo-is as offensive to the original givers as potential regifters assume. Participants who imagined regifting a gift (receivers) thought that the original giver would be more offended than participants who imagined that their gifts were regifted (givers) reported feeling. Specifically, receivers viewed regifting as similar in offensiveness to throwing gifts away, yet givers clearly preferred the former. This asymmetry in emotional reactions to regifting was driven by an asymmetry in beliefs about entitlement. Givers believed that the act of gift giving passed title to the gift on to receivers, so that receivers were free to decide what to do with the gift; in contrast, receivers believed that givers retained some say in how their gifts were used. Finally, an intervention designed to destigmatize regifting by introducing a different normative standard (i.e., National Regifting Day) corrected the asymmetry in beliefs about entitlement and increased regifting.”
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: Is it really the thought that counts?
Good news for snoozing students: Scientists find we really can learn while we sleepBy Mark Prigg A study found that the body is able to take in new information while it sleeps and unconsciously modify the waking behaviour. Sleep learning experiments are notoriously difficult to conduct, not least because the researchers need to be sure [...]
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30% of people with psoriasis are at risk of developing psoriatic arthritis. Dr. Jan Dutz, Research Scientist with the Arthritis Research Centre of Canada explains the relationship between obesity and psoriasis, obesity and psoriatic arthritis and the importance of maintaining a healthy weight. From the Arthritis Research Centre of Canada Filed under: The Health File [...]
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Since the sequencing of the human genome in 2001, all our genes ? around 20,000 in total ? have been identified. But much is still unknown ? for instance where and when each is active.
Forbes recently presented an interesting if some what informal poll on scientific advisory boards. Almost every biotech has a Scientific Advisory Board, but few use them particularly well. Although SABs can be hugely valuable in helping shape a program or portfolio, or raising the visibility of a startup, they can also be a colossal distraction [...]
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It was a quiet Thursday afternoon when AS, a 68-year-old woman from a suburb of Chicago, awakened from a nap to the realization that something was terribly wrong.
Looking at societies cross the world, you're stuck by the enormous variety of mystical beliefs out there - to the point where, infamously, even trying to come up with a definition of religion that everyone agrees on is pretty much impossible.
Yet there are common themes. Many societies do believe in some kind of chief god, and many of those believe that this god is some kind of parent or leader figure - one that takes an interest in his people, and punishes bad behaviour.
So the question is, do societies vary in some systematic way? Is it, as some people have claimed, that complex societies lead to the development of moralising gods?
Hervey Peoples and Frank Marlowe, at the University of Cambridge, have set out to test this statistically - no mean feat.
They used a something called the "Standard Cross-Cultural Sample", which was created in 1980 and which provides an unbiased sample of the worlds societies - representing every region, language family, and cultural area. They're predominantly pre-industrial.
They categorised each society according to whether they believed in an active High God (a single, all-powerful creator active in human affairs and supportive of human morality), a High God that is inactive or remote, or no belief in any High God.
Belief in an active High God was significantly greater in societies that were larger, more stratified (i.e. less equality) and societies engaged in intensive agriculture. Now, all of these things go together - you need intensive agriculture to support a large society, and large agricultural societies have the surpluses and politics that facilitate stratification.
All of this fits nicely with the hypothesis that moralising gods are an invention of large, structured societies. But what about pastoralists?
The thing about pastoralists is that they are vulnerable to the environment - herds could scatter or be devastated by drought. Lifestyles based on foraging and low-intensity agriculture are vulnerable to the same things, although it it easier for such groups to relocate.
Even more important, I think, is that pastoralists have a source of transportable wealth - their cattle. That means that they are vulnerable to attack from other pastoralists (and, indeed, can gain from attacking other groups). And that in turn means that their groups must be cohesive and well-organised to survive.
In other words, they have a very great incentive to punish free-riders and cheats. If a forager goes off the rails, no-one really suffers except him. For a pastoralist group, however, sticking together is all important.
At first blush, all of this is in line with other research that links the emergence of complex societies to the invention of moralising gods. However, that's not quite the case.
The previous research showed that 'world religions' are linked to altruism towards anonymous strangers. In practice, that means breaking down inter-group barriers.
This new research seems to show that moralising powerful gods are linked to stronger group cohesion.
Now, those two results are actually in conflict. But they do reinforce the fact that religious beliefs do not act in a straightforward way.
It seems likely that their effects are quite context dependent - a conclusion, of course, that's borne out by a lot of other research!