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Skip the Small Talk: Meaningful Conversations Linked to Happier People

Scientific American Online - Tue, 2010-07-06 14:00

Feeling down? Having a stimulating conversation might help, according to a new study published in Psychological Science .

Researchers at the University of Arizona and Washington University in St. Louis used unobtrusive recording devices to track the conversations of 79 undergraduate students over the course of four days. They then counted the conversations and determined how many were superficial versus substantive, based on whether the information exchanged was banal (“What do you have there? Pop­corn?”) or meaningful (“She fell in love with your dad? So, did they get divorced soon after?”). They also assessed subjects’ overall well-being by having them fill out question­naires and by asking their friends to report on how happy and content with life they seemed.

Categories: Science News

Winged Victory: Modern Birds Now Found to Have Been Contemporaries of Dinosaurs (preview)

Scientific American Online - Tue, 2010-07-06 13:00

December in Moscow, and the temperature drops under 15 degrees below zero. The radiators in the bar have grown cold, so I sit in a thick coat and gloves drinking vodka while I ponder the fossil birds. The year is 2001, and Evgeny N. Kurochkin of the Russian Academy of Sciences and I have just spent hours at the paleontology museum as part of our effort to survey all the avian fossils ever collected in Mongolia by joint Soviet-Mongolian expeditions. Among the remains is a wing unearthed in the Gobi Desert in 1987. Compared with the spectacularly preserved dinosaur skeletons in the museum’s collections, this tiny wing--its delicate bones jumbled and crushed--is decidedly unglamorous. But it offers a strong hint that a widely held view of bird evolution is wrong.

More than 10,000 species of birds populate the earth today. Some are adapted to living far out on the open ocean, others eke out a living in arid deserts, and still others dwell atop snow-capped mountains. Indeed, of all the classes of land vertebrates, the one comprising birds is easily the most diverse. Evolutionary biologists long assumed that the ancestors of today’s birds owed their success to the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs and many other land vertebrates around 65 million years ago. Their reasoning was simple: although birds had evolved before that catastrophe, anatomically modern varieties appeared in the fossil record only after that event. The dawning of ducks, cuckoos, hummingbirds and other modern forms--which together make up the neornithine (“new birds”) lineage--seemed to be a classic case of an evolutionary radiation in response to the clearing out of ecological niches by an extinction event. In this case, the niches were those occupied by dinosaurs, the flying reptiles known as pterosaurs and archaic birds.

Categories: Science News

EU parliament group backs U.S. bank data deal

Reuters - Tue, 2010-07-06 12:43
STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) - A European Parliament committee said on Monday it supported a deal with the United States on sharing citizens' bank data, a move which investigators say will help counter-terrorism investigations.

Categories: Science News

Sri Lanka hardliners protest U.N. war crimes probe

Reuters - Tue, 2010-07-06 12:42
COLOMBO (Reuters) - Police on Tuesday clashed with protesters led by a Sri Lanka cabinet minister who vowed to besiege the U.N. office until Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon dissolves a panel advising him on possible war crimes.

Categories: Science News

Food for Thought: Creating Edible Illusions--and Great Art [Slide Show]

Scientific American Online - Tue, 2010-07-06 12:00

Ever been impressed with our modern world's ability to produce meals that look like one food but which are actually made of something else--like a tofu burger or artificial crab meat? It's actually an old trick. In medieval times fish was cooked to imitate venison during Lent, and celebratory banquets included a number of extravagant (and sometimes disturbing) delicacies such as meatballs made to resemble oranges, trout prepared to look like peas, and shellfish fashioned into mock viscera. Recipe books from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance also describe roasted chickens that appeared to sing, peacocks re-dressed in their own feathers and made to breathe fire, and an all-time favorite, a dish aptly named "Trojan Hog," in which a whole roasted pig was stuffed with an assortment of living creatures such as small birds, to the amusement and delight of cherished dinner guests. Unwelcome visitors were also treated to illusory food, but not quite as nice: They were served perfectly good meat that was made to look rotten and writhing with worms. Maybe not appetizing enough to eat, but repulsive enough to send your in-laws packing! [More]

Categories: Science News

China denounces new unilateral U.S. sanctions on Iran

Reuters - Tue, 2010-07-06 10:51
BEIJING (Reuters) - China denounced the United States on Tuesday for imposing its own sanctions on Iran, saying Washington should not unilaterally take such steps outside of U.N. resolutions.

Categories: Science News

China says jailing of U.S. geologist its own affair

Reuters - Tue, 2010-07-06 10:47
BEIJING (Reuters) - China said on Tuesday the jailing of a U.S. geologist on charges of stealing state secrets, described by the United States as disappointing, was its own affair and other countries had no right to interfere.

Categories: Science News

Iran says planes get fuel; EU bans some for safety

Reuters - Tue, 2010-07-06 09:56
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iranian planes continue to refuel at airports around the world, an official said on Tuesday, a day after an Iranian news report said aircraft had been denied fuel in Germany, Britain and a Gulf Arab state due to U.S. sanctions.

Categories: Science News

U.S. lawmakers press Afghanistan's Karzai on graft

Reuters - Tue, 2010-07-06 07:12
KABUL (Reuters) - Senior U.S. lawmakers pressed Afghanistan's president to do more to stop graft, but said on Monday that threats to pull U.S. aid over the issue would only hobble a war strategy that stands a good chance of success.

Categories: Science News

Pakistan says forces kill 23 militants in northwest

Reuters - Tue, 2010-07-06 07:00
MINGORA, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistani forces killed 23 militants early on Tuesday in fighting that erupted after insurgents fired on troops during a search operation in the country's northwest, police and intelligence officials said.

Categories: Science News

Adult testicular function affected by exposure in womb to BPA

Science A GoGo - Tue, 2010-07-06 06:10
Low-level exposure in the womb to the plastic chemical bisphenol A (BPA) can harm testicular function into adulthood, according to a new study that adds to the growing list of concerns about the ubiquitous chemical...
Categories: Science News

Obama urges direct Middle East peace talks soon

Reuters - Tue, 2010-07-06 05:35
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama urged Israel and the Palestinians on Tuesday to resume direct peace talks by September and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised "concrete steps" to clear the way.

Categories: Science News

Design Boosts Chances for Air-Powered Motorcycle

Scientific American Online - Tue, 2010-07-06 05:03

Die-hard advocates of alternate energy might fantasize about cars that could one day run on water. But scientists in India have gone a step further. They’ve mathematically modeled an engine that should allow a motorcycle to run on air--compressed air, that is. Their design is described in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy . [Bharat Raj Singh and Onkar Singh, ] [More]

Categories: Science News

BP shares soar as spill spreads

Reuters - Tue, 2010-07-06 02:13
HOUSTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Drilling of a relief well to halt the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a week ahead of schedule, the U.S. official overseeing the response to the disaster said on Tuesday.

Categories: Science News

Forecasters eye new storm brewing over Gulf

Reuters - Tue, 2010-07-06 01:13
MIAMI (Reuters) - An area of disturbed weather over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico could strengthen into a tropical storm later this week, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said on Monday.

Categories: Science News

Few fishy facts found in climate report

Scientific American Online - Mon, 2010-07-05 23:03

By Quirin Schiermeier

How much of the Netherlands lies below sea level? It seems an innocuous question-- but it sparked a major review of the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The investigation, commissioned by the Dutch government, focused on the contribution of Working Group II--on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability--to the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report. [More]

Categories: Science News

Storm off Louisiana packing tropical force winds

Reuters - Mon, 2010-07-05 22:27
MIAMI (Reuters) - A storm packing heavy winds in the Gulf of Mexico is likely to strengthen into a tropical cyclone before it tears into coastal Louisiana on Monday evening, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

Categories: Science News

Journals step up plagiarism policing

Scientific American Online - Mon, 2010-07-05 21:39

By Declan Butler

Major science publishers are gearing up to fight plagiarism. [More]

Categories: Science News

EU parliament group backs U.S. bank data deal

Reuters - Mon, 2010-07-05 20:08
STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) - A European Parliament committee said on Monday it supported a deal with the United States on sharing citizens' bank data, a move which investigators say will help counter-terrorism investigations.

Categories: Science News

Later School Start Time Leads to Better Students

Scientific American Online - Mon, 2010-07-05 19:57

Teachers get exasperated at students--they don’t pay attention, they’re sleepy, they have bad attitudes. But improvement could be a matter of timing--just start school later. That’s according to a study in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine . [Citation to come.] [More]

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