Category: Discover Magazine

Yes, it’s a list! Five Profoundest Scientific Breakthroughs of 2013

Okay, 2013 is as good as over, and you’re no doubt currently bombarded by countdowns and reviews describing cultural highlights from the last 12 months. Basically, it was all twerking, One Direction, Rob Ford, North West-Kardashian, Edward Snowden, horsemeat, and Syria. I get it. (Please make it stop…)

There has also been no shortage of science-related highlights lists for 2013. I refer you in particular to those from io9, Gizmodo, and Wired, as well as Ed Yong‘s anti-list of “hidden gems”. These are certainly all top notch.

But, as ever, my purpose is to blog about the way science is greeted by regular Joes/Josephines like you. The hoi polloi. The masses. The great unwashed, as it were. Yes, you, dear reader.

(By the way, did I ever tell you that you are my favourite reader? [FYI: Do please take a moment to locate your nearest ‘Share’ and ‘Like’ buttons (hint: they’re behind you)]).

So I’m not looking for bells and whistles and fancy data visualisations, I’m looking for profundity. I’m looking for the type of science that makes us re-think what it actually means to be us. The science that makes us go “Woah, horsey!” or even, at times, “Cowabunga!Continue reading “Yes, it’s a list! Five Profoundest Scientific Breakthroughs of 2013”

Are conservatives less intelligent? Let’s ask a liberal…

Here is an interesting article from Discover Magazine, about some recent research into the association between intelligence and social attitudes. The study was conducted by some psychologists from Canada, and published in the prestigious journal Psychological Science. It represents a newly burgeoning tradition of investigating whether social conservatives (such as religious folks) are actually dumb. Or, in the more sophisticated examples, looking at exactly how dumb it is that they are.

However, the Discover Magazine article points out how such research can be interpreted in different ways depending on your social value system. The author argues that the Canadian study was reported from a somewhat liberal perspective.


A nice picture

For example, he raises a number of questions about how important research choices were informed by the investigators’ own political persuasions. He points to things like how the mediation effect is described (i.e., the way intervening factors are viewed as affecting the overall cause-effect storyline), and how the researchers defined and measured key variables, such as ‘conservatism’. These are excellent points.

However, a much simpler question can be asked about this type of finding: have a look at the diagram and ask yourself, why aren’t the arrows pointing in the opposite direction?

Continue reading “Are conservatives less intelligent? Let’s ask a liberal…”

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