Entries in science (5)


15 Year Old Student Invents Cheaper, Faster, Cancer Detection Method

This is an inspirational story of young person's creativity and tenacity coming together with the internet to make something potentially revolutionary.  From the article:  

"Jack Andraka has created a pancreatic cancer test that is 168 times faster and considerably cheaper than the gold standard in the field. He has applied for a patent for his test and is now carrying out further research at Johns Hopkins University in the US city of Baltimore."


Introducing Nocebo - You Can Now Buy Placebos (That Aren't Homeopathic)

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This is a great idea for all the parents out there.  Buy it at Darren Cullen's Etsy store.  Photo©Darrin Cullen


A Reminder of What Skepticism Is

Brian Dunning has a nice expansion of Michael Shermer's quote that "Skepticism is not a position; it's a process."  Dunning says,

The true meaning of the word skepticism has nothing to do with doubt, disbelief, or negativity. Skepticism is the process of applying reason and critical thinking to determine validity. It's the process of finding a supported conclusion, not the justification of a preconceived conclusion.

Hear, hear.  Read the full post at Skeptoid.


Hypothetical Treatment of Children in Various Family Formations

I created this table for a manuscript I'm working on.  The way people acquire children determines, in part, how they treat them.  This chart summarizes how these children are hypothetically treated in light of evolutionary theory.  Download a high resolution version in the Publications section.

Gibson2011 Unrelated Kids Treatment


Oxytocin — The Chemical That Will Make You Trust Everyone

I must have high levels of circulating oxytocin, because I’ve trusted to a fault many times and I’m terrible at holding a grudge.  I suppose I’d rather have it this way than be afraid everyone was always trying to get over on me.  On the other hand, I’m a pretty hardcore skeptic…how does that work?  From Dvorak Uncensored / NPR:

[Over] the past 10 years, oxytocin has come up in the world, and several researchers have begun making big claims about it. Now dubbed “the trust hormone,” oxytocin, researchers say, affects everything from our day-to-day life to how we feel about our government.

To understand the role that oxytocin plays in your own life, consider the experience of a small 9-year-old girl named Isabelle. [... who] has Williams syndrome, a rare genetic disorder with a number of symptoms. The children are often physically small and often have developmental delays. But also, kids and adults with Williams love people and are pathologically trusting: They literally have no social fear.

Researchers theorize that this is probably because of a problem with the area in their brain that regulates the manufacture and release of oxytocin. Somehow, the system in which oxytocin operates has been disrupted in a way that makes it essentially biologically impossible for kids like Isabelle to distrust.
Zak first got interested in trust more than a decade ago after co-authoring a study that looked at trust levels in different nations and their economic stability. The study found that the higher the level of trust, the better the economic status of the nation.

The work got Zak thinking more generally about different ways to manipulate trust. [...] Squirt oxytocin up the nose of a college kid, and he’s 80 percent more likely to distribute his own money to perfect strangers.

Credit:  Oxytocin — The Chemical That Will Make You Trust Everyone