A. Via a Jeff Miller Tweet: Entire Rabbit Brain Successfully Frozen and Revived For First Time. This is amazing! A rabbit’s brain revived. Well, if by ‘revived’ you mean ‘thawed out and sliced into thin bits and examined under a microscope.’ If you were thinking ‘put back into the rabbit, who is now hopping about without a care in the world’ you would be wrong. This is definitely the ‘before’ picture:
Although the look on the little critter’s face suggests that he’s getting a hint what the ‘after’ pictures are going to look like. Dead dead dead. Not revived. Small difference for a rabbit, I suppose, but still. I wish this headline were an outlier, what with its sensationalization and dishonesty, but, alas, it is completely true to the manner of its kind.
B. On the Way Too Cool front: Gravitational waves detected — and why that’s creating waves in science. Can’t say I quite get the implications, here – the analogy to listening is interesting, but if all we can hear are high-speed collisions between black holes, it seems a little limited. However, we are here reading CNN, so chances are good that the real import of the thing just didn’t translate into ‘news’. Yet.
C. Fear of Vengeful Gods Helped Societies Expand. Hey, it’s got to be true – it’s Science!
“People may trust in, cooperate with and interact fairly within wider social circles, partly because they believe that knowing gods will punish them if they do not,” the study’s authors wrote.
“Moreover, the social radius within which people are willing to engage in behaviors that benefit others at a cost to themselves may enlarge as gods’ powers to monitor and punish increase.”
Note the hedging ‘may’ – sure, having a vengeful god or gods looking over one’s shoulder might influence one’s actions – but then, it might not.(1) Even if there exists a correlation between more altruistic behaviors and belief in vengeful gods, cause has not been established. It might work the other way around: a society of sufficient complexity might start to believe in a vengeful deity in response to seeing how counterproductive humans taking vengeance on each other is. Or some other explanation entirely. Or it may be just a false signal.
But they did studies, conducted interviews, followed protocols! On 591 people from 8 diverse communities! Thus discovering what a variety of people are willing to tell some schmuck they don’t even know from someplace else, when put into a completely exotic situation and asked bizarre questions about allocating resources based on the rolls of die.
Maybe this time they did everything exactly right and reached perfectly sound and replicable results. But I kind of doubt it. (The comments section might make your head explode. Just FYI.)
- Thinking here of the Romans, who had some more or less vague ideas about great inscrutable gods who did stuff for reasons unknowable to humans, but had intimate relationships with their local gods and hearth gods. And, more important, did not see reverence and morality as having much to do with each other. Giving the gods their due hardly ever meant having to behave yourself in the way a Jew would believe that the One God required. Thus, for a Roman, the critical belief would have been that the local gods required him to be altruistic as part of the reverence due to them. If not, you’re good to go; or, if you harbor any doubts, just do whatever it is you want to do out of range of the very local gods.