science

science

  • The world is complex, far too complex for our human brains. And yet, ...

    Cognitive Bias - The world is complex, far too complex for our human brainsThe world is complex, far too complex for our human brains. And yet, we have no difficulty describing what is happening around us, well, at least to interpret these complex realities through... simple stories.

    We tell ourselves these stories, not consciously, but instinctively, mechanically, impulsively. We can't help but find a common thread , link the actors and events into "logic" sequences. And we do this, even when we look at the clouds, "this one looks like a giraffe that is drinking," or when we listen to music "that melody is cheerful!". We even do that instinctively while looking at basic symmetrical shapes moving around! (You can experiment that by watching the fun video in the linked article). We also tell ourselves these stories when we are faced with phenomena

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  • Evolution has no goal, it is a blind mechanism that builds on what is already in place.

    The mechanisms of evolution can be difficult to understand because evolution does not follow any defined plans and thus gives rise to adaptations whose paths are sometimes surprising. This video shows an example of this "blind" and "imperfect" evolution : the course followed by the laryngeal nerve in giraffe. This example clearly shows that evolution doesn't follow the most direct path nor the most logical or effective one... Evolution is a blind mechanism which builds on what is already in place. As long as it's working, it's working!   Learn more:  watch a short animation that aims to rectify common misconceptions about evolution such as the "survival of the fittest" or evolution's "goal"...

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  • Rosetta comet landing: 'We can do amazing things, if we dream big'

      Follow the Rosetta mission landing live on 12 November

    Rosetta will release its Philae lander when approximately 22 kilometres from the centre of the comet. A signal confirming the separation will arrive at ground stations on Earth 28 minutes and 20 seconds later while the lander’s descent to the surface will take seven hours. On the way down, Philae will take a series of images and onboard instruments will sample the dust, gas and plasma close to the comet’s surface and measure any magnetic field. Philae’s three lander legs will absorb the momentum of impact and use it to drive an ice screw in each foot into the surface. At the same time two harpoons will fire to lock the probe onto the surface and a small thruster on top will counteract the impulse. Once anchored to the nucleus, Philae will begin its primary science mission, based on its initial battery lifetime of 64 hours. The SESAME experiment - which contains three instruments - includes one called CASSE, located in the lander’s feet. Harald KRUEGER, Principal Investigator of...

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  • Are we hardwired to see patterns and links where there isn't, to believe?

    Photo credit: Aiwok  Empathetic behavior, the notion of justice, and reconciliation signs, once thought to be limited to humans, are also found in other species, especially in primates. Among these traits we found both in humans and in other species, some, in some circumstances, can play tricks on us and even have dramatic consequences. This is the case of the hot-hand fallacy. This cognitive bias is the deceptive belief that a person who has experienced success with a random event has a greater chance of winning the next attempts. This fallacy is well known by casinos, but much less by players...   Researchers at the University of Rochester had the fun idea to set up for rhesus monkeys a gambling game —which they quickly loved! They were surprised to discover that the macaques, just like people, seek and establish patterns between sets even when they are totally random!   Benjamin Hayden, a co-author of the study, explains why we humans (but also apes)...

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  • The Blank Slate, Steven Pinker

      In his book, The Blank Slate, Steven Pinker, explores the last discoveries made about human nature. He shows how many intellectuals of today have come to deny the existence of human nature by embracing three dogmas linked together: ● the Blank Slate: the idea that the human mind has no innate traits ● the Noble Savage: the idea that people are born good but are corrupted by society ● the Ghost in the Machine: the idea that human mind is above the law of physics and biology, through free will for instance. Our conceptions of human nature affect every aspect of our lives, from the way we raise our children to the political movements we embrace. Yet just as science is bringing us into a golden age of understanding human nature, many people are hostile to the very idea. They fear that discoveries about innate patterns of thinking and feeling may be used to justify inequality, to subvert social change, to dissolve personal responsibility, and to...

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  • When a monkey financial market goes bankrupt ... Crisis or limit?

    Laurie Santos, a researcher in cognitive psychology, had the fun idea to create the first financial market for some cute little monkeys, the Capuchin. Their currency, the Token, is used to buy food from different sellers, who are more or less honest, and whose sales strategies differ. It turns out that Capuchin monkeys are as gifted as humans when it comes to managing their money. They are looking for good value for their money and watch out for special offers. They also are as talented as us at spending money like there's no tomorrow and at spontaneously stealing their fellows and the sellers (which wasn't expect by the experimenters!). This experiment has highlighted two biases in our cousin, that were considered, until now, specific to human: • the fear of loss: loss frightens us so much that we are willing to go to great lengths to avoid it, even at the price of higher risk to lose everything. • emotive irrationality: we are naturally more likely to make emotional than...

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