Lifes Worth Knowing

The Weekender

In Fascinating, Interesting, Justin, Science, Thoughtful on February 3, 2012 at 11:05 am

The Weekender is a weekly column devoted to the ideas/articles/videos that I find fascinating and wish I had more time to explore.

You know how people always made fun of communication majors? Now there’s a scientific reason. This article took the average math and verbal scores on the GRE for various disciplines of study, and found some surprising results. Some make sense, like the low math/low verbal quadrant being populated by phys ed and communication majors…but also by special ed and psychology. The real surprising fact for me was taking a look at what the highest tier looks like – a group that includes physics, history of science, and classical language.

I’ve seen how this movie ends…with Charlton Heston damning them all to hell. This really interesting study takes a look at what separated Chimpanzees from Bonobos. A surprising hypothesis takes shape. It comes out of the silver fox study which was a forty-year experiment that selectively bred foxes for their temperament, choosing the foxes that were the most trusting of humans. Within a remarkably small amount of time, wild foxes became as domesticated as an average dog – but their appearance also changed, giving them curly tails and floppy ears, and a more juvenile appearance when full-grown. This “package” of traits can be seen in almost every domesticated animal (think about pigs and wild boars, for example). Now, back to the monkeys. The traits that differentiate the Bonobos from the Chimpanzees are the same “package” of traits as the silver foxes (less aggressive, smaller teeth). But humans have never domesticated Bonobos. The assumption is that somehow, Bonobo societies function on such a high level that they domesticated themselves.

Aurora Australis – from above. Those who are plugged into the astronomy circles might have known that last week, a massive solar storm threw huge amounts of energy at Earth – resulting in some of the best views of the aurora in a long time – this unorthodox view was taken from the International Space Station.

You were right – the referees do have it out for your team.   The always insightful thinkers over at Freakonomics take a look at the tendency of referees who swallow their whistle in big moments. My favorite part is the chart that plots the average strike zone that is called with a 3-0 count (very large) and an 0-2 count (much smaller). The lesson as always is that human bias in judgement is an inherent part of sport – something that will never be taken away by technology.

You think the Manhattan skyline is impressive? These scientists pumped 10 tons of concrete into the entrance to an ant colony – and then excavated around the structure to reveal one of the most breathtaking displays of architecture that you will ever see. It covers almost 4000 cubic feet – and was built by ants moving one grain of sediment at a time. (via Boing Boing)

This is clearly just the opening sequence to a horror film. Lake Vostok is not your conventional lake….it is buried thousands of feet below the Antarctic ice, where the heat from the Earth’s core keeps the water liquid. A Russian drilling crew has been working for two decades trying to reach the lake, and the will finally do so sometime next week. No one really knows what to expect from a body of water that hasn’t been exposed to the atmosphere for 20 million years – but some guess that there could be life in the water, or the water could be full of gas that could erupt in a devastating geyser like popping a champagne cork. Either way, exciting times.

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  1. Interesting about the low math/low verbal results…I was a comm major, and my courses focused heavily on developing verbal skills through classes like organizational communication, crisis public relations and public/interpersonal speaking.

    I also find it interesting that comm majors are so highly disregarded. My former nonprofit organization recently had their CEO apologize to the press on behalf of a major crisis because they didn’t have a trained PR professional. The result was an insincere apology for which she downplayed the effects of the crisis and the impact it had on the organization’s constituents. All in all, poor communication skills from the CEO resulted in negative press, feelings of distrust among stakeholders and justification for irresponsible actions. I think a well trained and professional comm major could have prevented some of this 🙂

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