See Inside November 2006


If a theme emerged from the July issue, it was the technology that enhances our observational abilities. In "The Quest for the Superlens," John B. Pendry and David R. Smith wrote about building a lens that could overcome the resolution limits of the illuminating light wavelengths. "Hubble's Top 10," by Mario Livio, reviewed the greatest discoveries made with the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope. In "CSI: The Reality," Max M. Houck looked at how the portrayal of criminal investigation tools and methodologies on television forensics dramas might be making viewers unreasonable jurors in real-life courtrooms.

But even with better observational tools, can we trust the initial conclusions we draw from them? Not likely. In "The Political Brain" [Skeptic], Michael Shermer reported that a brain-imaging study showed our predilections to be a product of unconscious confirmation bias. Henry McDonald of Danville, Calif., found everyday evidence: "I believe that confirmation bias is an evolutionary trait that bonds the family together, thus increasing our chance of survival. The fact that my wife of 51 years still loves me and thinks I am terrific is positive proof of confirmation bias."

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