Feb 26, 2009 | 2
We really do judge a book by its cover—and, it seems, the competence of politicians by their faces. What's more, adults and kids see the same competence—or, as the case may be, ineptitude—in a person's visage, which helps explain why children can accurately predict presidential elections, according to new research published today in Science.
Swiss adults unfamiliar with French politics were shown 57 pairs of photos of opponents from an old French parliamentary election and asked to pick which ones looked most competent. In a separate experiment, Swiss kids ages 5 to 13 played a computer game that enacted Odysseus' trip from Troy to Ithaca. Then, using the same pairs of photos, researchers asked the kids which candidate they'd choose to captain their ship. In both experiments, the adults and children tended to pick the winners of the election.
Nov 5, 2008
Quick: How many top science writers were spotted standing behind a Republican Senate candidate during a concession speech last night?
Only one, as far as we know: Carl Zimmer.
If you were watching News 12 in New Jersey last night, you would have seen Carl holding his daughter as his father, former U.S. Rep. Dick Zimmer, conceded to incumbent Sen. Frank Lautenberg after a 55 percent to 43 percent vote.
Dick Zimmer, 64, campaigned against 84-year-old Lautenberg on a platform of energy conservation and greater efficiency standards for cars and SUVs. He also supported increased nuclear power and energy exploration on public lands.
Nov 4, 2008 | 13
Are you more likely to get a joke if you lean politically left or right? That's the question New York Times columnist John Tierney asks today, extending a line of inquiry popular this campaign season: the personality characteristics of ideologues.
Tierney cites a study by MIT behavioral scientist Dan Ariely, who ran 22 jokes by 285 Bostonians and discovered that, lo and behold, conservatives are better humored — at least about the funnies.
Those findings may come as a surprise in light of other research suggesting that conservatives are more close-minded, intolerant and allegedly scare more easily than liberals (but do keep neater quarters). Using a scale from 1 to 9, in which 1 indicated "not at all funny" and 9 was "hilarious," conservatives gave an average rating of 5 and liberals gave an average rating of 4.32 to three religious jokes Ariely told them, Tierney writes. Conservatives also liked the golf jokes better, as well as three "Deep Thoughts" by Jack Handey (who doesn't think that guy's a hoot?).
Oct 27, 2008 | 27
Amid the hoopla about Sarah Palin's very un-hockey mom $150,000 campaign wardrobe, the Republican veep candidate managed to drop another flammable tidbit that set off the science community,
not to mention the blogosphere.
During a speech on her ticket's special needs policy last week, Palin, who has held up her Down's syndrome young son as a symbol of her kinship with all parents of special needs children, mocked earmarks better known as pork for eating up much-needed federal funds.
Sep 18, 2008 | 45
Here's a fun trick: scare someone you don't know, then guess whether they favor the death penalty and the war in Iraq based on how freaked out they got.
People with stronger startle reactions are more likely to support ideologies associated with conservative American politics, including the Patriot Act, obedience and biblical truth — and less likely to favor gun control, foreign aid, abortion rights, gay marriage and pornography, according to research published in today's Science. Those who are slower to scare are more likely to harbor traditionally liberal politics.
The findings build on previous research showing that experiencing trauma can skew one's politics to the right.
But what comes first: biology or politics? "It could be working either way," says study author John Alford, an associate professor of political science at Rice University.
Sep 4, 2008 | 9
Newly minted Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin has made clear she's open to teaching creationism in public school science classes and to oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). While her running mate, John McCain, has spoken up on some science issues (pro-off shore drilling, anti-opening ANWR to oil exploration), less is known about his positions than those of his Democratic opponent Barack Obama, who recently answered a series of questions on everything from climate change and energy to stem-cell research.
Some highlights: Obama says he would lift a ban on federal funding of research on embryonic stem-cell lines created after Aug. 9, 2001 -- a measure signed into law by President Bush, who vetoed legislation designed to lift the limit. Obama also supports genetic engineering of plants and "water smart" landscaping over irrigated lawns to conserve H20, according to his responses to questions from Science Debate 2008, a consortium of Nobel laureates and business leaders.
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