The Buddhist And The Neuroscientist

In 1992, the neuroscientist Richard Davidson got a challenge from the Dalai Lama. By that point, he’d spent his career asking why people respond to, in his words, “life’s slings and arrows” in different ways. Why are some people more resilient than others in the face of tragedy? And is resilience something you can gain through practice?

The Dalai Lama had a different question for Davidson when he visited the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader at his residence in Dharamsala, India. “He said: ‘You’ve been using the tools of modern neuroscience to study depression, and anxiety, and fear. Why can’t you use those same tools to study kindness and compassion?’ … I did not have a very good answer. I said it was hard.”

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Best of Last Week – A less crowded universe, antibiotics altering child development and reducing rumination

(—It was a pretty big week for space science as researchers at Vanderbilt University unveiled a new model of cosmic stickiness that favors a “Big Rip” demise of the universe—they have found a way to mathematically bridge the gap between relativity and the classic notion of viscosity. Another team, this one working at Michigan State University, has concluded that we are not alone—but the universe may be less crowded than we think; they found evidence that suggests there might be fewer galaxies out further in the universe than has been thought. Also, astronomers at the University of Manchester are predicting fireworks from a close encounter of the stellar kind as a pulsar moving around a companion star is set to plunge though a disk of gas and dust setting off a burst of emissions. —> Read More

If You Still Think Humans Come In Distinct ‘Races,’ This Biologist Will Set You Straight


There’s no doubt that different groups of people can look very different from one another. But to contemporary anthropologists and sociologists, the notion that there are distinct “races” of human beings, each with its own specific attributes, doesn’t make much sense.

Dr. Marcus Feldman

The same goes for biologists like Stanford University’s Dr. Marcus Feldman, who has done pioneering research on the differences between human populations.

Recently, HuffPost Science posed several questions about race and racism to Feldman. Here, lightly edited, are his answers.

Does the concept of race have any scientific validity? Or have biologists discarded the term?

Many biologists have replaced the term “race” with “continental ancestry.” This is because such a large fraction of the world has ancestry in more than one continent. The result is hyphenated nomenclature, which attempts to specify which continents are represented in one’s ancestry.

For example, our president is as European in his ancestry as he is African. It is arbitrary which of these an observer chooses to emphasize. Obama’s opponents overtly and by implication denigrate him because of his African ancestry. But he is equally European.

How did the concept of race originate?

Probably from Aristotle’s predilection with classification. But more recently with [German physician Johann Friedrich] Blumenbach‘s classification in 1775 of the five human races.

How do biologists today view race, and how has that view changed in recent years?

Biologists generally agree that with enough data on DNA, it is possible to say that someone’s ancestry is more likely to include representation from a given set of continents. However, the fraction of genes that contribute to visible differences between individuals from different continents is about 10 percent of all the genes that we carry.

How do biologists explain the differences between different populations of humans?

It depends what differences —> Read More

Mechanism of biological multi-fuel engine

Researchers have constructed the atomic model structure of the protein complex that corresponds to the stator (stationary part of a motor that surrounds the rotating part of a motor) of the E. coli flagellar motor for the first time by molecular simulation based on previously published experimental data, and elucidated the mechanism by which ions, including hydrogen ions (protons), are transferred through the stator. —> Read More

67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko Could Harbor Alien Life, Say UK Scientists

Two planetary scientists from the UK – Prof Chandra Wickramasinghe of the Buckingham Center for Astrobiology and Dr Max Wallis of the University of Cardiff – have a possible explanation for the odd properties of Rosetta’s target comet: micro-organisms that shape cometary activity. Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is a relatively small Jupiter family comet, about 2.5 miles [...] —> Read More

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