Thursday, 30 July 2015

Untrustworthy faces are more likely to get the death sentence

People who have faces that are judged as less trustworthy are given the death penalty more often than people viewed as trustworthy, according to recent research in the journal Psychological Science. The results “paint a somewhat alarming picture of how systems of legal punishment are vulnerable to the same biases in person perception that afflict everyday individuals,” write John Paul Wilson and Nicholas Rule, the authors of the paper.

This study builds on previous research suggesting that people judge the trustworthiness of faces with a high degree of consensus—we more or less agree on which faces count as trustworthy and which don’t.

People with less trustworthy faces are, unsurprisingly, less likely to be trusted by other people. Economic games played in psychology labs show that even children as young as five years old are less likely to trust these individuals, and that this effect holds even when there's information about the other person suggesting that they’re trustworthy.

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A 17th-Century Stanchi Painting Reveals the Rapid Change in Watermelons through Selective Breeding

Giovanni Stanchi (Rome c. 1645-1672). Oil on canvas. 38 5/8 x 52½ in. (98 x 133.5 cm.) / Courtesy Christie’s


Old master work paintings are frequently cited for their depiction of historical events, documentation of culture, or portraiture of significant people, but there’s one lesser known use of some paintings for those with a keen eye: biology. One such instance is this Renaissance still life of various fruits on a table by Giovanni Stanchi painted sometime in the 1600s that shows a nearly unrecognizable watermelon before it was selectively bred for meatier red flesh.

Horticulture professor James Nienhuis at the University of Wisconsin tells Vox that he’s fascinated by old still life paintings that often contain the only documentation of various fruits and vegetables before we transformed them forever into something more desirable for human use. You can read a bit more about the science behind the changes in watermelons over the last 350 years here. (via Kottke)

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What’s the Big Deal About the Pentaquark?

“Three quarks for Muster Mark!,” wrote James Joyce in his labyrinthine fable, Finnegan’s Wake. By now, you may have heard this

The post What’s the Big Deal About the Pentaquark? has been published on Technology Org.

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Scream if you have to

An international team of neuroscientists from the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, New York University and the

The post Scream if you have to has been published on Technology Org.

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A trip into bipolar brains

While people with Type I and the less-severe Type II bipolar disorder share some of the same symptoms, there are significant differences in the physical structure of their brains. Type I sufferers have somewhat smaller brain volume, researchers report in the Journal of Affective Disorders, while those with Type II appear to have less robust white matter.

As brain imaging technologies have advanced and matured over the past few decades, there's been considerable interest in understanding whether and how there are differences between the brains of people with mental illness and those without. In particular, neuroscientists studying depression have been interested in structural variation, such as differences in total brain volume. Still, the various forms of bipolar disorder have received somewhat less attention than others, such as major depression, schizophrenia, or autism.

That led Jerome Maller and colleagues at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, to look into whether there were structural differences among the brains of people with different sorts of bipolar disorder. Using standard MRI scans — much the same as you would get if you'd had a concussion or bleeding in the brain — on 16 Type I and 15 Type II bipolar patients along with 31 healthy control subjects, the team examined whether there were differences in gray matter, white matter, and cerebrospinal fluid. The team also used a relatively new technique called diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to measure the integrity of the brains' white matter, the long nerves called axons that connect different brain regions to each other.

Overall, there was less total brain volume — gray and white matter volume added together — and more cerebrospinal fluid volume in bipolar patients than in healthy controls, consistent with other recent studies suggesting a connection between brain volume and depression. After controlling for total brain volume, however, Type II patients' brains were essentially the same as controls' brains, while Type I patients had relatively higher volume in the caudate nucleus and other areas associated with reward processing and decision making. DTI studies, meanwhile, revealed that while patients with Type I and II bipolar disorder had reduced white matter integrity relative to controls, the effect was stronger among those with Type II, particularly in the frontal and prefrontal cortex, suggesting that Type II bipolar disorder is in some way a cognitive dysfunction.

Though the results are intriguing, the authors point out that their study is just the start. The team didn't have access to data on how long patients had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, let alone how long they'd actually had the disease, which often goes undiagnosed for years or even decades. In addition to addressing those issues in future studies, the researchers also hope to improve sample sizes and gather additional data about factors such as medications, family history, and genetics.

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Studies find genetic signature of native Australians in the Americas

The exact process by which humanity introduced itself to the Americas has always been controversial. While there's general agreement on the most important migration—across the Bering land bridge at the end of the last ice age—there's a lot of arguing over the details. Now, two new papers clarify some of the bigger picture but also introduce a new wrinkle: there's DNA from the distant Pacific floating around in the genomes of Native Americans. And the two groups disagree about how it got there.

Prior to the advent of cheap DNA sequencing, there were all sorts of ideas regarding the peopling of the Americas. While migration across the Bering land bridge was the consensus opinion, it wasn't clear how many migrations took place—or even who, exactly, did the migrating. Because of the physical diversity of modern Native American populations, people have suggested additional migrations across the Pacific or even from Europe or Africa.

The Clovis people, who had what appears to have been the continents' first distinctive technology and culture, caused further confusion. Some argued that these represented the first humans in the Americas, while others argued they represented a distinct migration into a sparsely populated hemisphere. Language groups created their own confusion.

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ALMA Witnesses Assembly of Galaxies in the Early Universe for the First Time

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) has detected the most distant clouds of star-forming gas yet found in

The post ALMA Witnesses Assembly of Galaxies in the Early Universe for the First Time has been published on Technology Org.

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Unusual Hybrid Animal and Wildlife Murals Painted by Alexis Diaz


Puerto Rican artist Alexis Diaz (previously) brings textures and patterns reminiscent of traditional engraving techniques to his murals of phantasmagorical creatures using only a paintbrush. Twisting tentacles, strange fusions of anatomy, beings wrapped in plants, all rendered atop colorful gradients create an unmistakable style Diaz has become famous for. You can see much more of his work here. (via Cross Connect)








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‘White graphene’ structures can take the heat

Three-dimensional structures of boron nitride might be the right stuff to keep small electronics cool, according to scientists

The post ‘White graphene’ structures can take the heat has been published on Technology Org.

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Astronomers witness assembly of galaxies in the early Universe for the first time

An international team of astronomers led by the University of Cambridge have detected the most distant clouds of

The post Astronomers witness assembly of galaxies in the early Universe for the first time has been published on Technology Org.

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