Archive for 2010

Happiest New Year 2011!

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | December 31, 2010 11:28 am

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Culture

Watch Sheril on MSNBC's "The Daily Rundown" with Norah O'Donnell–Discussing the New Years Kiss

By Chris Mooney | December 30, 2010 1:54 pm

Here’s the video from MSNBC this morning. My favorite part: When Norah O’Donnell calls our blogger “Sheril ‘Making Out Is Good’ Kirshenbaum.” Heh.

Seriously it’s a great segment and Sheril does really well.

I cannot figure out right now how to embed the video (technical difficulties) but following the link will play it nicely. If you haven’t already, you can order The Science of Kissing on Amazon.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Announcements

Warming and Winter Storming

By Chris Mooney | December 29, 2010 3:32 pm

My latest DeSmogBlog post is up–it’s about the perennial problem of climate misinformation in relation to winter weather. It starts out like this:

It’s a typical blog comment for this time of year. “I hope,” wrote one of my ‘skeptic’ readers, “the folks in the NE USA and Europe didn’t hurt their backs when shoveling all that global warming.”

Har har.

This common insinuation–that somehow, human-caused climate change is refuted by the perennial occurrence of bad winter weather–puts us scientific rationalists in a bind. The problem is that unlike many denier talking points, there isn’t really even an argument being put forward here that might be refuted. It’s more of a “nyah nyah,” followed by, “I  never believed you to begin with, but this time of year, I just feel sorry for you.”

The article then goes on to describe the role of mental models and confirmation bias in making people quickly leap (or default) to the idea that global warming is no big deal, or not happening, whenever there’s a snowstorm. You can read the full piece here.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Announcements, Global Warming

A Kiss To Build A Year On (and the science behind it!)

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | December 29, 2010 10:04 am

I had an article in Sunday’s Washington Post entitled, Sealed with a kiss – and neuroscience. It begins:

A kiss at midnight to ring in the new year. That’s what Friday night should bring, right?

It’s tradition, compulsion, festive duty. An excuse to make a bold move with someone new, a reason to be anxious about finding a date or a chance to celebrate with a longtime love. And there’s pressure to get it right.

There is a scientific basis for those high stakes. Whom you kiss can set the course for a good year. Really. It’s not magic – it’s chemistry and neuroscience. And no matter how painstakingly you set the scene, in the end chemistry trumps mood music. From a scientific perspective, a kiss is a natural litmus test to help us identify a good partner. Start the first moments of 2011 with the right one, and you’re beginning the year on a natural high.

Just what is it that makes kissing such a powerful and significant part of the human experience?

Read the full piece at WashPo

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Books, Culture
MORE ABOUT: new years eve

"Kissing" Across the Animal Kingdom

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | December 28, 2010 2:57 pm

I’ve been accepting questions about The Science of Kissing and bufferyourlife has asked:

hey! I was reading DISCOVER magazine, december issue I think, and they were explaining how humans were actually the only known species to kiss when they showed feelings from one another… and that the only other species that somehow had a similar behavior were apes but they kissed only as excitement and they did not used tongue, it was just a pressed kiss… so are we the only animals that kiss passionately in order to show feelings such as love or are there other animals that also do such a thing? Thanks!

It’s a terrific question and I’m glad you brought up that DISCOVER piece because I wrote it.

When it comes to describing similar behaviors across the animal kingdom, scientists have to be very careful. We cannot assume that other species experience the same emotions as we do. So instead of words like “love,” behaviorists use phrases like “mate choice” or “selective proceptivity.”

In Chapter 2 of The Science of Kissing, I go into detail describing how “kissing-like behaviors” can serve a variety of purposes from affection to feeding to conflict depending on the species and individuals involved. More in the book…

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Books, Culture

The Psychology of Climate Change Communication

By Chris Mooney | December 28, 2010 7:26 am

What the heck is wrong with our minds, such that they prevent so many of us from copping to the evidence about global warming?

Well, I’ve just come across a pretty amazing report that points out many of the problems. The product of Columbia University’s Center for Research on Environmental Decisions (CRED), it’s called The Psychology of Climate Change Communication–and it covers mental models, confirmation biases, and many other known cognitive effects before going on to lay out a series of recommendations about what to do about them.

What to do? The advice includes knowing your audience, employing framing, using trusted messengers (often local voices), using the power of groupthink in your favor (rather than letting it turn against you), and much else. For more detail, read the report.

I was pretty impressed myself, and am glad this booklet is out there. The reason I came across it is that I’m digging deeper into the psychology of denial and the research on that topic, already explored in my recent Point of Inquiry podcast with Brendan Nyhan. It seems to me that after a very bad decade for science denial in the US (the 2000s), this body of study is vitally important and finally getting the attention it deserves.

For too long, and especially in the science blogosphere, it has been set up as a contradiction: Do you debunk anti-science nonsense, or do you try to understand its sources and sympathize with where they are coming from? My argument is that, at different times, we have to do both. But the problem is, the latter endeavor is in many ways, much much harder than the former.

So if we’re going to get there, works like the CRED guide will be vital.

Fixing the Economy the Scientific Way

By Chris Mooney | December 26, 2010 1:58 pm

I’ve got an oped with Meryl Comer, founder of the Rock Stars of Science campaign, in the Los Angeles Times today. It’s about why in bad economic times we need to fund research more than ever:

Without ramping up our investments in science and research — a matter barely on the public’s radar in a country where 65% of the citizens can’t name a living scientist and another 18% try but get it wrong — we’ll be hobbled in trying to fix our long-term economic problems. That’s because science creates jobs, and it can also reduce healthcare costs related to the aging of the population.

That’s the central argument, though there’s also much elaboration; you can read the full piece here.

What's An Abuse of Science? Well, It Probably Isn't This

By Chris Mooney | December 23, 2010 1:45 pm

Yesterday on DeSmogBlog, I posted a lengthy assessment of the Obama administration on science–or more specifically, on scientific integrity.

The record here is not nearly as strong as I’d like it to be. Still, there have also been a lot of bogus attacks on the current administration by people who don’t really know what an “abuse” or “misuse” of science actually is, but just think turnaround is fair play.

However, these infractions were defined in The Republican War on Science quite carefully–see chapter 2. One key part of the definition: “any attempt to inappropriately undermine, alter, or otherwise interfere with the scientific process, or scientific conclusions, for political or ideological reasons. To count as inappropriate, such abuses must undermine the integrity of science by turning it into just another tool of political advocacy.” The book then goes on to break the definition down into process interferences and substantive interferences, and provides typologies and case studies.

Anyways, in this light I now want to look at a bogus, or questionable, Obama science abuse case study. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Politics and Science

A Critical Science Moment for the Obama Administration

By Chris Mooney | December 22, 2010 2:42 pm

I kind of went all out in my latest DeSmogBlog post. It’s a pretty lengthy overview of where the scientific integrity issue now stands, just after John Holdren finally issued his office’s scientific integrity memorandum to the government agencies. Four key summary points that are each elaborated on in the piece:

1. The last administration misused and abused science to a degree unprecedented in modern American politics.

2. President Obama came into office promising to change all of this—to “restore science to its rightful place” in our government and political life. But it hasn’t proven that simple, and not all the problems are “fixed” simply by virtue of this changing of the guard.

3. That said, attacks on the current administration for conducting a “war on science” of its own are overblown. We’re still moving in the right direction.

Bottom Line: The Obama Administration needs to make more progress on scientific integrity. The next two years will be crucial.

You can read the full piece here.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Politics and Science

When did Humans start Kissing?

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | December 22, 2010 10:47 am

gal-486682Yesterday I posted The Table of Contents for The Science of Kissing and today I’ll answer another question from readers… therewillbewords asked: When did humans start kissing as a show of affection?

The earliest literary evidence we have for kissing dates back to India’s Vedic Sanskrit texts composed around 3,500 years ago. However, given there are so many kissing-like behaviors across the animal kingdom (particularly among our closest primate relatives) it’s likely that our own species has been locking lips–on and off–for a much longer period of time.

This amazing image (also in the book) is by Belgian artist Wim Delvoye. Tumblr questions are piling in and readers are welcome to submit your own in comments below…

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Culture
MORE ABOUT: kiss, kissing
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