Weekend Coffee: December 18
In top news this week, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. And in other news:
• A paper in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine finds that the HPV vaccine doesn't change girls' later sexual behavior.
• A new survey by the Pew Center finds that the percentage of Americans who consider religion "very important", though still far greater than in Europe, has declined by 9% in the last 9 years.
• And on a related note, the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture releases a survey showing that Latinos are becoming nonreligious at the same rate as Americans in general, contradicting stereotypes about extreme religiosity among them.
• One last statistical piece - the number of U.S. adults who are married has dropped to a record low. Defenders of "traditional marriage" take note: the decline has nothing to do with the availability of same-sex marriage, but rather is due to economic stress. If you want to protect marriage, maybe you should work on strengthening the social safety net instead.
• A report released by a Dutch commission finds that as many as 20,000 children were sexually abused in Catholic institutions since 1945.
• After Christopher Hitchens' death, the hashtag #GodIsNotGreat was trending on Twitter as people posted messages of sorrow and tribute. This provoked a flood of angry threats and vicious insanity from believers, which ironically would seem to confirm Hitchens' argument.
• I found out recently that transhumanism advocate Ray Kurzweil has a website which sells "anti-aging" vitamins, presumably in the hopes of staying alive until the Singularity. Michael Shermer sounds an appropriate note of skepticism about mega-vitamin therapy, which in this case seems to be driven more by Kurzweil's desire for immortality than by any actual scientific evidence of effectiveness.
• It made me happy to read this story about New York creating a new legal class of business, a "benefit corporation", which unlike traditional corporations isn't legally obligated to maximize profit regardless of the social or environmental costs.
Both schizophrenics and people with a common personality type share similar brain patterns.
- A new study shows that people with a common personality type share brain activity with patients diagnosed with schizophrenia.
- The study gives insight into how the brain activity associated with mental illnesses relates to brain activity in healthy individuals.
- This finding not only improves our understanding of how the brain works but may one day be applied to treatments.
It's a development that could one day lead to much better treatments for osteoporosis, joint damage, and bone fractures.
- Scientists have isolated skeletal stem cells in adult and fetal bones for the first time.
- These cells could one day help treat damaged bone and cartilage.
- The team was able to grow skeletal stem cells from cells found within liposuctioned fat.
Gut bacteria play an important role in how you feel and think and how well your body fights off disease. New research shows that exercise can give your gut bacteria a boost.
- Two studies from the University of Illinois show that gut bacteria can be changed by exercise alone.
- Our understanding of how gut bacteria impacts our overall health is an emerging field, and this research sheds light on the many different ways exercise affects your body.
- Exercising to improve your gut bacteria will prevent diseases and encourage brain health.
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