Science & Society

If you as a farmer have a choice between growing food that can feed lots of people or diverse food that can feed only a few, the answer will be obvious.

As science has discovered that certain varietals will have better yields, it is no surprise that people want to adopt them. Food security, and meeting other basic needs, allows people to pursue wealth, both the economic and cultural kind.

When it comes to demographics and society, no one likes surveys and statistics that make them look less positive. Yet surveys and statistics are all we have to go by in order to know if people are treating each other the way they expect to be treated in turn.

In society, there is a belief that women will be more cooperative than men. In academia, that is not the case, according to a paper in Current Biology. Instead, women in academia are less likely to cooperate than men.

The findings are based on an analysis of the publication records of professors working at 50 North American universities.And the lack of cooperation is most evident in an area where women overwhelmingly dominate - psychology.

Recent research has shown an alarming number of peer-reviewed papers are irreproducible and it isn't just social sciences surveys or weak observational studies. It's in fields like biology.

In times of easy access to the Internet and cheap travel, we consider ourselves part of a global society, but how connected this really makes us will surprise many of us.

Numerous studies have concluded that children who were breastfed score higher on IQ tests and perform better in school.

Why would that be? Is it the mother-baby bonding time, something in breast milk or other attributes of families that have mothers who breastfeed their babies?

Sociologists from Brigham Young University think they have the answer and pinpoint two sources of this cognitive boost: Responding to children's emotional cues and reading to children starting at 9 months of age. Breastfeeding mothers tend to do both of those things, said lead author Ben Gibbs. 

To sane people, parents who kill their kids are both horrifying and tragic, though levels of acceptance and blame flow with cultural trends. Once upon a time, when a mother in Texas killed her children in a bath tub, celebrities like Katie Couric blamed everyone but the murderer. Today, there is a lot less exculpatory rationalization about killers.

A new paper in Forensic Science International invokes correlations to psychology and biology and therefore might be used to make filicide exculpatory once again - with enough data, epidemiology can prove anything. 

If you ask aging environmental activists, the worst thing that can happen to nature is to have people step onto it.

This is the completely wrong approach, but one adopted by their corporate leaders in the last two generations when they found their donor base becoming increasingly urban. While it was once recognized that hunters, hikers and other sportsmen were obviously the most in love with nature, gradually they became treated like the enemy of environmentalists.

Politics always make strange bedfellows. When George W. Bush was president, the claim of his political opposition was that Iraq was 'no harm to anyone outside its own borders' and so we should not be involved there, much less do any nation building. Yet when his political opposition gained control of the White House, the calls to do that same thing in Libya, Egypt, Syria and other places have been quite vocal. They just rationalized that they were helping an Arab Spring to flourish by removing the military power of despots. 

Scientific institutions and organizations can improve their communication and outreach with the public by addressing people's strongly held beliefs about science and its role in society - and using less demagoguery. Or at least hiding it.

Lead author of a new paper and American University professor Matthew C. Nisbet made his name claiming that Republicans engaged in deception about science and that communicators needed to master "framing" to show how they were wrong, so a paper advocating less partisanship is important, in a sort of 'only Nixon could go to China' way.

If we see or read about a child on a life-sustaining medical device, such as a ventilators or breathing or feeding tube,  we naturally think about the child

And when it comes to parents, we use platitudes like 'strong' but the physical and psychological distress of juggling treatments, appointments, therapies and daily family pressures doesn't get much consideration.