Recent Interesting Science Articles (Oct ’11)Friday, November 4, 2011 13:59
Posted in category Science
Only a couple of articles for this month and one of them is a general feature about a subject rather than a recent discovery. But anyway:
- The feature in question is an article on how intelligent octopuses are from Orion Magazine. There are interesting anecdotes in there about how they can recognize and form relationships with humans, solve puzzles and engage in playful behavior with toys. My favorite part is how three-fifths of their neurons aren’t in their brain at all but in their arms, which allows the arms to act independently even when severed from the main body.
- The other article is from The Economist and is about how happiness not only has a genetic component but that due to genetics, different races may have different levels of ingrained tendencies to be happy. The mechanism the team in question fingered is a gene that encodes the serotonin-transporter protein. This gene comes in two variants, a long one and a short one, and the team found that those with the long versions were more likely to report themselves as being happy. Where things get really interesting is that different ethnic groups tend to more of one variant of the gene than the other. Black Americans for example tend to favor the long version of the gene while Asian Americans tend to mostly have the short version. ‘Lo and behold this blends in nicely with observations that newly rich Asia reports far lower levels of happiness than their GDP per person figures suggest. This also adds weight to earlier findings that societies composed of people with the short version of the genes lean towards collectivist political systems that emphasize social harmony and de-emphasize individual independence and freedom.
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