Tag archives: science

Church is Good for You

Not long ago, I blogged the news that it’s better to give than to receive. Now comes the news that going to church is good for you. It’s almost like there was some kind of supernatural agency that wanted us to know how we could have better lives. (I blogged this on the web site at my church, but the original article was in the NY Times.)

More on Thanksgiving

I wrote about thankfulness a while back, but I hadn’t seen this piece from the New York Times about the health benefits associated with gratitude:

Compared with a control group, the people keeping the gratitude journal were more optimistic and felt happier. They reported fewer physical problems and spent more time working out.

Further benefits were observed in a study of polio survivors and other people with neuromuscular problems. The ones who kept a gratitude journal reported feeling happier and more optimistic than those in a control group, and these reports were corroborated by observations from their spouses. These grateful people also fell asleep more quickly at night, slept longer and woke up feeling more refreshed.

Think about that: the Bible tells you to do something that will make you more optimistic and feel happier, that will help you get to sleep quicker, sleep longer, and wake up feeling more refreshed!

That’s in the Bible! It’s not just about drudgery imposed on us by a mean-spirited cosmic killjoy. In fact, it’s almost like our heavenly Father knows how to give good gifts.

People Really Are Different

This is pretty neat.

Police dogs can distinguish identical twins

In twelve trials per dog, none of them ever identified the wrong twin as a match, … even though the children lived in the same home, ate the same food, and had identical DNA. No word yet on whether these dogs will be getting their own CSI spinoff.

What is it that dogs use to tell us apart? Why would our scent be different from that of someone with the same DNA raised in the same environment? Is it nature, or nurture? Or something else entirely?

More Stars, Types of Life, Than Previously Thought

Today’s New York Times had not one but two interesting science articles.

The first is the discovery of a new type of bacteria in Mono Lake not far from here in California. What makes it unique (compared to every other type of life on earth) is that it has DNA, but the “ladder” structure of the helix is formed using atoms of arsenic instead of the phosphorus used in the DNA in you and me and whatever we had for dinner. This is truly amazing, and raises profound questions about evolution. What does it mean that a nontrivial molecule like DNA can either (a) evolve twice, or (b) evolve once, but then survive such a profound alteration? (Interestingly, one of the scientists involved is Paul Davies, who won the Templeton Prize in 1995.)

The second interesting article is a reassessment of the number of stars in the universe. I’m always fascinated by this sort of thing, even when it’s just pushing back the frontiers of knowledge. But consider this for a moment:

“We may have to abandon this notion of using the Milky Way as a template for the rest of the universe,” Dr. van Dokkum said.

Ouch! That had to smart. Copernicus proposed that the earth revolves around the sun, rather than the reverse. Since then, it’s been a matter of (ahem) faith among scientists that there’s nothing at all exceptional about us or our place in the universe. But we keep finding exceptions to that rule.

Updated (Dec. 10): apparently there are serious flaws in the study that purported to find evidence of arsenic-based DNA. I tried to read Rosie Redfield’s article, but about halfway down the page it got too dense for me to understand. There’s a point waiting to be made here about the responsibility of the science press not to hype things until they’ve been subjected to proper peer review, because people like me just aren’t as scientific as Rosie Redfield and Paul Davies.