Conservatives and liberals united only by interest in dinosaurs, study shows

Conservatives and liberals united only by interest in dinosaurs, study shows

Hopes that science and its unending quest for the truth can mend the cracks in a divided society have taken a hit as new research has found liberals and conservatives share little common ground on the subject – apart from a fascination with dinosaurs.

Because science intends – in theory at least – to accrue facts from solid evidence, it stands a chance of bringing people together on issues they all agree with, such as the Earth circling the sun, and the first five digits of pi. That, the hope goes, might help reverse the social fragmentation that increasingly pits different groups against one another.

But the research published on Monday suggests that the potential for science to unite across the political divide might be rather limited. “It turns out that liberals and conservatives can agree about dinosaurs, but not much else,” said Michael Macy, director of the social dynamics lab and author on the study at Cornell University in New York.

With researchers at Yale and the University of Chicago, Macy pored over more than a million book purchases by people on the right and left of the political spectrum. He found that while both sides shared a broad interest in science, there was little overlap in the subjects they read, or the books they picked within scientific fields.

“We wanted to see to what extent science is something that liberals and conservatives might agree on, and if that could serve as a bridge across the political divide,” Macy said.

The researchers marked people as liberals or conservatives based on the political books they bought from Amazon and Barnes and Noble, two of the largest online booksellers in the US. Multiple books were used to define people’s political leanings, including Barack Obama’s Dreams from my Father and Mitt Romney’s No Apology. The researchers then looked at what science books the people bought too, and sorted them into fields such as medicine, psychology, climatology and oceanography.

The results showed that liberals generally preferred basic science, including physics, astronomy and zoology, while conservatives favoured the more applied and commercial sciences, with topics ranging from criminology and medicine to geophysics. Books on dinosaurs, and palaeontology in general, were popular in both groups, as was veterinary medicine. “The more the science gets away from anything remotely politically relevant, the more likely it is to serve as a bridge,” said Macy.

Even within subjects, liberals and conservatives read very different books. Among the biology books read by liberals was The Greatest Show on Earth: the evidence for evolution by Richard Dawkins, with conservatives opting more for The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design by Jonathan Wells. In the field of astronomy, conservatives might go for God and the Astronomers by Robert Jastrow, with liberals favouring Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot.

“You could say that liberals were a bit more interested in science for its own sake. Conservatives seem somewhat more interested in science where there is a conservative political alignment,” said Macy, whose study appears in Nature Human Behaviour.

The authors call on teachers, lecturers and scientists themselves to up their game on a number of counts. “First and foremost we need to get people excited about science for science’s sake. The second thing is for the sciences to encourage the appreciation of the critical perspective that scientists use,” Macy said.

Meanwhile, those in the social sciences in particular should do more to help people to break out of their “echo chambers” and discuss their views with people who disagree with them. That would help people to better understand not only others’ arguments, but their own too, Macy said.

In work published last year, Dan Kahan, a professor of law at Yale University, found that fostering scientific curiosity helped people to engage openly with information that went against their political stances. “I still think there is room to think science curiosity can help promote public agreement on disputed science issues,” he said.

Miles Hewstone, director of the Oxford Centre for the Study of Intergroup Conflict said there was “an increasing and worrying trend of such social fragmentation” based on ideology, religion and views of science. “We have to find ways to keep the two sides talking to each other, or at least aware of, and preferably respectful of, each other’s positions,” he said.

“Suggested ways to do this include provision of an on-screen button where we can choose to overcome the selective exposure identified in this research. That may seem like a long shot, when opinions are so entrenched, but as Jane Austen warned, ‘It is particularly incumbent on those who never change their opinion, to be secure of judging properly at first’.”

Man helps amputee up stairs, then returns to build ramp

Man helps amputee up stairs, then returns to build ramp

After spending days in the hospital, Jennifer Austin was just happy to be heading home after her husband Don underwent a partial leg amputation.But as they reached the front door, Don quickly realized he had not yet regained the strength or balance he needed to hop up their front steps with his crutches. Defeated, Don sat down on the front steps – and Jennifer wasn’t strong enough to help him back up.They didn’t know what to do next, but then a stranger driving by saw them struggling and circled back around. A man named Steve pulled up and asked if he could help, then lifted Don up and helped him into the house and onto the couch. Calling him an “angel,” Jennifer was stunned by his random act of kindness.”I hope he realizes how much his thoughtful act is appreciated. He was a hero today, and we are so grateful that he was willing to stop and take the time to help people he has never met before,” she wrote on Facebook.But Steve Smith’s work wasn’t done yet. As it turns out, he was a welder, too. He returned to their house the next day – with some extra hands – and built a wheelchair ramp to the Austin’s front door.”Brought Don, his mom, his nurse and myself to tears,” Jennifer wrote on Facebook. “We just couldn’t believe it. Wow. To be on the receiving end of such kindness is so humbling.”———-

Graffiti dying out as artists switch to social media, say academics

Graffiti dying out as artists switch to social media, say academics

Graffiti is disappearing from Britain’s streets as young men turn to social media to make a name for themselves, according to research.

A sociologist says former street artists are now sharing work on Internet sites rather than public buildings, reporting “the rich kids of Instagram have killed the graffiti writer”.

Academic Nicola Harding, who noted the trend by speaking to graffiti writers and scouring online images, is to reveal her findings today (WEDS) at the British Sociological Association’s annual conference in Manchester.

She found that, since the early 2000s, graffiti artists were increasingly writing on council-run “legal walls” where street art was allowed and then getting interest by sharing this work online.

In this way they avoid the risk of arrest or injury that spraying graffiti near train lines or other off-limits places could bring, she said. It also means they have no need to deface buildings with their “tags” in order to build a reputation.

“Contemporary graffiti writing is changing – it is no longer an activity that is played out in urban environments, but also on the internet,” she said.

But only better-off graffiti writers could afford the tools to create a large effective online presence, said Ms Harding, of Manchester Metropolitan University.

“Graffiti has been a way for young men of low socio-economic status to take risks to achieve sub-cultural kudos. But now better-off artists are able to … bypass the risk associated with urban graffiti writing. In this way the rich kids of Instagram have killed the graffiti writer.”

Farmer forgoes millions to preserve agricultural gift for Edmonton

Farmer forgoes millions to preserve agricultural gift for Edmonton

Farmer Doug Visser is foregoing the potential for making millions of dollars in order to protect quality farmland and an old-growth forest from suburban growth while creating a permanent gift for Edmonton.

He’s arranged to place a conservation easement on the land and launched a fundraising campaign to cover the fees, pledging to match donations up to $70,000. The easement – registered and monitored by the Edmonton and Area Land Trust – would ensure the top quality farmland could never legally be used for anything beyond community-based agriculture.

“This is something the whole community of Edmonton can get excited about. It’s kind of a miracle,” said Raquel Feroe, a board member with the land trust.

“They’re willing to sacrifice millions of dollars to share this with the community,” she said, getting tears in her eyes Friday. “Just the generosity and the land ethic. The opportunity is here now and, if people get behind it, it’s going to happen.”

Visser’s 93 hectares are in Horse Hill, a farming neighbourhood within city limits that was given the go-ahead for suburban redevelopment four years ago. It’s also in the study area for a future provincial bridge. The conservation plan would add political pressure to avoid a bridge being pushed through.

The land includes 28 hectares of old growth forest in the river valley, land currently used for First Nations ceremonies and where rare medicinal plants are grown. Unlike most of the land in this stretch of the North Saskatchewan River, it was never mined for gravel.

The rest of the land is and will continue to be used for farming – for Riverbend Gardens, a market garden that supplies many of the city’s farmers markets; and for Lady Flower Gardens, a community garden that lets homeless or disadvantaged people experience growing and eating their own vegetables. The land owner works with 15 different local organizations including the Mustard Seed Community Support Centre.

The land is located where 195 Avenue hits the North Saskatchewan River.

If the money can be raised, this would be the Edmonton and Area Land Trust’s first agricultural easement, adding to the nine natural areas it manages around the city. The land trust studied the issue for two years before agreeing to take it on.

Executive director Pam Wight said the land trust will need at least $140,000 to start and likely more to cover the costs of the legal agreement, baseline ecology studies and create a management plan. They don’t have a final cost. They need to raise enough money so interest from a permanent endowment fund managed by the Edmonton Community Foundation can fund the annual monitoring plan in perpetuity. Donations go to that fund.

The group agreed to take on the project because quality agricultural land like this is becoming rare close to the city. Most has been sold to developers and this is 30 minutes from downtown.

“We need to have agricultural lands near and around us and not assume they can be found elsewhere,” Wight said, pointing to the good drainage, quality soil, south-facing slopes and connection to the river as particularly important. That’s in addition to the rare old-growth forest.

But it will be tough. Provincial law allows for conservation easements on agricultural land but gives no funding for them. If they don’t raise enough before taking on this parcel, it would put their whole program in jeopardy, she said. “Perpetuity is a very long time.”

Visser wrote The King’s University into his will, pledging to give them part of the land to manage when he dies. They will also be able to run programs for their environmental studies students — the social justice vision fits with the University’s Micah Centre.

For Visser, it’s a way to recognize the land doesn’t belong to him in the way Western society views ownership, he said. Rather, he’s called to be a steward of the gift he’s been given, and this move will ensure access to the land for future generations.

“We’re here by the grace of God,” added Clarence Visser, Doug’s 89-year-old father who supports the conservation easement. A Christian, he’s also been influenced by First Nations leaders holding ceremonies on the land.

“When you look at land the way the First Nations traditionally have looked at it, land belongs to the creator,” Clarence Visser said. “We felt the land should continually be available.”

Doug Visser’s old-growth forest and farmland total 230 acres, or 93 hectares. That compares to:

Nearly extinct tigers found breeding in Thai jungle

Nearly extinct tigers found breeding in Thai jungle

The critically endangered Indochinese tiger has been found to be breeding in a Thai jungle, providing hope for a subspecies whose total population may number only a couple of hundred.

Conservation authorities in Thailand, along with two international wildlife organisations, released photographs of new tiger cubs in the country’s east.

The images support a scientific survey that confirmed the existence of the world’s second breeding population. The other breeding ground is in the Huai Kha Khaeng wildlife sanctuary in western Thailand.

The Department of National Parks of Thailand, the anti-trafficking group Freeland and Panthera, a wildcat conservation organisation, said only 221 Indochinese tigers were estimated to remain in just two Asian countries, Thailand and neighbouring Myanmar.

The group said it had been tracking the tiger population since 1999 and, for the first time last year, camera traps had photographed six cubs from four mothers.

“Poaching for the illegal wildlife trade stands as the gravest threat to the survival of the tiger, whose numbers in the wild have dwindled from 100,000 a century ago to 3,900 today,” the agencies said in a statement.

It noted the tigers’ “remarkable resilience given wildlife poaching and illegal rosewood logging” in the eastern jungle.

Indochinese tigers are smaller than the better-known Siberian or the Bengal subspecies, which is the most numerous with a total population estimated at 3,500.

Tigers, which once ranged across much of the region, are all but extinct in southern China, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and much of Myanmar. Although there is no evidence of their medicinal effect, tiger bones are used in traditional Asian remedies such as “health tonics”.

Alan Rabinowitz, the chief executive officer of Panthera, said in a video call from New York that Thailand had “one of the best-protected and best tiger areas left in the world”.

“Thailand has shown that you can protect tigers and bring them back. They can do this now in the eastern forest complex as they have done in the western forest complex,” he added.

Panthera said on its website that only 8% of tiger sites had a confirmed breeding population, meaning the photos were “a huge – and rare – win”.

It said: “A breeding population here means that the future of this subspecies is less precarious and could potentially even expand – tigers here could disperse and repopulate Cambodia and Laos, where no breeding populations persist.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report

NYC hit ‘fearless girl’ statue to remain through February

NYC hit ‘fearless girl’ statue to remain through February

US: NYC hit ‘fearless girl’ statue to remain through February

The latest entertainment hit in New York is not a play, or a musical – it is a statue.
“Fearless Girl” was only meant to be a temporary fixture.
But she’s such a crowd pleaser, they are allowing her to stay a while longer.
The latest entertainment hit in New York is not a play, or a musical – it is a statue.”Fearless Girl” was only meant to be a temporary fixture.But she’s such a crowd pleaser, they are allowing her to stay a while longer. Al Jazeera’s Gabriel Elizondo reports from New York.Gabriel Elizondo28 Mar 2017 19:10 GMT US Canada, Arts Culture

Foreigner buys new shoes for barefooted street kid

Foreigner buys new shoes for barefooted street kid

Photo courtesy of Mara Karmela

MANILA — The mall was about to close, and its staff were all set to go home after a day’s work when a tall, tattooed guy entered the Nike store. He was looking for a pair of shoes for a barefooted street kid in tattered clothes. 

The tattooed guy, a foreigner, immediately approached Ahyan Yerro, the store’s assistant supervisor, to ask for assistance. 

“Nagulat ako,” Yerro told ABS-CBN News. “First time kong makakita ng foreigner na may kasamang street kid.” 

According to Yerro, she and her staff made sure their customers would get the assistance they needed. “Talagang VIP treatment po kami, we made sure na talagang makakapili sila,” she said.

Photo courtesy of Ahyan Yerro

The tattooed man let the boy choose the shoes he wanted. There were many options displayed before his eyes. But he chose running shoes, which they got for 40% off.

“Tuwang-tuwa kami para sa bata,” Yerro quipped. She said the foreigner even bought food for the child, and asked where they could buy new clothes. 

Photo courtesy of Ahyan Yerro

According to Yerra’s staff, Raymond Seneca, he often sees the boy selling Sampaguita and asking for some change outside the mall. 

Perhaps, he’s only waiting for a good heart. That person came that night, and even bought the Sampaguita he was selling. 

Spreading good vibes

Photo courtesy of Ahyan Yerro

Seeing that this act of kindness could inspire many people, Yerro decided to share good vibes by posting the story on Facebook.  

“Sabi ko pa sa bata habang suot nya ang sapatos na napili nya, ingatan mo yan at magpasalamat kay sir kase hindi lahat nabibigyang ng pagkakataon na mabigyan ng shoes na ganyan. Sagot nya, ‘Opo ate.’ Napangiti ako at natuwa para sa kanya,” Yerro wrote in the post. 

Apart from Yerro and her staff, another person was able to capture the rare moment of kindness. Mara Karmela, a government employee, was also inside the store. 

According to Karmela, a lot of people were staring at the boy when they came in. “The child was very shy and did not speak much while inside the store,” she told ABS-CBN News.

Photo courtesy of Ahyan Yerro

His face seemed to brighten up when he started wearing his new pair of kicks, which at first he refused to wear because other kids might get jealous and steal them. 

Karmela, who was touched with the foreigner’s kindness, said she almost cried after seeing the big smile on the kid’s face. “I was having a bad day at work. And all the crazy things going on. It was really a good reminder to not give up,” she added. 

Staying anonymous 

Photo courtesy of Ahyan Yerro

In a Facebook message sent to Yerro, the foreigner thanked her for writing about his good deed. “I was shown your post today and saw a lot of people liked and shared it. Thank you for writing what you did, it was very nice,” he wrote. 

According to him, the boy’s name is Warren. He is 14 years old, and he lives in Pasig City. 

He also shared to Yerro their experience buying clothes at the department store. “There were 8 people that helped Warren find clothes. He looked amazing when he walked out and had a smile from ear to ear,” he said. 

Photo courtesy of Ahyan Yerro

ABS-CBN News tried to interview the foreigner, but he refused to entertain questions due to “his work schedule and limited time.” He also said that his deed has already received enough publicity, encouraging others to do the same.

“This is how we can make the world a better place,” he said.

Devoted father gives up job to build a bionic arm for his baby son

Devoted father gives up job to build a bionic arm for his baby son

A devoted father taught himself biotechnology after his baby son had to have his arm amputated.

Unsatisfied with the “cumbersome” options available for children and babies on the NHS, the psychology teacher locked himself in his shed for days on end to make the perfect bionic arm for his little boy.

Arms with sensor technology, according to Ben Ryan, aren’t available until children are three or four years old, and he “wanted it a bit quicker than that”.

Beloved family cat Freddie returned to Auckland family 18 months after going missing

Beloved family cat Freddie returned to Auckland family 18 months after going missing

Video will play inPlay nowDon’t auto playNever auto playAn Auckland family are overjoyed their beloved family cat Freddie has been returned to them after going missing 18 months ago. Lisa Baillie said Freddie spent the last two weeks hanging around the Animates store at St Lukes, so staff took him to the nearby vet to have his microchip scanned. “I just got a call out of the blue from Pet Doctors. ‘Did you have a cat called Freddie? We’ve found him,'” Baillie said. “I think I screamed. I was at work, I just yelled when they said we’ve got a cat called Freddie, I was just in shock.” Jack Baillie cuddles Freddie the cat, who has returned to his family 18 months after going missing. Photo / Supplied Freddie had disappeared “basically off the face of the earth” from their home in September 2015. Baillie was unsure why he went missing but thought it might have been because the house was on the market and Freddie had been disrupted by all the open homes and strangers coming through the house. She reported him missing and put out fliers in her neighbourhood, but five weeks later had to move to a different area. “The kids chose him and he was only two, they were just devastated,” she said. Though the kids had talked about Freddie every week since he went missing, Baillie had given up hope on ever seeing him again, which was why the call from the vet last Thursday was such a surprise. Continued below.Related ContentVideoCat returns home after 18 months Loyalty low in 30pc of bank customers My car accident left me terrified of driving – so I asked racing legend Greg Murphy for help Freddie has made himself at home in his family’s new house. Photo / Supplied Freddie appeared to be well-fed and in good health, so Baillie suspects someone may have taken him in and looked after him, though questions why they did not take him in to see if he had a microchip. She picked up her daughter, Sophie, from school and got Freddie from the vet, then surprised her son, Jack, when he came home for the day. A video Baillie took shows Jack, 8, coming home from school and discovering Freddie asleep on a bed in the house, then gently wrapping his arms around the cat and cuddling him. “Jack, you can see in his face, he just couldn’t believe it. They’ve just been doting over him ever since.” Baillie said Freddie seemed happy as ever, “totally affectionate”, and appeared to be enjoying spending time around the kids. Freddie is happy to be back with his family, Lisa Baillie says. Photo / Supplied “We’ve just been on a high ever since Thursday night.” Baillie wanted to thank the Animates staff for getting Freddie scanned, and also whoever cared for Freddie over the past year and a half. – NZ Herald

Hydrogen-powered train with zero emissions completes test run in Germany

Hydrogen-powered train with zero emissions completes test run in Germany

A train powered by a hydrogen fuel cell has completed its first test run in Germany, showing the viability of the technology to operate without waste. Following more planned tests, the train is expected to begin commercial operation later this year, on the line in Lower Saxony, Germany.

There is much speculation about what the future of mass transit may be. Some suggest automated cars, others more outlandish technology like the Hyperloop. However, more environmentally friendly alternatives to traditional transport systems, like zero-emission trains, could be another avenue entirely and it’s one that sustainable rail developer Alstom is banking on with its Coradia iLint design.

The iLint train uses an onboard fuel cell design which uses a combination of stored hydrogen and oxygen drawn from the local atmosphere to generate electricity. That electricity can propel the train up to 87 miles per hour, with excess power being funneled into large-scale lithium-ion batteries for later usee. The train also makes use of energy recovery systems to improve the efficiency of the electrical systems.

More: The inventor behind the Maglev train is back with a Hyperloop for launching space vehicles

This makes the train completely sustainable, producing only water and steam as emissions and requiring no electrification of the track. The train even produces almost no noise, since there is no combustion to contend with.

All of this makes the Coradia iLint design an incredibly versatile transit option, capable of operating within densely populated areas without causing pollution – noise and otherwise.

This latest test saw the train reach just shy of 50 miles per hour, so it will require further testing to make sure that it’s safe at higher speeds, but this is a step in the right direction for the design.

“This test run is a significant milestone in environmental protection and technical innovation,” said Didier Pfleger, vice president of Alstom in Germany and Austria (via the Telegraph).

“With the Coradia iLint and its fuel cell technology, Alstom is the first railway manufacturer to offer a zero-emission alternative for mass transit trains.”

Do you think hydrogen fuel-cell trains could be the future of zero emission mass transit?