Dual identities intertwine


Photo Credit: Raquel Breternitz | Daily Texan Staff

Check out Daily Texan Multimedia's portrayal of this week's Science Scene.

Dual identities intertwine

The United States is often thought of as a melting pot, a potpourri of cultures provided by the individuals who inhabit the country, although that’s not always the case in practice. Previous studies have looked at bicultural Americans, showing that some of them find their two cultures similar and interconnected, whereas others find them separate and incompatible and for a given individual, this perspective appeared fairly fixed. However, a new paper published by two authors, one from the University of Hong Kong and the other from Columbia University, has shown that this cultural connectedness can shift, causing people to think of their dual identities in a more integrated manner while smiling or after focusing on the similarities of random objects such as keys or socks. Although there’s much more to be learned about this subject, the study hints there may be better ways to help the tired, poor and huddled masses feel at home when they arrive in our country.

Quantum time possible

Anyone who has spent any time learning about the world of quantum mechanics knows that it’s weird, but a group working out of UCLA has developed a new framework for the subject that makes it even stranger. Quantum mechanics, one of the great physics developments of the 20th century, explains how very small objects, such as electrons, behave. Unlike macroscopic objects, very small ones don’t exist at specific locations and exhibit strange and contradictory properties such as behaving both like particles and waves. If the UCLA group’s new framework is correct, then time is shifty as well, resulting in the intertwining of causes and effects, where the latter doesn’t necessarily occur after the former. Needless to say, this is strange even by theoretical physics standards, but only time and future experimentation can determine if it is too strange for reality.

Fear is only in your mind

Feeling scared can be good fun in the right context, but everybody has limits. Those limits may be determined by newly discovered receptors located in the amygdala, a portion of the brain that deals with memory and emotions and alerts the brain when it’s time to feel scared and when to calm down. To determine the function of these receptors, scientists deactivated them in mice and discovered the rodents developed uncontrollable fear in response to even slightly troublesome stimuli. What’s worse, the mice didn’t calm down after the stimuli passed. Now that they have been located in mice, further research will see if the receptors have a similar effect on humans and whether or not they relate to anxiety disorders.

Ancient spider attack

Scientists believe they have found the only fossil on record of an ancient spider attacking prey preserved in amber. Dated to 97 to 110 million years ago, the resin offers a scene of a spider about to perform a coup de grace on a male wasp that became stuck in the web. Additionally, the presence of another male spider’s body suggests social behavior in this species, the orb-weaver — as if the predator spider attacked the other for intruding on his territory. Although the scientific knowledge that this specimen offers may not be far reaching, it offers a genuine and exciting snapshot of life in a prehistoric time.

Understanding hate

A research team at the University of Leicester is beginning a two-year, comprehensive study of hate crime. This study will work with what principal investigator Neil Chakraborti describes as the “widest range of victims ever covered in a single hate crime study,” focusing on those “who experience racist, religiously motivated, homophobic, disablist and transphobic victimization,” among others. Although the conclusions are at least two years away, Chakraborti intends for the research to make a difference to victims of hate by uncovering new insights that will help us to understand the reach of such crimes, as well as influence public policy.

Science Scene 10/11 from The Daily Texan on Vimeo.

Printed on Thursday, October 11, 2012 as: Two cultures don't have to disagree