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Creationism dismissed as ‘a kind of paganism’ by Vatican’s astronomer

Brother Consolmagno, who works in a Vatican observatory in Arizona and as curator of the Vatican meteorite collection in Italy, said a “destructive myth” had developed in modern society that religion and science were competing ideologies. He described creationism, whose supporters want it taught in schools alongside evolution, as a “kind of paganism” because it harked back to the days of “nature gods” who were responsible for natural events. —The Scotsman…

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National Science Foundation announces plan for comprehensive public access to research results

This is good news. It’s unfair that government-funded studies get published in private databases that make money off of the public’s desire to access results of studies paid for by our taxes. NSF will require that articles in peer-reviewed scholarly journals and papers in juried conference proceedings or transactions be deposited in a public access compliant repository and be available for download, reading and analysis within one year of publication.…

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The Teen Brain “Shuts Down” When It Hears Mom’s Criticism

Wired summarizes an egghead study for the rest of us. Parents may benefit from understanding that when they criticize their adolescents, adolescents may experience strong negative emotional reaction, may have difficulty cognitively controlling this emotion and may also find it challenging to understand the parent’s perspective or mental state. (From a study summarized in Wired.)

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Google’s AI could probably beat you at Atari

What’s significant in this story is not that a computer can perform tasks more efficiently than a human, but that the computer in question is not deploying a pre-programmed strategy; it is instead teaching itself how to win. When IBM’s Deep Blue computer defeated chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov in 1997, and the artificially intelligent Watson computer won the quiz show “Jeopardy!” in 2011, these were considered impressive technical feats, but…

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The dark future of American space exploration: NASA’s golden age is about to come to a thudding halt

I remember, as a kid, being thrilled by the images that came in from the Voyager flybys in the late 70s and 80s. I wrote a fan letter to NASA when I was about 11, and received a big stack of glossy publications on the Space Shuttle and commercial technologies spun off from NASA inventions. If NASAs New Horizons mission to Pluto is extended beyond 2017, the entire active human presence at…

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We don’t need more STEM majors. We need more STEM majors with liberal arts training.

A chemist celebrates the liberal arts. Our culture has drawn an artificial line between art and science, one that did not exist for innovators like Leonardo da Vinci and Steve Jobs. Leonardo’s curiosity and passion for painting, writing, engineering and biology helped him triumph in both art and science; his study of anatomy and dissections of corpses enabled his incredible drawings of the human figure. When introducing the iPad 2,…