What We’re Reading: Worm Bots, Dark Energy and Climate Psychology

BY Jenny Marder  January 17, 2011 at 1:42 PM EST

Why Dire Climate Warnings Boost Skepticism

Dire predictions on climate change don’t seem to be working. Even while scientific evidence that humans are causing global warming continues to mount, belief in climate change doesn’t. So why the disconnect? A small group of people who study the psychology of climate change belief may have some ideas on how to better communicate the problem. (Matt Kaplan, Nature News)

Making a Worm Do More Than Squirm

On a team of Harvard researchers who have created “worm bots completely under their control.” Using a dot of laser light to silence and stimulate neurons, they’ve made the worms start, stop, freeze and even lay an egg. And by doing this they’re picking apart their behavior, cell by cell. (Laura Sanders, Science News)

Darkness on the Edge of the Universe

In case, you missed it, here’s science writer, professor and string theorist Brian Greene’s op-ed in the Sunday New York Times on dark energy and the expanding universe. It also poses some weighty questions about the future of astronomy, once light from distant galaxies expands beyond our capacity to see it. This includes some good science history, and clear descriptions of some of the hardest-to-understand stuff of astrophysics. (Briane Greene, New York Times)

The Social Animal

In the New Yorker this week, David Brooks writes about brain science and the role that human emotion plays in happiness. We are wired to connect, he says. You can find a related Q & A with him on the piece here. The story focuses on what Brooks calls the “Composure Class,” which includes people who fight against lactose intolerance, and possess 160-pound dogs and perfectly toned forearms. But at its essence is a look at the neuroscience of fulfillment. (David Brooks, The New Yorker)

And in case you missed them, some stories from our Science page last week:

After Haiti Quake, Using Science to Build Sturdier Buildings

New Dinosaur Fossils Shift Family Tree

Australia Flooding Threatens Already Sensitive Great Barrier Reef

How Close Are We to Finding an Earthlike Planet