I’m currently “reading” (on abridged audio) World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. WWZ is a “look back” at a saliva-spread contagion that takes over the mind of a biologically dead host, turning them into zombies that can only be killed through the destruction of the brain. The book starts with the identification of Patient 0 near the Three Gorges Dam. Currently, I’m at the Battle of Yonkers, where a a FutureCombatSystem equipped force battles an enemy (the zombies of New York) who are biologically incapable of being disoriented. An amazing read.
While the origin of the zombies is never fully explained, one hypothesis of the oral history is that it was a Chinese military experiment gone wrong. Freakily, scientists have developed a wasp that turns cockroaches into zombies (Slashdot, Nature). Nothing can possibly go wrong.
From the more social of the sciences, back in 2001 John Bargh and some others discussed “The Automated Will: Nonconscious activation and pursuit of behavioral goals” (14 page PDF) Across five experiments, the social scientists found evidence of sub-conscious will that “promote goal directed action [in] achievement [and] cooperation… increase in strength until acted on… promote persistence at task performance in the face of obstacles… and… favor resumption of disrupted tasks even in the presence of more attractive alternatives” (1024).
Meanwhile. Renee Friedman in Archeology weights evidence (tongue-in-cheek, we hope) of a Zombie attack in Hierkonopolis, subtitled “weighing the evidence for and dating of Solanum virus outbreaks in early Egypt.” Perhaps the PLA is off the hook?
Watch out for zombies!
Next Thursday (November 3) I will be giving a brown bag presentation in Oldfather 538 (at 11:30) to faculty, grad students, and other interested parties.
TITLE: Biology and the Future of Political Science ABSTRACT: Evolutionary and biological principles increasingly are being applied in the social sciences, particularly economics and psychology. Political science has been lagging behind but even this situation is changing rapidly. I [Dr. John Hibbing] will describe these principles and explain how I think they can inform our theoretical and empirical work. I will also describe the role I believe this movement could play in our discipline and in our department. Then, in the second half of the talk I will provide an example of empirical work I have done in this area–specifically, the extent to which political attitudes and social behaviors are influenced by genetics. In the process, I hope to assist skeptics in understanding how genes (sequences of nucleotides in our DNA) could filter through to such seemingly cerebral concepts as social behavior and political attitudes.
Update: Some of Dr. Hibbing’s findings (with my commentary!) are online.
“Women Lack ‘Natural Ability’ In Some Fields, Harvard President Says: Comments Came At Economic Conference,” Associated Press, http://www.local6.com/education/4090001/detail.html, 17 January 2005 (from Drudge Report).
CAMBRIDGE, Mass — The president of Harvard University prompted criticism for suggesting that innate differences between the sexes could help explain why fewer women succeed in science and math careers.
Lawrence H. Summers, speaking Friday at an economic conference, also questioned how great a role discrimination plays in keeping female scientists and engineers from advancing at elite universities.
“It’s possible I made some reference to innate differences,” he said. He said people “would prefer to believe” that the differences in performance between the sexes are due to social factors, “but these are things that need to be studied.”
He also cited as an example one of his daughters, who as a child was given two trucks in an effort at gender-neutral upbringing. Yet he said she named them “daddy truck” and “baby truck,” as if they were dolls.
“Here was this economist lecturing pompously (to) this room full of the country’s most accomplished scholars on women’s issues in science and engineering, and he kept saying things we had refuted in the first half of the day,” said Denton, the outgoing dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Washington.
Summers already faced criticism because the number of senior job offers to women has dropped each year of his three-year presidency.
He has promised to work on the problem.
Lawrence Summers, nephew of two nobel laureates, was President Bill Clinton’s last Secretary of the Treasury.