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Archive for the 'Science' Category

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Jeffrey Bennett on the Recent Discovery of Inflation in the Early Universe

In the video/slideshow below, Jeffrey Bennett, author of What Is Relativity?: An Intuitive Introduction to Einstein’s Ideas, and Why They Matter, provides some context about the recent discovery of evidence for “inflation” in the early universe. He explains what it means and why it is important.

Starting with a brief explanation of what we mean by an “expanding universe” and how we know we live in one, he offers an explanation of the Big Bang theory and the idea of inflation, and finally discuss the new discovery.

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

Relativity in Education — Jeffrey Bennett

The following post is by Jeffrey Bennett, author of What Is Relativity?: An Intuitive Introduction to Einstein’s Ideas, and Why They Matter

Jeffrey Bennett, What Is Relativity?Black holes don’t suck. It’s a point I’ve emphasized to students for decades, and I even considered it as a possible title for my book at one point. So why, then, do so many people assume that a spaceship passing near a black hole would get “sucked in,” or that transforming the Sun into a black hole would cause Earth and the other planets to be sucked in?

It’s an interesting question, because the answer tells us something about our system of science education. Society and public knowledge have changed dramatically in many ways since Einstein published his general theory of relativity in 1915. Consider, for example, that in 1915: Flight was only a few years old, automobiles were still rare, antibiotics were decades from discovery, life expectancy was decades shorter than today, and women still did not have the right to vote in U.S. national elections. But at least one thing has not changed: Most people today still assume space and time to be just as fixed and independent as did our ancestors, even though we are approaching the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s theory that showed otherwise.

It may seem that no one is harmed by this lack of public understanding, but I’d argue otherwise. For example, I believe that all human beings live their lives according to a world view with which they see their place in the world and universe, and this in turn makes it seem important to have a world view that is consistent with reality. And reality, as it turns out, is the real topic of Einstein’s theory of relativity, because it is the theory that describes our current understanding of space, time, and gravity. As such, it provides the foundation of almost all of modern physics and astronomy, which means it tells us how the universe — our reality — actually works. I’d be exaggerating only slightly if I said that knowing something about relativity is as important to having a true “cosmic perspective” as recognizing that Earth is a planet going around the Sun rather than the center of the universe.

Relativity is also a great way to introduce students (and the public) to the way in which science works, and to the real meaning of a scientific theory. In fact, relativity is arguably our best example of how one theory (in this case Newton’s theory of gravity) can be replaced by another (Einstein’s general theory of relativity) without the first one being “wrong.” In this case, relativity expanded the range of situations in which we can calculate gravitational effects, but still gives essentially the same answers as Newton’s earlier theory of gravity for most situations. In my opinion, there’s no better way to explain the nature of scientific evidence and the means by which we test hypotheses until the evidence becomes strong enough to consider them theories. I suspect that if we taught this example in schools, we’d be able to build upon it to quiet much of the public debate that arises over other scientific topics, including evolution and climate change.

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Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

Interview with Jeffrey Bennett, author of “What Is Relativity,” Part 2

The following is the second part of an interview with Jeffrey Bennett, author of What Is Relativity?: An Intuitive Introduction to Einstein’s Ideas, and Why They Matter. You can read part one of the interview here.

What Is Relativity? Jeffrey BennettQuestion: You said above that relativity has “basic simplicity.” But relativity has a reputation for being very difficult. Which is it?

Jeffrey Bennett: The conceptual ideas of relativity are somewhat counterintuitive, but they are not difficult to understand. All you need is an open mind and a willingness to follow some simple “thought experiments” through to their logical conclusions, and then to consider the evidence that shows these conclusions to be correct. As to why relativity has a reputation for being difficult: For the most part, it’s an undeserved reputation coming from the fact that it seems weird when you first study it. However, if you want to go beyond understanding the concepts and actually use relativity to test scientific ideas or design new technologies, then you need to work with the mathematics of relativity as well as with the concepts. The mathematics can become quite involved, especially for general relativity, and I certainly hope that some of my younger readers will be inspired to learn this mathematics — but don’t worry, you won’t find any of this mathematics in my book, which focuses only on the conceptual ideas.

Q: Following up on that, you say that relativity can seem counterintuitive, but in the book you say it does not violate “common sense.” What do you mean?

JB: By definition, we can only have “common sense” about things that we commonly experience, and the surprising effects of relativity are not noticeable under the conditions of our everyday lives. Instead, they become noticeable only at speeds much faster than we ever travel, or in gravity far stronger than Earth’s. In the book I use an analogy to “up” and “down.” In our daily lives, common sense tells us that “up” is over our heads and “down” is below our feet, and this common sense works fine for things like basketball games. But if that was all there was to it, then people on the other side of Earth would fall off. The fact that they don’t fall of therefore tells us that our common sense isn’t telling us the whole story. In a similar way, the fact that relativity tells us that we’d measure space and time differently at high speeds means that our common sense about motion must not be the whole story either, even though it works fine for most things in our daily lives.

Q: You start the book with a chapter in which you take readers on an imaginary future voyage to a black hole, and in the process you say that “black holes don’t suck.” What do you mean by that?

Jeffrey Bennett: For some reason, it’s commonly assumed that if you went anywhere near a black hole, you’d be sucked in, or that if the Sun turned into a black hole then Earth would get sucked in. But it’s not true. At a distance, the gravity of a black hole is no different than the gravity of a more ordinary star, and you’d have to get extremely close to the black hole before you noticed any difference. Because black holes are so well known in popular culture, I decided that an imaginary journey in which we learned what would really happen on a voyage to a black hole would be a good way to introduce Einstein’s amazing ideas.

(more…)

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Interview with Jeffrey Bennett, author of “What Is Relativity?,” Part 1

The following is part one of an interview with Jeffrey Bennett, author of What Is Relativity?: An Intuitive Introduction to Einstein’s Ideas, and Why They Matter

What Is Relativity?,  Jeffrey BennettQuestion: Your book is titled What is Relativity? Ok, then, so what is it?

Jeffrey Bennett: Nearly everyone has heard of Einstein’s theory of relativity, perhaps because it is so prevalent in popular culture. For example, relativity lies behind real science ideas like black holes and the expanding universe, and also behind science fiction ideas of things like warp drive, hyperspace, and worm holes. The reason it comes up in these contexts is that the theory of relativity represents our current understanding of the nature of space, time, and gravity. As such, it provides the foundation of almost all of modern physics and astronomy, which means it also plays a critical role in modern technology. To sum up, relativity tells us how the universe actually works, and through technology it comes up in nearly everything we do in our daily lives.

Q: How does it gets its name? That is, what is “relative” about relativity?

JB: Let’s start by dispelling a common misconception: Einstein’s theory does not say that “everything is relative.” Rather, the theory refers specifically to the relativity of motion. You can think of it like running on a treadmill: If the display says you are running 6 miles per hour, it means that is your speed relative to the rubber mat on the treadmill. Your speed is different if you measure relative to something else. For example, your speed relative to the exercise room is zero, because you’re running in place; your speed relative to the Moon is nearly 1000 miles per hour, because that is the speed at which Earth’s rotation carries you in a circle around Earth’s axis each day; and your speed relative to the Sun is about 60,000 miles per hour, because that’s how fast Earth moves in its orbit. Einstein’s theory gets its name because it describes how measurements of space and time differ for observers moving relative to one another.

Q: You also say that “relativity” is in some sense a misnomer for Einstein’s theory, because the theory rests on foundations built from two absolutes. What are these absolutes?

JB: The theory gets its name from the relativity of motion, but the fact that motion is relative had already been known for centuries. So the real foundations of Einstein’s theory lie in his assertion that two particular things in nature are absolute: (1) The laws of nature are the same for everyone; and (2) the speed of light is the same for everyone. All the astonishing consequences of relativity can be derived from these two absolutes, both of which have been verified by countless observations and experiments.

(more…)

Monday, March 17th, 2014

Book Giveaway! Win a Free Copy of What Is Relativity?

What Is Relativity?, Jeffrey Bennet

This week we will be featuring What Is Relativity?: An Intuitive Introduction to Einstein’s Ideas, and Why They Matter, by Jeffrey Bennett on our blog, twitter, and facebook.

We are also offering a FREE copy of What Is Relativity?: An Intuitive Introduction to Einstein’s Ideas, and Why They Matter to a lucky winner. To enter the contest please e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu and indicate your name and address. The winner will be selected Friday, March 21st at 3:00 pm.

Amply illustrated and written in clear, accessible prose, Bennett’s book proves anyone can grasp the basics of Einstein’s ideas. His intuitive, nonmathematical approach gives a wide audience its first real taste of how relativity works and why it is so important to science and the way we view ourselves as human beings.

For more on the book, you can also read the chapter Voyage to a Black Hole or preview the book.

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Does Multiverse Theory Bring Theology Into Science? An interview with Mary-Jane Rubenstein

Worlds Without End

In a recent interview with Andrew Aghapour at Religion Dispatches, Mary-Jane Rubenstein, author of Worlds Without End: The Many Lives of the Multiverse discusses her inspiration for studying the history of the idea of the “multiverse,” the complex philosophical and religious underpinnings of the idea of many worlds, and how religious thought is present in modern scientific multiverse theories.

What initially inspired you to write Worlds Without End?

Five or six years ago, I was clamoring to find something to write for a conference on energy, a topic about which I knew nothing at all. One morning, I came across a feature in the New York Times Magazine on “dark energy”: the negative pressure that’s accelerating the expansion of the universe, causing galaxies to race away from one another faster and faster as time goes on.

I was struck not only by the metaphorics of this substance (it’s said to be “dark,” “mysterious,” “strange,” “creepy”) but by the psychological instability it seemed to be causing among the researchers who discovered it (“no one expected this,” “it’s like hell without the fire,” “we’ll never understand this thing but we can’t not study it”). This was my entry point: as someone who studies the history of philosophy and theology, I was fascinated by a group of scientists professing a freaked-out, studious devotion to an inscrutable darkness. (more…)

Friday, February 28th, 2014

On the Geneaology of Cosmology/Unscientific Postscribble

Worlds Without End

This week our featured book is Worlds Without End: The Many Lives of the Multiverse by Mary-Jane Rubenstein. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page. Today, we have an excerpt from the final chapter of Worlds Without End.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway to win a FREE copy of Worlds Without End!

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

Ending the Endless: Thomas Aquinas

Worlds Without End

This week our featured book is Worlds Without End: The Many Lives of the Multiverse by Mary-Jane Rubenstein. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page. Today, we have an excerpt from Worlds Without End in which Professor Rubenstein discusses Thomas Aquinas and his thought on whether there are many worlds or just one.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway to win a FREE copy of Worlds Without End!

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Asceticosmologies: Modern Science as Religious Practice

Worlds Without End

This week our featured book is Worlds Without End: The Many Lives of the Multiverse by Mary-Jane Rubenstein. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page. Today, we are sharing a video of “Asceticosmologies: Modern Science as Religious Practice,” a lecture given by Professor Rubenstein.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway to win a FREE copy of Worlds Without End!

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

How to Avoid the G-Word

Worlds Without End

This week our featured book is Worlds Without End: The Many Lives of the Multiverse by Mary-Jane Rubenstein. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page. In today’s excerpt from the introduction to Worlds Without End, Rubenstein looks back at the origins of the multiverse as a concept and a term.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway to win a FREE copy of Worlds Without End!

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Book Giveaway! Worlds Without End: The Many Lives of the Multiverse, by Mary-Jane Rubenstein

Worlds Without End

This week our featured book is Worlds Without End: The Many Lives of the Multiverse by Mary-Jane Rubenstein. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Shifting Sands. To enter our Book Giveaway, simply fill out the form below with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select one winner on Friday, February 21st at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Michael Mann Takes on the National Review and Climate Change Skeptics

Michael Mann, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars

“A lot of us would much rather be spending our time doing science, but an increasingly large amount of our time is spent on defending ourselves against bad-faith attacks. Over time, I have come to embrace that.”—Michael Mann

In a development that could change the nature and tenor over the debate about climate change, Michael Mann’s suit against the National Review and the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) is moving forward.

The events leading up to the suit were recently covered in Kurt Eichenwald’s article in Newsweek. Michael Mann, author of The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines, has long been accused of misrepresenting scientific data by climate change skeptics and denialists. These accusations reached a fevered and rather ugly pitch when Rand Simberg of the CEI equated Mann, who teaches at Penn State, with Jerry Sandusky. Simberg wrote, “Mann could be said to be the Jerry Sandusky of climate science, except that instead of molesting children, he has molested and tortured data.”

The CEI’s article was picked up by Mark Steyn, a writer for the National Review Online, who in addition to picking up on the child molester references, also said that Penn State failed to adequately investigate Mann’s scientific work. Citing libel, Mann has since sued both the National Review and the CEI, who initially wanted the cases thrown out, citing their first amendment rights.

Michael Mann, along with other scientists, has long contended that climate change denialists and skeptics have misrepresented scientific findings as well as e-mails exchanged among climate scientists. As he recently argued in the New York Times , Michael Mann believes it is time that scientists become more active in fighting back the efforts of climate skeptics.

Eichenwald concludes his article by writing:

Mann says he is frustrated about the bitterness of the years of disputes between climatologists and the skeptics but now accepts that responding to attacks will be part of the job for all of them.

“A lot of us would much rather be spending our time doing science, but an increasingly large amount of our time is spent on defending ourselves against bad-faith attacks,” he says. “Over time, I have come to embrace that.”

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

Michael Mann on the Responsibility of Climate Scientists

Michael Mann, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars

In a recent New York Times op-ed, Michael Mann, author of The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines (now available in paperback), argues that scientists can no longer stay on the sidelines when it comes to debates about climate change.

For his own part, Mann has been thrust into the fray over climate change after a study he co-wrote which led to being “hounded by elected officials [and] threatened with violence.” Mann continues, “Our ‘hockey stick’ graph became a vivid centerpiece of the climate wars, and to this day, it continues to win me the enmity of those who have conflated a problem of science and society with partisan politics.”

Initially, Mann did not want to be part of the debate, fearing, as many scientists do, that it would compromise his objectivity “to wade into policy matters or the societal implications of our work.” However, with the stakes so high, Mann now argues that position is no longer viable given the threats of global warming to the planet.

If scientists choose not to engage in the public debate, we leave a vacuum that will be filled by those whose agenda is one of short-term self-interest. There is a great cost to society if scientists fail to participate in the larger conversation — if we do not do all we can to ensure that the policy debate is informed by an honest assessment of the risks. In fact, it would be an abrogation of our responsibility to society if we remained quiet in the face of such a grave threat.

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

Talking Turkey with Herve This!

Thanksgiving, Turkey

“Use the dishwasher! For the next holiday meal, I recommend that you prepare two turkeys. Cook one in the dishwasher, in a plastic bag, for several cycles of your machine.”—Herve This

In highlighting our books on this blog, we like to think we provide some food for thought. Well, with Thanksgiving just a couple of days away, we thought we provide some more practical (or somewhat practical) advice on cooking a turkey from none other than Herve This, author of Molecular Gastronomy: Exploring the Science of Flavor and other titles on the science of food.

In a 2010 interview with Nature, This suggested the dishwasher as a possible cooking method:

Q: Another professional technique is to cook food for long periods at low temperatures in a vacuum-sealed bag. How might a home chef emulate this ‘sous-vide’ method?

Herve This: Use the dishwasher! For the next holiday meal, I recommend that you prepare two turkeys. Cook one in the dishwasher, in a plastic bag, for several cycles of your machine. In this way, you can get low temperatures. Butterfly the other turkey and cook it on the grill, creating the maximum expanse of delicious crispy skin. Then serve the moist, flavourful meat from the dishwasher turkey with the grilled skin. A good accompaniment would be foie gras, also cooked in the dishwasher at low temperature.

Now for those not comfortable with Maytag cuisine, here is an excerpt from Kitchen Mysteries: Revealing the Science of Cooking on the science of roasting a turkey:

Since it is juicy, tender meat that we want, it is clear why there is no question of opening the oven while the meat is roasting. The water vapor that is released in a limited quantity could escape and then be replaced by the vaporization of a certain quantity of the juices. Opening the oven dries out the turkey. Neither, however, should one humidify the oven before putting the turkey in. In the presence of too much water, the surface water cannot evaporate, and the skin will not get crispy.

Having thus resolved the problem of the surface, the serious problem of tenderness within remains. We cannot disappoint our guests, who fear the pro­verbial dryness of the turkey.

Since tenderness results necessarily from the deterioration of the connec­tive tissue, let us consider this tissue. It principally contains three kinds of pro­teins: collagen, already discussed many times, reticulin, and elastin. Neither reticulin or elastin are notably altered by the heat of the oven, but the triple helixes of the collagen molecules can be broken up and form gelatin, which is soft when it is in water, as we all know.

Calculating the cooking time requires some skill, because the denaturation of the collagen and the coagulation of the muscle proteins (actin and myosin, mainly) take place at different temperatures and different speeds in the different parts of the turkey. It is necessary to know that the temperature of 70° (158°F) is essential for transforming the collagen into gelatin and tenderizing the mus­cles. But the longer the turkey remains at a high temperature, the more water it loses and the more its proteins risk coagulating. The optimal cooking time, consequently, is the minimum time it takes to attain the temperature of 70°C (158°F) at the center of the turkey.

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Monday, November 25th, 2013

Loosen Those Belts! The Science of Overeating (Just in Time for Thanksgiving)

Neurogastronomy

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, we thought we would look at one of the darker traditions of the holiday: overating. Sure, the food is delicious and plentiful but we should know better. But are there other, scientific factors that can explain why we stuff ourselves at Thanksgiving?

The following is an excerpt from Neurogastronomy: How the Brain Creates Flavor and Why It Matters, by Gordon Shepherd and now available in paper. In the excerpt Shepherd begins by looking at fast food and then looks at some of the neurological reasons for why we overeat at Thanksgiving and other times of the year.

[F]ast food contains a variety of food types and flavors. This is called the supermarket, smorgasbord, or buffet effect. This idea actually originated with a blind French scientist named Jacque Le Magnen in Paris, who became a legend in research on feeding. In the 1950s he began detailed studies of laboratory rats fed different kinds of diets. He found that on daily lab chow they showed little weight gain, but if he offered them chow with different flavors they quickly began to gain weight. This effect was rediscovered in 1981 by Barbara Rolls and her colleagues at Oxford, who called it sensory-specific satiety, meaning that with one flavor the animal quickly becomes full and bored with eating more, whereas a new flavor stimulates renewed eating. This is the effect we all experience at Thanksgiving or buffets or banquets when we feel the urge to go on eating every new dish or course. It is an expression of the fact that the brain is always interested in something new or changing, a characteristic we have seen in all the sensory systems. Although the fast- food industry probably did not know of Le Magnen’s research, it designed its foods as if it did.

(more…)

Monday, November 11th, 2013

Herve This on Note by Note Cuisine and the Food of the Future

A recent segment on the BBC took viewers inside the lab and the mind of Herve This, author of Molecular Gastronomy: Exploring the Science of Flavor and the forthcoming Note-by-Note Cooking. In the segment, This argues and shows that since foodstuff is made of different chemicals, one could create nutritious dishes using powders, oils and liquids that contain the building-blocks of food, rather than conventional raw ingredients.

This terms this principle Note by Note cuisine akin to a composer creating a work.

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

“Crusades Against Science 101″ with Michael Mann

The election between Ken Cuccinelli and Terry McAuliffe for Governor of Virginia is one of the most closely watched and hotly contested races this election season. Michael Mann, author of The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines, has entered the fray talking about the candidates’ differing views on climate change and campaigning with the Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe.

In the following video, Mann talks about the impact of climate change in Virginia as well as his past with Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican candidate. When Cuccinelli was Attorney General he subpoenaed records from Mann’s time at the University of Virginia. Cuccinelli charged that Mann manipulated data regarding climate change. Mann’s case was defended by the University of Virginia, and the court ruled that Cuccinelli did not have the authority to make these demands.

(Please note that the posting of this video does not indicate an endorsement of either candidate by Columbia University Press.)

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Nessa Carey Explains Epigenetics with Marshmallows and Gum Drops

Genetics and epigenetics are admittedly not the easiest concepts to grasp. However, in this video, Nessa Carey, author of The Epigenetics Revolution: How Modern Biology Is Rewriting Our Understanding of Genetics, Disease, and Inheritance (now available in paperback) helps out with a description of of how genes are controlled by epigenetic modifications. She demonstrates these concepts using strawberry laces, marshmallows and gum drops.

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Rossano: Fear of Death, Joy of Life and the Origins of God

Mortal Rituals

This week our featured book is Mortal Rituals: What the Story of the Andes Survivors Tells Us About Human Evolution, by Matt J. Rossano. (And don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a FREE copy of the book!)

In a November 2010 Huffington Post blog, Rossano writes on the interesting themes of death, life and God with the ideas of fear and happiness intersecting into those themes.

He begins by describing two images. “Two juxtaposed images of religion: A priest in ancient Egypt moaning out an elaborately ritualized incantation over the mummified body of a dead pharaoh, and Tevye and his friends from Fiddler on the Roof drunkenly dancing and shouting l’chaim(“to life”).” Rossano states that these images demonstrate that human mortality and the fear of death serve as sound origins for religious figures and holy texts to appease our expectation of life after death.

Rossano then proceeds to discuss the paradox that while religion may appease the fear of death, it also heightens it. “For example, Ah Puch, the Mayan god of the dead, was a gruesome character whose putrid, decomposing, skeletal form offered little in the way consolation to new arrivals. The ancient Greeks had a similarly disheartening view of the afterlife. In book XI of The Odyssey, the dead Achilles laments to Odysseus: Say not a word in death’s favor; I would rather be a paid servant in a poor man’s house … than king of kings among the dead.”

(more…)

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

Matt J. Rossano: The Ritual Species

Mortal Rituals

This week our featured book is Mortal Rituals: What the Story of the Andes Survivors Tells Us About Human Evolution, by Matt J. Rossano. (And don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a FREE copy of the book!)

In an August article in Psychology Today, Matt J. Rossano wrote about how rituals enhance the bond between participants of a community.

In the article, Rossano highlights that “archaeologists have recently found evidence that Neanderthals may have taught Homo sapiens some complex tool-making skills (Soressi, et al. 2013). What appears to make Homo sapiens unique is our ability to construct complex, well-coordinated, and highly cooperative social groups.” This difference, he states, allowed Homo sapiens to effectively competitively evolve vis-à-vis the Neanderthals during the Ice-Age.

He also mentions a variety of studies on rituals to supplement his article. The first study discussed the links between ritual intensity and commitment to a particular community: “This has long been an assumption of many groups such as fraternities and the military where hazing or stressful initiations were (and maybe still are) common. Additionally, painful and traumatic rites of passage have long histories in many traditional societies.” Rossano suggests that successfully experiencing such traumatic rituals serve as an important indicator to determine whether the individual will remain committed to a group and greater the intensity of the rituals, better the chances of ascertaining bonding to the community. To exemplify his point, he states that “researchers studied the Hindu festival of Thaipusam on the small Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius (Xygalatas et al, 2013). The festival involves both low intensity ritual activity, such as praying and dancing, and high intensity ritual activity such as body piercing with needles, hooks, and skewers. Both high and low ritual intensity participants were allowed to make charitable donations to a public fund and they were queried about the strength of their emotional connection to their social groups. High intensity ritual participants made significantly greater charitable donations and identified more strongly with their Mauritanian nationality.”

(more…)