Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Metaphysics


Arguments that abortion causes women emotional harm are used to regulate abortion, particularly later procedures, in the United States. However, existing research is inconclusive. We examined women’s emotions and reports of whether the abortion decision was the right one for them over the three years after having an induced abortion.

Concepts: Longitudinal study, Causality, United States, Poverty in the United States, Metaphysics, Emotion, Roe v. Wade, Ideology


The Mars mission will result in an inevitable exposure to cosmic radiation that has been shown to cause cognitive impairments in rodent models, and possibly in astronauts engaged in deep space travel. Of particular concern is the potential for cosmic radiation exposure to compromise critical decision making during normal operations or under emergency conditions in deep space. Rodents exposed to cosmic radiation exhibit persistent hippocampal and cortical based performance decrements using six independent behavioral tasks administered between separate cohorts 12 and 24 weeks after irradiation. Radiation-induced impairments in spatial, episodic and recognition memory were temporally coincident with deficits in executive function and reduced rates of fear extinction and elevated anxiety. Irradiation caused significant reductions in dendritic complexity, spine density and altered spine morphology along medial prefrontal cortical neurons known to mediate neurotransmission interrogated by our behavioral tasks. Cosmic radiation also disrupted synaptic integrity and increased neuroinflammation that persisted more than 6 months after exposure. Behavioral deficits for individual animals correlated significantly with reduced spine density and increased synaptic puncta, providing quantitative measures of risk for developing cognitive impairment. Our data provide additional evidence that deep space travel poses a real and unique threat to the integrity of neural circuits in the brain.

Concepts: Psychology, Neuron, Brain, Decision making, Cognition, Cerebral cortex, Hippocampus, Metaphysics


Today’s media landscape affords people access to richer information than ever before, with many individuals opting to consume content through social channels rather than traditional news sources. Although people frequent social platforms for a variety of reasons, we understand little about the consequences of encountering new information in these contexts, particularly with respect to how content is scrutinized. This research tests how perceiving the presence of others (as on social media platforms) affects the way that individuals evaluate information-in particular, the extent to which they verify ambiguous claims. Eight experiments using incentivized real effort tasks found that people are less likely to fact-check statements when they feel that they are evaluating them in the presence of others compared with when they are evaluating them alone. Inducing vigilance immediately before evaluation increased fact-checking under social settings.

Concepts: Understanding, Cognition, Perception, Mind, Information, Metaphysics


Although the arbitrariness of language has been considered one of its defining features, studies have demonstrated that certain phonemes tend to be associated with certain kinds of meaning. A well-known example is the Bouba/Kiki effect, in which nonwords like bouba are associated with round shapes while nonwords like kiki are associated with sharp shapes. These sound symbolic associations have thus far been limited to nonwords. Here we tested whether or not the Bouba/Kiki effect extends to existing lexical stimuli; in particular, real first names. We found that the roundness/sharpness of the phonemes in first names impacted whether the names were associated with round or sharp shapes in the form of character silhouettes (Experiments 1a and 1b). We also observed an association between femaleness and round shapes, and maleness and sharp shapes. We next investigated whether this association would extend to the features of language and found the proportion of round-sounding phonemes was related to name gender (Analysis of Category Norms). Finally, we investigated whether sound symbolic associations for first names would be observed for other abstract properties; in particular, personality traits (Experiment 2). We found that adjectives previously judged to be either descriptive of a figuratively ‘round’ or a ‘sharp’ personality were associated with names containing either round- or sharp-sounding phonemes, respectively. These results demonstrate that sound symbolic associations extend to existing lexical stimuli, providing a new example of non-arbitrary mappings between form and meaning.

Concepts: Male, Female, Sex, Linguistics, Metaphysics, Synesthesia, Sound symbolism, Bouba/kiki effect


Does naturalization cause better political integration of immigrants into the host society? Despite heated debates about citizenship policy, there exists almost no evidence that isolates the independent effect of naturalization from the nonrandom selection into naturalization. We provide new evidence from a natural experiment in Switzerland, where some municipalities used referendums as the mechanism to decide naturalization requests. Balance checks suggest that for close naturalization referendums, which are decided by just a few votes, the naturalization decision is as good as random, so that narrowly rejected and narrowly approved immigrant applicants are similar on all confounding characteristics. This allows us to remove selection effects and obtain unbiased estimates of the long-term impacts of citizenship. Our study shows that for the immigrants who faced close referendums, naturalization considerably improved their political integration, including increases in formal political participation, political knowledge, and political efficacy.

Concepts: Causality, Effectiveness, Law, Experiment, Metaphysics, France, Refugee, Political science


The Zika virus has spread rapidly in the Americas since its first identification in Brazil in early 2015. Prenatal Zika virus infection has been linked to adverse pregnancy and birth outcomes, most notably microcephaly and other serious brain anomalies. To determine whether Zika virus infection during pregnancy causes these adverse outcomes, we evaluated available data using criteria that have been proposed for the assessment of potential teratogens. On the basis of this review, we conclude that a causal relationship exists between prenatal Zika virus infection and microcephaly and other serious brain anomalies. Evidence that was used to support this . . .

Concepts: Causality, Ontology, Philosophy of science, Metaphysics, Free will, Cosmological argument


Biological materials are often based on simple constituents and grown by the principle of self-assembly under ambient conditions. In particular, biomineralization approaches exploit efficient pathways of inorganic material synthesis. There is still a large gap between the complexity of natural systems and the practical utilization of bioinspired formation mechanisms. Here we describe a simple self-assembly route leading to a CaCO(3) microlens array, somewhat reminiscent of the brittlestars' microlenses, with uniform size and focal length, by using a minimum number of components and equipment at ambient conditions. The formation mechanism of the amorphous CaCO(3) microlens arrays was elucidated by confocal Raman spectroscopic imaging to be a two-step growth process mediated by the organic surfactant. CaCO(3) microlens arrays are easy to fabricate, biocompatible and functional in amorphous or more stable crystalline forms. This shows that advanced optical materials can be generated by a simple mineral precipitation.

Concepts: Optics, Mineral, Solid, Calcium carbonate, Metaphysics, Lens, Glass, Microlens


Provenance is a critical ingredient for establishing trust of published scientific content. This is true whether we are considering a data set, a computational workflow, a peer-reviewed publication or a simple scientific claim with supportive evidence. Existing vocabularies such as Dublin Core Terms (DC Terms) and the W3C Provenance Ontology (PROV-O) are domain-independent and general-purpose and they allow and encourage for extensions to cover more specific needs. In particular, to track authoring and versioning information of web resources, PROV-O provides a basic methodology but not any specific classes and properties for identifying or distinguishing between the various roles assumed by agents manipulating digital artifacts, such as author, contributor and curator.

Concepts: Scientific method, Epistemology, Academic publishing, Philosophy of science, Controlled vocabulary, Peer review, Metaphysics, Semantic Web


Current accounts of spatial cognition and human-object interaction suggest that the representation of peripersonal space depends on an action-specific system that remaps its representation according to action requirements. Here we demonstrate that this mechanism is sensitive to knowledge about properties of objects. In two experiments we explored the interaction between physical distance and object attributes (functionality, desirability, graspability, etc.) through a reaching estimation task in which participants indicated if objects were near enough to be reached. Using both a real and a cutting-edge digital scenario, we demonstrate that perceived reaching distance is influenced by ease of grasp and the affective valence of an object. Objects with a positive affective valence tend to be perceived reachable at locations at which neutral or negative objects are perceived as non-reachable. In addition to this, reaction time to distant (non-reachable) positive objects suggests a bias to perceive positive objects as closer than negative and neutral objects (exp. 2). These results highlight the importance of the affective valence of objects in the action-specific mapping of the peripersonal/extrapersonal space system.

Concepts: Time, Psychology, Cognition, Mind, Space, Real number, Graph theory, Metaphysics


Recent advances in nanotechnology and material science have re-ignited interest in drug delivery research. Arguably, however, hardly any of the systems developed and strategies proposed are really relevant for shaping the future (clinical) face of the nanomedicine field. Consequently, as outlined in this commentary, instead of making ever more carrier materials, and making nanomedicine both science-fiction and fiction-science, we should try to come up with rational and realistic concepts to make nanomedicines work, in particular in patients.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Future, Thermodynamics, Nanomaterials, Materials science, Metaphysics, Science fiction, Nanomedicine