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Science and environment round up

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Exclusive to The Daily Banter

By Tom Drake

€2million has been set aside by European Scientists to investigate the cause of religion
in humans. The experiments it will sponsor are designed to look at the
mental mechanisms needed to represent an omniscient deity, as well as
cultural advantages conferred by a belief in God. They will also look
at how those advantages might have translated into Darwinian selection.
Does a belief in God enhance an individual’s reputation, perhaps
seeming more trustworthy? Do different religions foster different
levels of co-operation, for what reasons, and does such co-operation
bring collective benefits? So far, studies have suggested links between
religiosity and dopamine reward systems. Believing in God it seems
makes you neurochemically happier. Moreover, this has been linked to
Parkinson’s disease, with believers less likely to suffer from the
disease because of their strong dopamine pathways. The study will run
for a further 2.5 years.

Scientists at the University of Arkansas have developed an antibody
which selectively scavenges amphetamine type molecules, including
Crystal Meth and Ecstasy, from the blood stream. As yet the antibodies
have only been tested in rats. If found to be safe and effective in
humans this would give doctors more control when administering such
drugs as well as a powerful tool for dealing with overdoses. However,
could the same technology potentially be used by addicts or cheating
athletes to pass drugs tests?

Glaciologists in Antarctica are concerned that a large Ice shelf 16000km2 in area will soon collapse.
Just a thin strip of ice 6km remains to hold the shelf. While it is
widely agreed that the collapse of the Wilkins ice shelf will not
contribute significantly to rising sea levels this is not a good sign
for activity in the region.