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Interesting Findings And World Unfolding Through My Eyes.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Why Robin Hood Took From Rich And Gave All To Poor?

Robin Hood took from the rich and gave to the poor. A recent study by a team of researchers headed up by University of California-San Diego political scientist James Fowler suggests that we may all have Robin Hood tendencies. Experimental economists and psychologists from around the world have been watching how people play various economic games as a way to probe the bases of human cooperation. One of the more interesting discoveries is that in economic games some people - altruistic punishers - will take fairly big hits to their winnings in order to reduce the ill-gotten gains of cheaters. Games with altruistic punishers elicit more cooperative behavior among players. In addition, other researchers have found that players will happily spend some of their own winnings in gambling games in order to reduce the "undeserved" winnings of other players.

In re-analyzing some earlier studies, Fowler and his colleagues suggested "that egalitarian motives are more important than motives for punishing non-cooperative behaviour." In other words, people are really more interested in enforcing income equality than they are in punishing cheaters. To tease out motives, Fowler and his colleagues devised a game in which there was no possibility of reciprocity or cooperation. Their hypothesis was that people would spend some of their incomes to equalize the incomes of other players.

In their game, participants (120 college students) were assigned to groups of four anonymous players. At the outset each received a randomly generated sum of money. The payoffs are shown to all the players who are then given an opportunity to give "negative" or "positive" tokens to other players. Each token cost one monetary unit. Giving a negative token to another player reduced the recipient's winnings by 3 monetary units and giving a positive token to another player increased the recipient's winnings by 3 monetary units. After each round, the anonymous group members were randomized to prevent reputation from influencing decisions. Keep in mind that choosing to cut or to boost the incomes of other players is costly and yields no material gain, so self-interested subjects should have no incentive to engage in it. So what happened?

Their latest study in the journal Nature reports, "Individuals who earned considerably more than other members of their group were heavily penalized." On the other hand, players who earned a lot less than other group members received substantial gifts. A majority of players (68 percent) chose to cut the earnings of other players at least once, 28 percent did five times or more, and some fanatic levelers (6 percent) slashed at the incomes of their richer fellows ten times or more. But the game didn't just bring out spitefulness. Perhaps even more amazingly, a majority of players (71 percent) also paid, with no expectation of gain, to increase the incomes of other participants at least once. More generous players (33 percent) did so five times or more, and some saints (10 percent) boosted other players' earnings ten times or more. The researchers note, "Most (71 percent) negative tokens were given to above-average earners in each group, whereas most (62 percent) positive tokens were targeted at below-average earners in each group."

Also, players who earned ten monetary units more than the group average received a mean of nearly 9 negative tokens. In contrast, players who earned at least ten monetary units less than the group average received a mean of only 1.6 negative tokens. The opposite was the case for those earning ten monetary units or less. They received 11 more positive tokens on average while those earning more than ten units received a mean of only 4 positive tokens. Finally, the researchers report, "On average, the bottom earner in each group spent 96 percent more on negative tokens than the top earner and the top earner spent 77 percent more on positive tokens than the bottom earner." In other words, the poor spent a good bit of their meager incomes on reducing the incomes of the rich while the rich kindly reduced their wealth to endow the poor with more resources. Interestingly, the study does not report any gender differences in behavior.

Assuming that these research findings are valid, how did this innate drive toward enforcing income equality come about? It's hard to see how an inborn drive could arise in Pleistocene hunter gatherers such that people spend their scarce resources to reduce other people's resources promotes either individual or group survival. Or is enforcing equality really all that different an activity from punishing non-cooperating cheaters? Perhaps early in human evolution, large differences in income actually correlated with cheating and thus automatically merited punishment. Another puzzle is if humans are instinctively egalitarian, how did early hierarchical civilizations in which the incomes of priests and kings were significantly higher than those of peasants come about at all? Finally, finding that humans have an innate tendency toward enforcing a norm of income equality would explain the persistent attraction of communism, progressive tax rates, the demand for universal government-supplied health care, minimum wage laws and other such destructive modern leveling ideologies and policies.

Ronald Bailey is Reason's science correspondent. His book Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution is now available from Prometheus Books.

Posted by Ajay :: 5:18 PM :: 0 comments

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Can Science Understand Morality? Quote"Can you name a scientific discovery that has ever added to our understanding of morality?" asked Discovery Institute senior fellow, Wesley Smith, over dinner after our recent debate with science reporter Chris Mooney in New York City. Fortunately, I could.

Anyone who has ever taken an undergraduate course in moral philosophy will remember the moral dilemma posed in the "trolley problem": You are standing next to a switch in a trolley track and you notice that a runaway trolley is about to hit a group of five people who are unaware of their danger. However, if you switch the track, the trolley will hit only one person. What do you do? Most undergraduates say that they would switch the track; after all, five lives are worth more than one.

In the second version of the problem, you are standing on a bridge over a trolley track beside a fat person. Again you notice that the runaway trolley is headed toward five unaware people. Do you push the fat person onto the track to stop the trolley? Notice the moral calculus is the same, one life to save five. But in this second version most undergraduates say that they would not push the fat stranger onto the track. (We will simply ignore the issue of whether or not you should jump onto the track to save the five people—that's for a graduate level moral philosophy seminar.)

Moral philosophers have puzzled over the disparity in the answers to these two versions of the moral dilemma posed by the trolley problem. Then along came a graduate student in psychology at Princeton University, Joshua Greene, who had access to a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine that allowed him to scan the changes in blood flow in human brains in real time. He put some undergraduates into the fMRI, posed both versions of the trolley problem to them, and found that their brains lit up differently in each case.

Greene and his colleagues found "that brain areas associated with emotion and social cognition (medial prefrontal cortex, posterior cingulate/precuneus, and superior temporal sulcus/temperoparietal junction) exhibited increased activity while participants considered personal moral dilemmas, while 'cognitive' brain areas associated with abstract reasoning and problem solving exhibited increased activity while participants considered impersonal moral dilemmas." In other words, the first case (impersonal) runs straight through our prefrontal cortices that coldly balance costs and benefits, while the second case (personal) also engages those parts of our brains that cause us to feel empathy and which cause us to hesitate to shove someone off a bridge.

Granted, Greene's fMRI experiment does not tell us what the right answer to the trolley problem is, but it does tell us a bit about how many of us make moral decisions.

More recently (and after my dinner with Smith), researchers at the University College London have found that men enjoy retribution more than women do. Tania Singer and her colleagues set up an experiment in which 32 volunteers witnessed people play a financial game in which some players were fair and others were unfair. Later the volunteers were placed in fMRIs where they watched as both the fair and unfair players received a mild electric shock. When a fair player was shocked, the parts of brains associated with feelings of empathy lit up for both women and men. When an unfair player was shocked the brains of the women volunteers still lit up with empathy. However, in the men's brains, not only were the empathy areas silent, the parts of the brain indicating feelings of reward were activated in a big way. The men evidently felt happy when the bastards got what they deserved. I know I would have.

Singer noted that the male volunteers "expressed more desire for revenge and seemed to feel satisfaction when unfair people were given what they perceived as deserved physical punishment." She added, "This investigation would seem to indicate there is a predominant role for men in maintaining justice and issuing punishment."

This kind of information about how men and women tend to differ in their moral judgments (or feelings of righteousness) will certainly be of interest to, say, lawyers when they select jury members.

Smith is right when he suggests that science cannot tell us what is right and what is wrong morally speaking. However, as the foregoing examples show, science can tell us more about why we make the moral decisions that we do. As neuroscience develops, I believe that the discoveries it makes about how our brains work will help us to make better moral decisions in the future. "

Posted by Ajay :: 5:13 PM :: 0 comments

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Super Earth Or Another Earth?

An Earth-like planet that may be capable of supporting extraterrestrial life has been discovered orbiting a distant star.

Gliese 581c may be 1.5 times the diameter of our own planet but in galactic terms it is only slightly larger. It is the only small planet yet to be found in another solar system that orbits in the “Goldilocks zone” around a star where the conditions for life are just right.

It is by far the best candidate yet identified for the existence of living organisms elsewhere in the Universe. It could have liquid water on the surface, which is thought to be a prerequisite for life, and it is several billion years old, allowing sufficient time for evolution to have progressed.

“On the treasure map of the Universe, one would be tempted to mark this planet with an X,” said Xavier Delfosse, of Grenoble University in France, who is a member of the discovery team.

However, although the planet’s parent star is among the 100 closest to the Sun, humankind’s chances of visiting it, let alone escaping there in the event of environmental disaster on Earth, is vanishingly small. Even with the fastest manned spacecraft to be built, it would take astronauts 554,000 years to get there.

More than 225 “exoplanets” beyond our own solar system were already known to science before the latest discovery, but the overwhelming majority of these are gas giants, mostly several times larger than Jupiter or Saturn. Such large planets are not thought to be capable of sustaining life and though any rocky moons they might have could be suitable, these are far too small and dim to be detected from Earth.

A small number of smaller rocky worlds have been found, most notably OGLE-2005- BLG-390Lb, which is five times the mass of Earth. But until now all have been either too close or too far from their parent stars to sustain life.

OGLE-2005-BLG-390Lb, for example, has an average surface temperature of about -220C (minus 364F).

Gliese 581c, however, is different. It is also about five times the mass of Earth, but it is in the “habitable zone”, where any water is likely to be in liquid form. Though it is 14 times closer to Gliese 581, its parent star, than the Earth is to the Sun, that star is a red dwarf — much smaller and cooler than the Sun. That makes it a prime candidate for life.

“We have estimated that the mean temperature of this super-Earth lies between 0C and 40C, and water would thus be liquid,” said Stéphane Udry, of the Geneva Observatory in Switzerland, who led the team.

“Moreover, its radius should be only 1.5 times the Earth’s radius, and models predict that the planet should be either rocky — like our Earth — or covered with oceans.”

The nature of the parent star enhances the possibility of life. Gliese 581 is not especially active, meaning that the planet would not be bombarded with so much radiation that life could not emerge, and it is several billion years old. Life on Earth emerged about four billion years ago.

Posted by Ajay :: 5:05 PM :: 0 comments

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Life Is Like A Football

Speaking Tree says:"The football match is about to begin. The stadium is packed. All tickets are sold out. The referee blows the whistle and the game begins.

After a few passes, one of the midfielders advances with the ball in the half of the opposite team. A few defenders try to stop him but he keeps advancing.

He notices one of the forwards of his team and passes the ball to that player. This forward pounces on the ball, and now has only the goalkeeper to beat.

The shrewd player easily beats the keeper and kicks the ball towards the goal post. Er... to everyone's surprise... there is no goal post in sight. Can you imagine a football game with no goal posts?

Would you, as a spectator or player, watch or play such a game? Life is not very different from a game of football. Every individual has to play his part in his own way.

There are many hurdles in between, but everyone has to keep moving to achieve his goals. The goals keep changing from time to time and the game continues.

Each person however has to follow certain rules; the slightest deviation and you are out of the game. Setting up of goals is essential in life.

You should however know what you want in life. And then it is all about focusing your energies. Do not set too low goals or too high ones.

In a world where big often means better, people get carried away and set very big goals. Avoid that. Be realistic. It is good to break down the goals into shorter ones.

Define the paths you plan to take to achieve your goals. These smaller goals should lead to achieving that higher goal which should be your purpose in life.

Your goals are your dreams and where there are dreams there are nightmares also. But you need to overcome those nightmares to achieve your dreams"

Posted by Ajay :: 10:07 AM :: 0 comments

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All Men Minus Women

"How to make this world or planet peacful?"asked Ronu.
Roxy said"Its very simple All men should left alone minus women"

Posted by Ajay :: 9:14 AM :: 0 comments

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