Tag: lasers

New Religion and Science Study Reveals ‘Post-Seculars’ Reject Evolution





Excerpt from huffingtonpost.com

(RNS) Meet the “Post-Seculars” — the one in five Americans who no one seems to have noticed before in endless rounds of debates pitting science vs. religion.

They’re more strongly religious than most “Traditionals” (43 percent of Americans) and more scientifically knowledgeable than “Moderns” (36 percent) who stand on science alone, according to two sociologists’ findings in a new study.

“We were surprised to find this pretty big group (21 percent) who are pretty knowledgeable and appreciative about science and technology but who are also very religious and who reject certain scientific theories,” said Timothy O’Brien, co-author of the research study, released Thursday (Jan. 29) in the American Sociological Review.

Put another way, there’s a sizable chunk of Americans out there who are both religious and scientifically minded but who break with both packs when faith and science collide.

Post-Seculars pick and choose among science and religion views to create their own “personally compelling way of understanding the world,” said O’Brien, assistant professor at University of Evansville in Indiana.

O’Brien and co-author Shiri Noy, an assistant professor of sociology at University of Wyoming, examined responses from 2,901 people to 18 questions on knowledge of and attitudes toward science, and four religion-related questions in the General Social Surveys conducted in 2006, 2008 and 2010.

Many findings fit the usual way the science-religion divide is viewed:

— Moderns, who stand on reason, scored high on scientific knowledge and scored lowest on religion questions regarding biblical authority and the strength of their religious ties.

— Traditionals, who lean toward religion, scored lower on science facts and were least likely to agree that “the benefits of scientific research outweigh the harmful results.”

However, the data turned up a third perspective – people who defied the familiar breakdown. The authors dubbed them “Post-Secular” to jump past a popular theory that Americans are moving way from religion to become more secular, O’Brien said.

Post-Seculars — about half of whom identify as conservative Protestants — know facts such as how lasers work, what antibiotics do and the way genetics affect inherited illnesses.

But when it comes to three main areas where science and Christian-centric religious views conflict — on human evolution, the Big Bang origin of the universe and the age of the Earth — Post-Seculars break away from the pack with very significantly different views from Traditionals and Moderns.

Areas where the factions are clear:

graphic

The universe began with a huge explosion:
Traditional: 21 percent
Modern: 68 percent
Post Secular: 6 percent

Human beings developed from earlier species of animals:
Traditional: 33 percent
Modern: 88 percent
Post-Secular: 3 percent

The continents have been moving for millions of years and will move in the future:
Traditional: 66 percent
Modern: 98 percent
Post-Secular: 80 percent

“Post-Seculars are smart. They know what scientists think. They just don’t agree on some key issues, and that has impact on their political views,” said O’Brien.

When the authors looked at views on the authority of the Bible and how strongly people said they were affiliated with their religion, Post-Seculars put the most faith in Scripture and were much more inclined to say they were strongly religious. And where science and faith conflict on hot-button issues, they side with the religious perspective.

For example, Moderns are the most supportive of embryonic stem cell research and abortion rights for women, but Post-Seculars, who are nonetheless largely positive about science and society, are more skeptical in both areas, O’Brien said.

Candidates running in the 2016 elections might take note.

Where people fall in these three groups can predict their attitudes on political issues where science and religion both have claims, O’Brien said, even after accounting for the usual suspects — social class, political ideology or church attendance.

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Move Over Predator Alien: The human eye can see ‘invisible’ infrared light too


The eye can detect light at wavelengths in the visual spectrum. Other wavelengths, such as infrared and ultraviolet, are supposed to be invisible to the human eye, but Washington University scientists have found that under certain conditions, it’s possible for us to see otherwise invisible infrared light. Image: Sara Dickherber

Excerpt from
news.wustl.edu
By Jim Dryden

Any science textbook will tell you we can’t see infrared light. Like X-rays and radio waves, infrared light waves are outside the visual spectrum. 

But an international team of researchers co-led by scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has found that under certain conditions, the retina can sense infrared light after all. 

Using cells from the retinas of mice and people, and powerful lasers that emit pulses of infrared light, the researchers found that when laser light pulses rapidly, light-sensing cells in the retina sometimes get a double hit of infrared energy. When that happens, the eye is able to detect light that falls outside the visible spectrum.

The findings are published Dec. 1 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) Online Early Edition. The research was initiated after scientists on the research team reported seeing occasional flashes of green light while working with an infrared laser. Unlike the laser pointers used in lecture halls or as toys, the powerful infrared laser the scientists worked with emits light waves thought to be invisible to the human eye.

“They were able to see the laser light, which was outside of the normal visible range, and we really wanted to figure out how they were able to sense light that was supposed to be invisible,” said Frans Vinberg, PhD, one of the study’s lead authors and a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at Washington University. 

Vinberg, Kefalov and their colleagues examined the scientific literature and revisited reports of people seeing infrared light. They repeated previous experiments in which infrared light had been seen, and they analyzed such light from several lasers to see what they could learn about how and why it sometimes is visible.

“We experimented with laser pulses of different durations that delivered the same total number of photons, and we found that the shorter the pulse, the more likely it was a person could see it,” Vinberg explained. “Although the length of time between pulses was so short that it couldn’t be noticed by the naked eye, the existence of those pulses was very important in allowing people to see this invisible light.”



Robert Boston

Kefalov’s team developed this adapter that allowed scientists to analyze retinal cells and photopigment molecules as they were exposed to infrared light. The device already is commercially available and in use at several vision research centers around the world.
“The visible spectrum includes waves of light that are 400-720 nanometers long,” explained Kefalov, an associate professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences. “But if a pigment molecule in the retina is hit in rapid succession by a pair of photons that are 1,000 nanometers long, those light particles will deliver the same amount of energy as a single hit from a 500-nanometer photon, which is well within the visible spectrum. That’s how we are able to see it.”

Robert Boston

Frans Vinberg, PhD (left), and Vladimir J. Kefalov, PhD, sit in front of a tool they developed that allows them to detect light responses from retinal cells and photopigment molecules.

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Spaceships to reach supersonic speeds with lasers?

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