Oxford researchers tip their hats to Milgram. New research at Oxford University has found that the Christian martyrs may well have been able to draw on their religion to reduce the agony of, for example, being burnt at the stake. In a bizarre experiment, academics at The Oxford Centre For Science Of The Mind ‘tortured’ 12 Roman Catholics and 12 atheists with electric shocks as they studied a painting of the Virgin Mary. They found that the Catholics seemed to be able to block out much of the pain. And, using the latest brain-scanning techniques, they also discovered that the Catholics were able to activate part of the brain associated with conditioning the experience of pain. — Daily Mail

Spare the rod. The typical parent, when whacking a misbehaving child, doesn’t pause to wonder: “What does science have to say about the efficacy of corporal punishment?” If they are thinking anything at all, it’s: “Here comes justice!” And while the typical parent may not know or care, the science on corporal punishment of kids is pretty clear. Despite the rise of the timeout and other nonphysical forms of punishment, most American parents hit, pinch, shake, or otherwise lay violent hands on their youngsters: 63 percent of parents physically discipline their 1- to 2-year-olds, and 85 percent of adolescents have been physically punished by their parents. — Slate

The final days – Bob Woodward. The Bob Woodward rollout is always strictly scripted. His books are “held back,” meaning that no advance ­copies are available for reviewers and that pain-of-death secrecy vows are extracted from book review editors. His “bombshells,” those fly-on-the-wall details from inside the power dome and classified memos impossible to obtain (for all except Woodward), are disclosed in multipart, front-page articles in The Washington Post, where for decades the author was an assistant managing editor. (He is now an associate editor.) Then there is the bump from exclusive interviews on “60 Minutes” followed by more televised amplification, an éclat that almost always results in a No. 1 best seller. This time, with the arrival of “The War Within,” the final volume in his four-part Bush oeuvre, the script is the same, but the headlines mask what is really newsworthy about the book. — New York Times

A switch to turn off autism. Scientists say they have pinpointed a gene in the brain that can calm nerve cells that become too jumpy, potentially paving the way for new therapies to treat autism and other neurological disorders. — Scientific American [via 3QuarksDaily]

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW