Good evening Mr. & Mrs. Catholic, and all you other Christians at sea, welcome to the latest edition of the Newsreel. This week, science goes to the movies. Now off to press.
DATELINE: ROCHESTER – Researchers at the University of Rochester have “found that couples who watched and talked about issues raised in movies like Steel Magnolias and Love Story were less likely to divorce or separate than couples in a control group. Surprisingly, the ‘Love Story’ intervention was as effective at keeping couples together as two intensive therapist-led methods.” They also found that “falling in love” movies like Sleepless in Seattle or When Harry Met Sally were not as effective at encouraging dialog as movies depicting rocky relationships like Love and Other Drugs and She’s Having a Baby. So if you’d like to get a head start on the sharing before you and your significant other get to that next Catholic marriage retreat, why not pop a chick flick into the DVD player and get things going.
DATELINE: DENMARK – Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark, and apparently it’s the math. Remember the running gag in Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead in which the coin flipped by Guildenstern (or maybe it was Rosencrantz) always lands on heads, even after 76 tries. Well, Evelyn Lamb, Ph.D. at Scientific American has run the numbers and decided that you would have to flip a coin at least 2,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times to expect a run in which you get that many consecutive heads. In other words, Guildenstern’s feat is statistically improbable. Of course, Guildenstern himself had some non-mathematical guesses as to what was going on including time being frozen, some kind of purgatorial punishment, or maybe just plain old miraculous divine intervention. Now the Catechism reminds us that miracles “are the most certain signs of divine Revelation, adapted to the intelligence of all; they are ‘motives of credibility’ (motiva credibilitatis), which show that the assent of faith is ‘by no means a blind impulse of the mind’.” In short, they are occurrences which help the rational mind accept a reality which it cannot otherwise see. Given that, would 76 consecutive heads be enough to do that for you?
DATELINE: SCOTLAND/BRAZIL – We all know how hard it is for Catholics to find a movie in which they are depicted in a good light, but did you know that piranha have the same problem? That’s right, despite their voracious people eating behavior as depicted on the big screen, studies conducted by the University of St Andrews, Scotland and Brazil’s Mamirauá Institute would seem to indicate that piranha aren’t that bad after all. “The truth is that the majority of species of piranha (there are more than thirty) are vegetarian. Even the so-called ‘carnivorous’ types (including Pygocentrus spp.) are at best omnivorous, consuming a wide and varied diet, with a ‘meat’ component consisting of insects and small fish rather than cows and people.” And although rare attacks on humans by schools of piranha do occur, the data suggests that the real reason piranha hang around in large groups is not so they can quickly strip all the flesh off a person’s bones, but rather because it’s better protection against predators. In other words, the poor little killing machines huddle together because they’re scared of bigger killing machines. So now we know the truth. As Amy Deacon, PhD., puts it, “Science is at its most exciting and important when it can challenge deeply engrained public perceptions with facts – but it is the responsibility of scientists to convey this information more effectively than Hollywood’s sensationalized versions, and that is quite a public engagement task!” Indeed, we Catholics understand the dilemma all too well.
And with that, we’ll leave you, as always, with the immortal words of the great Les Nessman. Good evening, and may the good news be yours.