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Should brain scans be admissible as legal evidence?

This week's question concerns brain scans and the legal system. In 2008 a judge in India convicted a woman of murdering her fiancee based partly on brain scan evidence that gauged her ability to remember details of the crime. And in the US, fMRI scans have already found their way into courtrooms and more attempts are on the horizon. In response, two psychologists and a law expert from Stanford University conducted a study to determine how much information about memories can be seen in brain activity. Using fMRI to scan the brains of healthy adults, the researchers were able to measure how strong their subjects' sense of a specific memory was; but they could not tell for sure whether the memories themselves were based on a recollection of an actual experience. What do you think? Should brain scans be admissible as legal evidence?

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Was the discovery of Russian spies still operating in the US surprising?

This week's question concerns the recent discovery of Russian spies still operating in the US. In June, authorities uncovered a Russian spy ring of 10 individuals operating in New York and Cambridge. Last week, the US and Russian governments completed a "spy swap" in Vienna. What do you think? Was the discovery of Russian spies still operating in the US surprising?

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Will humans be extinct in 100 years?

This week's question concerns the world-renowned Australian scientist Professor Frank Fenner - who helped to wipe out smallpox - and his prediction that humans will probably be extinct within 100 years. His reasoning includes overpopulation, environmental destruction, and climate change. Fenner stated that homo sapiens will not be able to survive the population explosion and "unbridled consumption," and will become extinct, perhaps within a century, along with many other species. What do you think? Will humans be extinct in 100 years?

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Does your online persona accurately reflect who you are in the real world?

This week's question concerns our online "personas". While social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook encourage members to use their real identities, a recent study on the usage habits on these sites has shown there's little correlation between how people act on the Internet and how they are in person. For example, if you're the type who is overly chatty or arrogant on Twitter, this doesn't necessarily reflect on how you may act in the real world. What do you think? Does your online persona accurately reflect who you are in the real world? Yes or no?

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Should CO2 emissions be regulated?

This week’s question concerns the EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. Last Thursday, the US Senate failed to pass legislation that would have prevented the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating CO2 emissions from large factories, electric power companies, and automobiles. What do you think? Should CO2 emissions be regulated? Yes or no?

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Should Google be liable for "bad" directions that lead to injury?

This week's question concerns a recent news item about how a Utah woman injured by a motorist while following a Google Maps route has filed a lawsuit claiming Google supplied unsafe directions (the motorist is also named in the lawsuit). The woman used her phone to download directions from one end of Park City, UT, to the other. Google Maps led her to a four-lane boulevard without sidewalks that was "not reasonably safe for pedestrians," according to the lawsuit. The woman believed she could reach a sidewalk on the other side of the boulevard and therefore tried to cross. A car struck her before she even reached the median. The woman received multiple bone fractures that required six weeks of rehabilitation. What do you think? Should Google be liable for "bad" directions that lead to injury? Yes or no?

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Does synthetic biology cross an ethical line?

This week's question concerns synthetic biology research. A study published online by the journal "Science" details how scientists at the J. Craig Venter Institute recently developed the first viable cell controlled by a synthetic genome. According to the researchers, the cell is called synthetic because it is totally derived from a synthetic chromosome, made with chemicals, a chemical synthesizer, and information in a computer. They hope to use this method to probe the basic machinery of life and to engineer bacteria specially designed to solve environmental or energy problems. What do you think? Does synthetic biology cross an ethical line?

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