The Best ISO-Certified Gear to See the 2017 Solar Eclipse


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The Best ISO-Certified Gear to See the 2017 Solar Eclipse

Gear Up for the Solar Eclipse!

Gear Up for the Solar Eclipse!

When the Great American Total Solar Eclipse sweeps across the U.S. on Aug. 21, you’ll need some safety-rated gear to watch it safely. Here are Space.com’s picks for the best solar-eclipse-viewing gear, including glasses, binoculars, telescopes and more!

Up First: Essential eclipse glasses

"Sun Catcher" Sunglasses (2-Pack)

“Sun Catcher” Sunglasses (2-Pack)

Enjoy the solar eclipse with a friend with these basic, affordable and ISO safety-rated solar eclipse glasses from Explore Scientific. ($2.49 from Explore Scientific)

Why we love it: These “Sun Catcher” sunglasses are just slightly more stylish than the standard paper eclipse viewers for the same low price.

Buy “Sun Catcher” Sunglasses (2-Pack) from Explore Scientific USA.

Next: Catch the sun up close

"Sun Catcher" 50-mm Telescope

“Sun Catcher” 50-mm Telescope

Explore Scientific’s “Sun Catcher” telescope allows for a safe, zoomed-in view of the total solar eclipse on a budget. This version comes with a 50-millimeter lens. ($20 on Amazon)

Why we love it: These telescopes are relatively affordable, lightweight and compact. They contain an ISO-rated safety filter that can be removed after the solar eclipse, making it useful for year-round stargazing – no eclipse necessary!

Buy “Sun Catcher” 50-mm Telescope from Explore Scientific USA.

Next: Catch even more sun!

"Sun Catcher" 70-mm Telescope

“Sun Catcher” 70-mm Telescope

This 70-mm version of Explore Scientific’s “Sun Catcher” telescope gives you an even better look at the sun during the eclipse. ($60 on Amazon).

Why we love it:These telescopes are relatively affordable, lightweight and compact. They contain an ISO-rated safety filter that can be removed after the solar eclipse, making it useful for year-round stargazing – no eclipse necessary!

Buy “Sun Catcher” 70-mm Telescope from Explore Scientific USA.

Next:A handy little telescope

iOptron Solar 60 with Electronic Eyepiece 8506

iOptron Solar 60 with Electronic Eyepiece 8506

Safely zoom in on a solar eclipse or check out the sunspots any other time with iOptron’s Solar 60 telescope. It comes with a removable solar filter, a hand controller, a 14,000-object database, an electronic eyepiece, a tripod and a carrying case. ($349 on Amazon)

Why we love it: Because this telescope is computerized, it can automatically locate objects in the sky with the touch of a button. It’s not just for watching eclipses – you can also look at stars, galaxies and planets.

Buy iOptron Solar 60 with Electronic Eyepiece 8506 on Amazon.com.

see more on https://www.space.com/37262-solar-eclipse-gear.html
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Planet 10? Another Earth-Size World May Lurk in the Outer Solar System


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Planet 10? Another Earth-Size World May Lurk in the Outer Solar System

A planetary-mass object the size of Mars may be lurking in the outer solar system.

Credit: Heather Roper/LPL

A planet-size object may be orbiting the sun in the icy reaches of the solar system beyond Pluto.

Scientists at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL) have determined that an unseen object with a mass somewhere between that of Earth and Mars could be lurking in the Kuiper Belt, a region beyond Neptune filled with thousands of icy asteroids, comets and dwarf planets.

In January 2016, a separate group of scientists predicted the existence of a Neptune-size planet orbiting the sun far, far beyond Pluto  about 25 times farther from the sun than Pluto is. This hypothetical planet was dubbed “Planet Nine,” so if both predictions are correct, one of these putative objects could be the solar system’s 10th planet.

The so-called “planetary-mass object” described by the scientists from LPL appears to affect the orbits of a population of icy space rocks in the Kuiper Belt. Distant Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) have tilted orbits around the sun. The tilted orbital planes of most KBOs average out to something called the invariable plane of the solar system.

But the orbits of the most distant KBOs tilt away from the invariable plane by an average of 8 degrees, which signals the presence of a more massive object that warps its surroundings with its gravitational field, researchers said in a study due to be published in The Astronomical Journal.

“The most likely explanation for our results is that there is some unseen mass,” Kat Volk, a postdoctoral fellow at LPL and the lead author of the study, said in a statement. “According to our calculations, something as massive as Mars would be needed to cause the warp that we measured.”

These KBOs act a lot like spinning tops, Renu Malhotra, a professor of planetary sciences at LPL and co-author of the new study, said in the statement.

“Imagine you have lots and lots of fast-spinning tops, and you give each one a slight nudge … If you then take a snapshot of them, you will find that their spin axes will be at different orientations, but on average, they will be pointing to the local gravitational field of Earth,” she said. “We expect each of the KBOs’ orbital tilt angle to be at a different orientation, but on average, they will be pointing perpendicular to the plane determined by the sun and the big planets.”

An artist's impression of the undiscovered, planet-size object in the Kuiper Belt
An artist’s impression of the undiscovered, planet-size object in the Kuiper Belt

Credit: Heather Roper/LPL

It may sound a lot like the mysterious Planet Nine, but the researchers say the so-called planetary-mass object is too small, and too close, to be the same thing. Planet Nine lies 500 to 700 astronomical units (AU) from Earth, and its mass is about 10 times that of Earth. (One AU is the average distance at which Earth orbits the sun — 93 million miles, or 150 million kilometers. Pluto orbits the sun at a maximum distance of just less than 50 AU.)

“That is too far away to influence these KBOs,” Volk said. “It certainly has to be much closer than 100 AU to substantially affect the KBOs in that range.”

Though no planet-size objects have been spotted in the Kuiper Belt so far, the researchers are optimistic that the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), which is currently under construction in Chile, will help find these hidden worlds. “We expect LSST to bring the number of observed KBOs from currently about 2,000 to 40,000,” Malhotra said.

“There are a lot more KBOs out there — we just have not seen them yet,” Malhotra added. “Some of them are too far and dim even for LSST to spot, but because the telescope will cover the sky much more comprehensively than current surveys, it should be able to detect this object, if it’s out there.”

Email Hanneke Weitering at hweitering@space.com or follow her @hannekescience. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.

Camel Milk: Nutrition Facts, Risks & Benefits


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Camel Milk: Nutrition Facts, Risks & Benefits

A camel feeds her calf.

Credit: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported | Garrondo

While camel milk won’t likely be battling for shelf space with cow’s milk in the dairy section of your local supermarket any time soon, it is becoming a hot commodity. Some experts cite properties that they say may help fight a number of diseases, including diabetes, cancer, shingles and autism. It is also easier to digest than cow’s milk, making it popular among the lactose intolerant.

While the FDA has approved the consumption of camel milk in the United States, imports are restricted, and there are only about 3,000 camels in the United States, according to Dr. Millie Hinkle, founder of the American Camel Association and Camel Milk USA, which conducts research on camel milk industry. There are a few camel dairy farms in the United States, including Troyer Family Farm and Oasis Camel Dairy.

Here are the nutrition facts for camel milk, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which regulates food labeling through the National Labeling and Education Act:

Nutrition Facts

Camel milk

Serving size:
100 grams (3.5 oz)

Calories 46
Calories from Fat 17

*Percent Daily Values (%DV) are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Amt per Serving %DV* Amt per Serving %DV*
Total Fat 2g 3% Total Carbohydrate 5g 2%
Cholesterol 6mg 2%   Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Sodium 63mg 3%    Sugars 3g
Protein 3g
Vitamin A 2% Calcium 15%
Vitamin C 5% Iron 1%

One of the primary risks of camel’s milk is that it is primarily consumed in unpasteurized form. The Saint Louis Institute for Conservation Medicine (ICM) studied the consumption of camel’s milk in northern Kenya, where around 10 percent of people drink unpasteurized camel milk, exposing themselves to a number of animal-based pathogens.

The study found a higher prevalence of pathogenic bacteria in camel milk than in sheep and cattle milk. In Kenya, this increased risk corresponded with an increased use of camels as domesticated animals, the report noted.

“A concern is raw consumption, which is offered for camel milk,” said Keith-Thomas Ayoob, an associate clinical professor in the department of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “I don’t recommend raw milk at all, whether it’s from a camel, cow, goat or any other animal. There’s a reason for pasteurization.”

An article in the magazine Science reported a study that showed the virus that causes Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) has been found in camel milk. The findings were from a group of researchers at Qatar’s Supreme Council of Health; the country’s Ministry of Environment; Erasmus MC in Rotterdam, the Netherlands; and the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment. While there was no specific connection between an increased risk for MERS and consumption of raw camel’s milk, they cautioned against consuming the unpasteurized version of the product.

Research has shown that camel milk might be helpful for people with autism, Type 1 diabetes, food allergies, hepatitis B and other autoimmune diseases, according to Lori Chong, a registered dietitian at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

“Studies have shown that the consumption of camel milk increases the bodies’ production of antioxidant enzymes thereby lowering oxidative stress within the body,” Chong said. “Studies have also shown that daily consumption of camel’s milk can improve glycemic control while also lowering the insulin requirement of people with Type 1 diabetes.”

Research in the journal Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice showed that camel’s milk as an adjunct to insulin therapy improves long-term glycemic control and reduction in doses of insulin in patients with Type 1 diabetes.

While the research is insufficient, some people cite anecdotal evidence that camel’s milk has also been linked to improvements with people with autism. Livestrong.com cited a study published in the 2005 edition of the International Journal of Human Development, citing anecdotal evidence of improvements in young autistic patients who switched from cow’s milk to camel’s milk.

In a small study of eight children with food allergies published in the Israeli Medical Association Journal, camel’s milk was shown to help the subject overcome severe food allergies, which were primarily milk related.

Camel’s milk — as well as goat’s milk — contains A2 beta casein. Most milk in the United States is made from Holstein and Friesian cows, which produce milk that primarily contains A1 beta casein rather than A2 beta casein, Chong noted.

A1 beta casein is broken down into an opioid-like peptide called beta-casomorphin-7 (BCM-7). BCM-7 has been shown to suppress the immune system, cause inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract and contribute to arterial plague formation, Chong explained. “It has been implicated in the development of Type 1 diabetes — probably related to its immune suppression and role in GI tract inflammation.”

Nutritionally, camel’s milk is slightly lower in total fat and saturated fat, but equal to cow’s milk in total calories and protein, Ayoob noted. “Camel’s milk also has more iron and vitamin C than cow’s milk but cow’s milk was never a good source of these nutrients.”

Lactose Intolerance: Symptoms, Treatment & Coping Strategies


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Lactose Intolerance: Symptoms, Treatment & Coping Strategies

Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest the main sugar found in milk and other dairy products. This is caused by a deficiency of lactase, the enzyme responsible for metabolizing lactose in the small intestines, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The prevalence of lactose intolerance in adults varies from less than 5 percent to almost 100 percent among different populations, according to research published in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology. The lowest prevalence is in northwestern Europe, around the North Sea, and the highest prevalence is in Asians and American Indians. About 30 million American adults are somewhat lactose intolerant by the age of 20, according to the NIH.

People can acquire lactose intolerance at any point in their life, and some people develop it over time, said Dr. Sophie Balzora, a gastroenterologist at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.

Lactose intolerance is different from having a milk allergy, since the latter is a reaction to the proteins in milk rather than lactose. It’s also not like celiac disease, an autoimmune disease caused by gluten, which can have detrimental effects if ingested.

People can be genetically predisposed not to produce the lactase enzyme, or the condition can result from illness or injury to the small intestine, including surgery or infections, according to the NIH.

In lactose-intolerant adults, the lactose is fermented and metabolized by bacteria in the colon to produce gas and short chain fatty acids. This results in abdominal cramps, bloating, diarrhea, flatulence and nausea, Balzora said. The severity of symptoms largely depends on how quickly the lactase available in the digestive system is used up.

Although reduced levels of lactase could result in improper absorption of lactose, only people with low lactase levels who exhibit the common symptoms would be properly considered lactose intolerant. According to the Mayo Clinic, most people with lactase deficiencies do not display any signs or symptoms.

Premature babies can also be intolerant to breast milk, but full-term babies don’t show signs of the problem before the age of 2, according to the NIH. The intolerance can develop earlier in African American children than in Caucasian ones.

Lactose intolerance should be suspected in people with abdominal symptoms — such as cramps and bloating — after consuming milk and other dairy products. The symptoms usually appear 30 minutes to two hours after ingesting a milk product.

The initial diagnosis of lactose intolerance can be very simple.

“The quick and dirty way is to have a patient avoid lactose products for a certain amount of time,” usually about two weeks, Balzora said. Then, these foods can be gradually reintroduced into the diet again, and if the symptoms return, the person is likely somewhat lactose intolerant, she said.

Most patients do not need a referral to a specialist, or diagnostic laboratory tests. However, the symptoms of lactose intolerance can overlap with other gastrointestinal problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease. A hydrogen breath test is an objective, non-invasive, inexpensive and easy-to-perform test that can be used to confirm an initial diagnosis of lactose intolerance. A properly administered breath test can help patients determine whether they need to cut back on milk and dairy products, according to research published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology.

Cutting lactose out of the diet is an option, but patients should make sure they aren’t depriving themselves of calcium and vitamin D, Balzora said.

A study published in the June 2017 issue of the Journal of Nutrition found that those with lactose intolerance that cut milk out of their diet have lower levels of vitamin D in their blood. This study of 1,495 Canadian men and women also found that those who cut out milk were also shorter.

Over-the-counter pills or drops that contain lactase can be taken before meals to help alleviate or eliminate symptoms. For example, Lactaid pills or Lactaid milk allow many people to process dairy products without any difficulty, Balzora said. Some people find that taking probiotics can help them digest lactase better, but Lactaid is really the standard, Balzora said.

However, according to the Mayo Clinic, these products do not help all patients. Adults who are lactose intolerant can ultimately recondition their digestive system to tolerate up to 8.5 fluid oz. (250 milliliters) of milk — about a glass — if they drink the milk in gradually increasing amounts. According to a 21-day intervention study conducted in 2000, most people who do this will experience minimal or no discomfort.

A 2017 study by scientists at the North Carolina School of Medicine and North Carolina State University found that probiotics may also be a useful treatment. The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that 70 percent of those that took prebiotics for 35 days had reduced abdominal pain when they resumed drinking milk. Ninety percent of the subjects showed a significant increase in lactose fermenting bacteria, as well.

Lactose intolerance can be treated with simple dietary changes. The most straightforward way is for a person to reduce the amount of milk or daily products in his or her diet. Also, it may help to divide daily milk and dairy products into several small portions and consume them with other foods. Processed dairy such as yogurt and cheeses are usually better tolerated, because the lactose has been partially metabolized by bacteria during their preparation.

Foods high in lactose, according to The Cleveland Clinic, are:

  • Milk, milkshakes and other milk-based beverages
  • Foods made with milk
  • Whipping cream and coffee creamer
  • Cheese
  • Ice cream, ice milk, sherbet
  • Puddings, custards
  • Butter
  • Cream soups, cream sauces

There are many products on the market that are lactose-free. This is a good option for those that don’t want to give up their favorite milk products. There are more options on the way. The lactose-free food market is predicted to grow 11.10 percent between 2017 and 2021.

There are also other options, such as rice, soy and almond milk, that can be used as an alternative to cow’s milk. Additionally, there are some milk products that can be easier to digest. According to the NIH, they include:

  • Buttermilk and cheeses
  • Fermented milk products, like yogurt
  • Goat’s milk
  • Ice cream
  • Milkshakes
  • Aged or hard cheeses

Additional reporting by Alina Bradford, Live Science Contributor.

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5,000-Year-Old ‘Billboard’ of Hieroglyphs Contains a Cosmic Message


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5,000-Year-Old ‘Billboard’ of Hieroglyphs Contains a Cosmic Message

Hieroglyphics found at El-Khawy in Egypt show two storks, back to back, with an ibis between them (left), as well as a bull’s head (right).

Credit: Courtesy of Yale University

Archaeologists have discovered a “billboard” of hieroglyphs carved into the rocks near the Egyptian village of El-Khawy. The symbols, which show a message related to the cosmos, are the earliest monumental (large) hieroglyphs known, dating back around 5,200 years.

“This newly discovered rock art site of El-Khawy preserves some of the earliest — and largest — signs from the formative stages of the hieroglyphic script and provides evidence for how the ancient Egyptians invented their unique writing system,” John Darnell, a professor at Yale University who co-directs the expedition that discovered the rock art, said in a statement from Yale University. The Egyptian antiquities ministry also issued a statement today (June 22) announcing the discovery.

The archaeologists also discovered another carving, this one showing a herd of elephants, created sometime between 4000 B.C. and 3500 B.C. One of the adult elephants in the scene was drawn with a little elephant inside its body — “an incredibly rare way of representing a pregnant female animal,” Darnell said in the Yale statement.  [Photos: 5,000-Year-Old Hieroglyphs Discovered in Sinai Desert]

Only a few similar scenes are known from Egypt. For example, a vase previously found at the site of Abydos depicts a pregnant hippopotamus, Darnell told Live Science.

In this rock carving, a little elephant is shown inside an adult elephant, an indication that the animal is pregnant. It was carved sometime between 4000 B.C. and 3500 B.C.

In this rock carving, a little elephant is shown inside an adult elephant, an indication that the animal is pregnant. It was carved sometime between 4000 B.C. and 3500 B.C.

Credit: Courtesy of Yale University

The four early hieroglyphic signs were carved around 3250 B.C. And the carvers seemed to be making a statement, as the symbols are about 70 centimeters (27.5 inches) high and had “abright, almost white, color against the patina of the surrounding brown stone” after they were freshly carved, Darnell told Live Science.

“In the modern world, this would be akin to seeing smaller text on your computer screen and then suddenly seeing very large ones made the same way only on a billboard,” Darnell said in the Yale statement.

One of the signs shows a bull’s head on a short pole, a symbol found at other Egyptian sites. “The bull’s head appears to be a symbol of royal power during the formative phases of the Egyptian state,” Darnell told Live Science.

John Darnell, of Yale University, who co-directs the expedition that discovered the rock carvings, is shown here at the site, called El-Khawy.

John Darnell, of Yale University, who co-directs the expedition that discovered the rock carvings, is shown here at the site, called El-Khawy.

Credit: Courtesy of Yale University

The other three signs show two storks, back-to-back, with a bald ibis bird in between them. The stork-ibis-stork arrangement suggests that those three signs are making a “statement about the cosmos through the solar cycle,” Darnell told Live Science, noting that similar arrangements of symbols can be seen at other Egyptian sites.

Together, the four symbols were likely “an expression of royal authority over the ordered cosmos,” Darnell said, adding that the “inscription was visible to travelers going to and from the early city of Elkab.”

The hieroglyphs would have been visible to anyone who passed by during this time, suggesting that many ancient Egyptians were able to understand the signs, Darnell said.

The rock carvings were discovered by a joint expedition from Yale and the Royal Museums of Art and History, in Brussels. The expedition team works in collaboration with the Egyptian antiquities ministry.

Original article on Live Science

Why Are the Vermilion Cliffs So Red?


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Why Are the Vermilion Cliffs So Red?

The red Vermillion Cliffs of Arizona

Credit: tobkatrina/Shutterstock

If you’ve ever visited the Grand Canyon, Arizona’s Vermillion Cliffs or the astonishingly rainbow-colored hills of China’s Zhangye National Geopark, you likely noticed they have one thing in common: red-colored rocks.

How did these rocks get so red? The answer involves iron, which bonds with other elements to form minerals famous for their red, rusty hue.

To start at the beginning, the iron on Earth came from ancient supernova events, the collapse of large stars that ran out of energy and “died.” After these stars collapsed (due to extreme gravity at their centers), they released a vast amount of new energy, which fused together elements, creating heavier elements, including iron (Fe).

After the force from such a collapse got too immense, the collapsing star exploded outward, sending the elements into space, said Jessica Kapp, a senior lecturer and associate department head of the geosciences department at the University of Arizona. [Photo Timeline: How the Earth Formed]

“When Earth first formed, it grabbed up a bunch of these elements from the space around it, including iron,” Kapp told Live Science in an email.

In Earth’s early history, during the Archean era (4 billion to 2.5 billion years ago), there was little oxygen in the atmosphere. Without oxygen, iron can dissolve in water, and so Earth’s early Archean oceans carried large amounts of dissolved iron, said Terry Engelder, a professor of geosciences at Pennsylvania State University.

However, single-celled organisms began producing oxygen through photosynthesis — a process that uses sunlight to power a reaction between water and carbon dioxide, leading to the creation of carbohydrates and oxygen.

That oxygen got into the oceans and bonded with the iron, leading to the creation of iron-oxide minerals, such as hematite (Fe2O3), which is often red in color, and magnetite (Fe3O4).

“An oxidation reaction you might be familiar with is rusting — when metal reacts with the oxygen in the air and becomes rust,” Kapp said. “In rocks, it is little grains of minerals like hematite and magnetite that have iron in them. Those minerals experience oxidation and become rust, turning the rocks red.”

The creation of these minerals led to the formation of the banded iron formations, the most important iron deposits in the world, Engelder said. The formations are “banded” because they contain layers of hematite between layers of silica, which were laid down as sedimentary rock layers during the during the late Archean to mid-Proterozoic (an era lasting from 2.5 billion to 541 million years ago), according to a 2016 study in the journal Geoscience Frontiers.

The Danxia Rainbow Mountains, located within the National Geopark of Zhangye in China.

The Danxia Rainbow Mountains, located within the National Geopark of Zhangye in China.

Credit: Kattiya.L/Shutterstock

For instance, banded iron formations appear in Carajas, Brazil; Lake Superior, Canada; Hamersley Basin, Western Australia; regions in northern China; and the Mesabi Iron Range in Minnesota.

In the case of the Vermilion Cliffs in Arizona, the red color comes from iron-rich minerals that are interspersed with the sedimentary rock at that site.

“Red sandstones are very common in the western United States,” Kapp said. “[They] can be found in places like Sedona, Arizona, and in the Mojave Desert of California at Red Rock Canyon State Park.”

Other red rock formations that contain oxidized iron minerals include the Chugwater Formation in Wyoming, Montana and Colorado and theRedwall Limestone cliff of the Grand Canyon, which was stained red by the iron-oxide minerals leaching out from the layers above it.

Original article on Live Science.

Why Are Atheists Generally Smarter Than Religious People?


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Why Are Atheists Generally Smarter Than Religious People?

Credit: patrice6000/Shutterstock

For more than a millennium, scholars have noticed a curious correlation: Atheists tend to be more intelligent than religious people.

It’s unclear why this trend persists, but researchers of a new study have an idea: Religion is an instinct, they say, and people who can rise above instincts are more intelligent than those who rely on them.

“Intelligence — in rationally solving problems — can be understood as involving overcoming instinct and being intellectually curious and thus open to non-instinctive possibilities,” study lead author Edward Dutton, a research fellow at the Ulster Institute for Social Research in the United Kingdom, said in a statement. [Saint or Spiritual Slacker? Test Your Religious Knowledge]

In classical Greece and Rome, it was widely remarked that “fools” tended to be religious, while the “wise” were often skeptics, Dutton and his co-author, Dimitri Van der Linden, an assistant professor of psychology at Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands, wrote in the study.

The ancients weren’t the only ones to notice this association. Scientists ran a meta-analysis of 63 studies and found that religious people tend to be less intelligent than nonreligious people. The association was stronger among college students and the general public than for those younger than college age, they found. The association was also stronger for religious beliefs, rather than religious behavior, according to the meta-analysis, published in 2013 in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Review.

But why does this association exist? Dutton set out to find answer, thinking that perhaps it was because nonreligious people were more rational than their religious brethren, and thus better able to reason that there was no God, he wrote.

But “more recently, I started to wonder if I’d got it wrong, actually,” Dutton told Live Science. “I found evidence that intelligence is positively associated with certain kinds of bias.”

For instance, a 2012 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology showed that college students often get logical answers wrong but don’t realize it. This so-called “bias blind spot” happens when people cannot detect bias, or flaws, within their own thinking. “If anything, a larger bias blind spot was associated with higher cognitive ability,” the researchers of the 2012 study wrote in the abstract.

One question, for example, asked the students: “A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?” The problem isn’t intuitive (the answer is not 10 cents), but rather requires students to suppress or evaluate the first solution that springs into their mind, the researchers wrote in the study. If they do this, they might find the right answer: The ball costs 5 cents, and the bat costs $1.05.

If intelligent people are less likely to perceive their own bias, that means they’re less rational in some respects, Dutton said. So why is intelligence associated with atheism? The answer, he and his colleague suggest, is that religion is an instinct, and it takes intelligence to overcome an instinct, Dutton said. [8 Ways Religion Impacts Your Life]

The religion-is-an-instinct theory is a modified version of an idea developed by Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics, who was not involved in the new study.

Called the Savanna-IQ Interaction Hypothesis, Kanazawa’s theory attempts to explain the differences in the behavior and attitudes between intelligent and less intelligent people, said Nathan Cofnas, who is pursuing a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom this fall. Cofnas, who specializes in the philosophy of science, was not involved with the new study.

The hypothesis is based on two assumptions, Cofnas told Live Science in an email.

“First, that we are psychologically adapted to solve recurrent problems faced by our hunter-gatherer ancestors in the African savanna,” Cofnas said. “Second, that ‘general intelligence’ (what is measured by IQ tests) evolved to help us deal with nonrecurrent problems for which we had no evolved psychological adaptations.”

The assumptions imply that “intelligent people should be better than unintelligent people at dealing with ‘evolutionary novelty’ — situations and entities that did not exist in the ancestral environment,” Cofnas said.

Dutton and Van der Linden modified this theory, suggesting that evolutionary novelty is something that opposes evolved instincts.

The approach is an interesting one, but might have firmer standing if the researchers explained exactly what they mean by “religious instinct,” Cofnas said.

“Dutton and Van der Linden propose that, if religion has an instinctual basis, intelligent people will be better able to overcome it and adopt atheism,” Cofnas said. “But without knowing the precise nature of the ‘religious instinct,’ we can’t rule out the possibility that atheism, or at least some forms of atheism, harness the same instinct(s).”

For instance, author Christopher Hitchens thought that communism was a religion; secular movements, such as veganism, appeal to many of the same impulses — and possibly ‘instincts’ — that traditional religions do, Cofnas said. Religious and nonreligious movements both rely on faith, identifying with a community of believers and zealotry, he said.

“I think it’s misleading to use the term ‘religion’ as a slur for whatever you don’t like,” Cofnas said.

The researchers also examined the link between instinct and stress, emphasizing that people tend to operate on instinct during stressful times, for instance, turning to religion during a near-death experience.

The researchers argue that intelligence helps people rise above these instincts during times of stress. [11 Tips to Lower Stress]

“If religion is indeed an evolved domain — an instinct — then it will become heightened at times of stress, when people are inclined to act instinctively, and there is clear evidence for this,” Dutton said. “It also means that intelligence allows us to be able to pause and reason through the situation and the possible consequences of our actions.”

People who are able to rise above their instincts are likely better problem-solvers, Dutton noted.

“Let’s say someone had a go at you. Your instinct would be to punch them in the face,” Dutton told Live Science. “A more intelligent person will be able to stop themselves from doing that, reason it through and better solve the problem, according to what they want.”

The study was published May 16 in the journal Evolutionary Psychological Science.

Original article on Live Science.