The only thing that is new about this article is a slightly different flavor of STM
Now that's just plain wrong. First off, the pentacene molecule imaged by the group at IBM was imaged using atomic force microscopy (AFM), which uses a nanoscale piezoelectric cantilever to measure the force between the tip of the microscope and the substrate. The IBM team realized that picking up a single CO molecule with the tip allowed them to have an atomically sharp tip, thus giving them the drastically increased resolution apparent in that paper. This paper presents an STM method, which uses the current caused by electron tunneling between a tip and substrate (which dies off exponentially with distance between the two). The major breakthrough is this: scientists working in this field have known for quite some time that the electron tunneling was a function of both the starting state (tip state) and the ending state (substrate) of the electron. The problem with this is that the tip state up until now has only been known very vaguely. At the atomic level, the tip of the STM is in general a poorly defined blob of metal. What the researchers in this paper have done is pick up a CO molecule to act as the tip of the probe, just like the researchers on the pentacene paper before. The advantage now is that we can model CO quite well quantum mechanically, so that we have a much better idea of the starting state of the electrons. Of course, there will be some interaction of the CO with the metal in the tip, but nonetheless, this method provides us with a much clearer picture of what the electrons are actually doing when they tunnel from the tip to the substrate below. This is the reason that the researchers were able to get so much more information out of these experiments than previous researchers.
Here in So Cal
If my conservative friends are to be believed, you guys don't get out of bed for much of anything.
*puts on sunglasses*
Don't hold your breath.
Robbins followed seven self-described outsiders at public and private high schools for a year and concluded that what makes kids popular—conformity, aggression, visibility, and influence—won't make them happy or successful after they graduate.
What!?!? I'll present a similar argument. See if you can spot the flaw: I observe that white bread gets moldy after I open the package. Therefore I conclude that wheat bread doesn't get moldy after I open the package. She followed the outsiders (self-described, no less ["Yeah I'm a nonconformist, nbd"]) to determine the fate of the non-outsiders. Wow.
Granting a right to one party is essentially imposing a duty on one or more other parties. For example, if we as humans grant dolphins a right to life, then we are basically saying "We (humans) will try not to kill you (dolphins) on purpose." Thus, by granting them this right, we are imposing upon ourselves the duty to not purposefully kill any dolphins. You can view it, if you wish, as a type of contract, though I'll be quick to point out that the concept of rights and duties extends beyond the legal realm into the moral one.
Why would we grant dolphins rights? Possibly because of what we feel to be a collective moral obligation. Granting rights to animals on the basis of moral obligation is not unprecedented. For instance, most animals for whom there is significant evidence that they can feel pain are granted the legal (and moral) right not to be abused. There's nothing physical stopping me from beating the ever living shit out of my dog, but I don't, because I think that inflicting unnecessary pain is immoral. Thus, I have implicitly granted my dog the right not to have the ever living shit beaten out of him.
Why would we grant dolphins a right to life specifically? This is akin to the question of why we would grant, for example, Homeless Joe with no friends or family a right to life specifically. If you approach the question from a secular viewpoint, it's kind of tricky. After all, there's no one to mourn the homeless person if I kill him, and he certainly won't care if I do it painlessly (in fact, he can't care; he's dead). Most ethicists working in this field approach the problem by appealing to the human traits of foresight and planning. Killing Homeless Joe thwarts his plans and deprives him of the possibility of making his life better in the future. (Interestingly, a very similar argument is used to justify euthanasia in terminal patients). Assuming that the scientific studies that we've done on dolphins show that they share the traits of foresight and planning with humans, denying them the right to life while granting it to Homeless Joe is simply drawing a line arbitrarily and discriminating against dolphins simply because they are a different species. The discrimination has no underlying rational basis.
I think that at least begins to explain why intelligence is an important factor in granting rights to non-human animals and why other traits are not as important. As for the stupid people comment, see the above argument. Consistency would dictate that if a human is so severely mentally handicapped that they do not exhibit foresight (nor will they ever--otherwise it would be totally cool to kill babies), then they wouldn't have a specific right to life under this reasoning (similar to the euthanasia argument above). However, I doubt they would be in much danger. After all, most people would need a reason to kill them (otherwise, why would they expend the effort), and even then, based on the discussion above about non-human animals, it would still have to be done painlessly. Remember, we grant the right not to be abused to most animals anyway, so this case would be no different.
As for your last statement, you bet your ass if a tuna fisherman caught a SCUBA diver in their net and drowned him, they'd be in deep shit. But we've also seen that, unfortunately, commercial interests often trump even well-established human rights, so there's really no telling.