Brainiac

Covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more.

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‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ turns 150

Celebrations for the anniversary of the beloved tale include an exhibition at Harvard’s Houghton Library.

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Harnessing urban noise to map Earth’s interior

A new technique out of Stanford uses sound waves from ambient noise to see below the surface.

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Success and falls at the robot Olympics

At the recent DARPA Robotics Challenge, 23 teams competed to see whose robot would be most useful in a disaster zone.

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The crucial job interview skill you should be teaching your kids, now

Recruiters at the most prestigious companies look for applicants to “take the reins,” according to a sociologist.

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Capturing the essence of the cuckoo clock

An exhibition at Northeastern University’s Gallery 360 showcases 24 designs that reimagine the iconic clock.

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As ships approach, blue whales don’t know what to do

A new study documents just how bad blue whales are at avoiding collisions with large ships.

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How ‘light’ cigarettes became a lie

A Boston University professor explains how the marketing process affects the meaning of certain product categories.

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Humblebragging: You want to, but you shouldn’t

We’re born self-promoters and also chronically bad at recognizing how others perceive us.

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Homophobia as a weapon in submarine warfare

An activist group’s protest sign tweaks Russian submariners over gay rights.

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The atlas the ocean has been waiting for

“Discovering the Deep” provides the most comprehensive look at the deep ocean floor seen yet.

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Tree roots get their moment in the sun

A Harvard exhibit elevates the profile of the root system.

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Calculating the perfect distance for a Usain Bolt-Mo Farah race

Researchers have devised a new way for predicting a runner’s performance.

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How can a software update make a car faster?

Tesla owners woke up one day to find that their cars had undergone a remarkable transformation overnight.

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Saying goodbye to GDP

A new book argues that economic growth should not go on forever.

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One simple solution for online passwords

However, the proposed system would come with price.

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In South Korea, international adoption as a solution to social problems

The process began in response to mixed-race children after the Korean War and continued for other social stigmas.

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Common cause: African-American objections to nuclear bombs

Activism around racial segregation and nuclear proliferation has a long entanglement that’s the subject of a new book.

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Improving bicycle crash-scene reports improves safety

A Harvard public health researcher argues that better reports are key.

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Pigeons need to know just two things to avoid collisions

A Harvard study looks at flight strategies the birds use to dodge obstacles.

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When a cow is an architect’s best friend

A new book shows how architects are harnessing nature to create innovative buildings.

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Computer users demand the right to ‘undo’

An Internet theorist leads an effort to create basic rights for technology users.

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The softer side of mosasaurus

A new discovery sheds light on how the gigantic sea lizards, which star in the latest Jurassic Park movie, gave birth.

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In World War II, the Allies’ secret weapon

As remarkable as its deceptive actions were, it’s even more surprising how long after the war the Ghost Army remained a secret.

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The secret lives of cells

A digital sculpture provides a big look at a small cellular process.

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Predicting when small fires turn into big ones

At Harvard, a close study of flames begins to answer a longstanding question.

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Teaching scientists how to visualize their data

A new program at Northeastern trains researchers in design methods for sharing what they’ve discovered.

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How to automatically detect the most important people in a photograph

A new program might improve photo-sharing by determining who the most important people are in an image.

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Making a living as a street performer in Boston

What does it take to survive as a busker?

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Explaining the bedbug’s modern comeback

They’ve plagued human beings for as long as we’ve been laying our heads down to sleep.

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An artist walks into the Harvard physics department

Through a series of elegant installations, Kim Bernard makes plain the simple order expressed by physical laws.

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Boston is on track to become the most walkable city in America

Greater Boston is currently the third most walkable metro region in the country, behind Washington and New York.

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Mammal March Madness: Imaginary death matches in the animal kingdom

Just as in the real world’s March Madness, many of the most entertaining matches feature upsets.

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How to look at the sky and predict the weather

A new book promises to teach interested readers the same prognosticating skills as a retired meteorology professor.

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Lost pet posters, as a genre

One illustrator’s project studies lost-and-found posters from around the world.

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The way we remember childhood homes

A new exhibition at MIT deals with the fragmented way distant yet familiar places live on in our imaginations.

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How to make eyewitness evidence more reliable

A Northeastern law professor sketches some of the reforms that could improve such testimony.

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An ancient fishing method hangs on in Rhode Island

Photographer Markham Starr documents the last trap fishermen of the Ocean State.

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Media bias? Not such a big deal, economist says

A top honor in economics goes to a researcher who’s studied why media outlets take on a partisan bias.

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Why economic sanctions usually don’t work

When the US cuts economic ties with a country, other nations eagerly pick up the slack, political scientist Bryan Early says.

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How to enjoy your food more

Recent research in social psychology teaches people how to get more pleasure from eating.

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An award-winning mobile home on Martha’s Vineyard

The innovative structure has all the luxury of a typical Vineyard estate but is made to move.

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Body armor inspired by fish

The Ortiz Lab at MIT draws lessons from the natural world to create better armor for soldiers.

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How bribes create terrorists

Sarah Chayes, former adviser to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, argues terrorism is an outgrowth of the daily humiliations that arise in corrupt countries.

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How your brain sees the world, according to Kepler

A new work in the history of science explains a pivotal moment that changed the way we think about sight.

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How to handle religious sites that are also museums

A BU alumnus is developing recommendations for how to settle the competing claims often staked to such places.

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Extreme cosmetics through the ages

A new book on the history of the cosmetics industry captures hundreds of years of startling treatments.

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How being an identical twin changes your outlook

Interviews with 22 sets of identical twins reveal the unique way they think about their own identities.

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A plan to ‘future-proof’ the Internet

A computer scientist talks about preparing network infrastructure for any technology that comes along.

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When Boston tourists went to the American West

More than 100 years ago, tourists looking for an up-and-coming, high-energy urban destination didn’t need to leave the country.

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A sneak-preview site for research hits a big milestone

The history and future of arXiv.org as it passes 1 million uploads.

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