Brainiac

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

Brainiac

Darwinian evolution in the auto industry

A new paper uses evolutionary biology to understand changes in the diversity of car models

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Bound for Mars, a robot arrives in Boston for training

Northeastern and MIT receive copies of NASA’s Valkyrie robot, which will be part of a manned mission to Mars.

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To get a date, take up space

An expansive posture pays dividends in the dating world.

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It takes a southerner to start (and win) a war

A new study finds that due to a culture of honor, U.S. presidents from the south are more likely to start and win wars

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Physicists grapple with the multiverse

The idea may seem fantastical, but it grows directly out of an effort to explain basic facts about space.

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At Christie’s, early Boston propaganda for sale

An upcoming auction includes a book published in 1634 to convince English citizens to become early New England Colonists.

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Bye-bye traffic lights

According to a team at MIT, in the age of self-driving cars, traffic lights will be unnecessary.

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Beyond the 10,000-hour-rule: Experts disagree about the value of practice

Several new publications come to very different conclusions about how much practice matters.

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A new antidote to aging

Researchers remove senescent cells from mice and undo aging.

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Sounds of a feeding frenzy

How marine mammal predators interact in the Gulf of Maine

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What if the suburbs went on forever?

A new exhibition at MIT imagines the “Future of Suburbia.”

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At an explorer’s dinner, the case of prehistoric mystery meat

Curious students get to the bottom of a decade’s old caper.

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The risks and advantages of giving birth at home

A new study quantifies the risks to giving birth at home versus in a hospital.

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A test for creating a family tree for aliens

A Harvard astronomer devises a test to determine if life on distant planets came from a common source.

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Using proof to create a perfect computer system

Researchers set out to create a proof that shows a computer system has no bugs.

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Surviving a breakup? It’s all about you

A new study finds that people who believe breakups say something about who they are have a harder time moving on.

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An app for the blind that describes the world

A Boston software developer created the app, which speaks the names of objects it sees.

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A Woods Hole scientist attempts to drill through the earth’s crust

The biggest scientific question the crew hopes to answer is the composition of the crust itself.

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Exercise: Do a little, get a lot

Better health is only a few more trips up and down the staircase away.

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The price of fairness

A new study finds kids are willing to make sacrifices to correct unfair situations.

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300-year-old voices in a stash of unopened letters

“Signed, Sealed, and Undelivered” catalogs 2,600 letters that never got where they were going.

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Mapping the flow of flavor particles

A Yale study charts how flavor particles get from the mouth into the nasal cavity.

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Standardized testing works, depending on where you go to school

A new study provides the first evidence of the long-term effects of standardized testing.

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Mapping the flow of flavor particles

A Yale study charts how flavor particles get from the mouth into the nasal cavity.

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Light-weight elevated trains as the future of Boston

A Cambridge designer has proposed a retro idea to replace all MBTA routes.

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The worst band to play a James Bond song would be . . .

A new book looks at what makes a 007 song killer.

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Old New England churches come into focus

A new exhibition at BSA Space presents photographs of churches in the region.

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Bringing big data to bear on organ failure

A BU physicist pioneers the field of network physiology.

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Why a single win in college football is worth millions of dollars

A Harvard Business School professor quantifies the value of a win in college football.

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Decades later, a stellar mystery is solved

A Harvard astronomer figures out where the dust around white dwarf stars comes from.

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A photographer and a physicist team up

At MIT, an unusual collaboration is working to produce better underwater photographs.

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How the tiniest light could supercharge computers

A Harvard physicist creates a zero-index metamaterial for use in optical computing.

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Mapping the Internet’s secret cables

A computer scientist has created the first public map of the Internet in the United States.

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The placebo effect grows (but only in the US)

Whatever the explanation, changes in the placebo effect have implications for the kinds of drugs that patients receive.

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The tree of life for birds comes into view

Evolutionary biologists are rapidly figuring out who’s related to whom in the bird world.

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The very weird physics of sea-level changes

A Harvard geophysicist explains how when ice sheets melt, sea levels can actually fall.

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A powerful new way to diagnose mystery illnesses

An initiative called the “UDN Gateway” based out of Harvard Medical School promises to use big data and information sharing to identify diseases.

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Three centuries of compound interest — and counting

An official from Yale University recently traveled to Holland to collect interest on a 348-year-old water bond.

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How people use cellphones in cities around the world

A new website from MIT compares how people in different cities and neighborhoods use cellphones.

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Why we believe the ‘big lie’

A new research paper explains how the “blind” come to lead the “sighted” when accepting government lies.

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This is your brain on math

New research from a lab at Stanford University uses brain scans to predict how well kids will learn math.

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Nathanael Greene Herreshoff, the Bill Belichick of yacht design

A forthcoming exhibition at the MIT Museum will look at America’s greatest-ever yacht designer.

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Waiting for El Nino on a remote Pacific reef

Researchers from the New England Aquarium and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution set out to the remote Phoenix Islands.

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White noise for sale!

A digital artist runs a “pop-up” store that features different varieties of white noise.

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Surprise! The earth has trillions more trees than we thought

A new study finds that there are 750 percent more trees than the previous best estimate.

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Get a grip: The neuroscience of how we pick things up

Harvard researchers uncover a surprise in the way the brain calculates how hard to grip an object.

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Taking digital photography to a new dimension

A new exhibition at the ICA shows photography and sculptures aren’t as unrelated as they might seem.

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When nature goes silent

A new book shows how “soundscapes” can be used to track changes in the natural world.

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At long last, we know how the firefly glows

A biochemist figured out the last piece in the insect’s chemical reaction.

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In a remote corner of the Internet, art sprouts

A collection of mainframe computer login pages shows the beauty of alphanumeric design.