Brainiac

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

Brainiac

Innovation of the week: A maze to dodge liquor laws

Aiswarya Bar in Kerala has a unique approach.

Brainiac

Testing the limits of an unsolicited invitation

John McCool decided to troll right back.

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Big Data: 24,970

Finding a way to predict heart attacks.

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Ethical dilemma: Facebook Live

Two perspectives on the ethics of Facebook Live.

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Innovation of the week: Digital tombstones

Some are gravely concerned.

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Same news, three ways: Metaphors are hard

It’s good to know when to let go.

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Euphemism: “re-accommodate”

That’s one way to clear up an incident.

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Big Data: 65 million years

Ants are eminently persistent.

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Same news, three ways: Belated recognition

What do the Turing prize, Twitter, and Framingham have in common?

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Innovation of the week: IPO edition

A “growing power grab” by technology companies.

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Integrity in peer review

It’s a way to give back to the scientific community.

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Big Data: 1 nanometer

The possibilities of straining the salt out of seawater.

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Finding a welcome sanctuary

A digest of big ideas in little bites, from the Ideas team.

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Interview: Laila Ali

An Ideas interview with the champion boxer and author.

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Toilet paper at the Temple of Heaven

A digest of big ideas in little bites.

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When ‘reclaiming’ actually means ‘ruining’

A digest of big ideas in little bites.

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Sneakers that order pizza: Has science gone too far?

A digest of big ideas in little bites.

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Had a bad week? You weren’t the only one

A digest of big ideas in little bites.

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A collection of successful complaints, and more

Walt Whitman, Big Data, and of course, La La Land, in this week’s Brainiac.

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Hackers in your brain, ‘Trump and Dump,’ and more

Big ideas in little bits, curated by the Ideas team.

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How to be invisible

Only magicians could make things vanish — until these researchers applied the basic principles of light.

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These scientists are trying to erase memories of fear

Scientists wanted to see if they could erase fear memories in adult mice.

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What sizes and shapes say about seashells

Humans may have reversed the way the ocean and the atmosphere naturally interact.

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The secret life of ants

How ants use crowdsourced decision-making to run their colony.

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In bots we distrust

Can simple adjustments overcome an aversion to algorithms?

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Roses are red; violets are — red? How color terms arise

Does our language shape our worldview, or does our worldview shape our language?

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CSI: Chem trail

Scientists tried to identify every chemical to create a lifestyle profile that tells us what the cellphone owner likes to eat, wear, and do.

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What do you call a school of bones?

Scientists separate batches of bone fragments by layers of the archaeological site, then grind them together into a powder and extract the DNA.

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How climate sparks conflict

The connection between climate change and armed violence is clear.

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Teaching parents to talk math with their kids

A new effort is underway to get parents and caregivers to talk to their young kids about math.

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Songs of passion, scandal from medieval Europe

The first ever English-language translation of the bawdy medieval poet Neidhart.

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Recording the secret lives of cells

MIT bioengineers create a recording device that can be implanted in cells to track their exposure to environmental stimuli.

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The ginseng web

A new book explains how trade in the miracle root ginseng shaped the 18th century.

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Teaching computers to understand non-native English

MIT researchers create the first major database of non-native English.

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Humpback whales are a seal’s best friend

A new study finds humpback whales protect seals (and other marine mammals) from attacking killer whales.

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The curious case of and/or

Children tend to interpret the words differently than adults.

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The downside to being prepared for failure

New research suggests that having a Plan B is not necessarily a good idea.

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When computers read the canon

Debates rage in the digital humanities about computers and comprehension.

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One small step: Robots learn to predict sounds from sights

MIT researchers teach a robot how to predict the sound made by one object striking another.

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How to rearrange your home to impress a date

A new consulting services uses scientific research and feng shui to make your home attractive to would-be romantic partners.

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Fingerprinting photographs

How a Brighton art conservator invented a revolutionary way to date old photographs, and caught a counterfeit.

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A children’s game and a mathematical breakthrough

Mathematicians create a proof related to the card game Set.

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Babar back at Harvard

A new exhibit displays preparatory materials for the fourth Babar book, “ABC de Babar.”

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Male spiders want to mate, but don’t want to die

Spiders have to be sneaky if they don’t want to be cannibalized.

To fight superbugs, a Harvard chemist invents a new way of making antibiotics

A Harvard chemist develops a method for making fully synthetic antibiotics

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The dawn (and rewards) of helicopter parenting

Two new books look at the historical roots and current extremes of helicopter parenting.

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Take two robots and call me in the morning

MIT engineers developed an ingestible origami robot that can do medical work in the stomach.

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What people can learn from algorithms — and algorithms can learn from people

A new book explains how thinking algorithmically can help people make better decisions.

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A gecko walks into a museum...and cleans up

Researchers, inspired by the gecko’s sticky feet, find a new way to remove dust from art.

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A surefire way to tell if your food has gone bad

Researchers in South Korea use a simple laser technique to assess the presence of bacteria on food.