Brainiac

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

Brainiac

A perplexing pseudonym

Why would this researcher submit their findings under a false name?

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Dreading automation

This week in Uncommon Knowledge: tweet analysis, racial awareness, and “doers” vs. “thinkers.”

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On Second Thought: Blood sample fraud

This bogus-blood scandal has led to the retraction of one paper, and the likely retraction of a second article.

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Big Data: 15 percent of dogs in Guangxi, China

Hoping to determine whether dogs pose a pandemic flu threat, researchers swabbed the noses of 800 dogs.

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Innovation of the Week: ‘Optimal alertness’

There’s a fine line between too much coffee and just the right amount.

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‘An offer you can’t refuse’ from Italian officials

This week in Uncommon Knowledge: mafia relocation, non-human entities, and the benefits of immigration.

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Big Data: 1,496 studies

Breaking down the numbers on supplements.

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Innovation of the Week: Funeral for robot dogs

The owners of those other dogs couldn’t just let them go.

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Judges vs. climate change

This week in Uncommon Knowledge: Courtrooms, city finance, and college students.

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Big Data: What’s in the pool water?

Hotel pools, public parks, and water parks may all be involved.

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Innovation of the Week: Human muting technology

If you wish your open-office coworkers would be quieter, tech may have a solution.

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With the in-laws, talk politics at your own risk

Weekly roundup of insights from the social sciences, including marriages that cross partisan lines.

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When a journal withdraws the wrong paper

For a brief period, this common clerical error muddied the scientific record.

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Reaching peak puppy cuteness

For this study, human participants viewed dozens of photos of puppies.

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Innovation of the Week: Space flight as a penthouse perk

When trying to sell a condo for $85 million, this investor had to get creative.

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Uncommon Knowledge: Investors, spread the wealth around

Unusual insights from the social sciences.

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Big Data: The impact of urban living

What these scientists found was alarming for a nation in an urban renaissance.

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Innovation of the Week: Jaywalking deterrent

Officials are testing out a new approach at one of this city’s busiest intersections.

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Selling distrust

Critics say capitalism erodes institutions and relationships. Turns out, working in sales might do just that.

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On Second Thought: Control of a legacy

This rebuttal backtracked an effort to define one editor’s tenure.

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Big Data: 19,413

This shift complicates public health efforts to prevent overdoses.

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Innovation of the Week: The 0.5k race

It’s all thanks to the Society for Lazy and Carefree Runners.

Ideas

A Boston story in 50 words

What’s worse than driving in Massachusetts? Doing it without a map.

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Getting to know your opponent

In this week’s Uncommon Knowledge: Jury selection, Jerusalem, and losing the majority.

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‘Incel Rebellion’? How maladjustment becomes a movement

What researchers call the “failure to launch” can be a destabilizing influence in society.

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Big Data: Counting gorillas

New research indicates we might not have the whole story on Western lowland gorillas.

Ideas

A Boston story in 50 words

Close to disaster on a hot summer night.

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Uncommon Knowledge: Freaks and geeks, and beyond

Surprising insights from the social sciences.

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If a double-negative is a positive, what do you get when you retract a retraction?

Unlike many retraction stories, this one ends happily for the author.

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Big Data: 800 million viruses

This study is one of the first to examine viruses’ environmental distribution.

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Innovation of the Week: The tarantula burger

In case anyone found pickles and tomatoes boring.

Ideas

A Boston story in 50 words

Different modes of transportation cause friction.

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Uncommon Knowledge: Separate, therefore unequal

Surprising insights from the social sciences.

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The United States of . . . check-writing?

A recent study shows Americans remain strongly attached to an old-fashioned way of paying for things.

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Social conflict over ‘The Simpsons’

Is Apu an ugly ethnic stereotype? If so, has he always been?

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‘Herman’ spreads through bread

Some starters have been kept alive for more than a century.

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Innovation of the Week: Transcribing the words in your head

A team at MIT developed a wearable device that aims to pick up otherwise imperceptible neuromuscular signals in your jaw and face.

Ideas

A Boston story in 50 words

One mother’s terrible loss.

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Another terrible side effect of traffic

This week in Uncommon Knowledge: frustrated drivers, the minimum wage, and divine inspiration.

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Should Sinclair anchors quit, rather than potentially compromise reputations?

TV stations owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group reach almost 40 percent of American households.

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Retraction Watch: Whoops, my bad

This researcher belatedly stumbled upon a mistake he didn’t even realize he had made.

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Big Data: Losing your nest egg can kill you

This study found a grim reality at the intersection of health and personal finance.

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Innovation of the Week: Eucharist by drone

The flesh is weak, but the drone is willing.

Ideas

A Boston story in 50 words

Heartbreak, avenged.

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Fear the monopsony

Complaining about monopoly power is all the rage now, but the bigger problem may be monopsony power.

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Euphemism: ‘Heavy episodic drinking’

The very term “binge” doesn’t just sound judgey; it also makes these episodes seem less common then they are.

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Hidden in plain sight

A lay person might not think there were any new organs in the human body waiting to be discovered.

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Big Data: Where are the savings?

Administrative costs still account for a quarter of healthcare spending in the United States.

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Innovation of the Week: Upload your mind

We all want to live forever.

Ideas

A Boston story in 50 words

Fifty years later, finding out what happened.