Brainiac

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

Brainiac

Innovation of the Week: Toilet paper-infused asphalt

It’s already been used to resurface a bike path, reinforce a dyke, and repave a parking lot.

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Big Data: Sleeping jellyfish edition

The dozing Cassiopea raises lots of new avenues for future study.

Ideas

A Boston story in 50 words

Be careful driving on Memorial Drive.

Uncommon Knowledge: Preaching at the choir

This week: CEOs, controversial statements, and census data.

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Euphemism: Independent pub group

Nothing’s less independent than a chain, so the word “independent” is a lie.

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Innovation of the Week: A knockoff Lego ISIS set

Stores have stopped selling the figurines amid concerns about glorifying ISIS.

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Big Data: 728 earthquakes

Most have been small shakes. But there have been whoppers, too.

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Uncommon Knowledge: A thinner blue line

This week: Foxholes, morals, and partisanship.

Ideas

A Boston story in 50 words

In a flash, a stolen wallet.

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On Second Thought: Ask a journalist

This looked like a big breakthrough for cotton, but there were errors in the paper.

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Innovation of the Week: Like fingerprints, but in your chest

There’s a never-ending quest to stay ahead of hackers.

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Big Data: 20 minutes

The best way to test for Zika is neither cheap nor portable.

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Euphemism: House jungle

No generation has a monopoly on voids.

Ideas

A Boston story in 50 words

Environmental impacts in Somerville.

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Uncommon Knowledge: The influence of theater

Love, race, and Moneyball in this week’s Uncommon Knowledge.

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A city of octopuses

This caught marine biologists by surprise.

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Innovation of the Week: Meal solutions

Now, 7-Eleven is offering a foodie alternative.

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On Second Thought: Authorship for sale

Want to add a bit of science to your resume?

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Uncommon Knowledge: From investments to gender blindness

Unusual insights from the social sciences.

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Big Data: 2,802 cats

Owners rated their cats on numerous personality traits.

Ideas

A Boston story in 50 words

Surprises for this matchmaker.

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Uncommon Knowledge: From rent to rivalry

Longstanding debates and new discoveries from the social sciences.

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Big Data: 143 tons

It’s enormous, and attracting considerable attention in the British press.

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Euphemism: ex·pe·ri·enc·er (n.)

Alien abductees have found a new defining term.

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Innovation of the Week: A robot hivemind

These robots could latch onto each other and merge their nervous systems.

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On Second Thought: Political retractions

Retracting a paper on these grounds is unusual, to say the least.

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Big Data: 157 miles per hour

Scientists have resisted efforts to expand the Saffir-Simpson scale.

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Uncommon Knowledge: Voter turnout, attendance laws, and fortifications

Unusual insights from the social sciences.

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Innovation of the Week: Twinkie vodka

This version may be easier to swallow than most.

Ideas

A Boston story in 50 words

Reunited neighbors.

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Same News, Three Ways: Money talks, critics walk

Strange how events can change people’s convictions.

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Innovation of the Week: Musical brain mapping

“It made you want to cry.”

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Euphemism: Special Person’s Day

The name is probably a bit too broad.

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Uncommon Knowledge: From Jackson Pollock to the Supreme Court

Surprising insights from the social sciences.

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A Boston story in 50 words

Competitive shopping takes a reverent turn.

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Big Data: 725,000 mosquito-related deaths

Mosquitoes have developed resistance to many types of insecticides.

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Innovation of the Week: Trump-shaped ecstasy

Novelty apparently sells.

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On Second Thought: A faux Jesus disappears from the record

The “right to be forgotten” was affirmed in 2014 by a European judicial ruling.

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Uncommon Knowledge: Creationism and bull markets

Unusual insights from the social sciences.

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Innovation of the Week: ‘The mucus house’

This could be a way to deal with all the plastic in the ocean.

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A Boston story in 50 words

Tensions running hot in 1972.

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Big Data: 28.5 gigaparsecs

Are we alone out here?

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Euphemism: ‘Weather extremes’

This is a classic example of what Stephen Pinker calls the “euphemism treadmill.”

Uncommon Knowledge

Distractions, Robin Hood, and Goodwill

Unusual insights from the social sciences in this week’s Uncommon Knowledge.

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Big Data: 64 million tons

There are big costs to feeding America’s pets.

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Innovation of the Week: Eclipse sunglasses

Using these faux gazing goggles could cause serious eye damage.

Uncommon Knowledge

Nuclear-trigger happy

From bright horizons to the dark web and more in this week’s Uncommon Knowledge.

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On Second Thought: He said, she said

Women make up about 35 percent of all physicians in the United States, but only 19 percent of surgeons.

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Innovation of the Week: Bluetooth-enabled salt shakers

For all your Bluetooth-connected salt-shaking needs.

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Uncommon Knowledge: Compromised refs, blaming the president for local taxes, and more

From presidents to referees: Surprising insights from the social sciences.