Brainiac

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

Brainiac

Nice Try: Emile Ratelband’s lawsuit for youth

His doctor, he says, has told him that he has the body of a 40-something, and he’d like to have his whole life ahead of him.

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Innovation of the Week: An artificially intelligent news anchor

The AI anchor looks like an actual Xinhua presenter and will read any text punched into the system. But the voice is a little robotic.

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Uncommon Knowledge: Corn, NIMBY money, and poor health

A collection of usual insights from the social sciences.

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Innovation of the Week: An equation for the perfect pizza

It’s about time.

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Uncommon Knowledge: Language, values, and panhandling

A collection of usual insights from the social sciences.

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Context: Migrant Caravan

As the midterm election campaign entered its final days this past week, President Trump stepped up his rhetoric about the so-called caravans of Central American migrants making their way through Mexico to the United States.

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Big Data: Driverless cars and saving lives

67th: That’s where Americans ranked, in a survey of people in 117 countries, in their willingness to save pedestrians’ lives if it means that car passengers die.

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Innovation of the Week: Bio-bricks

We’ve built our civilization brick by brick. But bricks, like our civilization, aren’t very good for the planet. A group of South African engineering students may have come up with a solution.

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Uncommon Knowledge: Migrants, multitasking, and urbanization

A collection of unusual insights from the social sciences.

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Correcting the record, finally

The journal Lab Medicine has finally retracted a long-debunked article about the spurious link between vaccines and autism.

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Making a brighter moon

The moon is lovely. But let’s face it, the service is pretty spotty.

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Uncommon Knowledge: Antifa, STEM studies, and smartphones

A collection of unusual insights from the social sciences.

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Genetic sequencing presents ethical dilemma on Native American ancestry

Many Native American tribes are deeply wary of reconstructing the past via DNA sequencing.

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Big Data: Tainted supplements

A review found that the government had recalled only 48 percent of the offending supplements.

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Innovation of the Week: Horse blinders (for humans)

You can only listen to so many good-mornings and how-are-yous, right? Well, now there’s a way to shut it all out.

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Uncommon Knowledge: Jesuits, economics, and toothpaste gifts

A collection of unusual insights from the social sciences.

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Retraction Watch: Keep an eye on financial warning signs

If you were an investor in an outfit called India Globalization Capital, October was a choppy ride.

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How smart are dogs, really?

Compared to dolphins and chimpanzees, dogs’ cognitive capacity isn’t quite so impressive.

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Innovation of the Week: Canned fresh air

We’ve all got to breathe, but sometimes it can be such a drag.

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Uncommon Knowledge: From military surrender to web moderators

A collection of unusual insights from the social sciences.

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Uncommon Knowledge: Male committees, paintball, and ‘Shark Tank’

A collection of unusual insights from the social sciences.

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Retraction Watch: Potential censorship?

Science journals are not printed on litmus paper, but here’s a case in which politics appears to have triumphed over academic freedom.

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Big Data: 0.066 mg of MDMA

Humans and octopuses are separated by 500 million years on the evolutionary tree, yet our brains both respond to ecstasy.

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Innovation of the Week: ‘Body-sharing’ robots

Researchers see opportunities for experts to remotely train workers in new tasks, but there are still some problems to be worked out.

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Uncommon Knowledge: Materialism, fiscal rules, and misogyny

A collection of unusual insights from the social sciences.

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Big Data: 73,000 years

The earliest known human drawing goes way back.

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Innovation of the Week: Pizza for the military

It took cooks in Natick more than 20 years to get a pizza that could meet all the military’s requirements.

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Uncommon Knowledge: Trial by jury, learning with peers, and saving lives

Unusual insights from the social sciences.

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Retraction Watch: A ‘happy’ ending

After some vague reasons, a report on happiness itself has been retracted.

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Big Data: Turtles in danger

Turtles outlived the dinosaurs, but can they withstand humans?

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‘Corruption face’: Trying to predict politicians’ misconduct

Subjects of a California study made better-than-chance judgments about whether pols had been convicted of corruption.

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Uncommon Knowledge: Resentment, reproduction, and reconciliation

A collection of unusual insights from the social sciences.

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The cuckoo clock gets an update

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

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Grover Cleveland’s mighty veto pen

One historian counts 240 vetoes in a single day for the mediocre president.

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The Flat Earth Society weighs in on climate change

In an unusual twist, the society was asked to share its views on climate change.

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A long history of humans and cheese

New findings push the earliest known evidence of cheese-making back thousands of years.

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Uncommon Knowledge: Immigration, dark money, and meat consumption

A collection of unusual insights from the social sciences.

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The secret to evenly splitting dry spaghetti

What would it take to break a single piece of dry spaghetti into two pieces?

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Retraction Watch: When a study contradicts itself

There’s plenty of blame to go around at Cardiology Research and Practice.

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Correcting the death toll after Hurricane Maria

The initial death toll of 64 was drastically revised after a team from George Washington University used a mathematical model based on historical patterns.

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Uncommon Knowledge: Prisons, Kardashians, and teachable moments

A collection of unusual insights from the social sciences.

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‘Irony poisoning’: when nasty humor spirals downward into something far worse

The New York Times diagnosed this German firefighter with a novel malady: irony poisoning.

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How air pollution impacts our lives

This week in Big Data: Quantifying the destructive impacts of air pollution.

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How viral outrage can backfire

A collection of unusual insights from the social sciences.

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A timely retraction

This astronomer aimed to report on a particular star’s brightness, but the brightness itself was in question.

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Big Data: 95,767 participants

This assessment aimed to understand how much salt is healthy.

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Innovation of the Week: Sidewalk urinals

Paris took an unusual step to prevent public urination.

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Uncommon Knowledge: Testing for cheaters

Unusual insights from the social sciences, from transplants to Christianity to secrecy.

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Lessons from a portable earthquake machine

Earthquakes may “liquefy” the soil, adding to their potential destruction, but there may be ways to mitigate that effect.

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Retraction Watch: A question of authorship

This computer scientist got rejected from a journal — and then things got worse.