Brainiac

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

Braniac

Big Data: Who fell for the hoax stories on Facebook during the 2016 election?

11 Percent of American Facebook users over age 65 shared hoax stories during the 2016 election season — far more than the 3 percent of adults under 29 who fell for such fake news.

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Uncommon Unknowledge: Ginger, hiding from Trump, and paying for the homeless

A collection of unusual insights from the social sciences.

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Revelation: Were crickets behind the ‘sonic attack’ on the American embassy in Cuba?

In the fall of 2016, American diplomats in Cuba complained of high-pitched sounds that were leading to headaches, vertigo, and hearing loss.

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On Second Thought: Cancer researcher facing potential criminal charges for research misconduct

Cancer researcher Alfredo Fusco has been facing potential criminal charges in Italy for research misconduct for more than five years, including accusations that his lab used a photo studio to doctor images in his published papers.

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Big Data: How climate change is causing the ‘feminization’ of the green turtle

The “feminization” of the species is just one of several looming problems for the green turtle.

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Uncommon Knowledge: Test-taking and crime, infertility and divorce

Insurance that covers in vitro fertilization may keep couples together.

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On Second Thought: Intellectual spammers and self-plagiarism

Recycling is a public good — for plastic, glass and paper, that is. Not so much for the written word.

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Big Data: How much ice is melting from Arctic glaciers into the ocean every year?

447 billion tons, according to a new study.

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Innovation of the Week: Injectable Spirituality

A shot of the spirit, in the thigh.

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Uncommon Knowledge: Trump Republicans, Zip Code Politics, and College-Educated Cops

A collection of unusual insights from the social sciences.

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Subtle Cues: What you’re saying when you blink

We all know conversation is about more than what we say. But could something as subtle as a blink matter?

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Uncommon knowledge: Goal post thrills, speaking fees

A collection of unusual insights from the social sciences.

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On Second Thought: Scientists appear to have duped editors into publishing image with hidden Trump face

Call it the Case of Mt. Flushmore.

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Big Data: the broiler chicken is the most numerous bird on the planet

22.7 Billion chickens — that’s how many broiler chickens are being raised for food at any given time.

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Uncommon Knowledge: White Cities and Black Basketball Stars, Valuable Gestures

A collection of unusual insights from the social sciences.

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Uncommon Knowledge: Keeping secrets, junk-bond presidents, Airbnb photos

A collection of unusual insights from the social sciences.

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On Second Thought: Comfort in the dark?

No, turning out the lights doesn’t make you less afraid of infectious disease.

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Big Data: 75% of amputees can ‘move’ phantom limbs

With that in mind, researchers have developed a prosthetic arm capable of picking up signals from an amputee’s stump and performing a variety of manuevers.

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Innovation of the Week: Pulling over a driverless car

At 3:30 a.m. in Redwood City, Calif., one recent morning, officers in a California Highway Patrol cruiser pulled alongside a Tesla Model S traveling 70 miles per hour — only to observe that the driver was falling asleep, his car apparently set to autopilot.

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50 Words

An off-key holiday crooner.

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Uncommon Knowledge: Republican diplomas, the pitfalls of a late-in-the-alphabet last name

A collection of usual insights from the social sciences.

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On Second Thought: Researchers tried using ketamine to treat bipolar. But they made a huge blunder

Three of the five studies included many of the same patients, a fact the authors failed to identify.

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Humans didn’t kill Africa’s once-plentiful giant herbivores

That’s how long ago Africa’s once-plentiful giant herbivores started going extinct, according to a new study published in the journal Science.

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On second thought: A man of many talents — with a spotty scientific record

Richard M. Fleming may be a man of many talents, but his record as a scientist has been spotty.

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Big Data: 0.32 seconds

That is the typical length of the hand motion that expert Taiwanese chefs use — over and over again for about two minutes — while tossing fried rice in a hot wok.

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Revelation: Why wombats poop in cubes

This is how far scientists are willing to go to investigate the natural world.

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Uncommon Knowledge: Incest, politically correct hypocrisy, and time travel

A collection of usual insights from the social sciences.

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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.