Scientists may not be able to predict what the world may look like 100 million years from now, but they may be able to look at how diseases like the flu will evolve in a few months, which has the potential to save lives: "Lässig hopes to be able to make predictions about future flu seasons that the World Health Organization could consult as they decide which strains should be included in flu vaccines. 'It’s just a question of a few years,' he said."
PUBLISHED: July 17, 2014
LENGTH: 21 minutes (5407 words)
strobiologists, those who study the science of life beyond Earth, are examining the following question: "Are we alone?"
PUBLISHED: July 1, 2014
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4721 words)
PUBLISHED: June 30, 2014
LENGTH: 12 minutes (3008 words)
An argument for rethinking how we teach the basics of computer science to everyone:
“Code literate.” Sounds nice, but what does it mean? And where does literacy end and fluency begin? The best way to think about that is to look to the history of literacy itself.
Reading and writing have become what researchers have called “interiorized” or “infrastructural,” a technology baked so deeply into everyday human life that we’re never surprised to encounter it. It’s the main medium through which we connect, via not only books and papers, but text messages and the voting booth, medical forms and shopping sites. If a child makes it to adulthood without being able to read or write, we call that a societal failure.
PUBLISHED: June 19, 2014
LENGTH: 26 minutes (6630 words)
Hobby Lobby, a for-profit craft store with more than 23,000 employees, is fighting the provision in the Affordable Care Act that requires employers to provide no-cost birth control through their insurance plans. The case of corporations and religious rights:
It’s one thing to argue that a Catholic college’s daily operations are imbued with a religious ethos. It’s another to contend that a corporation, competing in a secular marketplace, is so fundamentally guided by its owners’ faith that it should enjoy religious-liberty rights.
Becket’s attorneys are applying a similar logic in other cases. Among their clients are religious business owners, almost always Christian, who face discrimination charges for refusing to provide services associated with same-sex weddings. These lawsuits are the cousins of the so-called conscience cases, in which a religious pharmacist who declines to sell emergency contraception runs afoul of state law. Becket is litigating a couple of those, too.
PUBLISHED: June 19, 2014
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5029 words)
The neuroscience of suppressing traumatic memories:
I had come to his house, in this sunny spot between Ben Gurion Airport and the Mediterranean coast, for an unlikely reason: not long ago, after decades of unwavering silence, Sigmund Schiller spoke about his Holocaust experience.
“People talk about ‘Sophie’s Choice’ as if it were a rare event,” he said. “It wasn’t. Everybody had to make Sophie’s choice—all of us. My mother left behind a four-year-old with the maid. You don’t think I was beaten and shot at? There are no violins in my story. It is the most common thing that happened.”
Nobody moved in the Schillers’ living room while the film continued. At times, Daniela hid her eyes with her hands, and so did her father. For the most part, they were immobile. On camera, she asked him if he had consciously suppressed this information.
“Yes,” he said. “You must suppress. Without suppression I wouldn’t live.”
PUBLISHED: June 14, 2014
LENGTH: 26 minutes (6556 words)
Ken Regan was a chess prodigy who earned a master title at 13 and is currently an engineering professor at the University of Buffalo. He's developing a program that would detect cheating in chess, which has become more rampant in a world where button-sized wireless devices have made it easier to take down chess champions:
Regan is a devoted Christian. His faith has inspired in him a moral and social responsibility to fight cheating in the chess world, a responsibility that has become his calling. As an international master and self-described 2600-level computer science professor with a background in complexity theory—he holds two degrees in mathematics, a bachelor’s from Princeton and a doctorate from Oxford—he also happens to be one of only a few people in the world with an ability to commit to such a calling. “Ken Regan is one of two or three people in the world who have the quantitative background, chess expertise, and computer skills necessary to develop anti-cheating algorithms likely to work,” says Mark Glickman, a statistics professor at Boston University and chairman of the USCF ratings committee. Every time Regan starts an instance of his anti-cheating code he does not merely run a piece of software—he invokes it. The dual meaning of “invoke” conveys Regan’s inspired relationship to the anti-cheating work that he does.
PUBLISHED: June 1, 2014
LENGTH: 29 minutes (7381 words)
Our favorite stories of the week, featuring Buzzfeed, The Atlantic, The New York Times Magazine, Mosaic Science and Bloomberg Businessweek.
A story about a handful of girls who have "syndrome X," a rare disease that keeps their bodies in what seems to be a permanent state of infancy:
Brooke was born a few weeks premature at just over 4 pounds. She had many birth defects, including moderate hearing loss, dislocated hips and dysmorphic facial features. Her brain had abnormally large chambers of fluid and lacked a corpus callosum, the bundle of nerve fibres that connects the right and left hemispheres. She had trouble swallowing, and by six months was eating through a feeding tube in her stomach. She always coughed and wheezed. Her paediatrician labelled her with “syndrome X”, not knowing what else to call it.
By age three, Brooke had reached 12 pounds, and she hovered around that weight until age 12, when she appeared on Dateline. After watching the show, Walker tracked down Howard Greenberg’s address and sent him a letter about his scientific background and his interest in Brooke’s case. Two weeks went by before Walker heard back, and after much discussion he was allowed to test Brooke. He was sent Brooke’s medical records as well as blood samples for genetic testing. In 2009, his team published a brief report describing her case.
PUBLISHED: May 20, 2014
LENGTH: 26 minutes (6680 words)