The Week: Most Recent Science Posts recent posts.en-usFri, 19 Sep 2014 06:08:00 -0400http://theweek.com Recent Science Posts from THE WEEKFri, 19 Sep 2014 06:08:00 -0400How our botched understanding of 'science' ruins everything<img src="" /></P><p>Here's one certain sign that something is very wrong with our collective mind: Everybody uses a word, but no one is clear on what the word actually means.</p><p>One of those words is "science."</p><p>Everybody uses it. Science says this, science says that. You must vote for me because science. You must buy this because science. You must hate the folks over there because science.</p><p>Look, science is really important. And yet, who among us can easily provide a clear definition of the word "science" that matches the way people employ the term in everyday life?</p><p>So let me explain what science actually is. Science...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/pascal-emmanuel-gobry" ><span class="byline">Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry</span></a>Fri, 19 Sep 2014 06:08:00 -0400Is it true that elephants never forget?<img src="" /></P><p><br /></p><p>Elephants are incredible creatures. The largest land mammals on earth, they show a wide range of behavioral and emotional patterns in their up-to-60-year lifespans. They grieve over the bodies of dead herd members, and can even recognize their own reflections in a mirror. And, of course, there's that old saying: "Elephants never forget." While it may be an exaggeration, there's more truth to the adage than you might realize.</p><p>In the wild, an elephant's memory is key to its survival &mdash; and its herd's. Each herd has a matriarchal structure, with one older female in charge. When younger males...</p> <a href="">More</a>By Sean HutchinsonThu, 18 Sep 2014 17:10:00 -0400Will the Higgs Boson destroy the universe in a cosmic death bubble?<img src="" /></P><p><br /></p><p>No, it won't.</p><p>Some context: recently, several press outlets took a chunk of Stephen Hawking's latest book and ran a bit off the deep end with it, reporting that the "God Particle" was going to wipe out the universe. Here's what Hawking wrote in the preface to the upcoming book <em>Starmus</em>:</p><p >The Higgs potential has the worrisome feature that it might become metastable at energies above 100bn gigaelectronvolts (GeV). This could mean that the universe could undergo catastrophic vacuum decay, with a bubble of the true vacuum expanding at the speed of light. This could happen at any time and we wouldn...</p> <a href="">More</a>By Roxanne PalmerWed, 17 Sep 2014 08:47:00 -0400Why you make best friends in the worst circumstances<img src="" /></P><p><br /></p><p>Managers: Are you having trouble melding your employees into a cohesive group? Is getting them to trust and cooperate with one another proving to be a challenge?</p><p>Well, newly published research offers an effective, if not especially ethical, solution to your problem: Inflict some pain.</p><p>A new study from Australia suggests rituals such as arduous initiation rites serve a real purpose. It reports experiencing physical discomfort is an effective way for a group of strangers to cohere into a close-knit group.</p><p>"Shared pain may be an important trigger for group formation," a research team led by psychologist...</p> <a href="">More</a>By Tom JacobsWed, 17 Sep 2014 08:33:00 -0400Is back pain ruining your sex life?<img src="" /></P><p><br /></p><p>Sex and lower back pain might be the perfect recipe for a screwball comedy, but both the pain and the fear of exacerbating it are very real downers for a couple's sex life. Take heart, though: A new guide to sexual positions could help improve the mood.</p><p>Somewhere around four in five people will experience serious back pain at least once in their lifetimes, and a third or more of those report that pain affects their sex lives, says Natalie Sidorkewitz, a doctoral student at the University of Waterloo's Spine Biomechanics Laboratory and lead author of a new study that takes a look at how men's...</p> <a href="">More</a>By Nathan CollinsMon, 15 Sep 2014 09:25:00 -04005 animals that eat brains<img src="" /></P><p><br /></p><p><strong>1. Lumholtz' tree kangaroo (Dendrolagus Lumoltzi)</strong></p><p><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p><p>Adorable though they may be, these marsupials have been known to add a dash of protein to their predominantly herbivorous diets by horking down the occasional bird brain. Unconcerned with waste management, tree kangaroos generally discard the rest of the corpse after consuming the gray matter.</p><p>(<strong><strong><span class="il">More</span> from <em><span class="il">Mental</span> <span class="il">Floss</span></em>: </strong></strong>The stories behind 10 Johnny Cash songs)</p><p><strong>2. Great tit (Parus Major)</strong></p><p><object id="flashObj" width="560" height="315" bgcolor="#FFFFFF" data="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash"><param name="flashVars" value="videoId=37869012001&amp;playerID=2227271001&amp;playerKey=AQ~~,AAAAADqBmN8~,Yo4S_rZKGX0rYg6XsV7i3F9IB8jNBoiY&amp;domain=embed&amp;dynamicStreaming=true" /><param name="base" value="" /><param name="seamlesstabbing" value="false" /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><param name="swLiveConnect" value="true" /><param name="allowScriptAccess" value="always" /><param name="src" value="" /><param name="flashvars" value="videoId=37869012001&amp;playerID=2227271001&amp;playerKey=AQ~~,AAAAADqBmN8~,Yo4S_rZKGX0rYg6XsV7i3F9IB8jNBoiY&amp;domain=embed&amp;dynamicStreaming=true" /><param name="allowfullscreen" value="true" /><param name="swliveconnect" value="true" /><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always" /><param name="pluginspage" value="" /></object></p><p>The great tit's powerful beak is an excellent nut-smashing tool. It also doubles as a handy-dandy bat-skull-crusher. Seeds and insects are the favored cuisine...</p> <a href="">More</a>By Mark ManciniSun, 14 Sep 2014 09:00:00 -0400Is there really such a thing as a 'morning person'?<img src="" /></P><p><br /></p><p>Benjamin Franklin once said, "Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise." But in Franklin&rsquo;s time most people slept in an unconsolidated fashion: They went to "first sleep" shortly after the sun went down, and woke four or five hours later for a few hours of activity before returning to "second sleep." Franklin himself liked to use the time between sleeps one and two to read naked in a chair.</p><p>Industrialization and electric lighting put the unconsolidated sleep pattern to rest, so to speak, and today most adults in the U.S. are expected to work from mid-morning...</p> <a href="">More</a>By Clare Smith MarashThu, 11 Sep 2014 17:19:00 -0400What I learned from hanging out with lemurs<img src="" /></P><p>Ardrey the aye-aye was showing signs of pregnancy. That means nest-building, the presence of a sperm plug, or simply not womping on any nearby males. Aye-ayes are lemurs, after all, and lemurs tend to be female dominant &mdash; which means male lemurs spend a lot of the day trying not to get the crap kicked out of them.</p><p>Because Ardrey is one of just 50 aye-ayes in the entire world living in captivity, her handlers at the Duke Lemur Center were anxious to give her a prenatal exam. Aye-ayes are considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and sustaining a captive...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/jason-bittel" ><span class="byline">Jason Bittel</span></a>Thu, 11 Sep 2014 14:05:00 -0400Here's a big problem: Most surgical research ignores women<img src="" /></P><p><br /></p><p>The push to encourage women to enter STEM fields has become so ubiquitous that there are op-eds written seemingly every week, a dedicated page on the White House website, and even a line of interactive dolls. A lesser-known gender discrepancy in science, however, is the lack of female research subjects. Despite a 1993 law requiring women and minorities to be included as subjects in clinical research funded by the National Institutes of Health, women continue to be under-represented.</p><p>Of course, clinical trials (testing medical interventions on human subjects) are only a small subset of medical...</p> <a href="">More</a>By Bettina ChangThu, 11 Sep 2014 08:32:00 -0400Why our molecular makeup can't explain who we are<img src="" /></P><p><br /></p><p>Can the behavior of molecules and cells explain human behavior? The question of how the social becomes biological is, in one sense, about linking social effects with biological causes. Those causes are now more accessible than ever, thanks to new tools that researchers use to get under the hood in biology. But are we really connecting cause with effect? A close look at this research reveals a giant gap in our understanding of the relationship between molecular and human behavior. It's a gap that we will rarely bridge.</p><p>At first glance, you would think we have ample reason to be optimistic. For...</p> <a href="">More</a>By Michael WhiteSun, 07 Sep 2014 08:00:00 -0400