The Week: Most Recent Science Posts recent posts.en-usFri, 31 Oct 2014 11:00:00 -0400http://theweek.com Recent Science Posts from THE WEEKFri, 31 Oct 2014 11:00:00 -0400Quarantine theater<img src="" /></P><p class="p1"><span class="s1">What level of risk to Ebola infections can Americans be expected to tolerate? "Zero" is a comforting answer, especially when an exotic disease has a cinematic impact on the collective imagination. It was in pursuit of zero that Govs. Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo this week imposed a mandatory, 21-day quarantine on all health-care workers returning to their states from West Africa. The governors say that even if there's an infinitesimal risk that a person without symptoms could pass the virus by, say, sharing a subway car, that risk is too high. Cue the applause. But as we should have learned...</span></p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/william-falk" ><span class="byline">William Falk</span></a>Fri, 31 Oct 2014 11:00:00 -0400How science can help you survive scary movies<img src="" /></P><p>My mother's favorite story to tell in October features me as a 3-year-old, sitting down to breakfast at a local diner. The restaurant's walls and windows were bedecked with Halloween cutouts &mdash; think cartoonish ghosts, goblins, and, of course, vampires. I took one look at Dracula and went into a full-blown meltdown, so my mom's friend hurried over and covered him up with a napkin.</p><p>Upon her return, I leaned over and whispered, "I can still see his toes."</p><p>I wish I could say I've outgrown these anxieties about all things that go bump in the night. Alas, my Halloween nerves are as fragile now...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/sarah-eberspacher" ><span class="byline">Sarah Eberspacher</span></a>Fri, 31 Oct 2014 06:11:00 -0400Why it's wise to gamble first, eat later<img src="" /></P><p><br /></p><p>According to conventional wisdom, people in an agitated emotional state tend to make bad, impulsive decisions. Fear and anger often lead us to take actions we later regret.</p><p>But a more recent line of research suggests there is much to be said for the intuitive wisdom of the body. According to mind-body oriented scholars such as Antonio Damasio, uncomfortable sensations that inhibit our normal thought patterns can sometimes provide valuable guidance.</p><p>A research team led by Utrecht University psychologist Denise de Ridder suggests these thinkers are on to something &mdash; at least when the unpleasant...</p> <a href="">More</a>By Tom JacobsWed, 29 Oct 2014 10:59:00 -0400Beware of Splenda: The backlash against artificial sugars<img src="" /></P><p>As a diet soda addict, I knew this day would come. The day when science showed me the error of my assumptions. The day that my brain's quest for a guilt-free sugar fix would slowly begin to die.</p><p>In the latest issue of the journal <em>Nature</em>, scientists report a startling finding. Artificial sweeteners like saccharin (used in the military's field rations), sucralose (Splenda), and aspartame (Diet sodas) changed the microbiome inside mouse intestines so dramatically that they induced hyperglycemia &mdash; glucose intolerance &mdash; the very syndrome that these fake sugars are marketed to prevent.</p>... <a href="">More</a>Marc AmbinderWed, 29 Oct 2014 08:42:00 -0400This celebrity scientist wants Germans to stop recycling. Here's why.<img src="" /></P><p><br /></p><p>BERLIN, Germany &mdash; Michael Braungart is in a hurry.</p><p>A former environmental activist who once scaled smokestacks to fight pollution for Greenpeace, the celebrity chemist has emerged over the past two decades as a dark horse in the race to find solutions for saving the planet.</p><p>Braungart wants to end the current drive for people to "reduce, reuse and recycle" goods in order to prompt the next industrial revolution. His core idea is for manufacturers and users to no longer "consume" raw materials that are turned into waste, but "borrow" them, a concept he calls cradle-to-cradle.</p><p>"It's really...</p> <a href="">More</a>By Jason OverdorfTue, 28 Oct 2014 09:07:00 -0400How quantum computing could change everything<img src="" /></P><p> <br /></p><p>The trend in computing for decades has been packing more power into smaller spaces &mdash; your smartphone, after all, is leagues ahead of the network of computers that sent Apollo 11 to the moon and back. But the next wave of computers, for some dreamers, gets really, <em>really</em> small, down to the quantum level. A quantum computer, essentially, is a way to harness quantum mechanics to process information. Its fundamental unit is called the qubit, analogous to the bit in conventional computers.</p><p><strong>What's it made of?</strong></p><p>A bit in an ordinary computer records one of two states, which we usually think of...</p> <a href="">More</a>By Roxanne PalmerTue, 28 Oct 2014 09:02:00 -0400These two studies should be a wake-up call to natural-childbirth extremists<img src="" /></P><p dir="ltr">There is a lot of guilt surrounding childbirth these days.</p><p dir="ltr">Many women, including actress Kate Winslet, are ashamed about having a C-section. Women who have opted for pain medication have reported feeling guilty about it. Medicalized births can even be a source of PTSD.</p><p dir="ltr">At the center of this guilt is a belief that doctors and hospitals can't be trusted. By doing what medical experts recommend, many think, a woman has somehow failed herself and her child. Indeed, alternative-birth advocates have long cited the high rate of infant mortality and C-sections as reasons to steer clear of a typical,...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/elissa-strauss" ><span class="byline">Elissa Strauss</span></a>Tue, 28 Oct 2014 07:02:00 -0400Why musicians are better multitaskers<img src="" /></P><p><br /></p><p>We all call it "multitasking," but psychologists insist that's a misnomer. Since we can't actually focus on more than one thing at a time, the skill is really "task switching" &mdash; the ability to alternate smoothly and easily between two sets of mental tasks.</p><p>New research from Canada suggests one group of people is able to do that better than the rest of us: trained musicians.</p><p>York University psychologists Linda Moradzadeh, Galit Blumenthal, and Melody Wiseheart report musicians appear to have "superior ability to maintain and manipulate competing information in memory, allowing for efficient...</p> <a href="">More</a>By Tom JacobsMon, 27 Oct 2014 13:01:00 -0400How you judge politicians' attractiveness, according to science<img src="" /></P><p><br /></p><p>Beauty, they say, is in the eyes of the beholdee's in-group.</p><p>At least, that's what they say if "they" means researchers interested in how we perceive political leaders. According to researchers at Cornell University's Lab for Experimental Economics and Decision Research, people seem to be judging the cover in part by the content of the book: Democrats find their political heroes more attractive than Republican leaders, and vice versa.</p><p>Curious to know, essentially, how hot for their leaders partisans and average citizens were, the lab's co-director, Kevin Kniffin, and colleagues conducted a...</p> <a href="">More</a>By Nathan CollinsFri, 24 Oct 2014 08:55:00 -0400Painting the universe's portrait<img src="" /></P><p><br /></p><p>Humans have long strived to describe the universe they find themselves in, whether they believed it was carried on the back of a giant turtle, shaped by an old bearded guy, or came into existence in a fiery explosion.</p><p>As part of this effort to make sense of the totality of reality, people have produced a stunning array of images representing the universe and celestial phenomena, using everything from paintbrushes to supercomputers. Filmmaker and author Michael Benson has collected 320 pages' worth of these artistic portraits of the universe, composed over a span of some 4,000 years, in his new...</p> <a href="">More</a>By World Science Festival StaffThu, 23 Oct 2014 16:15:00 -0400