FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
Watch this
March 4, 2014

Frozen's "Let It Go" won Best Original Song at the Oscars on Sunday night — but most viewers agreed that Idina Menzel, who performed the song live at the ceremony, was off her game. Maybe it was the orchestra, which nearly drowned out her singing; maybe it was the weirdly shortened version of "Let It Go" she was required to sing; maybe it was John Travolta butchering her name right before the performance — but whatever the reason, something just wasn't right.

Fortunately, Jimmy Fallon has swept in for a lower-key chance at redemption. On Monday's episode of The Tonight Show, Fallon and The Roots invited Menzel to perform "Let It Go" with a full orchestra of classroom-friendly instruments, including a triangle, a wooden block, and a rainbow xylophone. It's a much less conventional performance than the one Menzel offered at the Oscars on Sunday, but it's also a lot more fun. --Scott Meslow

Iran nuclear deal
5:34 a.m. ET

And then there were three. That's the number of Senate votes the White House needs to sustain President Obama's promised veto of a bill trying to stop the Iran nuclear deal, after Sen. Jeff Merkeley (D-Ore.) became the 31st senator to say he'll vote to support the deal on Sunday. Two more senators — Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) — are leaning toward yes, according to The Washington Post's tally, and 11 senators (10 of them Democrats) are undecided or their vote is unknown.

Although the numbers and momentum appear to favor Obama, it's not over until the votes are cast in the binding resolution of disapproval, expected to be taken up by Congress in mid-September. So heavy-spending advocacy groups are still trying to convince wavering lawmakers to support their side, and various groups of experts or interested parties are issuing letters with the same goal. The newest letter, dated Monday, is from 75 former members of Congress, urging their successors and former colleagues to back the Iran deal. Only four of the signatories are Republicans, but one of them, former Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), is a pretty big name in foreign policy. Sen. George Mitchell (D-Maine) also signed the letter. Peter Weber

mysteries of space
4:25 a.m. ET

Sometimes space is so lovely it puts sci-fi CGI to shame. Late last week, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) released a new photo of the Twin Jets Nebula, or PN M2-9, a "cosmic butterfly" comprised of two stars about the size of the Sun that orbit each other. The bipolar nebula was discovered in 1947 by astronomer Rudolph Minkowski (thus the M in the name), and photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1997. But this new image, captured by Hubble's Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS), is much more detailed, and more stunning:

(ESA/Hubble & NASA, Judy Schmidt)

You can read more about the Twin Jet Nebula, and how the dying stars are producing the shimmering wings of gas, at NASA. Or you can get much of the same information from the Wall Street Journal video below. Peter Weber

Weights and Measures
3:22 a.m. ET

Body mass index (BMI) doesn't tell the whole story about your weight and health, says Albert Sun at The New York Times. The formula commonly used to determine obesity (or underweight) is so popular because it's easy to measure height and weight. But in 18 percent of cases, according to data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, BMI gets it wrong.

In 11 percent of cases, people labeled overweight have healthy amounts of fat, and 31 percent of those underweight or normal weight have excess fat. More men are "healthy obese" than "skinny fat," while the reverse is true for women. Here's what the women's weight/fat data look like mapped out:

The CDC measured body fat percentage with a type of X-ray called a DXA scan, Sun explains, and the discrepancy between that more expensive measurement and BMI matters: "The consequence is that some perfectly healthy high-BMI people might be unnecessarily worried about their weight or penalized by higher insurance premiums. And some normal-BMI people may be fatter than they realize and facing the same health risks as the obese." You can learn more, and see the men's weight/fat spread graphed out, at The New York Times. Peter Weber

the circle of life
3:02 a.m. ET

Some people might look at a newly discovered crustacean and think "it looks like a shrimp," but Dr. James Thomas saw Elton John.

The species Leucothoe eltoni lives in the reefs of Indonesia and Hawaii, where it is likely an invasive species. Thomas, a professor at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, said he's listened to John's music in his lab throughout his scientific career, and that's how he came up with the name. "When this unusual crustacean with a greatly enlarged appendage appeared under my microscope after a day of collecting, an image of the shoes Elton John wore as the Pinball Wizard [in the movie Tommy] came to mind," he said.

Scientists who discover new species are given the honor of coming up with a name, which is why there was once a reptile named after Jim Morrison, and there are coral reefs in the Caribbean with parasites recognizing Bob Marley, the Christian Science Monitor reports. Researchers are still studying the L. eltoni, and Thomas says that finding the new species shows "the important of regular environmental monitoring, especially in tropical environments." Catherine Garcia

explainers
2:31 a.m. ET

Europe is facing a lot of tough, complicated choices — and some very visible tragedies — as it deals with a huge influx of migrants from Africa, Afghanistan, and the Middle East. But as The Economist explains in the video below, the would-be refugees from the various areas have more or less settled on specific routes to Europe. If you want a better understanding of Europe's biggest current problem, this video will give you a good, helpful overview of what's going on in the European Union and the decisions it faces in the next months and years. Peter Weber

Health
2:30 a.m. ET
iStock

The American Academy of Pediatrics is advising parents and pediatricians to talk to kids about drinking alcohol when they are 9 years old.

"Surveys indicate that children start to think positively about alcohol between ages 9 and 13 years," Dr. Lorena Siqueira, a pediatrician, and colleagues wrote in the journal Pediatrics. "The more young people are exposed to alcohol advertising and marketing, the more likely they are to drink, and if they are already drinking, this exposure leads them to drink more."

The authors write that 21 percent of young people say they have had more than a sip of alcohol before the age of 13, and 79 percent have done so by 12th grade. Oftentimes, they are also drinking in excess because they are inexperienced when it comes to consuming alcohol. "Among youth who drink, the proportion who drink heavily is higher than among adult drinkers, rising from approximately 50 percent in those 12 to 14 years of age to 72 percent among those 18 to 20 years of age," the authors wrote.

The new guidance, published on Monday, advises pediatricians to screen every adolescent patient for alcohol use, and remind parents of some good news: 80 percent of teenagers say their parents have an influence on their decision whether to drink. Catherine Garcia

bangkok bombing
1:40 a.m. ET
Christophe Archambault/AFP/Getty Images

On Monday, Thai police said they found bomb-making materials at an apartment in the Min Buri district of Bangkok, the second such discovery since Saturday, when they arrested an unidentified foreigner and seized detonators, ball bearings, a metal pipe, and other equipment they said was intended to build a bomb.

The second raid uncovered fertilizer, digital clocks, remote control cars, and gunpowder. "These are bomb-making materials," said national police spokesman Prawuth Thavornsiri. "Nobody would keep urea fertilizer and gunpowder unless they wanted to make a bomb."

Police say they believe the foreigner arrested Saturday was part of a network that set off the deadly Aug. 17 bomb blast at Bangkok's Erawan Shrine. Reports online have suggested that the suspect entered Thailand on a Turkish passport, but Prawuth said they are working with "a number of embassies" to figure out the man's nationality. And the interrogation isn't proceeding very fast. "He is not cooperating much," Prawuth said. "From our preliminary investigation, we think he isn't telling us the truth." Peter Weber

See More Speed Reads