1. How to Beat a Roomful of Chess Champions
[Language warning: Contains one British expletive]
Women drivers are more likely to be involved in an accident, according to scientists.
Researchers looked at 6.5million car crashes and found a higher than expected number of accidents between two female drivers.
They also discovered that women have a tough time negotiating crossroads, T-junctions and slip roads.
The results are even more surprising given that men spend more time behind the wheel than women. On average, men drive 60 per cent of the time, and women 40 per cent.
Every polar bear alive today shares a common maternal ancestor, and it isn’t even a bear from the same species. Their mitochondrial DNA reveals a 100,000 year story of interbreeding and hybridization…and the story is far from over.
7. Weird News of the Week: Oklahoma inmate’s tribute to Larry Bird’s number 33 backfired
Just about everyone thinks Eric Torpy is a birdbrain.
In October 2005, Torpy asked an Oklahoma County judge to tack on three more years to his 30-year prison sentence for armed robbery and two counts of shooting with intent to kill.
“He said if he was going down, he was going to go down in Larry Bird’s jersey,’’ Oklahoma District Judge Ray Elliott told the Associated Press back then. “He was just as happy as he could be.’’
But after sharing a 10-foot-by-15-foot cell at the Davis Correctional Facility for the last six years, Torpy regrets asking for the extra time.
“Now that I have to do that time, yes I do,’’ says Torpy. “I kind of wished that I had 30 instead of 33. Recently I’ve wisened up.
From the beginning, there were technical problems. The Apollo 11 astronauts had difficulty getting the pole deep enough into the lunar soil. And they had trouble extending the full apparatus, designed to keep the flag upright and outstretched in a place where there is never any wind.
Things did not turn out perfectly on the moon, as the flag ended up being bunched up a bit anyway, curator Needell says.
However, the minor malfunction made for an even better effect, the sense that old glory was waving in the breeze.
The flags waving behind are now among the most defining images of our time. But what happened to them is a question University of California Santa Barbara librarian Annie Platoff has been trying to answer.
In The Pursuit of Attention, sociologist Charles Derber shares the fascinating results of a study done on face-to-face interactions, in which researchers watched 1,500 conversations unfold and recorded how people traded and vied for attention. Dr. Derber discovered that despite good intentions, and often without being aware of it, most people struggle with what he has termed “conversational narcissism.”
Conversational narcissists always seek to turn the attention of others to themselves. Your first reaction to this statement is likely, “Oh, I don’t do that, but I know someone who does!” But not so fast. Conversational narcissism typically does not manifest itself in obviously boorish plays for attention; most people give at least some deference to social norms and etiquette. Instead, it takes much more subtle forms, and we’re all guilty of it from time to time. Everyone has felt that itch where we couldn’t wait for someone to stop talking so we could jump in; we pretended to be listening intently, but we were really focusing on what we were about to say once we found an opening.
12. Image of the Week: The Church in the Clouds
This beautiful image is the Church of Primus and St. Felician, which sits atop a mountain near Jamnik, Slovenia. The photographer responsible appears to be Jony2, a member of a Slovenian-language photography forum.
If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generations of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words? I believe it is the atomic hypothesis (or the atomic fact, or whatever you wish to call it) that all things are made of atoms—little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another. In that one sentence, you will see, there is an enormous amount of information about the world, if just a little imagination and thinking are applied.
15. Infographic of the Week: A Day in the Life of a Prisoner
For many in the West, poverty is almost synonymous with hunger. Indeed, the announcement by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in 2009 that more than 1 billion people are suffering from hunger grabbed headlines in a way that any number of World Bank estimates of how many poor people live on less than a dollar a day never did.
But is it really true? Are there really more than a billion people going to bed hungry each night? Our research on this question has taken us to rural villages and teeming urban slums around the world, collecting data and speaking with poor people about what they eat and what else they buy, from Morocco to Kenya, Indonesia to India. We’ve also tapped into a wealth of insights from our academic colleagues. What we’ve found is that the story of hunger, and of poverty more broadly, is far more complex than any one statistic or grand theory; it is a world where those without enough to eat may save up to buy a TV instead, where more money doesn’t necessarily translate into more food, and where making rice cheaper can sometimes even lead people to buy less rice.
The Belly Button Biodiversity project recently began taking DNA samples from people’s navels to find out what bacteria is living within. Of the roughly 1,400 bacterial strains discovered thus far, at least 662 of them are completely unknown.
We wrote about the North Carolina State project a couple months back, and now the initial results on their first human investigations are in. The researchers swabbed the bellybuttons of 95 volunteers, and then used the 16S ribosomal RNA of the various bacterial strains to identify them. Using that method, they found they couldn’t even identify the family, let alone the species, of hundreds of microbes, which strongly suggests they were previously unknown.
ackson Pollock, famous for his deceptively random-seeming drip paintings, took advantage of certain features of fluid dynamics years before physicists thought to study them.
“His particular painting technique essentially lets physics be a player in the creative process,” said physicist Andrzej Herczynski of Boston College, coauthor of a new paper in Physics Today that analyzes the physics in Pollock’s art. “To the degree that he lets physics take a role in the painting process, he is inviting physics to be a coauthor of his pieces.”
22. HistoricalLOL of the Week
Modern warfare is a messy, erratic, complicated business, defined by the unpredictability of the next insurgent or terrorist attack. But apparently, all that chaotic violence is nothing a physicist can’t figure out. All it takes is a bit of math – and a little inspiration from Alice in Wonderland.
In a paper published last week in Science, researchers present an equation to describe how fatal attacks escalate – whether it’s a suicide bombing in Lebanon or an insurgent attack in Kabul. “The way in which those attacks occur as time goes on has a particular mathematical form,” says physicist Neil Johnson of the University of Miami, Florida, who led the study. That form, associated with everything from puzzle solving to ship building, is a progress or learning curve: the more you do something, the better (and quicker) you get. In this case, it’s the insurgents who are doing the learning.
Rosalind Picard’s eyes were wide open. I couldn’t blame her. We were sitting in her office at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab, and my questions were stunningly incisive. In fact, I began to suspect that I must be one of the savviest journalists she had ever met.
Then Picard handed me a pair of special glasses. The instant I put them on I discovered that I had got it all terribly wrong. That look of admiration, I realised, was actually confusion and disagreement. Worse, she was bored out of her mind. I became privy to this knowledge because a little voice was whispering in my ear through a headphone attached to the glasses. It told me that Picard was “confused” or “disagreeing”. All the while, a red light built into the specs was blinking above my right eye to warn me to stop talking. It was as though I had developed an extra sense.
27. Better Book Titles of the Week – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Faust
28. How-To of the Week: Be the First Responder to 10 Disasters
Some baseball fans are content simply to watch the game they love and argue its age-old debates. But then there are baseball fans who also happen to be scientists.
Physicist Alan Nathan of the University of Illinois and mechanical engineer Lloyd Smith of Washington State University wanted to put some of the biggest baseball myths out there—corked bats hitting farther, juiced balls and the effect of humidity on baseballs—to the test. Because collecting measurements on a live batter is next to impossible, Nathan says, the team turned to an advanced testing lab that Smith designed at Washington State.
Now the stuff of history books, the iconic photographs of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States were once front-page news: snarling dogs, baton-wielding police, high-pressure fire hoses, and more used to keep African-American men, women, and children from realizing the promise of the American dream. White Northerners saw such images and pushed for legislation such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to aid African Americans, bringing to an end that sad chapter of American history. Or so the story goes. In Seeing through Race: A Reinterpretation of Civil Rights Photography, Martin A. Berger argues that the story in the history books isn’t true. Instead, Berger believes, those images portrayed African-Americans as weak and incapable of saving themselves—a portrayal that continues to prevent true equality and plagues race relations to this day.
33. The Cello Song