Weekly Roundup


Check out Richard Dawkins in this widely-shared, bizarre video (weirdness starts at 4:40). If only there was a word to describe something like this that catches on and replicates culturally…

If you want to stop procrastinating, here are six tactics supported by science (via Lifehacker).

Jezebel summarizes recent research purporting to reveal the secrets of attractiveness to the opposite sex. This is bad news for clean-shaven men in dark t-shirts in the winter and non-brunette women on Wednesday afternoons.

According to a recent study, people have the most difficulty falling asleep on Sunday nights. No wonder everyone, including Garfield, hates Mondays.

Researchers have sequenced the oldest genome to date (560-780 thousand years old) using an ancient horse fossil discovered in the Yukon, with ramifications for our understanding of horse evolution. The results were published this week in Nature.

Vaguely reminiscent of the plot from 90’s blockbuster Mercury Rising, the Australian Air Force released its recruitment phone number for engineers as the solution to a complex equation. Unfortunately, two typos meant the original problem was unsolvable; it has since been corrected.

Disaster experts estimate that the battle between Superman and General Zod in the film Man of Steel caused 129 thousand deaths, 1 million injuries, and 2 trillion dollars of damage to the city of Metropolis.

Weekly Roundup

We prefer Baskerville, we hate Comic Sans: Chris Gayomali explains how we’re influenced by typefaces.

Cable TV correlates with lower birthrates in rural Indian and Brazilian villages, but only if the channels include non-imported soap operas.

In honour of Man of Steel‘s release, here are 10 facts about Superman from Scientific American.

The US Supreme Court ruled unanimously that human genes can’t be patented, but that Myriad Genetics, which previously held patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes used in breast cancer diagnoses, can keep its patent on synthesized cDNA. Marie-Claire King, who discovered the BRCA1 gene, is thrilled, but the Supreme Court’s admitted confusion over the molecular biology of the case is worrying to some.

What has four legs and runs like a cat? This “cheetah-cub robot.”


Weekly Roundup

Bill Davidow at The Atlantic is alarmed about the future of Skinnerian online marketing.

Slate advises parents through the quagmire of sunscreen regulation, labelling, safety, effectiveness, and the reality that kids just won’t sit still while you apply it.

Here’s a comprehensive overview of the NSA/PRISM story from GigaOM, including the media’s developing reaction. Unfortunately, it leaves out this nifty redesign of PRISM’s “hideous” Powerpoint slides.

Those who don’t follow traditional family caregiving roles are treated worse in the workplace, according to a forthcoming paper in the Journal of Social Issues.

Astronaut and former ISS commander Chris Hadfield announced his retirement from the CSA.…

How to democratize the NSF without destroying it

At the end of April Lamar S. Smith, Republican chair of the congressional committee on Science, Space, and Technology, made headlines first by drafting legislation aimed at reforming the National Science Foundation’s merit review process, and then by writing a letter to the Acting Director of the NSF asking for details about the review of six proposals, all from the social sciences.

Absent context, Smith’s request seems entirely reasonable:

Based on my review of NSF-funded studies, I have concerns regarding some grants approved by the Foundation and how closely they adhere to NSF’s “intellectual merit” guideline. To better understand how NSF makes decisions to approve and fund grants, it would be helpful to obtain detailed information on specific research projects awarded NSF grants.

Smith’s committee is tasked with holding the NSF accountable to its merit review process, and thus it makes sense to request details about how proposals are judged in order to facilitate proper oversight. What could be wrong with seeking to understand the process better? But this request occurred in the context of congress already gutting the funding for political science research from the NSF and comments from fellow Republican Bill Posey that, “It’s just hard to conceive how those are important to our national security or our national interest.” These are not disinterested politicians doing their due diligence.…