Weekly Roundup

As we’ve previously discussed, when you decide to name something with an online poll, you shouldn’t be surprised when the winning name isn’t quite what you wanted. And to preempt your disappointment, let me stress that it’s unlikely we’ll see the RRS Boaty McBoatface anytime soon, because the Natural Environment Research Council gave themselves final say. But that’s what makes these cases closer to how democracy really works.

To be a successful historian, it helps to be the only one working in your area. Like Andrew Groen, whose book describes the context of the Great War and its influence on remaining political structures… in the EVE Online MMO.

Whether we find extraterrestrial life depends on what scientists consider to be alive.

Here are the winners of Popular Science’s 2016 Invention Awards.

We’re so invested in the idea of our superiority to other animals that we find it hard to acknowledge their specific achievements, argues Frans de Waal.

Money can’t buy me happiness, but I’m happiest when I can buy what I want: It turns out that having money available in your checking account (and not total earnings, savings, net worth, credit, or amount of debt) has the greatest effect on individual happiness. Liquid assets, particularly the first $1000, contribute most highly to life satisfaction.…

Weekly Roundup

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SeaWorld has committed to stop breeding killer whales in captivity after years of protests and declining sales resulting from Blackfish, the documentary detailling the conditions of orcas in captivity and the deaths of several trainers in marine parks. This is good news for animal-rights activists. But now SeaWorld faces another crowd of upset stakeholders: marine biologists who want to study orcas in captivity. I guess you can’t please everyone.

Here is a rundown of the response from scientists to Andrew Wakefield’s anti-vaccination film that contributed to its removal from the Tribeca film festival.

Is it unusual to be surprised that the general public lacks complete, up-to-date knowledge based on the latest breaking evidence about a disease outbreak? Science News doesn’t think so, and takes us to task for having “flunked” this Harvard public health survey about Zika. Here are 5 things Science News wants people to know about the virus, and pay attention, because there might be a test.

The bioethics of paternity testing suggest consent and discretion, but this gets muddy when a single case combines the Church of England, Winston Churchill’s cabinet, DNA evidence, and investigative journalism. It turns out that Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is actually the son of the late Sir Anthony Montague Browne, Winston Churchill’s private secretary, and Jane Williams (Lady Williams of Elvel), who was then Churchill’s personal secretary.

After launching an inflatable module for the ISS into space, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket successfully landed on a ship at sea for the first time.

John Yudkin, the nutritional scientist who discovered that sugar, not fat, was the culprit behind obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, faced ridicule, personal attacks, and loss of institutional support because his findings challenged the prevailing low-fat orthodoxy. His story offers a useful case study in the intractability of scientific theories and a warning that the path from evidence to policy is fraught with research trendiness, charisma, corporate interests, and political influence.…

Weekly Roundup


Now that’s interdisciplinarity! Ancient Norse sagas and satellite imaging have led to the discovery of a potential second Viking settlement in Newfoundland.

NPR has the secrets of the elusive doubly fry.

In a recent discovery of parallel evolution, blind waterfall-climbing cave fish in Thailand can walk the way vertebrates on land do.

For some reason, Microsoft thought it would be a good idea to build an AI that could talk like a millennial on Twitter. Sophisticated chatbot Tai emulated humans on social media so well that she was making racist tirades within a day.

In a new addition to the plant behaviour debate, there’s evidence that plants remember (or forget, depending on your interpretation) experiences that aren’t harmful.

The Tribeca film festival is no longer screening discredited physician Andrew Wakefield’s anti-vaccination film Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe.

Thanks to what happens when you multiply fractions, only 2.7% of American adults have the 4 behaviours that constitute the basics of a healthy lifestyle.…