This Week

Science Tells Us What We Need to Know

Every Friday we take a look back at the week’s headlines, centering on a theme we’ve singled out as particularly important. Scientific findings, methodical studies, and reports were at the heart of many of the most interesting headlines this week, reminded us of science’s attempts to dispel myths, fix things, and report on society’s ills.

Report says Breivik massacre has led Norwegians to believe more strongly in their open society:

A survey by the UNI Rokkan Center in Bergen and the Oslo-based Institute for Social Research in August found 52 percent of 2,252 respondents expressed greater, not less, trust in other people after the attacks, although one-third of 18-24-year olds said they were more skeptical of other people.

Incredible: Researchers will redo every 2008 study published in three psychology journals to test for bunk:

The project is part of Open Science Framework, a group interested in scientific values, and its stated mission is to “estimate the reproducibility of a sample of studies from the scientific literature.” This is a more polite way of saying “We want to see how much of what gets published turns out to be bunk.”

Studies find poor neighborhoods have more food of all kinds than more affluent zones:

Within a couple of miles of almost any urban neighborhood, “you can get basically any type of food,” said Roland Sturm of the RAND Corporation, lead author of one of the studies. “Maybe we should call it a food swamp rather than a desert,” he said.

Twenty percent of Americans uninterested in going online:

Most Americans who don’t currently go online have never gone online before -- and no one else in their household uses the Internet.

Researchers marvel at orangutans’ engineering skills while constructing their nests:

Mechanical tests revealed, he said, that orangutans were “choosing branches based on their structural properties”.

Frustrated by FDA approvals, ALS patients home-brew experimental treatments:

“We simply don’t have time to wait for the results of [clinical trials]. Our life spans are much shorter than the [Food and Drug Administration] approval process,” says Ben Harris, 45 years old, a medical physicist from Bloomington, Ind.

Despite pop culture’s best efforts, there’s little connection between personality type and drug of choice:

And as any addict knows, once you’ve taken a shine to a drug, it can be exceedingly difficult to disentangle the personality factors that came before from the ones that came after. By the time the personality questionnaires are administered, who’s to say what caused the drug use and what the drug use caused?

Rent-a-cow tax loophole costs Floridians millions each year:

The statute is meant to preserve farmland by taxing it at special, low rate. But some of the act’s biggest beneficiaries are deep-pocketed developers, who often take advantage of it by literally renting cows.

Psychologists observe link between glucose depletion and decision fatigue or loss of self-control:

Self-regulation is an important part of being a person. You are the central character in the story of your life, the unreliable narrator in the epic tale of your past, present, and future.

Bizarre publicity stunts will appear in otherwise reasonable science articles as long as they draw attention:

Dinosaurs may rule other worlds! That’s what we’re hearing from assorted science news outlets covering a study in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

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