Tania Lombrozo

Do mass shootings, like the tragic event in Las Vegas on the evening of Oct. 1, change people's minds about gun control?

From a policy perspective, we can ask whether changes in gun regulations would likely affect the occurrence of mass shootings and other forms of gun violence. (We certainly should be asking these questions.)

Curiosity is a familiar feeling among people.

But as soon as we scrutinize that feeling, curiosity reveals itself to be a complex emotion indeed. Just ask yourself: Is curiosity a positive feeling or a negative feeling? Is it more like frustration or more like anticipation? Is it a painful reminder of what we don't (yet) know, or a thrilling beacon towards what we might soon discover?

To appreciate that some questions are better than others, it helps to consider a few examples of questions that are bad.

To find them, try playing Twenty Questions with a young child. In trying to guess an animal, a young child might ask: Is it a koala? Is it an elephant? (Not: Is it a mammal? Does it live in Africa?) These are bad questions in the sense that they're unlikely to yield an efficient solution to the problem of discovering the animal one's adversary has chosen.

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Early-childhood and elementary school programs reflect a diverse set of commitments about what children ought to learn, and about how they ought to do so.

Some focus on academic preparation and advancement, with extra attention to reading and mathematics. Some emphasize social-emotional development and community values. Others tout their language classes, or their music program, or the opportunities for children to engage in extended projects of their choosing. Some praise structure and discipline; some prize autonomy and play.

A few years ago, my daughter requested that her nightly lullaby be replaced with a bedtime story.

I was happy to comply, and promptly invented stories full of imaginary creatures in elaborate plots intended to convey some important lesson about patience or hard work or being kind to others.

The gold standard for establishing a causal relationship — between, say, a drug and some health outcome — is a randomized controlled trial, or RCT.

RCTs are powerful for a few reasons.

Those of my generation have seen enormous advances in speech recognition systems.

In the early days, the user had to train herself to the system, exaggerating phonemes, speaking in slow staccato bursts. These days, it's the system that trains itself to the user. The results aren't perfect, but they're pretty darn good.

A new paper by philosophers Dominik Klein and Matteo Colombo, forthcoming in the journal Episteme, defines a mystery as something that cannot be explained.

This definition doesn't stray too far from our everyday usage. The first definition of mystery to appear on a Google search, for example, is "something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain."

As June comes to an end, so do many events associated with Pride Month, a month-long celebration of sexual diversity and gender variance — often geared towards increasing the visibility of the LGBTQIA community, as well as combatting stigma and advocating for equal rights.

Last week at the supermarket, my daughter pulled me aside to choose a Father's Day card for her daddy.

Helping her read the cards was easy; explaining them to her was not (especially the funny ones). So when we got home, I did what any scientifically minded parent would do: I looked to the scientific literature for answers. I was lucky enough to find a journal article published just this month on the neurobiology of fatherhood. It clarified quite a lot.

One of the challenges that can arise in communicating science and other forms of scholarship to non-experts is the jargon involved.

How many people can confidently explain the meaning of broadband asymmetric acoustic transmission, mural lymphatic endothelial cells, or graded incoherence (to borrow some phrases from recent journal publications)?

CRISPR, 5 Ways

Jun 5, 2017

CRISPR, which stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, is the basis for a revolutionary genome-editing technology that allows researchers to make very precise modifications to DNA.

The implications are enormous — not only for the treatment of disease, but also for genetic engineering and scientific research more broadly.

When I first became a professor, I was 26. And female. (I'm no longer 26 but still female.)

Two years ago, when my children were 1 and 4, I "found" the following poem with the help of Google's autocomplete search function:

Today, with children now ages 3 and 6, I decided to repeat the experiment:

What I take away: First, motherhood is hard. That's just what the data suggest.

Drawing the boundary between science and pseudoscience isn't always straightforward.

Amid the clear extremes is a murky territory occupied by bad science, fraudulent science, and sometimes even religion. Is creation science, for example, an example of bad science, pseudoscience, or something else entirely?

Last Saturday, a powerful earthquake struck the Philippines.

It was first reported as having a magnitude of 7.2; this was later corrected to 6.8.

Last Saturday, tens of thousands of people across the country joined the March for Science, an event that the official website described as "the first step of a global movement to defend the vital role science plays in our health, safety, economies, and governments."

We make dozens of decisions on a daily basis: what to have for breakfast, which task to complete first, which article to read.

Most of these decisions are easy.

But then there are the hard decisions — the ones we agonize over, the ones that lead to sleepless nights. These decisions are hard for two reasons: because no single option clearly dominates the alternatives, and because we expect our choice to have significant consequences. It's these two elements that explain why hard decisions should be easy — but are not.

Let's start with the first reason.

As an undergraduate, I majored in philosophy — a purportedly useless major, except that it teaches you how to think, write and speak.

Calling someone a "skeptic" can be a term of praise or condemnation.

Too often, it expresses approval when the target of skepticism is a claim we reject, and disapproval when the target is a claim we hold dear. I might praise skepticism towards homeopathic medicine, but disdain skepticism towards human evolution. Someone with a very different set of beliefs might praise skepticism regarding the moon landing, but disdain skepticism regarding the existence of God.

Blogger Tania Lombrozo is an academic — and a mom. Here, she gives a window into what that's like day-to-day.

6:00 a.m. I'm yanked from sleep by the little one calling from her room. "Mommy! Is it time to wake up yet? Can I get up now? Pleeeeeeaaaase?" The answer is "no," but I get up anyway.

March 20 is the International Day of Happiness, the result of a UN resolution adopted in 2012 that identifies the pursuit of happiness as "a fundamental human goal" and promotes a more holistic approach to public policy and economic growth — one that recognizes happiness and wellbeing as important pieces of sustainable and equitable development.

Young kids are known for exploration and explanation; they poke and they prod, they open and push, they ask: "Why? Why? Why?"

With the passage of time, the cool blues of winter give way to the festive pastels of spring; the vibrant colors of summer presage the warm, leafy palette of fall.

Alongside these changes in nature come changes in fashion and cosmetics; people dress for the season not only to keep warm or cool, but to match the spirit of the moment.

But do these seasonal variations in our color experiences and color choices also affect our color preferences? Is lavender better liked in spring, and burnt umber better liked in fall?

This Sunday, Feb. 12, is Darwin Day, an international day of celebration commemorating the birth of Charles Darwin and his contributions to science.

It's also an excuse for science- and evolution-themed events around the globe, and for all of us to take a moment to appreciate the value of science and the wonders of the natural world.

In a post published last week, Adam Frank argued for the importance of public facts, and of science as a method for ascertaining them.

He emphasized the role of agreement in establishing public facts, and verifiable evidence as the crucial ingredient that makes agreement possible.

Do you think you're more honest than the average person? More principled? More fair?

If so, you're not alone. Studies consistently find that people think they're morally superior to others: more honest, principled and fair. This is hardly an isolated belief — people also think they're better than average when it comes to competence, intelligence and a host of other positive characteristics.

On Jan. 9, 2007, 10 years ago today, Steve Jobs formally announced Apple's "revolutionary mobile phone" — a device that combined the functionality of an iPod, phone and Internet communication into a single unit, navigated by touch.

It was a huge milestone in the development of smartphones, which are now owned by a majority of American adults and are increasingly common across the globe.

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