Tania Lombrozo

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.

The second day of January is National Science Fiction Day, an unofficial holiday that corresponds with the official birthdate of Isaac Asimov, the enormously influential and prolific scientist and writer of science fiction.

A couple of weeks ago, I participated in a panel discussion about motherhood in academia.

Along with other female professors with children, I answered questions from the audience, most of whom were female Ph.D. students thinking about whether and when to have children — and whether academia was the right choice for them.

One of the questions — posed with greater eloquence and context — was essentially this: Is it possible to be a good academic and also a good mother?

As humans, we don't just belong to a community of bodies. To borrow a lovely phrase from developmental psychologist Katherine Nelson, we also belong to a "community of minds."

Debunked conspiracy theories have been making the rounds on social media lately, from the thoroughly unsupported claim that millions of people voted illegally in California to false assertions about paid protesters being bused to demonstrations.

When it comes to assessing the possible risks and benefits of science and technology, who is the relevant authority?

University scientists? Industry scientists? Religious organizations?

On Nov. 8, the World Meteorological Organization published a press release summarizing the findings from a report on global climate from 2011-2015.

In an influential book of ethics first published in 1981, the philosopher Peter Singer offers a striking image of moral progress over the course of human history: an expanding circle of moral concern, beginning with our own family or tribe, and expanding over time to include larger groups, nations, families of nations, all humans and perhaps even nonhuman animals.

Millions of Americans will cast a vote for the next president of the United States on Nov. 8 — Election Day — and for countless other offices and propositions.

In case you need the extra encouragement, here are three (more) reasons to vote, courtesy of the social sciences:

Halloween plays on our fears and our fantasies.

We craft haunted houses and scary decorations to evoke particular emotions. We choose our costumes to reflect something about the kinds of people we are or want to be — edgy, sexy, funny, clever. For children, Halloween is an experiment in delayed gratification and negotiation — which candies to eat now, which to trade, which to save. It's no surprise, then, that Halloween might reveal interesting features of human psychology.

But you might be surprised by just what we can learn.

With the presidential election days away — and media attention at full force — let's take a moment to consider some random facts that are not about the election:

1. Seahorses are nearly unique in the animal kingdom in that males carry the fertilized eggs after breeding and eventually "give birth." The number of offspring can reach thousands.

With the advent of Fall, my 2-year-old has been eager to comment on the fading light as we drive home on weeknights.

"It getting dark?" she asks.

And I answer: "Yes, the sun is going down." Only it isn't. Not really. The earth is rotating on its axis, our perch on its surface moving away from the sun.