“Why did they do it?” That’s one of the first questions on the lips of every reporter and pundit after a tragedy like the Boston Marathon bombing, and often there is no satisfying answer. In cases of domestic terrorism, the motives of the perpetrator leave us with other, equally difficult questions: what separates angry young men, most of whom will never commit acts of mass violence, from those who do?
Two weeks ago, Congress passed a continuing budget resolution that included an amendment to cease all funding of political science research. Currently, Poly-Sci gets about ten million dollars a year in support from the national science foundation. In a recent series of posts on Pacific Standard, Seth Masket, political scientist at the University of Denver, says his field has become a new political punching bag. We’ve asked Seth on to tell us why…and why he thinks such research matters.
Dating sites like E-Harmony and Match.com use complex math to bring people together. Now, a project funded by the Michael J. Fox foundation is leveraging similar matchmaking algorithms to link people with Parkinson’s disease to appropriate clinical trials.
The science behind our most-sought after emotional state has positively exploded in recent years – with psychologists and social scientists probing just about everything – income, gender, relationships, kids, chocolate – in an effort to find out what makes us more or less happy. June Gruber is Assistant Professor of Psychology at Yale University, and Director of the Yale Positive Emotion and Psychopathology lab.
Icons of creativity like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg are romanticized as lone wolves, toiling alone deep into the night on ideas that one day change the world. Truth is, most get help along the way. Even Thomas Edison had a crew: 40 or so scientists helped him invent the light bulb. So is it the 'I' or the team that matters most?
Scientists at the University of Illinois report that they have mapped the physical architecture of the brain with accuracy never before achieved. Their study, published in Brain: A Journal of Neurology is the largest, most comprehensive analysis so far of the brain structures vital to general intelligence –which depends on a remarkably circumscribed neural system – and to specific cognitive functions, like memory, self-control and recognizing speech.
Proponents of the death penalty often argue that the threat of being executed acts as a deterrent that prevents people from committing murder. But those who oppose capital punishment challenge that claim. And some researchers argue that state-sanctioned execution might actually increase homicide rates.
Now, a panel of independent experts convened by the prestigious National Research Council has taken a look at this question and decided that the available research offers no useful information for policymakers.
March Madness begins this week. Pro-basketball stars like Larry Bird and Magic Johnson built their legends in college basketball: both players were known for coming through at critical moments. Others, like Lebron James, are accused of not being able to handle the heat – or come through in the clutch. A wave of new academic research on last-second shots, free throws and playing time recently hit the court.
Rap mogul Jay-Z and his pop star wife Beyonce welcomed a baby girl at Lenox Hill hospital two weeks ago. The news quickly outpaced other top stories on Twitter, helped along by the announcement of her name: Blue Ivy Carter, just the latest celebrity moniker to inspire a collective groan and the Twitter hashtag #NamesBetterThanBlueIvy.
Word of Mouth keeps its eye out for stories that are interesting, counterintuitive, many of which come from the world of science. It’s part of our mission to find the under-reported, simmering, surprising ideas that make us go “what?”