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  • coriolis swirl toilet

    Watch Water Levitate, Flow Up, & Swirl the Wrong Way in the Other Hemisphere

    The conventional wisdom is all wrong. Countless parents and teachers have gotten it twisted. The BBC and PBS aired bogus explanations. Even textbooks have botched the story. The Earth’s rotation, and the Coriolis effect that results, do not cause water to circle the drain in opposite directions in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Well, actually, […]

  • stone handaxes

    Does Culture Really Evolve Like Organisms Do?

    It’s become common to think about cultural change the same way we think about biological evolution—so common that it may obscure whether the comparison really works. Though there remain many questions yet to answer about biological evolution, it’s a process that’s well-understood. We know, in great detail, how variations emerge, how they’re passed on hereditarily, […]

  • counting votes in Worcester Mass

    Why Were the UK Election Polls So Wrong? A Statistical Mystery

    Workers count votes at a polling place in Worcester, Mass.SuperStock via Getty Images Last Thursday the UK’s Conservative Party stomped to an electoral victory that fairly shocked the country. The Tories won a comfortable majority of seats in parliament, enabling them to govern the nation without a coalition partner. That result contrasted sharply with the […]

  • crossroads baker explosion

    Why Hasn’t the World Been Destroyed in a Nuclear War Yet?

    The precariousness of game theory.

  • domino spiral

    7 Videos That Show the Apex of the Art of Dominoes

    If there is one thing that having the Internet in our lives has shown most clearly, it may be that anything you can think of as a hobby is also an obsession to a not-insignificant number of people. And so it is with dominoes.  A look around online reveals that there are a lot of […]

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    A New Shield Against Grammar Naziism: Science!

    spaxiax via Shutterstock   Over his career, Harvard cognitive scientist Steven Pinker has taken on a wide range of research and writing subjects, and his work has provoked big debates in most, if not all, of them. His latest book, The Sense of Style, is about another farflung topic—grammar—and his iconoclastic opinions have, predictably, drawn […]

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    The New Way to Save Money: Playing the Lottery

    Chris Goldberg via Flickr Lotteries have often been called a tax on the poor and, alternately, a tax on the innumerate. There is something to both claims: Lottery tickets are disproportionately bought by lower-income people, and in aggregate the players win back only a small percentage of the money spent on tickets. Overall, lotteries suck […]

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    What Radar Guns Can’t Tell you About the Speed of Pitches

    Paul L Dineen via Flickr Baseball is a fiddly sport. There are countless arbitrary-seeming rules and odd traditions. People who are not familiar with the game sometimes find it near-impossible to understand (and, partly as a consequence, near-impossible to watch). But under the complexity is simplicity: a pitcher throwing a ball and a batter trying […]

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    How Nuclear Explosions Were Used to Save the Environment

    During the Cold War, the USSR and U.S. had programs to harness the power of nuclear explosions, demonstrated here in the “Baker” test, for peaceful purposes.U.S. DOD via Wikipedia In the late spring of 2010, the world watched, often in real time, a new kind of environmental disaster unfold: An oil rig operating deep under the […]

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    New Football Helmets Take a Page From Nuclear-Plant Safety

    These photos show the difference between a healthy brain (left) and one with CTE (right). The tau proteins in all the samples were stained and appear brown.BU CTE Center In 2012, Tim Shaw was still living the rarefied, enviable life of an NFL player. He’d played in college, in Penn State’s storied program, then got […]