Maggie Koerth-Baker

Maggie Koerth-Baker is the science editor at BoingBoing.net. From August 2014-May 2015, she will be a Nieman-Berkman Fellow at Harvard University. You can follow Maggie's adventures in the Ivory Tower by subscribing to The Fellowship of Three Things newsletter.


Malaysia Airlines crash kills AIDS researchers

A particularly depressing addendum to the story of a passenger jet shot down in Ukrainian air space: Of the 298 people on board, roughly 100 were people flying to an international conference on AIDS research.

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It's only a matter of time before the chikungunya virus spreads in the U.S.

Until 2013, chikungunya was an Old World disease, writes Maggie Koerth-Baker. Not any more.

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Modern spiders related to 500-million-year-old nightmare beasts

Anomalocarids are the ancient ancestors of spiders. They look like menu items from H.P. Lovecraft's seafood restaurant.

The horrible seating configuration Airbus wants to patent

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Here's the patent application. The "good" news: It's just conceptual. Regulators wouldn't let Ryanair sell standing room tickets, so maybe this would be banned as well?

Myers-Briggs personality test isn't actually based on science

It's fun to take, but the results of a Myers-Briggs personality test are basically meaningless — inconsistent and based on unsupported, philosophical ideas about how the brain operates.

Your blood type can influence whether you get sick

Your risk of contracting norovirus — that scourge of cruise vacations — depends both on the strain of the virus and what your blood type is.

What happens in babies' brains between babbling and speech

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Most babies babble by 7 months of age. Most don't start talking real words until they're a year old. What's going on in their heads in the meantime?

This is kind of your standard hook-a-baby-up-to-a-brain-scanner-and-see-what-lights-up research. But I think it is particularly interesting in the way that it emphasizes the very hard work that goes into getting the muscle movements of face, tongue, and vocal cords coordinated in just the right way in order to say what it is that you want to say. We often talk about the "can't talk yet" stage of babyhood as though the baby isn't processing speech yet and doesn't understand words. But that's not really true. At a certain point, they get the words, but can't necessarily get their bodies to repeat the words. (And, in fact, this is exactly the sort of situation that infant sign language is meant to address.)

The study has social implications, suggesting that the slow and exaggerated parentese speech – “Hiiiii! How are youuuuu?” – may actually prompt infants to try to synthesize utterances themselves and imitate what they heard, uttering something like “Ahhh bah bah baaah.”

“Parentese is very exaggerated, and when infants hear it, their brains may find it easier to model the motor movements necessary to speak,” Kuhl said.

Bonus: More photos and video of babies attached (kind of adorably, from my perspective) to brain scan equipment.

The relationship between cheese flavor and the land cows graze on

To make your cheese, cows eat and process food that we are incapable of eating and processing. This video explains how the chemistry of the land (and grass) change the flavor of the cheese we eat.

What it's like to have chronic vaginal pain

Lara Parker at Buzzfeed writes about her experience with vaginismus and vulvodynia — chronic pain conditions with no known cause, no known treatment, and a big impact on love and relationships.

The downside to being preserved for posterity

We have found only 17 mammoth specimens that are more than half complete with their soft parts preserved. All but one died a horrible death.

Scientific journal retracts 60 papers linked to sock-puppet peer review

This is just a crazy level of fraud. A Taiwanese computer scientist has been caught creating more than 100 fake email accounts that allowed him to "peer" review his own research.

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Five reasons to avoid a colon cleanse

What this boils down to: A colon cleanse doesn't do much to help you and it does harm the good bacteria that really help your intestines work properly.

How old is the oldest living person?

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Jeanne Calment, who died at 122, is the oldest person whose age has been verified. Turns out that's hard to do, but UCLA's Gerontology Research Group is on it.

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"The Mississippi Baby" wasn't cured of HIV after all

A child, treated for HIV infection at birth and reported as possibly being cured of the virus, is showing signs of infection at age 4.

Explosions at Mount St Helens — For science!

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Later this month, scientists will set explosive charges on Mount St Helens as part of an effort to study the seismic geology of the Pacific Northwest.