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Maggie Koerth-Baker

Maggie Koerth-Baker is the science editor at 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.

News audiences are liars; here's why

"An unidentified video editor operates an editing system during a large red-shirt rally on the Royal Plaza on Jan 29, 2013 in Bangkok, Thailand." [Shutterstock]

"An unidentified video editor operates an editing system during a large red-shirt rally on the Royal Plaza on Jan 29, 2013 in Bangkok, Thailand." [Shutterstock]

Al Jazeera America thought tens of millions of people were starved for serious, hard-hitting, longform journalism. Now the numbers don't seem to be panning out. At The Atlantic, Derek Thompson explores the psychology of why we ask for broccoli and then eat jelly beans.

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The closest thing to a Hoverboard that exists in real life

The MagSurf is a levitating skateboard based on the principles of superconductors. It was built by scientists and students in the Laboratoire Matériaux et Phénomènes Quantiques at Paris Diderot University.

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Your annual reminder that sharks aren't terribly dangerous

In fact, here are 19 things at the beach that are more dangerous than sharks.

A thoughtful discussion of "ironic racism" in the arts

From Archie Bunker to a recent production of the musical "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson", Twin Cities arts critic Rob Callahan discusses meta references to racism and how they can drift into being, themselves, examples of bigotry.

Giant rattlesnake is actually an optical illusion

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Fun with reptiles and forced perspective.

Video of giant squid dissection

At six hours, this may be more giant squid dissection than you actually wanted to watch, but even skipping around you'll learn and see cool things. The action starts about 11:00 in, and includes the dissection of two specimens plus explanations and discussion from scientists at Aukland University of Technology.

How live animal cams are changing our relationship with nature

When an eaglet started dying on a Minnesota eagle cam, the state Department of Natural Resources was bombarded with emotional (and sometimes threatening) demands to save it.

Integrating the great outdoors


Black and hispanic Americans are chronically underrepresented in their use of the National Park System. Geographer Carolyn Finney is trying to change that.

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Starbucks is not actually funding an employee scholarship

Instead, it's taking credit for employee access to a state-school scholarship and federal grants, i.e. public money.

The dirty business of hospice care

Hospice used to be charity work run by religious organizations. Now it's big business, complete with all-too-predictable horrifying corruption unmasked in an expose by Ben Hallman at Huffington Post.

California prisons sterilized at least 150 female inmates

While most of the sterilizations were agreed to by the women, those same women also report being heavily pressured into the surgeries. For instance, one woman reports that, in 2010, a doctor tried to convince her to have a tubal ligation while she was sedated and strapped to a surgical table for a C-section. What's more, the doctors pushing for and performing sterilizations didn't have approval from the state to do the procedures at all.

And here's the part that really stood out to me: When prison staff pushed back against the doctors in 2005 and questioned the fact that women were being sterilized, it wasn't because the staff was concerned about proper oversight or whether the women were being pushed into making decisions they wouldn't have made except under duress — it was because the staff was upset the women were getting extra medical services they didn't "deserve".

During one meeting in late 2005, a few correctional officers differed with Long’s medical team over adding tubal ligations to a local hospital’s contract, Kelsey, 57, said. The officers viewed the surgeries as nonessential medical care and questioned whether the state should pay.

“They were just fed up,” Kelsey said. “They didn’t think criminals and inmates had a right to the care we were providing them and they let their personal opinions be heard.”

The service was included, however, and Kelsey said the grumbling subsided.

You can read the rest of journalist Corey Johnson's story at The Center for Investigative Reporting and The Desert Sun. There's also a report on the matter recently published by The California State Auditor.

What do you do if you're bitten by a venomous snake hours from a hospital?

In rural areas all over the world, snake bites are a serious, deadly threat. A nasal spray that counteracts neurotoxins could buy time to get victims to medical help.

You can sleep after a concussion

According to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, it's not always necessary to prevent a person with a concussion from falling asleep.

You can reduce highway lanes without making traffic worse


You cannot reduce traffic jams by building more lanes — in fact, more lanes often create more traffic. But new studies show that reducing roads doesn't make traffic worse.

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Why was a scientist thrown out of a classical concert?


David Glowacki, a theoretical chemist, was forcibly ejected from a performance of Handel’s Messiah last week when he attempted to crowd surf.

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Help celebrate Midwinter's Day in Antarctica


Tomorrow is the shortest, darkest day of the year at the bottom of the world — an event that scientists living in Antarctica celebrate with a long-distance fun run, gift-giving, and messages from warmer climes. You can help by tweeting greetings to #BASmidwinter.

Mexican artists ride abandoned passenger rails in an Earthbound "spacecraft"

Calling themselves Los Ferronautas (or "railanauts"), Ivan Puig and Andrés Padilla Domene documented the impacts of the privatization — and subsequent immediate closure — of Mexico's passenger rail lines. Their home-built vehicle could travel on the rails or on the ground, from Mexico City to the Atlantic.

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Tests for Lyme disease aren't reliable


The Federally recommended test often misses cases of Lyme in the early stages, writes Beth Daley at The New England Center for Investigative Reporting. Meanwhile, unregulated and unvalidated alternative tests abound, thanks to an FDA loophole.

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Kitchens were political in the Soviet Union

Communal kitchens (in communal apartments that had once belonged to wealthy families) were a major feature of early Soviet life. NPR has a neat story about the role food and cooking played in everyday politics.

Statue man rescues statue lady from floodwaters


Flooding on Minnehaha Creek in Minneapolis makes this statue of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's epic lovers Minnehaha and Hiawatha suddenly a little too on the nose. (Photo by Ben Garvin / St. Paul Pioneer Press)

Junior high popularity not all it's cracked up to be

Or, as a recent study put it: "Early adolescent pseudomature behavior predicted long-term difficulties in close relationships, as well as significant problems with alcohol and substance use, and elevated levels of criminal behavior."

The North Carolina town on the forefront of personalized medicine

Kannapolis is the site of an ambitious plan to collect medical information on 50,000 people and use it to hunt for the molecular changes that signal or cause disease.

The neuroscience of Hodor

Hodor hodor hodor-hodor hodor hodor hodor hodor hodor Hodor hodor hodor "hodor".

Fact-checking a silly movie with the help of a physicist

Mallory Ortberg interviews her little brother, a physicist, about the scientific documentary, The Core.

Whither the mosquitoes of Seattle?

Wet and relatively warm, why isn't Seattle known for its hordes of mosquitoes? This NPR story explains how the details of local environment affect animal populations.

When pseudoscience becomes both annoying and boring

To this list of pseudoscience stories everybody's sick of reading about, I'll add "single dietary changes that are supposed to fix every ailment ever" and "one technology that can solve the energy crisis instantly".

Meet Migaloo, the real-life Moby Dick

There are four known white humpback whales in the world. They are not albinos. Migaloo, who lives near Australia, was just spotted for the first time in a year.

Why the ugliest rats live the longest lives

Naked mole rats live six times as long as most other small rodents and they don't seem to develop cancer. At Vox, Joseph Stromberg explains what naked mole rats are teaching us about aging and disease.

Adventures in scientific cake cutting


Francis Galton is infamous for pioneering the field of eugenics. But he was also, apparently, interested in baked goods, as demonstrated by a 1906 letter to the journal Nature on the proper way to cut a round cake. (Thanks, Stephan Zielinski!)

Image: Scheinwerfermann via public domain

Italian tomb probably does not contain Dracula


Word on the Internets is that some Estonian researchers found the tomb of Dracula in Naples and are petitioning to open it and inspect the occupant. (Insert jokes here.) But at Discovery News, Rossella Lorenzi explains why this story shouldn't be taken seriously.

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