October 8th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Nice Mass

Pretty much everyone in physics knew that this year’s Nobel Prize would go to someone connected to the discovery of the Higgs boson (the so-called god particle). This morning, Peter Higgs and Francois Englert were awarded the prize “for the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles, and which recently was confirmed through the discovery of the predicted fundamental particle, by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider.”

+ The NYT has a cool and simple interactive guide that attempts to answer the question: What is the Higgs? I could have used one of these guides when I was putting together a desk for my son last night…

+ “Sometimes, those numbers and equations have an uncanny, almost eerie ability to illuminate otherwise dark corners of reality. When they do, we get that much closer to grasping our place in the cosmos.” Brian Greene always does an excellent job of explaining complex science to normal people. Here he fills us in on how the Higgs Boson was found.

+ Here’s a look back at some video that shows the moment Peter Higgs learned that his particle had been found.

+ Researchers at the National Ignition Facility in Livermore just took a step towards their own Nobel Prize (and a world of unlimited and cheap energy). “The amount of energy released through the fusion reaction exceeded the amount of energy being absorbed by the fuel – the first time this had been achieved at any fusion facility in the world.” This is really is incredible stuff that is worth knowing about.

+ OK, it’s not fusion, but Nest has introduced its next product. And it’s a smoke detector that won’t wake you up in the middle of the night (unless there’s a fire).


Dishing the Dirt on Life Expectancy

There are lot of researchers and scientists who believe we are on the cusp of a dramatic increase in life expectancy. But for a huge number of (mostly poor) American women, the number is headed in the wrong direction. And no one seems to know why.

+ Steve Solomon believes most people could live past the age of 100 if we fixed our dirt. Here’s The Week on Peak soil: Why nutrition is disappearing from our food.


Back to the Boat

You get off your boat and head into the darkness of the Somali shoreline. You sneak into the compound and take your positions. Within minutes you’re confronted by a wall of gunfire and grenades. You see your target through the windows. But you also see children there. Before long, you’re surrounded by hundreds of Somalis. From NBC News: How the Seal raid on Somalia went bad.


You Know, Like Adults

A phone call between President Obama and John Boehner apparently did little to move the government shutdown negotiations forward. (Maybe they should try a Snapchat next.) As we inch towards a debt ceiling disaster, the markets are concerned, but not afraid. And some investors think that’s a big problem. Along similar lines: Why America Needs a Stock Market Crash. (Either that, or we just need to learn to vote more wisely.)

+ Here’s the story of the government shutdown, told in Legos.

+ WaPo’s Ezra Klein: The 13 reasons Washington is failing.

+ Senator Mitch McConnell may have inadvertently explained Washington’s troubles with this take on the impasse: “There’s a time for politics, and there’s a time for sitting down like adults and working things out.” I always wondered what the opposite of “politics” was.

+ Here’s a solution to our debt ceiling problems. Let’s just print a lot more of these brand new $100 bills.


The Road Still Traveled

With Silk Road kingpin Ross Ulbricht in custody, one imagines that a whole lot of his former customers are feeling a bit nervous right about now. And they should be. Buyers and sellers are starting to get arrested.

+ Charles Thompson might be a little nervous as well. As he explains: “In February of 2013, I decided to order one gram of MDMA from Silk Road because I wanted to write an essay on whether it really was that easy to click a few buttons and have a package of Schedule I substances arrive at your door a week later.” It was that easy. And that’s the bad news. From The Morning News: My Brief, Binding Road.


On Blueberry Hill

It’s not that hard to imagine someone ordering illicit substances online just for the thrill of it. There’s something exciting about doing what you’re not supposed to do and getting away with it. Maybe you occasionally nudge your golf ball a few inches. Perhaps you like downloading music and movies that you didn’t pay for. Maybe you like to get a bit creative with your expense reports. Perchance you like to appear incredibly well-informed at dinner parties by expounding on the most fascinating news of the day without telling anyone where you’re getting your information. The benefit you derive may be in the act itself. Researchers are beginning to learn more about cheating’s surprising thrill.


Head Case

“I’m unable to watch football these days as I used to. I desperately wish I could, but I just can’t. And after you finish reading this book, you won’t be able to either.” The Daily Beast’s Kevin Fixler on League of Denial: This book will stop you watching football. (Most people will probably be too busy watching football to read the book.)

+ From investigative journalists Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru, here’s an excerpt from the book the NFL doesn’t want you to read.

+ The book is being released along with a Frontline investigation that debuts tonight. From Buzzfeed: We’ve seen Frontline’s highly anticipated concussion documentary, and it is very bad for the NFL.

+ In my family, the risks associated with playing football mean my son will never play (even though I think it’s the best sport around). Hall of Fame Quarterback Troy Aikman once said that if he had a son, he’d never let him play football either. But will these documentaries and books have an impact in towns where football is king? From GQ: There’s No Crying at the Pee Wee Super Bowl.

+ Football needs to address health risks. Baseball really needs to figure out all that facial hair.

+ As I mentioned above, I definitely worry about safety when it comes to my kids playing sports. But not as much as school officials at Weber Middle School in Port Washington. “They have instituted a ban on footballs, baseballs, lacrosse balls, or anything that might hurt someone on school grounds.”


Generation Swipe

According to a study from a firm that puts ads on your phone’s lock screen, the average cell phone user unlocks their phone about 110 times per day.

+ I’m not sure about that number. Most people I know don’t spend enough time off their phone for it to enter lock screen mode that often. How heads-down are we? Consider the case of a a man who pulled out a pistol on Muni in San Francisco. For some time, almost no one noticed. (Take a quick glance around right now. If all is clear, move on to the next story in this section.)

+ Aeon’s Tom Chatfield on the price we pay for all that clicking. (Ironically, Chatfield would make a great name for a new app.)

+ Ahmad Zaghal constantly takes pictures while he’s at concerts. Ahmad Zagha is blind.


The I’s Have It

New research out of the University of Texas “suggests that people who often say ‘I’ are less powerful and less sure of themselves than those who limit their use of the word. Frequent ‘I’ users subconsciously believe they are subordinate to the person to whom they are talking.” Me not so sure about that.


The Bottom of the News

Today’s science news is dominated by discoveries from the Higgs boson to fusion. But those aren’t the only advances worth noting. Here’s a look at seven absurd inventions inspired by SkyMall.

+ Is every Tom Hanks movie part of one epic story? If so, I’m pretty sure he cheated on his volleyball a few times.

+ You’re walking down the street and you see a large, red beer fridge. The beers are cold, and they are free. As long as you’re Canadian.

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