September 18th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

This is Gonna Sting

The competition to get headlines for supposedly groundbreaking studies has reached a fevered pace (at least that what my surveys suggest); and those headlines are often more about shock value than merit. So you’ve got to hand it to the researchers who put in the extra effort to stand out. And indeed, several of them were handed awards during the Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony held at Harvard. Among the winners were a pair of researchers who each sought to determine the intensity of pain caused by insect stings. One focused on insect type while the other focused on sting location as he “pressed bees up against different parts of his body until the insects stung him, five stings a day, a total of 25 different locations, for 38 days.” (Here’s my abstract of his scientific findings: whenever possible, pants should be worn around bees.)

+ For a very intriguing story about health (and studies in general), take a look at this NYT piece on the Inuits and what we didn’t understand about all those earlier Omega-3 studies.


Burb Blurb

If you want to follow the money, then head for the suburbs. To understand the decline of schools and infrastructure in many American cities, you have to examine what’s there and what’s not. And in the case of the latter, it’s cold, hard cash. WaPo did the math and found that “among the top 25 highest-earning counties in the U.S., every one of them lies outside a major city.”


Weekend Reads

“Then there are the black turtlenecks. Most have assumed that Holmes’s sartorial choice is an eerie, if not presumptuous, homage to Jobs. But it turns out, the black turtlenecks were inspired by, of all people, Sharon Stone.” Inc’s Kimberly Weisul with a profile of Elizabeth Holmes, who is reinventing the blood test and trying to disrupt a $75 billion industry, and grow it by another $125 billion.

+ “The highest single-play score on record is 392 points for caziques.” BBC’s Hephzibah Anderson with the secret history of Scrabble.

+ “He is the N.B.A.’s all-time leading scorer. And yet discussions of his greatness are usually tinged with annoyance, as if his dominance must be nodded at but not dwelled upon.” From NYT Mag: What the world got wrong about Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Well, for one thing, (his name is actually Roger Murdock.)

+ “If you still think Uber and ridesharing is just about replacing a taxicab you’re dead wrong. This is bigger than taxis – ridesharing is on a path to displace cars.” Sunil Paul explains why auto companies are Uber’s next kill.

+ Outside’s Matt Skenazy: Can surfing reprogram the Veteran’s brain? (If I’m ever actually able to stand on the board for more than two seconds, it would reprogram my self esteem.)


Breaking the Ice

From WaPo: “Defense chiefs from the United States and Russia held their first direct talks in more than a year Friday, discussing the multiple conflicts in Syria and ways to battle the Islamic State as part of possible wider contacts aimed at easing tensions.” (Russian and American governments jockeying over Middle East disputes. What could possibly go wrong?)

+ “‘Im doing this to save you, our child, and everyone on board.’ Then he jumps overboard.” The LA Times with a close-up look at a desperate migration.

+ Eight reasons why Europe’s refugee crisis is happening now.

+ NY Mag’s Melissa Dahl on Europe’s refugee crisis and the biology of human altruism.


Who’s Laughlin Now?

Four pilots stationed at Laughlin Air Force base in Texas are being investigated for drug use and more, all based on some texts they sent. As The Daily Beast’s Shane Harris explains: “The pilots’ dilemma is a cautionary tale about contemporary notions of privacy, and a reminder that messages someone never meant to be made public can be used against him with devastating results. Especially if Miley Cyrus is involved.”



“Earlier this month, the Drug Enforcement Administration announced that it had busted 16 underground labs and seized 134,000 steroid tablets and pills, 8,200 liters of injectable steroid liquid (that’s 140 kegs worth), and 1,400 pounds of the raw powder from which steroids are made.” In other words, pro athletes aren’t the only ones looking to improve their performance. In fact, the much-publicized falls of pro athletes caught using steroids might act as a sort of advertisement for the benefits of taking them. After looking at some of the numbers in this ProPublica report, I’m pretty sure this kind of juicing is more popular than the other kind.


A Block, Block Joke

In my neck of the Internet, all the buzz is about the ad-blockers enabled by the new Apple iOS. It’s a big deal for publishing. And it could be a pretty big deal for you too. From Vox: The ad blocking controversy, explained. (Thankfully, I ad block with my mind.)

+ And it’s no surprise that ad-blocking apps are topping the Apple app store charts.


The Front

From NPR: “By a 241-187 vote, the House of Representatives has approved a bill that would cut off federal money for Planned Parenthood.” The bill won’t pass the Senate, and even if it did, it would be vetoed. But the move shines a light on what promises to be a key battleground of the 2016 election. With gay marriage getting widespread acceptance, the cultural wars will center on abortion.


Mensch Warmer

Apparently, today is character day. So it’s a perfect time to take a break from the Internet trolls and the web commenting lunatics and watch this new, short film by the most excellent Tiffany Shlain: The Making of a Mench. (Back in my day, we made someone a mensch just by yelling, “Act like a mensch!” over and over until they moved out of the house.)


Bottom of the News

This could be the most San Francisco San Francisco story of all time. Here’s the SFist (of course): SF couple leaves for Burning Man and their hired housesitter Airbnb’s their apartment.

+ Quartz: The psychology behind why couples always fight when assembling Ikea furniture. (Hint: It’s a pain to assemble and it sucks when completed.)

+ I’ve never viewed the heavy use of hand sanitizer as a particularly healthy trend. And I wasn’t even thinking of the people who drink it.

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