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Seaweed, marshmallows, phantom hands, and other science tidbits July 9, 2018

Posted by Erin Ptah in News Roundup.
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How a mistakenly-hired seaweed scientist helped win WWII. (Bletchley Park tried to recruit a cryptogramist…well, a cryptogamist is a biologist who studies seaweed, mosses, and ferns.)

According to my mother, my missing pectoral muscle was noticed almost immediately by the doctor who delivered me. There was no diagnosis of any cause for the defect, and I’m not sure if she even asked. It was just missing, and I accepted that absence as a simple fact for most of my childhood.”

“RN’s case is interesting because the hand that was amputated only had three fingers to begin with. One would expect that her phantom limb would be a replica of the hand she lost. But that’s not what happened. RN reported feeling five fingers on her phantom hand. They weren’t five normal fingers—her thumb and index finger felt shorter than the rest—but there were definitely five.

“While students of all categories suffered from class-induced jet lag, the study found that night owls were especially vulnerable, many appearing so chronically jet-lagged that they were unable to perform optimally at any time of day.”

“Ultimately, the new study finds limited support for the idea that being able to delay gratification leads to better outcomes. Instead, it suggests that the capacity to hold out for a second marshmallow is shaped in large part by a child’s social and economic background—and, in turn, that that background, not the ability to delay gratification, is what’s behind kids’ long-term success.”

And the laptop Negroponte was pitching in 2005 simply didn’t exist. [One Laptop Per Child]’s prototype was little more than a mockup. It hadn’t signed a manufacturer, let alone priced out a sub-$100 product. Groundbreaking technologies like the crank and mesh networking system were still mostly theoretical.”

“Portugal decriminalised the use of all drugs in 2001. Weed, cocaine, heroin, you name it — Portugal decided to treat possession and use of small quantities of these drugs as a public health issue, not a criminal one. The drugs were still illegal, of course. But now getting caught with them meant a small fine and maybe a referral to a treatment program — not jail time and a criminal record.

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