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Darwin’s Unnatural Selection

It looks like Charles Darwin knew the importance of genetic diversity firsthand:

Widespread inbreeding between the¬†Darwin and Wedgwood families was probably to blame for Charles Darwin’s ill health, and the childhood tragedies and infertility that blighted his family.”

Darwin’s family tree was tangled to begin with and then he married his first cousin. The apparent impact on their children: three out of 10 died when they were still young.

They were different times back then. At least he had it better than King Tut, whose parents were brother and sister.

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“Liberal” States Have Stronger Family Values?

Here’s one that will get the culture warriors up in arms.

Jon Rauch writes “you can do a good job of predicting how a state will vote in national elections by looking at its population’s average age at first marriage and childbirth.” It’s a counterintuitive allegation: Residents of “Red” states inadvertently set the stage for higher rates of divorce. By comparison, “Blue” states score higher on this litmus test of family values.

This is what Rauch says.

There’s always a risk in this kind of analysis, however. There are other factors that may push divorce rates up in some “Red” states; factors unrelated to ideology or political affiliation.

Thoughts, anyone?

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Shrimp on Ice

Forget survival. How did they get there in the first place?

Scientists in Antarctica have discovered tiny, shrimp-like creatures living beneath hundreds of feet of glacial ice.

They thought they might find microbes, but nothing like this. The ice holds many secrets, still.

Read the story here.

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Good Intentions, Bad Results


Is it possible that by telling people not to do something we make it more – not less — likely that they’ll do it?

A new study has found public service announcements designed to discourage drinking by making potential drinkers feel ashamed or embarrassed could have the opposite impact:

“It has long been assumed, of course, that guilt and shame were ideal ways of warning of the dangers associated with binge drinking and other harmful behaviors, because they are helpful in spotlighting the associated personal consequences. But this study found the opposite to be true: Viewers already feeling some level of guilt or shame instinctively resist messages that rely on those emotions, and in some cases are more likely to participate in the behavior they’re being warned about.”

Psychologists might say ads like these have an unintended “normative” impact. This means we subconsciously think if others do something, that it must on some level be acceptable.

As social creatures who find comfort in conformity. A message that indicates a lot of people are doing something positive (like not drinking and driving, saving for retirement, donating organs, etc.) often has a more lasting and positive outcome.

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Earthquake Energy

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration calculated where the energy from Chile’s big quake went this weekend. Starting from the coast of Chile on the bottom right, it shot across the Pacific, reaching from Alaska to Antarctica. Like ripples in a puddle thousands of miles across.

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Money Can Buy You Love

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Flowers, candy, love songs? When it comes to Valentine’s Day it’s all about the cold hard cash for that special someone. The Fast Draw’s Josh Landis and Mitch Butler explain.

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Numbers Game

“How’s the economy?” It’s a simple question that’s incredibly hard to answer. There’s GDP, the total value of goods and services produced, which the government says is growing. But then there’s the trade deficit, which shows we’re importing way more than we export. And then of course there’s the national deficit, which as it always seems to be, is at a record high.

Factor in inflation, unemployment and falling housing values and the answer is …. ????

There’s got to be a better way to take America’s economic pulse.

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The U.S. Census

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Kicking off the 2010 U.S. Census is a stop in a remote Alaskan village, with no roads in or out. Why, you ask? The message is that no matter who you or where you are, the government wants you counted. Josh Landis and Mitch Butler explain.

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2009 in Review

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Fast Draw’s Josh Landis and Mitch Butler review some of the stories of 2009 that fell under the radar, from the shrinking human brain to the link between money and fingers.

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