Diversions Archive

Scientists get closer to determining how humans migrated

SmartBrief on Leadership | Sep 27, 2016

Three separate teams have published their conclusions in the journal Nature that nearly all non-Africans date to a single migration of people from Africa between 50,000 and 80,000 years ago. Researchers sequenced the genomes of indigenous peoples to reach their conclusions, and a fourth paper details climate changes that may answer questions about why that group migrated.

How to make a corn maze

SmartBrief on Leadership | Sep 26, 2016

The Wissemann farm in Massachusetts has hosted elaborate corn mazes for the past 16 years. The mazes have become more elaborate and detailed over time by maximizing the grid structure of corn fields, and drones with real-time video now hone that precision down to the individual corn stalk.

DNA study examines spread of cats throughout ancient world

SmartBrief on Leadership | Sep 23, 2016

A study of cat DNA charts the spread of felines throughout the ancient world, and the findings were presented at the 7th International Symposium on Biomolecular Archaeology last week. Researchers sequenced DNA from more than 200 ancient cats that lived between 15,000 years ago to around 300 years ago and were found at various archaeological sites around the world.

How does perception shape math processing?

SmartBrief on Leadership | Sep 22, 2016

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University recently studied how much visual experience shapes how individuals learn math by comparing data from two groups -- one with congenitally blind individuals and another of sighted individuals. While data show processing in the same area of the brain in each group, those who are blind also used the area of the brain often used for visual processing.

Make your naps either short or long

SmartBrief on Leadership | Sep 21, 2016

Benefits of napping include improved alertness, increased memory and creativity, but a nap that's the wrong length can leave you groggy and sluggish. Vanessa Van Edwards shares why naps of 30 minutes can leave you groggy and when a 20-minute or 90-minute nap is best.

String theory is still a puzzle

SmartBrief on Leadership | Sep 20, 2016

Physicists once thought string theory would provide an elegant, mathematically demonstrable explanation for the universe, but it's still proven useful despite remaining mostly theoretical. "It doesn't feel like we're on the verge of getting it all sorted, but I know more each day than I did the day before -- and so presumably we're getting somewhere," says Eva Silverstein, a professor at Stanford University.

What dreams and virtual reality have in common

SmartBrief on Leadership | Sep 19, 2016

Gamers have long found that their time in fictional worlds translates to greater awareness and control while dreaming, and research from MacEwan University suggests the same is true for virtual reality. "The more you think you're in one reality, it alters your memory of other realities," says psychologist Jayne Gackenbach.

An ode to Statue of Liberty green

SmartBrief on Leadership | Sep 16, 2016

The velvety, multitonal green of the Statue of Liberty comes from the patina of oxidation that covers the 130-year-old statue. The patina protects and preserves the hand-hammered metal, Ian Frazier writes, and the ever-evolving color has served as an iconic and beloved symbol of the city.

Testing the wisdom of the "5-second rule"

SmartBrief on Leadership | Sep 15, 2016

If you drop food on the floor, five seconds may be more than enough time to allow bacterial contamination, says Rutgers University food scientist Donald Schaffner. The amount of time before bacteria latches on depends on things like the type of surface and whether moisture is present.

The OED adds more than 1,000 words

SmartBrief on Leadership | Sep 14, 2016

About 1,200 words, including "cheeseball," "yogalates" and "YOLO," have been added to the Oxford English Dictionary. The dictionary has also focused on words used by Roald Dahl, who would have turned 100 this year.

Ship lost for nearly 170 years is found in Arctic bay

SmartBrief on Leadership | Sep 13, 2016

Researchers have discovered the HMS Terror, a British naval expedition ship that sank in 1848 while the crew attempted to navigate the Northwest Passage. The vessel was found in pristine condition, with plates still on the shelves and items in drawers, 60 miles south of where it was thought to lie.

Saving (parts of) the glaciers

SmartBrief on Leadership | Sep 12, 2016

An international team of scientists is collecting ice cores from a glacier near Mont Blanc in the Alps, with hopes of storing and studying them in Antarctica. "Ice cores are one of the most important records we have of past climate conditions," says Oregon State University paleoclimatologist Ed Brook.

Will a portrait restoration change the way we see Shakespeare?

SmartBrief on Leadership | Sep 09, 2016

The only portrait of William Shakespeare is up for restoration, and such efforts have been known to change modern views of the subject's appearance. Any restoration won't be easy, given the lightness of the original paint as well as subsequent restorations and touch-ups.

The hallucinogenic brew gaining a US following

SmartBrief on Leadership | Sep 08, 2016

Ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic liquid made by boiling plants that grow in the jungles of South America, is gaining a US following, Ariel Levy writes. She describes the concoction's history and her experience trying it.

The self-driving car has a long history

SmartBrief on Leadership | Sep 07, 2016

The self-driving car is in vogue now but has been a dream of engineers for decades. One example is RCA and General Motors' 1960s prototype that used sensors to detect a buried electrical cable.

Study wants to find out if VR can make you a better person

SmartBrief on Leadership | Sep 06, 2016

A Stanford University professor wants to take virtual reality beyond the world of video games and see if it can be used to create lasting changes in people's behavior, writes Sarah Zhang. Jeremy Bailenson's virtual reality research lab is conducting a 1,000-person study to determine whether VR can make people more empathetic and potentially be used as an effective teaching and training tool.

We're learning more about Neanderthals because of birds

SmartBrief on Leadership | Sep 02, 2016

Neanderthals may have engaged in behavior associated with modern humans, such as hunting and collecting feathers as mementos, researchers say. The theories are based on new research methods that involve examining bird remains.

A nonathlete tries "American Ninja Warrior"

SmartBrief on Leadership | Sep 01, 2016

When Drew Magary took on the "American Ninja Warrior" course, he found himself defeated by every obstacle he faced. He describes his training sessions with "Ninja Warrior" star Geoff Britten and what it's like to fall -- repeatedly -- on the elaborately difficult course.

Unlocking the mystery of why sunflowers track the sun

SmartBrief on Leadership | Aug 31, 2016

Sunflowers are genetically predisposed to turn their stems and follow the sun each day, resetting themselves each night. Scientists are studying the phenomenon, including the possible benefits for pollination.

From Moscow to world renown, the story of Tetris

SmartBrief on Leadership | Aug 30, 2016

The game of Tetris was born in a Russian computer academy after Alexey Pajitnov was inspired by pentomino puzzle pieces in a toy store. This article describes the starts and stops as Pajitnov struggled to develop a compelling computer game.

Tips for a restful night's sleep in a tree

SmartBrief on Leadership | Aug 29, 2016

Arborist Andrew Joslin has been sleeping in trees for 10 years. He shares what gear is needed, which tree species are best and how to test a tree's suitability.

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