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Scientists have a hard time explaining things. Granted, much of what they’re trying to explain is impossibly complicated. But not always. Jimmy Kimmel and John Oliver recently produced some great videos that should inspire everyone in science communication to realize that maybe all we really need to do is turn over the explaining to the professionals.…

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Cancer is different in the developing world

In the United States the median age at which colon cancer strikes is 69 for men and 73 for women. In Chad the average life expectancy at birth is about 50. Children who survive childbirth — and then malnutrition and diarrhea — are likely to die of pneumonia, tuberculosis, influenza, malaria, AIDS or even traffic accidents long before their cells accumulate the mutations that cause colon cancer. In fact, cancers…

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Breakthrough Prize Looks to Stars to Shine on Science

Movie stars. Red carpet. Awards. It’s a familiar script. Except that the event here on Sunday night was far from New York and Hollywood, and the boldfaced names were gathered not to celebrate movies or music, but life sciences, physics and mathematics. The idea behind the Breakthrough Prize is that if scientists are viewed as celebrities — as cool as movie and rock stars — then more young students will…

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The Narrative Frays for Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes

“This isn’t how you introduce technology that claims to be groundbreaking and revolutionary in the health care field,” said Michael Cherny, an analyst at the investment bank Evercore Partners who was an early and vocal skeptic about many of Theranos’s claims. “Every other person goes through some level of peer review,” Mr. Cherny told me this week. Theranos “decided to shun that approach.” “In my view,” he said, “that calls…

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Science Isn’t Broken

If you follow the headlines, your confidence in science may have taken a hit lately. Peer review? More like self-review. An investigation in November uncovered a scam in which researchers were rubber-stamping their own work, circumventing peer review at five high-profile publishers. Scientific journals? Not exactly a badge of legitimacy, given that the International Journal of Advanced Computer Technology recently accepted for publication a paper titled “Get Me Off Your…

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Academics Seek a Big Splash

Each July, many of the top economists in the world gather in Cambridge, Mass., at a conference hosted by the National Bureau of Economic Research. While the work they present comes in all shapes and sizes, from the highly technical to the trendy and provocative, the coveted first day of a key weeklong session is given over to research that will make a media splash. “I choose the papers,” said…

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Cookies and water?

Almost no one will dispute that when a baby is born, breast milk is the best nutrition a mother can provide. All mammals nurse their young, and breast milk benefits a newborn infant in ways above and beyond nutrition. In fact, until 1 to 2 years of age, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the World Health Organization, the Institute of Medicine and more promote breast-feeding as optimal. Unfortunately, breast-feeding until…

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Why science needs advertising

When did Technology become so sexy? The world of complicated wires, circuit boards, indecipherable code and ugly machines has graduated from the awkward reclusive teenager to the entrepreneurial Silicon Valley 20-something. And that’s brilliant. But why is science, technology’s long-standing partner in crime, still perceived as an activity reserved for kids in classrooms or ultra-intelligent lab-coat-sporting researchers? Why do science lovers feel the need to almost be apologetic in their…

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