How to Build a Better Brain

Recent research confirms there are concrete steps you can take to increase your intelligence. And thanks to the brain's neuroplasticity, scientists now believe it is never to late to start.

What's the Latest Development?

Learning a new language is perhaps the best way to increase your mental acuity. When a bilingual speaker is confronted by two words with the same meaningmano or hand?—the brain's prefontal cortex, which controls high-order functions, steps in to choose. Attention is another important marker of intelligence, so holding yours long enough to memorize poetry, for example, is a good way to boost your brain's performance. Exercising, too, builds the brain by stimulating the creation of new neurons. Or just take a nap—it improves recall!

What's the Big Idea?

Once thought of as a static organ, particularly after your twenties, new research suggests the brain is much more plastic than previously thought. In other words, you can still change the structure of the brain well into middle age. "IQ, long thought to be largely unchangeable after early childhood, can in fact be raised. And not by a niggling point or two. ... IQ can rise by a staggering 21 points over four years—or fall by 18." And a bump in intelligence could mean retaining more of the skills you learn. In short, a life better lived.

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How to make a black hole

Here's the science of black holes, from supermassive monsters to ones the size of ping-pong balls.

  • There's more than one way to make a black hole, says NASA's Michelle Thaller. They're not always formed from dead stars. For example, there are teeny tiny black holes all around us, the result of high-energy cosmic rays slamming into our atmosphere with enough force to cram matter together so densely that no light can escape.
  • CERN is trying to create artificial black holes right now, but don't worry, it's not dangerous. Scientists there are attempting to smash two particles together with such intensity that it creates a black hole that would live for just a millionth of a second.
  • Thaller uses a brilliant analogy involving a rubber sheet, a marble, and an elephant to explain why different black holes have varying densities. Watch and learn!
  • Bonus fact: If the Earth became a black hole, it would be crushed to the size of a ping-pong ball.

Russian reporters discover 101 'tortured' whales jammed in offshore pens

Protected animals are feared to be headed for the black market.

Politics & Current Affairs
  • Russian news network discovers 101 black-market whales.
  • Orcas and belugas are seen crammed into tiny pens.
  • Marine parks continue to create a high-price demand for illegal captures.
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China’s artificial sun reaches fusion temperature: 100 million degrees

In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.

Credit: EAST Team
Surprising Science
  • The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
  • Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
  • Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
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