Improving America's Political Discourse

Pundits aren’t solely to blame for the vitriol. They’re just giving us what we want. To change our discourse we have to be masters, not slaves, to the cycle.

It’s easy to blame the embarrassingly immature vitriol that Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, or Sarah Palin produce for the current lack of civility in public affairs. But those who think that these commentators are compelling the crowd to do their will have it inside out. Ms. Palin, Mr. Limbaugh, and Mr. Beck, as well as their cable counterparts on the left (and there are many), aren’t so much leading the crowd as pandering to it. There was a time, when those in the media did, in fact, shape public opinion. Now, due to the perverseness of the Internet and the prevalence of high-tech polling, they merely echo it.

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Google Maps apologizes for getting itself and others lost in Japan

The navigation tool has placed a school in the sea, among other things.

Strange Maps
  • Google has apologized for the sudden instability of its maps in Japan.
  • Errors may stem from Google's long-time map data provider Zenrin – or from the cancellation of its contract.
  • Speculation on the latter option caused Zenrin shares to drop 16% last Friday.
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Vikings unwittingly made their swords stronger by trying to imbue them with spirits

They didn't know it, but the rituals of Iron Age Scandinavians turned their iron into steel.

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Culture & Religion
  • Iron Age Scandinavians only had access to poor quality iron, which put them at a tactical disadvantage against their neighbors.
  • To strengthen their swords, smiths used the bones of their dead ancestors and animals, hoping to transfer the spirit into their blades.
  • They couldn't have known that in so doing, they actually were forging a rudimentary form of steel.
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A new theory explains Jupiter’s perplexing origin

A new computer model solves a pair of Jovian riddles.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill)
Surprising Science
  • Astronomers have wondered how a gas giant like Jupiter could sit in the middle of our solar system's planets.
  • Also unexplained has been the pair of asteroid clusters in front of and behind Jupiter in its orbit.
  • Putting the two questions together revealed the answer to both.
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