The Wow Factor

Gail Collins of the New York Times will support boring politicians now that those leading the national conversation are "all wow and no substance".

Gail Collins of the New York Times will support boring politicians now that those leading the national conversation are "all wow and no substance". "In the middle of 2008, Hillary Clinton transformed herself from a perfectly-fine-but-slightly-boring presidential candidate to a really terrific campaigner. This all happened too late to help her candidacy. But some of us hoped that it might be the beginning of a new era. Women in politics had always had a reputation for being honest and steady and hard-working. Maybe some of the next generation would also have a wow factor. That is exactly what happened. Except the smart and steady women were not the ones who got the wow. The sensible candidates actually seemed to get more boring. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison’s attempt to win the Republican gubernatorial nomination in Texas was one long yawn. You might have said it was the worst major campaign so far this year, if you had not seen the one where Martha Coakley tried to become the senator from Massachusetts."

​Is science synonymous with 'truth'? Game theory says, 'not always.'

Good science is sometimes trumped by the craving for a "big splash."

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  • Scientists strive to earn credit from their peers, for grants from federal agencies, and so a lot of the decisions that they make are strategic in nature. They're encouraged to publish exciting new findings that demonstrate some new phenomenon that we have never seen before.
  • This professional pressure can affect their decision-making — to get acclaim they may actually make science worse. That is, a scientist might commit fraud if he thinks he can get away with it or a scientist might rush a result out of the door even though it hasn't been completely verified in order to beat the competition.
  • On top of the acclaim of their peers, scientists — with the increasing popularity of science journalism — are starting to be rewarded for doing things that the public is interested in. The good side of this is that the research is more likely to have a public impact, rather than be esoteric. The bad side? To make a "big splash" a scientist may push a study or article that doesn't exemplify good science.

People who constantly complain are harmful to your health

Moans, groans, and gripes release stress hormones in the brain.

Photo credit: Getty Images / Stringer
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Could you give up complaining for a whole month? That's the crux of this interesting piece by Jessica Hullinger over at Fast Company. Hullinger explores the reasons why humans are so predisposed to griping and why, despite these predispositions, we should all try to complain less. As for no complaining for a month, that was the goal for people enrolled in the Complaint Restraint project.

Participants sought to go the entirety of February without so much as a moan, groan, or bellyache.

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NASA and ESA team up for historic planetary defense test

Two space agencies plan missions to deflect an asteroid.

ESA's Hera mission above asteroid 65803 Didymos. Credit: ESA/ScienceOffice.org
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  • NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are working together on missions to a binary asteroid system.
  • The DART and Hera missions will attempt to deflect and study the asteroid Didymoon.
  • A planetary defense system is important in preventing large-scale catastrophes.
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