New Insights Into Gang Violence Recalibrate Drug War Strategy

For decades, the American government has battled gang violence. Now, with an intensifying drug war along the Mexican-U.S. border, academics and think tanks are studying these deeply-rooted criminal entities and reshaping policy in the process. 

A landmark street gang study arrived in 2000 from economist Steven D. Levitt and sociologist Sudhir Alladi Venkatesh. Their work from the University of Chicago, entitled “An Economic Analysis of a Drug-Selling Gang’s Finances,” used an innovative data set to deconstruct the economics of Chicago drug gangs. Both academics wrote best-selling books based on their findings and Venkatesh spent considerable time inside a Chicago street gang for his 2008 book, “Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets.” The result was a sea change in how the country is addressing street gangs.

Even fake academics are studying the issue. In the groundbreaking HBO series the Wire, a local academic uses a government grant to study street and drug culture at a Baltimore-area middle school.

The first major involvement from government came in 2004 with a grant from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety. They contributed $200,000 for a two-year study of area gang activity by the Lowell Police Department and Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

But this research isn’t just coming from academia. Washington think tanks have also become involved, particularly the Justice Policy Institute’s findings regarding the failed policies addressing gangs and how they cost American taxpayers. In 2007, even the FBI started studying gang culture, compiling 20 years worth of work to study the circumstances and mentality of gang members.

But the true watershed moment in gang study came last month, when the University of Houston Center for Drug and Social Policy Research announced it had been awarded a $2.4 million grant by the National Institutes of Health to study Mexican-American adolescent gang members. Could a complete shift in the drug war be far behind?

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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