Lies and liars: Can you catch them?

Lies and liars: Can you catch them?
Liars challenge our law, economy and society. When you try to catch a liar, you might as well flip a coin. What’s the problem? Is anything on the horizon to make lying more difficult? More »

Menace to monarchs

Menace to monarchs
20 years ago, up to 1 billion monarch butterflies wintered in Mexico’s mountains. This January, a few tens of millions are roosting there after their long migration across North America. What menaces the marvelous monarch migration? More »

Brewing biofuel

Brewing biofuel
The struggle to make fuel from wastes from farm, factory and forest continues. What’s keeping cellulosic biofuel out of the market? Will biofuel from algae beat cellulose to the gas pump? More »

Cholera strikes Haiti, spreads

Cholera strikes Haiti, spreads
As Haiti copes with thousands of deaths, scientists try to understand how weather affects cholera, and how to battle a feces-borne disease in a country lacking good sanitation and clean water. More »

Typhoon flogs Philippines

Typhoon flogs Philippines
As scientists try to understand the biggest storms in a warming earth, we try to make sense of what’s known, and what’s not. Does adding energy to the Earth system cause more titanic storms – or does it blow them apart before the real destruction begins? More »

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!
Halloween is supposed to be fun, but there’s a disturbing undercurrent of real belief in unreal stuff. Wish The Why Files luck as we struggle to explain why so many people believe in spirits, zombies or communication with the dead! More »

Weather: [More data + more computers = better forecasts]

Weather: [More data + more computers = better forecasts]

Weather forecasts improve, but who’s ever satisfied? Check some around-the-corner technologies that will paint a better picture of tomorrow — especially in hot, stormy summer days. What is the promise of GPS, better radar and “hyperspectral” instruments? More »

Poverty on the mind: Bad decisions ahead?

Poverty on the mind: Bad decisions ahead?
Whether in a U.S. shopping mall or Indian farm country, cognitive load — the burden of thinking about getting enough money to pay the bills — reduces the ability to concentrate, focus and make decisions. More »

Sweet and sour!

Sweet and sour!
Study finds added sugar — equal to 3 cans of soda a day — doubles death rate among female mice, and impairs male reproduction. Even if mice aren’t people, yikes! More »

Racial profiling

Racial profiling
We’ll never know how implicit bias affected George Zimmerman in the minutes before he shot Trayvon Martin. It’s easy enough to document a hidden bias against black people among white Americans. Can this be changed? More »

Wildfire goes wild in Arizona

Wildfire goes wild in Arizona
As wildfires torch Western states, what is the role of global warming? Does hotter weather contribute to fires? Does the resulting carbon dioxide accelerate global warming? Could we see a vicious cycle of warming, fires and more warming? More »

Roads: helpful here, harmful there

Roads: helpful here, harmful there

Roads are the first insult to pristine natural areas — and a key to agricultural productivity in places where farming makes sense. Here’s a proposal to decide where roads make sense, and where they make mayhem. More »

Lying liars lie!

Lying liars lie!

We lie for many reasons: Glory. Money. Both. Something else. Is there a science of detecting lies? Does the digital realm make lying harder? Easier? Both? More »

Store more. Much more!

Store more. Much more!

The explosion of data — in meteorology, genetics, spying and physics — requires new storage technology. DNA has been storing data for billions of years. Could life’s “hard disk” help tame today’s data explosion? More »

New food rules: How healthy?

New food rules: How healthy?

What are the safety fundamentals of the giant American food system? What do the new rules say? Who will (and maybe should) escape regulation? More »