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 »

College admission conundrum?

College admission conundrum?
Critics carp about college entrance exams and point to data showing that high-school grades better predict success. How do the “non-submitters” actually do at colleges that have quit requiring the tests? 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 »

Winter woes? No problem! say plants

Winter woes? No problem! say plants
Plants have evolved numerous ways to endure cold, wind and ice formation. How do they do it? How is climate change affecting plants and plant communities? More »

As snow goes, where go the animals?

As snow goes, where go the animals?
Animals like the wolverine evolved to live in the snow, and they excel in conditions that defeat most animals. How will they fare if (when?) snow continues to decline in their homes? And whassup with the balmy but hidden ecosystem under the snow? More »

First neutrinos from outer space

First neutrinos from outer space
Neutrinos are almost invisible, but a 1-kilometer cube of ice has found 28 from beyond the solar system. Some are from other galaxies. Neutrinos seldom interact with anything, so they are pristine messengers from deepest space. Next job: Reading that message. 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 »

Dangerous viruses: New weapons against new foes

Dangerous viruses: New weapons against new foes
What would better protection against new viruses look like? Old-style outbreak investigations can take years. Mammals may carry 320,000 viruses. Some can start an epidemic if they “jump” to people. Can ecological knowledge support new prevention strategies to block the “jumpers”? More »

Stopping the slaughter of the bats

Stopping the slaughter of the bats
In 7 years, white-nose syndrome has spread to 24 states and 5 provinces. Why is the fungus so deadly? Why don’t bats die in Europe? And where are the chinks in its armor? 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 »

3-D printing: Wave of the future

3-D printing: Wave of the future

Layer by layer, 3-D printers fuse tiny particles of plastic or metal, building complex parts from computer instructions — forget hold the prototype or template! How good are these parts? What are they used for? Are 3-D printers the wave of the manufacturing future? More »

The cockroach

The cockroach

An extermination trick that married insecticide with sugar worked for a while — but then suddenly lost its power against roaches. Now science tells us why, as it highlights once again how human actions affect natural selection. More »