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Encounters

Why Groundhog Day Now Elevates Science Over Superstition

For a UCLA Biologist, Celebrating the Lowly Marmot Could Shed Light on Global Warming

A family of yellow-bellied marmots—close relatives of the groundhog—at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Crested Butte, Colorado. Courtesy of Ben Blonder.

By Daniel T. Blumstein
January 31, 2017

I am a scientist who loves Groundhog Day, that least scientific of holidays. Every February, as Punxsutawney Phil shakes the dust off his coat, emerges from his burrow, glances at his shadow (or not) and allegedly prognosticates winter’s end, I gather a group of professors, graduate students, and other assorted science geeks at my UCLA lab to nibble, drink, schmooze, and revel in ground-hoggery in all its magnificent splendor.

I study the behavior, ecology, and evolution of groundhogs and the …

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Places

The Monster That Stoked Americans’ Devotion to Faith Over Science

How a New York Farmer's Elaborate Hoax "Proved" Giants Roamed the Earth

feder-on-cardiff-giant-lead

By Ken Feder
October 27, 2016

One Sunday afternoon in October of 1869, Stubb Newell, a farmer in upstate New York, invited his neighbors over to view the remarkable discovery he made while digging a well on his Cardiff farm. When they arrived, he showed them the body of a ten-foot-tall “petrified” man, lying at the bottom of a shallow pit where Newell had instructed workmen to dig.

The giant was a magnificent sight: A stone man naked in repose, seemingly at peace. It could hardly have …

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Ideas

The 1900 World’s Fair Produced Dazzling Dynamos, Great Art, and Our Current Conversation About Technology

Henry Adams’ Influential but Largely Forgotten Warning About Science Superseding Soul is Especially Relevant Today

Molella on world fair LEAD

By Art Molella
August 30, 2016

Debates rage today about the risks and benefits of modern technology. Driverless cars, the use of drones in warfare and commerce, the deployment of robots in place of human soldiers, surgery by robotic rather than human hands. The Internet of Things that puts digital devices in just about everything. Artificial intelligence not only assisting but superseding the human brain. Genetic manipulation of food, organisms, and human parts. Human cloning—even the manufacture of human beings.

The National Institutes of Health recently …

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Ideas

When Americans Understood That Weather Was Connected to Larger Forces

Two Hundred Years After New England's First Great Hurricane, We Ask Very Different Questions About the Nature of Storms

Munger - WIMTBA

By Sean Munger
September 22, 2015

Two hundred years ago this week, the Great September Gale struck New England. The “gale” swamped the coastlines of five states with storm surges up to 15 feet. It reduced dozens of ships in Boston, Providence, and other harbors to matchsticks, and destroyed houses, churches, and barns from Long Island to New Hampshire. Forests were leveled, with trees torn up at the roots. High winds hurled broken glass, bricks, and slate roof tiles through the streets of urban areas. The …

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