What Seinfeld can teach us about science

From micro pigs to the doping dangers of a poppy seed bagel, life may be imitating the US sitcom When Jerry Seinfeld UK 1981 HBO debut, he said of weather forecasts: And then my favourite part, the satellite photo. This is really helpful. A photograph of the Earth from 10,000 miles away. Can you tell if you should take a sweater or not from that shot? His eponymous 90s sitcom is also packed with nuanced references to science, with the storylines of some of the most famous episodes centred on it: George Costanza pretends to be a scientist in The Marine Biologist, while in The Abstinence he becomes a boffin after swearing off sex. In The Non-Fat Yogurt, Kramer has …

Ancient city of Babylon heads list of new Unesco world heritage sites

UN also names national park in Iceland among sites protected for their value to humanity The ancient city of Babylon and an Icelandic national park replete with glaciers, ice caves and volcanoes are among the sites that have been added to Unescos world heritage list. More than 1,000 sites around the world some cultural, some natural, some both are protected by listing. Landmarks or areas are chosen for their value to humanity. On Friday, the World Heritage Committee announced the addition of the first of this years batch. More sites will be named over the weekend. Perhaps the most famous site to be added to the list is the city of Babylon in Iraq. The city was first mentioned in …

Unbuilt Tokyo: ‘depthscrapers’ and a million-person pyramid

Had the creators of the underground skyscraper had their way, the Japanese capital might have looked very different indeed Protected by cylindrical walls of reinforced concrete, the steel and glass depthscrapers extend hundreds of metres underground. Only a single floor of each inverted 35-storey skyscraper is visible at ground level. Giant mirrors mounted directly above the central wells reflect sunlight to the apartments below. Prismatic glass ensures even light throughout the day, while fresh, conditioned air is pumped down from the surface. The whole structure, in case of an earthquake, will vibrate together, resisting any crushing strain, declared a 1931 edition of Everyday Science and Mechanics that called the design the product of the best engineering brains of Japan. The …

Dani Shapiro: Science will bring an end to these family secrets

As a young Jewish girl, Dani Shapiro always felt different. Years later she found out why She reveals what she learned about family, identity and the hard truths of DNA tests Take a look at your reflection. What do you see? Who do you think you are? When the writer Dani Shapiro was a little girl, she would sneak down the hall late at night once her parents were asleep, the better to stare at herself uninterrupted in the bathroom mirror. She felt, though she would not have been able to articulate this at the time, different a creature apart. Perhaps if she gazed at herself for long enough, a new face would emerge from behind her own: a truer …

‘It’s ghost slavery’: the troubling world of pop holograms

Dead stars from Whitney Houston to Maria Callas are going on tour again. As Miley Cyrus explores the issue in a new Black Mirror, we uncover the greatest identity crisis in music today In the star-making Disney Channel switcheroo Hannah Montana,Miley Cyrus played a teenage girl who is able to metamorphose from regular eighth grader to pop icon, simply by donning a streaked blonde wig. Most of the show seems quaintly dated now, but one moment taps into a very 2019 pop anxiety. On foam-finger humper to The episodes trailer ends with Ashley Too acquiring potty-mouthed sentience, screaming for her owner to get this [USB] cable out of my ass! Holy Shit! Specifics are under wraps, but the episode seems …

How much water do you really need?

Time to put that phone in a cool, dry place.Image: Tobias Schwartz / AFP / Getty Images Let’s be real. You’re going to take your phone to the beach. How could you not? So let’s make sure it doesn’t meet its untimely end there. There are three main issues to consider when beach-proofing your device: sun, sand, and moisture. You don’t want your phone to overheat, you don’t want it to get sand in its ports and crevices, and you definitely don’t want it to get wet.  Take these precautions and you’ll be able to enjoy your beach day in peace. Unless you get sand under your swimsuit, in which case … may god be with you. Keep it cool …

Italy’s new ruins: heritage sites being lost to neglect and looting

Overgrown and weathered, many historical monuments are disappearing as public funds for culture fail to match modern Italys inheritance Legend has it that the grotto hidden among the craggy cliffs on San Marco hill in Sutera in the heart of Sicily holds a treasure chest full of gold coins. In order to find it, three men must dream simultaneously about the precise place to dig. Treasure or no treasure, the grotto itself is an archaeological gem, its walls adorned with a multi-coloured Byzantine-esque 16th-century fresco depicting Jesus, the Virgin Mary and Saints Paulinus, Luke, Mark and Matthew. One of the first mountain oratories in the world, it was built by Basilian monks in the 9th century. But time has weathered …

Tesla hires the ‘absolute unit’ meme guy to run its social media

A USC study concludes that cold offices are actually really bad for women's productivity.Image: Getty Images Women are more productive when they’re warm, a study concludes, confirming the complaints of chilly female employees everywhere.  While women’s gripes about frigid workspaces have long been dismissed as a sign of oversensitivity, a study published in PLOS ONE argues differently. The University of Southern California and the WZB Berlin Social Science Center had 543 students in Berlin perform tasks and steadily raised the temperature of the environment. Temperatures in each session varied in increments from 61 degrees Fahrenheit to 91 degrees Fahrenheit.  As the temperature increased, women’s performance did as well. Although men performed better at lower temperatures and worse at higher temperatures, …

Mama duck parades her babies through hospital, delighting everyone

These ducks are not licensed medical professionals, but they're a welcome sight at Thompson Health.Image: Thompson health Each year, a duck visits the courtyard of Thompson Health in upstate New York to lay her eggs. Once the fuzzy little ducklings hatch, they have a little parade through the hospital’s nursing home, the M.M. Ewing Continuing Care Center. Is there a better way to ring in the spring season every year? No. The University of Rochester Medicine Thompson Health Facebook page shared a little story on Thursday that would thaw the winter out of anyone’s heart, sharing pictures of 2019’s family of ducks and their journey through the facility’s hallways and out a door. The mother of the ducklings will tap …

‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ director promises design changes after fan backlash

Sonic games, in the past few years, have been universally acknowledged as not good. They’re notorious for ridiculously confusing plotlines, poorly-rendered, buggy cutscenes, and dialogue so corny it would make an after-school special shudder. It’s a wonder how the legacy of a little blue dude who runs speedily has managed to stay intact this long.  But sometimes you gotta dig in to the cringe to pull out anything of quality. Like a chaos emerald in the rough, a project emerged that would breathe some much-needed life into a franchise dying from lack of self-awareness.   Penny Parker, a voice actress and video producer, is known for her gaming YouTube channel SnapCube, dedicated to Let’s Plays and general uplifting gaming content. …

Serial thrillers: the science behind our box set addiction

Hour after hour, were glued to the TV as the latest series unfolds. It feels like a thoroughly modern phenomenon. But, as Will Storr reveals, what keeps us gripped goes right to the heart of what it is to be human Not long ago, I was bingeing on the second series of Jill Soloways award-winning television series The Domesticated Brain, has left us with brains that are exquisitely engineered to interact with other brains. Wed become brilliantly expert at controlling an environment of other human minds. And thats who we are today. If dogs live principally in a world of smell, and moles in a world of touch, then the human realm is that of other minds. In order to …

When a poet can’t answer standardized test questions about her own poems, kids are screwed.

This poet’s struggle with test questions analyzing her work verifies what many of us have long suspected. For the record, I enjoy literary analysis. In fact, I loved studying literature and poetry in school so much that I became an English teacher myself. However, there are elements of such studies that have never sat well with me. Most of us learned to dissect poems and pick apart novels to find hidden meanings, process metaphors, and search for an author’s intent and purpose in their work. And at some point, most of us have probably questioned whether or not those authors would agree with our overwrought assessments. Even I—someone who enjoys such analyses and have taught kids to do them—have wondered …

Shrimp in London are pumped full of cocaine. It’s even worse than it sounds.

Listen, the world is dark and full of unexpected environmental terrors. Climate change is real, coral is being destroyed at a rate so alarming that I now care about coral, and if it weren’t for these polyamorous birds living their best lives, I sometimes feel like I might lose it in the middle of the supermarket. And don’t even get me started on the people out there who think that the world is flat and that the earth isn’t getting dangerously warmer because the eastern states “sure do get a lot of snow.” Now we’ve got to bring shrimp snorting (read: being polluted with)  cocaine into the equation of why our planet is on a really messed up trajectory towards …