Latest Ideas headlines


Uncommon Knowledge: Interracial dating, morality and humor, and “benevolent sexism”

A collection of unusual insights from the social sciences.

FILE - In this March 29, 2018, file photo, the logo for Facebook appears on screens at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York's Times Square. A Facebook official says the social media platform is shutting down a series of fake news sites spreading false information about the Bangladesh opposition days before national elections. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)


On Second Thought: The fake news about fake news

Just goes to show that you can’t believe everything you read, even if it’s about why you shouldn’t believe everything you read.


Big Data: The western monarch butterfly is in trouble

The western monarch, famous for its orange and black coloring, could face extinction if nothing is done to preserve its habitat.


America in black and white

In time for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Sage Stossel envisions a contemplation of the country’s greater and lesser Kings.

Opinion | Cathy Young

Is hatred of women all around us? Don’t be so sure

Hatred of women is a genuine problem, but overuse of the word “misogyny” makes it harder to point out the real thing.

Facebook. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Andrew Harrer


Big Data: Who fell for the hoax stories on Facebook during the 2016 election?

11 Percent of American Facebook users over age 65 shared hoax stories during the 2016 election season — far more than the 3 percent of adults under 29 who fell for such fake news.


Uncommon Unknowledge: Ginger, hiding from Trump, and paying for the homeless

A collection of unusual insights from the social sciences.

Brown cricket isolated on white


Revelation: Were crickets behind the ‘sonic attack’ on the American embassy in Cuba?

In the fall of 2016, American diplomats in Cuba complained of high-pitched sounds that were leading to headaches, vertigo, and hearing loss.


On Second Thought: Cancer researcher facing potential criminal charges for research misconduct

Cancer researcher Alfredo Fusco has been facing potential criminal charges in Italy for research misconduct for more than five years, including accusations that his lab used a photo studio to doctor images in his published papers.


Putting the ‘he’ in ‘heroes’

Saving lives and fighting fires, it’s all heroics until you get back to the firehouse.

Ideas | Aimee Ortiz

The global poor go online for the same reasons you do

News flash, folks: Internet users in the developing world have the same motivations you do.

Ideas | Stefanie Dreyer

Who’s protecting the Internet? Five guys at a nonprofit

Trillions have been invested in the Internet, which plays a central role in our economy and our lives. But a surprisingly small group of people protect it.

US President Donald Trump listens during a roundtable discussion about school safety in the Roosevelt Room of the the White House December 18, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP)BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

Ideas | Robert Zaretsky

Nationalism doesn’t have to mean exclusion

The philosopher who coined “nationalism” also preached inclusivity.

Turtle underwater touching water surface with flipper, closeup portrait on blue water background


Big Data: How climate change is causing the ‘feminization’ of the green turtle

The “feminization” of the species is just one of several looming problems for the green turtle.

Outside view of the Coca Codo Sinclair hydroelectric power plant in Napo, Ecuador, on November 20, 2018. - According to authorities the assessment of structural damage found in the largest hydroelectric plant in Ecuador, which was built by Chinese company Sinohydro, will take about a year and the audit, that begins in December, will be carried out by the German firm Tuv Sud. (Photo by Cristina VEGA / AFP)CRISTINA VEGA/AFP/Getty Images

Ideas | Ricardo Hausmann

How China’s secrecy helps developing countries hurt themselves

Chinese loans could be a boost for like Ecuador, Venezuela, and others, but the secretive terms let these countries get in over their heads.


Elizabeth Warren is running. Here’s a radical idea she should embrace

Cartoonist Beth Wolfensberger Singer has some advice for Senator Elizabeth Warren as she begins her run for president.


Uncommon Knowledge: Test-taking and crime, infertility and divorce

Insurance that covers in vitro fertilization may keep couples together.


On Second Thought: Intellectual spammers and self-plagiarism

Recycling is a public good — for plastic, glass and paper, that is. Not so much for the written word.

Ideas | STAT

How PhRMA finally lost: the inside story of the group’s biggest lobbying failure in years

The drug industry’s storied lobbying group isn’t accustomed to bad news — and with its small army of well-connected advocates, it’s even less familiar with surprises. For PhRMA, the news last winter was both.


Is your feminist T-shirt helping women?

Marketers have emblazoned empowering messages on T-shirts, tote bags, and even lipstick tubes. Is all this swag promoting feminism — or diluting its brand?

From the archive | Ideas

What New Year’s resolutions say about us

Our resolutions, it turns out, are also surprisingly revealing windows into our inner lives, and the ways in which we deceive and manipulate ourselves.

A glacier calves icebergs into a fjord off the Greenland ice sheet in southeastern Greenland, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. The Greenland ice sheet, the second largest body of ice in the world which covers roughly 80 percent of the country, has been melting and its glaciers retreating at an accelerated pace in recent years due to warmer temperatures. (AP Photo/David Goldman)


Big Data: How much ice is melting from Arctic glaciers into the ocean every year?

447 billion tons, according to a new study.

A worshipper holds a copy of the Bible while attending a church service ahead of Christmas in Hong Kong on December 23, 2018, during which several members of the congregation wore black in support of underground churches in mainland China. - This year, underground churches in China, especially larger establishments like the Early Rain Covenant, which has at least 500 church members, have faced increasing pressure. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP)PHILIP FONG/AFP/Getty Images


Innovation of the Week: Injectable Spirituality

A shot of the spirit, in the thigh.

Images and Photographs of the Meigs Elevated Railway All images are in the public domain.

Ideas | Wade Roush

The Cambridge monorail that wasn’t

Cambridge was home to one of the world’s first monorail systems — an experimental track in place from 1884 to 1894. What happened?

Ideas | STAT

‘Outbreak culture’ can derail effective responses to deadly epidemics

The creation of what we call “outbreak culture” is driven by multiple factors, from political motivation and life-threatening fear to personal gain and isolation.


Finding the bright side of a tense New Year’s Eve

The Times Square ball isn’t the only thing dropping, but not everything about the end of 2018 is awful.

President Donald Trump speaks to members of the five branches of the military by video conference on Christmas Day, Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2018, in the Oval Office of the White House. The military members were stationed in Guam, Qatar, Alaska, and two groups in Bahrain. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)


Uncommon Knowledge: Trump Republicans, Zip Code Politics, and College-Educated Cops

A collection of unusual insights from the social sciences.

Photo of Dummy chat


Subtle Cues: What you’re saying when you blink

We all know conversation is about more than what we say. But could something as subtle as a blink matter?

Soccer goalkeeper in action on the soccer stadium. He wear unbranded sports clothes. Stadium and crowd made in 3D.


Uncommon knowledge: Goal post thrills, speaking fees

A collection of unusual insights from the social sciences.

President Donald Trump speaks during a signing ceremony for H.R. 2, the


On Second Thought: Scientists appear to have duped editors into publishing image with hidden Trump face

Call it the Case of Mt. Flushmore.

Tooth of a European-American buried in San Francisco in the 1850s. A new technique developed at UC Davis allows archaeologists to find a person’s biological sex based on a single tooth. ()

Ideas | Kelly Kasulis

Something to chew on: prehistoric sex roles

There’s a new way to determine the sex of bodies and even sort out ancient social inequalities between males and females: examining teeth.


What do religious voters want? Definitely not piety

Rodrigo Duterte, who called the pope the “son of a whore,” asked the Philippines to choose between himself and a troubled church. Voters chose him. Why?


‘O Holy Night’ — on the US border

Author and illustrator A.J.B. Lane envisions a modern-day nativity story — complete with border patrol and family separation.

Ideas | Aimee Ortiz

Think your phone can only be a source of anxiety? Digital therapy should make you think again.

People are using apps and smart tech in innovative ways to ease their lives — isn’t that the original aim of advancing technology?

In this Dec. 12, 2018, photo,

Ideas | Kory Stamper

Language nerds worked really hard on that ‘Words of the Year’ list

Crunch the data on the most looked-up words and hope for something meaningful. Ignore the reality that, by mid-January, all this crunching and consideration will be forgotten.

Poultry farm (aviary) full of white laying hen


Big Data: the broiler chicken is the most numerous bird on the planet

22.7 Billion chickens — that’s how many broiler chickens are being raised for food at any given time.

Ideas | Beth Wolfensberger Singer

Three more trees for the White House this holiday season

The First Family’s home now features 57 Christmas trees celebrating “America’s Treasure.” Why not a few extra with an environmental theme?

An employee poses for photographs in front of Peter Doig's 'Red Boat' during a photo call at auction house Christie's in London, Friday, June 24, 2011. The painting is expected to fetch 1,400,000-1,800,000 pounds (2,200,000-2,700,000 dollars, 1,600,000-2,000,000 euros) when it goes on sale as part of Post War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction on June 28. (AP Photo/Akira Suemori)

Ideas | Daniel Grant

You can buy a painting, but it’s not really yours

If you buy a book or a t-shirt, you can do with it what you like. Art? Not so much.

Firefighter Jose Corona sprays water as flames from the Camp Fire consume a home in Magalia, Calif., on Nov. 9, 2018. (AP Photo/)


‘Reasonable doubt’ on climate change is killing the planet

Honest climate scientists acknowledge the limits of their work. But like defense lawyers in a TV drama, President Trump uses any flicker of doubt to let climate change go scot-free.


What makes a joke funny?

For thousands of years, humans have pondered their own humor. Yet, in 2018, a good joke is still a scientific enigma.

Memphis Grizzlies forward Ivan Rabb grabs the net during player introductions before an NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)


Uncommon Knowledge: White Cities and Black Basketball Stars, Valuable Gestures

A collection of unusual insights from the social sciences.

-- AFP PICTURES OF THE YEAR 2018 -- A demonstrator holds a French flag during a protest of Yellow vests (Gilets jaunes) against rising oil prices and living costs, on December 1, 2018 in Paris. - Speaking at the Paris police's command centre, French Prime Minister said 36,000 people were protesting across France, including 5,500 in the capital for this 3rd nationwide day of blockade ands demos. (Photo by Alain JOCARD / AFP)ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images

Opinion | Michael Sweeney

The “Yellow Vests” protesters are wrong

Some on the American left sympathize with France’s “Yellow Vests” protesters. But they’re wrong. We need a healthy gas tax.


’Tis the season . . . to be testy

No wonder more Americans are seeking escape.

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 03: The Airbnb app logo is displayed on an iPhone on August 3, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)


Uncommon Knowledge: Keeping secrets, junk-bond presidents, Airbnb photos

A collection of unusual insights from the social sciences.


On Second Thought: Comfort in the dark?

No, turning out the lights doesn’t make you less afraid of infectious disease.

robotic hand on table with parts


Big Data: 75% of amputees can ‘move’ phantom limbs

With that in mind, researchers have developed a prosthetic arm capable of picking up signals from an amputee’s stump and performing a variety of manuevers.