Category: Science

What Makes Something Funny?

“Humor can be dissected, as a frog can,” E. B. White wrote, “but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the purely scientific mind.” True to form, philosophers, scientists, and certain left-brained comedians have been scrutinizing humor’s innards for centuries, seeking a serious understanding of what makes things funny. According to one scholarly…

Ditching Andrew Jackson for Mary Jackson

An elementary school in Utah has traded one Jackson for another in a change that many say was a long time coming. Jackson Elementary School in Salt Lake City will no longer be named for Andrew Jackson, the seventh U.S. president, whose slave ownership and treatment of Native Americans are often cited in the debate over memorializing historical figures associated…

The World Spends $400 Billion Propping Up Oil Companies. Is That Bad?

In the thrilling world of multinational industrial policy, it’s about as high-stakes a fight as you can get. Every year, the world’s governments spend hundreds of billions of dollars making it cheaper to extract and burn fossil fuels. Almost as regularly, their representatives get together and beg everyone else to stop doing that. Then they go home and keep doing…

A Language’s Popularity Could Influence Its Grammar and Vocabulary

It’s a peculiar observation that the more people speak a language, the simpler its grammar tends to be. English and Mandarin, for instance, have notably straightforward structures. On the other hand, languages spoken in just a single mountain valley or village can have gorgeously intricate grammars, full of gender and cases and declensions. They also tend to have rather small…

How to Survive Being Swallowed by Another Animal

In the 1997 movie Anaconda, there are, to put it mildly, a few scientific inaccuracies. Chief among them: Anacondas do not regurgitate their still-living prey to experience the thrill of a second kill, as the movie’s snake does with Jon Voight. They will sometimes puke up a meal, but since they constrict their victims before swallowing, the expelled individual would…