Science & Society

The benefits of music education are widely reported. Playing an instrument has been shown to have significant cognitive benefits.

Creative thinking, social and emotional intelligence, coordination, memorization and auditory processing are all thought to improve in school-age children who learn music.

This makes it hard to argue with the fact that learning music is a good thing. But, when it comes to the type of music to teach, things get less agreeable.

In 1989 Ellen Stohl, who had become a wheelchair user after a car accident, appeared in an eight-page spread in Playboy magazine. She had pushed to do so, she explained later, because it was important for her to express her right to sexuality. “Sexuality is the hardest thing for a disabled person to hold on to,” she said in a TV interview. “I am a woman more than a wheelchair.”

Regarding Playboy owner Hugh Hefner, she added: “He believed that I could have the same sexual voice as women without disabilities.”

Like with car pool lanes, the rationale for more bicycling infrastructure is that if they are built, more people will use them, and it will save the environment, public health, etc. but like with car pool lanes, the reality turns out to be different. In actual usage 25 percent of highways or more get blocked off for vehicles with multiple occupants while 7 percent of occupants use them, which leads to higher traffic, and the stress and accidents that go with it, and worse emissions due to slower cars.

Dating apps like Tinder offer a quick look at a potential connection, with a simple swipe to either decline or accept a potential match, so it follows that some people will try to game the system by using an old picture or one that is enhanced using a tool like Photoshop.

So many people do it, at least according to common belief, that is must work. But does it?  

People assume some pictures must be fake and they don't want to be "catfished" (slang for a romantic hoax, because less reputable seafood restaurants will serve catfish as something more expensive) so alarm bells ring when something looks too good to be true, or in this case "too hot to trust."

Once again, your resident tellytraveller has turned his gaze to the Southern Hemisphere, this time with second series of Coast Australia.  Episode 8 took us to New South Wales, and most spectacularly to Jervis Bay, a little under 200 km south of Sydney.

California Senator Dianne Feinstein recently declared war on homemade soap in order to placate her corporate donors, so it is no surprise the public holds her in rather poor regard. Yet it is not just her, U.S. Congress approval ratings are at record lows across the board and a new study speculates that this may be partly due to a decline in the use of warm, agreeable language in the House.

The analysis found that the use of prosocial words -- language such as cooperate or contribute -- by lawmakers predicts public approval of Congress six months later.

Does anyone actually buy the clothes that show up on runways a few times per year? People do, and the thinking goes that in order to sell them, models need to look thin. Some cultural advocates have insisted that overweight women who look more 'real' - 65 percent of Americans are overweight - will sell more clothes, but that is in defiance of marketing principles which have shown that people buy on what they want to look like, not what they do look like.
Our adventure started here after an 8-mile hike to Snowmass Lake near Aspen, Colorado

I learned something very important about crop pests in a most unexpected setting – a paradise-like wilderness area in the Colorado Rockies. 

It was the summer of 1978 and I had gotten married the year before. This was my first chance to share a favorite place, the Snowmass/Maroon Bells Wilderness Area, with my wife. 

Kids from
multilingual environments
become better communicators, according to a new paper in 
Psychological Science
which says that such children are better at interpreting a speaker's meaning than children who are exposed only to their native tongue - even if the kids are not bilingual themselves.

Exposure to more than one language is the key for building effective social communication skills, says University of Chicago Katherine Kinzler, who believes this paper is the first to demonstrate the social benefits of just being exposed to multiple languages. 

As scientists, my colleagues and I are often told we need to engage the general public and decision makers, to use our expertise to inform public discourse and debates and to reach a far wider audience than just our professional colleagues.

I very much believe in the importance of doing this. This is, for instance, my 25th article for The Conversation. I’ve also written scores of articles for other popular venues such as New Scientist, Natural History, Yale Environment 360, Australian Geographic, the Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times, among others.