The Chernobyl Disaster May Have Also Built a Paradise

Until the 19th century, the Pripyat River basin on the border between Ukraine and Belarus was wetland and forest. As usual, humans kind of ruined it. They burned down forest for pastureland and cut down trees for timber—or for fuel to make glass and vodka. By the middle of the 20th century, most of that industry was gone, and human-driven reforestation efforts had remade the Pripyat region anew. And then, on April 26, 1986, a nuclear power plant called Chernobyl, on the Pripyat River about 70 miles north of Kiev, blew up and caught fire, spewing radiation across the northern hemisphere. So that was a big change. The Soviets ended up evacuating 300,000 people from nearly 2,000 square miles around …

Bad Air Linked To Dementia, Bezos’ Lunar Lander, and More News

Air pollution is worse for us than we thought, the world's richest man unveiled his moon craft, and Mother's Day is around the corner. Here's what you should know, in two minutes or less. Today's Headlines Evidence suggests air pollution might cause dementia The health conscious among us can eat well, exercise plenty, and abstain vices, like smoking. But the worsening air quality in American cities is increasingly difficult to avoid. Now, a wave of studies suggests air pollution is more harmful to us than previously thought, especially when it comes to dementia. How overwhelming is the evidence? "I have no hesitation whatsoever to say that air pollution causes dementia,” says the head of USC's Air Pollution and Brain Disease …

Sunscreen Chemicals Soak All the Way Into Your Bloodstream

By now, you’ve probably been taught to gird your sun-starved skin for battle with cancer-causing cosmic rays every time you go outside. Choose a spray, choose a lotion, but by heavens, choose something! Legions of doctors, parents, and YouTube beauty influencers are unanimous on this point. But with sunscreen application evolving from a week or two at the beach every year to a constant daily slather, US health regulators want to know more about how all those photoprotective chemicals interact with people’s skin. If they sink into tissues and get absorbed into the bloodstream, that could be a problem. Then, like other over-the-counter drugs the Food and Drug Administration oversees, sunscreens should be studied to make sure they don’t mess …

Researchers Want to Link Your Genes and IncomeShould They?

The UK Biobank is the single largest public genetic repository in the world, with samples of the genetic blueprints of half a million Brits standing by for scientific study. But when David Hill, a statistical geneticist at the University of Edinburgh, went poring through that data, he wasn’t looking for a cure for cancer or deeper insights into the biology of aging. Nothing like that. He was trying to figure out why some people make more money than others. Along with a team of European collaborators, Hill sifted through the UK Biobank data to find about 286,000 participants who had answered a survey question about household income. Using that information they conducted something called a Genome Wide Association Study, where …

Free Throws Should Be Easy. Why Do Basketball Players Miss?

The basketball arcs through the air and donks off the front of the rim. Steve Nash, who has met me at a court in Manhattan Beach on a cloudy Monday afternoon to shoot free throws, glances over and chuckles at his miss. "It's been a while," he says. When he retired from the NBA in 2015, Nash, a two-time MVP, left with a career average 90.43 percent from the line—the highest in league history. But he hasn't worked on his foul shot since. For an instant, I feel anxious for him. An uncomfortable thought enters my head: What if he's lost his touch? It is a dumb thought. Nash grabs his rebound and returns to the foul line. He tries …

The Genderless Digital Voice the World Needs Right Now

Boot up the options for your digital voice assistant of choice and you’re likely to find two options for the gender you prefer interacting with: male or female. The problem is, that binary choice isn’t an accurate representation of the complexities of gender. Some folks don’t identify as either male or female, and they may want their voice assistant to mirror that identity. As of now, they’re out of luck. But a group of linguists, technologists, and sound designers—led by Copenhagen Pride and Vice's creative agency Virtue—are on a quest to change that with a new, genderless digital voice, made from real voices, called Q. Q isn’t going to show up in your smartphone tomorrow, but the idea is to …