• How the ‘Diabolical’ Beetle Survives Being Run Over by a Car

    The field of entomology is built on the humble pin: Biologists venture into grasslands and forests, scoop up insects, euthanize them, and pin them onto the trays that make up natural history collections in museums and universities, thus immortalizing the specimens for future scientists to examine. But the diabolical ironclad beetle—its actual name, though it’s more formally known as Phloeodes diabolicus—will suffer no such indignity. Native to the southwestern US, it’s known as a “pin-bender,” an insect so tough that when biologists try to drive a pin through its black, bumpy shell, the puny metal gives way. It’s so tough that entomologists have to drill a hole through it first, then drive the stake through. Which is an extra indignity, come to think of it.

    The diabolical ironclad beetle is so tough, in fact, that if you run one over with a car, it just walks away. It can

  • Can Placebos Work—Even When Patients Know They’re Fake?

    Other scientists who study placebos called the study fascinating and said they are hopeful that it will stimulate further research, but cautioned that much more needs to be considered before this work could be extrapolated to clinical settings. For example, the study only observed a very short-term response among the subjects. Although EEG is a reliable approach to measure early brain responses, Miller says, seeing an effect for the first few seconds of an emotional response in healthy people makes it hard to interpret what that could mean for treating a long-term psychiatric condition. “I see no way you can make any inferences from that kind of short-term outcome,” he says.

    For that reason, Tor Wager, a professor of neuroscience at Dartmouth College and a co-author of the study, says it will be important to track changes in the long run. “We need to know something about which placebo effects

  • It’s Time to Talk About Covid-19 and Surfaces Again

    “In my opinion, the chance of transmission through inanimate surfaces is very small, and only in instances where an infected person coughs or sneezes on the surface, and someone else touches that surface soon after the cough or sneeze (within 1–2 h),” he wrote. “I do not disagree with erring on the side of caution, but this can go to extremes not justified by the data.”

    That was months ago, and since then the scientific evidence has tipped in Goldman’s favor. And yet, here we are all the same, wiping down pews and hiding away books, among countless other disinfection rituals molded by those early perceptions. “What’s done cannot be undone,” Goldman tells me now. “And it’s going to take a lot of time and effort to turn things around.”

    In March, I wrote about what we knew at the time about our understanding of surface spread, which was very

  • The New Science of Wildfire Prediction 

    Back in 2018, a research ecologist for the US Fire Service found himself suddenly on the edges of the largest fire tornado ever observed, “a whirling vortex of flame 17,000 feet tall and rotating at 143 mph, with the destructive force of an EF-3 tornado, the kind that erases entire towns in Oklahoma.” The rare phenomenon was part of the Carr Fire, which burned large swaths of land in Northern California, and behaved in dangerously anomalous ways.

    So then, if a scientist who studies organisms and their relationship to the environment wasn’t able to predict what might happen in a fire, what chance does anyone else have? And are there any tools researchers can use to help determine what comes next in the fire-prone American west?

    That’s what writer Dan Duane tried to discover while reporting his November cover story for WIRED. He joins us to share his reporting

  • Want Some Eco-Friendly Tips? A New Study Says No, You Don’t

    This story originally appeared on Grist and is part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

    Need something else for your growing to-do list? Environmentalists have about a zillion things for you, give or take.

    Chances are that you’ve heard a lot of them already: Ditch your car for a bike, take fewer flights, and go vegan. Oh, and install solar panels on your roof, dry your laundry on a clothesline, use less water when you brush your teeth, take shorter showers … hey, where are you going? We’re just getting started!

    For decades, we’ve been told that the solution to our planetary crisis starts with us. These “simple” tips are so pervasive, they usually go unquestioned. But that doesn’t mean that most people have the time or motivation to heed them. In fact, new research suggests that hearing eco-friendly tips like these actually makes people less likely to do anything about

  • Treatment and Vaccine Trials are Halted, US Cases Rise, and More Coronavirus News

    Treatment and vaccine trials are halted, the US forges ahead with its decentralized response, and new revelations about American society and institutions underscore the deadly toll of the virus. Here’s what you should know:

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    Headlines

    Once-promising treatments and vaccines hit roadblocks

    Two weeks ago, President Trump was given a dose of an experimental antibody cocktail that he later claimed “cured” him of Covid-19. Two companies that manufacture versions of the drug—Regeneron and Eli Lilly—each applied for an emergency authorization from the FDA soon after. Prior therapies authorized by the FDA were all for use by people already in the hospital, but this one is administered right after diagnosis. For this reason and others, it shows promise, but data on the drug is still limited. Then, on Tuesday, Eli Lilly halted its Phase III drug trials due