Introducing “Small Wonders”

Alas, there are more interesting science stories than I could ever possibly write about here. So, at the end of each week, I’ll post “Small Wonders,” a round-up of the most fascinating things I haven’t had a chance to blog about. In this week’s edition: Arctic alligators, a strange case of amnesia, and a damning still from Mad Men.

So, without further ado:

* German researchers have used U.S. text messages to chart how public emotion evolved over the course of a single day: Sept. 11, 2001. With a fascinating graph.

* Penn and Teller take one-and-a-half minutes to knock down (literally) the anti-vaccine movement (via Bad Astronomy).

* It’s not–oh, well, yeah, I guess it is brain surgery. Prehistoric brain surgery. New Scientist has an interview with archaeologist Onder Bilgi, who has unearthed evidence that brain surgery was taking place 4,000 years ago. And patients were surviving.

* Is this woman whose memory seems to be erased each night for real? These scientists think so.

* A New York magazine piece on the NYC public schools’ mostly illusory gains in test scores contains an interesting discussion of “Campbell’s Law”: “Named for sociologist Donald T. Campbell, the precept holds, essentially, that the more that numbers are used for political purposes, the more they will be manipulated—and distort the decisions they were supposed to inform.”

A five-lined skink with her eggs.

* Scientists studying the  yellow-bellied three-toed skink (an awesomely-named lizard native to Australia) believe that they are witnessing the evolution of live birth.

* Gary Stix weighs in on the crazy talk about Obama being “genetically” Muslim.

* By age 4, girls believe that they’re smarter than boys. (If you just went by the image accompanying this post–a Mad Men still that pairs Peter with the clearly superior Peggy–you’d have to conclude that these girls are, in fact, right.)

* Transylvanian dinosaurs, Arctic alligators … who needs Hollywood?

* A new study suggests it’s time to rethink the benefits of brain training. As Emily Sohn puts it at “The research suggests that mind-challenging activities don’t actually ward off dementia-inducing diseases. Instead, these exercises prolong the brain’s ability to function well despite the degeneration happening within.”

* Lucy gets added to a diorama at the Smithsonian. With a great photo.

* Bjorn Lomborg reverses course, decides maybe climate change is a problem after all.

* And, of course, if somehow you’ve missed it, be sure to check out Steve Silberman’s fascinating interview with Oliver Sacks.

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