Sharon Begley

Earth Overshoot Day

If you've been feeling more than usually guilty about the environment since Tuesday, September 23, there may be a reason: that was the day humans used up all the resources—on cropland, pasture, forests and in fisheries—that nature will provide this year, according to data from the Global Footprint Network, a research group.

Will Chemo Work for You?

There's a lot of research these days aimed at identifying characteristics of cancer cells that make them susceptible to particular treatments, as breast-cancer cells with extra expression of the her2 protein are treatable with Herceptin.

Male Chauvinism = Big Paycheck?

Brace yourself for a spate of stories about how "what you think may affect what you earn," as the press release from the American Psychological Association puts it.

Begley: Let Them Eat Micronutrients

There is a good but sobering reason why "ending world hunger" has been a perennial hope of beauty-pageant contestants at least since Miss America contestants began naming that as their greatest wish: we haven't come close to doing it.

GOP vs. Dems: The Climate Chasm

Hard to believe, but Republicans once took the lead in environmental protection and conservation: Richard Nixon proposed the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and signed the law establishing it in 1970.

Trees Will Save Us From Global Warming? Scratch That

For the couple of decades the Greening Earth Society, a creation of the coal industry, has been happily insisting that the more carbon dioxide we pump into the atmosphere the lusher and more verdant the world will be.

Lab Notes: The Moral Voter

Over at her blog Lab Notes, Sharon Begley writes on new studies of voter behavior. An excerpt: Most of the research on the power of emotions to sway voters has been on how different candidates inspire fear or hope (with the former being more powerful than the latter), or even on how likable they are.

The Passions of Voters: Whose Morals Are They, Anyway?

The AP story  on John McCain's taking a 48-44 lead over Barack Obama included this quite: "My heart sort of runs with McCain and my mind probably tends to run toward Obama," said David Scorup, 58, a county government official in Othello, Wash. "I think I resonate more with McCain." That sent me scurrying for the latest on the power of emotions to sway voters—rational analysis of candidates' positions and records be damned.

Even Avatars Are Racist?

Now that Americans are hanging around virtual worlds almost as much (it seems) as the real one, research on how we behave in places like Second Life and how things like our choice of avatar spills over into the real world is heating up.

Cancer: The Roads Not Taken

With all the ways cancer cells can elude chemotherapies (as well as radiation, for some of the same reasons: radiation damages DNA, but malignant cells activate DNA-repair mechanisms), it may seem a miracle that anyone beats cancer.

Why One Dumb Tumor Is Smarter Than 100 Oncologists

This week's story paints a fairly bleak picture of cancer therapy 37 years after the start of the war on cancer, but as I spoke to some of the nation's leading oncologists about their memories of when they first entered the field, I was struck by two things: the real progress that has been made since 1971, and their remarkable ability to remain hopeful in the face of a disease that, 1,500 times a day (that's how many people in the U.S. will die of cancer every day this year), reminds them that...

Cancer: A Long List of Missed Opportunities

Mea culpa: Lab Notes was missing in action last week because I couldn't tear myself away from interviewing oncologists for the story in this week's magazine [] about the war on cancer.

Carbon Villains, the Sequel

When I wrote last year about the Center for Global Development's Carbon Monitoring for Action database last November when it launched, I noted what a wealth of information it offered on sources of carbon dioxide emissions throughout the world, from the worst actors down to whether your own utility is an angel or a villain when it comes to CO2 emissions.

Why You Can't Swat a Fly

The reason you can't swat a fly is that, for a creature with a brain hardly deserving of the name, the fly is a marvel of calculating ability. But before I explain what scientists led by Michael Dickinson of the California Institute of Technology (that would be the Dickinson whose e-mail is "flyman") have learned about how the fly brain calculates the location of the looming swatter, formulates an escape plan and plants its legs in an optimal position to hop out of the way (all within about 100...

Becoming A Real-Life Caveman--For Science, Of Course

Metin Eren just spent three years in his lab living like a Neanderthal—or at least working like one. Starting with a specimen of a green sand silicate from the chalk cliffs at Seaton on the Devonshire coast, he used hammerstones to knock off flakes the way Neanderthals did and then a piece of boxwood to knock flakes off the way Homo sapiens sapiens, who replaced Neanderthals in Europe, did.

Share and Share Alike

A growing number of studies are looking at whether non-human animals have a moral sense. One of my favorites from a few years back focused on fairness. Scientists at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center placed two cups of food on a tray that was counterweighted so that, in order for the capuchin monkeys in a nearby cage to reel it in and have a snack, both had to pull a bar.

Spreading Democracy, Monkey Style

This week brought a rich assortment of "isn't that amazing" animal stories, including the mother gorilla in a German zoo who continued to carry her dead infant.

East Brains, West Brains

How do you look at a face? Since 1965 it has been a tenet of psychology that people look at faces through the triangle method; that is, they scan the eyes (especially) and then the mouth, in a basic visual process assumed to be common to all humans.

Racial Medicine: Not So Fast

Next time you want to start a bar fight, proclaim to everyone within earshot that "race is not real; it is just a social and cultural construct and has no biological validity." Then duck before you get punched in the face. . . .

Climate: Winners and Losers

Memo to Gov. Schwarzenegger: you are right to make California a leader in the fight to control global warming. If a new study is right, your state is going to get hammered more than any other in the country as the climate changes.

Thank a Grandmother

Why do animals, notably women, outlive their reproductive years? Nature would seem to have little or no use for us once we reach middle age, let alone our dotage; after all, the only thing evolution cares about—by which I mean, acts on—is how many offspring we leave.

Brainy Empathy on the Basketball Court

  With the preliminary rounds in men's basketball underway at the Olympics, and Team USA vowing to bring home the gold, the smart money should be on . . .

Human Evolution: Tale of the Y

Nothing against fossils, but when it comes to tracing the story of human evolution they're taking a back seat lately to everything from DNA to lice, and even the DNA of lice.