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False news spreads faster than true stories, and it's because of humans, not bots, according to a new study published today in Science. Our preference for novel news, which is often false, may be driving our behavior, researchers from MIT report.
The bottom line: "It's important to avoid temptation to shift the blame elsewhere and focus on these non- human and foreign actors. Even if we solve bots and the foreign interference problem, it wouldn’t solve the problem of online misinformation," says Brendan Nyhan, a political scientist at Dartmouth College, who wasn't involved in the research.
The details from the study, which is one of the first large scientific ones to actually analyze false news:
What's next: Coming up with ways to intervene and dampen the spread of misinformation, Vosoughi says. One possibility would be an indicator of how much a person is contributing to a "healthy" discourse on a platform.
Erin Ross writes: The Gulf of Maine is getting warm — quick. From 2004–2013, sea temperatures there rose faster than almost any other location on Earth.
Why it matters: The Gulf is home to a number of endangered species, and the fisheries there bring in several billion dollars per year to the U.S. and Canada, but the Gulf’s future hangs in the balance. Researchers are scrambling to understand what the warming water means for the people and animals who rely on the ecosystem, particularly as the changes there provide a glimpse into the future of coastlines around the world.
The impact: Humpback whales, endangered right whales, several sea birds, and crucial food species like bluefin tuna migrate into the Gulf of Maine. But climate change has caused some fish populations to collapse, threatening the animals who call the Gulf home, and the people who make a living on it.
The bottom line: When we talk about warming waters, we often talk about shifting populations. Questions revolve around whether or not species will move north fast enough to survive rapidly warming waters. But the recent warming in the Gulf reveals something dramatic: even if animals like right whales follow the cold water north, the habitats they’re entering may not be able to support them.
“You’re not just sliding game pieces north on the map. The Gulf of Maine is really special.”— Andrew Pershing, The Gulf of Maine Research Institute
Common blue butterfly. Photo: Andia / UIG via Getty Images
Erin writes: Get close to a butterfly and you might notice something surprising: they sometimes smell really good. Male butterflies release pheromones to attract females, and those smells are actually detectable and pleasing to humans.
“They have really distinct smells, some more noticeable than others,” says Nicola Chamberlain, an entomologist at the Journal of Visual Experiments. “I have definitely smelled them and enjoyed them, some more than others.”
Yes, but: Butterflies don’t always smell delicious. Caterpillars are prey for a number of species, so some, like the papilio caterpillar, have stinky defenses.“They have these little red antler horn things that they inflate when pissed off, and they release a horrible smell. It’s amazing. You’d never wanna eat that,” Chamberlain says.