Rethinking the placebo effect: How our minds actually affect our bodies

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nothing_webbIn 2013, Neil deGrasse Tyson hosted a mind-bending debate on the nature of “nothing”—an inquiry that has occupied thinkers since the dawn of recorded thought and permeates everything from Hamlet’s iconic question to the boldest frontiers of quantum physics. That’s precisely what New Scientist editor-in-chief Jeremy Webb explores with a kaleidoscopic lens in “Nothing: Surprising Insights Everywhere from Zero to Oblivion–a terrific collection of essays and articles exploring everything from vacuum to the birth and death of the universe to how the concept of zero gained wide acceptance in the 17th century after being shunned as a dangerous innovation for 400 years. As Webb elegantly puts it, “nothing becomes a lens through which we can explore the universe around us and even what it is to be human. It reveals past attitudes and present thinking.” At Brain Pickings

Butternut squash, potato and cheddar mash

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butternut mash 058In my family we have mashed potato lovers and butternut squash lovers, and those who love both. This dual mash with sharp cheddar is so good you’ll want to make it for more than just holidays. It’s savory-sweet with a tang from sour cream and cheddar that just puts it over the top on flavor. Serve with your favorite protein and a heaping serving of green veggies. At Cooking with Anne

Scottish cyclist interrupts world tour to save stray dog

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n_74378_1A Scottish cyclist has won many hearts in Turkey after she interrupted her world tour to save an injured stray dog. 34-year-old sprint cyclist Ishbel Taromsari arrived in the western Turkish province of Balıkesir, four months after she left France for a world tour with her bicycle and only 3.5 British pounds per day for her expenses covered by a sponsor. At Hurriyet Daily News

South American Catholics turning Protestant

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Latin America may be going Protestant faster than anyone realized. A new Pew survey on the area’s religious affiliations found that 69 percent of respondents identified as Catholics, down from 90 percent through the end of the 20th century. More dramatically, 84 percent of respondents said they were raised Catholic, so the results represent a 15 percent drop in Catholic affiliation in just one generation. Here’s where former Catholics are going and why, via the NYT. At The American Interest

Old stories, new lives

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Rosina_LeardiI come from a family that loves to hear and tell stories. My mother, who taught me how to read, also made it a point to share with me her love of old movies. Some of my fondest childhood (and adult) memories of her are of curling up together on a sofa, watching Rick bid goodbye to a tearful Ilsa as she boarded the plane out of Casablanca, Dorian Gray defiantly stab his terrifying portrait, Rhett carry a struggling Scarlett up the grand staircase, and Norma Desmond descend her staircase for the last time. At Changing Aging

Cancer’s “Frankenstein” DNA mystery solved

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r1353817_18983088The creation of a ‘Frankenstein’ chromosome that steals the DNA it needs to grow and survive has been detailed for the first time in research led by Australian scientists. The work, published today in the journal Cancer Cell, shows how an extra chromosome, known as a neochromosome, found in up to three per cent of all cancers, is created. At ABC Science

The Rustbelt roars back from the dead

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Blast furnacesUrban America is often portrayed as a tale of two kinds of places, those that “have it” and those who do not. For the most part, the cities of the Midwest—with the exception of Chicago and Minneapolis—have been consigned to the second, and inferior, class. Cleveland, Buffalo, Detroit or a host of smaller cities are rarely assessed, except as objects of pity whose only hope is to find a way, through new urbanist alchemy, to mimic the urban patterns of “superstar cities” like New York, San Francisco, Boston, or Portland. At New Geography

The legend of the Kamikaze typhoons

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In the late 13th century, Kublai Khan, ruler of the Mongol Empire, launched one of the world’s largest armada of its time in an attempt to conquer Japan. Early narratives describe the decimation and dispersal of these fleets by the ‘Kamikaze’ of CE 1274 and CE 1281–a pair of intense typhoons divinely sent to protect Japan from invasion. At Science Daily