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The Week in Ideas (4/1)

Posted by Kevin Hartnett  April 1, 2013 11:14 AM

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Should we make animals smarter?: Emily Anthes on ethical debates around “animal uplift.” Scientists are making slow but steady progress in the realm of artificial brain improvement. These technologies could allow us to create a smarter human race, but a select group of futurists wonders whether we should extend these benefits to animals, too. Imagine, for example, brain-enhanced cows who can advocate for higher standards in the meat industry, or cognitively supercharged elephants who demand the right to vote. These scenarios are far-fetched, for now, but they do provoke a more imminent question: To what extent should we be sharing our biotechnology advances with other animals in the kingdom?

Unsolved mysteries of Boston: Leon Neyfakh on the biggest remaining Boston mysteries now that Whitey Bulger has been found and the thieves behind the 1990 Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist have been captured. These mysteries may lack the “national altitude” of those two, infamous riddles, but they’re plenty perplexing. They include the 1961 disappearance of socialite Joan Risch from her kitchen in Lincoln, a brilliantly staged highway robbery in 1962 that netted 6 unidentified co-conspirators $1.5 million in unmarked bills, open questions about whether Albert DeSalvo really was the Boston Strangler, and more.

Dropout at Harvard: Francie Latour interviews Todd Rose about how our educational system needs to do a better job seeing students as individuals. Rose, professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education and author of the new book, “Square Peg: My Story and What It Means for Raising Innovators, Visionaries, & Out-of-the-Box Thinkers,” was himself a high school dropout before he became an Ivy League professor. His experiences as student inform his research on educational neuroscience, and lead him to argue that labels like ADHD or dyslexia harm the learning potential of the kids who receive them.

5 tips for surviving a Sox collapse: The outlook isn’t great for this year’s Red Sox. Eric Simons offers five insights from neuroscience and psychology for dealing with a disappointing baseball season, including “lower your expectations,” “meditate,” and “take up baking.

Plus: Kevin Lewis on how people are more likely to donate blood to “prevent someone from dying” than to “save someone’s life;” how girls do better on standardized tests when the verbal section precedes the math section; how money serves as a way to stave off anxiety about death; and more.

Images of Boston's unsolved mysteries from the Globe and AP file photos.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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