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The Monitor ep. 11--Absence of Aid from U.S.S.R. Made Cubans Slimmer [Video]

In this week's episode of Scientific American's weekly news video roundup: bad times might lead to good health, the misuses of the iPod as a unit of storage, decisions happen seven seconds earlier than you think, and hear a Neandertal speak!

Created, written & designed by John Pavlus / Screencasts produced by Smashcut Media / Music by Jeff Alvarez

Check out previous episodes of The Monitor. Subscribe to this video podcast via iTunes or RSS

# 1. Bad times = good health?
A study that appeared in the American Journal of Epidemiology was covered in the Guardian.

While the study first appeared in December of this year, its findings have become newly relevant as a spike in food and fuel prices have put similar pressures on developing countries all over the world. The New York Times has an excellent series on the subject.

Naturally, Scientific American has covered potential solutions to this crisis, including a second "green revolution" in Africa, addressed in a recent Jeffrey Sachs column and a news item by our environment correspondent, David Biello (and again here).

#2. iScience: news you can use!
IBM's recent breakthrough on a type of memory that could store 100 times as much information as current hard disks prompted a distressingly homogenous stream of news reports, all of which wondered what this might to do for the storage capacity of iPods. Considering that the press release upon which these stories were based made the same comparison, this seems like a classic case of churnalism.

To be fair, Scientific American itself has in the past been guilty of trying to hook readers with the gratuitous use of the word iPod in a headline.

#3. Hearing hominid speech
Reproducing neanderthal speech from little more than a model of its vocal tract is no mean feat, but the conclusion drawn by researcher Robert McCarthy, an anthropologist at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, is already sparking controversy: he claims that his reconstruction demonstrates that Neanderthal's would have had a hard time producing a certain class of sounds, and that this bodes ill for their being proficient with language.

Research on genes critical for language ability, however, contradicts this assertion. Even the complete reconstruction of the Neanderthal genome, currently underway, may not resolve this debate -- after all, there are no Neanderthals living today.

#4. Brain to self: "I'm way ahead of you"
In a paper published in the March 20 issue of the journal Nature, researchers were able to guess which of two choices a subject would make up to 10 seconds in advance of the choice, based solely on information garnered from a scan of the subject's brain.

You could hardly ask for a more thorough account of the paper and its implications than this one at the science blog Mixing Memory.

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