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This article is from the In-Depth Report Science and the U.S. Election

The Monitor (Episode 15)--Prime the Vote, Doritos for Science, and More

Voters who know their place; Chilling evidence of rapid climate meltdown; Humans to galaxy: "We're here!" via golden plaques and snack food; and DNA self-sequencing kit marketers parse "lab test"
 

Created, written & designed by John Pavlus / Screencasts produced by Andrew Cahill / Music by Jeff Alvarez

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

Background on this week's stories:

#1. Location, location, location
If you don't care to read the whole thing, the PNAS paper that describes how where you vote can influence what you vote for was summarized in their early edition. The Telegraph (London) also has a good summary of the findings. The initiative that benefited from voters casting their ballots in schools was Proposition 301, which proposed a new sales tax to be spent on education.

Priming, the mechanism behind this effect, has also been shown to link thinking about money and selfish behavior, and may affect nearly every decision we make. When it comes to voting and political affiliation, genes may also play a role.

Credits: Locker image from Conspirator Design, classroom image from Liz Marie, chalkboard image from Don Fulano, and stained glass windows courtesy of Flickr user bigbold.

#2. Dramatic ice cores: no, seriously
Lord Monckton, the cover of whose book we feature in the opening of this segment, is a noted climate change skeptic whose views regularly draw sharp rebuke from the scientific mainstream. Scientific American last crossed paths with him at the climate change skeptic's conference in New York City last March.

For in-depth reporting, check out the Scientific American article on which this segment was based. We've covered other instances in which climate change had profound effects on ecosystems before, including one instance that almost wiped out all life on Earth. For more on climate change in the future, check out our recent special report and our climatology topic page.

Credits: Greenland image from Wikipedia, rain symbol from the Northumberland Grid for Learning, and ice core image courtesy of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration.

#3. Marketing of the spheres
The gold plaque attached to Pioneer 10—itself a slightly more legitimate attempt to contact alien intelligences than the one featured in this segment—made an appearance in both Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and Futurama. Pioneer 10 is currently heading away from Earth in the general direction of the giant red star Aldebaran, where it will arrive in about two million years.

The original press release touting the beaming of a Doritos ad at a star system that might harbor life mentions one redeeming feature of the project: European Incoherent Scatter Scientific Association charged for the privilege of having the advertisement beamed into space, and that money will help fund scientific research at the association.

Extrasolar planets are extremely hot right now—some researchers are predicting it's only a matter of time until we discover Earth-size planets outside the solar system—and Scientific American has elaborate coverage of these developments.

#4. DNA turf war in California
Hats off to Alexis Madrigal at Wired, whose obsessive coverage of this issue inspired this segment. After we wrapped up shooting, a second company, Navigenics, declared that, like 23andMe, they would not be ceasing or desisting in their consumer-focused genome sequencing activities.

Credits: Image of the instructions for the 23andMe sequencing kit is courtesy of Nat Friedman, karyotype image from (the) Esther Dyson, and DNA rendering from Flickr user ynse.

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