Feb 26, 2009 | 2
We really do judge a book by its cover—and, it seems, the competence of politicians by their faces. What's more, adults and kids see the same competence—or, as the case may be, ineptitude—in a person's visage, which helps explain why children can accurately predict presidential elections, according to new research published today in Science.
Swiss adults unfamiliar with French politics were shown 57 pairs of photos of opponents from an old French parliamentary election and asked to pick which ones looked most competent. In a separate experiment, Swiss kids ages 5 to 13 played a computer game that enacted Odysseus' trip from Troy to Ithaca. Then, using the same pairs of photos, researchers asked the kids which candidate they'd choose to captain their ship. In both experiments, the adults and children tended to pick the winners of the election.
Nov 5, 2008 | 9
The big news of the night, of course, was Senator Barack Obama's historic presidential victory. But ScientificAmerican.com was following a number of other races among the hundreds across the country.
In one, Democrat Steve Kagen -- an allergist, pictured to the left -- won a tight race in Wisconsin's 8th District against Republican John Gard. With most precincts reporting, the Associated Press called the race in Kagen's favor at about 12:30 A.M. Eastern Standard Time. What makes Kagen noteworthy is that as a freshman member of Congress in 2007, he turned down his Congressional health care coverage, as we reported in May.
"I'll respectfully decline until you can make that same offer for all of my constituents," Kagen, 58, said to a Congressional human resources staffer, explaining his decision to turn down what many call the "Cadillac" of U.S. health plans. Since then, he's introduced his own health care reform bill— and remained healthy, at least through August, when we last checked in with him. Now he has a second term to stay healthy through.
Nov 4, 2008
It's been a long slog to get to this election day. We all know the campaigns spent millions to get their messages across. But Bob Grant at The Scientist wondered about the environmental cost (log-in required)—specifically how much the campaigns of Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain contributed to global warming. Based on total campaign expenditures—including flying, driving, and printing materials—Grant (with help from consultant Standard Carbon) estimates that the Obama camp emitted nearly 78,000 tons of climate-change inducing carbon dioxide (CO2) and the McCain campaign roughly 59,000 tons of CO2.
Standard Carbon suggests planting 18 square miles of new trees to offset that climate change pollution—the growing trees would theoretically soak up an equivalent amount of CO2—but such carbon offsets don't address the core of the problem: burning fossil fuels.
Nov 3, 2008
Is a sticky scientific or health dilemma holding you up from pulling the lever in the voting booth tomorrow? We've still got our trusty blow-by-blow of the presidential candidates' positions on controversial policy topics for quick reference.
Some regional and local hot campaigns to watch from our recent in-depth report on science and the election: A lawsuit over whether to allow drilling for gas in Colorado's Roan Plateau could influence who gets the state's open U.S. Senate seat. While neither Democratic candidate Mark Udall nor Republican Bob Schaffer has taken clear positions on the debate, political scientist Robert Duffy told ScientificAmerican.com last month that the controversy "helps Udall marginally." Udall has a 47 to 43 percent lead over Schaffer in a new Denver Post poll.
Nov 3, 2008
Is electronic voting on its way out? For the first time in nearly three decades, there will be a decline in the number of people casting their ballots electronically, reports Election Data Services, Inc. (EDS). The Manassas, Va.-based political consulting firm reports that, compared with the 2006 election, nearly 10 million fewer voters will use e-voting machines Tuesday.
According to EDS, more than 55 million voters (about 32.6 percent of the 169 million registered in this country) in 1,068 counties nationwide (there are more than 3,100 counties in the U.S.) will be able to vote electronically, fewer than the 1,142 counties that used electronic systems in 2006.
E-voting, which lets voters choose their candidates using a touch screen computer, appears to be falling out of vogue. Over the past two years, all of the 86 counties nationwide that have changed voting systems have adopted optical scan systems rather than DRE (direct recorded election) electronic voting machines. With an optical scan voting system, voter mark their candidates on a paper ballot, which is then scanned into a computer (much the same way cashiers ring up food in a supermarket). More than 59 percent of the nation's counties will be using optical scan voting systems for this election, representing over 56.2 percent of the country's registered voters. Optical Scan systems are expected to be used in 41 states, while electronic voting systems are still in use in 26 states.
Sep 28, 2008 | 6
When the presidential nominees verbally duked it out during their first televised debate Friday night, many people -- including perhaps Democrat Barack Obama -- were flummoxed when Republican John McCain started railing about forking over funds to study bear DNA.
What's up with that? Check out this ScientificAmerican.com article from earlier this year for the answer.
(iStockPhoto of grizzly bears by Paul Tessie)
Sep 18, 2008 | 6
While it's hard to imagine President Bush, Vice President Cheney or Republican presidential candidate John McCain spending much time on (or even having) a personal e-mail account, the newer generation of politicians are as plugged in as the rest of us. In fact, just how much they use e-mail for official business is fast becoming an issue in this election as the campaigns head into the homestretch.
To wit: hackers broke into the Yahoo! e-mail account of Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and plastered personal photos, several messages, and Palin's e-mail contact list on a site called Wikileaks.org, the site reports. This is the same site that a federal judge in San Francisco in February wanted to disable to prevent it from continuing to publish confidential information.
Aug 26, 2008 | 1
Do you have an affinity for technology? Did you do well in civics class? Are you free on November 4? If you meet all of these criteria, then you might feel compelled to take a temporary job on Election Day this year as a volunteer election site worker or an electronic voting machine technician.
That's the message being sent out by groups concerned about the integrity of the upcoming presidential election as well as the e-voting technology some states will rely on to cast votes. Election watchdog Black Box Voting, based in Renton, Wash., this week issued a press release pointing out that voting machine vendors—including Election Systems & Software, Premier Election Solutions, Sequoia Voting Systems and Hart Intercivic—will hire and train thousands of technicians staffed around the country.
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