Findings — From the December 2018 issue

Findings

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Political scientists concluded that the sharing of hostile political rumors is not motivated by partisanship and is typically practiced by status-hungry, socially marginalized groups who rank high in a “Need for Chaos” metric and who wish to “burn down the entire established democratic cosmos.” A new analysis described how P. T. Barnum launched his career by arranging for public dissection of an old female slave who died while under contract to him, and then planting false newspaper stories about the event. Prior exposure makes fake news appear more accurate. Hate-speech filters on social media platforms can easily be fooled by removing spaces between words or by adding the word “love.” Sexually Transmitted Diseases published the article “Anal Sex Is More Common Than Having a Twitter Account in the United States.” A study of 980 million tweets determined the Deep South to be the birthplace of the word “baeless.”

Marriage in the United States is becoming less common and more stable, and the divorce rate is expected to further decline. A study of twelve diverse populations from the former Soviet Union, Latin America, and North America found that men with greater upper-body strength are less likely to support economic egalitarianism. Norwegians, despite having a more sexually egalitarian culture and being less inclined to accept misogynistic rape myths than Americans, are more pessimistic about the benefits of ­#MeToo. Psychopaths and Machiavellians are more likely to think that artificial intelligence poses a malevolent threat. Schadenfreude is more intense in real life than in lab simulations. People who are made to feel poorer desire more meat. High-status consumers consume low-status goods ironically to signal their difference from middle-status consumers. In Sweden, an eight-year-old girl named Saga pulled a pre-Viking sword from a lake. All-male legislative bodies are generally considered a less legitimate form of government.

An interdisciplinary team described a history of European animal trials by secular and ecclesiastical courts, including a sixteenth-century case against French rats, whose public defender, upon the rats’ failure to appear, remonstrated with the court: “What can be more unjust than these general proscriptions, which overwhelm whole families in one common ruin, which visit the crime of parents on the children, which destroy indiscriminately those whom tender years or infirmity render equally incapable of offending?” Mountain goats were airlifted out of Olympic National Park after attacking and harassing human visitors in an attempt to access the salt in their sweat and urine. Octopuses submerged in an ­MDMA bath for ten minutes will, when subsequently given the chance to enter a tank with a caged octopus, spend more time with the other octopus and will put their tentacles and mouth on the cage. Neurobiologists were researching why octopus mothers whose optic glands are removed do not follow the regular behavioral pattern of brooding, wasting away, and self-harming to accelerate death, but rather abandon their eggs and resume eating. Warming seas were making coral reefs larger but more porous, and were making farmerfish more aggressive in defending their reefs from corallivores. Astrophysicists pointed out that many advanced alien civilizations may have been killed off by climate change. A billion years ago and a billion light-years away in the galaxy ­PG211+143, matter was observed falling into a black hole at 30 percent the speed of light. 

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