Yes, your skin darkens to protect itself from more damage. But developing an initial layer of pigment won’t stop you from getting an extremely severe burn if you lay out without sunscreen all day.

The past 15 years have witnessed an overwhelming amount of research on the bilingual mind, with the majority of the evidence pointing to the tangible advantages of using more than one language. Going back and forth between languages appears to be a kind of brain training, pushing your brain to be flexible.

Giving children household chores at an early age helps to build a lasting sense of mastery, responsibility and self-reliance, according to research by Marty Rossmann, professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota. In 2002, Dr. Rossmann analyzed data from a longitudinal study that followed 84 children across four periods in their lives—in preschool, around ages 10 and 15, and in their mid-20s. She found that young adults who began chores at ages 3 and 4 were more likely to have good relationships with family and friends, to achieve academic and early career success and to be self-sufficient, as compared with those who didn’t have chores or who started them as teens.

It turns out that if all the stars and all the planets in all the galaxies were before you in a terrifying, brilliant, impossible box, the color would you see (while no doubt experiencing a transcendent feeling of oneness) is the most boring color in the world.

An important part of the scientific process involves recognising human bias and preventing it from affecting results. For that reason, scientists use double-blind studies. When evaluating a drug for clinical trials, neither the doctors nor the patient knows who has been given the experimental drug and who the placebo. It is only after the experiment has been concluded that the scientists are unblinded. That way their wishful thinking can’t influence their findings.

Not so with the legal profession, which accumulates biases every step of the way. Most police, when they show a line-up to a witness, know which face belongs to the suspect. Studies have shown that that simple knowledge can lead an officer to unconsciously influence the witness who, in turn, can pick the favoured suspect, who might not be the perpetrator.

So who's to blame for all these bad stories and the sorry state of health journalism? One new study, published in the British Medical Journal, assigns a large fraction of blame to the press shops at various research universities. The study found that releases from these offices often overhype the findings of their scientists — while journalists play along uncritically, parroting whatever showed up in their inbox that day. Hype, they suggest, was manufactured in the ivory tower, not the newsroom.

The widespread assertion that the world would be better off without religion is a reasonable hypothesis. Yet data suggest that skeptics should attach no more than a modest level of probability to it.

In certain places in the world, the tide can leave the sea bottom dry for hours and then come roaring back. In fact, in 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte and a small group of soldiers on horseback were crossing the Gulf of Suez, the northern end of the Red Sea, roughly where Moses and the Israelites are said to have crossed. On a mile-long expanse of dry sea bottom exposed at low water, the tide suddenly rushed in, almost drowning them.

We decided to combine our energy innovation study’s best-case scenario results with Hansen’s climate model to see whether a 55 percent emission cut by 2050 would bring the world back below that 350-ppm threshold. Our calculations revealed otherwise. Even if every renewable energy technology advanced as quickly as imagined and they were all applied globally, atmospheric CO2 levels wouldn’t just remain above 350 ppm; they would continue to rise exponentially due to continued fossil fuel use. So our best-case scenario, which was based on our most optimistic forecasts for renewable energy, would still result in severe climate change, with all its dire consequences: shifting climatic zones, freshwater shortages, eroding coasts, and ocean acidification, among others. Our reckoning showed that reversing the trend would require both radical technological advances in cheap zero-carbon energy, as well as a method of extracting CO2 from the atmosphere and sequestering the carbon.

Eating food contaminated with radioactive particles may be more perilous than thought—at least for insects. Butterfly larvae fed even slightly tainted leaves collected near the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station were more likely to suffer physical abnormalities and low survival rates than those fed uncontaminated foliage, a new study finds. The research suggests that the environment in the Fukushima region, particularly in areas off-limits to humans because of safety concerns, will remain dangerous for wildlife for some time.

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