For millennia, predicting the future was beyond belief. Now, in the era of big data, it seems like an inevitability. NOVA Next editor Tim De Chant reports on the increasing use of user-generated web content to forecast collective human behavior.
In other news from NOVA and around the web:
- What was it like to take an astronomy class taught by Carl Sagan? Bill Nye tells NOVA’s Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers.
- Icy bodies known as sednoids are lurking out beyond Neptune. But even more intriguing are their orbits, which could hint at the presence of a super Earth orbiting in the hazy outer reaches of our solar system.
- Scientific American has a mega-link roundup of all things BICEP2, in case you missed out on the fun. And don’t miss our coverage.
- The new record for biggest genome ever sequenced? A common pine tree.
- Love bread? Thank the yeast—the fungus that gives rise to it. To better understand how yeast works, scientists are synthesizing its genome, starting with a single chromosome.
- IBM Watson has extensive medical knowledge—23 million abstracts’ worth. Now, the New York Genome Center is drawing on its intelligence to create personalized, revolutionary treatments for cancer patients. Learn more about Watson with “Smartest Machine on Earth,” streaming online.
- Goats are actually pretty intelligent, though not as smart as birds, dolphins, or apes; they can solve puzzles to retrieve food rewards.
- Explorer and photographer James Balog took a trip south to record melting ice in Antarctica. Follow him on his previous trip in the opposite direction—the Arctic—with NOVA’s “Extreme Ice,” streaming online.
- Ebola has broken out in West Africa for the first time. But for Americans, another virus from Africa is closer to home.
- Speaking of homes, up to 100 different arthropod species may live in yours—including the dreaded bed bug.
- Humans can distinguish between at least a trillion different smells. Here’s why our sense of smell is more complicated than we’d ever imagined.
- You’ve probably encountered at least one conspiracy theory on Facebook and wondered, “Where did this come from?” Ironically, one source might be trolls who parody the views of alternative news pages.
- Pollution killed 7 million people worldwide in 2012. Particulate emissions, in particular, are also burdening pregnant women.
- For some climate scientists, art museums their are playgrounds. Why? Because painted sunsets, it turns out, can tell us a lot about climate change.
- President Obama is proposing to overhaul of the NSA’s phone records program. Learn about the quantum key encryption technique that might have safeguarded messages.
- This week’s Chicago transit rail crash could have been caused by operator fatigue. Experts are investigating the science of drowsiness to prevent such accidents in the future.