How Zika Spiraled Out of Control

How Zika Spiraled Out of Control

This spring our reporter went into the lab to see how scientists are gathering clues to Zika’s sudden spread around the world

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

Speculating about the Future of Google+

Speculating about the Future of Google+

Despite a strong initial start, in the universe of social media it’s widely believed that Google+ will never replace Facebook.

That said, I’d like to get all Thomas Friedman-y and speculate wildly from a very limited personal anecdote.  Namely, my 6th grader just begged to be allowed to join Google+.  Begged!  Stomping and huffing was involved when the request was denied.  And why?  “All my friends are on Google+!!!!”

I know for a fact that my kid’s friends have parents who would certainly refuse to let them open an account on Facebook.  My theory is that Google+ is such a “failure” as a social media hub that it’s possible for parents to not even know that it’s a social media hub.  Or, if they do, the existence of “circles” as a way of limiting exposure gives parents a better sense of control, making Google+ seem like a more appropriate first step.  And from the kids’ point of view, Facebook is for grown-ups.  Would you want to be on the same social media channel as your mom???  Ew.  Plus, because it’s unpopular with, you know, old people, you don’t have to worry about parents checking your status ten times a day.

In short, I’m starting to wonder.

Edit: And, look what just showed up in the news: “Google+ outranks Twitter as Number 2 Social Network after Facebook

The post Speculating about the Future of Google+ appeared first on Cosmic Variance.

Celtic ‘must start winning next century of trophies’

Celtic ‘must start winning next century of trophies’

Manager Brendan Rodgers wants Celtic to start accumulating their “next century of trophies” after earning their 100th major honour.

The Ominous Story of Syria’s Climate Refugees

Farmers who have escaped the embattled nation explain how drought and government abuse have driven social violence

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

Ten Toys That You Won’t Mind Buying

Ten Toys That You Won’t Mind Buying

If you’ve ever had to shop for kids toys, you know it can be a demoralizing experience. Rows and rows of schlock, organized in alternating rows of “pink” or “camo”, anchored to their boxes by 43 twist ties, reeking of child labor and waste.  (Can you guess how much I like shopping?)

To help you out during this trying time (for the first-world definition of “trying time”), here are a few toy ideas.  All of them have seen heavy use in our house (or have been coveted at friends’ houses) and are great for open-ended play.  In addition, they’ve been just as popular with boys and girls, and have worked for a wide age bracket.

1. Wedgits

This is one of the most deceptive toys we own.  I can’t even remember how we got it (present? random mall purchase?), but it starts off looking like a cube of stacking blocks.  Looks boring, right?  Well, it turns out it’s a deeply nested group of squares with compatible angles that let you build some crazy, crazy stuff.  We have gotten sooooo much mileage out of this, given that it works about as well for 2 year olds as it does with drunk adults.  Only possible issue is the little white pieces, which are small enough to be choking hazards.  But, they also sell a “junior” edition where the white pieces are larger, at the expense of some versatility.  For maximum fun, I’d splurge and get the 2 cube set.

2. Fridgits

A complicated marble run that attaches magnetically to the fridge.  Only downside is that it fails to do one of the key jobs of toys, namely, keeping the kids out from under your feet while cooking.

3. Magna-Tiles

We don’t actually have these, but every time I run across them, I want them badly.  Then I check the prices on-line and don’t buy them.  But I still want them.  Oh, and I’ve heard that kids enjoy them too.

4. Snap Circuits

I’ve waxed poetic about the awesomeness of Snap Circuits before.  The original review still holds. Plus, they have a new edition which has fiber optics!

5. Play Dough

Who doesn’t like extruding?

6. Fractiles

This is less of a toy and more of an art project. Probably not the best gift for a fidgety kid, but a kid with a bit of focus can do a ton with this. Great for traveling as well.

7. Uno

If you have kids with a wide range in ages, get Uno. It’s about the only game where a 4 year old can play with a 12 year old and neither one gets bored.

8. Quirkle

Another game that works well for a broad range of ages. Simple rules, but not boring.  Similar concept as Uno (i.e. grouping of likes), but in a tiled crossword format.

9. Set

One of the most engrossing card games out there.  It looks like it should be easy, but it’s not — which means it’s a better option than your 200th round of “go fish”.  Plus, it requires a kind of rapid pattern matching that kids are frequently better at, which means you don’t have to throw the match to make sure your kids win sometimes.  Trust me — they’ll beat you fair and square.

10. Carcassone

This is a terrific first strategy game.  Definitely skews a bit older than Quirkle (I’d say 3rd grade and up is ideal), but just as fun for adults.

Please leave any other good ideas in the comments!

The post Ten Toys That You Won’t Mind Buying appeared first on Cosmic Variance.

A Trump Budget Could Decimate Climate Funding

Departments like the EPA and NASA could see a dramatic shift in their funding and priorities

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

Rangers shut out for first time this season in loss to Senators

Rangers shut out for first time this season in loss to Senators

The Rangers were juggernauts at home to begin the season, going 8-1 in their first nine games at the Garden while scoring 42 goals.