Innovations in 5: Are you happier today than you were two years ago?

Here’s what we’re reading/watching today:

A smiley-face ballon floats over Revere Beach in Revere, Mass., as beachgoers head for the water, Sunday, July 16, 2006. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
A smiley-face ballon floats over Revere Beach in Revere, Mass., while beachgoers enjoy the sun and sand on July 16, 2006. (Michael Dwyer?AP)

1) Americans are less happy today than they were two years ago. That’s according to the Harris Poll Happiness Index, which finds that fewer minorities, recent college graduates and disabled individuals reported being “very happy” than in 2011. The poll surveyed 2,345 U.S. adults between April 10 and 15, asking respondents to agree or disagree with a series of statements. The poll found that only a third of Americans overall reported being “very happy.”

The pollsters write that the decline in happiness could be attributable to the tough job market (for recent college graduates), a fear of cuts to services due to the sequester (for those with disabilities) and the protracted, heated debate over immigration reform (for Hispanic Americans). The poll also found that women (35 percent) were happier than men (32 percent) and political independents (32 percent) were not as happy as members of the Democratic and Republican parties (35 percent for both).

(Gallery: The world’s ten happiest countries)

2) Tim Samaras, a professional storm chaser and inventor of technologies to study tornadoes, died in the tornado that struck El Reno, Okla., on Friday. But his death, that of his son Paul and his long-time professional partner Carl Young, says locals, should serve as a warning to less-experienced chasers.

National Geographic has posted their “haunting” last interview with the scientist and adventurer. In a post regarding Samaras’s death, National Geographic Society Executive Vice President Terry Garcia said Sunday:

“Tim was a courageous and brilliant scientist who fearlessly pursued tornadoes and lightning in the field in an effort to better understand these phenomena. … Though we sometimes take it for granted, Tim’s death is a stark reminder of the risks encountered regularly by the men and women who work for us.”

3) The solar-powered plane Solar Impulse is set to land in St. Louis at midnight Tuesday CDT on its U.S. cross-country trip. Below is the live feed of pilot Bertrand Piccard as he’s making his way to St. Louis. He’s conducting a number of interviews over the live feed in both English and French:

4) Who will be the 12th Doctor Who? Speculation has begun now that actor Matt Smith has announced he will be retiring from the role at the end of the year. The Daily Dot’s Gavia Baker-Whitelaw runs through the potential contenders, which includes floating actresses Helen Mirren and Tilda Swinton. Although a female doctor, as Baker-Whitelaw makes clear, is highly unlikely, it’s still fun to mull over.

5) Erin Biba, in a piece for PopSci, poses the question, “Where is the next Carl Sagan?”, arguing that it is important for scientists to share their findings widely and do a better job of translating their work for non-scientists in order to improve the public’s general understanding.

“As people hear more from scientists, scientists will be absorbed into the public’s social lens — and maybe even gain public trust. Having scientists tweet is good, but the most influential public figures are the ones folks can relate to (à la Carl Sagan). We need to get more figures like him — fast.”

Let us know who you think the “next Carl Sagan” may be, assuming he or she is among us. (h/t NASA”s @SpaceLauren)

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Emi Kolawole · June 1, 2013