This old fish has done a lot of living. (Source: Cell Press, photo by Itamar Harel)

What are they finding out in all those labs on campus these days?

At Cornell, researchers developed a computer model to help predict how persuasive a message is, the university announced recently. When they tested it on Twitter, the computer was more successful than people at pointing to what would be retweeted more — and the researchers believe the algorithm would work with longer ideas and essays.

 Lillian Lee, professor of computer science and information science, graduate student Chenhao Tan and Google researcher Bo Pang had this advice:

  • Ask people to share. (Words like ”please,” “pls,” “plz” and  “retweet”).
  • Be informative.
  • Use your own voice, and that of people you know.
  • Write like a newspaper headline.
  • Echo words common in retweets.
  • Express positive or negative feelings.
  • Don’t just talk about yourself.
  • Generalize.
  • Make it easy to read.

Skeptical? You can try your tweets here: https://chenhaot.com/retweetedmore/

At Stanford University School of Medicine, researchers including Itamar Harel and Anne Brunet found that a tiny fish’s short life span — and its deterioration at the end, including increasing chance of cancer, loss of muscle, fertility and cognitive function — offers valuable insights on aging. According to the university, their findings published in Cell, “will make it possible to trace the effect of specific genetic changes on aging and the diseases that accompany it. Eventually, it may lead to ways to slow or perhaps even reverse human aging.”


A young African turquoise killifish (Source: Cell Press, photo by Itamar Harel)

At CalTech, astronomers developed a theory about why comets are encased in a hard crust: As the comet gets closer to the sun and warms up, fluffy ice on its surface crystalizes. As those crystals become more dense, molecules with carbon would be pushed to the surface.

“A comet is like deep fried ice cream,” said Murthy Gudipati, a principal scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory  corresponding author of a recent study appearing in The Journal of Physical Chemistry. “The crust is made of crystalline ice, while the interior is colder and more porous. The organics are like a final layer of chocolate on top.”

At Harvard, Joshua Goodman an assistant professor of public policy at the Kennedy School, analyzed data and had to break it to lefties: Actually you’re not all that special.

“A Lefty’s Lament” looks at the data, which finds that left-handedness is linked with lower cognitive scores, more learning disabilities, more speech and behavioral problems. They’re less likely to go on to or finish college. They earn less than righties.

And, Harvard staff writer Alvin Powell says, compensating is second-nature for lefties: “In the kitchen, I reflexively avoid the right-handed serrated knives and favor those with straight blades.” 

Probably a good call.

Researchers at Ohio State University say that both liberals and conservatives can bring a distinct bias to science, especially on politicized topics. According to the university, that shows up most clearly in liberals when they read about issues such as hydraulic fracturing and nuclear power. Conservatives were more likely to be skeptical about scientific claims about climate change and evolution.

See if their research holds true: Surely, by this point, you have concluded that some of these items were important findings, and others were, meh.