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Is your dog just chasing its tail – or is it obsessive?

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25 June, by Shayla Love[ —]
Lots of dogs chase their tails – but for some the behaviour is a sign of the canine version of OCD. Now scientists are finding the minds of dogs and humans might be more closely linked than we thought

Curiously, and perhaps eagerly, I am looking at a bull terrier named Sputnik, searching for a resemblance. He’s a stocky three-year-old, mostly slate grey, with a white stripe on his head and a pink splotch on his elongated, bull-terrier nose. So far, our only similarity is we’re both waiting in an examination room at Tuft’s veterinary school in North Grafton, Massachusetts.

Sputnik has canine compulsive disorder (CCD) and is at Tuft’s for a checkup with Nicholas Dodman, a veterinarian who has been studying CCD for more than two decades. I’m shadowing this visit to learn about Dodman’s work and, selfishly, to learn something about myself: I was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder a few months ago.

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Are you in with the in crowd? | Mitch Prinstein

25 June, by Mitch Prinstein[ —]

The way we deal with popularity at school stays with us for life. But, asks Mitch Prinstein, is it our true self?

At an early point in childhood, we all worked out how popular we really were. Either we knew we were admired and began to worry about maintaining our special influence over others, or we recognised that others were more popular than us and began to seek more attention.

Our positions in the social hierarchy seemed so important back then, and for good reason: popularity is the most valuable and easily accessible currency available to youth. But there’s something about our popularity in youth that seems to remain a part of who we are.

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Cédric Villani: ‘Mathematics is about progress and adventure and emotion’

25 June, by Carole Cadwalladr[ —]
Fields medal winner Cédric Villani is an impassioned advocate for mathematics, as Carole Cadwalladr discovers

The second time I meet Cédric Villani is when I bump into him in the Eurostar terminal in Paris. But then how could I miss him? There are crowds of milling businessmen and weekending couples but there, amid the Sunday-night chaos of the Gare du Nord, is a figure who looks like he’s somehow slipped the space-time continuum: Lord Byron on a mini break. Or Baudelaire who has returned to Earth, only this time as a Parisian banker doing the Monday-Friday commute. He has a silk bow around his neck. His hair flows around his shoulders. And when I stop to say hello, he embraces me and starts telling me about his latest projects (dozens of them) and his trips (to everywhere, he’s always travelling) and the book he’s writing and then he rummages through his briefcase to give me a business card.

But instead of one business card, he hands me a stack of around 50, scattering another 50 or so over the floor. “Here! Take them!” he says. But, Cédric, I say, I only need one, but he presses them into my hands and as he does so drops a file of papers and a small case on the ground. The commuters and weekenders have, by now, started to take notice of the commotion in front of them, though he’s oblivious as he gesticulates and exclaims and then opens up the small case to show me what’s inside. “Spiders!” he says showing me a dozen different decorated hand-made spider brooches. “I always wear one,” he says and points to his jacket, where there is an ornate bejewelled spider crawling across his lapel.

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Helium stocks run low – and party balloons are to blame

24 June, by Robin McKie Science Editor[ —]
The world supply of helium, which is essential in research and medicine, is being squandered, say scientists

Oleg Kirichek, the leader of a research team at the Isis neutron beam facility at the UK’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, had an unpleasant shock last week. One of his key experiments, designed to probe the structure of matter, had to be cancelled – because the facility had run out of helium.

The gas, used to cool atoms to around -270C to reduce their vibrations and make them easier to study, is now becoming worryingly scarce, said Kirichek. Research facilities probing the structure of matter, medical scanners and other advanced devices that use the gas may soon have to reduce operations or close because we are frittering away the world’s limited supplies of helium on party balloons.

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Trump officials oppose funding museum for victims of Tuskegee syphilis study

24 June, by Associated Press in Birmingham, Alabama[ —]

Justice department fighting use of unclaimed money from settlement for museum honoring black men who were not given treatment for disease

The Trump administration is opposing an attempt to use unclaimed money from a legal settlement over the government’s infamous Tuskegee syphilis study to fund a museum honoring its victims.

The justice department argued in court documents recently that providing the money to the Tuskegee Human and Civil Rights Multicultural Center would violate an agreement reached in 1975 to settle a class-action lawsuit.

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‘It's a superpower’: meet the empaths paid to read your mind

24 June, by Richard Godwin[ —]

They feel your pain as if it were their own – and charge you £200 an hour to do so. Why has empathy become such a prized commodity?

It is late on Friday at Piper’s diner in Koreatown, Los Angeles. David Sauvage, a slight 36-year-old man with an arresting stare, is preparing to empathise with me. “These aren’t ideal circumstances, but that’s OK,” he says. A few night owls busy themselves with eggs and tacos; a waiter carries a tray of drinks between booths. Sauvage crosses his legs, removes his necklace, exhales deeply and prepares to inhabit my feelings.

“If we start with where you are now, you’re much more open than you were a few moments ago.” He pushes his head back and takes tiny gulps of air. “You’re right now in your life going through… I almost want to say a spiritual awakening? You’re searching for cosmic truth. Or some emanation of the divine.” He shudders. “It’s very weird to have this experience in someone else’s body.”

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What will happen when a self-driving car kills a bystander?

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/transportplay episode download
24 June, by Jack Stilgoe[ —]

The technological autopsy on last year’s Tesla Autopilot crash has now closed. Regulators must now take responsibility for safety improvements

As a social scientist researching emerging technologies, I am fascinated by the bumps, scrapes and abrupt turns of self-driving cars as they accelerate towards the market. Here is a technology whose algorithms are learning how to behave in the wild. For the rest of us to make sense of the opportunities, we need to get beneath the hyper-optimistic story offered by the would-be disruptors. This is why accidents are so important. They shatter the veneer, forcing society and its innovators to confront the very real uncertainties of technology.

In May last year, a crash in Florida made Joshua Brown the first casualty of a self-driving car. His Tesla Model S, in Autopilot mode, failed to see a truck that was crossing his path. Without slowing, his car drove between the wheels of the trailer at 74mph. The Tesla’s roof was torn off and Brown died instantly. Purely by chance, nobody else was harmed.

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The Guardian view on plutocratic Mars missions: escape velocity | Editorial

23 June, by Editorial[ —]
The race between wealthy tech billionaires to get to Mars is a distraction from mortality

For science fiction writers ranged across the astronomical distance that separates Edgar Rice Burroughs and Kim Stanley Robinson, Mars has been a theatre of dreams, variously realistic. Now the tech billionaires Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are competing to see who will make it first there in reality. Bezos is spending a billion dollars a year out of his Amazon stock to keep his project going; Musk has announced he wants the first manned private flights to set off by 2026. He hopes that the price can be brought down from around $10bn to $200,000 and that reusable spaceships will ferry a million people to Mars over a period of decades until they can start a self-sustaining civilisation there. This, of course, is only the beginning: once the technology of reusable spacecraft fuelled by methane made from raw materials found at their destination has been mastered, Musk foresees no limit to their explorations.

Related: Life on Mars: Elon Musk reveals details of his colonisation vision

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Queen's speech doesn't help British businesses frozen out of EU space contracts

23 June, by Hannah Devlin Science correspondent[ —]

Measures outlined in space industry bill are not enough to alleviate the problems Brexit has created for the industry in Britain, say companies

Plans for commercial spaceports outlined in the Queen’s speech this week will not cancel out the economic threat of Brexit, industry leaders have warned.

The space industry bill would enable rocket launches from British soil and ease regulations to make it possible for startups to send constellations of cheap micro-satellites into orbit.

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The week in wildlife – in pictures

https://www.theguardian.com/travel/safarisplay episode download
23 June, by Compiled by Eric Hilaire[ —]

Bison, bluebells, bumble bees and beavers are among this week’s pick of images from the natural world

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