Daily briefing: How the placebo effect actually works

Daily briefing: How the placebo effect actually works


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Protesters in the snow at Standing Rock, North Dakota.

Protesters in the snow at Standing Rock, North Dakota.

Protesters gather near Standing Rock, North Dakota, in 2016 to protest the Keystone XL pipeline project.Credit: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis/Getty

A US federal court in Montana has blocked construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which would help transport oil from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, to refineries along the Gulf of Mexico. The judge ruled that the US government failed to properly review the project’s environmental impacts before issuing a permit for the pipeline and “simply discarded” the project’s potential climate-change impact.

Nature | 2 min read

Ninety Australian scientists have signed a statement calling for the repeal of a state law that protects brumbies — free-roaming feral horses — in the country’s alpine regions. New South Wales passed the law in June to acknowledge the cultural and heritage significance of the animals, but researchers say that the rising population of horses is causing “potentially irreparable damage” to fragile ecosystems.

Nature | 3 min read

Taiwan’s government plans to shut down all nuclear power plants by 2025, and hundreds of researchers have signed an open letter urging the public to support the move in an upcoming referendum. The researchers say the risk of damage by earthquakes and tsunamis is too great, and note that there is no feasible long-term solution yet for dealing with the country’s radioactive waste.

Nature | 3 min read


Los Angeles’s thirst transformed Owens Lake, in southern California, from one of the largest inland bodies of water in the United States to a wasteland that spewed toxic dust. A new book explores how attempts to restore the lake failed, but ended up creating an entirely different — and surprisingly successful — ecosystem.

Nature | 6 min read

There is abundant evidence of the power of the placebo effect, but we know little about how it actually works in the body. The New York Times offers a wide-ranging survey of how science is being applied to “investigate a phenomenon it defined only to exclude”.

The New York Times | 27 min read

From reviewers donating their time to authors putting their careers on the line, it’s important to remember that there are people behind every paper, argues Nature Partner Journals executive editor Rebecca Kirk. Kirk outlines some basic tenets of peer review that might make science a kinder place for editors, authors and reviewers.

Scientists are Humans blog | 3 min read

The horrifying rash of wildfires in western North America has prompted a heated debate about whether they are getting more frequent and powerful. The answer is muddied by the fact that fire data in the United States before 1960 are not reliable. Carbon Brief digs into the numbers to investigate how wildfires are changing in the United States and worldwide, and the contribution of climate change to the trend.

Carbon Brief | 14 min read



Emergency-medicine physician Esther Choo responds to an NRA tweet calling for doctors to “stay in their lane” rather than advocate for gun control. (NBC)


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November 12, 2018 at 10:46AM

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