Psychics frauds, family genomics and clever crows

  • Legendary skeptic James Randi takes a fatal dose of homeopathic sleeping pills onstage, kicking off a searing 18-minute indictment of irrational beliefs. He throws out a challenge to the world’s psychics: Prove what you do is real, and I’ll give you a million dollars.
  • A family of four has become the first in which every member’s genome has been sequenced for non-medical reasons, opening a debate about the ethics of analysing the DNA of minors.John and Judy West, both 53, and their children, Anne, 17, and Paul, 14, paid almost $200,000 (£130,000) to have their entire genetic code read by the sequencing company Illumina. They are the first family to be named as members of an exclusive club , joining a few dozen individuals who have had their genomes sequenced. Others include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Glenn Close, the actress, and the scientists James Watson and Craig Venter. Mr West told The Times that he hoped that his family’s DNA data would benefit their health and advance research into genetic contributions to disease. He said that his children were “pretty smart” and had given enthusiastic consent: “They understand why some people might prefer not to know this sort of information.”
  • New Caledonian crows have given scientists yet another display of their tool-using prowess.
    Scientists from New Zealand’s University of Auckland have found that the birds are able to use three tools in succession to reach some food. The crows, which use tools in the wild, have also shown other problem-solving behaviour, but this find suggests they are more innovative than was thought.

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