Dumb and Dumberer? IQ Surveys Say Yes

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It’s official: We’re not getting any smarter. Worse, media exposure might be to blame. Researchers analyzed 730,000 IQ scores of Norwegian men entering the country’s military draft who were born between 1962 and 1991, per ScienceAlert. They found that IQ scores rose almost 0.3 points per year among men born between 1962 and 1975, then declined for men born after 1975. Overall there was a 7-point dip per generation, reports Newsweek. And the Norway study is no outlier: Other studies by European and Scandinavian researchers have noted a similar trend, notes CNN. The investigators believe the environment, rather than genetics, is responsible because they saw the same IQ drop within families, between brothers and sons. Parental education and family size did not seem to play a role in the decline.

For most of the 20th century, IQ scores had been increasing, presumably because of better access to education. The researchers suggest the trend could be due to lifestyle factors, including changes in nutrition, how children are educated, media exposure, and how kids spend their free time. It’s also possible that IQ tests, which tend to emphasize formally taught critical thinking, simply haven’t been adapted to capture changes in the ways people think. As one psychology professor told CNN: “We need to recognize that as time changes and people are exposed to different intellectual experiences, such as changes in the use of technology, for example, social media, the way intelligence is expressed also changes. Educational methods need to adapt to such changes.“

Librarian Wins Lawsuit Against Equifax After Huge Data Breach

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A Vermont librarian who sued consumer credit bureau giant Equifax following a massive 2017 breach of private data has been awarded $600. The largely symbolic suit by Jessamyn West was her way of showing people they have the power to arm themselves in the fight for data security, even when companies like Equifax and others go largely unpunished. In an interview with KrebsOnSecurity, West said she hoped her decision to take direct action against the company as an individual would inspire others to do the same. “A lot of people don’t feel they have agency around privacy and technology in general,“ West told the site. “This case was about having your own agency when companies don’t behave how they’re supposed to.“

West originally filed the suit in small claims court for $5,000, where she argued that the widely publicized September breach was an undue burden on her as she struggled to deal with her personal data security and that of her recently deceased mother. A judge instead awarded her $690, with the $90 going to court costs and the rest recognizing the cost of two years of identity theft protection. As the Daily Dot notes, the judgment isn’t much for a giant corporation like Equifax, but lots of little suits could add up. In fact, one claimant wrote back in January about receiving $8,000 in a similar suit against Equifax.

Antarctic Ice Melt Is Accelerating Rapidly

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Scientists monitoring ice loss in Antarctica have chilling news: The melting rate has accelerated alarmingly and the ice sheet is now shedding more than 200 billion tons a year, according to a study involving 88 scientists published in the journal Nature. The researchers say the rate of ice loss has tripled over the last decade and the melting ice sheets are now pushing up sea levels around the world by around a half-millimeter every year, reports the BBC. Antarctica was losing around 49 billion tons of ice a year in the mid-1990s, which went up to an average 219 billion tons a year between 2012 and 2017, the study found. The researchers, who used satellite data going back more than 25 years, say most of the melting ice comes from the West Antarctic sheet, parts of which are in a “state of collapse”—and modest ice growth in the East Antarctic is nowhere near enough to offset it.

“The increasing mass loss that they’re finding is really worrying, particularly looking at the West Antarctic, the area that’s changing most rapidly,“ University of Waterloo glaciologist Christine Dow tells the Washington Post. “And it’s the area that we’re most worried about, because it’s below sea level.“ Antarctica has lost a total of around 3 trillion tons of ice since 1992 and will be contributing more and more to sea level rise if the current trend continues, warn researchers, who say climate change is the only plausible explanation for the ice loss. “I think we should be worried. That doesn’t mean we should be desperate,“ says study co-author Isabella Velicogna of the University of California Irvine, per the AP. “Things are happening. They are happening faster than we expected.“

Scientists Make Alarming Find About Ancient Trees

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Researchers taking a survey of some of the world’s oldest and funkiest trees have bad news to report: Africa’s legendary baobabs are dying. The statistic getting the most attention out of the new study in Nature Plants is that eight of the continent’s 13 oldest baobabs have died since 2005 and five of the six largest have suffered significant collapses. The scientists can’t say for sure what’s going on, but they suspect that climate change—as in, higher temperatures and drought—is the primary culprit in the deaths throughout Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, and Zambia, reports the BBC. Baobabs grow in unusual ways, often with hollows, making it difficult to gauge precise ages, but the research team says the trees in the survey range in age from 1,000 to 2,500 years, reports NPR.

“It is very surprising to visit monumental baobabs, with ages greater than a thousand to two thousand years, which seem to be in a good state of health, and to find them after several years fallen to the ground and dead,” study co-author Adrian Patrut of Babes-Bolyai University in Romania tells National Geographic. And it’s no fluke, he adds. “Statistically, it is practically impossible that such a high number of large old baobabs die in such a short time frame due to natural causes.“ The stories note baobabs’ iconic place in African history. In South Africa, one legendary baobab more than 1,000 years old grew to 111 feet and had a hollow so large that it functioned as a pub for two decades. The tree started to split in 2016 and collapsed completely the following year.

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