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Alright, let’s start this thing off with one of my recent projects that’s actually worked!

A few nights ago, I got a late-night chocolate craving that led me to searching for recipes online. I stumbled across this bit of genius by the wonderful Isa Chandra and we were off to the races.

For a quick introduction, a picture of my kitchen:

Welcome to my tiny studio. This is my counter space. This is all of my counter space. 

Things were going well. I measured with my usual haphazard gusto. I salted my unsalted peanut butter perfectly on the first try. I remembered to pre-heat the oven.

Until I realized… I was out of vanilla. For reasons unknown, I’d decided to keep an empty bottle in the cupboard. Because that’s the smart thing to do. *sigh*

One panicked Google search later and I’d found my solution: That great savior of so many projects – 

Booze! 

Did you know that you can use liquor as a substitute for vanilla extract? I did not, but I was very excited to learn this.

After a few rounds of sniffing and (of course) tasting, I finally decided that Kahlua would provide the best match, though brandy was a close second. I mixed up the chocolate and peanut butter doughs and prepped for building.

You learn how to clean up between steps when you only have 3 square feet of space.

This was the part I was most apprehensive about, since I’ve never done cookies with filling before. But! I only fucked up a little bit and made the cookies too big. Luckily, this is not my first rodeo with mis-sized cookies and I decided to leave them in the oven for a few extra minutes rather than rebuilding.

Pre-oven. Not too appealing. Those oil spots made me a little bit nervous.

The bonus of messing up cookie recipes? Sometimes they come out looking like spaceships.

Soooooooooopretty.

Bottom line, these cookies are upsettingly delicious. The chocolate part has a brownie-like texture I’ve been missing and the inside is wonderfully close to Reeses peanut butter cups. I’d whole-heartedly recommend this one.

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It’s been a few years since I’ve taken any Physio and Neuro psyc classes, so you can imagine how excited I was to find this primer put together by the Society for Neuroscience.

My fellow brain-nerds can click on the picture to download your own.

So, if you’re a fellow NPR junkie, you’ll likely have recently heard this report. Apparently, blind-folded professional violinists are unable to tell when they are playing classic Old World violins and when they are playing modern violins.

 To quote:

Joseph Curtin, a violin-maker from Michigan, was one of the researchers. “There was no evidence that people had any idea what they were playing,” he says. “That really surprised me.”

Curtin says of the 17 players who were asked to choose which were old Italians, “Seven said they couldn’t, seven got it wrong, and only three got it right.”

If you only read this report, you would walk away thinking that any reverence for Old World instruments was a complete hoax. The story is framed in an engaging way that challenges the reader to listen to two audio pieces and try to figure out which is played on a Stradivarius and which is played on a modern violin. It’s a fun activity and we all get to have a bit of a chuckle at those fancy professionals who got fooled.

All in all, this is very clever reporting and it paid off – the story went viral and the site received plenty of hits.

Great right?

Here’s the hitch. That report right there? That’s terrible journalism. Because NPR got this one totally wrong.

Let’s go back to that quote:

Curtin says of the 17 players who were asked to choose which were old Italians, “Seven said they couldn’t, seven got it wrong, and only three got it right.”

Thing is, that never happened.

According to the abstract of the study and a participant, the violinists weren’t asked which one was older. They were asked which one they liked better.

Did you get that? The study was about what the violinists preferred. That’s it. Dunzo.

So, what went wrong? NPR, and possibly the experimenters themselves, made an assumption when they analyzed the results. They assumed that preference equalled knowledge and then used that assumption to blow up the study into something sensational and “click worthy.” Not only that, but, according to the participant’s account, there were several possible design flaws that may render the results entirely inaccurate – but, I’ll save that dissection for another time when/if I get my hands on the actual study.

The point is, I don’t know whether this was done purposely or not, but it is a plague in modern science reporting. Nearly every blockbuster science-related headline is contradicted within two weeks of publishing, either because the study is flawed or because the reporting of the story is completely off. Accuracy and veracity are sacrificed for quick turn-around and a good headline and it happens constantly.

So, what have we learned today?

1. Maybe violinists prefer playing new instruments and maybe they prefer playing old instruments. Whether or not they can tell the difference between the two from sound alone is completely unknown.

2. Science reporting, even from well respected organizations like NPR, totally blows.

So, as I write this, I know this is a bit silly. Really, I should just jump right in with the content I have planned, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. I am nothing if not a creature of habit and after over a decade of starting various blogs, I can’t bring myself to abandon the traditional greeting to the void.

So, hello there Internet! I exist.

This blog will be filled with discussion of science in various forms – discussions of new studies, discoveries, tech, and how these topics are covered in the press. Other forms of geekery may leak in as well, but no promises.

Areas I’m particularly interested in and know something about include: psychology, evolution, and biology.

Areas I know nothing about, but I find fascinating: physics and astronomy.

I’m also a new cook, baker, DIY-er, vegan, eco-oriented person. I just moved into my first solo apartment a few months ago and am feeling the compulsion to share the domestic side of my life.

Unlike many similar blogs, this will probably not be filled with tales of competency. More likely, this will be a record of my learning curve on how to be a functioning adult. Since the internet is my primary teacher, that should lend extra excitement to the proceedings, given the fickle nature of internet things.

So there you have it! Clearly, this will be a very confused enterprise.