Why do autopsies take so long?

The sudden and unexpected death of Prince at the young age of 57 naturally arouses curiousity as to the cause. Although he was a Jehovah’s Witness and reportedly abstained entirely from recreational drugs and alcohol, the fact that he was part of the popular music world immediately fueled speculation that drugs were involved. He supposedly had prescription painkillers, needed because he refused to have double hip replacement surgery due to the fact that it would require blood transfusions that are prohibited by his religion, and an overdose of these might be a possible cause.
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Einstein’s visit to Sri Lanka

Albert Einstein and his wife Elsa stopped off in Colombo in 1922 on their way to Japan but the visit did not receive the kind of widespread publicity in the local papers that one would have expected, given how famous he was. True, he had not as yet received the Nobel Prize. A few weeks after his visit, the announcement was made while he was in Japan that he had received his retrospectively for 1921, but he was still an eminent celebrity. I myself was not aware of this visit until a friend of mine recently sent me a link to this article that summarized what Einstein had written in his private notes about the visit and his encounter with a rickshaw, a mode of transport that has disappeared, though I remember seeing them as a child.
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Fascinating science gifs

I visit a lot of websites and a lot of them are like my own where there is a paragraph above the fold that indicates what the post is about and, if one is interested enough to read the full post, one has to click on the ‘more’ link. I have noticed more and more people using gifs (those videos that last about a second and repeat endlessly) above the fold.
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Why do we solve for X?

Those of us who love algebra (and even those who don’t) are familiar with problems that end up with the command to ‘solve for X’. But why, of all the letters in the alphabet, has X been chosen for this singular honor of representing the unknown, a practice that has extended well beyond algebra? To the extent that any of us thought of this at all, we may have put it down to sheer accident. Someone back in time picked that letter for who knows what reason and it stuck as others followed the practice.
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Report on the interfaith panel

Yesterday’s interfaith panel held at my university was interesting. The Hindu was a no-show so the first part began with the other three panelists (the Protestant campus chaplain, a Jewish rabbi, and a Muslim imam, who was the same person from Thursday’s session) each giving 15 minutes presentations. The Protestant chaplain was a minister in the United Church of Christ. This is one of the most socially enlightened and progressive of Christian denominations.
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Another consequence of the crumbling US infrastructure

It is by now pretty much a given that the mania to cut taxes to enrich the wealthy has resulted in government being deprived of the necessary revenue to maintain its existing infrastructure and public spaces, let alone make any improvements to bring them into line with other developed nations. Anyone who has traveled to other developed and even many developing countries will immediately notice the difference in roads, airports, and other transportation systems and how the once-enviable public spaces of the US, such as its roads, parks, and libraries, are slowly decaying.
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Anti-vaxxers take aim at Mississippi

Mississippi is a poor state combined with a strong religious tradition and is usually at the bottom of the list when it comes to most measures of social well-being. But there is one area where it excels and that is in the vaccination rate where the rates are the highest in the nation. 99.7% of its kindergartners are fully vaccinated, compared with 94.5% nationwide. I discussed the reasons for this anomaly in a post last year. They achieved it by limiting exemptions from vaccination only under very strict conditions, unlike the much looser exemptions in other states.
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Ego depletion theory in trouble?

The field of psychology has been reeling because of problems with replicability, in that studies that claim to see certain effects have later had doubts cast upon them when efforts to replicate them failed to do so. Part of the problem is of course dealing with human subjects. But one of the theories that seemed to be pretty robust was based on a study by Roy Baumenister and Dianne Tice that suggested that people have a finite reservoir of will power and that when that is depleted by using it on some tasks, then we have reduced ability to overcome new challenges until that reservoir is replenished.
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