U.S. death rate from drugs, alcohol, and mental disorders nearly triples since 1980

December 14, 2016

More than 2,000 US counties witnessed increases of 200% or more in deaths related to substance abuse and mental disorders since 1980, including clusters of counties in Kentucky, West Virginia, and Ohio with alarming surges over 1,000%, according to a new scientific study.

The study examines deaths in 21 cause groups, ranging from chronic illnesses like diabetes and other endocrine diseases, to infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, to accidents, including traffic fatalities. It explores mortality rates and how they have changed in every US county between 1980 and 2014, creating the most comprehensive view to date of how Americans die.

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Liberals and Conservatives Both Driven by Utopian Ideals

December 6, 2016

Despite the ideological differences separating liberals and conservatives, they share similar motivations for their political engagement, according to a new study from a University of Illinois at Chicago social psychologist.

The study, published online by Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, suggests that people on the political left and right are both morally motivated more by promoting their hopes and vision of a preferred future than by their fears of non-preferred policies or to prevent harm.

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Extreme downpours could increase fivefold across parts of the US

December 5, 2016

Credit: Andreas Prein

Credit: Andreas Prein

At century’s end, the number of summertime storms that produce extreme downpours could increase by more than 400 percent across parts of the United States — including sections of the Gulf Coast, Atlantic Coast, and the Southwest — according to a new study by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

The study, published today in the journal Nature Climate Change, also finds that the intensity of individual extreme rainfall events could increase by as much as 70 percent in some areas. That would mean that a storm that drops about 2 inches of rainfall today would be likely to drop nearly 3.5 inches in the future.

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New evidence that inequality is driven by politics, not economics

October 27, 2016

One of the biggest surprises about rising income inequality in the United States may be that economic factors aren’t the biggest cause, a new study suggests.

Sociologists at The Ohio State University found that political factors, along with increases in college-educated adults, provided the best explanations for the rise in income inequality in the United States between 1978 and 2011. Read more

No increase in marijuana use by adolescents after states pass medical marijuana laws

October 19, 2016

Adults over the age of 25 increased their use of marijuana after their home states made changes to medical marijuana laws, according to new research by scientists at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. However, there was no difference in the prevalence of marijuana use reported for 12 to 17 or 18 to 25 year-olds after the laws passed. The findings are published online in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

The study is the first to link state medical marijuana laws with marijuana availability and use among adults. Results were based on 10 years of annual survey data from respondents to the National Survey of Drug Use and Health. Read more

US ranks in top 10 in empathy

October 16, 2016

A first-of-its-kind study that ranks nations by empathy puts the United States at No. 7, behind countries ranging from Peru to Korea to Saudi Arabia.

While a top 10 finish isn’t bad, Michigan State University’s William Chopik, lead author of the study, notes that the psychological states of Americans have been changing in recent decades – leading to a larger focus on the individual and less on others. Read more

Solar storm nearly took US to brink of war in 1967

August 10, 2016

A solar storm that jammed radar and radio communications at the height of the Cold War could have led to a disastrous military conflict if not for the U.S. Air Force’s budding efforts to monitor the sun’s activity, a new study finds.

On May 23, 1967, the Air Force prepared aircraft for war, thinking the nation’s surveillance radars in polar regions were being jammed by the Soviet Union. Just in time, military space weather forecasters conveyed information about the solar storm’s potential to disrupt radar and radio communications. The planes remained on the ground and the U.S. avoided a potential nuclear weapon exchange with the Soviet Union, according to the new research.

Retired U.S. Air Force officers involved in forecasting and analyzing the storm collectively describe the event publicly for the first time in a new paper accepted for publication in Space Weather, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. Read more

Nearly 80 percent of drivers express significant anger, aggression or road rage

July 16, 2016

Nearly 80 percent of drivers expressed significant anger, aggression or road rage behind the wheel at least once in the past year, according to a new study released today by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The most alarming findings suggest that approximately eight million U.S. drivers engaged in extreme examples of road rage, including purposefully ramming another vehicle or getting out of the car to confront another driver.

“Inconsiderate driving, bad traffic and the daily stresses of life can transform minor frustrations into dangerous road rage,” said Jurek Grabowski, Director of Research for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Far too many drivers are losing themselves in the heat of the moment and lashing out in ways that could turn deadly.” Read more

Why Clinton and Trump supporters don’t mix

July 8, 2016

Living around people with opposing political viewpoints affects your ability to form close relationships and accept other perspectives – and may even change your personality, finds a national study led by a Michigan State University scholar.

The findings also could help explain why so many Americans are moving to areas that suit them politically, further segregating the nation into “red” and “blue” states, said William Chopik, MSU assistant professor of psychology. Read more

Appalachian coal ash richest in rare earth elements

May 27, 2016

A study of the content of rare earth elements in U.S. coal ashes shows that coal mined from the Appalachian Mountains could be the proverbial golden goose for hard-to-find materials critical to clean energy and other emerging technologies.

In the wake of a 2014 coal ash spill into North Carolina’s Dan River from a ruptured Duke Energy drainage pipe, the question of what to do with the nation’s aging retention ponds and future coal ash waste has been a highly contested topic.

One particularly entrepreneurial idea is to extract so-called “critical” rare earth elements such as neodymium, europium, terbium, dysprosium, yttrium and erbium from the burned coal. The Department of Energy has identified these globally scarce metals as a priority for their uses in clean energy and other emerging technologies. But exactly how much of these elements are contained in different sources of coal ash in the U.S. had never been explored. Read more

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