Christopher Joyce

Right now, armies of marketers, pollsters and social scientists are trying to figure out what Americans are thinking about — issues like global warming or Lady Gaga's latest outfit. And surveys are only so good: It's hard to get a big enough sample to be sure of the results. That's particularly vexing for social scientists who want a high standard of accuracy.

If you're into sexual chemistry, set an aging banana peel or apple core out on your kitchen counter, pull up a chair, and wait — for the fruit flies.

Those of us who eat beef can thank cattle for turning grass into something tastier. But grass is not always easy to come by, especially in Africa. And without grass, where's the beef?

The notion of "beauty" can mean many different things to artists. For the Brothers Quay — identical-twin filmmakers — it often means dimly lit black and white images of animated dolls, screws, cogs — any manner of inanimate object brought to life. They're so good at it that fellow filmmaker Terry Gilliam called the Quays' Street of Crocodiles one of the best animated films of all time.

The back rooms of museums are like your grandparents' attic, only the stuff is more exotic — things like fossilized jellyfish, dinosaur eggs, or mummified princes.

And if you look carefully, you'll find objects that once changed science but are now largely forgotten. You might call them Lost Treasures of Science. This is a story of one of those objects — a special bone that's part of a special skeleton.

A pair of fossils from a South African cave have scientists both excited and puzzled. Scientists say the fossils — an adult female and a juvenile — could be the long-sought transition between ape-like ancestors and the first humans.

The bones belong to creatures related to the famous Lucy fossil found in Ethiopia in the 1970s, but their owners lived more recently, just two million years ago.

The Tibetan Plateau is the world's highest place. It's four times the size of France and home to most of the world's highest mountains.

As you might expect, it's cold there. And it may be that the deep chill of the Tibetan Plateau played a role in the evolution of some of the world's most charismatic animals.

That's the belief of a scientist who discovered the skull of a woolly rhino on the Tibetan Plateau.

The year 2010 was a very bad one for Haiti. It started with an earthquake that killed over 300,000 people, mostly in the crowded capital of Port-au-Prince. After that, cholera originating in a U.N. camp broke out in a northern province and eventually spread to the city.

The light at the end of the tunnel for Libyans isn't just an end to the Moammar Gadhafi regime — it's also "light, sweet crude."

Oil provides most of Libya's income. But the revolution there has strangled exports for months and starved the country of revenue, and also temporarily bumped up world oil prices. So there's a lot of interest inside Libya and internationally in getting the country's oil wells up and running again.

The question is, when?

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