Weekend Links: the Birth of Sesame Street, an Algorithm that Predicts Hollywood Success, the Limits to Human Endurance and More

Welcome to Weekend Links, a collection of fascinating science stories from across the web, curated by your science-loving friends at the Mass General Research Institute.

Psychiatry, Racism, and the Birth of ‘Sesame Street’

Anne Harrington writing for Undark

The show had had originally been conceived as a novel way of bringing remedial education into the homes of disadvantaged children, especially children of color. Pierce, though, saw a different kind of potential for a show like this: one that could directly counter and counteract the racist messages prevalent in the media of his time.

Researchers Create Algorithm That Predicts Hollywood Success or Failure

Jennifer Walter writing for Discover

In the cutthroat Hollywood film industry, is it possible to know if an actor’s career is about to boom or bust? In many cases, yes. Researchers from Queen Mary University in London created an algorithm that can predict with 85 percent accuracy whether a star’s golden years have passed or are still yet to come.

Decoding the Mathematical Secrets of Plants’ Stunning Leaf Patterns

Maddie Burakoff writing for Smithsonian

To the untrained eye, plants may appear to grow rather impulsively, popping out leaves at random to create one big green jumble. Take a closer look, though, and you’ll find that a few curiously regular patterns pop up all over the natural world, from the balanced symmetry of bamboo shoots to the mesmerizing spirals of succulents.

The Heart of a Swimmer vs. the Heart of a Runner

Gretchen Reynolds writing for The New York Times

Do world-class swimmers’ hearts function differently than the hearts of elite runners? A new study finds that the answer may be yes, and the differences, although slight, could be telling and consequential, even for those of us who swim or run at a much less lofty level.

Scientists Just Found the Limits to Human Endurance

Yasemin Saplakoglu writing for LiveScience

Endurance athletes are as superhuman as it gets, fueled by a seemingly inexhaustible energy. But a new study suggests that human endurance does have a limit — and it’s likely similar for everyone. 

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