Skip to main content
Move the World.

Welcome back to This Week in Ideas, a roundup of the articles that had the Freethink staff talking. This week’s edition features rats and bees so you know you’re in for a treat. If there is anything you came across that blew your mind, drop us a line at [email protected]. Let’s dive in…

Lab rats could become a relic of the past. Wired brings us a story of scientists combining tiny lab-grown organs with biochips to make “some of the best organ simulations ever. Using these mashups, the idea is that scientists will be able to take a few of your skin cells, grow miniature versions of all your major organs, and put them on a chip. Then doctors can test out the best compounds for whatever disease you might have—not in a mouse, but in a mini-you.” This is a particularly notable development for studying diseases that only affect humans. “Take enteroviruses. Each year they cause over 10 million nasty infections—they’re particularly deadly for newborns—but none of their 71 strains naturally infect mice or rats.”

labrats_aggpiece
Will scientists soon leave lab rats in the past? (Image via Flickr user Tatiana Bulyonkova)

A look at violent crime. Quartz ’s chart of the day captures a pretty stunning drop in violent crime in the U.S. over the last 20-ish years. Certainly not a trend that’s captured in the common narrative that the world is becoming less safe.

Chart via Quartz

Could drones replace bees? We might need them to. New Scientist writes: “About three-quarters of global crop species, from apples to almonds, rely on pollination by bees and other insects. But pesticides, land clearing and climate change have caused declines in many of these creatures, creating problems for farmers.” But researchers at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology have created a drone that can carry pollen from flower to flower. (Also, it doesn’t sting.)

And for the lightning round…

Mental Floss says: if you thought “shotgun” as a term for the front seat came from the shotgun-toting person who rode in the front seat of a stagecoach next to the driver, you’re only half right.

Major League baseball introduces a pretty drastic extra innings rule change to make baseball more exciting. (Ed. note: That’s a tall task.)

Tyler Cowen ruins magic.

Feature image via Flickr user Tatiana Bulyonkova

Up Next

#fixingjustice - history
Cities Remove Confederate Monuments Following George Floyd Protests
Confederate Monuments
#fixingjustice - history
Cities Remove Confederate Monuments Following George Floyd Protests
City officials are removing Confederate monuments in Virginia, Alabama, and several other Southern states in response to the George Floyd protests.

City officials are removing Confederate monuments in Virginia, Alabama, and several other Southern states in response to the George Floyd protests.

Year in Review
Freethink's Favorite Behind the Scenes Insights from 2019
Freethink's Favorite Behind the Scenes Insights from 2019
Year in Review
Freethink's Favorite Behind the Scenes Insights from 2019
Join Freethink's directors behind the scenes to discover the experiences and insights that went into creating some of our favorite videos from 2019.

Join Freethink's directors behind the scenes to discover the experiences and insights that went into creating some of our favorite videos from 2019.

Catalysts
The Crib: A Place to Call Home
The Crib: A Place to Call Home
Catalysts
The Crib: A Place to Call Home
For young LGBTQ adults, this is the shelter that accepts many people that are too often turned away.

Every night, young adults pass through the basement door of the Lakeview Lutheran Church, close to the heart of Boystown, the gay neighborhood-within-a-neighborhood on Chicago’s North Side. Like many institutions in Lakeview, the church offers a place specifically welcoming to the LGBTQ community. These young adults are taking refuge at The Crib, an overnight emergency shelter for people aged 18 to 24 who find themselves temporarily homeless. Founded by The Night Ministry in 2011, The Crib is one of the few places in the city where young LGBTQ adults, especially those of color, can find housing and community with others their age in similar situations.

#FIXINGJUSTICE - policing
Independent Watchdog Invisible Institute Helps Police Accountability
How to Hold Police Accountable
Watch Now
#FIXINGJUSTICE - policing
Independent Watchdog Invisible Institute Helps Police Accountability
The Invisible Institute is making Chicago police complaints easily available to the public—and is helping hold police accountable.
Watch Now

A Freethink update: It's been several months since we first brought you the story of journalist Jamie Kalven and his influential "Sixteen Shots" expose in Slate that depicted a corrupt Chicago police department in the midst of a cover-up following the racist killing of teenager Laquan McDonald, who was shot 16 times by Officer Jason Van Dyke on October 20, 2014. Since then, Kalven has written another critical piece, this...

Dispatches
The Eternal Sunshine of the Stressed Out Mind
The Eternal Sunshine of the Stressed Out Mind
Dispatches
The Eternal Sunshine of the Stressed Out Mind
Researchers at Cambridge University have finally figured out how the brain stops stressful thoughts and memories...

Researchers at Cambridge University have finally figured out how the brain stops stressful thoughts and memories from taking over our minds.

Wrong
Did the Food Pyramid Make Us Fat?
Did the Food Pyramid Make Us Fat?
Watch Now
Wrong
Did the Food Pyramid Make Us Fat?
To address rising health problems in the 1980s, scientists and policymakers developed the US Food Pyramid to...
Watch Now

To address rising health problems in the 1980s, scientists and policymakers developed the US Food Pyramid to encourage healthy eating. But despite a massive public education campaign, obesity and diabetes continued to rise. What happened? How did we get it so… wrong?

Culture
How a Sci-Fi Enthusiast Decided to Memorialize His Best Friend
How a Sci-Fi Enthusiast Decided to Memorialize His Best Friend
Culture
How a Sci-Fi Enthusiast Decided to Memorialize His Best Friend
The story of how one man gave his space-loving best friend a final resting place in the final frontier.
By Mike Riggs

The story of how one man gave his space-loving best friend a final resting place in the final frontier.