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 hello@freethinkmedia.com. 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

CATALYSTS
Life Jackets Are Used to Create Jewelry, Opportunity for Refugees
Life Jackets Are Used to Create Jewelry, Opportunity for Refugees
CATALYSTS
Life Jackets Are Used to Create Jewelry, Opportunity for Refugees
Hordes of bright orange lifejackets are strewn across the rocky beaches of the Greek island of Lesbos. Discarded...

Hordes of bright orange lifejackets are strewn across the rocky beaches of the Greek island of Lesbos. Discarded after a perilous journey at sea, they exemplify the risk that refugees are willing to take in search of a better life. A Minnesota fashion start-up creates jewelry from discarded refugee life jackets. There are currently 26 million refugees worldwide....

Catalysts
Could This Be the Future of Foster Care?
Could This Be the Future of Foster Care?
Watch Now
Catalysts
Could This Be the Future of Foster Care?
Take a look inside a town built for foster families
Watch Now

Peppers Ranch is a community of a dozen families raising at least five foster kids. Is it a model for providing better foster care to more kids? In this episode of Catalysts, we visit Peppers Ranch and meet some of the people and families who call it home. We talk to foster child Scott, who was close to aging out of foster care but unprepared to live on his own. We also meet Tonya Ratcliff, a mother of 13 children who felt...

Independent Watchdogs Invisible Institute Helps Police Accountability
How to Hold Police Accountable
Watch Now
Independent Watchdogs 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...

Education
How To Teach Kids to Read in as Little as 50 Days
How To Teach Kids to Read in as Little as 50 Days
Watch Now
Education
How To Teach Kids to Read in as Little as 50 Days
1 in 10 people in the world today are illiterate. This program teaches people to read in as little as 50 days.
Watch Now

1 in 10 people in the world today can’t read. Pratham’s innovative approach is helping kids in developing countries learn to read in as little as 50 days. Pratham’s methodology centers around teaching children based on their level rather than their age or grade. It began in India, where most kids are in school - but many aren’t able to read at grade level. The success of the core approach - teaching kids at their level and...

Catalysts
A Game-Changer for Chronic Homelessness
A Game-Changer for Chronic Homelessness
Watch Now
Catalysts
A Game-Changer for Chronic Homelessness
He turned a food truck for the homeless into a thriving 51-acre community.
Watch Now

Mobile Loaves & Fishes is an organization with a new approach to tackling homelessness - putting community first. Their Community First! Village provides affordable, long-term housing for the chronically homeless. They find through housing and a community that emphasizes respect and relationships, chronically homeless individuals are able to finally heal from trauma and begin to thrive, work, and live better lives....

An App to Help Prevent Suicide
An App to Help Prevent Suicide
Watch Now
An App to Help Prevent Suicide
Meet the teens who built the notOK App: a "panic button" for people who need help.
Watch Now

After her struggle with disease lead to a suicide attempt, she came up with an idea for an app to help desperate people reach out. Her brother helped write notOK, an app that works like a panic button to help people having suicidal thoughts quickly reach out to trusted contacts for support. When the user hits the button, it both sends the contacts a message asking them to get in touch and sends them the user’s location so...

Rise
The Untold Story of Rio’s Largest Favela
The Untold Story of Rio’s Largest Favela
Rise
The Untold Story of Rio’s Largest Favela
Meet the proud, hopeful, ambitious people determined to build the life they’ve dreamed of.
By Michael O'Shea

Meet the proud, hopeful, ambitious people determined to build the life they’ve dreamed of.

Culture
This Week in Ideas: A $1 Microscope, Healing Our Divisions, Planet Earth is Back
This Week in Ideas: A $1 Microscope, Healing Our Divisions, Planet Earth is Back
Culture
This Week in Ideas: A $1 Microscope, Healing Our Divisions, Planet Earth is Back
Democratizing microscopes, how we heal our political divisions, and BBC's Planet Earth returns. These are our...
By Mike Riggs

Democratizing microscopes, how we heal our political divisions, and BBC's Planet Earth returns. These are our favorite stories of the week.