3 Compelling Stories from Home & Away
By Emily Maxwell
ALASKA – from adn.com
It’s November, and Southcentral Alaska’s unusually warm fall has some plants putting out spring buds
It’s springtime in the Chugach Mountains, where fuzzy white willow catkins are a sure sign of longer, warmer days ahead. There’s just one problem: It’s November.
“It’s pretty much unprecedented,” said Justin Fulkerson, a research botanist at the University of Alaska Anchorage who said he first heard reports of catkins (also known as “pussy willows”) showing up in the Anchorage area from a fellow scientist in late October.
Fulkerson said Scouler’s willow (Salix scouleriana) is normally one of the first plants to bud in spring. They’re usually seen in late March or early April, but for the plants to restart their life cycle in fall, he said, is “really odd and weird.”
He said the culprit is Southcentral Alaska’s unusually warm fall, which has willows and other early rising plants thinking spring.
“The plants are confused because of the warmer temperatures we’re having right now,” he said.
According to the National Weather Service, the average temperature in Anchorage for October was 41.8 degrees — 7 degrees above normal. On Oct. 28, the city hit a balmy 54 degrees Fahrenheit at a time of year when the temperature is typically below freezing.
Meteorologist Bill Ludwig said the warming trend has continued into November, which as of Thursday had yet to see the temperature dip below the freezing mark at sea level.
“It’s been really spectacularly warm,” Ludwig said Thursday.
Anchorage has been persistently warm for nearly two years; October extended the city’s string of above-normal months to 20, a run that dates back to February 2018, which was 1 degree below average.
So far in November, Anchorage-area temperatures have run more than 13 degrees above average, through Wednesday.
“In fact the lowest temperature we’ve had this month has been 35 degrees, and that is actually higher than the average high for this time of year,” said Ludwig, who said he’s noticed lilac bushes at his home appear to be on the verge of popping out fresh leaves.
NATIONAL – from usnews.com
Boys and Girls Brains Are Equal When It Comes to Math, Study Finds
Boys and girls experience learning math in the same way, a new study found, debunking the age-old thought that males are superior to females in the subject.
A study published Friday in the journal Science of Learning discovered that young boys and girls use the same mechanisms and networks in the brain to solve math problems.
While some have thought that boys are biologically inclined to be better in math, there was little evidence to support those claims, researchers said in the study. Some studies have shown gender differences, but “it is impossible to disentangle intrinsic, biological differences from sociocultural influences.” study published Friday
For the study published Friday, researchers analyzed 104 kids between three and 10 years old while they performed cognitive tests and watched videos of math lessons in an MRI scanner. In a first for such a study, scientists used neuroimaging to capture images of kids’ brains to evaluate the differences between males and females.
Testing revealed that “girls’ and boys’ brains function similarly during mathematical processing.” Additionally, there was “no evidence of gender differences in neural responses to mathematics content, neural responses during educational video viewing, or rates of neural development for mathematical processing in early childhood.”
Furthermore, scientists “found statistical equivalence between boys and girls throughout the brain.” This led the researchers to conclude “that gender differences in STEM fields in adults are not derived from intrinsic differences in children’s brains but likely from a complex environmental origin.”
Jessica Cantlon, author of the study and professor of developmental neuroscience at Carnegie Mellon University, told NPR that when it comes to learning math, boys and girls are “indistinguishable.”
INTERNATIONAL – from nbcnews.com
Protests, arrests and injuries as Georgians protest gay film’s debut
Several people were reportedly injured as hundreds gathered on Friday in the former Soviet republic of Georgia to protest the opening of a critically acclaimed gay film in the capital city of Tbilisi.
The protested film, “And Then We Danced,” portrays a young man in the Georgian national ballet company who falls in love with a rival performer. The same-sex love story, directed by Levan Akin, a Swedish national of Georgian descent, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and has been selected as Sweden’s entry for the Academy Award for best international feature.
Demonstrators in downtown Tbilisi tried to break into one of six cinemas showing the film but were held back by police. Authorities released a statement saying 11 protesters had been arrested for “delinquencies.”
Local activist Ana Subeliani was among those injured during the protest. Images of her bleeding and in an ambulance circulated on social media, while local news agencies reported live from the theater showing filmgoers being ushered quickly into the building among heavy police guard. In a Facebook post, however, Subeliani claimed “police did nothing” as she and her friends “were severely beaten and threatened.”
Tbilisi Pride, which in July organized the country’s first-ever LGBTQ pride march, also accused police of failing to adequately provide protection to participants.
“Police [were] witnessing the homophobic slurs towards Ana and didn’t take preventive measures to stop the violence,” the organization wrote on Twitter.
In a message sent to NBC News on Friday, Lela Akiashvili, who works on gender equality issues at the United Nations Development Program, said about 100 protestors stayed until the end of the film.
“Police still had a corridor for those who were leaving just in case. However, only cameras were chasing people exiting the cinema,” she explained, adding that no violent incidents occurred after the screening.
Friday’s protest was not altogether a surprise. Leading up to the film’s debut, Georgian authorities said they were ready to face possible demonstrations as far-right and religious groups publicly condemned the film.
The Georgian Orthodox Church had come out against “And Then We Danced” earlier this week, though it did discourage any violence.
“The Georgian Orthodox Church has always been, is, and will continue to be, categorically incompatible with the promotion and legalization of sin as well as the sodomite relationship,” the church wrote in a statement. “That is why we find it unacceptable to see such a movie in movie theaters.”