Swindlers, baby microbiomes, Martian concrete, and a bright idea for a light bulb


Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Conjurer.” A magician performs the classic “cups and balls” routine, the basis for the infamous shell game. (Notice the gentleman being pickpocketed!) ViaWikimedia

Tune into Science Friday January 15, 2016 from 2-4pm on WSQX.

The grifter, the con artist, the flimflammer—the confidence man (or woman) goes by many names. But what the best of them have in common, according to The Confidence Game author Maria Konnikova, is an uncanny knack for understanding human psychology. From the “put-up” (identifying the victim, or “mark”) to the “blow-off and fix” (when a victim has been thoroughly fleeced and is convinced not to squeal), the master grifter’s techniques string us along, playing on our unconscious biases every step of the way. Konnikova joins guest host Manoush Zomorodi to talk about some of the most successful con games, why they work, and how our own psychology predisposes us to take the grifter’s bait. Read an excerpt about the first “Nigerian Prince” scam here.

Science Friday Baby

Infant in delivery room, from Shutterstock

A baby in the womb is protected from most microorganisms. But when that baby enters the outside world, it’s greeted by a welcoming committee of bacteria. Now, researchers are trying to sort out what effect factors like an infant’s delivery method and early diet have on its community of microorganisms. Juliette Madan and Anne Hoen, two authors of a paper published this week in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, say that developing a better understanding of the infant microbiome could one day lead to healthier babies.