Editor's note

After Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s despotic president, was overthrown late Tuesday night, some commentators expressed cautious optimism that regime change might be good news for the country. Military historian Rut Diamint of Argentina – a country painfully acquainted with military rule – brings a distinct perspective to the question of whether a coup d’etat can help democratize a nation. Her answer: Don’t count on it. Latin America’s 20th-century military dictatorships were bloody national traumas. Even now, 40 years later, the cultural legacy of totalitarianism continues to undermine democracy across the region.

Every so often you might hear a pundit asserting that some group or other is just like Pavlov’s dogs, unthinkingly responding to some event. Psychologist Edward Wasserman explains how, contrary to this negative characterization, the basic learning process first studied in Pavlov’s drooling dogs holds the key to understanding many of our most important emotional experiences.

Yesterday, the House approved a $1.5 trillion tax cut. The enormity of a number like that is tough for most of us to wrap our heads around. Andrew Hwang, a mathematics professor at College of the Holy Cross, shares his tricks for breaking down the massive numbers in the millions, billions and trillions that fill today’s news stories.

Catesby Holmes

Commissioning Editor

Top stories

The Army has promised a bloodless rebellion against President Robert Mugabe, but there’s good reason to doubt their claims. AP Photo

Latin American history suggests Zimbabwe's military coup will turn violent

Rut Diamint, Torcuato di Tella University

Some observers think Mugabe's overthrow by the Army might be a good thing for Zimbabwe. An Argentinean expert on Latin America's bloody military dictatorships disagrees.

When the ringing of a bell comes to mean something more. Maisei Raman/Shutterstock.com

'He's Pavlov and we're the dogs': How associative learning really works in human psychology

Edward Wasserman, University of Iowa

Pavlov’s drooling dogs hold the key to understanding many of our most important emotional experiences – as well as the overt actions we take to adapt to a world fraught with daunting challenges.

Breaking down the big numbers. helen_g/Shutterstock.com

Millions, billions, trillions: How to make sense of numbers in the news

Andrew D. Hwang, College of the Holy Cross

Today's news can often involve mind-bogglingly large numbers. A math professor shares some tricks for understanding it all.

Economy + Business

  • How to get the biggest bang out of matching funds

    Laura Gee, Tufts University

    Nonprofit fundraisers have long relied on matching funds to encourage giving without knowing if they work. Recent research suggests one way to make the most out of challenge gifts from big donors.

Science + Technology

  • Can online gaming ditch its sexist ways?

    Giovanni Luca Ciampaglia, Indiana University

    Many online communities have developed toxic social norms, including sexist tendencies, that they will need to address as more members join in.

Arts + Culture

From our international editions

Today’s quote

As online gaming becomes a more mainstream activity, some of its social norms -- especially those related to gender stereotyping -- are being called into question.


Can online gaming ditch its sexist ways?

Giovanni Luca Ciampaglia

Indiana University

Giovanni Luca Ciampaglia