Editor's note

Many Americans will see snow plows clear their roads today, but few will consider that the salt those plows often drop is a pollutant – with effects scientists are still trying to understand. Many of our body’s natural processes are influenced by Circadian rhythms – from sleeping and eating to fighting off infections. Environmental changes, such as traveling by plane across time zones, can scramble these rhythms – and so can exposure to environmental toxins like road salt, as biologist Jennifer Hurley recently found. Although Hurley’s research focused on the effects of salt on zooplankton, her findings suggest that pollution may have broader effects on larger organisms, including human beings.

Americans are beginning 2018 more hopeful about the economy than they’ve felt in at least a decade. So what issues and themes could stoke or spoil that sense of optimism? We asked four economists to offer their insights.

And as as people are increasingly dependent on digital technology they are also feeling a growing distrust about its power in their personal lives and society at large. Tufts University’s Bhaskar Chakravorti, a scholar of digital trust, discusses how these conflicting forces might play out through the coming year.

Jennifer Weeks

Environment + Energy Editor

Top stories

Salting streets in Milwaukee. Michael Pereckas

Can road salt and other pollutants disrupt our circadian rhythms?

Jennifer Marie Hurley, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

A recent study shows plankton that have adapted to road salt have disrupted circadian rhythms. This finding suggests that environmental pollutants could also affect human circadian clocks.

At least one economist worries we’ll be mostly poorer. AP Photo/Go Nakamura

For richer or poorer: 4 economists ponder what 2018 has in store

Greg Wright, University of California, Merced; Christos Makridis, Stanford University; Patricia Smith, University of Michigan; William Hauk, University of South Carolina

We asked four of our regular economics writers to examine a key theme they expect to flare up in 2018 and why.

Trust in online systems varies around the world. Sergey Nivens/Shutterstock.com

Trust in digital technology will be the internet's next frontier, for 2018 and beyond

Bhaskar Chakravorti, Tufts University

Around the world, people are both increasingly dependent on, and distrustful of, digital technology. New research suggests ways this conflict could unfold.

Politics + Society

Health + Medicine

Science + Technology

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Today’s quote

While overweight pets may not face the same social stigma as humans, medical and emotional damage is being done all the same.


Why are so many of our pets overweight?

Deborah Linder

Tufts University

Deborah Linder