Editor's note

If most of what you know about brain science you learned from the movies, you may have an outsized idea of what it can or should be used for to deal with crime and criminals. Yale clinical psychologist Arielle Baskin-Sommers – who has a research lab in a Connecticut state prison – writes that while the field is mostly not ready for primetime when it comes to determining things like guilt or innocence, there’s plenty of other solid neuroscience research that should change the way prisons work.

President Trump is calling for an end to the green card program that the attacker in the deadliest attack on New York City since 9/11 used to enter the United States. Commonly known as the “green card lottery,” the program awards about 50,000 visas a year. That would be a mistake, writes economist Ethan Lewis. “We would be giving up a program that benefits American workers with very little chance of a gain in safety.”

One thing that does need updating is our idea of how men like the accused attacker in New York City become radicalized. James Gelvin of UCLA explains the latest thinking.

At the beginning of November, many Mexicans, and those of Mexican ancestry celebrate “Día de los Muertos,” or the Day of the Dead, a practice similar to other observances around the world. As western societies move away from public mourning and grief becomes more private, University of Oregon’s Daniel Wojcik and Indiana University’s Robert Dobler, explain death rituals of other cultures and why they help in dealing with loss.

Maggie Villiger

Science + Technology Editor

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Neuroscience can help incarcerated brains. Donald Tong

Brain science should be making prisons better, not trying to prove innocence

Arielle Baskin-Sommers, Yale University

Hollywood pushes a fantasy version of what neuroscience can do in the courtroom. But the field does have real benefits to offer, right now: solid evidence on what would improve prisons.

The Statue of Liberty casts a wary eye at the bike path that runs along the western edge of Manhattan, where the Oct. 31 attack occurred. Songquan Deng/Shutterstock.com

US shouldn't give up benefits of 'green card lottery' over low risk of terrorism

Ethan Lewis, Dartmouth College

The president is urging lawmakers to end the program in the aftermath of the deadliest attack in New York City since 9/11. Doing so would be a mistake.

Police work near a damaged Home Depot truck on Nov. 1, 2017, after a motorist drove onto a bike path near the World Trade Center memorial. AP Photo/Andres Kudacki

What draws 'lone wolves' to the Islamic State?

James L. Gelvin, University of California, Los Angeles

Sayfullo Saipov, the suspect in the Manhattan bike path attack, wasn't a devout Muslim. He cursed and came late to prayers. A terrorism expert explains why such a man may want to be a martyr.

Day of the dead at a Mexican cemetery. © Tomas Castelazo, www.tomascastelazo.com / Wikimedia Commons, via Wikimedia Commons

What ancient cultures teach us about grief, mourning and continuity of life

Daniel Wojcik, University of Oregon; Robert Dobler, Indiana University

Many in the Western world lack the explicit mourning rituals that help people deal with loss. On Day of the Dead, two scholars describe ancient mourning practices.

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  • Stop doing companies' digital busywork for free

    Jordan Kraemer, New York University

    Companies may benefit when customers create content, provide feedback and do busywork once done by paid employees, but what about the customers themselves – all of us?

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Today’s quote

The only winners here may be those low-income people who now have higher subsidies and a lower net cost of insurance. Virtually no one else comes out ahead – not insurers, not other individuals, not the government.


Surprise! How Obamacare is beginning to look a lot like Medicaid

J.B. Silvers

Case Western Reserve University

J.B. Silvers