If a stranger attacks you inside your own home, the law has always permitted you to defend yourself. On the other hand, if an altercation breaks out in public, the law requires you to try to retreat. At least, that's what it used to do.
The millions of Americans who make New Year's resolutions to lose weight often have pictures in mind.
They're pictures that have been repeatedly supplied by the health and beauty magazines at supermarket checkout lines. They feature skinny models in bikinis, or toned guys with six-pack abs, and captions about how you could look like this by summer.
Some people go so far as to tape these pictures onto their refrigerators and cupboards. When they're tempted to reach for a cookie, they reason, the sight of that toned model might dissuade them from breaking their resolutions.
An oil drilling rig holding more than 150,000 gallons of diesel, lubricating oil, and hydraulic fluid has run aground near Kodiak Island in the Gulf of Alaska, after it was being towed during a storm. The crew was evacuated before the rig was incapacitated.
"The rig ran aground in a storm, with waves up to 35 feet and wind to 70 miles per hour," reports Jeff Brady, on NPR's Newscast. The Shell Oil rig is "about 250 miles south of Anchorage," Jeff says.
It's a year-end tradition to cobble together a list of the most important advances in science. But, truth be told, many ideas that change the world don't tend to spring from these flashy moments of discovery. Our view of nature — and our technology — often evolve from a sequence of more subtle advances.
Even so, chances are good that this year's list-makers will choose the discovery of the Higgs boson as the most important discovery of 2012.
Updated Jan. 1, 2013: I've added a postscript to this post. You can find it at the bottom of this page.
Look at yourself. Right now.
You are muscle,skin, bone, brain, blood, warmed by energy, and all of you, every cell, even the subsets of those cells, all trillions and trillions of them, are going to tire, waste and depart. In 10 years almost every bit of you will have been replaced by new bits.
As American make contributions to various charities at the end of the year, there is increasing evidence that politics is playing a role in their decisions. Research suggests that the way the charity presses certain ideological buttons predicts whether liberals or conservatives will pony up a donation.
For scientists who study a dangerous form of bird flu, 2012 is ending as it began — with uncertainty about what the future holds for their research, but a hope that some contentious issues will soon be resolved.
There's nothing like the distinctive "pop" of the uncorking of a bottle of bubbly to create a sense of celebration. Whether it's Dom Perignon or a $10 sparkling wine, bubbles add pizazz.
Sparkling-wine lovers sometimes point to the glittering streams of tiny bubbles as an important attribute. Why? Well, tiny bubbles are a sign of age, explains French chemist Gerard Liger-Belair, author of Uncorked: The Science of Champagne.