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Woodworking column: Research readers really need to know

Just received my September issue of "Harper's Magazine", which is celebrating its 168th birthday this year, still pretty durable in this age of change. It might have been otherwise.

When I went to work at the Star Tribune owned by Cowles Media, it was having big trouble with one of its other properties, Harper's, which the company had purchased in a burst of optimism. Since the purchase, Cowles had poured millions of dollars into the old magazine, hoping to keep it afloat. Finally, the Cowles family gave up and sold it to the MacArthur Foundation for $1.

MacArthur is a non-profit known for giving fancy grants to artists and writers and thinkers. What would it do with the magazine? John MacArthur pared the staff down to essentials and made it into sort of a Reader's Digest for the learned, excerpting copy from other magazines and creating a statistical index, which cost less than hiring its own reporters to create its own stories.

It was a success. When I get my monthly copy I head right for the back page to a permanent feature called "Findings," which drolly reports on some of the wilder research projects going on in our world today. Not just wild projects but ones that bring up stuff we should really worry about as well. I'm getting too old to worry, so I like the wild findings, after spending years of my life researching a worthless doctoral dissertation.

Herewith is a sampling from this month's issue:

Researchers found that people who think they know the most about vaccines and autism know the least, that a large number of suspicious broken bones in Sicily may point to widespread insurance fraud, that Panama disease may lead to the extinction of the banana, that data from 62 species across six continents indicates that large mammals have turned 1.36 times more nocturnal in an attempt to avoid humans.

And that European eels were getting high off riverine cocaine and suffering metabolic changes which persist even after rehab. (Eel rehab? That study made my doctoral dissertation on the reform etiquette in the five-act comedies of Henry Fielding seem like a real page-turner.)

The drollery continues with more research that has real meaning for readers. For instance, researchers found that conservatives are less likely than liberals to eat their vegetables and get their flu shots, but more likely to regard life as meaningful and the face of God as white.

Think the issue of race has been solved? Researchers found that Americans exhibit racism toward black robots.

Trump voters exhibit higher levels of sexual disgust and women rate every standard category of disgust more disgusting than men do. Yale University researchers found that susceptibility to fake news has more to do with laziness than with bias. And women who eat only healthful food are perceived as a threat by other women.

Narcissism? Russians see themselves as responsible for 61 percent of world history, whereas the Swiss put themselves at 11 percent. Meanwhile, Americans in general overestimate their home state's proportional contribution to U.S. history, with Virginians seeing their state as responsible for 41 percent and Iowans, 9 percent.

And here's my favorite: Compared with any U.S. state, Washington, D.C., is considerably

denser in psychopaths.

Dave would like to hear from you. Phone him at 715-426-9554.