The logic of modesty — why it pays to be humble

Why do people make anonymous donations, and why does the public perceive this as admirable? Why do we downplay our interest in a potential partner, if we risk missing out on a relationship? A team of scientists, consisting of Christian Hilbe, a postdoc at the Institute Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria), Moshe Hoffman, and Martin Nowak, both at Harvard University, has developed a novel game theoretic model that captures these behaviors and enables their study. Their new model is the first to include the idea that hidden signals, when discovered, provide additional information about the sender. They use this idea to explain under which circumstances people have an incentive to hide their positive attributes.

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China floods to hit US economy: Climate effects through trade chains

Intensifying river floods could lead to regional production losses worldwide caused by global warming. This might not only hamper local economies around the globe — the effects might also propagate through the global network of trade and supply chains, a study now published in Nature Climate Change shows. It is the first to assess this effect for flooding on a global scale, using a newly developed dynamic economic model. It finds that economic flood damages in China, which could, without further adaption, increase by 80 percent within the next 20 years, might also affect EU and US industries. The US economy might be specifically vulnerable due to its unbalanced trade relation with China. Contrary to US president Trump’s current tariff sanctions, the study suggests that building stronger and thus more balanced trade relations might be a useful strategy to mitigate economic losses caused by intensifying weather extremes.

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Genes, environment and schizophrenia: New study finds the placenta is the missing link

Hiding in plain sight, new research shines a spotlight on the placenta’s critical role in the nature versus nurture debate and how it confers risk for schizophrenia and likely other neurodevelopmental disorders including ADHD, autism, and Tourette syndrome. This new scientific frontier, with far-reaching implications for maternal and child health, creates the possibility that scientists can more accurately predict who is at risk of mental illness, and develop strategies to prevent or lessen their occurrence by increasing the resiliency and health of the placenta.

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Tall and older Amazonian forests more resistant to droughts

Tropical rainforests play a critical role in regulating the global climate system — they represent the Earth’s largest terrestrial CO2 sink. Because of its broad geographical expanse and year-long productivity, the Amazon is key to the global carbon and hydrological cycles. Climate change could threaten the fate of rainforests, but there is great uncertainty about the future ability of rainforests to store carbon. While severe droughts have occurred in recent years in the Amazon watershed, causing widespread tree mortality and affecting the forests’ ability to store carbon, the drivers of tropical rainforests’ sensitivity to drought are poorly understood.

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