Your grammar is making you fat, and giant, invasive snakes have eaten everything in the Everglades . . . or not.
The first of the two news pieces I read today that made me go "hmmm" is about Yale researcher M. Keith Chen who has written a paper that suggests that some languages tend to weaken the connection we feel to future events. This makes speakers of English and Spanish, for example, less concerned about the long term effects of their behavior than speakers of languages like Mandarin Chinese. According to Chen, this helps explain why we English and Spanish speakers are fat, save less, and smoke more than speakers of Mandarin.
I might have bought the connection to obesity and spend thriftiness, but according to Wikipedia the Chinese are the heaviest smokers in the world, with the prevalence among men at about 60%, while only about 20% of Americans smoke. What's more, smoking in the US has fallen dramatically since 1965 when 42% of us smoked, even though most of us have spoken English and/or Spanish the whole time.
Chen's paper is packed with technical jargon, so I can't say I've plodded through the whole thing just yet. But it also hasn't been published by a reputable journal. It's too bad that it's already gotten so much press, because I'd bet it will never make it past the peer review process. Only time will tell, provided I can pay attention that long.
The other paper that has me in a tiff has indeed been published in a scientific journal, but it happens to be a journal that seems to put out a lot of pretty dicey stuff - the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS). According to an article in the Washington Post, the authors claim that non-native pythons and anacondas are decimating the small animal population in the Everglades. The problem is this, predators as a rule CAN'T devastate prey populations because as soon as prey populations fall, predators starve to death and the prey populations rebound.
Invasive animals don't typically wipe out the things they eat. The ebb and flow of predator and prey populations is described by the well known Lotka-Volterra equation, which makes it clear that any reduction in prey animal numbers is going to be relatively manageable and temporary, as snakes first gorge and then die off.
Invasive species are, however, a serious threat to OTHER things that eat the things they eat. That is, anacondas and pythons are more likely to out-compete, and potentially devastate, the native alligator population, than to wipe out the rabbits, raccoons, opposums and bobcats that they compete for.
Of course, I'm no expert on either of these topics. It's just that my inner skeptic tells me that both papers seem suspiciously designed to grab headlines with shocking and dubious claims.
I'd promise to keep an eye on the stories to see if they hold up over time, but my English proficiency is making it hard to think of doing anything besides eating, drinking, and blowing all my money on exotic, carnivorous pets that will eventually grow to be longer than my house. Que sera sera.