What are you doing New Year’s Eve? Guzzling champagne, smooching a random stranger at midnight, and making heartfelt resolutions you’ll forget by January 2? Boring! Far more thrilling: dressing up like a dancing bear, choking down seed-filled fruit, or deliberately drizzling dessert topping on your kitchen floor.
As we venture into spooky season, it’s time to remember all the superstitions that have hung around. Not the ones that get a lot of play–but the ones that only a few specific places make sure to hold on to.
Argentinian President Christina Fernández de Kirchner has just adopted a 21-year-old man as her godson. This is a tradition that dates back more than a century, and it's to prevent the stigmatization of a family's seventh son — who, according to legend, turns into a werewolf-like demon. Update: This has been debunked.
Here's some research which shows that, while superstitious behavior won't stop events from happening, it does have practical value to people. It won't stop bad things from happening to you - but it may stop you from feeling bad things.
Space exploration requires technical expertise, careful planning, and test after test after test. But it can be hard to discount the role of luck in missions where so much can go wrong. In the US and Russian space programs, many rituals are attached to missions, perhaps to add a little good fortune to their science.