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The Week Unwrapped: Medals, lizards and vibe shifts

Why did a US-born athlete choose to compete for China? How do lizards shed their tales? And are we ready for a vibe shift?

Olly Mann and The Week delve behind the headlines and debate what really matters.

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In this week’s episode, we discuss:

Chinese medals

The Chinese-American skier Eileen Gu won two gold medals at the Winter Olympics in Beijing. In China, her victories consolidated her heroic status, but in the US they seemed to provoke mixed feelings. Many commentators couldn’t understand why anyone born in the US would choose to represent another country, especially China, over her homeland. Does this story illustrate a broader challenge for dual citizens, who can easily find themselves caught between two countries.

Lizards’ tails

The phenomenon of autotomy – by which animals shed parts of their body, usually to escape predators – has long been a mystery to scientists. Now, a group of researchers has discovered how lizards are able to keep their tails firmly attached during day-to-day life, and then shed it the moment it’s seized by an attacker. What they discovered may help engineers develop a new approach to prosthetic limbs, or even to create robots that can shed damaged parts.

Vibe shift

We are, according to a celebrated American cultural commentator, on the cusp of a “vibe shift” – a moment when prevailing attitudes and aesthetics are overturned and a new set is installed. The forecast was published before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as the pandemic seemed to be coming to an end and many people were looking for a fresh start. But the eruption of war in Europe may have a have a cultural as well as a political fallout, even if some of it is subconscious.

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