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Science can help create understanding where there is none, but is it possible to study and understand terrorists if we're too busy doing everything we can to stop it? Terrorism is notoriously difficult to study because governments constantly subpoena scientists lists of contacts, making source anonymity impossible.

And an outbreak of TB in North Korea is terrible and unnecessary, but it is providing an opportunity for North Korea to, potentially, join the global scientific community.

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I won't sugarcoat it, it's been a bit of a bad month. It began with North Korea announcing its intent to destroy the United States or whoever it can reach with its nuclear weapons and it ended with the loss of lives in Boston. It's hard to make sense of aggression and violence like this. One way of looking at it though is simply a lack of fundamental understanding between people. And what is all about understanding? Science. Science can help create understanding where there is none, not just about things, but about each other. Even if it means working with people we're afraid of. Here's proof.

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 Why Terror Attacks?

By now, even if you live in the woods under a rock, you've seen headlines coming out of Boston and like me, you're wondering "Why does this keep happening?" And this is a really big, difficult question but psychologists, sociologists, and other scientists have been doing their best to understand why some people in groups resort to terror. The pathology of terrorism, if you will, didn't get much attention from the scientific community until 2001, but even today, there's not a lot of research out there, and this week, we got a sense of why that is.

In Thursday's issue of the journal Science three prominent experts in terror research based at Virgina's Rand Corporation explained that one of the major challenges of studying terrorism is mistrust, not by scientists, but of scientists. Naturally, studying the behavior and psychology of group terrorism involves researching potentially violent groups and the people who sympathize with them, and scientists usually give their subjects anonymity. But authorities have begun to force researchers to hand over their data, including the names and contacts of their subjects who have been promised confidentiality.

For example in the early 2000s, researchers, in Boston as it happens, spent five years interviewing members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army with the condition that the subjects remained anonymous until after their deaths. But last year, the Justice Department had the researchers served with subpoenas, forcing them to break that confidentiality and turn over all their information to the British government. So far, the scientists have resisted and are appealing their case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Now, obviously, the government has a legitimate interest in prosecuting terrorists. But the Rand scientists say that if this keeps going on, scientific study of terrorism simply is going to stop because access to subjects will become impossible. So, like, which would you prefer? Studying terrorism confidentially, or not at all?

 North Korean Tuberculosis

It's a tough choice, and you know what else is? Teaming up with your arch enemy. Again in this week's science, editor Richard Stone traveled to North Korea where he found that in addition to poverty, isolation, and a leader with an appetite for destruction, North Korea also has an epidemic of tuberculosis on its hands. Tuberculosis is an infection caused by strains of tough, thick-membraned bacteria called mycobacteria. When the infection gets bad, it causes respiratory problems and sometimes death. Infection is actually really common. A third of the world's population has probably had it, according to the World Health Organization. But usually the infection remains latent and in most countries cases of TB itself are rare and they're on a steady decline. But severe cases occur where people are already sick or malnourished, which has been the case in North Korea. And because of the country's isolation and limited access to medicine, some unique drug-resistant strains have taken hold there. The number of cases of tuberculosis has grown 700% from 1994 between 2011.

 North Korean Cooperation

But in a rare and kind of beautiful example of cooperation between North Korea and the U.S., a group called the Bay Area TB Consortium and North Korea's Ministry of Public Health are teaming up to study and fight the disease. Together, they have started the National Tuberculosis Reference Laboratory, where 14 Korean Researchers have begun identifying and studying new drug-resistant strains. And the groups hope to earn the lab international accreditation by 2015 so that North Korean scientists can for the first time collaborate with researchers around the world to combat the disease. 

With science and collaboration we can solve all of the world's problems. Whether you agree or disagree, tell me in the comments below. Thank you for watching SciShow news, and if you wanna to keep up to date on all the latest breaking science news, you can go to and subscribe.