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Well-researched stories from around the web that bridge the gap between news and scholarship. Brought to you each Tuesday from the editors of JSTOR Daily.

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Fake surgery gets results (FiveThirtyEight)
by Christie Aschwanden
Surgery can be a powerful remedy for lower back pain or wear and tear on the knees. So can fake surgery. Researchers say the rituals surrounding an operation may, in some cases, be where the real healing is.

The legacy of the modern age is piling up in our dumps (Pacific Standard)
by Kate Wheeling
We’re all vaguely aware of the growing amount of plastic we use and throw away. Now, a study has added up just how much plastic humans have made, and how much has ended up as garbage that’s still hanging around (spoiler: most of it).

The many faces of Jane Austen (The Atlantic)
by Nicholas Dames
Two centuries after her death, Jane Austen’s work remains astonishingly popular, partly because there seems to be an unending variety of ways to read it. What can critics tell us about what Austen was doing, and what she means to us today?

Why don’t Americans know what Confucius thought? (The Conversation)
by Bryan W. Van Norden
China is a major world power. Yet most Americans know very little about Chinese thought traditions. That’s because so few U.S. philosophy departments teach it.

The upside of ugly (The New Yorker)
by Alan Burdick
Many studies have found that attractive people have a leg up in many areas of life. But new evidence suggests that really ugly people do too.

Have you seen a story online that does a good job of bridging the gap between the news and scholarship? Or something that seems particularly well-researched? Let us know and we may include it in next week’s roundup. Email us at jstordaily_submissions (at) jstor (dot) org.