Is that review a fake? A new paper from Cornell researchers proposes an algorithm for sussing out fake reviews from websites. Here's a summary of tell-tale signs.
Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness is a global organisation that matches people in need of distant genealogical research with remote volunteer researchers. Volunteer services range from help with searching physical records and obtaining documents to the discovery and photography of graves. [more inside]
NASA May Have Discovered Flowing Water on Mars Dark, finger-like features appear and extend down some Martian slopes during late spring through summer, fade in winter, and return during the next spring. Repeated observations have tracked the seasonal changes in these recurring features on several steep slopes in the middle latitudes of Mars' southern hemisphere.
Want to (dis)prove who killed JFK? Start with the 5 million pages of material in the National Archives' Assassination Records Collection1. Better review the 26 volumes of hearings and exhibits published by the Warren Commission. And each frame of the Zapruder film2. And just to be on the safe side, the operating manual for his then top-of-the-line Bell & Howell 414PD camera. (1: previously, but with outdated link. 2: related) [more inside]
There is an European Commission budgetary proposal to boost E.U. funding for science and technology by 45% from €55B to €80B by trimming some fat form the controversial Common Agricultural Policy. [more inside]
The Beer Archaeologist. "Biomolecular archaeologist" Dr. Patrick McGovern has unearthed millennia-old alcohol recipes and ancient medicinals, "by analyzing residues in ancient pottery. Now he's working with brewer Sam Calagione, (of Discovery Channel's Brew Masters, (autoplaying video)) whose pub Dogfish Head serves up beers based on recipes that are thousands of years old." (Via) [more inside]
Facebook users are more trusting than other people. A new report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project takes a broad look at the social impact of social networking sites (SNSs). [more inside]
The Triumph of New-Age Medicine "Medicine has long decried acupuncture, homeopathy, and the like as dangerous nonsense that preys on the gullible. Again and again, carefully controlled studies have shown alternative medicine to work no better than a placebo. But now many doctors admit that alternative medicine often seems to do a better job of making patients well, and at a much lower cost, than mainstream care—and they’re trying to learn from it." [more inside]
"Over the past few decades, 160 million women have vanished from East and South Asia — or, to be more accurate, they were never born at all. Throughout the region, the practice of sex selection — prenatal sex screening followed by selective termination of pregnancies — has yielded a generation packed with boys. From a normal level of 105 boys to 100 girls, the ratio has shifted to 120, 150, and, in some cases, nearly 200 boys born for every 100 girls. In some countries, like South Korea, ratios spiked and are now returning to normal. But sex selection is on the rise in Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East." American journalist Mara Hvistendahl's new book: "Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men," examines and tries to predict the actual and potential effects of unequal sex ratios on men, women and the social economies of the affected regions, including the recent spike in sex trafficking and bride-buying across Asia. More. [more inside]
Mind Reading: The Researchers Who Analyzed All the Porn on the Internet. "Searching all the porn on the Internet might not seem like the most scientifically productive activity, but computational neuroscientists Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam did it anyway. For their new book, A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the World's Largest Experiment Reveals about Human Desire, Ogas and Gaddam analyzed the results of 400 million online searches for porn and uncovered some startling insights into what men and women may really want from each other — at least sexually." [more inside]
Editors of the journal Science have asked the co-authors of a 2009 paper that linked chronic fatigue syndrome to a retrovirus called XMRV to voluntarily retract the paper. Science editor-in-chief Bruce Alberts and executive editor Monica Bradford cited concerns about the validity of the findings, saying other scientists hadn't been able to replicate them, among other reasons. [more inside]
Research Blogging is an aggregator for blog posts on peer-reviewed research. The posts are on various subjects, such as culinary trends in an extinct hominid , the distance and mass of Saggitarius A* and when chemists go to war
As a part of their new open access policy, Yale is releasing their vast digital images collection for free. Although it will take years to upload everything, the online collection is starting with 250,000 images. A sampling includes original Mozart manuscripts, maps from the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and John Trumbull's iconic Declaration of Independence. [more inside]
"The New York Public Library’s Beaux-Arts Stephen A. Schwarzman Building celebrates its 100th anniversary this month on May 23. The Centennial offers a wonderful opportunity to reflect on Library use from the past 100 and uncover stories that can serve as inspiration for another century. One unique way to trace the history of the Library is through call slips. In order to use books in the research collection, patrons request specific titles by filling out a call slip, which includes the following information: author, title, and call number. Not all call slips have been saved over the years, but some have been preserved for posterity." Featured are slips from Max Eastman, Lewis Mumford, Dorothy Parker, John Dos Passos and R. G. Wasson...
Statistical hypothesis testing with a p-value of less than 0.05 is often used as a gold standard in science, and is required by peer reviewers and journals when stating results. Some statisticians argue that this indicates a cult of significance testing using a frequentist statistical framework that is counterintuitive and misunderstood by many scientists. Biostatisticians have argued that the (over)use of p-vaues come from "the mistaken idea that a single number can capture both the long-run outcomes of an experiment and the evidential meaning of a single result" and identify several other problems with significance testing. XKCD demonstrates how misunderstandings of the nature of the p-value, failure to adjust for multiple comparisons, and the file drawer problem result in likely spurious conclusions being published in the scientific literature and then being distorted further in the popular press. You can simulate a similar situation yourself. John Ioannidis uses problems with significance testing and other statistical concerns to argue, controversially, that "most published research findings are false." Will the use of Bayes factors replace classical hypothesis testing and p-values? Will something else?
Recent research on children. (1) Brothers and sisters who argue a lot can improve their language, social skills and outcomes: Guardian article; paper on part of the research (pdf). (2) First findings from Understanding Society. Conclusions include: the unhappiness of children’s mothers with their partners affect children’s happiness, but this is not the case if children’s fathers are unhappy in their relationships; having older brothers or sisters doesn’t appear to affect children’s happiness, but having younger brothers or sisters is associated with less happiness; not living with both natural parents has a greater negative impact on a young person’s life satisfaction than their material situation. (3) A longitudinal study on people now in their forties has found that for these people reading is linked to career success, though not necessarily to better pay, whilst playing computer games and doing no other activities was associated with less likelihood of going to university. In particular, those who owned a ZX Spectrum or Commodore C64 were less likely to go to university. thinq interview with researcher. Guardian article. Telegraph article. (4) Poll about children’s attitudes to losing in sport. Press release. Data from children’s survey. Data from parents’ survey. (All three are PDFs.)
According to a new study from the UK's national science academy, the Royal Society, China is on course to outstrip US scientific output as earlier as two years from now. [SLBBC]
The Like Log Study: [SLVimeo] What can we learn from Facebook reactions to online news? Sortable statistics from a study on Facebook "Likes" of major news sites and stories.
Homelessness: Cutting out the middle men (Economist) "The most efficient way to spend money on the homeless might be to give it to them". [more inside]
Research on RNA interference is losing steam. Biotech companies are giving the chop to RNAi, a gene-silencing mechanism once thought to have great promise for human medicine. [more inside]
No Leftovers for Tyrannosaurus Rex: New Evidence That T. Rex Was Hunter, Not Scavenger [Full text] [more inside]
The Price of Altruism - George Price, a (troubled) father of group selection thru his discovery of the eponymous Price Equation, has a rather interesting biography... [more inside]
Inducement Prizes -- Best known for the Ansari X Prize, the DARPA Grand Challenge and the Clay Mathematics Millennium Problems, inducement prizes have a long history, but their recent successes have led to increased government interest, viz. challenge.gov, and resulted in the development of vaccines, thanks in large part to the work of Michael Kremer.* [more inside]
"The rich are different than you and me." A new study out of the Harvard Business School suggests that frequent use of luxury goods and services may encourage a narrower, more self-interested view of the world. Here's a link to the report itself. (Achtung! it's a PDF.)
Feel like nobody really cares whether you live or die these days? Well, you might be on to something...
The Empathy Deficit: "A recent study finds a decline in empathy among young people in the U.S." In fact, the report concludes "empathy levels have been declining over the past 30 years." Podcast on this topic here.
The Line Between Science and Journalism is Getting Blurry….Again by Bora Zivkovic is an excellent, James Burke-ish, essay on science, journalism, and a hopeful future for science journalism. [more inside]
Scientists at the University of Groningen in The Netherlands have deciphered the structure and functional mechanism of the glucansucrase enzyme that is responsible for dental plaque sticking to teeth. [abstract]
Time Magazine (with commentary from Jezebel) look at the question - why would people get married in 2010? These are reports based on a Pew Research survey that complements results with findings from census data. [more inside]
New research hints that schizophrenia and other mental illness may be caused by "endogenous retroviruses" stored in our DNA and activated by common infections such as CMV, toxoplamosis, or the flu
The entire run of the Bell System Technical Journal, from 1922-1983, is available online for your reading pleasure. Bell Labs on the blue previously
"Our findings provide genetic evidence of an increased rate of large CNVs in individuals with ADHD and suggest that ADHD is not purely a social construct." (abstract) Researchers find a genetic basis for ADHD, and the researcher hopes the finding will reduce the stigma associated with the disorder. But maybe it's more complex than just biology. In any case, children who are diagnosed at an early age are 10 times more likely to be depressed as adolescents. (abstract)
Albert Einstein once articulated what many scholars have felt in their own work: The history of scientific and technical discovery teaches us the human race is poor in independent thinking and creative imagination. Even when the external and scientific requirements for the birth of an idea have long been there, it generally needs an external stimulus to make it actually happen; man has, so to speak, to stumble right up against the thing before the right idea comes. The Boyer Commission on Educating Undergraduates in the Research University [html][pdf] [more inside]
Sabotage in the lab. "As the problems mounted, Ames was getting agitated. She was certain that someone was monkeying with her experiments, but she had no proof and no suspect. Her close friends suggested that she was being paranoid." Scientific research collides with human nature.
Using a 3-D petri dish, Researchers at Brown University and Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island have built a completely functional artificial human ovary that will allow doctors to harvest immature human egg cells (oocytes) and grow them into mature, ready-to-be-fertilized human eggs outside the body. (In vitro) The advance could eventually help preserve fertility for women facing chemotherapy or other medical treatments that may be destructive to ovarian folliculogenesis. Press Release. Article link. (paywall) [more inside]
From Obesity Panacea, a blog is written by two obesity researchers: a 5-part series delving into the fascinating and seemingly paradoxical research on people who remain metabolically-healthy despite being obese: 1) Introduction: An Oxymoron? 2) Prospective Risk of Disease 3) Lower Risk of Mortality? 4) Is Weight Loss Detrimental? 5) Is Weight Loss Beneficial? [more inside]
National Geographic has digitized all of Jane Goodall's articles for the publication from the past five decades. They've also added a galley of photographs documenting her extraordinary work with chimps.
Arthur's Classic Novels has 4000 free ebooks, no registration, nicely organized by author and topics: great old Science Fiction magazines l plentiful online education with 650 books for doctors l a vast collection of famous novels l short stories l by women l Buddhist Scriptures, including The Buddhist Bible, a fave of Jack Kerouac l magazines online l stories by Robert Sheckley l The Autobiography of Charles Darwin l huge collection of fairy tales l philosophy l P. G. Wodehouse l vintage technology l Oscar Wilde l Mark Twain l Rudyard Kipling l George MacDonald l the Koran l a collection of eText resource links. About Arthur Wendover. [more inside]
A major study was just published in the Annals of Internal Medicine from Harvard. In approximately 85,000 women who were followed for 26 years and 45,000 men who were followed for 20 years, researchers found that all-cause mortality rates were increased in both men and women who were eating a low-carbohydrate Atkins diet based on animal protein. However, all-cause mortality rates as well as cardiovascular mortality rates were decreased in those eating a plant-based diet low in animal protein and low in refined carbohydrates. [Previously in MeFi]
The human body is made up of more bacteria cells than human cells. Now, researchers at Harvard have isolated the genes responsible for producing amino acids that can block ultraviolet light and managed get E. coli bacteria to produce them too. Can I interest you in some sunblocking bacteria living on your skin?
More research into into the effects of ketamine on depression published today in the journal Science [abstract]. [more inside]
In the year 2182 -- 172 years time -- there's a 1 in 1000 chance that we might be hit by a very large asteroid. With two centuries advance notice, will we be able to develop effective asteroid deflection techniques? [more inside]
The Pentagon is currently surveying the troops to gauge their opinion towards gays and the repeal of Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell. It has recently come to light that previous surveys were done about the fighting man's opinion of 'blacks' and 'jews'. [more inside]
New Adventures in Recent Evolution - In the last few years, biologists peering into the human genome have found evidence of recent natural selection. cf. Social Darwinism: 21st century edition [previously] (via ip) [more inside]
we alone have the power to conjure up at will erotic, orgasm-inducing scenes in our theater-like heads
One reason why humans are special and unique: We masturbate. A lot
The Carnegie Institution for Science reports "a much higher water content in the Moon’s interior than previous studies." For decades, the moon's water content was estimated at less than 1 part per billion; the new estimates range from 64 ppb to 5 parts per million. A scientist at Washington University said, "We can now finally begin to consider the implications—and the origin—of water in the interior of the Moon.” There's more at NASA and the BBC, and the full paper is available at PNAS (PDF).
"Does Professor Quality Matter? Evidence from Random Assignment of Students to Professors" by Scott Carrell and James West is the title of an interesting new study in this month's Journal of Political Economy, a leading journal in economics. (For a summary of the paper, see this review. An ungated version, too). The authors are interested in determining the role of "professor quality" in student learning. They do this by exploiting an unusual institutional feature of the Air Force Academy whereby all undergraduates are randomly assigned their professors, and all professors use the same syllabus. The authors also have the professor's student evaluations, as well each student's subsequent performance in the follow-up classes. To keep it simple, they focus only on Calculus I and the follow-up courses in Calculus (which are mandatory), though they note that an earlier study that looked at Chemistry and Physics found similar things. [more inside]