Nothing succeeds like failure. [H]istory shows that breakthroughs often spring not from carefully laid plans, but from mischance or even sheer, ridiculous accidents. A stovetop spill heralded vulcanized rubber; the potency of uranium was revealed when a rock was left in a drawer among photographic plates. And great research seldom follows an unswerving path. At RCA in Princeton in the 1950s, David Sarnoff exhorted his team to invent a flat television that could hang on a wall. “There were an enormous number of failures,” says Princeton historian of science Michael Gordin — and instead of TVs, the world got the Seiko digital watch in 1973.
"She needed company, sympathy — someone, anyone, to see and feel her loss — and searched the face of her assigned social worker in vain." [more inside]
Veronique de Rugy, NRO contributor and George Mason fellow, says her research indicates that stimulus funding was disproportionately directed towards Democratic congressional districts. Nate Silver begs to disagree. De Rugy responds here; Silver responds here. Others say that this is a model "for the quick, effective peer-review that the internet facilitates." Perhaps this is a new model for peer review?
Have you ever wanted to change the functionality of the GUI of a program that you didn't have the source code for? Prefab is a tool that was made to allow you to do exactly that. [more inside]
Followup to this post: A US District Court has ruled that Myriad Genetic's patents on breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2, which allow them to hold exclusive rights to a widely used genetic test for inherited breast and ovarian cancer susceptibility, are invalid. Genomics Law Report analyzes the ruling in two posts. The decision is likely to be challenged in a legal appeal — but if upheld, it could have huge implications for the biotechnology industry. [more inside]
A new study suggests that humanity's sense of fair play and kindness towards strangers is determined by culture, not genetics. Speculation: the finding may be directly related to the rise of religion in human history, as well as more complex economies. (Via). [more inside]
Sweet, sour, bitter, salty, umami, and.... fat? Dr. Russell Keast, an Austrailian scientist who studies "perceived flavour, consumer acceptance and preference of foods and nutrition," has conducted research exploring humans' apparent sixth taste perception: fat. The kicker? Sensitivity to the taste of fat was negatively correlated with fat intake and BMI. Dr. Keast discussed the results of his latest research with Slashfood, and The Sydney Morning Herald. (via) [more inside]
Reddit interviews Peter Norvig (reddit discussion) related: Seeds of AI at Google -- how the internet is shaping intelligence and learning and, in turn, the role of human culture in natural selection1,2 and why we are not living in western civilization. (via)
A letter by Rene Descartes, stolen in 1840s, recovered in 2010 by online detective work. The letter was stolen by Guglielmo Libri, inspector general of the libraries of France, who stole thousands of valuable documents and fled to England in 1848. Since 1902 it's been in the collection of Haverford College, its contents unknown to scholars, and nobody there realized that it was an unknown letter. But because they had catalogued it and recently put their catalogue on line, Dutch philosopher Erik-Jan Bos found it "during a late-night session browsing the Internet". (A Haverford undergraduate thirty years ago had translated it and written a paper on it, in which he recognized that the letter was unknown -- but nobody followed up and the letter had sat in the library since then until it was listed online.) The letter includes some last-minute edits to the Meditations, and some thoughts on God as causa sui. Haverford, whose president was a philosophy major, is returning the letter to the Institut de France.
The Google/China hacking case, or "How many news outlets do the original reporting on a big story?"
New Pew Study Finds the Millennial Generation the Most Educated, Underemployed, Optimistic, Plugged-In, Nonreligious, Democratic generation in American History
Dig out the flannel from the attic--there's another grunge movement a-comin'! According to a new study from the Pew Research Center, the millennial generation (18-29 year olds) are becoming one of the most educated generations ever, but many of them are still unemployed. This research revealed another very scary statistic. They said the college students who graduate during a bad economy typically suffer long term consequences that can affect their careers and earnings for as long as 15 years (Gen-Xers everywhere wince). [more inside]
We may soon be able to clone Neanderthals. But should we? An essay from Archaeology Magazine examines the ethical, scientific and legal ramifications. (Via Heather Pringle's Time Machine blog, where essay author Zach Zorich posted a reply and elicited a response.) [more inside]
“For me, augmented reality has to be the future for 2020, together with it's close cousin the internet of things... It will become commonplace to be able to overlay reviews of a product simply by pointing a screen at it, or check the weather forecast by pointing your phone at the sky.” The Pew Research Center releases its The Future of the Internet IV report, an online survey of 895 technology stakeholders’ and critics’ expectations of social, political and economic change by 2020. [more inside]
Armed with Science: Research and Applications for the Modern Military is a podcast put out by the US Department of Defense. Each week, they interview scientists and other personnel about R & D in the military. Topics include nutrition, portable fuel cells, virtual online worlds, substance abuse, and the effects of sounds on whale behavior. [more inside]
Pellagra is an awful disease. Its symptoms are the four D's -- diarrhea, dermatitis, dementia, and death, unpleasant by anyone's standards. Caused by a deficiency in niacin, pellagra is uncommon in developed nations thanks to the fortification of bread products with niacin. But could excess niacin be causing the rapid rise in type II diabetes? [more inside]
Norman Rockwell's research photos. Norman Rockwell commissioned photos (which he meticulously directed) and then painted those photos. Here are some of them.
"We were concerned that the study would raise a lot of controversy and be misused," Pardo said. "We were right." Some practitioners treat autistic children with the anti-inflammatory intravenous immunoglobulin, citing a study by Carlos Pardo, et al. showing inflammation in the brains of deceased autistic patients. Pardo: "modulators of immune reactions (e.g. intravenous immunoglobulins, IVIG) WOULD NOT HAVE a significant effect." Others, following the work of Simon Baron-Cohen on autism and the male brain, treat autistic children with testosterone inhibitors, a prospect which Baron-Cohen says "fills me with horror." Another anti-inflammatory treatment, hyperbaric therapy, is supported by one recent clinical trial, but looks bad in another. Side effects include horrible death by fire. (via the Chicago Tribune)
"Using a cell phone while walking is so distracting that people are likely to miss a clown riding a unicycle."
October's focus on breast cancer is a curvy pink double-edged sword and those in the fight agree. [more inside]
"How is straight female interest in slash fiction like straight male interest in "shemale" models? And why in the world does this matter?"
The curious case of the game show neuroscientists, or how NOT to research an online community. Two researchers wade into fanfic community without due consideration, create shitstorm. More here.
Neuroscientist Lise Eliot finds that claims of sex differences fall apart. In one study, scientists dressed newborns in gender-neutral clothes and misled adults about their sex. The adults described the "boys" (actually girls) as angry or distressed more often than did adults who thought they were observing girls, and described the "girls" (actually boys) as happy and socially engaged more than adults who knew the babies were boys. Dozens of such disguised-gender experiments have shown that adults perceive baby boys and girls differently, seeing identical behavior through a gender-tinted lens. [more inside]
What you don't know about your friends: The problem, [Francis Flynn, a psychology professor at Stanford] says, is that interacting with people and sharing experiences with them doesn’t necessarily translate into knowing lots of things about them. The main hurdle is the way we talk to those we’re close to: our conversations are usually meant not so much to gather information as to establish rapport and to bond - in short, to make friends.
Spacehack "A directory of ways to participate in space exploration. Interact and connect with the space community."
Americans like science. But they think much less highly of American scientists than American scientists themselves do. Most scientists also rate media coverage of science as only fair or poor. Yet public knowledge of some scientific facts is .... not that bad (Section 7). A Pew Research Report reveals all.
A quiet revolution is taking place in the multiple sclerosis community. Long thought of as purely an autoimmune disease, possibly secondary to Epstein-Barr virus infection or even an STI, MS has never been pinned down to a single cause. Now things are changing, in a big and bloody way: MS appears to be related to abnormalities in veins. [more inside]
DFG Science TV is back. Researchers documenting their work. If you missed the first series, it is still available for viewing.
Test My Brain was set up by Harvard's Vision Lab and Social Neuroscience and Psychopathology Lab. There are five tests online at the time of this post; take one and maybe you'll learn something about yourself that you may not have known (other than your special ability to slack off on MetaFilter when you should be working). At the same time, you'll be helping researchers collect data from a wide range of subjects. One of the collaborators, Professor Ken Nakayama, is also responsible for creating these online tests for faceblindness. [previously] [more inside]
On behalf of medical organizations, universities, & individual patients, pathologists and genetics researchers, the ACLU has filed a lawsuit against Utah-based Myriad Genetics and the US Patent and Trademark Office. Myriad holds the US patents to the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, associated with hereditary causes of breast and ovarian cancers. Their patents guarantee the company the right to prevent anyone else from testing or studying those genes, which the ACLU says is unconstitutional and inhibits researchers from finding treatments and cures. [more inside]
Is there a formula—some mix of love, work, and psychological adaptation—for a good life? For 72 years, researchers at Harvard have been examining this question, following 268 men who entered college in the late 1930s through war, career, marriage and divorce, parenthood and grandparenthood, and old age. Here, for the first time, a journalist gains access to the archive of one of the most comprehensive longitudinal studies in history. What Makes Us Happy?
The rise and fall of a physics fraudster. In the spring of 2002, the world’s most productive young scientist was a 31-year-old physicist at Bell Labs in New Jersey in the US. With eight papers published in Nature and Science in 2001 alone, Jan Hendrik Schön was emerging with breathtaking speed as a star researcher in physics, materials science and nanotechnology...But in September 2002, managers at Bell Labs released a report [pdf] that...made clear that much of Schön’s data were fake. His discoveries were lies. Many of his devices had probably never existed...On the day of the report’s release, Schön was fired and fled the US to an unknown location. In all, 21 of Schon's papers were withdrawn from Nature, Science and Physical Review Journals.
A recent Nielsen study which has been circulating the web indicated that 60% of Twitter users quit the social networking site after just one month--music to many Mefite's ears. But as one reporter noted, the study didn't take into account any of the third-party applications, (like Tweetdeck) through which many users access their Twitter feeds. Just three days later, Nielsen responds with a revised study purportedly them into account.
Brain Researchers Open Door to Editing Memory : spotless minds might be closer than we think.
What can jump 4 feet straight up, births identical quadruplet pups nearly every time, can curl itself into an armor-plated ball, walk underwater for up to six minutes and can swallow air until it bloats to double its size to float? [more inside]
Microscope Imaging Station opens a door to the wonder of the microscopic world and allows the layman to explore it. They seek to recreate some of the excitement and wonder that the earliest biological researchers found. Features include cells with potential as well as bad oogy. The microscopic Galleries are inhabited by zygotes and organelles.
The Quilt Index is a growing research and reference tool designed to share access to information and images about quilts provided by an array of contributors. You may search by category including time period, style and technique, location, or fabric.
WikiLeaks: every current Congressional Research Service report in a Torrent (2.2 GB). h/t Jessamyn's twitter. Americans spend $100 million a year on the Congressional Research Service, a private think tank for members of Congress and their staffs. While technically available to the public, their reports were never posted on the Internet by the government. [more inside]
Circuits are flipping on in the nation's attic. A couple of weeks ago, 31 "digerati" -- like Clay Shirky, Chris Anderson, and George Oates -- dropped in to the Smithsonian Institution for the invitation-only conference "Smithsonian 2.0: A Gathering to Re-imagine the Smithsonian in the Digital Age". Dan Cohen of the Center for History and New Media provides a great summary (and continues to pose provocative questions) on his own blog. Those whose invitations were somehow lost in the mail can play fly-on-the-wall by watching the keynotes, paging through the Flickr pool of envymaking glimpses of their behind-the-scenes lab and collections tours, reading the blog (where Bruce Wyman of the Denver Art Museum lays out a succinct road map for museums using social media), and poking around in the SI's website gallery. Want to cheer on the USA's favorite 163-year-old "Establishment for the increase & diffusion of knowledge" without taking the trip to DC? Thanks to their recent efforts, you can now follow the SI on Twitter, listen to its podcasts, watch its YouTube channel, visit the Latino Virtual Museum in Second Life, or use the FaceBook gifts page to send your best friends their very own pair of Dorothy's ruby slippers, Hope diamond, Negro Leagues baseball, or coelocanth.
Dr. Aric Sigman has told us that TV is literally killing us, that it makes children pregnant, that Batman makes our kids violent and that multitasking ruins children's attention span. Now he says that social networking can cause cancer, strokes, and dementia. (PDF of press release)
In the background behind attention-grabbing headlines about famous (and wannabe-famous) cancer patients, a quiet revolution may be on the brink of changing oncology. [more inside]
Nestled amid the red buttes of Papago Park in Phoenix, the Desert Botanical Garden hosts one of the world’s finest collections of desert plants. Home to 139 rare, threatened and endangered plant species from around the world, the Garden offers interesting and inspiring experiences, while their website offers gardening help including good growing guides. The Desert Botanical Garden has educational programming and research for children as well as adults. The internationally acclaimed living collection of over 20,000 desert plants, with particular emphasis on those inhabiting the Sonoran Desert, continues to serve the public and scientific community. [more inside]
Digital Research Tools (DiRT) is a wiki created by Lisa Spiro, director of Rice University's Digital Media Center. Tons of "snapshot reviews of software that can help researchers" are categorized by what you're trying to accomplish ("Analyze Statistics," "Network With Other Researchers," "Search Visually"), as well as by general topic ("Authoring," "Linguistic Tools," "Text Analysis"). Via
The Canadian Journalism Project (CJP) and its websites, J-Source.ca (English) and ProjetJ.ca (French), provides a source for news, research, commentary, advice, discussion and resources about the achievement of, and challenges to, excellence in Canadian journalism.
Hugh Reinhoff has sequenced his daughters DNA at home attempting to diagnose her unique genetic mutation. [more inside]
academia.edu is a project by Richard Price, who recently completed a Ph.D at Oxford on the philosophy of perception. In collaboration with a team of people from Stanford and Cambridge, he's launched this website, which "shows academics around the world structured in a 'tree' format, displayed according to their departmental and institutional affiliations" and "enables academics to see news on the latest research in their area - the latest people, papers and talks". [more inside]