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How Minority Report Could Happen: Your Behavior Can Be Predicted By Social Media Even If You Don't Use It

Jan 22 2019 - 14:01
You may be told that you have individual choice about whether or not social media privacy (or lack thereof) affects you; don't join social media, or delete your account. 

Not so, according to a new study. Big Data can essentially triangulate your behavior, by using the data of your friends.

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It's Not Planet Nine, Planet X Or Planet 12, It's Just Gravity

Jan 22 2019 - 13:01

After two percent of astronomers threw out one arbitrary definition of planet and replaced it with another arbitrary definition of planet, our solar system went from nine planets to eight. Pluto became instead a dwarf planet because the the International Astronomical Union said a planet must have "cleared its neighborhood" of other orbiting bodies and since Pluto did not clean out the entire Kuiper Belt full of asteroids it did not qualify.

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How To Hurt The Environment: Elect A Democratic President, Says Sociology Paper

Jan 22 2019 - 11:01
A team of sociologists say they know of a sure way to hurt environmental protection: Elect a Democratic president. 

An analysis of over 20,000 people from the General Social Survey between 1973 and 2014 found that support for environmental spending consistently plummeted during the administrations of Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. There are other known factors in regulatory support; the older people get the less they support more regulations, but it is a surprise to find that relative support for environmental regulation changes depending on which party is in the White House.

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One More Thing About The Myth Of The Desert

Jan 21 2019 - 17:01
In the previous post I discussed, among other things, a purely empirical observation on the mass spectrum of elementary particles, which I summarized in a graph where on the vertical scale I put the year of discovery, and where I only cared to plot particles with a mass above a keV - in fact, we know that neutrinos have non-zero masses, but we have not measured them and they are of the order of an eV or below. Okay, for simplicity I will re-publish the graph below.

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Zicam And Other Homeopathy, Supplements; 51% Of Parents Say They Give Them To Kids Though They Know They Don't Work

Jan 21 2019 - 12:01

Thanks to social media, advice on how to prevent a cold is everywhere and 51 percent of parents taking the  C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health admit to believing in folklore and homeopathy even though 99 percent of them accept scientific approaches as well. 

Welcome to 2019.

Colds are caused by viruses and spread most frequently from person to person. The most common transmission is mucus from the nose or mouth that gets passed on by direct contact, coughing, sneezing, doorknobs, etc. Therefore the most effective method for preventing colds is encouraging children to wash hands.

It won't work in stopping them all.  Kids will probably experience three to six colds each year. 

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False Claims In Particle Physics

Jan 20 2019 - 15:01
I have long been of the opinion that writing about science for the public requires the writer to simplify things down to a level which is sometimes dangerously close to mislead the uninformed readers. I think is a small price to pay if you want to keep open the channel of communication with the general public, but it is indeed a narrow path the one you sometimes find yourself walking on, and fallacy is always a possible outcome.

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What Is A ‘Super Blood Wolf Moon’? Just Our Shadow On Distant Moon - No, World Won't End - False Prophet Paul Begley At It Again

Jan 19 2019 - 09:01

Another post to help people scared of perfectly normal harmless events because of the sensationalist press and false prophets. This is just the moon passing through Earth’s shadow as it does usually once or twice a year. It’s done it for billions of years. Usually it passes above or below Earth’s shadow at full moon, and occasionally it passes through it, and that’s the lunar eclipse.

Half the world can see a lunar eclipse, the entire night side of Earth at the time of the event. It is far easier to see than a solar eclipse which needs you to live on or travel to a narrow eclipse track where the Moon’s shadow briefly touches the surface of the Earth.

Here are some guides about how to observe it. In the US:

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Fear Memory - An Epigenetic Difference Between Genders

Jan 17 2019 - 14:01
Is there sex-specific epigenetic regulation of fear memory?

A new study says yes, for mice anyway, and if it later is found to be similar in humans it could explain why fear and stress-related disorders affect men and women differently.

Fear and memory produce changes to genes that modulate gene expression, called epigenetic modifications, some contend. In a mouse model of traumatic memory, epigenetic activation of  gene important for creating fear memories and stress behavior, called cyclin dependent kinase 5 (Cdk5) increased naturally in males, but not in females, after the mice recalled a fear-related memory.

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A Biological Reason For Body Paint?

Jan 17 2019 - 12:01
Some indigenous peoples wear body paint, and most most of the indigenous communities who paint their bodies live in areas where there is an abundance of bloodsucking horseflies, mosquitoes or tsetse flies. 

Where insects bite people there is a risk of bacteria, parasites and other pathogens being transferred. More insects, more risk. Did paint come into popularity for protection it might offer? A new study set out to find if the two were linked, and not just cultural decoration. 

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Scientists Left Behind

Jan 17 2019 - 07:01
As the well-informed readers will realize, I am hat-tipping Hank Campbell and the catchy title of his best-selling book "Science Left Behind" with the title of this post, for lack of more imagination. What I want to discuss is, however, something only partly in line with the interesting topics of Hank's book. It is something that I see happening around these days, and which I ache for: the dumbing down of our decision making in science.

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Using Artificial Intelligence On The Genome Uncovers New Missing Link In Evolution

Jan 16 2019 - 14:01
A recent study using deep learning algorithms and statistical methods discovered the footprint of a new hominid who cross bred with the ancestors of Asiatic individuals tens of thousands of years ago.

Modern human DNA computational analysis suggests that the extinct species was a hybrid of Neanderthals and Denisovans and cross bred with "Out of Africa" modern humans in Asia. This finding would explain that the hybrid found this summer in the caves of Denisova - the offspring of a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father - was not an isolated case, but rather was part of a more general introgression process. 

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Malaria Mosquito Anopheles Stephensi Found In Ethiopia For The First Time

Jan 16 2019 - 13:01
Anopheles stephensi, a malaria disease vector, is normally found in the Middle East, Indian Subcontinent and China. But now it has been found in Ethiopia, where over 68 percent of the population is already at risk for malaria and an average of 2.5 million cases are reported annually.

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Junior Investigator $25,0000 Science & PINS Prize for Neuromodulation

Jan 16 2019 - 10:01
Science magazine and PINS Medical of China are giving a prize for research that modulates neural activity through physical (electrical, magnetic, optical) stimulation of targeted sites in the nervous system with implications for translational medicine.

This prize was established in 2016 and is awarded annually based on a 1,500 word essay about research that has been performed in the past three years.

The winner is awarded $25,000 and publication in Science magazine.

PINS is from a Chinese word for acupuncture but they say is stands for “Patient Is No.1 always”. They make deep brain stimulation systems, what they call brain pacemakers, and claim efficicacy for Parkinson's disease, dystonia, and more.

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'No Pain, No Gain' Culture In Sports: Time To Stop Glorifying Sacrifice?

Jan 14 2019 - 13:01

Two things struck me while watching Andy Murray’s press conference from the Australian Open, in which he announced his intention to retire. He spoke about the pain he had lived with “over the past 20 months or so”, and how he had planned to continue until Wimbledon this summer but was no longer sure he could. Then there was a long pause, that lump in the throat, before he was able to utter the words “stop playing”.

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Your Brain Can Still Pay Attention During Sleep - And Science Can Now Hear What Your Sleeping Brain Hears

Jan 14 2019 - 11:01
Our brains can track the sounds in its environment while we sleep, and favor the most relevant ones, according to a recent study.

No great new information there. Everyone has woken up from sleep because of noise. But the mechanism that allows us (and some better than others) to sleep in complete safety and wake up at the right moment has remained a mystery. Why do some people who fall asleep on a bus or train miss their stop while others may only wake up at the sound of their own name but not that of others?

Studies that concentrated on the sleeping brain’s capacity to process isolated sounds don't help much with the real world, where we often sleep in environments where various sounds are superimposed and mixed with one another.

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Hexenyl Butyrate: Volatile Compound Found In Tomato Plants Protects Against Bacteria

Jan 14 2019 - 10:01
Tomato plants emit a volatile compound named hexenyl butyrate  which can be used for closing the stomata, key in protecting plants from bacterial attacks.

But Center for Science in the Public Interest and Environmental Working Group don't need to mobilize the trial lawyers, this volatile compound is all natural. That means is could be a new strategy for protecting crops from biotic and abiotic stress and improving yields, all without sound like scary science to their attorneys.

It's also easy to yes because it is a volatile compound. It can be applied by spraying onto plants and also by using diffuser devices, it has zero toxicity and its use is already approved in food.

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Update On 2002 NT7 - Flew Past At A Great Distance, 16.50 UTC Today 13th January - That's Further Away Than Mars At Its Closest

Jan 13 2019 - 10:01

2002 NT7 is closest at 16.50 today, UTC time. It will be 61 million kilometers away and they know the distance exactly to within 127 kilometers, and the time of the flyby accurate to the nearest minute. It is no risk to Earth.

It is already well above our orbit though, it crossed the orbit of Earth several days ago on the 8th. And 61 million kilometers is further away than Mars at its closest. It is not very close.

Earth's orbit in blue, 2002 NT7 in white.

More details here

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Space Weather Has A Bigger Impact Than Many Realize, Better Forecasting Will Help

Jan 11 2019 - 10:01
Space weather and its changes to earth's magnetic fields has an outsized impact in Arctic regions through effects on electricity networks, mining operations and shipping.

A new technique called Fractional Derivative Rate (FDR) published in Space Weather has been used for analyzing fluctuations in the Earth’s magnetic field and found dramatic differences at different latitudes and different times of day.

The northernmost stations were more geomagnetically active at midday, while the activeness at the southernmost stations was highest at midnight. The largest differences between different times of day was observed in the northernmost measurement zone, in the Arctic Circle. 

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Why You Don’t Need To Worry About Asteroid 2002 NT7

Jan 10 2019 - 16:01

It actually crossed our orbit already on the 8th. It is already moving upwards away from our orbit. Earth is catching up on it from behind and is closest on the 13th at 61 million kilometers. That's further away than Mars at its closest, and much further away than Venus at its closest.

The red top tabloids and other sensationalist press and YouTube videos are going wild about this, in many different languages too. It is my most often asked question at present from scared people, whether their lives are at risk because of this asteroid. It doesn't matter if they say it or write it in Russian, Spanish, or whatever language it is, or enlist the services of clairvoyants or astrologers to pronounce about it - it is still utter nonsense.

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Choosing Models By Eye

Jan 10 2019 - 08:01
Given the use that people do of Google searches nowadays, and the rather special nature of my usual readership, I feel I may need to first of all apologize for the deceiving title of this post to the 80 to 90% of the visitors, who came to this page by searching for ways to become a member of a selection committee of miss Universe.  Sorry, you had it wrong - we are going to discuss parametric models here, not top models. But if you are happy to hear about the issues of fitting data with different functional forms, you are welcome to read on.

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