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Faster than any human can: Lego Cubestormer 3 robot solves Rubik's Cube in 3.253 seconds

Faster than any human can: Lego Cubestormer 3 robot solves Rubik's Cube in 3.253 seconds | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

The ARM-Powered CUBESTORMER 3 robot has smashed the Guinness World Record for solving a Rubik's cube, recording a time of 3.253 seconds at the Big Bang Fair in Birmingham, UK.

The robot employs an ARM-powered Samsung® Galaxy S4 smartphone powered by a Samsung Exynos 5 Octa application processor to analyze the cube and instruct four robotic hands to do the manipulations. ARM9™ processors also power the eight LEGO® MINDSTORMS® EV3 bricks which perform the motor sequencing and control.

CUBESTORMER 3 was designed, built and programmed by Mike Dobson and David Gilday, creators respectively of CubeStormerhttp://youtu.be/eaRcWB3jwMo and Android Speedcuberhttp://youtu.be/ylFb4pqAUd8 and more recently, co-creators of CubeStormer II http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_d0Lfk...

The custom app developed for the smartphone uses the phone's camera to capture images of each face of the Rubik's Cube which it processes to determine the scrambled colors.The solution is found using an advanced two-phase algorithm that was originally developed for Speedcuber and then enhanced to make effective use of the dual-core ARM Cortex®-A9 based processor in a Samsung Galaxy SII smartphone powered by an Exynos 5 Dual application processor used in CubeStormer II. Further optimizations were made to take advantage of the eight-core big.LITTLE™ processor configuration in the Exynos 5 Octa application processor featuring four Cortex-A15 and four Cortex-A7 processors in the Galaxy S4.

Human speedcubers' solve times only include the physical manipulation of the cube and do not include some time which is allowed to "inspect" the cube beforehand. Times recorded by CUBESTORMER 3 are for the total solve including: image capture, software solution calculation and physical solve.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
The Science & Education team's insight:

When I was at uni, the other maths geek from my school, Leanne, was a state champion at Rubix, so I feel a certain affinity with Rubix geekdom and this is the ultimate. It was good to have a computer to beat us at Chess (although this has not yet been accomplished with Go) but Rubix, being both mechanical and computational is even better.

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A history of the Zika virus

A history of the Zika virus | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

On 18 April 1947, a rhesus monkey that researchers identified as 766 ran a fever of 39.7°C, about 2°C higher than normal. The monkey was part of a study hunting for yellow fever virus and was living in a cage on a platform built into the tree canopy in the 1.5-kilometer-long Zika Forest, which runs adjacent to an arm of Lake Victoria in Uganda. Three days later, the investigators took a blood sample from Rhesus 766 and injected it into the brains of Swiss albino mice. The mice “showed signs of sickness” after 10 days, and the researchers harvested their brains, from which they isolated a “filterable transmissible agent.”

Come January of the following year, the same researchers trapped mosquitoes from these canopy platforms and took their bounty back to the lab, hoping to isolate yellow fever virus. Others had shown that one of these species they caught, Aedes africanus, shuttled the yellow fever virus, so the investigators put 86 of the insects in a refrigerator to “render them inactive” and then ground them up in a blood-saline solution, which they again injected into the brains of mice. The animals “appeared inactive” after 7 days, and tests showed they harbored the same transmissible agent that had sickened Rhesus 766.

The researchers called their “hitherto unrecorded virus” Zika.

The Science & Education team's insight:

A good piece of reporting that is both interesting and reveals some important lessons. Research (even unsexy research) is important.

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Getting credit for peer review

Getting credit for peer review | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

Online platforms help researchers track their peer reviewing activity, which could help their career advancement

When Simon Gosling heard about a competition offering a grand prize of $5000 for ideas to improve peer review in 2012, his experiences as an early-career scientist motivated him to enter. “One of the things I spent a lot of time doing at that stage was writing reviews,” says Gosling, who was an assistant professor in the School of Geography at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom at the time. (He has since been promoted to associate professor.) “Having gone through the processes of … trying to improve my CV and make myself attractive to employers, as you do as an early-career scientist, one of the things I found was that I struggled to demonstrate how much time and effort I’d actually put into the peer reviewing process.”

So Gosling leapt at the opportunity to participate in Elsevier’s Peer Review Challenge, proposing a system to track the reviews scientists complete and reward them for their efforts. It would work like this: Reviewers would receive various levels of “Elsevier Badges” that would appear on their online profiles and as certificates and would bring with them “Elsevier Rewards,” consisting of discounts on Elsevier books and other products. “One of the main points was to give a benefit back to the reviewers, in terms of giving them something tangible that they could put on a CV, or mention in a job interview, or put on an application form,” he says. “As an academic you’re expected to review anyway, but I still thought it’s nice to get some recognition for that.” The competition’s judges named Gosling the winner, and Elsevier liked his idea so much that they used his proposal as a jumping off point to develop the Reviewer Recognition Platform, launched in 2014.

The Science & Education team's insight:

I am using this as a way of avoiding finishing the review that I should have finished yesterday.

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Expensive wine is for suckers

We shouldn't have spent $43 on this bottle of wine

The Science & Education team's insight:

It is good to have your preconceptions confirmed

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The solar industry vs power utilities

The solar industry vs power utilities | Communicating Science | Scoop.it
State regulators have kneecapped the fast-growing solar industry. Here's why.

 

Nevada is currently embroiled in an enormous controversy over rooftop solar power. With a recent decision, regulators have cut off the state's burgeoning solar industry at the knees, enraging customers and sending solar companies fleeing the state.

For the state's monopoly utility, it's a successful attempt to avoid competition. For the well-funded conservative groups fighting the spread of solar around the country, it's the first decisive victory. For most Nevadans, however, it represents an own goal, a senseless act of self-sabotage.

 

We'll walk through what happened and what it means for the future of solar — but first, for those with short attention spans

The Science & Education team's insight:

A case study (Nevada) of the conflict

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Plant Hacking

Plant Hacking | Communicating Science | Scoop.it
A growing group of plant hackers and synthetic biology startups are trying to make some unusual creations, such as glowing plants, fragrant moss and the sought-after blue rose.

 

A growing coterie of plant hackers and synthetic biology startups have their sights set on creating some bizarre and wondrous creations: glowing plants, fragrant moss and flowers that change colors when you pour beer into the soil.

Such plants have long been possible, but the research and experimentation was time-consuming and expensive. The first glowing plants were invented by scientists trying to better understand genetics.

Antony Evans, 35, chief executive of Taxa, a Silicon Valley company launched last year as a platform for would-be plant designers, says such creations are part of a broader movement.

 

“I can see a future where genetic engineering becomes acceptable and commonplace, where some teenagers have ideas for plants and make them the same way kids make mobile apps today,” he said.

The Science & Education team's insight:

The popular biomechanics movement has long been predicted. It will be interesting to see if do-it-yourself bioengineering emerges beyond speculation.

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STEM Shortages

STEM Shortages | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

Within Australia over the last decade there has been considerable government rhetoric about impending shortages in the STEM workforce and the long-term impact on the future economy. Much of the data provided in government and industry reports allude to falling participation rates in STEM-related subjects and the inability of industry to employ suitable employees with the necessary skill-sets. In this theoretical paper, we explore these reports and the STEM literature to mine the data so as to highlight the inconsistencies and ‘smoke and mirror’ messages communicated in many of the findings. Initially, the participation rates of students in STEM-related subjects both at secondary and tertiary levels are explored. Following this, the various disciplines or fields of education comprising STEM are considered. Finally, in order to gain a broader and potentially alternative perspective, economic measures including job availability and salaries are discussed in relation to STEM graduate destinations and employment. While Australia is the context for the discussion, reference is made to emerging data from other countries experiencing similar issues around STEM where applicable.

The Science & Education team's insight:

This is all from one or two years ago but still useful. See also:

http://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2014/03/stem-shortage-debate-reveals-fundamental-disagreements-some-common-ground

 

http://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2014/07/puncturing-fantasy

 

https://royalsociety.org/~/media/education/policy/vision/reports/vision-full-report-20140625.pdf

 

http://cis.org/no-stem-shortage

 

http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2015/article/stem-crisis-or-stem-surplus-yes-and-yes.htm

 

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History of Mathematics

History of Mathematics | Communicating Science | Scoop.it
Biographies of mathematicians
The Science & Education team's insight:

Just discovered MacTutor which is much better than the name would imply; more like the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy http://plato.stanford.edu/ than CliffNotes. Also has history of topics, birthplaces and anniversaries.

 

Incidentally the entry on pseudoscience is very good

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pseudo-science/

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Ranking countries (or anything)

Ranking countries (or anything) | Communicating Science | Scoop.it
Here's a look at the global perception data behind our rankings.
The Science & Education team's insight:

USNews is in the business of publishing rankings. They are most famous for college (which are labelled as universities in the rest of the world) rankings. These ranking are done by anyone who wants to pull a headline and is slightly more sophisticated than the "ten worst fashion mistakes". The interest here is on the metrics used, in this case at its heart is: "BrandAsset Valuator Model of Brand Building" http://young-rubicam.de/tools-wissen/tools/brandasset-valuator/?lang=en 

 

This explains why "Entrepreneurship (17.42 percent)" is the largest component of the measurement. (why, you ask yourself is it 17.42% rather than 17.41% - this is a level of accuracy which is not merited - not to mention not using the symbol for percentage). "The Entrepreneurship subranking is based on an "equally weighted average of scores from 10 country attributes that related to how entrepreneurial a country is: connected to the rest of the world, educated population, entrepreneurial, innovative, provides easy access to capital, skilled labor force, technological expertise, transparent business practices, well-developed infrastructure and well-developed legal framework" There is no link to an explanation of how they assessed each of these subrankings (each of which was worth 1.936% - just kidding with the ludicrous accuracy) so we must assume they just made them up - in fact they did a survey of 16,500 respondents to rate 65 countries on 60 attributes (how were they selected? was their relative expertise given any weighting? what definitions were given to respondents of each attribute?). The relative contribution of each these attributes has some relationship to a model of brand competitiveness that Y&R markets. ("The Y&R BrandAsset™ Valuator shows realistic prospects for brands. This is because the Y&R BrandAsset™ Valuator measures the value of a brand where it is created: in people’s hearts and minds" or "Synchronic diving: coming up faster with 360° solutions for you" - I put in the semi-colon because I couldn't stop myself). I blame advertising for this meaningless concatenation of words. No reference to any theoretical or empirical research.

 

When it comes to crowdsourcing (as surveying has become known as), it worth listening to the Freakonomics podcast on Philip Tetlock's work on crowdsourcing predictions.

http://freakonomics.com/2016/01/14/how-to-be-less-terrible-at-predicting-the-future-a-new-freakonomics-radio-podcast/

 

To be fair to U.S. News, or more specifically their data explorer team - or rather BAV Consulting who were contracted to produce the metrics, they do give a video of their methodology: http://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/videos/best-countries-methodology-overview (the set of videos and the interactive graphs are impressive: http://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/data-explorer and deserve praise)

 

It is interesting to see often the word "power" is used in the discourse which highlights how ideological such rankings are. You can clearly see this in the ranking of Iran as rock bottom in terms of the "scenic score" and near the bottom for "heritage score". Now, no matter how you define scenery, Iran (once you get outside of Tehran) can never be described as the scenically least interesting country in the world (Luxembourg and Dominican Republic rate half way up the scale) and site of some of the worlds great empires. Iran, however, because of the Israel lobby, has been vilified in the USA over the past year.

 

By the way Germany came first and the U.S.A, fourth and Australia sixth, I think, I cannot remember and can't be bothered to go back to look.

 

The message is: Data is important. You must be able to justify how you made up you numbers. If it is just a guess or a survey then tell people about it. There may be good reasons to trust a guess from an expert or a well designed survey. Finally, think about accuracy: before you ever put in a decimal point think 'Is this really 17.4% and not 17.5%?"

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FiveThirtyEight's 2015 Data Awards

FiveThirtyEight's 2015 Data Awards | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

The year’s most interesting people and stories from the world of data. 

The Science & Education team's insight:

Most of these are winners: notice they honour the Open Science Collaboration which featured in this feed. Also included VW, Michael LaCour, MappingPoliceViolence.org,

 

Fivethirtyeight are data wonks so their judgements are (generally) sound.

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How mathematics, and not a telescope, suggests where to look for a new planet

How mathematics, and not a telescope, suggests where to look for a new planet | Communicating Science | Scoop.it
T

The scientists who made headlines this week by announcing evidence for a new planet in our solar system are basing the claim entirely on a mathematical model. Nobody’s seen the thing, but the math says it’s there. This isn’t the first time scientists have found a new planet before really finding it, but this technique also has produced outright blunders. This time, though, astronomers say there’s reason to take the new potential planet seriously.

Planet Nine, as the astronomers have dubbed it, would be the first genuine planet discovered in our solar system since Neptune was found in 1846. (Pluto, found in 1930, was officially removed from the list of planets in 2006 by the International Astronomical Union.) And it’d be a big one. The model predicts that Planet Nine is five to 10 times the mass of Earth. Astronomers say it is possible such a substantial object could have eluded detection, because it allegedly lurks in the farthest outskirts of the solar system — moving in a lopsided path whose closest approach to the sun is still 40 times as far as Neptune. Each orbit would take upward of 10,000 years.

The Science & Education team's insight:

Good reporting; the original article isn't bad either

http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/0004-6256/151/2/22

 

For a sober reflection:

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/outthere/2016/01/22/new-9th-planet/#.VqbcP-c77mk

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Mysterious blobs in our Milky Way could be part of the missing matter

Mysterious blobs in our Milky Way could be part of the missing matter | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

A plethora of missing matter problems besieges astronomy. Most famously, dark matter, which was postulated to solve the problem of why galaxies spin so fast (among other things), is thought to comprise some 23% of the mass-energy of the universe.

It is yet to be detected by direct means and remains one of the most significant puzzles in modern astronomy and physics.

Even putting aside dark matter, astronomers are still unable to account for roughly 5% of the universe thought to be made of normal matter, known as baryons. This question, known as the missing baryon problem is of particular interest here.

Where is all the stuff?

Well, we may have found at least some of those baryons, with the details on how published in Science today. But first, a bit of history.

Invisible structures shaped like noodles, lasagne sheets or hazelnuts could be floating around in our Galaxy.

 

 

The Science & Education team's insight:

a good straightforward blogpost - the interest is not so much in the discoveries but how they were made (plus they produced their own cartoon)

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University complicit in promoting shoddy research

University complicit in promoting shoddy research | Communicating Science | Scoop.it
It's everything wrong with modern-day science-by-press-release in one anecdote.

 

Academic press offices are known to overhype their own research. But the University of Maryland recently took this to appalling new heights — trumpeting an incredibly shoddy study on chocolate milk and concussions that happened to benefit a corporate partner.

It's a cautionary tale of just how badly science can go awry as universities increasingly partner with corporations to conduct research.

The story started when the University of Maryland issued a press release about a new study on the effects of a single brand of chocolate milk on cognitive and motor skill tests in high school athletes.

The scientists had found that drinking the milk appeared to improve the kids' test scores and reduce concussion-related symptoms.

The scientists only looked at a Fifth Quarter Fresh, which its maker claims comes from "super, natural cows"

The first problem here is that the research itself is breathtakingly suspect. There was no comparison group or treatment in the study. The scientists didn't even test another brand of chocolate milk. They only looked at a Fifth Quarter Fresh, which its maker claims comes from "super, natural cows."

The Science & Education team's insight:

This is further evidence of the spin undertaken by press offices. The sad aspect is that the university undertook this egregious piece of puffery for a mess of pottage: 10% of the cost of the research.

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Biosecurity fears

Biosecurity fears | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

Fuzzy definitions, deep disagreement about risks and benefits, and an unfortunate acronym: All bedeviled an expert panel as it met here last week to examine whether the United States should fund certain risky pathogen experiments. Researchers largely praised a massive, recently released risk assessment of so-called gain-of-function (GOF) research, and a draft plan for reviewing the riskiest studies. Many had concerns about the details, however, and the meeting provided little clarity on one key issue: if and when the U.S. government will decide whether to lift a now 15-month-old moratorium on a handful of U.S.-funded virology experiments.

To some, the deepest flaw in a draft proposal on GOF studies from a working group of the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) was its imprecise effort to define those studies that are so dangerous that they should not be allowed. Wording such as “potentially” risky and “a pathogen that is highly transmissible, significantly virulent, and likely to be resistant” to public health controls leaves too much to interpretation, many said. “The real question is: What are those studies?” said Stanford University in Palo Alto, California’s David Relman, a critic of GOF studies.

The NSABB meeting was the latest step in a debate that began in late 2011, when two labs revealed they had engineered the potent H5N1 avian influenza to spread more easily among mammals. The NSABB ultimately concluded that those GOF studies, aimed at helping experts prepare for possible pandemics, should be published, despite the risks if the engineered viruses escaped the lab. But concerns flared again in 2014 after several accidents at federal high containment labs. In October 2014, U.S. officials halted National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding for 18 GOF projects on influenza virus and the coronaviruses severe acute respiratory syndrome and Middle East respiratory syndrome, and launched a broad review of such studies.

A draft report released last month by an NSABB working group finds that only a “small subset” of GOF studies pose serious risks, and that the United States has an effective framework for managing such work, but that tighter oversight may be needed.

At last week’s meeting, researchers generally praised a 1000-page risk-benefit analysis conducted by Gryphon Scientific, a contractor in Takoma Park, Maryland, as background for the NSABB report. It draws on a huge amount of data, from the likelihood of a punctured glove to historical reports of lab break-ins, to put numbers on the low odds of an accidental or deliberate lab release and resulting risks to the population. “I didn’t think it was doable, but Gryphon did a good job,” said virologist Ronald Fouchier of Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, who led one of the 2011 H5N1 studies and has a current NIH-funded project on hold. However, Fouchier felt the review overlooked enhancements in his biosafety level 3 lab, such as special cabinets, that make it as safe—if not safer—than BSL-4, the highest safety category for the most dangerous agents. Because the risks in his lab are “negligible,” the benefits easily outweigh them, Fouchier argued.

Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who also conducts H5N1 GOF research and conducted one of the controversial 2011 studies, made the case that new rules aren’t needed. As an example, he described the review that one of his proposed H5N1 grant proposals, which aimed to increase the virus’s transmissibility in ferrets, underwent after peer review. A panel of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which included experts from eight agencies, decided that a subset of proposed experiments included in the proposal were too risky and should be removed. That process shows that the U.S. government “has an effective policy framework in place,” he says. (Critics complain that the HHS reviews are not public.)

Opponents of GOF studies, for their part, claimed that Gryphon overstated benefits from GOF influenza studies in part because the company mainly interviewed experts favoring this research. These critics called for more detailed data on how GOF findings have been used for flu vaccine development and surveillance. Relman and Harvard University epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch also argued that NSABB should drop one criterion for allowing a risky GOF study—whether the agent can be stopped with vaccines and antivirals—because developing countries likely won’t have access to such countermeasures.

One concern shared by all sides was that the Gryphon analysis compared potential pandemic risks with those from the 1918 influenza, which killed tens of millions of people. That is too high a bar—risks should probably be compared with a milder pandemic, such as the 2009 H1N1 influenza outbreak, many said. Participants also agreed that that the term the working group draft uses for the risky studies—GOF “of concern”—is problematic because of how one possible acronym, “GoFoc,” would be pronounced.

Above all, participants called for the NSABB working group to sharpen its definition of worrisome experiments. Philip Potter of St. Jude Research Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, which had an influenza contract that was initially stopped by the October 2014 pause, eventually learned from NIH that all of it studies could continue. To avoid such confusion, NSABB’s report “has to be so clear that even a relative novice” can understand it, he said. Others added, however, that the document also must be flexible enough to allow for new pathogens.

The NSABB working group will now refine its report and submit it for review by the second of two National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine meetings in March. NSABB expects to issue final recommendations by the end of May.

The U.S. government will then settle on a new policy for risky GOF studies—ideally “very fast,” says Carrie Wolinetz, NIH associate director for science policy. That policy will then be used to determine whether the paused GOF projects can resume. Fouchier, who noted at the meeting that European science agencies recently found no need for a European Union moratorium on GOF studies, told Science that he is willing to wait a few more months to resume his U.S.-funded studies. But after that, he may seek non-NIH funding. “If the U.S. government decides not to fund this work, it will simply go on elsewhere. Including for me,” he says.

The Science & Education team's insight:

make a comment

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Why is it so hard to squash a cockroach?

Why is it so hard to squash a cockroach? | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

Insects, whether they creep or fly, live in a world of hard knocks. Who has not stepped on a cockroach, then raised her shoe to watch the creature get up and scoot under a door? Bees and wasps, for their part, face a never-ending obstacle course of leaves, stems, and petals—bumblebees crash their wings into obstacles as often as once a second. Now, researchers are learning how these creatures bend but don’t break.

The results do more than explain why cockroaches are so hard to kill. By mimicking the combination of rigid and flexible parts that gives insect exoskeletons and wings their resilience, biomechanicists are making robots tougher. “Bend but not break is a lot of what happens in these insects,” says Harvard University roboticist Robert Wood. “We’re trying the same thing to see if we can have similar robustness in our robots.”

The Science & Education team's insight:

This is just fun. My nomination for igNobel prize

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Quantum asymmetry between time and space

Quantum asymmetry between time and space | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

An asymmetry exists between time and space in the sense that physical systems inevitably evolve over time, whereas there is no corresponding ubiquitous translation over space. The asymmetry, which is presumed to be elemental, is represented by equations of motion and conservation laws that operate differently over time and space. If, however, the asymmetry was found to be due to deeper causes, this conventional view of time evolution would need reworking. Here we show, using a sum-over-paths formalism, that a violation of time reversal (T) symmetry might be such a cause. If T symmetry is obeyed, then the formalism treats time and space symmetrically such that states of matter are localized both in space and in time. In this case, equations of motion and conservation laws are undefined or inapplicable. However, if T symmetry is violated, then the same sum over paths formalism yields states that are localized in space and distributed without bound over time, creating an asymmetry between time and space. Moreover, the states satisfy an equation of motion (the Schrödinger equation) and conservation laws apply. This suggests that the time–space asymmetry is not elemental as currently presumed, and that T violation may have a deep connection with time evolution.

The Science & Education team's insight:

Our common sense experience of the arrow of time is contradicted by relativistic equations. The quantum world has always seemed to be discontinuous from the relativistic world. Here is a nice justification of why time/space is not symmetric and thus why time does not flow backwards (I think). I may have to come back and amend this.

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You could probably have outrun a T. rex

You could probably have outrun a T. rex | Communicating Science | Scoop.it
Tyrannosaurs were only about as fast as spandex-clad power walkers, new study suggests

 

A rare set of tyrannosaur footprints is giving researchers insight into the walking speed of the prehistoric beasts, and it’s possible that humans might have been able to outrun them. According to the new estimate, Tyrannosaurus rex may have ambled as quickly as 8 kilometers per hour (5 miles per hour), slower than a plodding amateur marathon runner or even a middle-aged power walker.

Fossilized tyrannosaur tracks are rare, even in areas where their skeletal fossils are abundant, says Scott Persons, a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Alberta, Edmonton in Canada, and lead author of the new study. Well-preserved individual tracks can be used to help identify the size and type of dinosaur that created the imprint. Even rarer sets of footprints, or trackways, can reveal more, says Persons, as the spacing and arrangement of individual footprints can provide insights into dinosaur gaits and walking speeds.

The Science & Education team's insight:

Who says science can't be fun. See also:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71JhrjTxUgE&list=PLJ8cMiYb3G5eNMPb_MTRyLDzm_AOIk7UF&index=5

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A history of the space blanket

A history of the space blanket | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

A flag for no nations

 

Technologies are stories we tell ourselves – often unconsciously – about who we are and what we are capable of. By analysing their traces we may divine the progress they are capable of assisting, but they are not in and of themselves future-producing, magical, or separate from human agency. They are a guide and a hope. The reality of these technologies and the place of their deployment shows us plainly that another world is not only possible, but coming into being, should we choose to recognise and participate in it. Technology alone will not achieve such change, merely reflect back our failure to capitalise upon it. Its proper use is not as a bandage for the present, but as a banner for the future.

The Science & Education team's insight:

And an excellent example of blog writing and construction

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Clarifying the relationship between health and cognitive functioning

Clarifying the relationship between health and cognitive functioning | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

Causes of the well-documented association between low levels of cognitive functioning and many adverse neuropsychiatric outcomes, poorer physical health and earlier death remain unknown. We used linkage disequilibrium regression and polygenic profile scoring to test for shared genetic aetiology between cognitive functions and neuropsychiatric disorders and physical health. Using information provided by many published genome-wide association study consortia, we created polygenic profile scores for 24 vascular–metabolic, neuropsychiatric, physiological–anthropometric and cognitive traits in the participants of UK Biobank, a very large population-based sample (N=112 151). Pleiotropy between cognitive and health traits was quantified by deriving genetic correlations using summary genome-wide association study statistics and to the method of linkage disequilibrium score regression. Substantial and significant genetic correlations were observed between cognitive test scores in the UK Biobank sample and many of the mental and physical health-related traits and disorders assessed here. In addition, highly significant associations were observed between the cognitive test scores in the UK Biobank sample and many polygenic profile scores, including coronary artery disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, autism, major depressive disorder, body mass index, intracranial volume, infant head circumference and childhood cognitive ability. Where disease diagnosis was available for UK Biobank participants, we were able to show that these results were not confounded by those who had the relevant disease. These findings indicate that a substantial level of pleiotropy exists between cognitive abilities and many human mental and physical health disorders and traits and that it can be used to predict phenotypic variance across samples.

The Science & Education team's insight:

An important paper which reinforces what we have found out from epigenetics. We know that health is associated with cognitive functioning: now the genetic link between the two is being elucidated.

 

Pleiotrophy is where one gene influences more than one trait.

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Top Ten Most Harmful Beliefs

Top Ten Most Harmful Beliefs | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

Michael  Shermer's list of "the strangest beliefs I've come across in my quarter century as a professional skeptic" with the addenda that the beliefs be not only wrong but have a wide impact on society.

The Science & Education team's insight:

The list is not the main interest: it is the rest of the site with erudite articles on everything from critical thinking to zombies (both zombie ideas in economics and philosophical zombies)

 

see also:http://www.csicop.org/

http://www.quackwatch.com/

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The Mathematician, The Farmer and the Weather

The Mathematician, The Farmer and the Weather | Communicating Science | Scoop.it
Thomas Arthur Blair, The Mathematician, The Farmer and the Weather, The Scientific Monthly, Vol. 11, No. 4 (Oct., 1920), pp. 353-361

 

From:http://daily.jstor.org/meteorology-changed-agriculture-forever/

 

Complaining over the weather is not new, but the science of studying the weather, and its effects on business, is fairly recent. In 1920, Thomas Arthur Blair of the U.S. Weather Service wrote that, finally, “now-a-days, the mathematicians are doing something”—that is, meteorology. They are “hitching the weather to the engine of a formula, measuring it with the yardstick of an equation, and weighing it in the balances of a co-efficient. They can tell how many million dollars a half inch of rain on the fifth of August will add to the corn crop of Ohio; how many additional automobiles the farmers can purchase as a result of a week of warm weather while the wheat heads are filling; and how much smaller the world’s supply of cotton will be because of an August drought in Georgia.” Meteorology, then, was “the newest of the sciences,” though “still in its infancy.”

So how did the field develop? Blair credits much of the math to Professor Karl Pearson in England, who applied the use of early biology equations. In the United States, J. Warren Smith of the Weather Bureau began working on these questions in Ohio several years earlier. Some of his findings: The corn yield in Ohio depends largely on the rain in June, July, and August, with only two inches of rain adding $35 million (in those days) worth of corn. Smith helped pioneer the idea of “critical periods,” or the short window of time when more rain (or sunshine, or some other metric like temperature) will yield the highest return on future crops.

Around this time, economists were also starting to use statistical methods to predict yield. Although cotton’s price, as shown on the New York Cotton Exchange, fluctuated daily, a “well-known American economist” discovered that he could make the most accurate total yield predictions—more accurate than those of the government crop reports—by analyzing the average weather conditions from May to August. Another development was using frequency curves for weather. Previously, weather conditions had been averaged in climate tables, but a frequency curve was far more accurate and provided certain details the tables missed.

The Science & Education team's insight:

From the Jstor archives is this fascinating story.

 

Karl Pearson is a fascinating figure who was a key figure in establishing modern statistics. He followed on from Galton and his UCL chair was established under a bequest from Francis Galton who only died in 1911. He was an extraordinary polymath, and an intimidating mathematician.

 

https://www.ucl.ac.uk/statistics/department/pearson

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Life Expectancy

Life Expectancy | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

The average life expectancy in the world in 2009 was 69 years.

The Science & Education team's insight:

An interactive map to play with

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Does 'Early Education' Come Way Too Late?

Does 'Early Education' Come Way Too Late? | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

The gist: in our collective zeal to reform schools and close the achievement gap, we may have lost sight of where most learning really happens — at home.

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Brings together a number of researchers and studies to show how important early education is.

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No Child Left Behind Worked (in one respect)

No Child Left Behind Worked (in one respect) | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

 But for all its failures, No Child Left Behind had at least one significant — and, experts say, lasting — success: It changed the way the American educational system collects and uses data. The law may not have achieved the promise of its title, but it did force schools across the country to figure out which students were being left behind, and to make that information public. Education experts argue that the law’s true legacy is the way it laid bare the inequities in the American educational system, and forced districts, in some cases for the first time, to address them.

The Science & Education team's insight:

For all the terrible intended (the privatising of education) and unintended (wasting a huge amount of money) is this one positive outcome worth it?

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"Real harm to real people from shoddy PR news releases"

"Real harm to real people from shoddy PR news releases" | Communicating Science | Scoop.it
Ours is the only watchdog project for health care news releases. This podcast profiles a case study in how shoddy health care PR can harm desperate people.
The Science & Education team's insight:

Lots of good examples at http://www.healthnewsreview.org

 

Of particular interest is their criteria for judging articles and press releases: http://www.healthnewsreview.org/about-us/review-criteria/ ;

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Patients warned over 'dangerous' claims chiropractors can cure cancer and fight flu

Patients warned over 'dangerous' claims chiropractors can cure cancer and fight flu | Communicating Science | Scoop.it
The ABC obtains a list of 10 chiropractic clinics which are the subject of serious complaints to the health regulator.

 

Chiropractors around the country have been making claims they can prevent caesarean births, treat diabetes, cure cancer and even fight the flu.

Key points:Public health expert Ken Harvey complained about claims made by 10 chiropractic clinicsDr Harvey says these clinics are the "tip of the iceberg"Clinics claiming ability to cure cancer, help newborns and fight diabetes and fluDr Harvey says claims are unsubstantiated and potentially dangerous

More details have emerged about the nature of marketing material chiropractors across Australia have been publishing on their websites.

Medical professionals are worried the practice could be potentially dangerous for patients.

The ABC has obtained a list of the 10 chiropractic clinics which were the subject of complaints to the regulator by public health expert Dr Ken Harvey.

The Science & Education team's insight:

the continuing battle against fraud

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