science

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking because a line of attack didn’t work at first that it isn’t effective. Repetition is key.

41.jpg

Have you heard the one about the biologist, the physicist, and the mathematician? They’re all sitting in a cafe watching people come and go from a house across the street. Two people enter, and then some time later, three emerge. The physicist says, “The measurement wasn’t accurate.” The biologist says, “They have reproduced.” The mathematician says, “If now exactly one person enters the house then it will be empty again.”

{ Nautilus | Continue reading }

‘War is like love, it always finds a way.’ –Bertolt Brecht

3.jpg

On 26 September 1983, the nuclear early warning system of the Soviet Union twice reported the launch of American Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles from bases in the United States.

These missile attack warnings were correctly identified as a false alarm by Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov, an officer of the Soviet Air Defence Forces. This decision is seen as having prevented a retaliatory nuclear attack based on erroneous data on the United States and its NATO allies, which would have likely resulted in nuclear war and the deaths of hundreds of millions of people.

Investigation of the satellite warning system later confirmed that the system had malfunctioned.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

related { Human Extinction Isn’t That Unlikely and Scientists discover potentially habitable planets }

‘Everybody is raving about the Trump Home Mattress.’ —@realDonaldTrump

36.jpg

Excitement is in the air at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the powerful accelerator at CERN (the European Laboratory for Particle Physics) near Geneva. Last year, researchers there recorded faint but extremely promising signs of what could be a new particle that does not fit within the current theoretical model. The LHC is now about to resume operation after being shut down since December for annual maintenance. If its next run confirms the existence of the new particle, that could open the long-sought passage to ‘the new physics’ – and, hopefully, answer some big, longstanding questions.

Experimental physicists and theorists have always worked together trying to understand nature’s underlying laws. Out of this collaboration emerged the ‘Standard Model’, which describes the fundamental particles and the ways that they interact to form all matter we see around us. At some times, experimental discoveries prompted fresh insights or confirmed what theorists already suspected. At others, theoretical predictions sent the experimentalists on a specific search. This was the case back in 1964 when physicists Robert Brout, François Englert and Peter Higgs predicted the existence of the Higgs boson, the particle that was discovered in 2012.

The Higgs boson filled in the last missing piece of the Standard Model, but this model is itself clearly incomplete. None of its particles has the properties of dark matter, a mysterious entity that is five times as prevalent as all the ordinary matter (everything made of atoms, which in turn are built from quarks and electrons) visible in the stars and galaxies. The Standard Model also does not explain the wide range of masses of the fundamental particles, nor why antimatter seems to have nearly completely disappeared, leaving the Universe filled almost exclusively with matter.

That is why, after spending nearly 60 years building the Standard Model, particle physicists are now terribly excited at the prospect of finally breaking it. The flaws of the model were well known, but no one knows what the right model might be. Theorists have been stuck for decades, exploring a vast array of ideas but lacking the data to tell them if they were on the right path. Only an experimental breakthrough can help them move forward, and the LHC might have already made it.

{ Aeon | Continue reading }

Cause we’re the party people night and day

22.jpg

The Devil looks you in the eyes and offers you a bet. Pick a number and if you successfully guess the total he’ll roll on two dice you get to keep your soul. If any other number comes up, you go to burn in eternal hellfire.

You call “7” and the Devil rolls the dice.

A two and a four, so the total is 6 — that’s bad news.

But let’s not dwell on the incandescent pain of your infinite and inescapable future, let’s think about your choice immediately before the dice were rolled.

Did you make a mistake? Was choosing “7” an error?

In one sense, obviously yes. You should have chosen 6.

But in another important sense you made the right choice. There are more combinations of dice outcomes that add to 7 than to any other number. The chances of winning if you bet 7 are higher than for any other single number.

The distinction is between a particular choice which happens to be wrong, and a choice strategy which is actually as good as you can do in the circumstances. If we replace the Devil’s Wager with the situations the world presents you, and your choice of number with your actions in response, then we have a handle on what psychologists mean when they talk about “cognitive error” or “bias”.

{ Mind Hacks | Continue reading }

See the sun turn green

54.jpg

Sally Ride’s tampons might be the most-discussed tampons in the world. Before Ride became the first American woman in space, scientists pondered her tampons, weighed them, and NASA’s professional sniffer smelled them—better to take deodorized or non-deodorized?—to make sure they wouldn’t smell too strongly in a confined space capsule. Engineers considered exactly how many she might need for a week in space. (Is 100 the right number?, they famously asked her. No, Ride said. That is not the right number.)

The engineers were trying to be thoughtful, though; reportedly they packed the tampons with their strings connected so that they wouldn’t float away. […]

Before women went into space, there were not only the sadly typical concerns that women would become weepy or unable to function during their periods, but also that the menstrual cycle might somehow break in space. Would the blood come out without gravity to pull it from the womb? Maybe it would all pool up in there, or even flow backward through the fallopian tubes into the abdomen—a frightening condition called retrograde menstruation.

In the end, someone just had to try it and see what happened. And what happened was … nothing much. The uterus is pretty good at expelling its lining sans gravity, it turns out.

{ Phenomena | Continue reading | More: The Conversation }

related { Early Menarche is Associated With Preference for Masculine Male Faces and Younger Preferred Age to Have a First Child }

photo { Eri Morita }

Lift your head up high, and scream out to the world, I know I am someone

3542361.jpg

The tendency of people to forge friendships with people of a similar appearance has been noted since the time of Plato. But now there is research suggesting that, to a striking degree, we tend to pick friends who are genetically similar to us in ways that go beyond superficial features.

For example, you and your friends are likely to share certain genes associated with the sense of smell.

Our friends are as similar to us genetically as you’d expect fourth cousins to be, according to the study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This means that the number of genetic markers shared by two friends is akin to what would be expected if they had the same great-great-great-grandparents. […]

The resemblance is slight, just about 1 percent of the genetic markers, but that has huge implications for evolutionary theory.

{ Washington Post | Continue reading }

polyvinyl chloride, colored with oil, mixed technique and accessories { Duane Hanson, Children Playing Game, 1979 }

‘The trust in life is gone: life itself has become a problem. Yet one should not jump to the conclusion that this necessarily makes one gloomy. Even love of life is still possible, only one loves differently.’ —Nietzsche

34.jpg

Stressful, busy days have been linked with increases in angry and withdrawn marital behavior. The process by which stressors in one domain, such as work, affect an individual’s behavior in another domain, such as the marital relationship, is known as spillover.

{ Journal of Family Psychology | Continue reading }

When you speak, you learn nothing

53.jpg

Normal aging is known to be accompanied by loss of brain substance.

Machine learning was used to estimate brain ages in meditators and controls.

At age 50, brains of meditators were estimated to be 7.5 years younger than that of controls.

These findings suggest that meditation may be beneficial for brain preservation.

{ NeuroImage | Continue reading }

image { Jonathan Puckey }

‘We have psychologized like the insane, who aggravate their madness in struggling to understand it.’ —Beaudelaire

41.jpg

According to film mythology, the Soviet filmmaker Lev Kuleshov conducted an experiment in which he combined a close-up of an actor’s neutral face with three different emotional contexts: happiness, sadness, and hunger. The viewers of the three film sequences reportedly perceived the actor’s face as expressing an emotion congruent with the given context.

It is not clear, however, whether or not the so-called “Kuleshov effect” really exists. The original film footage is lost and recent attempts at replication have produced either conflicting or unreliable results.

The current paper describes an attempt to replicate Kuleshov’s original experiment using an improved experimental design. In a behavioral and eye tracking study, 36 participants were each presented with 24 film sequences of neutral faces across six emotional conditions. For each film sequence, the participants were asked to evaluate the emotion of the target person in terms of valence, arousal, and category. The participants’ eye movements were recorded throughout.

The results suggest that some sort of Kuleshov effect does in fact exist.

{ Perception | Continue reading }

If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten

2.jpg

[Researchers found that] when one is actively looking for an event with loose probabilistic and temporal expectancies on its occurrence, the awareness of otherwise unnoticed events improves.

This finding provides new insights on the attentional mechanisms behind the initial stages of serendipity.

{ Elsevier | Continue reading }

Five-by, Eagle. We’re standing by for your burn report. Over.

52.jpg

The Lunar Flag Assembly (LFA) was a kit containing a flag of the United States designed to be planted by astronauts on the Moon during the Apollo program. Seven such flag assemblies were sent to the Moon, six of which were planted.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

Do the Apollo flags remain where they were planted or have they fallen or have they disintegrated after four decades of exposure the lunar environment? […] The (Apollo 11’s) flag is probably gone. Buzz Aldrin saw it knocked over by the rocket blast as he and Neil Armstrong left the moon 39 summers ago. […]

Intuitively, experts mostly think it highly unlikely the Apollo flags (See Platoff’s article  Where No Flag Has Gone Before: Political and Technical Aspects of Placing a Flag on the Moon for details), could have endured the 42 years of exposure to vacuum, about 500 temperature swings from 242 F during the day to -280 F during the night, micrometeorites, radiation and ultraviolet light, some thinking the flags have all but disintegrated under such an assault of the environment. […]

The high-resolution images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter camera of the Apollo sites enable us to see if any of the flags still cast shadows. […] Combined with knowledge of the Apollo site maps which show where the flag was erected relative to the Lander, long shadows cast by the flags at three sites  - Apollo 12, Apollo 16, and Apollo 17 - show that the these flags are still “flying”, held aloft by the poles.

{ NASA | Continue reading }

NASA has finally answered a long-standing question: all but one of the six American flags on the Moon are still standing up. The only problem is that they aren’t American flags anymore. They are all white.

{ Gizmodo | Continue reading }

‘When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago.’ —Nietzsche

51.jpg

Theory of Mind (ToM) is the ability to understand the perspectives, mental states and beliefs of others in order to anticipate their behaviour and is therefore crucial to social interactions.

Although fMRI has been widely used to establish the neural networks implicated in ToM, little is known about the timing of ToM-related brain activity.

We used magnetoencephalography (MEG) to measure the neural processes underlying ToM, as MEG provides very accurate timing and excellent spatial localization of brain processes. We recorded MEG activity during a false belief task, a reliable measure of ToM, in twenty young adults (10 females). […]

Our findings extend the literature by demonstrating the timing and duration of neural activity in the main regions involved in the “mentalizing” network, showing that activations related to false belief in adults are predominantly right lateralized and onset around 100 ms.

{ NeuroImage | Continue reading }

still { Total Recall, 1990 }