Latif Nasser is Director of Research for WNYC's Radiolab. He wrote a piece for Transom about how he comes up with story ideas for the show. He has an interesting "bag of tricks" to find stories and have lots on hand so that he doesn't panic under a deadline. The tricks include setting up dozens of Google Alerts on the names of interesting people, "juicy phrases" (such as “the human equivalent of”), and topics he finds fascinating (such as the "alford plea"). He signs up for lots of newsletters -- "The more obscure the field the better." (He recommends creating a separate email account for newsletters). He searches for oral histories on ArchiveGrid. He also talks to strangers -- on planes, in lines, "even wrong numbers." The piece includes many other tricks I didn't include here. Highly recommended!
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Being told that you've been injured in such a way that you'll never walk again must be absolutely horrific. Such a loss of mobility would mean not only a great loss of one's options in life, but also having to worry about the peripheral effects that the loss of mobility could have on your health, such as a loss of bone density or the weakening of your cardiovascular system. For those who have to pay for their own healthcare, it could mean bankruptcy. I wouldn't even want to consider the sort of stress it would place on an individual's psyche, not to mention the emotional toll it would have on their loved ones. However, a breakthrough in treating spinal cord injuries made by the University of Louisville could, one day, make paralysis a thing of the past.
From The Verge:
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Thomas and Jeff Marquis, who was paralyzed after a mountain biking accident, can now independently walk again after participating in a study at the University of Louisville that was published today in the New England Journal of Medicine. Thomas’ balance is still off and she needs a walker, but she can walk a hundred yards across grass. She also gained muscle and lost the nerve pain in her foot that has persisted since her accident. Another unnamed person with a spinal cord injury can now independently step across the ground with help from a trainer, according to a similar study at the Mayo Clinic that was also published today in the journal Nature Medicine.
Silicon Valley's War on Walls has declared its first casualties according to a new study in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. Those casualties are workplace interaction and productivity. Read the rest
Vanessa Hill at BrainCraft got obsessed with tallying up how many times Arnold Schwarzenegger has appeared in scientific papers, but she wasn't prepared for the actual number of papers: over 15,000. Read the rest
Women have had to deal with the shitty end of the employment stick since, well, forever. Sexual harassment, rampant misogyny and pay disparity are but a few of the crap things they frequently have to put up with. Apparently, you can add being screwed out of equal pay for authoring a frigging book to the list: researchers at Queens College have discovered that books written by female authors are, on average, sold for just over 50% less than those written by a dude.
The study looked at sales data for titles released by large publishing houses in North America between 2002 and 2012. Looking to the gender of the authors of the books reviewed, cross factoring this with data on the price, genre and how the books were published brought the study's authors to a lousy conclusion: Books written by women that are released by mainstream publishing houses sell, on average, for 45% less than those written by men.
The study's authors, Dana Beth Weinberg and Adam Kapelner, a sociologist and mathematician, respectively, found that even when you looked at book genres that are dominated by female authors, the percentages only go up by an average of 9% – so, even if hardly any men are writing, say, romance novels, the women who are writing them are still getting screwed out of equal pay.
From The Guardian:
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It was little surprise to see evidence of segregation by genre and the differing values placed on each genre, Weinberg added, but the researchers were very surprised at how clear this discrimination was.
IBM Security's 2018 survey of 4,000 adults worldwide found that for the first time in the history of their research, the majority of users say that they'd take extra steps in the name of "security" even if it meant that their usage would be less "convenient."
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A newly-published overview of self-reported ayahuasca experiences indicates that the hallucinogen can help alleviate eating disorders and reduce alcohol consumption. Now, more scientists are pushing to make it easier to study the drug legally. Read the rest
The winers of the 2017 Ig Nobel awards, "for achievements that first make people laugh then make them think," were announced at Harvard last night. From Phys.org:
Scientists who discovered that old men really do have big ears, that playing the didgeridoo helps relieve sleep apnea and that handling crocodiles can influence gambling decisions are among this year's recipients of the Ig Nobel, the prize for absurd scientific achievement.
This year's winners—who each received $10 trillion cash prizes in virtually worthless Zimbabwean money—also included scientists who used fluid dynamics to determine whether cats are solid or liquid; researchers who tried to figure out why some people are disgusted by cheese; and psychologists who found that many identical twins cannot tell themselves apart in visual images.
Research on big ears, crocodile gambling wins Ig Nobels (Phys.org)
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Scientific American dedicates its September issue to The New Science of Sex and Gender, and sociobiologists haven't been in this kind of tizzy since the Emmy-nominated Bill Nye episode about sex and gender. Read the rest
A meta-analysis of 15 published studies concluded that "although sexting might be an indicator of risky sexual practices, it is not a particularly good one." Read the rest
Biologist Nipam Patel and his team at UC Berkeley study how butterflies develop wing shape and color by performing surgery on caterpillars, creating translucent windows in their cocoons. Read the rest
Henk van Ess teaches workshops in online investigative techniques; he worked with colleagues and a team of students from Axel Springer Academie to analyze a viral news video that purported to show a discarded missile launcher that had been discovered near Cairo's international airport in 2011, but only published last month. Read the rest
Ayelet Waldman is a novelist, non fiction author, and former federal public defender. Her latest book is called A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life. I interviewed her this morning.
Why did you start microdosing?
I started microdosing because I was profoundly and dangerously depressed. I have a mood disorder and for many, many years my medication worked great. I took it, I did what my doctor told me and everything was fine. But at some point my medication stopped working. I tried all sorts of different things. And nothing helped. I was getting worse and worse and more and more full of despair and more and more full of rage and more and more unstable and I became suicidal. I started doing things like googling the effects of maternal suicide on children and I was so terrified that I was going to do something to myself, that I was going to hurt myself, that I decided to do something drastic and something that some people might think is crazy -- I decided to try microdosing with L.S.D.
Did it work?
Oh absolutely. It worked for sure. It's sub-perceptual. In fact, if I told you right now, "Hey Mark, I slipped a microdose of LSD. in your coffee," you wouldn't even know the difference. The effect for me was instantaneous. My depression lifted right away. The book is called A Really Good Day because at the end of that very first day, I looked back and I thought, "that was a really good day." It wasn't like everything was perfect. Read the rest
Johns Hopkins is among several institutions challenging a key tenet of outlawing psychedelics: that they have "no medicinal use." Baltimore Magazine examines the progress made by key researchers Roland Griffiths and Bill Richards. Read the rest
A new study by IDC shows the market for smartwatches is shrinking. I think they are ugly, and mechanical watches are art.
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The worldwide smartwatch market experienced a round of growing pains in the third quarter of 2016 (3Q16), resulting in a year-over-year decline in shipment volumes. According to data from the International Data Corporation, (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker, total smartwatch volumes reached 2.7 million units shipped in 3Q16, a decrease of 51.6% from the 5.6 million units shipped in 3Q15. Although the decline is significant, it is worth noting that 3Q15 was the first time Apple's Watch had widespread retail availablity after a limited online launch. Meanwhile, the second generation Apple Watch was only available in the last two weeks of 3Q16.
"The sharp decline in smartwatch shipment volumes reflects the way platforms and vendors are realigning," noted Ramon Llamas, research manager for IDC's Wearables team. "Apple revealed a new look and feel to watchOS that did not arrive until the launch of the second generation watch at the end of September. Google’s decision to hold back Android Wear 2.0 has repercussions for its OEM partners as to whether to launch devices before or after the holidays. Samsung’s Gear S3, announced at IFA in September, has yet to be released. Collectively, this left vendors relying on older, aging devices to satisfy customers."
"It has also become evident that at present smartwatches are not for everyone," said Jitesh Ubrani senior research analyst for IDC Mobile Device Trackers.
In Are CEOs paid for performance? Evaluating the Effectiveness of Equity Incentives, a new study from MSCI, researchers compared the salaries of 800 US CEOs of large and medium-sized companies to the returns to their shareholders during their tenure. Read the rest