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
Microsoft plans to turn Minecraft into a test suite for artificial intelligence research, reports the BBC. As a simplified but all-encompassing model of the world, it's perfect for tutoring 'bots.
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…Microsoft suggests the open-ended nature of Minecraft makes it particularly useful because of the huge variety of situations it can simulate from first-person perspectives.
"It allows you to have 'embodied AI'," explained Matthew Johnson, the principal software engineer working on AIX.
"So, rather than have a situation where the AI sees an avatar of itself, it can actually be inside, looking out through the eyes of something that is living in the world.
"We think this is an essential part of building this kind of general intelligence."
One of the perks that comes with winning a Nobel: Access to the bully pulpit. In the last week, Peter Higgs (of boson fame) spoke out against the pressure to publish — pressure that he thinks prevents younger scientists from taking the time to formulate really groundbreaking new ideas. Meanwhile, fellow 2013 winner Randy Schekman announced that he's boycotting brand-name journals like Science and Nature because of the negative impact that they have on scientific culture. Read the rest
Bacteroides fragilis — one of the many "friendly" bacteria that live in our gut — seems to be capable of altering the behavior of mice, according to a new study. In a mouse model for autism, exposure to Bacteroides fragilis improved the mice's gastrointestinal function and, along the way, reduced some of their external behavioral symptoms, including obsessive behaviors and anxiety. Read the rest
There's a new paper out suggesting that ladies' brains are different from mens' (in ways that support Western stereotypes of gender behavior, natch). It's pretty flawed and has been heavily critiqued, but one critique surprised me — turns out, there's evidence that men tend to move more than women do when you put them in an MRI machine, something that could throw off any attempt to compare MRI data between men and women. Read the rest
An interesting study on female aggression points out the trouble with making declarations about inherent human nature based on speculation about sexual dynamics. New studies, including this one, are finding that women can be plenty competitive and aggressive. At The New York Times, John Tierney points out that old ideas about female passivity were based on "an evolutionary analysis of the reproductive odds in ancient polygynous societies in which some men were left single because dominant males had multiple wives". Read the rest