Weekly Roundup 194: A Curated Linkfest For The Smartest People On The Web!
Handpicked to satisfy your intellectual curiosity!
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Picture by Nadine Sebai
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The Weekly Roundup
How To Choose a Good (Scientific) Problem – via Molecular Cell – Choosing good problems is essential for being a good scientist. But what is a good problem, and how do you choose one? The subject is not usually discussed explicitly within our profession. Scientists are expected to be smart enough to figure it out on their own and through the observation of their teachers. This lack of explicit discussion leaves a vacuum that can lead to approaches such as choosing problems that can give results that merit publication in valued journals, resulting in a job and tenure.
State of the Species: Does Success Spell Doom for Homo Sapiens – via Orion Magazine – Why and how did humankind become “unusually successful”? And what, to an evolutionary biologist, does “success” mean, if self-destruction is part of the definition? Does that self-destruction include the rest of the biosphere? What are human beings in the grand scheme of things anyway, and where are we headed? What is human nature, if there is such a thing, and how did we acquire it? What does that nature portend for our interactions with the environment? With 7 billion of us crowding the planet, it’s hard to imagine more vital questions.
Signs in Experimental Design and Interpretation- via norvig.com – The most reliable experiment to evaluate a medical treatment is a randomized controlled trial, in which a population is randomly divided into a test group, which receives the treatment, and a control group, which does not.
Tools for brain hackers (Wired UK) – via www.wired.co.uk – Ed Boyden, an engineer turned neuroscientist, makes tools for brain hackers. In his lab at MIT, he’s built a robot that can capture individual neurons and uses light potentially to control major diseases — all in his quest to ‘solve the brain’. To break into a neuron within a living brain, you need a good eye, extreme patience, months of training, and the ability to suck with gentle care. A mouse lies in front of you, brain exposed. Your mission is to impale one of its neurons with the micrometre-wide tip of a glass pipette.
Scientists See Advances in Deep Learning, a Part of Artificial Intelligence – via NYTimes.com – Using an artificial intelligence technique inspired by theories about how the brain recognizes patterns, technology companies are reporting startling gains in fields as diverse as computer vision, speech recognition and the identification of promising new molecules for designing drugs.
How Partisans Fool Themselves Into Believing Their Own Spin – Alesh Houdek – The Atlantic – via Seth’s posterous – This month’s presidential election was between two fairly centrist candidates. And yet political discourse between ordinary Republicans and Democrats is more contentious and hostile than it’s been in decades.
My body is fat and my wallet is thin: The link between weight perceptions, weight control and income – via econpapers.repec.org – This paper explores why the poor are more likely to be overweight and obese than the rich. The main aim is to better understand the mechanisms underlying the income-obesity relationship so that effective policy interventions can be developed. Our approach involves analysing data on approximately 9,000 overweight British adults from between 1997 and 2002. We estimate the effect of income on the probability that an overweight individual correctly recognises their overweight status and the effect of income on the probability that an overweight individual attempts to lose weight. Our work finds that low-income individuals are more likely to both misperceive that they are a healthy weight and fail to address their unhealthy weight. Both of these effects are higher for males than females. For example, it is estimated that overweight low-income males are 15%-points less likely to recognize their overweight status than overweight high-income males, and that after controlling for weight perceptions, overweight low-income males are 10%-points less likely to be trying to lose weight. An implication of these results is that more public education on what constitutes overweight and the dangers associated with being overweight is needed, especially in low income neighbourhoods.
Revisiting Milgram and Zimbardo’s Studies - via thesituationist.wordpress.com – Understanding of the psychology of tyranny is dominated by classic studies from the 1960s and 1970s: Milgram’s research on obedience to authority and Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment. Supporting popular notions of the banality of evil, this research has been taken to show that people conform passively and unthinkingly to both the instructions and the roles that authorities provide, however malevolent these may be. Recently, though, this consensus has been challenged by empirical work informed by social identity theorizing. This suggests that individuals’ willingness to follow authorities is conditional on identification with the authority in question and an associated belief that the authority is right.
The R&D Lab of Creativity: Inside the Sketchbooks of Beloved Illustrators and Designers – via Brain Pickings – From sources of inspiration to process, the collection offers a rare glimpse of how 42 of the world’s most exciting illustrators, artists and designers think and create. Alongside each visual entry is a short essay by its owner, detailing his or her relationship with keeping a sketchbook.
Playboy Interview: George Carlin – via Longform – “It’s the American view that everything has to keep climbing: productivity, profits, even comedy. No time for reflection. No time to contract before another expansion. No time to grow up. No time to fuck up. No time to learn from your mistakes. But that notion goes against nature, which is cyclical.”
John Kay – Folly of Rent Seeking – via seeking – In modern India, rent-seeking takes the form of endemic corruption and the crony capitalism that describes too-close relationships between big business and the state. Western economies are afflicted with their own versions of crony capitalism. Instinctive corporatism is characteristic of many European states. The US demonstrates an unhealthy affinity between politicians and leaders of finance and business, facilitated by lobbyists and lubricated with campaign finance.
Time Magazine Inventions of the Year – via uvealblues.blogspot.com – Best Inventions of the Year 2012
5 Statistics Problems That Will Change The Way You See The World – via Seth’s posterous – Even a rudimentary look at probability can give new insights about how to interpret data. Simple thought experiments an can give new insight into the different ways misunderstanding of statistics can distort the way we perceive the world.
Hayek, Friedman, And The Illusions Of Conservative Economics – via The New Republic – The source of confusion here is that there was a Good Hayek and a Bad Hayek. The Good Hayek was a serious scholar who was particularly interested in the role of knowledge in the economy (and in the rest of society). Since knowledge—about technological possibilities, about citizens’ preferences, about the interconnections of these, about still more—is inevitably and thoroughly decentralized, the centralization of decisions is bound to generate errors and then fail to correct them. The consequences for society can be calamitous, as the history of central planning confirms. That is where markets come in. All economists know that a system of competitive markets is a remarkably efficient way to aggregate all that knowledge while preserving decentralization.
Over 100 Incredible Infographic Tools and Resources Categorized – via DailyTekk – I dug deep and found some new and exciting infographic tools that I’m willing to bet you haven’t seen before
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