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Groundcherries Are Just The Start: CRISPR May Popularize A Food Future You Haven't Heard Of Yet

Oct 01 2018 - 20:10
Few people have heard of the groundcherry because during legacy days of agriculture, when foods had to be optimized for various regions as easily as possible, it fared poorly compared to other farming crops due to undesirable characteristics, like falling on the ground and needing weeds.

Though people who sell the organic process think a limited monoculture past is worth paying a premium for, the future may belong to the groundcherry and other orphan crops, thanks to biotechnology and the gene editing tool CRISPR, the successor to legacy organic processes like Mutagenesis and transgenic options like Genetically Modified Organisms.

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Alessandro Strumia, The Mansplainer

Oct 01 2018 - 11:10
The world of particle physics is in turmoil because of a presentation by Alessandro Strumia, an Italian phenomenologist, at CERN's "1st workshop on high energy theory and gender", and its aftermath. 
By now the story has been echoed by many major newscasters around the world, and discussed in public and private forums, blogs, twitter feeds. I wanted to stay away from it here, mainly because it is a sensitive issue and the situation is still evolving, but after all, why not offer to you my personal pitch on the matter? Strumia, by the way, has been an occasional commenter to this blog - you can find some of his comments signed as "AS" in threads of past articles. Usually he makes good points here, as long as physics is the subject.

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Dogs Are Not So Smart

Oct 01 2018 - 10:10
Dog owners think dogs are exceptionally intelligent - a whole television show was made about a dog named Lassie who got humans out of all kinds of fantastic situations - while cat owners believe the same about their pets.

But are dogs smarter than other animals or pets? Not really, according to a review of over 300 papers which compared the brain power of dogs with other domestic animals, other social hunters and other carnivorans (which includes dogs, wolves, bears, lions, hyenas, and more). 

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'Boys Will Be Boys'? No, Adolescence Is A 20th Century Invention

Sep 27 2018 - 17:09

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s actions as a teenager are at the center of a public firestorm.

“I’ve been really troubled by the excuse offered by too many that this was a high school incident, and ‘boys will be boys,’ said Sen. Chris Coons during testimony by Christine Blasey Ford before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 27.

But Trump surrogates such as Kellyanne Conway have dismissed his actions are merely those of a "teenager.” The adult Kavanaugh cannot be held accountable, such logic goes, for these alleged youthful indiscretions.

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Moderate Alcohol And Breast Cancer: Real Epidemiology Or Just Statistical Correlation?

Sep 27 2018 - 15:09
On occasion there are renewed claims that even moderate alcohol consumption might "cause" breast cancer. As science advances so do claims about new ways to suggest harm. An example is recent claims about epigenetic alterations and lifestyle behaviors.

Yet there are flaws in such a simplistic approach to correlating one lifestyle option out of hundreds, like modest alcohol consumption, and breast cancer, which comprises 21 subtypes with each subtype displaying its own unique pathological signature.

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Why Is A Non-Browning Apple Less 'Natural' Than Non-Fat Milk

Sep 24 2018 - 12:09
Once upon a time, non-fat milk (the cream removed) was only used for fattening pigs. It was clearly a technological process to remove the cream but it is not considered "unnatural" - in 2012, the Obama administration even told schools to start serving it as a healthier alternative to regular milk. Meanwhile, the same administration delayed a salmon because it had a gene from a similar salmon that would allow it to grow all year 'round. The second technology was "unnatural."

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No Ghost In The Machine: AI Taking Over The World Is Unscientific Paranoia

Sep 24 2018 - 11:09

Should we be afraid of artificial intelligence? For me, this is a simple question with an even simpler, two letter answer: no. But not everyone agrees – many people, including the late physicist Stephen Hawking, have raised concerns that the rise of powerful AI systems could spell the end for humanity.

Clearly, your view on whether AI will take over the world will depend on whether you think it can develop intelligent behavior surpassing that of humans – something referred to as “super intelligence”. So let’s take a look at how likely this is, and why there is much concern about the future of AI.

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Can Neural Networks Design The Detector Of A Future Particle Collider?

Sep 20 2018 - 17:09
Casual reader, be warned - the contents of this article, specifically the second part of it, are highly volatile, speculative stuff. But hey, that is the stuff that dreams are made of. And I have one or two good reasons to dream on.


The environment

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JAMA Retracts 6 More Brian Wansink Articles

Sep 19 2018 - 15:09
The number of articles retracted related to nutrition now numbers unlucky 13 - and that bad lack shares one name in common: Brian Wansink, Ph.D.

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'How Close Are We To Sending Humans To Mars?' You Should Be Asking 'How Close Are We To Sending Humans Back To The Moon?'

Sep 16 2018 - 19:09

People often ask, "How close are we to sending humans to Mars" and it's not surprising given the optimistic presentations by Elon Musk and others. However, I think this is the wrong question to ask. It is just far too far away to send humans at this stage. What we need to know right now is, “How close are we to sending humans back to the Moon”.

It is of little importance to be able to send the mass of a spaceship with humans to Mars. We could have sent a dead astronaut to Mars decades ago. The challenge is to send a live astronaut there. And that’s much more than sending the mass of the human + food + life support, water etc.

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How To Choose Your Restaurant Or Hotel

Sep 16 2018 - 16:09
So you're planning ahead for your next trip to a remote location, and you try to make sense of those TripAdvisor listings. Great tool - there's a bunch of there around, but let's focus on that one here. It allows you to type in your preferences, location, restrictions, and it dumps a list of facilities together with easy access to the reviews of previous customers. How could we possibly live without it, twenty years ago?
Now, the point of this article is to make sure you can USE the data you are able to get on the web. I use to say "there's not such a thing as too much information", but then I shoud qualify that statement: it all depends on whether you have a brain and a will to put it to work. 

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My New Encyclopedias Of Astrobiology, Microtonal Music, And Buddhism, Spawned From Wikipedia - Is This The Way Of Its Future?

Sep 15 2018 - 07:09

This originated as my answer to a Quora question: "In what general knowledge domains do alternatives to Wikipedia exist that are significantly superior?". So - I think my own new wikis are, for a simple reason. Because they are based on Wikipedia, but set up to fix things that can’t be fixed in Wikipedia,. It's not hard to improve in topic areas where it has many errors, significant topics are ignored, and its out of date. Sadly, that is happening in many areas of the vast encyclopedia, though much of it is still excellent.

These are my new wikis:

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BPA Causes Diabetes? Fred Vom Saal Is Proof Aging Researchers Sometimes Lose Their Minds

Sep 14 2018 - 13:09
Dr. Jane Goodall is in a panic about GMOs and all of modern agriculture. What isn't plagiarized in her screeds about food is a mishmash of conjecture, anti-science mysticism, and lack of a clue about biology. She is not alone in losing her mind a bit with age. Dr. Linus Pauling became obsessed with Vitamin C as he aged, his claim that high doses would cure a cold is still promoted by supplement salespeople today. Dr.

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The ATLAS Quest For Photon Jets

Sep 14 2018 - 09:09
What is a photon jet? Despite their exotic name, photon jets are a well studied thing nowadays. The original studies were performed by experimentalists who aimed to test quantum chromodynamics: they used to spend their time discriminating prompt photon production in hadron collisions from backgrounds. I remember a lot of such studies were performed in the 80ies and 90ies by my CDF colleagues, especially within the "QCD working group".
The importance of the detection of single, isolated photons of high energy has risen enormously since then, given their role in the discovery of the Higgs boson. Photon jets are in fact the background to beat down if you want a neat peak of H --> γγ decays to pop out of a mass histogram constructed from events featuring two photon candidates.

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3 Million Year Old Footprints Suggest Human-Like Walking Evolved Long Before Humans Did

Sep 13 2018 - 07:09

The transition from ape-like shuffling to upright walking (bipedalism) as we do has long fascinated scientists. Why did it happen? When? 

The second question is a little closer to being solved. An analysis of 3.6 million year old hominin footprints in Tanzania suggests our ancestors evolved the hallmark trait of extended leg, human-like bipedalism substantially earlier than previously thought. Many millions of years before humans. Like the chicken and the egg, there is a clear science answer about which came first even if philosophers are baffled.

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AI GAN Will Boost Credibility Of Fake Videos

Sep 12 2018 - 09:09
Researchers at Carnege-Mellon University have found a way to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) schemes to transfer content from one video to the style of another. So they can make a daffodil bloom like the way a hibiscus bloom does or make clouds that are crossing the sky rapidly on a windy day be slowed to give the appearance of calmer weather during movie shoots.

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Instagram's Positivity Problem - Even When Comments Are Good They're Bad

Sep 12 2018 - 09:09
There is a vicious cycle of vanity on social media, according to new results. College-age women who viewed positive feedback on Instagram selfies then experienced greater body dissatisfaction - because they put more focus on appearance and in the end fueled body dissatisfaction among viewers.

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Solar Energy Gets A Golden Sandwich

Sep 10 2018 - 13:09
A new photoelectrode can harvest 85 percent of visible light in a 30 nanometers-thin semiconductor layer between gold layers, converting light energy 11 times more efficiently than previous methods, another step on the road to turning solar power from an expensive subsidized sideshow into the default energy of the future.

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Censorship Throughout History

Sep 09 2018 - 19:09

Once upon a time we all knew what censorship was, who the good and bad guys were, and what could be done to make the world a better place. Look up the noun “censor” in the Oxford English Dictionary and you’ll find an outline of a much-told story under definition 2 (b):

“An official in some countries whose duty it is to inspect all books, journals, dramatic pieces, etc, before publication, to secure that they shall contain nothing immoral, heretical, or offensive to the government.”

Attributing the first instance of this usage to the English poet John Milton, the lexicographers illustrated it with a quotation from his anti-censorship pamphlet, Areopagitica (1644):

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Indefinite Causal Order Answers The Chicken Or Egg Paradox

Sep 06 2018 - 16:09
The famous paradox 'which came first, the chicken or the egg?' was created by philosophers to discuss cause and effect. Since chickens lay eggs, and eggs produce chickens...you get the idea.

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