Can dropping a little data change conclusions?

Van Nuys Boulevard

Smiling and grimacing can reduce needle injection pain, study

athletes’ bodies produced 3-5 times the emissions while working out, compared to when they were at rest. Chlorine from bleach cleaner sprayed onto equipment was reacting with the amino acids released from sweating bodies.

Data from four waves of the National Survey of Family Growth reveal American women who report more sex partners are less likely to get married (though so too are virgins). [SocArXiv]

Danish and Chinese tongues taste broccoli and chocolate differently — For several years, researchers have known that women are generally better than men at tasting bitter flavours. Now, research from the University of Copenhagen suggests that ethnicity may also play a role in how sensitive a person is to the bitter taste found in for example broccoli, Brussels sprouts and dark chocolate.

Folklore structure reveals how conspiracy theories emerge, fall apart

QAnon Is Two Different People, Shows Machine Learning Analysis

Airlines warn travelers: Emotional support animals will no longer be permitted. Animals that previously traveled as emotional support animals may still accompany passengers as carry-on or cargo pets if they meet requirements. [Washington Post]

Exploring the Impact of COVID-19 in the Sustainability of Airbnb Business Model

UK scientists worry vaccines may not protect against South African coronavirus variant Vaccine makers are testing shots against new variants

In southeastern England, where the B.1.1.7 variant first caught scientists’ attention last month, it has quickly replaced other variants “One concern is that B.1.1.7 will now become the dominant global variant with its higher transmission and it will drive another very, very bad wave”

E484K (South African lineage) worrying for immune escape; RBD mutations in UK lineage less so (1/n).

Viruses mutate all the time, often with no impact, but this one appears to be more transmissible than other variants—meaning it spreads more easily. Barely one day after officials announced that America’s first case of the variant had been found in the United States, in a Colorado man with no history of travel, an additional case was found in California. There are still many unknowns, but much concern has focused on whether this new variant would throw off vaccine efficacy or cause more severe disease —- with some degree of relief after an initial study indicated that it did not do either. […] Bedford notes that this new variant seems to have a higher secondary-attack rate —- meaning the number of people subsequently infected by a known case — compared with “regular” COVID-19. Finally, the new variant seems to result in higher viral loads (though this is harder to be sure about as viral loads can be affected by sampling bias and timing). […] This variant, now called B.1.1.7, has “an unusually large number of genetic changes, particularly in the spike protein,” which is how the virus gains entry into our cells. The new variant may be better at eluding our immune response and replicating, or be able to better bind to locations in our body more conducive to infecting others, but that is all speculative for the moment. […] we may need to be stricter — less time indoors, better masks, better ventilation, more disinfection of high-touch surfaces. […] We don’t know. We won’t know for a while. [The Atlantic]

In-Flight Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 Despite Predeparture Testing

“Even if we rolled out the best vaccine coverage program ever, we’re not going to vaccinate everybody. We can’t do it simultaneously. The virus will evolve fast enough to keep itself going. I think it’s endemic.”

Transmission Dynamics of Sars-CoV-2 Are More Complex Than Previously Believed

Breathing techniques from declassified CIA documents

Singapore police will be able to use data obtained by its coronavirus contact-tracing technology for criminal investigations

When you hear the word inquisition, you think of Spain, heretics in strange tall pointed hats, the stake, forced confessions, horrifying images that make the words Holy Inquisition a cruel oxymoron. It is less well known that there were also inquisitors in Venice who could make life rather difficult for people.

The family with no fingerprints — At least four generations of Apu Sarker’s family have an extremely rare condition leaving them with no fingerprints

Jair Bolsonaro, president of Brazil, has been named the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project’s 2020 Person of the Year , narrowly beating two other populist leaders, U.S. President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Erdogan

Harvard Professor Says Alien Technology Visited Earth in 2017

Trump had tried to reach Raffensperger at least 18 times before Saturday’s call, according to Raffensperger’s deputy, Jordan Fuchs, but the calls were patched to interns in the press office who thought it was a prank and didn’t realize it was actually the president on the line. [Washington Post]

When he was two years old, Ben stopped seeing out of his left eye. His mother took him to the doctor and soon discovered he had retinal cancer in both eyes. After chemotherapy and radiation failed, surgeons removed both his eyes. For Ben, vision was gone forever. But by the time he was seven years old, he had devised a technique for decoding the world around him: he clicked with his mouth and listened for the returning echoes. This method enabled Ben to determine the locations of open doorways, people, parked cars, garbage cans, and so on. He was echolocating: bouncing his sound waves off objects in the environment and catching the reflections to build a mental model of his surroundings. Echolocation may sound like an improbable feat for a human, but thousands of blind people have perfected this skill, just like Ben did. The phenomenon has been written about since at least the 1940s, when the word “echolocation” was first coined in a Science article titled “Echolocation by Blind Men, Bats, and Radar.” […] Neuroscience used to think that different parts of the brain were predetermined to perform specific functions. But more recent discoveries have upended the old paradigm. One part of the brain may initially be assigned a specific task; for instance, the back of our brain is called the “visual cortex” because it usually handles sight. But that territory can be reassigned to a different task. There is nothing special about neurons in the visual cortex: they are simply neurons that happen to be involved in processing shapes or colors in people who have functioning eyes. But in the sightless, these same neurons can rewire themselves to process other types of information. […] we refer to the brain’s plasticity as “livewiring” to spotlight how this vast system of 86 billion neurons and 0.2 quadrillion connections rewires itself every moment of your life. […] In Ben’s case, his brain’s flexible wiring repurposed his visual cortex for processing sound. As a result, Ben had more neurons available to deal with auditory information, and this increased processing power allowed Ben to interpret soundwaves in shocking detail. Ben’s super-hearing demonstrates a more general rule: the more brain territory a particular sense has, the better it performs. […] Recent decades have yielded several revelations about livewiring, but perhaps the biggest surprise is its rapidity. Brain circuits reorganize not only in the newly blind, but also in the sighted who have temporary blindness. In one study, sighted participants intensively learned how to read Braille. Half the participants were blindfolded throughout the experience. At the end of the five days, the participants who wore blindfolds could distinguish subtle differences between Braille characters much better than the participants who didn’t wear blindfolds. Even more remarkably, the blindfolded participants showed activation in visual brain regions in response to touch and sound. When activity in the visual cortex was temporarily disrupted, the Braille-reading advantage of the blindfolded participants went away. In other words, the blindfolded participants performed better on the touch- related task because their visual cortex had been recruited to help. After the blindfold was removed, the visual cortex returned to normal within a day, no longer responding to touch and sound. But such changes don’t have to take five days; that just happened to be when the measurement took place. When blindfolded participants are continuously measured, touch-related activity shows up in the visual cortex in about an hour. […] In the ceaseless competition for brain territory, the visual system has a unique problem: due to the planet’s rotation, all animals are cast into darkness for an average of 12 out of every 24 hours. (Of course, this refers to the vast majority of evolutionary time, not to our present electrified world.) Our ancestors effectively were unwitting participants in the blindfold experiment, every night of their entire lives. So how did the visual cortex of our ancestors’ brains defend its territory, in the absence of input from the eyes? We suggest that the brain preserves the territory of the visual cortex by keeping it active at night. In our “defensive activation theory,” dream sleep exists to keep neurons in the visual cortex active, thereby combating a takeover by the neighboring senses. […] In humans, sleep is punctuated by rapid eye movement (REM) sleep every 90 minutes. This is when most dreaming occurs. (Although some forms of dreaming can occur during non-REM sleep, such dreams are abstract and lack the visual vividness of REM dreams.) REM sleep is triggered by a specialized set of neurons that pump activity straight into the brain’s visual cortex, causing us to experience vision even though our eyes are closed. [Time]

Contrary to wide‐held beliefs, religiosity decreases with greater expected proximity to death

Our study cannot answer whether some men adopt a feminist identity to increase their access to sexual partners.

Questions from 1920 Still Haunt Neuroscience — A 100-year-old paper anticipated key issues in modern neuroscience

For a while, the Union’s top general in the Civil War was a perfectionist. George Meade kept looking for the perfect opportunity to engage the forces of the Confederacy in battle. He accomplished little. Ulysses Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman got the job done by their willingness to use imperfect methods. How Perfectionism Has Made the Pandemic Worse

Decline in Marriage Associated with the COVID-19 Pandemic in the United States

New study following 12,541 healthcare workers for #COVID19 re-infection over 31 weeks published in NEJM. Natural immunisation held up well over the 6 months of the study, with only two cases of asymptomatic reinfections observed.

The pandemic is conventionally marked as having begun on 4 March 1918 […] The first wave of the flu lasted from the first quarter of 1918 and was relatively mild […] The second wave began in the second half of August 1918 […] much more deadly than the first […] In January 1919, a third wave hit Australia […] then spread quickly through Europe and the United States, where it lingered through the Spring and until June 1919. […] It was less severe than the second wave but still much more deadly than the initial first wave. […] In spring 1920, a fourth wave occurred in isolated areas including New York City, Switzerland, Scandinavia, and some South American islands. […] Peru experienced a late wave in early 1920, and Japan had one from late 1919 to 1920, with the last cases in March. In Europe, five countries (Spain, Denmark, Finland, Germany and Switzerland) recorded a late peak between January–April 1920. […] Scientists offer several possible explanations for the high mortality rate of the 1918 influenza pandemic […] Studies have shown that the immune system of Spanish flu victims was weakened by adverse climate conditions which were particularly unseasonably cold and wet for extended periods of time during the duration of the pandemic. This affected especially WWI troops exposed to incessant rains and lower-than-average temperatures for the duration of the conflict, and especially during the second wave of the pandemic. […] The climate anomaly has been associated with an anthropogenic increase in atmospheric dust, due to the incessant bombardment; increased nucleation due to dust particles (cloud condensation nuclei) contributed to increased precipitation. […] Some analyses have shown the virus to be particularly deadly because it triggers a cytokine storm, which ravages the stronger immune system of young adults. In contrast, a 2007 analysis of medical journals from the period of the pandemic found that the viral infection was no more aggressive than previous influenza strains. Instead, malnourishment, overcrowded medical camps and hospitals, and poor hygiene, all exacerbated by the recent war, promoted bacterial superinfection. This superinfection killed most of the victims, typically after a somewhat prolonged death bed. The 1918 Spanish flu was the first of two pandemics caused by H1N1 influenza A virus; the second was the 2009 swine flu pandemic. [Wikipedia]

Scientists turn carbon dioxide into jet fuel

Google Maps’ Moat is Evaporating

You can now gain entry to any station of the New York City Subway with the tap of a phone, instead of the swipe of a MetroCard.

The largest single bank heist of all time was committed the day before the Coalition invaded Iraq in 2003, when Saddam Hussein sent his son, Qusay, to the Central Bank of Iraq with a handwritten note to withdraw all the cash in the bank. Qusay then removed about $1 billion (£810 million) in $100 dollar notes in strongboxes, requiring three lorries to carry it all. Approximately $650 million (£525 million) was found later by US troops hidden in the walls of one of Saddam’s palaces. Although both of Saddam’s sons were killed, and Saddam was captured and executed, more than one third of the money was never recovered. — Seven Greatest Real-Life Heists

How Did Madagascar Become the World’s Biggest Producer of Vanilla?

Maneki-neko (beckoning cat)

Alex’s intelligence was on a level similar to dolphins and great apes. She also reported that Alex seemed to show the intelligence of a five-year-old human, in some respects, and he had not even reached his full potential by the time he died. She believed that he possessed the emotional level of a two-year-old human at the time of his death. Looking at a mirror, he said “what color”, and learned “grey” after being told “grey” six times. This made him the first and only non-human animal to have ever asked a question.

Human chess match, Leningrad, 1924

Fette Sans: I want to cut you open and pour out all your insides, chew on your liver and your heart, and then sew you back together using your intestine and maybe I will pack you better than you were and there will be some left to crochet myself a necklace. [from Forty-one reflections on 2020]

Australia is on track to eradicate transmission of HIV by the end of this decade. […] The world is gaining two million acres of leafy cover per year, an increase of about five percent since 2000, equivalent to the leaf area of all the Amazon rainforests. […] The number of Chinese people living in extreme poverty was 88% in 1981. By 2015 it had fallen to 0.7%. […] A biologist invented a sensor that detects spikes in ethylene, the chemical that makes fruits ripen, so distributors can sell it before it spoils. It’s already saved one company $400,000 in wasted food. […] Police in Durham, England are helping arrestees get access to social services instead of prosecuting them. Of the 2,600 people they’ve helped, only 6% have re-offended. […] A jazz club in Paris has re-opened for performances –– for one patron at a time. In just a few weeks, Le Gare hosted over 3,000 concerts for one. [112 bits of good news that kept us sane in 2020]

When a shark bit or killed a swimmer, people within the past century might take out hundreds of the marine predators to quell the panic, like executing everyone in a police lineup in order to ensure justice was dispensed on the guilty party. Eric Clua, a professor of marine biology at the École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris, said the rationale behind shark culls in the past was simple: fewer sharks, fewer attacks. That reasoning also drives methods such as shark nets and baited hooks, which are currently in use at a number of Australian and South African beaches that are frequently visited by sharks. […] Dr. Clua said he has found a way to make precision strikes on sharks that have attacked people through a form of DNA profiling he calls “biteprinting.” He believes it’s usually just solo “problem sharks” that attack humans repeatedly, analogizing them to terrestrial predators that have been documented behaving the same way. […] This summer, Dr. Clua and several colleagues published their latest paper on collecting DNA from the biteprints of large numbers of sharks. Once a database is built, DNA could be collected from the wounds of people who were bitten by sharks, and matched to a known shark. The offending fish would then need to be found and killed. Critics have taken issue with every facet of this plan. […] the “rogue shark” theory, popularized by Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws,” has been debunked. […] the existence of problem sharks has never been proven. […] removing these guilty sharks “would be near impossible” […] Dr. Clua’s proposal would cost billions of dollars to implement on a meaningful scale in Australia, South Africa or the United States […] Five of the attacks were fatal. More people are killed by falling trees in the U.S. every year. [NY Times]

Using Hot Coffee to Dislodge Meat in the Throat

A US judge in Michigan has ruled that a 42-year-old man can seek compensation from his parents for destroying his pornography collection

How much is an hour of your free time worth? $19.

Tears were found to be a magnet for visual attention

Studies show, for instance, that volunteering correlates with a 24% lower risk of early death . What’s more, volunteers have a lower risk of high blood glucose, and a lower risk of the inflammation levels connected to heart disease. They also spend 38% fewer nights in hospitals than people who shy from involvement in charities.

Diet Modifications, Including More Wine and Cheese, May Help Reduce Cognitive Decline — Cheese, by far, was shown to be the most protective food against age-related cognitive problems, even late into life; The daily consumption of alchohol, particularly red wine, was related to improvements in cognitive function; Weekly consumption of lamb, but not other red meats, was shown to improve long-term cognitive prowess.

A comprehensive study from Uppsala University, involving more than 250,000 women, shows that oral contraceptive use protects against ovarian and endometrial cancer. The protective effect remains for several decades after discontinuing the use.

An article reporting an increased risk of death when surgery is carried out on the surgeon’s birthday has caused a Christmas controversy

Simple processes can make wood stronger than steel, impact-resistant — or even transparent

Apple targets car production by 2024 and eyes “next level” battery technology

Deepfakes didn’t disrupt the US election as many predicted. But cheapfakes had a banner year.

Compology uses cameras and artificial intelligence to monitor what’s thrown into dumpsters and trash containers at businesses such as McDonald’s restaurants. The point is to make sure dumpsters are actually full before they’re emptied and to stop recyclable materials like cardboard from being contaminated by other junk.

The Full(est Possible) Story of the Four Seasons Total Landscaping Press Conference

Biometric Bribery — Inside Semlex, the Brussels-based company that supplies biometric documents such as passports and driving licenses to governments and international bodies.

The U.S. Army spent almost a year making face masks — no different from commercial masks designed and brought to market within days of the pandemic.

Remembering Beethoven the astute businessman

Larry Heard is an American DJ, record producer and musician. He is widely known as a pioneering figure in 1980s Chicago house music, and was leader of the influential group Fingers Inc., whose 1988 album Another Side was the first long-form house LP. [listen to Never No More Lonely, Can You Feel It, full album] — About “Can You Feel It” (1986): “I had two cassette decks—there were no digital recorders or even multi-track recorders—and I did one take, one pass, on one tape, then ran it back to the other one, played some other parts by hand that I wanted to add, and that was pretty much the recording process.”

It’s -43C in Yakutsk, Republic of Sakha; time to get some fish at the local outdoor market

I always awkwardly struggle to get to the end call button on video calls. So I made this

Previous studies on aesthetic chills (i.e., psychogenic shivers) demonstrate their positive effects on stress, pleasure, and social cognition. We tested whether we could artificially enhance this emotion and its downstream effects by intervening on its somatic markers using wearable technology. [Scientific Reports]

Just a few doses of an experimental drug can reverse age-related declines in memory and mental flexibility in mice

What Explains the Decline of Serial Killers?

Walmart will use fully autonomous box trucks to make deliveries in Arkansas starting in 2021

A trip of 500 km on one charge. A recharge from zero to full in 10 minutes. All with minimal safety concerns. The solid-state battery being introduced by Toyota promises to be a game changer not just for electric vehicles but for an entire industry.

LED lights found to kill coronavirus — technology can be installed in air conditioning, vacuum, and water systems

Researchers who studied the DNA of 2,700 COVID-19 patients in 208 intensive care units across Britain found that five genes were central to many severe cases. The genes partially explain why some people become desperately sick with COVID-19, while others are not affected, Baillie said.

A new study of almost 40,000 adults has found that the brains of lonely people differ from those of people who are not lonely, in significant and detectable ways. This loneliness “signature” consists of variations in the volume of different brain regions, and the way those brain regions communicate.

Can Dropping a Little Data Change Conclusions?

Zodiac killer code crackedThe cipher, sent in a letter to The Chronicle in November 1969, has been puzzling authorities and amateur sleuths since it arrived 51 years ago.

Israeli Phone-hacking Firm Claims It Can Now Break Into Encrypted Signal App

How Russian hackers infiltrated the US government for months without being spotted

High-Frequency Traders Push Closer to Light Speed With Cutting-Edge Cables

DeepL Translator “Try out the world’s best machine translation.”

8 Giraffes are stuck on a flooding island. But the rescues have begun.

James Verdesoto, the movie poster artist behind iconic posters such as Pulp Fiction, Ocean’s Eleven, Girl, Interrupted, and Training Day, explains how color schemes are used in movie posters via OpenCulture

MDMA-assisted couples therapy investigated in landmark pilot trial + My methodology for working wlthMDMA as an adjunct to psychotherapy is as follows

Why wild giant pandas frequently roll in horse manure, study

This study explored the definitions of sexual boredom in a large community sample of Portuguese individuals.

In the mid-1960s, Australian athlete Reg Spiers found himself stranded in London with no money to buy a plane ticket home. Desperate to get back to Australia in time for his daughter’s birthday, he decided to post himself in a wooden crate.

New Year’s resolutions: Participants with approach-oriented goals [starting new habits] were significantly more successful than those with avoidance-oriented goals [quitting habits]

Scientists say they have come up with a potential way to make oxygen on Mars — NASA wants to land astronauts on Mars in the 2030s. On Mars, oxygen is only 0.13% of the atmosphere, compared to 21% of the Earth’s atmosphere. Transporting enough oxygen on a spacecraft to sustain the mission isn’t currently viable.

These hardware and software tools collect forensic data from mobile phones: the texts, emails, and photos stored on the phone; data regarding when the texts and emails were sent and where the photos were taken; the locations—if location tracking tools are turned on—where the phone and, presumably, the user have been; and when they were there. According to the report, 2,000 of the United States’s 18,000 law enforcement agencies, including 50 of the nation’s largest police departments, either have purchased MDFTs (Mobile Device Forensic Tools) or have access to these tools.

Tesla Inc. is taking advantage of its surging shares by going back to the capital markets for the third time in ten months and raising as much as $5 billion of common stock. If you have a product for which the market is willing to pay virtually anything, you sell more of it. That’s true for electric cars and it’s just as true for stock, which is far easier to manufacture. Issuing $5 billion a year ago would have meant dilution of more than 8%; today, it’s less than 1%. [Bloomberg]

These studies consistently show that most rats prefer the nondrug reward over cocaine (and over heroin or methamphetamine. After I had reviewed these studies in my class, a student asked, ‘Does this mean that sugar is more addictive than cocaine?’.

You may be surprised to learn that of the trio of long-awaited coronavirus vaccines, the most promising, Moderna’s mRNA-1273, which reported a 94.5 percent efficacy rate on November 16, had been designed by January 13. This was just two days after the genetic sequence had been made public in an act of scientific and humanitarian generosity that resulted in China’s Yong-Zhen Zhang’s being temporarily forced out of his lab. In Massachusetts, the Moderna vaccine design took all of one weekend. It was completed before China had even acknowledged that the disease could be transmitted from human to human, more than a week before the first confirmed coronavirus case in the United States.By the time the first American death was announced a month later, the vaccine had already been manufactured and shipped to the National Institutes of Health for the beginning of its Phase I clinical trial.

A new report from One Fair Wage finds that more than 80% of workers are seeing a decline in tips and over 40% say they’re facing an increase in sexual harassment from customers.

these data show that distinctive eyebrows reveal narcissists’ personality to others

Viewers’ antisocial tendencies (Dark Triad traits, aggression, and moral disengagement) in conjunction with an affinity for antihero genres and favorite antihero characters (similarity, wishful identification, and parasocial interaction)

The success of horror films, popularity of true crime, and prevalence of violence in the news implies that morbid curiosity is a common psychological trait. However, research on morbid curiosity is largely absent from the psychological literature. In this paper, I present a novel psychometric tool for assessing morbid curiosity, defined as a motivation to seek out information about dangerous phenomena.

Impostor syndrome—the idea that you’ve only succeeded due to luck, and not because of your talent or qualifications—was first identified in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes. In their paper, they theorized that women were uniquely affected by impostor syndrome. Since then, research has shown that both men and women experience impostor feelings.

According to a new study, the mass of all our stuff—buildings, roads, cars, and everything else we manufacture—now exceeds the weight of all living things on the planet

Mount Everest, Earth’s tallest mountain, just got taller by about a meter

In America, Christmas trees are a multibillion-dollar business. But who’s making the money?

Water is joining gold, oil and other commodities traded on Wall Street […] Farmers, hedge funds and municipalities alike are now able to hedge against — or bet on — future water availability in California, the biggest U.S. agriculture market and world’s fifth-largest economy. […] The futures are tied to the Nasdaq Veles California Water Index, which was started two years ago and measures the volume-weighted average price of water. [Bloomberg]