A review of the development of criminal profiling demonstrates that profiling has never been a scientific process. It is essentially based on a compendium of common sense intuitions and faulty theoretical assumptions, and in practice appears to consist of little more than educated guesses and wishful thinking. While it is very difficult to find cases where profiling made a critical contribution to an investigation, there exist a number of cases where a profile, combined with investigative and prosecutorial enthusiasm, derailed the investigation and even contributed to serious miscarriages of justice. [Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice/SAGE]
Detectives tracking murderers, rapists and other criminals may be able to reconstruct their faces from a speck of blood left at the crime scene. The significant advance in forensic investigation has been brought a step closer by scientists who believe they can produce portraits of suspects from a scrap of their DNA. […] Researchers in the Netherlands working with photographs of individuals and MRI scans of their heads have identified genetic factors that contribute to facial appearance. […] The researchers from the Erasmus University Medical Centre in Rotterdam identified nine facial “landmarks”, including the position of the cheekbones, the distance between the eyes, and the height, width and length of the nose. By analysing the genomes of almost 10,000 individuals, they found five genes that controlled the positioning of the nine landmarks which affected their facial appearance. [Independent]
In 1922, Scientific American made two US$2,500 offers: (1), for the first authentic spirit photograph made under test conditions, and (2), for the first psychic to produce a “visible psychic manifestation.” […] Since then, many individuals and groups have offered similar monetary awards for proof of the paranormal in an observed setting. These prizes have a combined value of over $1.69 million dollars. As of August 2012, none of the prizes has been claimed. [Wikipedia]
Using the Google Books database, the researchers examined the ratio of male pronouns (he, him, his, himself) to female ones (she, her, hers, herself) in the texts of 1.2 million books published in the U.S. between 1900 and 2008. They suspected feminine references would represent a larger percentage of such words over time, as women gained in power and status. They were right. But there were periods of regression, and a real shift didn’t occur until the late 1960s. [Pacific Standard]
Catching a frisbee is difficult. Doing so successfully requires the catcher to weigh a complex array of physical and atmospheric factors, among them wind speed and frisbee rotation. Were a physicist to write down frisbee-catching as an optimal control problem, they would need to understand and apply Newton’s Law of Gravity. Yet despite this complexity, catching a frisbee is remarkably common. Casual empiricism reveals that it is not an activity only undertaken by those with a Doctorate in physics. It is a task that an average dog can master. Indeed some, such as border collies, are better at frisbee-catching than humans. So what is the secret of the dog’s success? The answer, as in many other areas of complex decision-making, is simple. Or rather, it is to keep it simple. For studies have shown that the frisbee-catching dog follows the simplest of rules of thumb: run at a speed so that the angle of gaze to the frisbee remains roughly constant. Humans follow an identical rule of thumb. Catching a crisis, like catching a frisbee, is difficult. Doing so requires the regulator to weigh a complex array of financial and psychological factors, among them innovation and risk appetite. […] For what this paper explores is why the type of complex regulation developed over recent decades might not just be costly and cumbersome but sub-optimal for crisis control. In financial regulation, less may be more. […] Modern finance is complex, perhaps too complex. Regulation of modern finance is complex, almost certainly too complex. That configuration spells trouble. As you do not fight fire with fire, you do not fight complexity with complexity. Because complexity generates uncertainty, not risk, it requires a regulatory response grounded in simplicity, not complexity. Delivering that would require an about-turn from the regulatory community from the path followed for the better part of the past 50 years. If a once-in-a-lifetime crisis is not able to deliver that change, it is not clear what will. [Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City | PDF]
Researchers have long documented that the most educated Americans were making the biggest gains in life expectancy, but now they say mortality data show that life spans for some of the least educated Americans are actually contracting. Four studies in recent years identified modest declines, but a new one that looks separately at Americans lacking a high school diploma found disturbingly sharp drops in life expectancy for whites in this group. Experts not involved in the new research said its findings were persuasive. The reasons for the decline remain unclear, but researchers offered possible explanations, including a spike in prescription drug overdoses among young whites, higher rates of smoking among less educated white women, rising obesity, and a steady increase in the number of the least educated Americans who lack health insurance. […] The steepest declines were for white women without a high school diploma, who lost five years of life between 1990 and 2008. […] The dropping life expectancies have helped weigh down the United States in international life expectancy rankings, particularly for women. […] Among developed countries, American women sank from the middle of the pack in 1970 to last place in 2010. [NY Times]
Sir George Reresby Sitwell (1862 – 1943) believed that novel-writing could bring about physical ruin, and travelled with an extensive collection of medicines, but all were mislabelled to confound anyone helping themselves. [The Age]
Rats fed a lifetime diet of Monsanto’s genetically modified (GM) corn or exposed to its top-selling weedkiller Roundup suffered tumors and multiple organ damage, according to a French study published on Wednesday.
The cats brought home just under a quarter of what they killed, ate 30% and left 49% to rot where they died. When researchers attached kittycams to house cats, they found a secret world of slaughter.
Israel sperm banks find quality is plummeting. Sperm quality is down everywhere, but Israel is worse off than other developed countries. Theories about why vary from cellphones in pockets to estrogen in milk or water.
Contrary to the prevailing theories that music and language are cognitively separate or that music is a byproduct of language, theorists at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music and the University of Maryland, College Park, advocate that music underlies the ability to acquire language.
How do we ignore the obvious grossness of sex for long enough to propagate the species? Maybe, researchers say, by turning off our disgust reflex whenever we get turned on.
When we’re making a snap judgement about a fact, the mere presence of an accompanying photograph makes us more likely to think it’s true, even when the photo doesn’t provide any evidence one way or the other. In the words of Eryn Newman and her colleagues, uninformative photographs “inflate truthiness.” […] The researchers can’t be sure: “We speculate that nonprobative photos and verbal information help people generate pseudo evidence,” they said. [BPS]
Newly formed emotional memories can be erased from the human brain. This is shown by researchers from Uppsala University in a new study now being published by the academic journal Science. The findings may represent a breakthrough in research on memory and fear. […] When a person learns something, a lasting long-term memory is created with the aid of a process of consolidation, which is based on the formation of proteins. When we remember something, the memory becomes unstable for a while and is then restabilized by another consolidation process. In other words, it can be said that we are not remembering what originally happened, but rather what we remembered the last time we thought about what happened. By disrupting the reconsolidation process that follows upon remembering, we can affect the content of memory. [EurekAlert]
Diagnosing Skin Cancer via iPhone. [Thanks Tim]
Nanotechnology used in fight against counterfeiters. An invisible tag made of nanoparticles, similar to a ‘quick response’ or QR code, could be used to help thwart banknote forgers and criminals who sell bogus drugs or fake vintage wine.
Although legalization would re-channel importation and sales and make addiction, overdoses and side effects a public health problem instead of strictly a law-enforcement concern, drug-related crimes would continue to exist, just as alcohol-related crimes continued to make headlines and fill jails after the repeal of Prohibition. […] Nor would legalization magically resolve the economic issues that gave rise to the complex business of drug exportation and use, and it would have to occur in both Mexico and the United States to be effective. Restricting or controlling the financing of drug operations would not be possible without breaking up the distribution and investment chains that involve not only the two governments, but also entrepreneurs and legalized businesses. But it can hardly be denied that legalization is a necessary first step toward any decent, or even tolerable, outcome. [Arts & Opinions]
Self-taught technologists are almost always better hires than those with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and a huge student loan. Is a computer science degree worth the paper it’s printed on?
Dumbo is Walt Disney’s myth of modernity, a film in which he uses a story about infant-mother separation as a vehicle for assimilating modern technology and management structure to the evolved mechanisms of the human mind.
I know why Bret Easton Ellis hates David Foster Wallace. I edited both authors when they were starting out and can attest that the enmity between the two goes back decades.
So in April Vorobyev ploughed 400,000 roubles ($12,500) of savings into a self-styled ‘mutual aid fund,’ known as MMM-2011, promoted by Sergei Mavrodi, a guru-like financier, former lawmaker and convicted fraudster.
Although I am not a painter, I think that the subaqueous qualities of the purity of line makes resonant the distinctive formal juxtapositions. The Instant Art Critique Phrase Generator.
This letter was sent to a Russian student by her French friend, who manually wrote the address that she received by e-mail. Her e-mail client, unfortunately, was not set up correctly to display Cyrillic characters, so they were substituted with diacritic symbols from the Western charset (ISO-8859-1). The address was deciphered by the postal employees and delivered successfully.