There is a famous anecdote about an experiment once conducted on a group of unsuspecting diners who were served a meal of steak, chips, and peas under dim illumination. Partway through the meal, the lighting was returned to normal levels of illumination, revealing to the guests that the steak they were eating was, in fact, blue, the chips green, and the peas red.
Female and Male Reflections on Their Initial Experience of Coitus -- “If you could go back in time to your first sexual intercourse, would you want to change anything? If so, what would you change and why?” [...] a majority of both males (66.95%) and females (54.00%) reporting they would not want to change anything about their first coital experience. Among respondents who reported a desired change the three primary desired change themes were partner (15.72%), age (8.18%), and location (5.03%)
Men more than women report regret passing up short-term sexual opportunities (inaction regret), while women regret having had sexual encounters (action regret). will men who regret passing up sex engage in more short-term sex following regret? Will women who regret short-term encounters either choose better quality partners, reduce number of one-night stands or shift their strategy to long-term relationships? There was no clear evidence for the proposed functional shifts in sexual behavior.
Among young men, declines in drinking frequency, an increase in computer gaming, and the growing percentage who coreside with their parents all contribute significantly to the decline in casual sex.
Are Americans Defining Themselves More Politically Over Time? [PDF]
In seven studies (n = 1,133), adults tried to create funny ideas and then rated the funniness of their responses, which were also independently rated by judges. People were relatively modest and self-critical about their ideas.
One commonly held idea is that greater cognitive ability does not matter or is actually harmful beyond a certain point (sometimes stated as > 100 or 120 IQ points). [...] Greater cognitive ability is generally advantageous—and virtually never detrimental.
We tend to not perceive information about the world around us accurately. Instead, our brains interpret new information through a host of innate and learned mechanisms that can introduce bias and distortions One of the best studied mechanisms that guide – and distort – our perception is the psychophysical Weber-Fechner law. According to this empirically derived, mathematically formulated law we tend to put more emphasis on smaller deviations in size while underestimating larger changes. Here we investigate the hypothesis that our perception of data associated with the spread of COVID-19 and similar pandemics is governed by the same psychophysical laws. We demonstrate that the Weber-Fechner law can be shown to directly affect the decision-making of officials in response to this global crisis as well as the greater public at large.
Globally, hundreds of thousand of organizations running Exchange email servers from Microsoft just got mass-hacked, including at least 30,000 victims in the United States. Each hacked server has been retrofitted with a “web shell” backdoor that gives the bad guys total, remote control, the ability to read all email, and easy access to the victim’s other computers. Security experts are now trying to alert and assist these victims before malicious hackers launch what many refer to with a mix of dread and anticipation as “Stage 2,” when the bad guys revisit all these hacked servers and seed them with ransomware or else additional hacking tools for crawling even deeper into victim networks. [Krebs on Security]
A study out of Harvard in 2020 also found that although cryptocurrency mining isn't "burning down the planet", there is "a scenario where each $1 of cryptocurrency coin value created would be responsible for $0.66 in health and climate damages."
To fight climate change, save the whales, some scientists say -- In death, whales carry the tons of carbon stored in their massive bodies down to rest on the seafloor, where it can remain for centuries. Whale excrement fertilizes the ocean, producing large phytoplankton blooms that absorb enormous amounts of carbon dioxide.
if you or someone nearby are being brutalized by a police Spot robot and can get a hand or something underneath, grab the handle and yank it forward. This releases the battery, instantly disabling the robot. [more]
the vast majority of people who are vaccinated will be protected from Covid-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. However, vaccinated people may still be able to transmit the virus, even though they do not display any symptoms.
there are some meaningful signs that even these quite scary-seeming versions of the disease may not prove all that scary in the end. I’m very worried about the Brazilian variant, since there is some evidence that it has achieved “immune escape” and produced a wave of reinfections. But the course of the others contains some real contradictions which I don’t yet know how to resolve. They appear to be considerably more infectious, and perhaps more lethal, than the “classic” strains. And yet they are growing in prevalence precisely as cases are falling nearly everywhere in the world. How can that be? Seasonality is surely playing a role in that decline, but if a new variant is 50 percent more transmissible than the old, you would expect it would require quite dramatic new restrictions to produce a decline in cases. In other words, it would be really hard, and pretty rare, to engineer a decline in the presence of those variants. Instead, it seems to be happening everywhere. [NY mag]
Veterinary techs distribute food every morning to more than 5,000 monkeys at the Tulane University National Primate Research Center outside New Orleans. [...] Mr. Lewis, the chief executive of Bioqual, was responsible for providing lab monkeys to pharmaceutical companies like Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, which needed the animals to develop their Covid-19 vaccines. Unable to furnish scientists with monkeys, which can cost more than $10,000 each, about a dozen companies were left scrambling for research animals at the height of the pandemic. [...] The latest shortage has revived talk about creating a strategic monkey reserve in the United States, an emergency stockpile similar to those maintained by the government for oil and grain. [...] No country can make up for what China previously supplied. Before the pandemic, China provided over 60 percent of the 33,818 primates, mostly cynomolgus macaques, imported into the United States in 2019. [NY Times]
The U.K.’s B.1.1.7 variant has spread to more than eighty countries and has been doubling every ten days in the U.S., where it is expected to soon become the dominant variant. […] new evidence also suggests that people infected with it have higher viral loads and remain infectious longer, which could have implications for quarantine guidelines. […]
“The fact that different variants have independently hit on the same mutations suggests we’re already seeing the limits of where the virus can go,” McLellan told me. “It has a finite number of options.”
Over time, SARS-CoV-2 is likely to become less lethal, not more. When people are exposed to a virus, they often develop “cross-reactive” immunity that protects them against future infection, not just for that virus, but also for related strains; with time, the virus also exhausts the mutational possibilities that might allow it to infect cells while eluding the immune system’s memory. “This is what we think happened to viruses that cause the common cold,” McLellan said. “It probably caused a major illness in the past. Then it evolved to a place where it’s less deadly. But, of course, it’s still with us.” It’s possible that a coronavirus that now causes the common cold, OC43, was responsible for the “Russian flu” of 1889, which killed a million people. But OC43, like other coronaviruses, became less dangerous with time. Today, most of us are exposed to OC43 and other endemic coronaviruses as children, and we experience only mild symptoms. For SARS-CoV-2, such a future could be years or decades away. [New Yorker]
Higher airborne pollen concentrations correlated with increased SARS-CoV-2 infection rates, as evidenced from 31 countries across the globe [...] We found that pollen, sometimes in synergy with humidity and temperature, explained, on average, 44% of the infection rate variability. Lockdown halved infection rates under similar pollen concentrations. [...] Pollen grains act on the very site of virus entry, the nasal epithelium, by inhibiting antiviral λ-IFN responses. [PNAS]
The first AI-written play, "AI: When a robot writes a play," tells the journey of a robot who goes out into the world to learn about society, human emotions, and even death. The script was created by a widely available artificial intelligence (AI) system called GPT-2. Created by Elon Musk’s company OpenAI, this “robot” is a computer model designed to generate text by drawing from the enormous repository of information available on the internet.
we developed an experimental “stock market”’ task in which cohorts of 4 rats drove asset prices up and down by selecting and subsequently buying, selling, or holding “stocks” to earn sweet liquid reward. [...] Rats’ choice of the sell option demonstrated a robust tendency toward realizing gains more quickly than losses, which is characteristic of the “disposition effect” in human stock markets. Our results indicate that rats exhibit behavioral biases similar to human investors
The essence of zero-knowledge proofs is that it is trivial to prove that one possesses knowledge of certain information by simply revealing it; the challenge is to prove such possession without revealing the information itself or any additional information
How do you access the contents of a safe without ever opening its lock or otherwise getting inside? This riddle may seem confounding, but its digital equivalent is now so solvable that it’s becoming a business plan. IBM is the latest innovator to tackle the well-studied cryptographic technique called fully homomorphic encryption (FHE), which allows for the processing of encrypted files without ever needing to decrypt them first.
Recently, a botnet that researchers have been following for about two years began using a new way to prevent command-and-control server takedowns: by camouflaging one of its IP addresses in the bitcoin blockchain.
as restaurants increasingly receive takeout orders online and through apps, they face a new challenge called "friendly fraud" or "chargebacks." In the scam, a customer orders food, often through a delivery service, then receives their meal, but disputes the charge with their credit card company to get a refund.
Forty-three percent of Americans shopping online experienced package theft last year, up from 36 percent in 2019[NY Times]
Tens of millions of people around the globe consider themselves creators, and the creator economy represents the “fastest-growing type of small business” [...] But as the market gets more and more competitive creators are devising new, hyper-specific revenue streams. [...] For example, a creator can use NewNew to post a poll asking which sweater they should wear today, or who they should hang out with and where they should go. Fans purchase voting power on NewNew’s platform to participate in the polls, and with enough voting power, they get to watch their favorite influencer live out their wishes, like a real life choose-your-own-adventure game. [...] “Have you ever wanted to control my life?” Lev Cameron, 15, a TikToker with 3.3 million followers, asked in a recent video posted to NewNew. “Now is your time. You can actually control things I do throughout the day and vote on it and then I will show you if I end up doing the stuff you voted for.” [NY Times]
Arnold came across something called the Paranormal Challenge, a contest offering $250,000 to anyone offering indisputable proof of supernatural abilities. Over the years it’s devised experiments to test people who claim they can read minds, dim lights with the power of their brains, and peer, X-ray-like, through people’s skin. So far none have passed the test or claimed the prize.
One of the most active QAnon networks is in Japan, where followers believe the imperial family has been replaced by body doubles and suggest that World War II-era Emperor Hirohito was a CIA or British agent who owned the patent for the atomic bombs that devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki. [..] QAnon also has enormous support in Britain. A survey by civic group Hope Not Hate last year found that 26 percent of Britons believed prominent public figures are part of a pedophile child-trafficking network, while an additional 17 percent said that the pandemic is part of a “depopulation plan” — another favorite QAnon belief around the world. [Washington Post]
Silicon Valley-backed groups sue Maryland to kill country’s first-ever online advertising tax [Washington Post]
Queen Elizabeth [...] a public servant, and an annual recipient of the taxpayer-funded sovereign grant -- valued at $107.1 million (£82.2 million) in 2019
Banks in Germany Tell Customers to Take Deposits Elsewhere -- Interest rates have been negative in Europe for years. But it took the flood of savings unleashed in the pandemic for banks finally to charge depositors in earnest.
The guidance is for members of the office. It is meant to help them in their task of making it as easy as possible for readers to understand the Bills that we produce. [PDF]
Murderers benefits from expressing guilt and deontological beliefs -- Even if participants judged a person who murdered their parents or many innocent people in a terrorist plane attack.
Back in the 1980s, when DNA forensic analysis was still in its infancy, crime labs needed a speck of bodily fluid—usually blood, semen, or spit—to generate a genetic profile. That changed in 1997, when Australian forensic scientist Roland van Oorschot stunned the criminal justice world with a nine-paragraph paper titled “DNA Fingerprints from Fingerprints.” It revealed that DNA could be detected not just from bodily fluids but from traces left by a touch. Investigators across the globe began scouring crime scenes for anything—a doorknob, a countertop, a knife handle—that a perpetrator may have tainted with incriminating “touch” DNA. But van Oorschot’s paper also contained a vital observation: Some people’s DNA appeared on things that they had never touched. […] In one of his lab’s experiments, for instance, volunteers sat at a table and shared a jug of juice. After 20 minutes of chatting and sipping, swabs were deployed on their hands, the chairs, the table, the jug, and the juice glasses, then tested for genetic material. Although the volunteers never touched each other, 50 percent wound up with another’s DNA on their hand. A third of the glasses bore the DNA of volunteers who did not touch or drink from them. Then there was the foreign DNA—profiles that didn’t match any of the juice drinkers. It turned up on about half of the chairs and glasses, and all over the participants’ hands and the table. The only explanation: The participants unwittingly brought with them alien genes, perhaps from the lover they kissed that morning, the stranger with whom they had shared a bus grip, or the barista who handed them an afternoon latte. [Wired]
Stanford researchers identify four causes for ‘Zoom fatigue’ and their simple fixes (Excessive amounts of close-up eye contact is highly intense. Seeing yourself during video chats constantly in real-time is fatiguing. Video chats dramatically reduce our usual mobility. The cognitive load is much higher in video chats.)
“Can only have been painted by a madman” -- Inscription on ‘The Scream’ That Baffled Experts for Decades Was Written by Edvard Munch Himself, New Research Shows
Bird migration forecasts in real-time -- When, where, and how far will birds migrate?
Fisher-Price® My Home Office -- Better grab a latte to go, that report is due this morning