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Science is a messy, error fraught business, which is why reproducibility is so essential. Unfortunately, that doesn't appear to be one of psychology's strong suits, according to a massive analysis published yesterday in Science.
A years-long effort to reproduce more than 100 psychology studies across three leading journals paints a pretty dismal picture. When re-tested by independent research psychologists, the conclusions of more than 60 studies on personality, relationships, learning, and memory, turned out to be far less whelming. Strongly significant findings often became weaker, while weakly significant findings became non-existent.
[Source]: The New York Times
A little Lactobacillus for the weekend? NPR has an article about the increasing use of kettle souring by breweries:
If you're tuned into the world of beer, you may be aware of sour beers — a loosely defined style that has been made for centuries but is gaining fresh appreciation in today's craft beer renaissance. Brewers make these beers by deliberately adding bacteria and, sometimes, wild yeast to the brew, then letting them age slowly. It sounds weird, but sours can be delicious — tart and earthy, and redolent of things like leather, fruit and wood.
They're also very hard to make, requiring months or years of letting the beer gradually mature in the cellar. And all the while, brewers must take extra precautions to prevent the souring microbes from bursting out and contaminating the rest of their nonsour beers — a major logistical hitch and expense. That's why some brewers refuse to make sours: They're too much trouble. And those who do make them sell the beers at high prices, often $5 or $6 for a dainty 6-ounce sample. But a technique that makes brewing sour beers fast and easy is trending across America — making sours much more affordable. The technique is called kettle souring, and it allows brewers to produce a mouth-puckering sour in about the same time it takes to make any other beer. The result can be generous pours of acidic, face-twistingly refreshing beer for the standard price of a pint.
[...] Kettle-soured beers use some of the same critters as traditional sours to achieve a crisp, sharp tang: bacteria of the Lactobacillus genus, which munch on the sugars in beer and convert them into acids, while also turning out flavors and aromas. Some brewers will even use a dollop of yogurt made with Lactobacillus cultures to kettle sour their beers. (Traditional sours often also use Pediococcus bacteria and Brettanomyces yeast, but right now, most brewers who use kettle souring rely on Lactobacillus.)
But the key reason kettle-soured beers can be made cheaper is a change in the usual order of operations. With traditional souring, the microbes are added after the beer has fermented. That means hop oils and alcohol are already present in the beer. But hops can hinder bacteria, and alcohol slows down yeast. That's one main reason why the traditional souring process can take a long, long time — and part of the reason sour beers are intentionally made with few or no hops.
By contrast, with kettle souring, the microbes are added before the beer is fermented, so they can do their job quickly — literally, overnight in some cases, according to Lance Shaner, co-owner of Omega Yeast Labs, a company in Chicago that sells liquid Lactobacillus culture. Even when the souring takes several days, it's still lightning fast compared with barrel souring. Once the beer hits the desired level of acidity, it is then boiled to kill the souring agent. That eliminates the need for added safeguards — like a whole separate set of brewing equipment — to keep the microbes from escaping and unintentionally fouling other beers in the same brewery. The kettle-soured beer is then fermented and hopped, as usual. All in all, kettle souring means less cost, and less time. "So you're only adding an extra day to the production time," says Ben Love, the brewer at Gigantic Brewing.
[...] Jeff Grant, the owner and brewer at Draught Works, is also a fan of making kettle-soured beer, but he doesn't make them as stand-alone brews. Rather, Grant has been using his kettle-soured beer as an acidic blending ingredient to add to other beers. Edmunds, at Breakside Brewery, uses the same technique — much the way winemakers combine different wines to create a final product. "[Kettle souring] is an awesome tool for brewers to keep in their back pocket to add acidity to a beer," Edmunds says. He adds that kettle souring makes a unique and very simple style of its own — but it doesn't compare to traditional sour styles, like lambics and Flanders red ales. In fact, Edmunds says he is a little worried that brewers might try to use kettle souring to produce fast and simplified renditions of these slow-soured styles. "I really hope that brewers who embrace kettle souring see that it's not just a replacement for all those other aging processes that take more time, and which took hundreds of years to develop."
Ars has an interesting article on how a NASA production facility survived Hurricane Katrina and kept the Space Shuttle Program going.
Wood was the facilities director at the time, and as he saw it, drainage was never the issue. The facilities' drainage system could hold a certain amount of water and, given some amount of time, that would eventually flow out. But if the pumps quit at all while the water was still coming, that calculation suddenly gets tragically out of balance.
So that night, the team had to make a decision. It was possible to change the speed of the pumps, but they were water-cooled devices, and pushing them too hard ran the risk of overheating and failure. Ultimately, Wood and company chose to push the throttle—it worked out.
"I never thought there'd be a risk, but the way it was raining, you could look at the roadways and know you were never going to pump that," Wood says. "Our calculation was roughly a billion gallons of water swept out, so we kept the pumps going because you always had some kind of seepage coming back."
That next morning, the Michoud ride out team learned it had accomplished its primary task: the facility wasn't underwater. However, it was seemingly the only thing on Old Gentilly Road—the main manufacturing drag of Michoud—that wasn't.
Rice University scientists have made a living circuit from multiple types of bacteria that prompts the bacteria to cooperate to change protein expression.
"The main push in synthetic biology has been to engineer single cells," Bennett said. "But now we're moving toward multicellular systems. We want cells to coordinate their behaviors in order to elicit a populational response, just the way our bodies do."
Bennett and his colleagues achieved their goal by engineering common Escherichia coli bacteria. By creating and mixing two genetically distinct populations, they prompted the bacteria to form a consortium.
The bacteria worked together by doing opposite tasks: One was an activator that up-regulated the expression of targeted genes, and the other was a repressor that down-regulated genes. Together, they created oscillations -- rhythmic peaks and valleys -- of gene transcription in the bacterial population.
The idea is to create "consortia" of engineered bacteria whose products can be switched on and off using chemical signals. Patients would ingest the consortia to treat conditions, and physicians would control the activity of the consortia by feeding the patients yogurt carrying control chemicals.
Despite dispute over the very existence of the syndrome, it has emerged that a French court has recognised a 39-year-old woman's disability claim for "hypersensitivity to electromagnetic waves".
In the first case of its kind in France, the Toulouse court awarded Martine Richard €800 ($900) a month for three years - according to Robin des Toits, an organisation that campaigns on behalf of sufferers. Electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS or électrosensibilité in French) is purportedly caused by exposure to electromagnetic fields such as those generated by WiFi and mobile phones.
In a statement on Wednesday, Étienne Cendrier, Robin des Toits spokesman, hailed the news as a victory, saying: "We can no longer say that it is a psychiatric illness." Victims of EHS say it causes headaches, joint pain, sleep disruption and dozens of other varying symptoms. Nonetheless the World Health Organisation has no clear diagnostic criteria for the condition.
Richard, a former playwright and radio documentary director from Marseille, says she is now forced to live in a remote part of the Pyrenees, without electricity, to escape from electromagnetic fields.
The French National Agency for Health Safety of Food, Environment and Labour (ANSES) accepts that those claiming électrosensibilité have real symptoms, but note the absence of "an experimentally reproducible causal link" to electromagnetic waves. A report is due in early 2016.
[Editors note: If you want to see an extreme case of this portrayed, check out Chuck in the first season of Better Call Saul}.
If Google sees that you're searching for specific programming terms, they may ask you to apply for a job as Max Rossett writes that three months ago while working on a project, he Googled “python lambda function list comprehension.” The familiar blue links appeared on the search page, and he started to look for the most relevant one. But then something unusual happened. The search results split and folded back to reveal a box that said “You’re speaking our language. Up for a challenge?” Clicking on the link took Rossett to a page called "foo.bar" that outlined a programming challenge and gave instructions on how to submit his solution. "I had 48 hours to solve it, and the timer was ticking," writes Rossett. "I had the option to code in Python or Java. I set to work and solved the first problem in a couple hours. Each time I submitted a solution, foo.bar tested my code against five hidden test cases."
After solving another five problems the page gave Rossett the option to submit his contact information and much to his surprise, a recruiter emailed him a couple days later asking for a copy of his resume. Three months after the mysterious invitation appeared, Rossett started at Google. Apparently Google has been using this recruiting tactic for some time. "Foo.bar is a brilliant recruiting tactic," concludes Rossett. "Overall, I enjoyed the puzzles that they gave me to solve, and I’m excited for my first day as a Googler."
According to the Columbia Daily Tribune, some businesses in Columbia, Missouri, wanted to create a Community Improvement District (CID) and pay for improvements by a sales tax increase within the CID's borders.
The Columbia City Council established the district on a 5-2 vote in April in response to a petition from a group of property owners in the CID boundaries. The “qualified voters” in a CID are capable of levying various taxes or assessments within the boundaries of the district to fund improvement projects. Under state law, decisions to impose sales taxes in a CID are to be made by registered voters living in the district boundaries. If no such registered voters are present, property owners vote.
The property owners drew the district to exclude registered voters so they could impose a sales tax and avoid additional property taxes. In their efforts, they overlooked a single graduate student who lives in the district, Jen Henderson. Now, she alone gets to decide the fate of the sales tax increase.
The CID Executive Director Carrie Gartner, who says the district is not viable without the sales tax increase, has approached Henderson.
[More after the break.]
A group of defense attorneys, including a public defender, will review over 1,900 cases in which Stingray cellphone tracking technology was used secretly. They plan to ask judges to throw out "a large number" of criminal convictions based on Stingray evidence. From USA Today:
Defense lawyers in Baltimore are examining nearly 2,000 cases in which the police secretly used powerful cellphone tracking devices, and they plan to ask judges to throw out "a large number" of criminal convictions as a result. "This is a crisis, and to me it needs to be addressed very quickly," said Baltimore's deputy public defender, Natalie Finegar, who is coordinating those challenges. "No stone is going to be left unturned at this point."
The move follows a USA TODAY investigation this week that revealed that Baltimore police have used cellphone trackers, commonly known as stingrays, to investigate crimes as minor as harassing phone calls, then concealed the surveillance from suspects and their lawyers. Maryland law generally requires that electronic surveillance be disclosed in court.
Finegar and others said they do not know how many criminal cases they ultimately will seek to reopen because of the secret phone tracking, but she expects it to be "a large number." The public defender's office is reviewing a surveillance log published by USA TODAY that lists more than 1,900 cases in which the police indicated they had used a stingray. It includes at least 200 public defender clients who were ultimately convicted of a crime.
Stingrays are suitcase-sized devices that allow the police to pinpoint a cellphone's location to within a few yards by posing as a cell tower. In the process, they also can intercept information from the phones of nearly everyone else who happens to be nearby.
[...] "This has really opened the floodgates," Baltimore defense lawyer Josh Insley said. He said he could start filing challenges to some of his clients' convictions by next week.
A spokeswoman for Baltimore's State's Attorney, Tammy Brown, said prosecutors will evaluate each challenge on its own merits. She agreed that prosecutors are required to tell defendants when the police use a stingray, but "we need to get that information first."
Overturning a criminal conviction is no small task. Before they can even ask judges to take that step, defense lawyers have to comb through the surveillance log to figure out which of their clients were targets of the phone tracking, then contact them in prison. "It's probably going to be a long process," ACLU attorney Nathan Wessler said. "But now at least you have defense lawyers who know what happened to their clients and can invoke the power of the courts to make sure that the Constitution was complied with."
Via The Register.
The article is entitled "Intel reveals big data's dirty little secret" but I read it a little bit differently.
From the article: "Companies are spending billions on tools and engineering to analyse big data, though many are hampered by one little problem: they still don't know what to do with all the data they collect."
This means that, of all the egregious breaches of personal privacy that companies regularly perform (the Target-knows-you're-pregnant-when-your-parents-don't story comes to mind), they have still only scratched the surface of making sense of your information, and using it effectively. Which means that, as Big Data gets people who actually know what they're doing, the more frightening the possibilities become, which is probably only a matter of time.
How would you feel about getting a bunch of targeted spam from divorce lawyers because your wife/husband's personal details were in the big Ashley Madison data leak, before you even heard about it? What if you were the guy who got drunk and put a profile up one time after a big fight but never followed up on it? This is why I don't have a Facebook account.
CNN reports that people who bought StarKist tuna between February 19, 2009 through October 31, 2014 can take home $25 in cash or $50 of tuna due to a class action lawsuit settlement claiming that StarKist put less tuna in their cans than advertised. Federal law requires 5 ounce cans to contain between 2.84-ounces and 3.23-ounces of tuna, depending on the type. The plaintiff, Patrick Hendricks, had independent testing done on the cans, determining that they had as much as 17.3 percent less tuna than the federally mandated minimum. StarKist must pay up to $8 million in cash and $4 million in food vouchers as part of the settlement in United States District Court in Northern California. StarKist did not admit fault but agreed to a settlement in which it will pay $8 million in cash and $4 million in vouchers to purchase StarKist tuna. People can sign up for the settlement at the lawsuit website. They don't need a receipt, but they will need to swear that they purchased the tuna.
Work in just about any big office and you have almost certainly been subjected to a semi-built corporate Sharepoint site your boss or the HR department hopes you will use rather than circulating important documents via email. And if you are like most tech-savvy folks, you have found it bafflingly difficult to use.
Microsoft hopes to correct that well-deserved reputation, and is launching a preview of Sharepoint Server 2016 to raise expectations about the new product.
Microsoft says its[sic] made “deep investment in HTML5” to give you “capabilities that enable device-specific targeting of content. This helps ensure that users have access to the information they need, regardless of the screen they choose to access it on.” And your users get a consistent experience whatever device they choose to wield, including on touch-enabled devices.
A new “cloud hybrid search” will permit users wielding “SharePoint Server 2013 and Office 365 to retrieve unified search results through a combined search index in Office 365. The index for that search resides in Office 365, one of many features billed as letting you take advantage of hybrid cloud. The idea is that your on-premises SharePoint can pop the index, or other data, into Microsoft's cloud so you get the on-prem[ises] performance you want without having to bulk out your servers. But of course you do get into PAYG territory with the cloud.
That certainly qualifies as what the Register calls "Buzzword Compliant" but maybe there's true improvement there, too. Search for the expression "Sharepoint sucks" today and you'll get 209,000 hits including this one. Stick around and see if next year Microsoft turns the corner and makes Sharepoint something people find useful and effective.
The Associated Press filed a lawsuit this morning, demanding the FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation] hand over information about its use of fake news stories. The case stems from a 2007 incident regarding a bomb threat at a school. The FBI created a fake news story with an Associated Press byline, then e-mailed it to a suspect to plant malware on his computer.
An Electronic Frontier Foundation FOIA request on a different matter revealed the strategy in 2011, but it wasn't made public until last year, when privacy researcher Chris Soghoian saw evidence of the operation in the documents and tweeted about it. That spurred both the AP and The Seattle Times to complain vocally about the FBI's behavior.
"The FBI both misappropriated the trusted name of The Associated Press and created a situation where our credibility could have been undermined on a large scale," AP General Counsel Karen Kaiser wrote in a letter to then-AG [Attorney General] Eric Holder last year.
It has been widely reported that the US government's illegal spying has cost tech companies a great deal of money and undermined their credibility with their customers. Will this case do the same for the press?
[translation mine] Arab Spring 2011: Young people take to the streets, they fight for a better life. Only when the movement grows do older people gain the courage to join them.
Why did the young people see the possibility for change, but not their elders? Network researchers believe to have found a reason: the young people were able to imagine that the majority of the people stood behind them. They were under the so-called "Illusion of Majority."
People orient themselves to the majority. However, what they take to be the majority is distorted through social networks, says Kristina Lerman of the University of Southern California: "Under certain requirements a minority opinion can appear to be extremely popular."
That depends on the structure of networks. The users don't know all participants, only a part - those people with whom they're connected. Whatever the majority of their friends do, they conclude the majority of participants do. They are then readier to join the perceived majority.
People who are particularly connected to others play an especially important role in the phenomenon of opinion formation. The full paper from Kristina Lerman is here.
Social networks mediated by technology can be disrupted by tech-savvy governments. As more social connections become purely online, will revolution in the future become impossible?
From The Guardian
Those who reject the 97% expert consensus on human-caused global warming often invoke Galileo as an example of when the scientific minority overturned the majority view. In reality, climate contrarians have almost nothing in common with Galileo, whose conclusions were based on empirical scientific evidence, supported by many scientific contemporaries, and persecuted by the religious-political establishment. Nevertheless, there's a slim chance that the 2–3% minority is correct and the 97% climate consensus is wrong.
To evaluate that possibility, a new paper published in the journal of Theoretical and Applied Climatology examines a selection of contrarian climate science research and attempts to replicate their results.
Alas the results weren't good for that 3%...
Cherry picking was the most common characteristic they shared. We found that many contrarian research papers omitted important contextual information or ignored key data that did not fit the research conclusions.
The article also notes,
..there is no cohesive, consistent alternative theory to human-caused global warming. Some blame global warming on the sun, others on orbital cycles of other planets, others on ocean cycles, and so on. There is a 97% expert consensus on a cohesive theory that's overwhelmingly supported by the scientific evidence, but the 2–3% of papers that reject that consensus are all over the map, even contradicting each other. The one thing they seem to have in common is methodological flaws like cherry picking, curve fitting, ignoring inconvenient data, and disregarding known physics.
In less than 25 years, the global sea level has gone up an average of three inches (eighty millimeters), and is rising faster than it was 50 years ago, according to a group of NASA scientists. Yesterday, NASA's Sea Level Change Team shared some of their findings, which includes data on sea levels measured from space using satellites.
Sea level rise isn't evenly distributed around the world. In some areas, the sea has risen as much as 9 inches (23 centimeters), while in other places the sea level has dropped. For example, on the West Coast of the United States sea levels have actually been lower over the past 20 years, due to temporary ocean cycles. But when these cycles end, the impact of climate change is expected to be seen.
NASA predicts that oceans will continue to rise at a considerable rate, about 0.1 inch (3.21 millimeters) per year on average. In 2013, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted sea level rise would be between one and four feet (0.3 to 1.2 meters) by the year 2100. NASA's data suggest the higher end of the range.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has an interactive map to show how sea level rise will affect different regions around the world.