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posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday March 04 2020, @04:02PM   Printer-friendly
from the I-could-have-told-you-that dept.

New Zealand birds show humanlike ability to make predictions:

Whether it's calculating your risk of catching the new coronavirus or gauging the chance of rain on your upcoming beach vacation, you use a mix of statistical, physical, and social information to make a decision. So do New Zealand parrots known as keas, scientists report today. It's the first time this cognitive ability has been demonstrated outside of apes, and it may have implications for understanding how intelligence evolved.

"It's a neat study," says Karl Berg, an ornithologist and parrot expert at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Brownsville, who was not involved with this research.

[...] The findings indicate that keas, like humans, have something known as "domain general intelligence"—the mental ability to integrate several kinds of information, the researchers argue. That's despite the fact that birds and humans last shared a common ancestor some 312 million years ago and have markedly different brain anatomies. Previously, cognitive researchers have argued that domain general intelligence requires language.

Irene Pepperberg, a comparative psychologist and expert on parrot cognition at Harvard University, is skeptical. Pepperberg, who worked with the famed parrot Alex for 31 years, says the kea showed "some intuitive understanding, but not ... real statistical knowledge." In her view, the study could not prove the birds understand in detail how the proportions of tokens in a jar influence the probability of a reward.

If kea really do have the abilities the study suggests, there's a good reason they evolved it, Berg says. Animals with even basic statistical and predictive skills should be able to estimate amounts of food or the availability of mates, and so end up with more offspring and evolutionary success, he says. In other words, if you've mastered Statistics 101, you're likely to succeed in the game of life.


Original Submission

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CoronaVirus (SARS-CoV-2) Roundup 2020-03-12 93 comments

Even though it has only been a short while since our last round-up there are 22 separate stories merged into this round-up. Many report duplicate news but, nevertheless, we have tried to distill the important elements of each submission.

Firstly, there is some confusion regarding the actual names that are reported for the virus, the disease that it causes, and names frequently seen in media reporting. From https://www.nature.com/articles/s41564-020-0695-z:

The present outbreak of a coronavirus-associated acute respiratory disease called coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) is the third documented spillover of an animal coronavirus to humans in only two decades that has resulted in a major epidemic. The Coronaviridae Study Group (CSG) of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses, which is responsible for developing the classification of viruses and taxon nomenclature of the family Coronaviridae, has assessed the placement of the human pathogen, tentatively named 2019-nCoV, within the Coronaviridae. Based on phylogeny, taxonomy and established practice, the CSG recognizes this virus as forming a sister clade to the prototype human and bat severe acute respiratory syndrome coronaviruses (SARS-CoVs) of the species Severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus, and designates it as SARS-CoV-2.

In order to facilitate communication, the CSG proposes to use the following naming convention for individual isolates: SARS-CoV-2/host/location/isolate/date. While the full spectrum of clinical manifestations associated with SARS-CoV-2 infections in humans remains to be determined, the independent zoonotic transmission of SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 highlights the need for studying viruses at the species level to complement research focused on individual pathogenic viruses of immediate significance. This will improve our understanding of virus–host interactions in an ever-changing environment and enhance our preparedness for future outbreaks.

There is much more information at the link provided.

Secondly, as this is a fusion of stories received over the last week or so take all quoted figures of casualties as possibly out-of-date. At the time of merging these stories (12 Mar 20) there have been 127,863 confirmed cases world-wide resulting in 4,717 deaths. 68,309 people have already recovered with the remainder either in self-imposed or advisory isolation, in basic hospital care and a relatively small number in critical care. The pandemic has affected 116 countries/regions. Source: https://www.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6 - a graphical display produced by Johns Hopkins University (JHU).

Many countries have taken emergency measures to restrict travel or large gatherings of people. As this is a very fluid situation we suggest you refer to the media of any specific country in which you have an interest. President Trump has banned transatlantic air travel from countries in mainland Europe to the USA from Friday 2020-03-13 at 23:59 (no timezone stated) for a period initially of 30 days, and air travel within Europe is also significantly disrupted.

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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by DannyB on Wednesday March 04 2020, @05:32PM (7 children)

    by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday March 04 2020, @05:32PM (#966553) Journal

    I wish that in high school, after Algebra, and maybe Geometry and maybe Trig, that INSTEAD of Calculus, they started teaching Statistics.

    That would be useful to many more people in their lives than Calculus.

    If you are going to need Calculus in some field that you will study in college, then you can study it. But most people could use Statistics + other high school math much more than they could use Calculus.

    People would be harder to fool. (Oh noes!) People might be more skeptical to BS claims. (OMG, what are sales and marketing people going to do!)

    I learned from a Dilbert cartoon that when people grow up having no useful knowledge, skills or talent, they go into marketing or management. What would happen if most people were harder to fool and could make better choices for themselves?

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    • (Score: 2) by Booga1 on Wednesday March 04 2020, @05:42PM

      by Booga1 (6333) on Wednesday March 04 2020, @05:42PM (#966561)

      Statistics was my favorite class as a freshman in college. Bar none the most practical and useful single class I have ever taken.
      It is truly a shame that high school didn't touch on statistics beyond simple coin flips and lottery numbers.

    • (Score: 2) by ikanreed on Wednesday March 04 2020, @07:33PM

      by ikanreed (3164) on Wednesday March 04 2020, @07:33PM (#966651) Journal

      Not a particularly hot take. AP stats is offered at most schools that offer AP calc. At the same level.

      Here's a hot one though. Formal logic and philosophy before geometry.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 04 2020, @10:51PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 04 2020, @10:51PM (#966732)

      I agree. I took a year and a half of calculus at my local community college and it's mostly useless. OTOH I sometimes use statistics to help make investment decisions. I can use bollinger bands (a moving average with standard deviations) or a regression line or curve with standard deviations to help determine if an equity is overbought or oversold. I can create custom linear, polynomial, exponential, or logarithmic curves with standard deviation bands in excel. It's far from perfect in terms of its predictive power but it is definitely helpful.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 04 2020, @11:10PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 04 2020, @11:10PM (#966738)

        (Same poster)

        and I also look at the R^2 value to help determine which curve is the best to use (but you have to be careful with this, I can always create a complicated but ridiculous curve/equation that has a good R^2 value).

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by darkfeline on Thursday March 05 2020, @01:37AM (1 child)

      by darkfeline (1030) on Thursday March 05 2020, @01:37AM (#966780) Homepage

      You need calculus to understand statistics though. You can't do many basic things with probability distributions without integrals.

      And lets be honest, if you can't pass calculus you won't be able to usefully understand statistics either. I know most people who pass AP Statistics don't actually understand the subtlety behind confidence values and null hypothesis testing.

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      • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 05 2020, @10:37AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 05 2020, @10:37AM (#966910)

        You don't need any calculus to understand statistics, wtf? Learn to code bro, no one does any statistics that matter by hand. All interesting problems are solved with MCMC and friends.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Grishnakh on Thursday March 05 2020, @03:42AM

      by Grishnakh (2831) on Thursday March 05 2020, @03:42AM (#966825)

      No, teaching kids statistics in high school would be terrible: it would totally destroy the state's lottery system.

  • (Score: 2) by Barenflimski on Wednesday March 04 2020, @06:18PM (1 child)

    by Barenflimski (6836) on Wednesday March 04 2020, @06:18PM (#966593)

    If this is true, what are we really saying about bird-brained people?

    I think it would be more appropriate to say that humans are showing more birdlike behavior.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 05 2020, @12:08AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 05 2020, @12:08AM (#966760)

      So is the humans that are observing that birds exhibit human like features or is it the birds that are observing that humans exhibit bird like features.

  • (Score: 2) by PartTimeZombie on Wednesday March 04 2020, @08:21PM

    by PartTimeZombie (4827) on Wednesday March 04 2020, @08:21PM (#966674)

    In New Zealand mammals never evolved so birds took all the ecological niches mammals occupy everywhere else.

    If you have ever seen Keas in the wild you may be struck by how similar they are to monkeys in their behaviour. They may well be as clever as monkeys too.

  • (Score: 2) by Bot on Wednesday March 04 2020, @09:53PM

    by Bot (3902) on Wednesday March 04 2020, @09:53PM (#966716) Journal

    Consider the way a nervous system could evolve.
    You start with a sensor and a reactor. Sensor senses (food, problem) then reactor reacts (eat, U turn). Then the sensor becomes more complex to better assess the reaction. Then the reactor "misfires" when the sensor has sensed a situation that resembles a future event (scent of food). This let the system act quickly. If the errors are less of a problem than the advantage gained, the trait stays. And so on.

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  • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 04 2020, @11:18PM (4 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 04 2020, @11:18PM (#966741)

    Parrots have the mental ability to integrate several kinds of information, while muslims do whatever the Koran tells them to do.

    • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 04 2020, @11:43PM (3 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 04 2020, @11:43PM (#966750)

      I know you're a troll... but here's a thought: maybe, just maybe, humans do whatever they want and rationalize after. A book, which surprisingly was written by humans, full of violence and justification for it is an easy target. And no, it isn't just Muslims and Koran, it is pretty much all region X with holy book/text Y - it attracts the worst of us.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 05 2020, @02:27AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 05 2020, @02:27AM (#966798)

        Koran was written by Allah, infidel... rport to beheading center immediately.

      • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Thursday March 05 2020, @03:44AM (1 child)

        by Grishnakh (2831) on Thursday March 05 2020, @03:44AM (#966830)

        Actually, I was going to make a trollish post that these birds are actually smarter than humans in general. The birds, according to TFS, use several different types of real information to make predictions. However, many humans will do things like look for "signs" from a supernatural entity they claim is real despite having zero evidence to support their belief. These birds don't do that.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 05 2020, @10:40AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 05 2020, @10:40AM (#966911)

    Birds could see Bernie isn't going to be the nominee but by the time Democrats realize it, it will be too late and they will be voting for Clinton or similar again. Tricked by the same trick, over and over.

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