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Square letters with text DOUBT and TRUST

Researchers: If We Tell Folks More About Science, They Trust Less

Part 3: The researchers argue that doubts about science arise from conflict with beliefs. The many COVID-19 debacles suggest other causes…

We’ve been looking (here and here) at a summary at a science news site of a paper that bemoans the decline of trust in science. The author did a good job and doubtless means well. But the outcome — unintentionally — typifies the reasons so many people distrust claims made on behalf of science. For example, the third factor for distrust that we are asked to consider is that information we learn from science sources can go against our personal beliefs: “Scientific information can be difficult to swallow, and many individuals would sooner reject the evidence than accept information that suggests they might have been wrong,” the team wrote in their paper. “This inclination is wholly understandable, and scientists should…

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Confident mature man in elegant shirt and tie telling something while making social media video

How Social Media Are Changing Politics From the Ground Up

Campaigns are much and easier to organize online so lawmakers may be hearing from people they didn’t used to

The internet has been a boon for citizen lobbyists. Everyone from societies for animal protection through environment activists and legal pot activists is offering tips, primers, and courses to those who want to influence government without quitting their day job and moving to the capital. . European law prof Alberto Alemanno spotted the trend and wrote a book about it, Lobbying for Change: Find Your Voice to Create a Better Society (2017): Participation now happens with little cost or effort. And it means that a greater number of citizens – who have traditionally not participated – are becoming more politically active, or at least more open to persuasion by those that are. People have also become politically more promiscuous. Today’s…

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Cyborg hologram watching a subway interior 3D rendering

Big Brother Is Watching You (And Trying to Read Your Mind)

Chinese researchers now claim to have developed technology that can read our minds

One of the most popular story lines in the widely acclaimed television show The Good Wife (2009–2016) is when National Security Agency (NSA) techies entertain themselves by eavesdropping on the heroine’s personal life. It clearly resonated with viewers and reinforced the fears of many that the NSA might be listening to their conversations. Indeed, they might be. In 2013 James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, was asked by U.S. Senator Ron Wyden about whether NSA collects “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.” Clapper answered, under oath, “No sir, not wittingly.” Clapper had been informed the day before that he would be asked this question and he was offered an opportunity the day…

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coconut octopus underwater macro portrait on sand

Jumping Genes … A New Clue to Octopus Intelligence?

Despite being very different, the human brain and the octopus brain share the same sort of jumping genes

The fact that octopuses are unusually intelligent (like mammals) — even though they are solitary invertebrates — means that they now receive some protection against cruelty. Protection that no one bothers about for, say, clams and oysters. But the science puzzle remains. How did octopuses and some of their close kin among the cephalopods get so smart? Theories about how mammals and birds got to be smart may not work here. A recent paper adds a little more information to the controversy. Studying the common octopus and the California octopus, researchers found that the same “jumping genes” are active in the octopus brain as in the human one — even though the two types of brain are very different. Jumping…

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Young amateur football fan supporters cheering with confetti watching local soccer cup match at stadium - Friends people group on green t shirts having excited fun on sport world championship final

Researchers: Distrust of Science Is Due to Tribal Loyalty

In Part 2 of 4, we look at a claim arising from a recent study: We blindly believe those we identify with, ignoring the wisdom of science

Recently, a paper lamenting the decline of trust in science was discussed at ScienceAlert, a science news site. In representing the paper—doubtless accurately — for a lay audience, the write-up embodies the causes of legitimate public distrust. That is worth dissecting in more detail. Yesterday, we looked at the write-up in light of the government responses to COVID, which were all too often panicked reactions rather than trustworthy guidance. Then, in the wake of the debacle, the White House chose to set up a Disinformation Board to target non-government sources of alleged disinformation — which could only deepen existing distrust. We press on. The second point of four raised at ScienceAlert is that tribal loyalty is thought to create distrust…

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Icon group as speech bubble cloud

Twitter vs. Musk: The Many Different Ways the Story Could End

Twitter, which didn’t really want Musk, is now suing to make him its boss. They all hate each other. Can this work?

In the most recent episode of the Musk and Twitter show, Twitter was suing driverless car entrepreneur Elon Musk to compel him to buy the company at the original posted price — despite the fact that earlier, many employees didn’t want him to buy it at all. Also despite the fact that he says he no longer wants to. Readers, this is happening only because Big Tech stock values are way down. A useful article by technology reporter Alex Sherman at CNBC (July 11, 2022) identifies eight ways the saga could end, namely 1 and 4: Musk just ends up paying the $1B breakup fee or some other settlement and Twitter continues with its meltdowns and bot problems, as long…

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image on the wall of the cave painted by an ancient man. ancient world history. era, era.

Why Is Neanderthal Art Considered Controversial?

It makes sense that whenever humans started to wonder about life, we started to create art that helps us think about it.

Science writer Michael Marshall, author of The Genesis Quest (2020), tells us that many paleontologists resist the idea that early humans called Neanderthals created any artworks. They prefer to attributed all such works to groups that arrived on the scene later. The trouble is, the dates are often hard to determine and the reasoning is sometimes circular. As Marshall puts it, “People had assumed that they could tell the age of cave paintings by the style in which it was depicted,” says [Alistair] Pike. Ever since the first prehistoric art was found in the late 1800s, there has been a sense that art should evolve linearly: the oldest pieces should be extremely simple and abstract, with later ones becoming more…

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Abstract Computer generated Fractal design. 3D Illustration of a Beautiful infinite mathematical mandelbrot set fractal.

Recent Research: Imaginary Numbers Are Part of the Real World

If we try to leave them out of quantum mechanics, our description of nature becomes faulty

Imaginary numbers, beginning with the square roots of minus numbers, are part of the world in which we live, even though we can’t quite picture them. Try it. The square root of 1 is 1 (1 × 1 = 1). But what’s the square root of -1? It can’t be -1 because if we multiply -1 × -1, we still get 1. The two minus numbers cancel each other out. That’s why the square root of -1 is written as i. Now, here’s the odd part: Imaginary numbers are not just a conundrum; they are part of a science description of the world in which we live in: Though imaginary numbers have been integral to quantum theory since its very…

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総務省 検察庁 国家公安委員会

Why Many Now Reject Science… Do You Really Want To Know? Part 1

COVID demonstrated — as nothing else could — that the “science” was all over the map and didn’t help people avoid panic

A recent science news media release is an excellent and mercifully short illustration of what’s wrong with science today. That can’t have been what the study authors were trying to do but never mind. From ScienceAlert, we learn that distrust in science is a “massive problem” and that it has four sources. Here, let’s deal with their first source: First, they say, we have grown to distrust the information source: “Pro-science messages can acknowledge that there are valid concerns on the other side, but explain why the scientific position is preferable,” says Philipp-Muller. Tessa Koumondoros, “These 4 Factors Can Explain Why So Many People Are Rejecting Science” at ScienceAlert (July 16, 2022) The paper requires a fee or subscription. What?…

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businessman and technology

Sci-Fi Predictions for the Future That Really Happened

The 1950s was often right too. It may depend on how badly we need something to happen

Last week, we looked at a 1964 prediction of life in the 2020s that definitely did not happen: chimpanzees driving cars and doing housework. Back then, people who recognized that chimpanzees were intelligent seem to have known little about their natural characteristics. But in fairness, many predictions did come to pass, including the pocket-sized phone that could relay facial images, predicted in a 1956 magazine article: The journalist, Robert Beason, wrote about features such as touchtone dialing, video calling, voice recognition and small colour screens capable of being used as tiny televisions, built into compact devices. His interviewee, Harold Osborne, the retiring chief engineer of American Telephone & Telegraph also foresaw other common features of modern smartphones, such as quick…

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Planets and exoplanets of unexplored galaxies. Sci-Fi. New worlds to discover. Colonization and exploration of nebulae and galaxies

Some Cold Giant Planets May Be Habitable, Researchers Say

Life could exist outside the expected habitable zone if a massive planet can hang onto insulating gases in its atmosphere

Rocky exoplanets with an atmosphere of hydrogen and helium gases could have liquid water on the surface, like Jupiter’s moon Europa, and could thus host life. The question is whether the surface water sticks around long on “cold super-Earths,” that are ten times the mass of our planet: Now, new calculations described in a paper published Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy suggest that the surface conditions of these worlds could have been temperate for more than enough time for life—for 5 billion to 8 billion years. Earth is only about 4.5 billion years old, by comparison, and life emerged here about 3.7 billion years ago. Eva Botkin-Kowacki, “We may be underestimating how many cold, giant planets are habitable” at…

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Doctor Strange is Coming

Do Life History or Moral Choices Matter in a Multiverse?

In this third part of my extended review of Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, I look at how characters suddenly alter with no accounting

Last week we covered the first scene of Multiverse of Madness (2022). This week, we’ll try to move a little faster. After a travesty of an opening scene, Doctor Strange wakes up from his dream about the multiverse just in time for his former girlfriend Christine’s wedding. Strange tries to be happy for her but it’s clear he’s not in a good humor. However, he doesn’t get to brood for long because a sudden attack from a random monster occurs in the city, and he flies off to save the day. During this fight, he discovers America Chavez. With some help from Wong, they manage to slay the monster and lead her to safety at a local restaurant… because, apparently,…

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Joyful little girl smelling self made croissants with mom

The Nose Really Does Know, It Turns Out…

But we usually don’t notice. Our sense of smell may have declined in recent millennia but it is sharper than we think

Anthropologist Sarah Ives reflects on the experiences of people whose sense of smell fell victim to COVID-19: Melissa, a New York–based podcaster, realized how crucial scent is for safety when she lost her sense of smell. “I kept burning stuff on the stove,” she says. “I’ve sent rotten turkey to school with my kid. I have thought, What if I end up dying because I can’t smell something dangerous, like knowing whether you are going to burn the house down? I’ve literally almost done it three times. There are flames, and I’m just sitting in the other room.” Sarah Ives, “What the Anthropology of Smell Reveals About Humanity” at Sapiens (June 30, 2022) Anosmia, the loss of a sense of…

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One round power on and off button

Taking Our Lives Back from Big Tech, a Step at a Time

If we don’t have the time to stop and reflect because we are too busy checking our social media…

In a recent podcast, “Weaving the Technology of Our Lives” (July 14, 2022), Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviewed tech and culture writer Andrew McDiarmid on the deep ways Big Tech governs our lives — ways of which we are often unaware — and concrete steps for taking control back: https://mindmatters.ai/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2022/07/Mind-Matters-195-Andrew-McDiarmid.mp3 Here’s a partial transcript and notes. Additional Resources follow: Robert J. Marks: We have been talking about Jacques Ellul’s concept of technique… Andrew McDiarmid: Well, Jacques Ellul was a French sociologist, theologian, and philosopher of technology … Ellul’s lifetime spanned almost the entire 20th century, 1911 to 1994. He wrote books and articles throughout his career on how he saw technology impacting the “human adventure,” as he…

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Chinese fortune cookies. Cookies with empty blank inside for prediction words. Blue background.

We Love Baseball Because of — Not Despite — Lady Luck

With a big game approaching, emotions run high so let’s heed some statistical realities

As we approach the MLB All-Star Game in Los Angeles on July 19, we can be confident of one thing — most current league leaders will not do as well after the break as they did before it. Baseball broadcaster and National Sportswriter of the Year Peter Gammons was among the first to notice this. He wrote in 1989 that, of those baseball players who hit more than 20 home runs before the All-Star break, 90 percent pegged fewer than 20 after the break. Gammons concluded that there was a “second-half power outage,” perhaps because the sluggers got nervous about the possibility of breaking a home run record. More recently, sports forecaster Max Kaplan made a similar observation, which he…

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Group of cute smart dolphins in the ocean

Why Some Life Forms Are Smarter Than Others Is Still a Mystery

Brains are not simple so many “just common sense” theories have fallen by the wayside

As biologist John Timmer notes at Ars Technica, some life forms appear much more intelligent than others despite having brains of roughly the same size: Animals with very different brains from ours—a species of octopus and various birds—engage with tools, to give just one example. It seems intuitive that a brain needs a certain level of size and sophistication to enable intelligence. But figuring out why some species seem to have intelligence while closely related ones don’t has proven difficult—so difficult that we don’t really understand it. John Timmer, “Brain size vs. body size and the roots of intelligence” at Ars Technica (July 12, 2022) As he points out, some things we might expect to be true — puzzlingly —…

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3D Rendering of binary tunnel with led leading light. Concept for data mining, big data visualization, machine learning, data discovery technology, customer product analysis.

Deep Web? Dark Web? What’s Dangerous? What’s to Know?

The Deep Web hosts information like bank statements and health records so a search on your name won't turn them up

The terms deep and dark sound glamorous and forbidding, maybe criminal. Both terms just mean that we can’t reach a site on that portion of the web via a conventional search engine. The Surface Web, the part that we can reach via a conventional search engine like Google, DuckDuckGo, or Brave, is estimated roughly to be 0.03% of the internet (Britannica). The Deep Web contains email accounts, bank statements, health records, and other services that can only be accessed by passwords. It’s the main reason that our private business can’t be accessed just by searching on our names. Both the Surface Web and the Deep Web are growing as more people go online. Now, about the Dark Web: By comparison,…

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A classy and gorgeous mestiza woman in a student uniform with bow tie. Serious pensive look in her eyes. Outdoor scene.

Neuroscientists: Our Brains May Detect Deepfakes When Minds Don’t

Using electroencephalography, researchers found that brains may be spotting something that minds miss

In an interesting series of experiments using electroencephalography (EEG), University of Sydney neuroscientists found that our brains are sometimes alerted to computer-generated fakes when our minds really don’t know: When looking at participants’ brain activity, the University of Sydney researchers found deepfakes could be identified 54 percent of the time. However, when participants were asked to verbally identify the deepfakes, they could only do this 37 percent of the time. “Although the brain accuracy rate in this study is low – 54 percent – it is statistically reliable,” said senior researcher Associate Professor Thomas Carlson, from the University of Sydney’s School of Psychology. “That tells us the brain can spot the difference between deepfakes and authentic images.” University of Sydney,…

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Hacking and malware concept

Largest Data Grab Ever Stole Shanghai’s Mass State Surveillance

The police, dutiful in monitoring everyone, flunked data security. Now it’s all for sale on the Dark Web

Beijing wants to create a centralized database with personal information on everyone living in China. To do that, the government saves massive amounts of data acquired through surveillance technologies such facial and voice recognition and cell phone monitoring. In a previous article, we saw that the Chinese government’s surveillance network is much more extensive than once thought. However, while the Chinese government has prioritized collecting massive amounts of data, it has not prioritized protecting it. Thus, a hacker has acquired police data files on 1 billion Chinese residents (approximately 23 terabytes of data) from the Shanghai National Police database. The files include name, national ID number, cell phone number, birthdate, birthplace, ethnicity, education level, marital status, and delivery records. They…

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Black male person in warm denim jacket uses smartphone to pay for purchase at self-checkout point in supermarket close view

Could the Self-Checkout Ruin Your Reputation?

As Big Retail’s war on shoplifting goes digital, honest customers risk getting nabbed for goofs — and then facing a shakedown

In 2018, it was noted at The Atlantic that shoplifting via self-serve checkouts was common. How does it work? Self-checkout theft has become so widespread that a whole lingo has sprung up to describe its tactics. Ringing up a T-bone ($13.99/lb) with a code for a cheap ($0.49/lb) variety of produce is “the banana trick.” If a can of Illy espresso leaves the conveyor belt without being scanned, that’s called “the pass around.” “The switcheroo” is more labor-intensive: Peel the sticker off something inexpensive and place it over the bar code of something pricey. Just make sure both items are about the same weight, to avoid triggering that pesky “unexpected item” alert in the bagging area. Rene Chun, “The Banana…