Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Ridley’

How Technology Might Avert an Apocalypse

August 19th, 2012 08:58 admin View Comments

Earth

First time accepted submitter deapbluesea writes “Matt Ridley recounts the many predictions of catastrophe that have been made by prominent figures in the past. ‘The classic apocalypse has four horsemen, and our modern version follows that pattern, with the four riders being chemicals (DDT, CFCs, acid rain), diseases (bird flu, swine flu, SARS, AIDS, Ebola, mad cow disease), people (population, famine), and resources (oil, metals).’ From over population, to pandemics, peak oil to climate change, Ridley provides examples of human innovation that have averted the disasters, real or imagined. He does not declare the doomsayers to be wrong, merely hyperbolic in their predictions. ‘We hear a lot from those who think disaster is inexorable if not inevitable, and a lot from those who think it is all a hoax. We hardly ever allow the moderate “lukewarmers.”‘ Given the current discussions on rich vs poor, conservative vs liberal, religious versus non-religious, maybe a little moderation should be in order. After all, there are a lot of examples of ‘experts’ who got it completely wrong in the past.”

Source: How Technology Might Avert an Apocalypse

Why We Speak Freely on Social Networks

February 20th, 2012 02:30 admin View Comments

shutterstock_mindscape_150.jpgWe message on Facebook but in-person I’m awkward and you’re shy. When our Twitter conversation went from @ messages to direct messages, you seemed more reserved and I felt more open to speak my mind. Let’s follow each other on Pinterest and share the pictures that are in our mind. I just want to be in your head. I just want to feel what you’re feeling. I want to be inside of you, truly. But in real life, I can barely look you in the eye. I know too much about what you know I know.

Social networking sites give us portals into another person’s (user’s) mind, so far as that person (user) makes public their thoughts, ideas, feelings and desires. At times, we are perhaps more honest online, and especially on social networks, than we are in real life. Recent studies suggest that we are exactly the same on Facebook as we are in real life – but that might not be true. We might actually be even more of who we are online than in real life.

Social networks are both a space of freedom and a place of imprisonment. We are free to say whatever we think and feel. That is the first question Facebook asks us when we go to our profiles.
Facebook_On_Your_Mind.jpg

Yet in speaking our minds on social networks, we not only share information we also embody the medium itself. Or, as Marshall McLuhan famously wrote, “the medium is the message.” And we cannot detach what we say on Facebook from Facebook itself.

The Medium is the Message

There is a symbiotic relationship between message and medium, and that medium influences how the message is perceived. If a user posts that he or she just got married onto Facebook, they are essentially encouraging all of their friends to accept and react to that status update on Facebook. The medium embodies this message – you are married, on Facebook. The translation to offline conversation may not happen as smoothly. “Hey, just noticed that you were married, um, that’s what Facebook told me. Congrats!” This sentence could be followed by an awkward pause, then silence. That conversation might best continue on Facebook itself. We cannot divorce the medium from the message that’s being conveyed. Our entire idea of communication shifts.

“As society’s values, norms and ways of doing things change because of the technology, it is then we realize the social implications of the medium,” writes the anonymous author(s) of “The Medium is the Message”‘s Wikipedia page. “These range from cultural or religious issues and historical precedents, through interplay with existing conditions, to the secondary or tertiary effects in a cascade of interactions that we are not aware of.”

Don’t Look at Me, I Won’t Look at You

When we do not have to look each other in the eye, we are more honest with each other. Such is the case with social networking sites. But why? The Wall Street Journal’s Matt Ridley story takes a look at the ways that other species interact in order to deduce a bit more about human behavior.

“In monkeys and apes, face-to-face contact is essentially antagonistic. Staring is a threat,” writes Ridley. “A baboon that fails to avert its eyes when stared at by a social superior is, in effect, mounting a challenge. Appeasing a dominant animal is an essential skill for any chimpanzee wishing to avoid a costly fight.”

What happens when you put two monkeys in a cage, or two humans in an elevator? The pair, confined to small quarters, will do their absolute best to avoid eye contact and confrontation. Similarly, two human strangers trapped in an elevator or cab together might discuss something as banal as the weather. Even conversation about sports might bring up too many emotions. But the weather is one thing we can discuss with minimal emotional reaction.

You Are a Liar, a Bully and a Freak! You Are Honest, Kind & Generous.

In his article in the journal CyberPsychology and Behavior, Rider University’s John Suler coins the “disinhibition effect,” which suggests that people on social networking sites feel free to share very personal things about themselves – secret emotions, fears, wishes. Conversely, social networkers show “unusual acts of kindness and generosity,” which is known as “benign disinhibition.” Suler also defines “toxic disinhibition,” the idea of people online exploring sites of pornography and violence, places that they wouldn’t visit in the real world (strip clubs, bathhouses, scenes of crime and abuse) but feel free to do online. Suler points out that the overall effect of online disinhibition is caused by several factors which interact with each other, and result in something far more complex.

“When people have the opportunity to separate their actions from their real world and identity, they feel less vulnerable about opening up. Whatever they say or do can’t be directly linked to the rest of their lives,” Suler writes.

The stuff you do or say on social networks in some way feels dissociated from the rest of your life – so, in effect, it feels like it has no consequences. But in terms of its emotional effect, there are reprecussions. Behaviors are still behaviors, whether they happen online or off.

Is what we show about ourselves online more true than what we share with others in our every day lives? Maybe. Or maybe it’s just a pathway into our imaginations, our mindscapes. And if the user feels safe sharing those ideas, then the space in which this happens is not as important.

“In their imagination, where it’s safe, people feel free to say and do all sorts of things that they wouldn’t in reality. At that moment, reality is one’s imagination. Online text communication can become the psychological tapestry in which a person’s mind weaves these fantasy role plays, usually unconsciously and with considerable disinhibition. All of cyberspace is a stage and we are merely players,” Suler writes.

But still, it is important to be careful what you reveal in those spontaneous moments of cyber freedom. Be prepared to defend your thoughts and ideas, to be an open book in a public space. Be safe, be vulnerable, be aware of what you say.

Peregrine_Honig_Social_Networks.jpg

Online honesty cuts both ways,” writes Ridley. “Bloggers find that readers who comment on their posts are often harshly frank but that these same rude critics become polite if contacted directly. There’s a curious pattern here that goes against old concerns over the threat of online dissembling. In fact, the mechanized medium of the Internet causes not concealment but disinhibition, giving us both confessional behavior and ugly brusqueness. When the medium is impersonal, people are prepared to be personal.”

Thumbnail image via Shutterstock. Artwork by Peregrine Honig.

Source: Why We Speak Freely on Social Networks

Angry Birds and Parabolic Instinct In Humans

January 17th, 2011 01:25 admin View Comments

Frankie70 writes “Matt Ridley writes about Angry Birds, an iPhone game (later ported to other platforms) which has sold more than 12 million copies. The spectacular trajectory of the game, from obscure Finnish iPhone app to global ubiquity — there are board games, maybe even movies in the works — is probably inexplicable. Ridley wonders if there is an evolutionary aspect to its allure. There is something much more satisfactory about an object tracing a parabolic ballistic trajectory through space towards its target than either following a straight line or propelling itself.”

Source: Angry Birds and Parabolic Instinct In Humans

Researchers Take One Step Towards a Blood Test for Alzheimer’s

January 7th, 2011 01:29 admin View Comments

Suppose that Alzheimer’s disease, like a bacterial or viral infection, inspires the immune system to take action and defend the body. If this is true, then there must be antigen proteins that are specific to the disease, which the body recognizes as foreign and which triggers the mustering of a defense. Could doctors catch a glimpse of that process and diagnose the disease earlier? That’s the hope behind a study out this week in Cell, led by Thomas Kodadek.

Many new efforts to speed up diagnosis of Alzheimer’s are ongoing, with some, like Kodadek’s, looking for a signal in the bloodstream. The problem is, scientists don’t know what antigens are the signature of the disease, nor which antibodies the immune system raises to go after them. So they set a trap.

On a slide, Kodadek’s team assembled thousands of different shapes of peptoids—molecules that are slight variations of the peptide molecules found in our bodies—and exposed them to blood samples from people with Alzheimer’s and without. The idea was, if particular peptoids bound only to antibodies from people with Alzheimer’s and not to antibodies of people without, then those antibodies they snagged could be considered a signature of Alzheimer’s in the bloodstream.

The researchers tested the peptoid slides on blood from six likely Alzheimer’s patients, six similarly aged healthy people, and six patients with a different neurodegenerative condition, Parkinson’s disease. They identified three peptoids that recognized antibodies from people suspected to have Alzheimer’s. Tested against 16 different people with the condition, each peptoid proved more than 93 percent accurate at diagnosing Alzheimer’s, meaning they missed only one Alzheimer’s case out of 16. [Scientific American]

Kodadek says his team has now applied the test to about 300 people, but the research is still nascent.

Dr Simon Ridley, head of research at the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, said: “This very early research poses a new way of testing blood to diagnose Alzheimer’s, but much more research must be done. We need to know how accurate and sensitive the test is and it also needs to be trialled in larger and more diverse groups of people.” [BBC News]

Ridley and others are right to be cautious, as studies that raise new hope for finding and combating Alzheimer’s are easily over-hyped. The New York Times, for instance, got itself in trouble in August for reporting that a new test was “100 percent accurate” in predicting who would get Alzheimer’s; in fact, the test was “up to 100 percent accurate” in identifying a signature protein group in people who already had the disease. It was a proof of concept, not a foolproof test. This study is similar: Kodadek and colleagues succeeded in this early study in correctly distinguishing Alzheimer’s patients from others. But the test has not been used to catch people on their way to developing the disease.

If these findings are correct, though, they could shake up what’s known about Alzheimer’s, according to Stanford’s Tony Wyss-Coray, who also researches proteins in the bloodstream that could be connected to the condition.

Wyss-Coray says it is still an open question as to whether or not people with Alzheimer’s produce antibodies that are specific to their condition. However, the small number of peptoids unique to those with the disease could point to a very specific immune response against an unknown disease molecule. “If true, that would most certainly change the current view of this disease.” [Scientific American]

And it could help clear the path to new treatments, Kodadek says:

The study’s lead author stressed that the true benefits of such a test for Alzheimer’s patients won’t really arise until scientists develop effective treatments against the disease. “It’s unclear whether people would want to know a couple of years ahead of time they are going to get Alzheimer’s if they can’t do anything about it,” [he says]. “But I can say with some certainty that we will never get a good therapy for Alzheimer’s without early diagnosis.” [Healthday News]

Image: iStockphoto

Source: Researchers Take One Step Towards a Blood Test for Alzheimer’s

Researchers Take One Step Towards a Blood Test for Alzheimer’s

January 7th, 2011 01:29 admin View Comments

Suppose that Alzheimer’s disease, like a bacterial or viral infection, inspires the immune system to take action and defend the body. If this is true, then there must be antigen proteins that are specific to the disease, which the body recognizes as foreign and which triggers the mustering of a defense. Could doctors catch a glimpse of that process and diagnose the disease earlier? That’s the hope behind a study out this week in Cell, led by Thomas Kodadek.

Many new efforts to speed up diagnosis of Alzheimer’s are ongoing, with some, like Kodadek’s, looking for a signal in the bloodstream. The problem is, scientists don’t know what antigens are the signature of the disease, nor which antibodies the immune system raises to go after them. So they set a trap.

On a slide, Kodadek’s team assembled thousands of different shapes of peptoids—molecules that are slight variations of the peptide molecules found in our bodies—and exposed them to blood samples from people with Alzheimer’s and without. The idea was, if particular peptoids bound only to antibodies from people with Alzheimer’s and not to antibodies of people without, then those antibodies they snagged could be considered a signature of Alzheimer’s in the bloodstream.

The researchers tested the peptoid slides on blood from six likely Alzheimer’s patients, six similarly aged healthy people, and six patients with a different neurodegenerative condition, Parkinson’s disease. They identified three peptoids that recognized antibodies from people suspected to have Alzheimer’s. Tested against 16 different people with the condition, each peptoid proved more than 93 percent accurate at diagnosing Alzheimer’s, meaning they missed only one Alzheimer’s case out of 16. [Scientific American]

Kodadek says his team has now applied the test to about 300 people, but the research is still nascent.

Dr Simon Ridley, head of research at the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, said: “This very early research poses a new way of testing blood to diagnose Alzheimer’s, but much more research must be done. We need to know how accurate and sensitive the test is and it also needs to be trialled in larger and more diverse groups of people.” [BBC News]

Ridley and others are right to be cautious, as studies that raise new hope for finding and combating Alzheimer’s are easily over-hyped. The New York Times, for instance, got itself in trouble in August for reporting that a new test was “100 percent accurate” in predicting who would get Alzheimer’s; in fact, the test was “up to 100 percent accurate” in identifying a signature protein group in people who already had the disease. It was a proof of concept, not a foolproof test. This study is similar: Kodadek and colleagues succeeded in this early study in correctly distinguishing Alzheimer’s patients from others. But the test has not been used to catch people on their way to developing the disease.

If these findings are correct, though, they could shake up what’s known about Alzheimer’s, according to Stanford’s Tony Wyss-Coray, who also researches proteins in the bloodstream that could be connected to the condition.

Wyss-Coray says it is still an open question as to whether or not people with Alzheimer’s produce antibodies that are specific to their condition. However, the small number of peptoids unique to those with the disease could point to a very specific immune response against an unknown disease molecule. “If true, that would most certainly change the current view of this disease.” [Scientific American]

And it could help clear the path to new treatments, Kodadek says:

The study’s lead author stressed that the true benefits of such a test for Alzheimer’s patients won’t really arise until scientists develop effective treatments against the disease. “It’s unclear whether people would want to know a couple of years ahead of time they are going to get Alzheimer’s if they can’t do anything about it,” [he says]. “But I can say with some certainty that we will never get a good therapy for Alzheimer’s without early diagnosis.” [Healthday News]

Image: iStockphoto

Source: Researchers Take One Step Towards a Blood Test for Alzheimer’s

Gulf Coast Turtle News: No More Fiery Death; Relocating 70,000 Eggs

July 2nd, 2010 07:47 admin View Comments

oiled-turtleThings may be looking up, ever so slightly, for the Gulf of Mexico’s endangered sea turtles. A few days ago, environmental groups announced that they were suing BP and the Coast Guard over the “controlled burns” that were intended to burn off oil slicks in the water; the environmentalists said that sea turtles were getting caught in the infernos and burned alive. This morning a judge was prepared to hear arguments on a proposed injunction, but at the last minute the parties declared that they’ve reached a settlement.

The agreement comes in advance of an emergency court hearing set today in New Orleans federal court, where environmentalists sought to force BP to either stop controlled burns or place rescuers on the boats to scoop federally protected sea turtles out of floating sludge patches before the corralled oil is ignited [Bloomberg].

According to Sea Turtles Restoration Project, one of the plaintiffs in the case, BP and the Coast Guard have agreed to station a qualified biologist on every vessel involved in the burns, and to remove turtles from the burn area before setting the blaze. This is good news for the leatherbacks, loggerheads, and Kemps Ridley turtles that make their home in the Gulf. Of course, it would be better news if their home wasn’t saturated with oil and periodically set on fire, but we’ll take what we can get.

Elsewhere in turtle news, conservationists are preparing to collect 70,000 turtle eggs from Alabama and Florida beaches. The ambitious scheme, coordinated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is seen as the best chance of preventing a massive die-off of the threatened creatures.
baby-loggerhead

“This is an extraordinary effort under extraordinary conditions, but if we can save some of the hatchlings, it will be worth it as opposed to losing all of them,” said Chuck Underwood of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “We have a much higher degree of certainty that if we do nothing and we allow these turtles to emerge and go into the Gulf and into the oil … that we could in fact lose most of them, if not all of them,” he added. “There’s a chance of losing a whole generation.” [AP]

In the next couple of weeks, turtle experts will start the painstaking process of excavating up to 800 nests; each egg must be carefully lifted from its nest without rolling or repositioning it, to avoid disrupting the growing embryo inside. Then the eggs will be transported to a climate-controlled hanger at Kennedy Space Center on Florida’s east coast where they’ll stay until hatching. Finally, if all goes well, the next generation of loggerheads and other sea turtles will be set loose in the oil-free Atlantic.

Image: Sea Turtle Restoration Project / Blair Witherington

Source: Gulf Coast Turtle News: No More Fiery Death; Relocating 70,000 Eggs

YOYOYOOYOYOYO