Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

November 21, 2008


Public Release: 20-Nov-2008
Two from one: Pitt research maps out evolution of genders from hermaphroditic ancestors
Research from the University of Pittsburgh published in the Nov. 20 edition of Heredity could finally provide evidence of the first stages of the evolution of separate sexes, a theory that holds that males and females developed from hermaphroditic ancestors. These early stages are not completely understood because the majority of animal species developed into the arguably less titillating separate-sex state too long ago for scientists to observe the transition.

Public Release: 20-Nov-2008
Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation
Oh, what a feeling!
People who have lost the ability to interpret emotion after a severe brain injury can regain this vital social skill by being re-educated to read body language, facial expressions and voice tone in others, according to a new study.

Public Release: 20-Nov-2008
Scientists discover concealed glaciers on Mars at mid-latitudes
Vast Martian glaciers of water ice under protective blankets of rocky debris persist today at much lower latitudes than any ice previously identified on Mars, says new research using ground-penetrating radar on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The discovery is an encouraging sign for scientists searching for life beyond Earth. The water ice might also provide a useful resource for human explorers visiting the red planet.

Public Release: 19-Nov-2008
Psychology and Health
Study suggests attending religious services sharply cuts risk of death
A study published by researchers at Yeshiva University and its medical school, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, strongly suggests that regular attendance at religious services reduces the risk of death by approximately 20 percent.

Public Release: 19-Nov-2008
Journal of Regional Science
K-State economist’s research on low-income homeowners
Programs that help low-income and minority individuals and families purchase a home may be doing more harm than good, according to a Kansas State University economist.

Public Release: 19-Nov-2008
Neuroscience 2008
Scientists are high on idea that marijuana reduces memory impairment
The more research they do, the more evidence scientists find that specific elements of marijuana can be good for the aging brain by reducing inflammation there and possibly even stimulating the formation of new brain cells. It suggests that developing a legal drug that contains certain properties similar to those in marijuana might help prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Though the exact cause of Alzheimer’s remains unknown, chronic inflammation in the brain is believed to contribute to memory impairment.
National Institutes of Health


Hundred Percent Chance of Winning?

October 2, 2008

Election 08 gives Obama one hundred percent probability of winning the election. A strong Republican surge could reduce this to ninety-nine percent, and raise McCain’s chances of winning to…zero percent.

Assuming, of course, that the state polls used are accurate. And it’s what would happen if the election were held today. (Or a bit earlier; the data is from polls up through September 30.)

“The results presented are a direct function of the quality of the state poll data being used. Any biases in this data can lead to misleading and false results, and hence, invalid conclusions. The results of this analysis have been obtained as part of an academic, educational exercise to demonstrate the power of statistics and operations research to analyze data of significant importance and practical interest.”

I believe both operations research and statistics have produced inaccurate results at times.

This degree of certainty reminds me of Michael Flynn’s sf novel In the Country of the Blind (Analog Science Fiction and Fact October 1987 and November 1987; Baen Books, 1990; Tor 2001), and the nonfiction essay which followed: “An Introduction to Psychohistory,” (April and May 1988; appendixed to the 2001 version of the novel.) (“Psychohistory” in this context refers to Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy — in which it was the name of a predictive science. I understand historians use the name for something rather different.)

Basic idea: In the 19th Century, a group began making extremely accurate predictions. They were able to do this using Babbage Engines and 19th Century statistics. They moved on to shaping the future rather than only observing it.

In the original serial and in the 1990 book version, Flynn rather overestimated the Soviet Union’s health during the 21st Century. He also did this, in greater detail, in the original serialized version of the essay.

This error was corrected in the 2001 versions of the novel and the essay. Flynn did not acknowledge that this had been changed.

Crossposted to

Science Press Releases

June 8, 2008


First superheavy element found in nature Evidence for a Long-lived superheavy Nucleus with Atomic Mass Number A = 292 and Atomic Number Z @ 122 in Natural Th

Public Release: 8-Jun-2008
Nature Neuroscience
Origins of the brain
One of the great scientific challenges is to understand the design principles and origins of the human brain. New research has shed light on the evolutionary origins of the brain and how it evolved into the remarkably complex structure found in humans. The research suggests that it is not size alone that gives more brain power, but that, during evolution, increasingly sophisticated molecular processing of nerve impulses allowed development of animals with more complex behaviours.
Wellcome Trust, Medical Research Council, GSK, Edinburgh University, EMBO

Public Release: 7-Jun-2008
Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology
Scientists find 245 million-year-old burrows of land vertebrates in Antarctica
Scientists find evidence of tetrapods living in Antarctica during the early Triassic epoch, about 245 million years ago.
National Science Foundation

Public Release: 6-Jun-2008
Serotonin may affect our sense of fairness, scientists report
The neurotransmitter serotonin, which acts as a chemical messenger between nerve cells, plays a critical role in regulating emotions such as aggression during social decision-making. The findings highlight why some of us may become combative or aggressive when we have not eaten. The research also provides insight into clinical disorders characterized by low serotonin levels, such as depression and obsessive compulsive disorder.–sma060608.php

Public Release: 6-Jun-2008
International Journal of Public Opinion
Scientific information largely ignored when forming opinions about stem cell research
When forming attitudes about embryonic stem cell research, people are influenced by a number of things. But understanding science plays a negligible role for many people.

Public Release: 6-Jun-2008
Goodbye to batteries and power sockets
A broken cable or a soiled connector? If a machine in a factory goes on strike, it could be for any of a thousand reasons. Self-sufficient sensors that provide their own power supply will soon make these machines more robust.

Public Release: 6-Jun-2008
Cheltenham Science Festival
Militant jihadists are inspired by night dreams, suggests research
The inspirational night dream, or ruya, is a fundamental, inspirational and even strategic part of the militant jihadist movement in the Middle East and elsewhere. This is the conclusion of a study of the reported dreams of many of the best-known al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders carried out by Dr. Iain Edgar a social anthropologist at Durham University.

What I Expect to do Here.

March 20, 2008

What is a clerk futurist? A professional futurist has at least a BA degree, preferably a PhD; and good knowledge of statistics and various other branches of mathematics. This enables her [him, them, it, __] to build computer models of the future, or use other abstruse forecasting methods.

A clerk futurist might only have a high school or two-year degree.

Last year, I put this ad on Craigslist:

Clerk Futurist for hire. Services include:

Basic trend and cycle extrapolation over the next four centuries. (Caution: While these methods can produce accurate predictions, they gave several science fiction writers confidence that the Soviet Union would be a superpower through the 21st Century and beyond.)

Light scenarios.

Summaries of electronic betting on future events.

Predicting whether your science fiction idea has already been used. (I’ll give this one away free — it was used at least twenty years before you think it possibly could have been.)

And, in another area:

Proofreading/copyediting. Spellings which make sense changed to what the rules call for. (Note: I may need to learn the house rules — the way a particular publication does things.) Phrases like “the Soviet Union in the 19th Century” flagged.

How many takers did I get? None; not even an offer to give me exposure. Those who can sell their services do (and sometimes perform those services.) Those who can’t sell, blog.