How should one interpret scientific claims? Here are the headings to an excellent article featured in Nature:
Differences and chance cause variation.
No measurement is exact.
Bias is rife.
Bigger is usually better for sample size.
Correlation does not imply causation.
Regression to the mean can mislead.
Extrapolating beyond the data is risky.
Beware the base-rate fallacy.
Controls are important.
Randomization avoids bias.
Seek replication, not pseudoreplication.
Scientists are human.
Significance is significant.
Separate no effect from non-significance.
Effect size matters.
Study relevance limits generalizations.
Feelings influence risk perception.
Dependencies change the risks.
Data can be dredged or cherry picked.
Extreme measurements may mislead.
Excellent lecture by Robert Sapolsky. Scientists used to think that humans were unique in many ways when compared to other animals. The number of ways in which we are truly unique is dwindling, however, and that dwindling number is the focus of Sapolsky’s talk. There is at least one way in which we are unique, and that is our ability to entertain a contradiction. Sapolsky, speaking to a graduating class, challenges them to take on this contradiction: They are highly educated and thus privileged human animals who are educated to such an extent that they realize that it is virtually impossible for one person to make a difference in the world. The more clear this becomes that it is impossible to make the world better, “the more you must.”
Robert Sapolsky can tell stories about the biological effects of stress as well as anyone. In this short video, he reveals that a chair upholsterer discovered the dangers of having a Type A personality.
How much time should you spend to get more efficient? XKCD has the answers.
Fascinating story told by Carl Zimmer, illustrated by yeast studies.
Scientists suspect that the first step towards a complex multicellular body like ours is for cells to evolve to live in primitive clumps. There may be a lot of advantages to living this way. It may be harder for a predator to eat you, for example. At the University of Minnesota, a team of scientists led by William Ratcliff and Michael Travisano figured out a way to create this kind of natural selection in a lab. As I reported last year in the New York Times, they were able to get yeast–which normally lives as single cells–to turn into simple multicellular clumps in a few weeks.
One of my photographer mentors advised that I try to shoot SOMETHING every day. And this morning I finished reading Phil Zimbardo’s “The Time Paradox,” from which I learned (for the 800th time) that my perspective is skewed way toward future time orientation, which causes me to miss out on the present, especially ordinary things that are actually quite stunning. Therefore . . . I gave myself an assignment to take photos of leaves from the backside, illuminated from the front by direct sun. I tried to simply enjoy their beauty, but couldn’t help contemplating their incredibly sophisticated function.
I’ve been trying out some headsets for my smart phone. Some of these are cheap, but got good reviews on Amazon. For instance, this Panasonic $9 headset (yes, I meant nine dollars), which requires a 3.5mm male to 2.5mm female adapter to use with a cell phone (as opposed to a cordless phone). I use headsets when talking on the phone at my desk to keep my hands free. I like the ones with microphones that wrap around right in front of my mouth, so that I need not disturb others when in my collaborative workspace.
I’ve tried some other headsets too, including a bluetooth set that people complained about constantly. I simply don’t want people staining to hear what I’m saying. I’ve found myself asking other how my voice is coming through when I speak on my cell phone (through the phone itself or using a headset). People will give vague answers, such as “It sounds OK.” I’ve been wondering what my cell phone really sounds like on the other end. I think I’ve found an answer. I found a phone number that plays back your voice: 909-390-0003 . That’s all this phone number does. When you call this number, you don’t even hear a phone ringing. But you can immediately speak into it and hear what you sound like. Excellent. Problem solved.
I’m going to recommend it to others. For instance, a friend of mine sounded all muffled. I told him about this a couple years ago. He eventually got a new phone and his voice quality immediately improved. I wondered whether fuzz or dirt got into his phone’s microphone. Now his new phone sounds muffled. I can’t hear his consonants. I’m going to give the test number to him, so he can hear it for himself.
It turns out that my Panasonic $9 headset “sounds OK.” No, really. It’s a keeper. It sounds great.
Over at Flickr, I ran across a photo by Jimmy O’Donnell featuring a beautiful woman in lingerie walking in a church. Maybe O’Donnell didn’t take this photo for any of the reasons I find it interesting—maybe he took it for the mere shock value, or because he simply liked the image. Nonetheless, this photo serves […]