How a Professor Beat Roulette, Crediting a Non-Existent Supercomputer

science - Posted On:2019-05-26 17:59:59 Source: slashdot

I loved this story. The Hustle remembers how in 1964 a world-renowned medical professor found a way to beat roulette wheels, kicking off a five-year winning streak in which he amassed $1,250,000 ($8,000,000 today). He noticed that at the end of each night, casinos would replace cards and dice with fresh sets -- but the expensive roulette wheels went untouched and often stayed in service for decades before being replaced. Like any other machine, these wheels acquired wear and tear. Jarecki began to suspect that tiny defects -- chips, dents, scratches, unlevel surfaces -- might cause certain wheels to land on certain numbers more frequently than randomocity prescribed. The doctor spent weekends commuting between the operating table and the roulette table, manually recording thousands upon thousands of spins, and analyzing the data for statistical abnormalities. "I [experimented] until I had a rough outline of a system based on the previous winning numbers," he told the Sydney Morning Herald in 1969. "If numbers 1, 2, and 3 won the last 3 rounds, [I could determine] what was most likely to win the next 3...." With his wife, Carol, he scouted dozens of wheels at casinos around Europe, from Monte Carlo (Monaco), to Divonne-les-Bains (France), to Baden-Baden (Germany). The pair recruited a team of 8 "clockers" who posted up at these venues, sometimes recording as many as 20,000 spins over a month-long period. Then, in 1964, he made his first strike. After establishing which wheels were biased, he secured a Ł25,000 loan from a Swiss financier and spent 6 months candidly exacting his strategy. By the end of the run, he'd netted Ł625,000 (roughly $6,700,000 today). Jarecki's victories made headlines in newspapers all over the world, from Kansas to Australia. Everyone wanted his "secret" -- but he knew that if he wanted to replicate the feat, he'd have to conceal his true methodology. So, he concocted a "fanciful tale" for the press: He tallied roulette outcomes daily, then fed the information into an Atlas supercomputer, which told him which numbers to pick. At the time, wrote gambling historian, Russell Barnhart, in Beating the Wheel, "Computers were looked upon as creatures from outer space... Few persons, including casino managers, were vocationally qualified to distinguish myth from reality." Hiding behind this technological ruse, Jarecki continued to keep tabs on biased tables -- and prepare for his next big move... In the decades following Jarecki's dominance, casinos invested heavily in monitoring their roulette tables for defects and building wheels less prone to bias. Today, most wheels have gone digital, run by algorithms programmed to favor the house. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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In A World First, Scientists Change Snail's Shell-Coiling Direction With CRISPR

science - Posted On:2019-05-26 15:59:59 Source: slashdot

"Most snails are 'righties'. Now scientists have found genes that can change the shell coiling direction," writes the New York Times. ( Non-paywalled version here ) Suren Enfiajyan shares their report: Studying these snails offers clues to the evolution of body plans in many animals. It also could be important for understanding why up to 10 percent of people are born with sinus inversus, a condition where their internal organs are flipped like a lefty snail's shell. Now scientists are turning to Crispr -- the powerful gene editing tool -- to figure out why some snails turn out this way. A team in Japan led by Reiko Kuroda, a chemist and biologist, has successfully used the technique to manipulate a single gene responsible for shell direction in a species of great pond snail. The research, published last week in the journal Development, offers definitive proof of the genetic underpinnings of handedness in this species, and could lead to clues about left- and right-handed mysteries in other organisms. "Ten years ago you might not imagine there were any similarities in the left/right asymmetry of a snail and the left/right asymmetry of humans. But it's becoming increasingly obvious that is the case," said Angus Davison, an evolutionary geneticist, who has studied chiral pond snails, but was not a part of Dr. Kuroda's study... In the current study, Dr. Kuroda and Masanori Abe used Crispr to edit out the Lsdia1 gene, and then raised the resulting mutant snails. Confirming previous work, they showed that even in the first embryonic cell, genetic information started picking sides. And by the third cleavage, when four cells become eight, the mutant cells were rotating in the opposite direction of what is expected. These snails grew into lefties, and so did their offspring. Without two working copies of Lsdia1, snails can survive with Lsdia2 -- but their shells won't coil to the right. In the article Dr. Davison says that there's still more research to do. "Unfortunately, snail research doesn't move quickly." Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Test performance, gender, and temperature

Science - Posted On:2019-05-26 09:14:57 Source: arstechnica

As we move from a season marked by unstoppable heating units and into one dominated by aggressive air conditioning. Figuring out how to optimize the thermostat involves a balancing of individual comfort and energy efficiency. But a new study suggests that there's an additional factor that should feed into decisions: the performance of any employees or students who happen to be subjected to the whims of whoever has access to the thermostat.

Unexpectedly, the new results show that men and women don't respond to different temperatures in the same way. And, in doing so, they raise questions about just what we've been measuring when other studies have looked at gender-specific differences in performance.

As someone whose mother admonished him to put on sweaters because my bare arms "made her cold," I'm well aware that there's a long-standing cliché about the sexes engaging in a battle of the thermostat. What I hadn't realized is that the existence of that battle is backed by data. Tom Chang and Agne Kajackaite are able to cite four references for the tendency of women to prefer their indoor environments warmer than men do. Chang and Kajackaite, however, found that the academic literature is silent on a related issue: do women have a good reason for wanting it warmer?

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SpaceX's Train of Satellites Creates Temporary 'Mega-Constellation'

science - Posted On:2019-05-25 23:44:58 Source: slashdot

"SpaceX's unorthodox card-dealing launch of 60 Starlink broadband satellites has led to an unusual viewing opportunity for skywatchers -- and an occasion to wonder about the impact of such mega-constellations on the natural night sky," reports GeekWire: A video captured by satellite-watcher Marco Langbroek in the Netherlands sums up the awe... It didn't take long for Langbroek and other skywatchers to work out the coordinates for the long train of satellites, and to plug those coordinates into online satellite-pass calculators such as CalSky. On Twitter, David Dickinson, author of "The Universe Today: Ultimate Guide to Viewing the Cosmos," started doling out location-specific sighting predictions based on the Orbitron satellite-tracking program. CalSky automatically picks up your coordinates for satellite sightings, but for those in the Seattle area, the best time to look for the Starlink train passing by tonight is likely to be in the range of 10:50 to 11:10 p.m. PT, going from southwest to northeast. That's a liberal stretch of time that accounts for a range of locations (say, Port Townsend vs. North Bend), plus uncertainties in the orbital estimates. There are other passes overnight at around 12:30, 3:50 and 5:20 a.m. PT. The brightness of the satellites is a question mark. Some say they can be seen with the naked eye, while others advise scanning with binoculars. A lot depends on how the satellites pick up the glint of the sun after dusk or before dawn. Tonight Langbroek reported that the satellite train wasn't as bright as it was the night before. Speaking of brightness, astronomers and SpaceX fans have already begun the debate over the prospect of having thousands of broadband-beaming satellites in low Earth orbit. The 60 satellites launched this week merely represent the beginning of a campaign aimed at launching as many as 11,000 such spacecraft. And that's just for SpaceX's Starlink system. Thousands more could go into orbit for the constellations being contemplated by OneWeb, Telesat, LeoSat Enterprises and Amazon's Project Kuiper. Today Elon Musk tweeted defensively that "sats will be in darkness when stars are visible" -- while GeekWire points out that the satellites are also scheduled to spread. "Within just a few days, the tightly spaced 'train' will turn into a dispersed chain that girdles the globe," their article concludes. "And once that happens, chances are that skywatchers and sky-worriers alike will turn their attention to the next batch of Starlink satellites." Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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NASA Announces First Commercial Partner For A Space Station Orbiting The Moon

science - Posted On:2019-05-25 10:45:02 Source: slashdot

"NASA has chosen its first commercial partner for a proposed space station, known as the Lunar Gateway, to be built near the Moon," reports Ars Technica: On Thursday, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said Maxar Technologies would build the first component of the Gateway -- the power and propulsion element. Like the name suggests, it will provide electricity to the Gateway and help move it around. "This time when we go to the Moon, we're actually going to stay," Bridenstine said in making the announcement... Under NASA's current plans to land humans on the Moon by 2024, this is where astronauts will launch to from Earth before climbing aboard pre-positioned landers to take them down to the lunar surface.... The contract announced Thursday is worth a maximum of $375 million. Intriguingly, Maxar said Blue Origin and Draper will join the team in designing, building, and operating the spacecraft. Such a partnership raises the possibility that the power and propulsion element, which will weigh about 5 tons fully fueled, could be launched on Blue Origin's New Glenn rocket. During a teleconference with media, Maxar's Mike Gold said the company would choose a commercial rocket for the power and propulsion element launch in the next 12 to 18 months... The station will use solar electric propulsion to maintain its orbit and have the ability to maneuver into other orbits around the Moon. Before humans visit the Gateway in 2024, the space agency plans to add a small "habitat" module. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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NASA Executive Quits Weeks After Appointment To Lead 2024 Moon Landing Plan

science - Posted On:2019-05-24 14:15:00 Source: slashdot

A top NASA executive hired in April to guide strategy for returning astronauts to the moon by 2024 has resigned, the space agency said on Thursday, the culmination of internal strife and dwindling congressional support for the lunar initiative. From a report: Mark Sirangelo, named six weeks ago as special assistant to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, left the agency as NASA abandoned a reorganization plan due to a chilly reception on Capitol Hill, Bridenstine said in a statement. His departure came after lawmakers rejected NASA's proposal to create a separate directorate within the space agency to oversee future lunar missions and ultimately develop human exploration of Mars. [...] Last week, the Trump administration asked Congress to increase NASA's spending next year by $1.6 billion as a "down payment" on the accelerated goal of landing Americans back on the moon by 2024, more than half a century after the end of the U.S. Apollo lunar program. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Hunter-gathering seems to have been easier than farming

Science - Posted On:2019-05-24 12:00:01 Source: arstechnica

For most of our history, humans got hold of food like any other animal: by hunting and foraging, moving around to find the best resources. Settling down in one place to cultivate crops is a comparatively recent development. But once it started around 12,000 years ago, agriculture spread through human cultures across the world, fundamentally changing our societies, genomes, and possibly even languages. In many ways, farming seems to have been terrible news for the people who adopted it, leading to poorer nutrition and greater social inequality—but it also resulted in higher fertility rates and a massive population expansion.

Understanding how and why this technological change was adopted remains a challenge. Studies mostly rely on fossil evidence, but there are also clues in the modern world, as some present-day groups of people are moving away from hunting, fishing, and gathering their food, and towards agriculture.

A paper published in Nature Human Behaviour explores how this shift affects the time budgets of hunter-gatherers in the Philippines, finding that women who participate more in agricultural work have less leisure time—around half the leisure time of women who prioritize foraging. The results fall in line with past research that challenges the concept of hunting and foraging as arduous work with scant rewards, and this work contributes to a growing understanding of the social dynamics that go along with a shift to agriculture.

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Adopting agriculture means less leisure time for women

Science - Posted On:2019-05-24 11:45:00 Source: arstechnica

For most of our history, humans got hold of food like any other animal: by hunting and foraging, moving around to find the best resources. Settling down in one place to cultivate crops is a comparatively recent development. But once it started around 12,000 years ago, agriculture spread through human cultures across the world, fundamentally changing our societies, genomes, and possibly even languages. In many ways, farming seems to have been terrible news for the people who adopted it, leading to poorer nutrition and greater social inequality—but it also resulted in higher fertility rates and a massive population expansion.

Understanding how and why this technological change was adopted remains a challenge. Studies mostly rely on fossil evidence, but there are also clues in the modern world, as some present-day groups of people are moving away from hunting, fishing, and gathering their food, and towards agriculture.

A paper published in Nature Human Behaviour explores how this shift affects the time budgets of hunter-gatherers in the Philippines, finding that women who participate more in agricultural work have less leisure time—around half the leisure time of women who prioritize foraging. The results fall in line with past research that challenges the concept of hunting and foraging as arduous work with scant rewards, and this work contributes to a growing understanding of the social dynamics that go along with a shift to agriculture.

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Rocket Report: SpaceX sues the federal government, Chinese launch failure

Science - Posted On:2019-05-24 07:14:57 Source: arstechnica

Welcome to Edition 2.01 of the Rocket Report! This week marks one year since the first report. What started as an experiment has grown into something that a lot of people read. So thank you for joining. And if you appreciate this weekly report and the effort that goes into it, I encourage you to subscribe to Ars Technica. It doesn't cost much, and there are perks. But mostly you'll know you're supporting independent journalism like this. Thank you for considering it.

As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don't want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report will include information on small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar.

Virgin performs full-duration hotfire test. On Tuesday, Virgin Orbit announced that it had performed the "final full-duration, full-scale, full-thrust—hell, full everything—test firing" of its LauncherOne rocket's first stage. The firing lasted for more than 180 seconds and was entirely successful, the company reported. Virgin said the rocket, which will be launched from beneath the wing of an airplane, was within an "arm's reach" of its first orbital flight test.

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SpaceX Launches 60 Starlink Satellites On Thrice-Flown Rocket, Sticks Landing

science - Posted On:2019-05-24 01:14:57 Source: slashdot

SpaceX's fifth Falcon 9 rocket of the year successfully launched from Cape Canaveral this evening, sending 60 internet-beaming satellites into space. Space.com reports: Following the successful launch, the rocket's first stage gently touched down on a floating platform at sea, marking the company's 40th booster recovery. It was the third flight for this particular booster, marking just the second time SpaceX has flown a Falcon 9 first stage more than twice. The third time was a charm for SpaceX as the Falcon 9 lifted off at 10:30 p.m. EDT (0230 GMT on May 24) from Space Launch Complex 40 at Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station here, following several delays: first a 24-hour delay due to high upper-level winds on May 15, and then a weeklong delay so SpaceX could give the onboard satellites a software software upgrade. Tucked inside the rocket's nose cone were 60 satellites -- the first batch of SpaceX's Starlink megaconstellation, which the company hopes will help provide affordable internet coverage to the world. Each of the Starlink satellites weighs 500 lbs. (227 kg). The 60-spacecraft haul is the heaviest payload that a Falcon 9 has yet hoisted to orbit, SpaceX representatives have said. The aerospace company plans to launch nearly 12,000 of these satellites in total, "which will park themselves in low-Earth orbit and beam internet coverage to the world below," the report says. "There will be two Starlink flocks: one constellation of 4,409 satellites and a second constellation of 7,518 satellites, according to an agreement with the FCC." The one caveat is that the FCC approvals require SpaceX to launch half of the planned satellites within the next six years. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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SpaceX launches Starlink mission, deploys 60 satellites [Updated]

Science - Posted On:2019-05-23 23:59:59 Source: arstechnica

11:40pm ET Update: The Falcon 9 rocket launched. Its first stage landed. And then the second stage coasted for the better part of an hour before making a final burn and deploying its payload of Starlink satellites.

About 1 hour and 3 minutes after the launch, the entire stack of 60 satellites floated away from the Falcon 9's second stage. Slowly—very slowly, it appeared—the 60 satellites began to drift apart. The SpaceX webcast ended without saying whether this deployment went as anticipated, and it probably will take some time for the Air Force to begin identifying, and tracking the individual satellites.

In any case, this all made for an interesting evening in space.

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5G Could Mean Less Time To Flee a Deadly Hurricane, Heads of NASA and NOAA Warn

science - Posted On:2019-05-23 20:14:59 Source: slashdot

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: As reported by The Washington Post and CNET, the heads of NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) warn [5G wireless networks] could set back the world's weather forecasting abilities by 40 years -- reducing our ability to predict the path of deadly hurricanes and the amount of time available to evacuate. It's because one of the key wireless frequencies earmarked for speedy 5G millimeter wave networks -- the 24 GHz band -- happens to be very close to the frequencies used by microwave satellites to observe water vapor and detect those changes in the weather. They have the potential to interfere. And according to NASA and NOAA testimony, they could interfere to the point that it delays preparation for extreme weather events. Last week, acting NOAA head Dr. Neil Jacobs told the House Subcommittee on the Environment that based on the current 5G rollout plan, our satellites would lose approximately 77 percent of the data they're currently collecting, reducing our forecast ability by as much as 30 percent. "If you looked back in time to see when our forecast skill was 30 percent less than today, it's somewhere around 1980. This would result in the reduction of hurricane track forecast lead time by roughly 2 to 3 days," he said. If we hadn't had that data, Jacobs added, we wouldn't have been able to predict that the deadly Hurricane Sandy would hit. A European study showed that with 77 percent less data, the model would have predicted the storm staying out at sea instead of making landfall. Jacobs said later that we currently have no other technologies to passively observe water vapor and make these more accurate predictions. On April 19th, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine made similar comments to the House Science Committee. "That part of the electromagnetic spectrum is necessary to make predictions as to where a hurricane is going to make landfall," he told the committee. "If you can't make that prediction accurately, then you end up not evacuating the right people and/or you evacuate people that don't need to evacuate, which is a problem." Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Stronger than aluminum, a heavily altered wood cools passively

Science - Posted On:2019-05-23 19:14:59 Source: arstechnica

Most of our building practices aren't especially sustainable. Concrete production is a major source of carbon emissions, and steel production is very resource intensive. Once completed, heating and cooling buildings becomes a major energy sink. There are various ideas on how to handle each of these issues, like variations on concrete's chemical formula or passive cooling schemes.

But now, a large team of US researchers has found a single solution that appears to manage everything using a sustainable material that both reflects sunlight and radiates away excess heat. The miracle material? Wood. Or a form of wood that's been treated to remove one of its two main components.

Wood is mostly a composite of two polymers. One of these, cellulose, is made by linking sugars together into long chains. That cellulose is mixed with a polymer called lignin, which is not really a single polymer. The precise chemical formula of its starting material can vary among species, and it typically contains multiple places where chemical bonds can form, turning the polymer into a chaotic but extremely robust mesh.

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Chemically treated wood could send excess heat to space

Science - Posted On:2019-05-23 18:59:59 Source: arstechnica

Most of our building practices aren't especially sustainable. Concrete production is a major source of carbon emissions, and steel production is very resource intensive. Once completed, heating and cooling buildings becomes a major energy sink. There are various ideas on how to handle each of these issues, like variations on concrete's chemical formula or passive cooling schemes.

But now, a large team of US researchers has found a single solution that appears to manage everything using a sustainable material that both reflects sunlight and radiates away excess heat. The miracle material? Wood. Or a form of wood that's been treated to remove one of its two main components.

Wood is mostly a composite of two polymers. One of these, cellulose, is made by linking sugars together into long chains. That cellulose is mixed with a polymer called lignin, which is not really a single polymer. The precise chemical formula of its starting material can vary among species, and it typically contains multiple places where chemical bonds can form, turning the polymer into a chaotic but extremely robust mesh.

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SpaceX returns its Falcon 9 to the pad for another Starlink launch attempt

Science - Posted On:2019-05-23 18:29:59 Source: arstechnica

After two launch attempts and a week of downtime, SpaceX has returned its Falcon 9 rocket to the launchpad for the Starlink mission. The 90-minute launch window opens at 10:30pm ET Thursday (02:30 UTC Friday), and the weather—including those pesky upper-level winds—appears likely to cooperate.

With a mass of 18.5 tons, this will be SpaceX's heaviest launch to date for either the Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy rocket. The rocket will attempt to boost 60 Starlink satellites, each 227kg, to an altitude of 440km. This is the company's first block of Starlink satellites for what should eventually be a much larger constellation, and they will help SpaceX gauge its performance and conduct tests of several key systems.

With six more launches, for a total of about 400 satellites, SpaceX founder Elon Musk said the Starlink constellation will reach the point of being able to offer some initial Internet connectivity to ground-based users. A dozen launches would bring "significant" connectivity, he said, and 24 launches would bring near-worldwide service.

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NASA officially orders its first segment of a lunar space station

Science - Posted On:2019-05-23 17:30:00 Source: arstechnica

NASA has chosen its first commercial partner for a proposed space station to be built near the Moon, known as the Lunar Gateway. On Thursday, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said Maxar Technologies would build the first component of the Gateway—the power and propulsion element. Like the name suggests, it will provide electricity to the Gateway and help move it around.

"This time when we go to the Moon, we're actually going to stay," Bridenstine said in making the announcement. He has characterized the Gateway, which will be positioned in a high, elliptical orbit balanced between the Earth and Moon's gravity, as a reusable "Command Module." Under NASA's current plans to land humans on the Moon by 2024, this is where astronauts will launch to from Earth before climbing aboard pre-positioned landers to take them down to the lunar surface.

Despite the fanfare Thursday—Bridenstine provided an hour-long overview of NASA's ambitious Moon plans at the Florida Institute of Technology for a relatively simple contract award—the announcement represents a continuation of a Lunar Gateway plan that was initiated under the Obama administration. The Obama space plan involved using the Gateway as a stepping stone toward Mars, but now the Trump administration is pivoting toward the lunar surface.

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Purdue infiltrated WHO, manipulated opioid policies to boost sales, report finds

Science - Posted On:2019-05-23 16:29:59 Source: arstechnica

Infamous OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma used front organizations and sponsored research to deceive the World Health Organization and corrupt global public health policies with the goal of boosting international opioid sales and profits, according to a Congressional report(PDF) released Thursday, May 22.

The investigation identified two WHO guidance documents that appear to parrot some of Purdue's misleading and outright false marketing claims about the safety and efficacy of their highly addictive opioids.

The findings, released by Reps. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) and Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), land as the country is still grappling with an epidemic of opioid abuse and overdoses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioid overdoses kill an average of 130 Americans every day.

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A sad raven bums out its friends

Science - Posted On:2019-05-23 14:00:00 Source: arstechnica

As social creatures, we subconsciously match moods with those around us—and not just when a cranky supervisor darkens your day (Editor's Note: Is it something I said?). The scientific term for the spread of feelings is “emotional contagion,” a term that may feel particularly appropriate when it comes to grumpiness. But as is so often the case with human psychology, this very human behavior does not appear to be unique to our species.

Studying emotions and their contagious nature in other animals can be tricky. Relying on outward displays runs the risk of conflating a simple emotion with some overt rowdiness that makes it visible. Getting at that underlying emotion requires understanding how critters act in varying moods. A team led by the University of Vienna’s Jessie Adriaense tried to do that with ravens by designing a test to reveal whether they were feeling optimistic.

The first goal of the experiment was to induce a positive or negative emotional state in a raven. To do so, the raven was shown a pair of food items: dog kibbles (a highly rated treat) and some raw carrot (a hard pass). One of the food items would then be taken away. When the tasty treat remained in view, the raven should be enthused; it responded by walking up to that side of the cage and focusing its attention on the snack. When the carrot was left, the bird gave it a dominantly left-side side-eye (the left eye and right brain hemisphere are linked to negative stimuli) and scratched at the ground in frustration.

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Watching a hangry friend makes a raven a pessimist

Science - Posted On:2019-05-23 13:45:00 Source: arstechnica

As social creatures, we subconsciously match moods with those around us—and not just when a cranky supervisor darkens your day (Editor's Note: Is it something I said?). The scientific term for the spread of feelings is “emotional contagion,” a term that may feel particularly appropriate when it comes to grumpiness. But as is so often the case with human psychology, this very human behavior does not appear to be unique to our species.

Studying emotions and their contagious nature in other animals can be tricky. Relying on outward displays runs the risk of conflating a simple emotion with some overt rowdiness that makes it visible. Getting at that underlying emotion requires understanding how critters act in varying moods. A team led by the University of Vienna’s Jessie Adriaense tried to do that with ravens by designing a test to reveal whether they were feeling optimistic.

The first goal of the experiment was to induce a positive or negative emotional state in a raven. To do so, the raven was shown a pair of food items: dog kibbles (a highly rated treat) and some raw carrot (a hard pass). One of the food items would then be taken away. When the tasty treat remained in view, the raven should be enthused; it responded by walking up to that side of the cage and focusing its attention on the snack. When the carrot was left, the bird gave it a dominantly left-side side-eye (the left eye and right brain hemisphere are linked to negative stimuli) and scratched at the ground in frustration.

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How 'The Big Bang Theory' Normalized Nerd Culture

science - Posted On:2019-05-23 03:14:58 Source: slashdot

Last week, the last episode of the final season of "The Big Bang Theory" was broadcasted on CBS. Say what you will about the show, but one thing is clear: it was popular. While the average episode in Season 11 received over 18.6 million views, the season finale ended its run with an audience of 23.44 million viewers. The New Yorker's Neima Jahromi reflects on the show and how it "normalized nerd culture": On Thursday night, "The Big Bang Theory" closed out its run with an audience of eighteen million viewers. Despite all the cast changes, Sheldon remained emphatically misanthropic, self-centered, and alienated. In the end, the reason he became a kind of dweeby Fonz has to do with the structural tendencies of the oft-dismissed multi-camera sitcom. Such shows extract empathy in real time. With a live audience, silence is not an option: if a joke or a scene doesn't land, if real people aren't feeling it, then the writers storm the soundstage and change it. Alienated characters, who are the least likely to garner empathy, require extra attention from writers, and therefore often gravitate toward the center of a show. As a result, viewers come halfway, too. It's unlikely that a curmudgeonly Archie Bunker on "All in the Family" or an uptight Alex P. Keaton on "Family Ties" will remain detestable for long, even if their creators did set them up to be antagonists. Eventually, audiences saw that Sheldon was as befuddled by the world as they were uncomprehending of his intellectual pursuits. They also learned that he hated change as much as they did. In this way, an outmoded form of television cushioned the anxiety of the brave new tech culture for a generation. How do you feel about the ending of The Big Bang Theory? Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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