Tag Archives: nature

Facebook’s reliance on advertising enables fake news, says report

The report was cowritten by a former Facebook privacy and public policy advisor, reports the Guardian. In it the former exec says the disinformation spread during 2016 events like Brexit and the U.S. presidential election is strongly linked to the nature of Facebook as an advertising platform:

“Political disinformation succeeds because it follows the structural logic, benefits from the products and perfects the strategies of the broader digital advertising market . . .

“The central problem of disinformation corrupting American political culture is not Russian spies or a particular social media platform. The central problem is that the entire industry is built to leverage sophisticated technology to aggregate user attention and sell advertising.

“There is an alignment of interests between advertisers and the platforms. And disinformation operators are typically indistinguishable from any other advertiser. Any viable policy solutions must start here.”

The report suggest there may be a simple solution to this conundrum: switching Facebook’s news feed back to a chronological listing. Facebook has not yet commented on the report.

Chicken-sized dinosaur likely used brightly colored feathers to woo mates

A newly described species of dinosaur was found to have a unique combination of old and ...

Displaying eye-catching colors or outlandish behavior to catch the attention of a mate is common in nature, from the peacock, to the hummingbird, to the impossibly white teeth of 60-something real estate mogul. Scientists are claiming to have traced this phenomenon all the way back to an ancient bird-like dinosaur, which they say used a colorful ring of neck feathers to woo potential suitors 160 million years ago.

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Category: Biology

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The Milky Way ate 11 other galaxies

Astronomers have discovered 11 new stellar streams—remnants of smaller galaxies torn apart and devoured by our Milky Way.

The finding is among the highlights of the first three years of survey data from the Dark Energy Survey—research on about 400 million astronomical objects, including distant galaxies as well as stars in our own galaxy.

Dark Energy Survey field of view
This image shows the entire Dark Energy Survey field of view—roughly one-eighth of the sky—captured by the Dark Energy Camera, with different colors corresponding to the distance of stars. (Blue is closer, green is farther away, red is even farther.) Several stellar streams are visible in this image as yellow, blue, and red streaks across the sky. (Credit: Dark Energy Survey)

The Dark Energy Survey, a collaboration that aims to reveal the nature of the mysterious force of dark energy, announced the results.

The Dark Energy Survey

The data cover about 5,000 square degrees, or one-eighth of the entire sky, and include roughly 40,000 exposures taken with the Dark Energy Camera. The images correspond to hundreds of terabytes of data and are being released along with catalogs of hundreds of millions of galaxies and stars.

“We can use these streams to measure the amount, distribution, and ‘clumpiness’ of dark matter in the Milky Way.”

“There are all kinds of discoveries waiting to be found in the data,” says Brian Yanny of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, and Dark Energy Survey data management project scientist.

“While DES scientists are focused on using it to learn about dark energy, we wanted to enable astronomers to explore these images in new ways, to improve our understanding of the universe,” Yanny says.

The Dark Energy Camera, the primary observation tool of the Dark Energy Survey, is one of the most powerful digital imaging devices in existence. It was built and tested at Fermilab, the lead laboratory on the Dark Energy Survey, and is mounted on the National Science Foundation’s 4-meter Blanco telescope in Chile. A team at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign then processes the DES images.

A growing galaxy

One new discovery enabled by the data set is the detection of 11 new streams of stars around our Milky Way.

Our home galaxy is surrounded by a massive halo of dark matter, which exerts a powerful gravitational pull on smaller, nearby galaxies. The Milky Way grows by pulling in, ripping apart, and absorbing these smaller systems. As stars are torn away, they form streams across the sky that the Dark Energy Camera can detect.

Is the Milky Way actually kind of weird?

Even so, stellar streams are extremely difficult to find since they are composed of relatively few stars spread out over a large area of sky.

“It’s exciting that we found so many stellar streams,” says astrophysicist Alex Drlica-Wagner of Fermilab and the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics at University of Chicago. “We can use these streams to measure the amount, distribution, and ‘clumpiness’ of dark matter in the Milky Way. Studies of stellar streams will help constrain the fundamental properties of dark matter.”

Prior to the new discoveries, only about two dozen stellar streams had been discovered. Many of them were found by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, a precursor to the Dark Energy Survey. The effort to detect new stellar streams in the Dark Energy Survey was led by Nora Shipp, a graduate student at the University of Chicago.

“We’re interested in these streams because they teach us about the formation and structure of the Milky Way and its dark matter halo. Stellar streams give us a snapshot of a larger galaxy being built out of smaller ones,” says Shipp. “These discoveries are possible because DES is the widest, deepest, and best-calibrated survey out there.”

Since there is no universally accepted naming convention for stellar streams, the Dark Energy Survey has reached out to schools in Chile and Australia, asking young students to select names. Students and their teachers have worked together to name the streams after aquatic words in native languages from northern Chile and aboriginal Australia.

Vast halo of hydrogen surrounds Milky Way

The researchers presented the initial findings of the Dark Energy Survey during the American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington, DC on January 10.

Funding came from the US Department of Energy Office of Science and the National Science Foundation.

Source: University of Chicago

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5 Habits For Staying Productive In The Dreariest Months Of The Year

Your bags are finally unpacked from that hometown holiday trip, your bank account is still reeling from all of those Secret Santa parties and–as glorious and fleeting as a Fourth of July fireworks show–your “new year, new me” diet has already flickered out.

It’s mid-January, and winter still has a lot more cold and darkness left to give. So while you might still be feeling the sparkly flow of optimism that comes with the New Year, there’s just as good a chance that the winter blues have officially set in.

Before you ask, no, you’re not weird; it’s totally human to have these feelings. In fact, some 10 million Americans start to feel the effects of “seasonal affective disorder” as early as the late fall. We see this in full effect at our company, Shine–where we make daily well-being more accessible through text and audio products. We recently surveyed our members and found that the top two words they used to describe how they felt at the end of the last year were “sad” and “tired.”


Related: How To Trick Your Brain Into Liking Winter


The good news? Getting intentional about how you spend your time can make a major difference in your day-to-day mood–including during one of the chilliest times of the year. In fact, 72% of Shine members said that self-care is their No. 1 resolution for 2018. So with that in mind, here are a few habits for practicing self-care between now and the first signs of spring.

1. Set A Feel-Good Goal

We all get really good at being tough on ourselves when January 1 hits. Most often, we set goals that focus on our jeans size, doing more for others, or just generally being better at the many roles in our lives. Truth is, somewhere between 80% and 92% of New Year’s resolutions fail–in part because they’re typically set up with everyone else in mind but ourselves.

This year, prioritize your mental health and set a goal that simply makes you feel good; don’t worry about whether or not it makes you more productive, athletic, or successful. What would your year be like if you just spent more time reading your favorite books, going on long walks that leave you feeling energized, or getting more time with the VIPs in your life?

Imagine that. Then make it happen. Feel free to start small and try doing something just for you each day. The wintertime slump after the holidays is the perfect time to build momentum.


Related: This Entrepreneur Traded Her New Year’s Resolutions For A Yearly Mantra


2. Feel Grateful For Something Every Day

The holiday season can feel like a giant, blinking neon sign telling you to practice gratitude and cherish those around you. But without the sugary-sweet commercials and Netflix holiday rom-coms as reminders, it’s easy to fall back into your day-to-day routines, forgetting to notice the everyday magic around you.

A daily gratitude habit is strongly correlated with increased happiness and overall well-being, not to mention with strengthening your relationships. For the next month or two, give it a shot. You can go as a big as writing in a physical gratitude journal once a day, or as small as remembering to reflect on a good moment before you go to bed tonight.


Related: The Norwegian Secret To Enjoying A Long Winter


3. Let Go Of Something

Disorganization actually fuels stress. Keeping too much clutter around can sap your focus, cost you time (and therefore money) looking for what you need, and incentivize procrastination. The more stuff you allow yourself to accumulate in more places, the more precious mental space it can take up.

Why wait for March? Get a head start on spring cleaning and purge your physical and emotional closet. Go full Marie Kondo on your stuff—and while you’re at it, release some of the negative thoughts or worries that didn’t serve you in 2017. (And if reorganizing your entire workspace is too daunting, start one desk drawer at a time.)

4. Find A Creative Outlet

As creatures of habit, it can be easy to fall in routines where we only do things we have to each day. But creativity helps us to better live in the present moment, see things from a different perspective, and problem-solve. Who doesn’t want that?

This month, actively prioritize something that allows you to express yourself. If you enjoy traditionally “creative” activities like writing or drawing–amazing, do more of those things! If you’re one of the many people who don’t see themselves as creative, I promise you, you are in some way or other. Whether it’s cooking, dancing, or doodling, try experimenting with outlets that bring that left brain to life.


Related: Need A Creative Idea In 10 Minutes? Play With The Stuff On Your Desk


5. Bundle Up And Get Outside

With many of us experiencing below-freezing temperatures this time of year, going outside might feel like something to avoid at all costs. But spending time in nature (even at its wintriest) has major cognitive and emotional upsides, and not surprisingly, we tend to get much less sun and fresh air in the winter season.

So bundle up and go for a brisk walk or hike. If you can’t manage that, commit to stepping outside for at least 15 minutes a day–even if that means walking a few blocks to your “far” lunch spot rather than your usual nearby one. (And if you can afford it, plan a trip somewhere slightly warmer!)

As we actively try (and fail) not to reference that whole “put on your own oxygen mask on first” cliché, we’ll say this: You matter, and you cannot serve anyone else if you’re not taking care of yourself. So serve yourself a dose of self-care this winter. You deserve it.


Marah Lidey and Naomi Hirabayashi are the cofounders and co-CEOs of Shine.

Scientists aim to turn off mosquito genes for biting

Focusing on Wyeomyia smithii, also known as pitcher plant mosquitoes, researchers have pinpointed and sorted out 902 genes related to blood feeding and 478 genes linked to non-blood feeding among female mosquitoes.

The researchers hope to use this genetic information to stop mosquitoes from feeding on blood, which would, in turn, stop the spread of many serious diseases.

“…if we can figure out how to incapacitate biting genes, that would mitigate vector-borne disease worldwide…”

Pitcher plant mosquitoes, which biologists William Bradshaw and Christina Holzapfel have studied for decades, grow in swamps and bogs along the east coast of North America from north Florida into Canada. The species completes its pre-adult life cycle in the water of pitcher plants.

The approach used in isolating the genes will be pursued in other species to identify which ones are universal, says Bradshaw and Holzapfel, who are members of the University of Oregon’s Institute of Ecology and Evolution.

Next, the researchers hope to target common house mosquitoes (Culex pipiens), which spread many encephalitis diseases, West Nile virus, and heartworm; Asian tiger mosquitoes (Aedes albopictus), spreading rapidly in the United States and carriers of, among other viruses, dengue, Zika, and yellow fever; and the African malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae.

“We are seeking the genes that are in the transition between biting and non-biting,” Holzapfel says. “The reason we are seeking those genes is because if we can figure out how to incapacitate biting genes, that would mitigate vector-borne disease worldwide. If there is no bite, there is no disease transmission, period.”

The research initially targeted the pitcher plant mosquito because it is the only known species to have females that either bite to obtain blood or are obligate non-biters—those that don’t seek blood.

Females are the blood-feeding mosquitos, making them the vectors of diseases; males feed on nectar, as do female non-biting pitcher plant mosquitoes.

Bradshaw and Holzapfel say that they had realized the possibility 20 years ago that genes guiding these lifestyle differences existed and had evolved in nature, but the technology was not yet developed to isolate these genes.

In the project, the researchers examined 21,618 potential genes in the pitcher plant mosquito. Over seven generations, they identified and extracted 1,380 genes determined to have direct effects on differentiating the biting and non-biting lifestyles.

Scientists need help: Capture mosquito buzz on your phone

The step-by-step method involved strong, directional gene selection on a low-biting Florida population. By saving and mating only females about to blood-feed, researchers created an avid, voracious biting line. They also developed a group of disinterested non-biters from the same population by eliminating all females that bit or attempted to bite.

The researchers also examined known metabolic pathways of the isolated genes. Key proteins, like fatty acid synthesis and energy production, are being produced in both biters and non-biters, but the linking enzymes that determine which metabolic pathways are turned on are missing in the non-biters.

“The car is gassed up and running at the intersection but the light is red,” says coauthor Michael E. Pfrender, director of the Genomics & Bioinformatics Core Facility at the University of Notre Dame.

How mosquitoes get away before you can slap them

Understanding specific genes and metabolic pathways are tied to blood-feeding behavior, Holzapfel says, will be helpful for future efforts by pharmaceutical companies to harness a control approach that nature already has established. Such an approach, she adds, would allow mosquito populations to thrive and keep their place in the food chain.

The researchers report their findings in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Funding for the research came from the National Science Foundation.

Source: University of Oregon

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Dronestagram's stunning photo collection places nature firmly in focus

Iceland famous Gullfoss waterfall

Drones have put powerful new tools in the hands of photographers, and the results are only getting more spectacular. The gear is getting cheaper, the folks flying it are getting more skillful, and one of the best places to track the progress is dedicated drone photography platform Dronestagram. Here are its best snaps of 2017.

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general design discussion • Re: Culture at your company

I agree with Keno about inclusive culture. It you are accepting, you should have a diverse staff and not really test to see if someone fits (other than the no-a-hole rule).

A few things that I found help:

lunches. Eating together builds a team. Pot lucks are fun for getting some discussions going too.

Be honest to the nature of the group. Organizing an after work laser-tag competition is not for every team. The team activities need to come from within the team.

The leader needs to be a bit of a mirror. A leader who boasts culture all the time and then follows their own rules is doomed to lose the respect of the team.


Cognitive decline may be slowed by leafy greens

A daily salad might be a good idea for people wishing to stave off dementia

According to a new study conducted by Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center, just one serving of leafy green vegetables per day could help preserve memory and thinking skills as we get older. In fact, following such a diet may slow brain aging by up to 11 years.

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Category: Health & Wellbeing

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What Facebook’s Fight Against Fake News Got Wrong (And Right)

Facebook’s design team breaks down the good, the bad, and the ugly of fighting fake news.

After the 2016 election, we had a collective reckoning about the viral nature and impact of fake news. Empowered by the rise of social networks–namely Facebook, but others, too–propagandists leveraged the public’s newfound capacity to easily share a sensational, fictitious story to take over a news cycle with partisan falsehoods.

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Underwater drone finds Australia's first submarine lost for over a century

Survey data showing HMAS AE1 on the sea bed

After 103 years, a robotic submarine has found the wreck of Australia’s first submarine. Operating from the survey vessel MV Fugro Equator, the autonomous underwater vehicle Hugin 1000 discovered the 800-ton HMAS-AE1 this week off the coast of the Duke of York Island group in Papua New Guinea. The sub was found in 300 m (980 ft) of water using an advanced side-scan sonar system in a joint exercise by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) and civilian search teams.

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Category: Marine

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