tcd004 writes: Sarah Marshall has completed roughly 20,000 academic surveys. Clay Hamilton has finished about 40,000. Marshall and Hamilton are part of a small but highly-active community of paid online study participants who generate data at break-neck speed to fuel modern scientific research. But can a person who's completed thousands of surveys still provide good data? Here's a look at the humans feeding science from inside the machine.
tcd004 writes: Sarah Marshall has completed roughly 20,000 academic surveys. Clay Hamilton has finished about 40,000. Marshall and Hamilton are part of a small but highly-active community of paid online study participants on Amazon's Mechanical Turk who generate data at break-neck speed to fuel modern scientific research. But can a person who's completed thousands of surveys still provide good data? Here's a look at the humans feeding science from inside the machine.
tcd004 writes: Doctors are increasingly turning to big data and simple artificial intelligence when they can't find answers in traditional medical texts. Prodded by the new health care law to seek better ways to incorporate high tech into their everyday tasks, doctors are discovering the power of intelligent search engines and data mining. Artificial intelligence can be a tool to take full advantage of electronic medical records, transforming them from mere e-filing cabinets into full-fledged doctors’ aides that can deliver clinically relevant, high-quality data in real time. And tech giants are jumping on the opportunity. “Electronic health records [are] like large quarries where there’s lots of gold, and we’re just beginning to mine them,” said Dr. Eric Horvitz, who is the managing director of Microsoft Research and specializes in applying artificial intelligence in health care settings.
tcd004 writes: Google just released data on the diversity of its employees for the first time. It's a big deal, and the numbers are bleak for both gender and ethnic diversity. But it shouldn't be so hard to find capable women and minorities to fill tech jobs, argues Vivek Wadhwa. In the 70's and 80's a third of all computer sciences grads were women. What happened? The brogrammer culture won out. Wadhwa has advice on how to fix it.
tcd004 writes: You've always suspected those trailer-type portable classrooms are no good, right? It turns out you’re right. Analysis of prefabricated classrooms in Washington shows the structures often don't allow for proper ventilation, leading to terrible air quality for kids. Students in temporary classrooms have higher rates of absenteeism than those in standard classrooms. And the energy-inneficient structures often become permanent, sucking on school energy bills for decades, and requiring more upkeep than permanent classrooms. What's needed are new designs for healthy, sustainable temporary classrooms.
tcd004 writes: Few sciences are more romantic than taxonomy. Imagine Darwin, perched over a nest of newly-discovered birds in the Galapagos, sketching away with a charcoal in his immortal journals. Yet Taxonomy is a dying science. DNA barcoding, which can identify species from tiny fragments of organic material, and other genetic sciences are pulling students away from the classical studies of anatomy and species classifications. As the biodiversity crisis wipes undiscovered species off the planet, so to go the scientists who count them.
tcd004 writes: By most estimates, more than half of global Bitcoin transactions are wagers on gambling sites. Just-Dice.com, where whales regularly make colossal bets, has handled more than $2 billion in wagers since it was founded in June 2013. All of this gambling happens in a currency that is largely unregulated, on websites set up on offshore servers, and right under the noses of officials who are unaware it exists.
tcd004 writes: Imagine this crazy scenario: A space vehicle we've sent to a distant planet to search for life touches down in an icy area. The heat from the spacecraft's internal power system warms the ice, and water forms below the landing gear of the craft. And on the landing gear is something found on every surface on planet Earth... bacteria. Lots of them. If those spore-forming bacteria found themselves in a moist environment with a temperature range they could tolerate, they might just make themselves at home and thrive and then, well... the extraterrestrial life that we'd been searching for might just turn out to be Earth life we introduced.
tcd004 writes: PBS NewsHour published an investigation into Bath Salts, the sometimes legal, little understood street drug that has been linked to bizarre and violent behavior. The chemistry behind bath salts, it turns out, is as fascinating as the side effects. Tests show that the most common application of bath salts works in two-phases with a time-release mechanism. The drug first blasts the user with dopamine, but then limits the ability of the brain to soak it back up. And, researchers think, a unique "fish hook" shaped molecule means that the drug can get locked in, and take days, or even weeks to wear off— often, too late for users who are driven to extreme violence or suicide.
tcd004 writes: An asteroid is caught in a synchronized orbit with the Earth, dancing back and forth relative to our planet as both circle the sun, a team of Canadian scientists has discovered. The object, which for now is dubbed 2010 TK7, is a "Trojan" asteroid, meaning that it is trapped in a delicate gravitational balance between a tug from the sun and an equal tug from the Earth. It's long been known that Jupiter, Neptune and Mars have Trojans orbiting alongside them, but this is the first time one has been found alongside our planet.
tcd004 writes: Russian and French teams are currently hard at work in French Guiana on the northern coast of South America, building the first Soyuz launch facility in the Western Hemisphere. Soyuz rockets normally carry 3,500 pound payloads into orbit, but from the French Guiana spaceport, the rocket will have an added benefit of being near the equator where the Earth's spin extremely fast. This extra boost allows it to deliver a 6,600 pound payload into orbit. The first launches are scheduled for October.
tcd004 writes: A report released today by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism shows that the Drudge Report is a far more important driver of online news traffic than Facebook or Twitter. In fact, for the top 25 news websites, Twitter barely registers as a source of traffic. The report hits on several other interesting findings about news behavior.
tcd004 writes: "There was a close call last week when an enormous coronal ejection nearly hit Mercury, and the orbiting Messenger spacecraft. Scientists at the Space Weather Laboratory flew into action, modeling the event to determine how close it had come to the spacecraft using data from the twin STEREO sun observers. The group use an animated model called WSA-ENLIL, named after a Sumerian lord of wind and storms. Enlil, who wears a crown of horns, is known for being a kind but also cruel god who sends forth disasters, including a great flood that wiped out humanity. Fortunately Messenger escaped Enlil's wrath."
tcd004 writes: The teen years are a critical "pruning" stage in the brain. Neural pathways that are needed are strengthened, and those that aren't are discarded. How is a twitter/facebook/texting/xbox lifestyle remaking the teen brain? DR. JAY GIEDD, a neuroscientist, National Institute of Mental Health is studying the affects of multitasking and constant communication on teens, and he thinks these influences may actually be building a better brain.