A new breed of dating website has entered the business with half a million dollars of financial backing and a radical approach that will leave you either intrigued or more than a little weirded out. According to Tech Crunch the site will allow users of the facebook application to find you based on your facebook interests, spotify history, netflix and even amazon data. Even if you haven’t installed the application yourself.
I’ll be interested to see how people feel about this. I’ve got a feeling people will find it too strange to be contacted out of the blue on facebook by strangers but the option to ask mutual friends for an introduction sounds like it could be more socially viable. I imagine the sharing of our data without our consent is something that is going to leave a lot of people very upset but this may prove not to impact on the success of the new venture because I’m sure the prospect of a date invitation from an attractive stranger will be too much of a lure for most to turn down on principle. It certainly seems that a growing majority of people no longer have qualms about sharing their personal information on Facebook. When it comes to the use of our data, the application will have access to nothing that isn’t public data anyway and that says a lot about the current state of our privacy.
As the graphic above demonstrates this certainly isn’t the first time a dating website has matched users based on their interests but this is the first time this is being done on Facebook without the date’s consent. Perhaps soon we’ll be discussing the effect of the Facebook filter bubble in the same terms as the Google filter bubble. On the other hand you now have another reason to “like” Neurobonkers on facebook, what single person wouldn’t want to meet a fellow sceptical, science loving, critically minded partner?
If you are not currently studying at a world class institution, shibboleth is one of the paywalls you are typically confronted with when you try to read an academic article.
In fact, even if you are at a good university, you probably regularly encounter journals which your university can not afford – or does not think worthy of subscribing to. The dictionary definition of the word reads:
shib·bo·leth noun \ˈshi-bə-ləth also -ˌleth\
a: a word or saying used by adherents of a party, sect, or belief and usually regarded by others as empty of real meaning <the old shibboleths come rolling off their lips — Joseph Epstein>
b: a widely held belief <today this book publishing shibboleth is a myth — L. A. Wood>
a: a use of language regarded as distinctive of a particular group <accent was … a shibboleth of social class — Vivian Ducat>
b: a custom or usage regarded as distinguishing one group from others <for most of the well-to-do in the town, dinner was a shibboleth, its hour dividing mankind — Osbert Sitwell>
I found it quite amusing when the word shibboleth was used apparently unironically in a Nature blog post making the controversial argument that writers don’t necessarily have to understand the scientific papers that they write about. This blog post reiterated the shocking statement made by Nature’s online news editor Ananyo Bhattacharya that he doesn’t consider it necessary for journalists to even read a scientific paper before they report on it. The Guardian’s James Randerson makes an excellent case for why this argument is a steaming pile of erm, nonsense. Randerson does however identify one huge stumbling box for journalists – press releases often don’t come with the research attached and journalists often don’t have the time and resources to get access to the paper.
We are therefore in the ridiculous situation that much of what is printed in the science news columns of the main-stream press is wholly uninformed speculation about research that neither the public nor journalists can access. No wonder so many people are so turned off to science.
One solution to this problem is that researchers and funding organisations can insist on their research being published in open-access journals. In real terms there is nothing to lose and everything to gain, PLoS will waive all charges no questions asked. In cases where your copyright has already been transferred to a pay-walling publisher you can often gain permission for your work to be posted on your blog, once this is done, people will be able to track down your work using Google. I typically Google the title of a paper to see if this is the case because downloading a paper straight from the scientist’s site is a great deal faster than fumbling around with paywalls. Secondly, journalists must insist on full access to any journals they are expected to write about. If journalists make it common practice to write back to senders of press releases stating that they can not report a paper without a copy of the paper then with any luck the message will get through that this practice is unacceptable.
In an amusing twist in the ongoing Elsevier saga, Elsevier are attempting to shut down the twitter account @FakeElsevier for trademark violation.
Just got a trademark violation notice from Twitter (thanks, Elsevier! You stay classy!).Will challenge / attempt to resolve.
— Fake Elsevier (@FakeElsevier) March 26, 2012
It’s always fun when a big bad organisation forgets the Streisand Effect. The fact that the above tweet has over fifty retweets and plenty of ensuing hilarity affirms this:
<tries to look inconspicuous>
— Real Elsevier (@RealElsevier) March 27, 2012
So confused. I thought it was a Dominos Pizza style “yeah, we suck” ad campaign. MT @FakeElsevier Just got a trademark violation notice.
— Lane Wilkinson (@librarianwilk) March 27, 2012
@FakeElsevier Just replace the page with a paywall. Though that might infringe upon their IP even more.
— Adam Hyland (@therealprotonk) March 26, 2012
@FakeElsevier now that you’ve already pissed them off, how about some references to the fake payola Elsevier journal commissioned by Merck?
— Warren G. Lewis(@Luminescer) March 26, 2012
Just think about the $ Elsevier spent to send @FakeElsevier that TM violation notice. You know who paid for that? Libraries.
— Lorie Kloda (@loriekloda) March 27, 2012
— Brian Jackson (@briandjackson) March 27, 2012
..and as many people have pointed out, the account clearly has a water tight case – the clue is in the title:
Trademark infringement generally based on “likelihood of confusion” with holder. Wonder what confusion at issue w @FakeElsevier complaint?
— John Mark Ockerbloom (@JMarkOckerbloom) March 26, 2012
— Rob Sanderson (@azaroth42) March 26, 2012
.@FakeElsevier Someone needs to do study on which part of “Fake” is the “confusingly similar to” part. It’s sure to earn them a publication.
— Andrew (@_drewski) March 27, 2012
Maybe they want people to think they are the *real* fakes instead of @FakeElsevier
— Lorie Kloda (@loriekloda) March 27, 2012
@FakeElsevier has done a tremendous job drawing attention to the issue at hand through an entertaining stream of satirical tweets, an amusing tumblr, a thoughtful blog and a great little humorous video that sums up everything that is wrong with Elsevier’s business model in two minutes:
As of this morning it seems Elsevier have realised they have opened a huge can of worms (or a huge can of lols?) and are now furiously backpedaling:
Hi, @tomreller of Elsevier. I see you just started following. Did you have something to do with this trademark violation nonsense?
— Fake Elsevier (@FakeElsevier) March 27, 2012
HAHAHAHAHAHA. That’s a good one. RT “@TomReller: Are you sure twitter doesnt police itself for fake accounts?”
— Fake Elsevier (@FakeElsevier) March 27, 2012
To sign the petition in protest against Elsevier’s practices head over to thecostofknowledge.com. In other news the APA recently shut down a blogger critical of DSM-5 for exactly the same reason.
Elsevier has now denied issuing the takedown order.
@FakeElsevier Elsevier didn’t file a trade mark complaint! We’re calling twitter to see if we can find out who did.
— Tom Reller, Elsevier (@TomReller) March 27, 2012
However @fakeelsevier has stated that:
. @TomReller it looks like making a Trademark complaint on Twitter requires a company email address, reg. number + info, etc. etc.
— Fake Elsevier (@FakeElsevier) March 27, 2012
I’ll post an update if and when more information becomes available.
Update: Elsevier have now officially admitted responsibility for the take-down order (but are no longer going ahgead with it):
— Tom Reller, Elsevier (@TomReller) March 30, 2012
A group of psychologists have made a film discussing some interesting hypotheses. The team consists of some big fish in the world of psychology including the highly influential Gary Greenberg, Phillip Zimbardo (known for the infamous ”prison experiment”), Robert Hare and Paul Babiak. The film addresses the following questions:
- Did anti-depressants play a role in the financial crisis?
- Are bankers and executives more likely to be psychopaths than the rest of the population?
- Do financial institutions behave in the same way as psychopaths?
The ideas that the film presents are certainly worthy of discussion but the conclusions that the film draws appear to somewhat overstate the case. Despite the big names, it has a decidedly brain-washy feel and is extremely light on evidence, instead taking a speculative approach. The film also fails to reach a satisfactory conclusion (simply concluding with that age old happy ending that we should do on to others as we would like done to ourselves).
The film alludes to the idea that the bankers who caused the financial crisis were loaded on anti-depressants and as such, felt no “prick of conscience” that would have prevented them from speculating their businesses in to the ground. It turns out there is little in terms of research evidence to directly support this hypothesis, but admittedly the hypothesis does make sense theoretically – “emotional blunting” and “reduced sympathy and empathy” are serious unfortunate side effects of most popular anti-depressants. I was surprised given the theme, that the film failed to mention that the next edition of the diagnostic manual (DSM-5) is set to expand the definitions and lower the thresholds of both depression and psychosis, which will result unequivocally in more prescriptions of both anti-depressants and anti-psychotics. If the hypothesis the film presents is correct, this will worsen the situation.
Another theory proposed in the film is that bankers are themselves, more likely to be psychopathic. This claim is based on one study (Babiak, Neumaan and Hare, 2010), which incidentally is authored by two of the leading contributors to the film (Babiak and Hare) who in the film describe the paper as:
It’s an idea born to go viral, given our current international public past-time of banker-bashing but the study in question in fact tells us very little. The study was only tiny – looking at 203 “supervisors, managers or executives”, it did not look specifically at banking and used only a research description of psychopathy rather than a clinical description. The sample was not randomly selected nor was it representative – looking at only seven companies. The experimenters were not blinded – (far from it – they were the authors) and to top it off there was no experimental control group. If you read the (paywalled) paper (none of this information is included in the abstract) you’ll see that the percentage of “supervisors, managers or executives” who met the research definition of having “potential or possible psychopathy” was actually 5.9% which is only 4.7% higher than in the general population. The average psychopathy rating in the experiment was in fact lower than in the general population. This study alone really isn’t strong enough evidence to draw the conclusions made in the film, the findings are certainly well within the margins of error. It is an interesting finding that warrants further study but to describe it as anything other than this is somewhat misleading. This has not stopped such “reputable outlets” as The Huffington Post, Current and Business Insider misreporting otherwise (needless to say, none of the publications have corrected the mistakes in their print - the 10% figure that has been plucked from the sky for example).
This would certainly be an interesting area of research, it just seems odd that the film has been made before any remotely conclusive research has been done. Admittedly this is no simple task, Hare’s study was the first of it’s kind and the banking industry isn’t exactly begging to open their doors to researchers asking to study their executives to see if they are a bunch of psychopaths. Even if they did achieve this on a large scale, a truly representative population would be near impossible to achieve – one can’t help but think that a psychopath at the very top of their game in the corporate world might not reply to an email asking them to participate in a psychology study. Even if they did, by definition – they would be very good at hiding the traits that make them a psychopath. I can’t help but feel that these researchers face the same problem as Henry the VIII did when he wrote up the Witchcraft Act of 1542.
In conclusion, this film presents some fascinating speculative ideas, it’s a pity the research is so weak. That is not necessarily the fault of the researchers – I just feel they could have done a better job of making this clear. It’s certainly a film worth watching, though the conclusions drawn should be taken with a heap of salt.
Babiak, P., Neumann, C., & Hare, R. (2010). Corporate psychopathy: Talking the walk Behavioral Sciences & the Law DOI: 10.1002/bsl.925 (£)
Price J, Cole V, & Goodwin GM (2009). Emotional side-effects of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors: qualitative study. The British journal of psychiatry : the journal of mental science, 195 (3), 211-7 PMID: 19721109 (PDF)
Seeing around corners has always been a nut that has just been too hard to crack, until now…
An MIT research team have developed a camera that can do just that by using a new form of photography called Femto-photography which exploits the finite speed of light and analyzes ‘echoes of light’.
The project has a long way to go but promises potential applications in fields ranging from medical imaging to transport. Check out the team’s video explaining how to camera works:
‘A laser pulse that lasts less than one trillionth of a second is used as a flash and the light returning from the scene is collected by a camera at the equivalent of close to 1 trillion frames per second.’
From the research team’s website
Velten, A., Willwacher, T., Gupta, O., Veeraraghavan, A., Bawendi, M., & Raskar, R. (2012). Recovering three-dimensional shape around a corner using ultrafast time-of-flight imaging Nature Communications, 3 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms1747 (PDF)
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