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  • July 4, 2013
  • 05:24 AM

Imprisoned Because of Bad Statistics

by Kate Blanchfield in United Academics

The name Lucia de Berk will always be associated with a huge miscarriage of justice in the Netherlands. Accused of murdering patients at the Juliana Children’s Hospital where she worked as a nurse, De Berk was arrested in 2001 and found guilty of seven counts of murder in addition to three counts of attempted murder that were added to her rap sheet in 2004. The case relied heavily on bad statistics that were wrongly interpreted, eventually leading to a life sentence.... Read more »

Ronald Meester, Marieke Collins, Richard Gill, & Michiel van Lambalgen. (2006) On the (ab)use of statistics in the legal case against the nurse Lucia de B. arXiv. arXiv: math/0607340v1

M. Zegers, M.C. de Bruijne, C. Wagner, L.H. Hoonhout, R. Waaijman, M. Smits, F.A. Hout, L. Zwaan, I. Christiaans-Dingelhoff, D.R. Timmermans, P.P Groenewegen, G. van der Wa. (2009) Adverse events and potentially preventable deaths in Dutch hospitals: results of a retrospective patient record review study. Qual Saf Health Care. DOI: 10.1136/qshc.2007.025924  

  • July 3, 2013
  • 11:28 AM

Long Solo Car Trips As Bad As Air Travel

by Matteo Gagliardi in United Academics

Air travel has the biggest impact on the climate per trip, but travelling long distances alone by car could be just as bad for one’s carbon footprint, a new study has found.

The study was conducted by researchers at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and the Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research – Oslo (CICERO) and published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

The researchers compared the climate impacts of different forms of transport for a travel distance of between 500km and 1000km, typical of business or holidays trips.... Read more »

Jens Borken-Kleefeld, Jan Fuglestvedt, & Terje Berntsen. (2013) Mode, Load, And Specific Climate Impact from Passenger Trips. Environmental Science. DOI: 10.1021/es4003718  

  • July 3, 2013
  • 09:33 AM

What’s the Best Moment to Buy a Plane Ticket?

by Simone Munao in United Academics

A Japanese economist has studied the mathematics used by air companies to set the prices of flights. According to his research, eight weeks before departure is the ideal timing to buy a travel ticket.

The best moment to book a flight is eight weeks before leaving. Dr. Makoto Watanabe is a Japanese economist, currently Associate Professor at the VU University Amsterdam, and he has just developed a mathematical formula to predict the best moment to buy airplane tickets. His research, published on the Economic Journal may help million passengers ready to fly to save up some money before leaving.... Read more »

  • July 3, 2013
  • 05:20 AM

Egypt Uprising: More Than Just a ‘Twitter revolt’

by Paul Reilly in United Academics

These days all you need to be a revolutionary is a mobile phone and a grievance. Some see what is happening on the streets of Cairo as the ultimate expression of democracy – millions of people using social media to express their unhappiness with their government.

Others see it as the exact opposite – and forecast that Egypt’s 12-month experiment with democracy, after 30 years of dictatorship, will have been cut off in its infancy if the army carries out its threat to intervene in order to stop events spiralling out of control.... Read more »

Tufekci, Zeynep; Wilson, Christopher. (2012) Social Media and the Decision to Participate in Political Protest: Observations From Tahrir Square . Journal of Communication. info:/

  • July 2, 2013
  • 12:00 PM

Super Intelligent Machines Aren’t to Be Feared

by Tony Prescott. in United Academics

Fear of machines becoming smarter than humans is a standard part of popular culture. In films like iRobot and Terminator, humans are usurped. Throughout history we can trace stories about humankind overreaching through a desire to understand and copy ourselves, from Ancient Greek mythology to Milton’s Paradise Lost and Shelley’s Frankenstein. Today’s Prometheans are supposedly scientists working on artificial intelligence (AI), who run the risk of creating machines intelligent enough to supercede us.... Read more »

  • July 2, 2013
  • 08:26 AM

#SPARCS2013: The Aftermath

by Cobb & Hecht in Do You Believe In Dog?

Oh Julie! How great was #SPARCS2013? SO VERY, VERY GREAT! I love the buzz that comes from hearing presentations by experts in the various areas of canine science and what the Society for the Promotion of Applied Research in Canine Science achieved over 3 days, AND SHARED GLOBALLY FOR FREE, was just phenomenal!I love that we hung out in little parties in our respective parts of the world - with dogs present! I spent one morning (Australia time, end of a SPARCS day) with my colleague, Kate Mornement (and her dogs, Archie and Joseph!). The other days I spent waking up early and loving hearing from the likes of Adam Miklosi, Monique Udell and Clive Wynne. It was just FABULOUS. I hope everyone who enjoyed SPARCS2013, remembers to donate and/or become a SPARCS member so that this initiative can continue in the future. SPARCS parties around the world! Something that was also interesting to me, was watching the twitter-sphere light up in response to the #SPARCS2013 event hashtag. Seeing the canine science communication get further afield (through the free live streaming over the web) than it would usually in a regular scientific conference was interesting, entertaining and above all - BRILLIANT.Monique Udell breaking down canine cognition There was one thing I found particularly interesting, which was how exchanges of what I would call 'scientific discussion', for example, such as:"You're wrong!""What's the source of that data?""It's OK to not have all the answers""We should all be careful of over-generalising our results""I'm not interested in repeating your experiment, because I'm not interested in testing that hypothesis"were sometimes perceived as "silo" (divisive) attitudes, rather than people just expressing a professional difference of opinion or seeking further information. I think it's really important that when we communicate our science to a broader audience, we also take time to explain the scientific process and how scientific rigour operates as a self-correcting process, over time. Always advancing our understanding and moving towards the best grasp of concepts that we can have. This process doesn't do a disservice to "the dogs", each other, or our work. It is how we ensure we do the best by the dogs, each other, and our work. Sometimes in science, entire premises can get flipped on their heads, and initially, that can feel uncomfortable, or ridiculous, or really, very right.We're not fighting! (Flickr:JesseGardner)Clive Wynne acknowledged this toward the closing of his final presentation, when thanking the SPARCS2013 organisers. He said that it is good for the discipline of canine science to have a forum like SPARCS, where the experts can come and speak, listen to each other, discuss, perhaps even argue, because that process - provided we all stay open to the odd premise-flipping idea - drives our field forwards in a healthy direction for the future.Thank you #SPARCS2013, to the conference planning team for making this available for free, the live stream tech' team for being so responsive and ensuring we were all able to experience this amazing forum, the Twitter community who participated in the online discussion and to the scientists who shared their ideas and understanding with the world.&... Read more »

  • July 1, 2013
  • 11:24 AM

‘Mental Illness’ Isn’t all About Brain Chemistry

by Mary Boyle in United Academics

Do you believe ‘mental illness’ is all about brain chemistry? It wouldn’t be surprising if you did, because this is the message we regularly receive about various forms of troublesome feelings, thoughts and behaviour.

The publication of the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) reinforced this picture. David Kupfer, chair of the manual’s taskforce, declared:

In the future, we hope to be able to identify disorders using biological and genetic markers that provide precise diagnoses that can be delivered with complete reliability and validity.... Read more »

  • June 30, 2013
  • 04:43 AM

Human Revolution Not Caused by Population Growth?

by Akshat Rathi. in United Academics

About 50,000 years ago, modern humans left Africa and began occupying the rest of the world. The common thought is that a sudden growth in population caused the so-called “human revolution”, which gave birth to language, art, and culture as we know it today. Now, based on something that’s not obviously related to human culture—the size of shellfish fossils—researchers have challenged that model.

Artifacts from two sites in South Africa, Still Bay and Howieson’s Poort, have convinced archaeologists that the period between 85,000 to 65,000 years ago was when the “human revolution” began. Humans from that time made jewellery from perforated shells and used objects as symbols. They made better tools than they had ever before. Some of these tools, made from ostrich eggshells, were even capable of slicing fruit.... Read more »

Klein RG, & Steele TE. (2013) Archaeological shellfish size and later human evolution in Africa. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. PMID: 23776248  

  • June 30, 2013
  • 04:34 AM

Grunting in Tennis: What’s the Racket?

by Pete Etchells in United Academics

Noise seems to be a bit of a problem in major sports tournaments. For many, vuvuzelas were the scourge of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. So much so that the BBC looked into ways of muting them on live sound feeds.

Now, with Wimbledon in full swing, an old favourite is back – the eponymous tennis grunt.... Read more »

Amy S. Welcha . (2012) Something to Shout About: A Simple, Quick Performance Enhancement Technique Improved Strength in Both Experts and Novices. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology. info:/

  • June 27, 2013
  • 09:06 AM

Quantum Mechanics Still Puzzles Scientists

by Kate Blanchfield in United Academics

The American physicist Richard Feynman is famously supposed to have once said “if you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics”. Whether or not he ever actually said it, the idea that quantum mechanics poses difficulties for scientists still seems to be true today. Two surveys from quantum mechanics conferences show that there are still many foundational issues over which scientists disagree.... Read more »

Maximilian Schlosshauer, Johannes Kofler, & Anton Zeilinger. (2013) A Snapshot of Foundational Attitudes Toward Quantum Mechanics. arXiv. arXiv: 1301.1069v1

Travis Norsen, & Sarah Nelson. (2013) Yet Another Snapshot of Foundational Attitudes Toward Quantum Mechanics. arXiv. arXiv: 1306.4646v2

  • June 27, 2013
  • 09:04 AM

Engineered Bacteria Becomes Biofuel Precursor

by Geetanjali Yadav in United Academics

Global population explosion puts us in a very difficult stage where it is very important to have alternatives to modern day fuels like gasoline that fuels million of cars with internal combustion engines as our current biofuels sources are exhaustible. In a recent finding published in PNAS, Scientists at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and the Department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School have engineered a bacterium which is capable of producing biofuel precursors that is reported to have high-octane fatty acid moieties.... Read more »

Torella JP, Ford TJ, Kim SN, Chen AM, Way JC, & Silver PA. (2013) Tailored fatty acid synthesis via dynamic control of fatty acid elongation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. PMID: 23798438  

  • June 27, 2013
  • 06:05 AM

Can fingers and limbs self-regenerate after a grievous injury or accident?

by Patrick Meyer in United Academics

Instead of creating scar tissue through an immune system response, extracellular matrix responds to injured areas by creating new cells that in turn divide and reproduce on top of themselves, creating a cellular foundation for new tissue to form.... Read more »

  • June 25, 2013
  • 09:59 AM

Dust Escaping from Black Holes May Form Stars

by Emily Brown in United Academics

Matter escaping from the clutches of mysterious black holes may be responsible for forming stars, according to new research that explores how galaxies are formed. Much has been learnt about black holes – which lurk at the centre of all large galaxies and suck up anything in their vicinity – over the past two decades. Yet the phenomena remain largely unexplained.... Read more »

Hönig, S., Kishimoto, M., Tristram, K., Prieto, M., Gandhi, P., Asmus, D., Antonucci, R., Burtscher, L., Duschl, W., & Weigelt, G. (2013) DUST IN THE POLAR REGION AS A MAJOR CONTRIBUTOR TO THE INFRARED EMISSION OF ACTIVE GALACTIC NUCLEI. The Astrophysical Journal, 771(2), 87. DOI: 10.1088/0004-637X/771/2/87  

  • June 25, 2013
  • 09:08 AM

Testosterone Improves Woman’s Brain Functions

by Alvin Lin in United Academics

It’s been said that hormonal young men with high levels of testosterone are constantly thinking about sex. Certainly, as we age, our libido decreases. Whether this is a result of a natural decline in testosterone or of cognitive maturity is open to debate. It’s also been reported that hypogonadal men are more depressed and perhaps not as sharp cognitively speaking. Some studies even show a benefit to testosterone replacement in such men with low testosterone levels.... Read more »

Davis S, et al. (2013) ransdermal testosterone improves verbal learning and memory in postmenopausal women not on estrogen therapy: a randomized placebo-controlled trial over 26 weeks. ENDO . info:/

  • June 25, 2013
  • 04:49 AM

Want to Learn How to Think? Read Fiction

by Tom Jacobs in United Academics

Are you uncomfortable with ambiguity? It’s a common condition, but a highly problematic one. The compulsion to quell that unease can inspire snap judgments, rigid thinking, and bad decision-making. Fortunately, new research suggests a simple antidote for this affliction: Read more literary fiction.

A trio of University of Toronto scholars, led by psychologist Maja Djikic, report that people who have just read a short story have less need for what psychologists call “cognitive closure.” Compared with peers who have just read an essay, they expressed more comfort with disorder and uncertainty—attitudes that allow for both sophisticated thinking and greater creativity. “Exposure to literature,” the researchers write in the Creativity Research Journal, “may offer a (way for people) to become more likely to open their minds.”... Read more »

Maja Djikica, Keith Oatleya . (2013) Opening the Closed Mind: The Effect of Exposure to Literature on the Need for Closure. Creativity Research Journal. info:/

  • June 25, 2013
  • 04:47 AM

Let's All Re-virginise: Double Standards and Hymenoplasty

by Meredith Nash in United Academics

More and more women are requesting surgery to replace their hymens, in an effort to “fake” virginity. But virginity is a psychological state, and a hymen is no reliable indicator it exists.

The idea of virginity is firmly anchored in religion and influenced by a variety of social forces that have led to its circulation across cultures for centuries. It popularly refers to a state of sexual inexperience, but has historically been primarily associated with women.... Read more »

  • June 24, 2013
  • 11:17 AM

Silver Bullets Kill Bacteria, Not Werewolves

by Anouk Vleugels in United Academics

Science shows us that silver bullets kill bacteria, not werewolves.... Read more »

Morones-Ramirez, J., Winkler, J., Spina, C., & Collins, J. (2013) Silver Enhances Antibiotic Activity Against Gram-Negative Bacteria. Science Translational Medicine, 5(190), 190-190. DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3006276  

  • June 22, 2013
  • 01:06 AM

Working dogs working together

by Cobb & Hecht in Do You Believe In Dog?

Hey Julie! It's the weekend and I'm racing about catching up after an amazing past fortnight! It's been a whirlwind and by gee, do I have some super fun things to tell you about! Working dogs, working together My first news is what has been keeping me flat out busy over the first half of this year, and ESPECIALLY for the past fortnight.  I'm excited to introduce to you, the Australian Working Dog Alliance!You know all about my work with the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy (AAWS) working group and working dog research projects over the past six years, but I might not have mentioned that this year, the project team were given seed funding by AAWS to actually implement the first year of activities outlined in the Australian Working Dog Industry Action Plan. To do this, we realised that we needed to have an administrative home - an organisation that could drive the initiatives and partner with other groups and sponsor companies to maximise our reach - and so, the Working Dog Alliance has been founded. It is a registered not-for-profit organisation, that works with a diverse industry stakeholder network to improve the welfare of Australia's working and sporting dogs. The organisation will publicly launch in August, after the next national AAWS workshop. The Alliance's industry hub (and resource-filled!) website will launch then too, but if you want to keep in the loop, you can register on the webpage for email updates here or keep track of our progress on the Facebook page.For the past two weeks, I've been travelling interstate with my colleague, Dr Nick Branson, visiting many groups to talk about the Working Dog Alliance, the Australian Working Dog Industry Action Plan and inviting them to be part of it all. I'm so happy to report that we've had the most positive and enthusiastic welcome we could have hoped for! We've met with over ten representative groups and bodies from various government, assistance and sporting dog, animal advocacy and rescue group industry sectors so far, and all have been keen to talk about their work and how the Alliance can help in sharing the best bits around the industry. We'll continue these meetings with many more working and sporting dog groups in the coming months. G2Z In other exciting news, I'm really looking forward to speaking at the annual Getting 2 Zero Summit in September. If you haven't heard of it, G2Z is a model that"details the principles, structures and strategies for achieving zero killing of healthy and treatable cats and dogs (more than 90% of all incoming stray and surrendered cats and dogs) in whole communities"I'll be there to share some of the things (science things, personal things, silly things, etc.) I've learned about social media in the year that we've been blogging together here on Do You Believe in Dog? - it will be great fun to join this group of highly committed and resourceful attendees. I'm sure I'll be learning lots of things! Dog bearding Now, it IS the weekend here, and I have to admit that my fancy has been somewhat tickled by the recent trend of dog beard photos. I'd love to invit... Read more »

Bik Holly M, & Goldstein Miriam C. (2013) An introduction to social media for scientists. PLoS biology. PMID: 23630451  

  • June 21, 2013
  • 05:23 AM

Study: That Tattoo Makes You Look Promiscuous

by Anouk Vleugels in United Academics

Study shows that men are more likely to approach a woman with tattoos.... Read more »

Guéguen, N. (2012) Tattoos, Piercings, and Sexual Activity. Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, 40(9), 1543-1547. DOI: 10.2224/sbp.2012.40.9.1543  

Nowosielski, K., Sipiński, A., Kuczerawy, I., Kozłowska-Rup, D., & Skrzypulec-Plinta, V. (2012) Tattoos, Piercing, and Sexual Behaviors in Young Adults. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 9(9), 2307-2314. DOI: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2012.02791.x  

  • June 20, 2013
  • 10:19 AM

New Improved Allergy-Treatment Developed

by Pieter Carriere in United Academics

Charlie Chaplin once said: “The saddest thing I can imagine is to get used to luxury”. Strikingly, being accustomed to ‘luxurious’ health care in the developed world is associated with more prevalent ‘saddening’ allergic disorders. In the developed world, about 25% of the population suffers from allergic disorders, like hay fever, asthma, eczema and anaphylaxis (which is a life-threatening allergic reaction) (As reviewed by Galli et al., 2008).... Read more »

Dhaliwal B, Yuan D, Pang MO, Henry AJ, Cain K, Oxbrow A, Fabiane SM, Beavil AJ, McDonnell JM, Gould HJ.... (2012) Crystal structure of IgE bound to its B-cell receptor CD23 reveals a mechanism of reciprocal allosteric inhibition with high affinity receptor FcεRI. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 109(31), 12686-91. PMID: 22802656  

Galli, S., Tsai, M., & Piliponsky, A. (2008) The development of allergic inflammation. Nature, 454(7203), 445-454. DOI: 10.1038/nature07204  

Gould, H., & Sutton, B. (2008) IgE in allergy and asthma today. Nature Reviews Immunology, 8(3), 205-217. DOI: 10.1038/nri2273  

Chen BH, Kilmon MA, Ma C, Caven TH, Chan-Li Y, Shelburne AE, Tombes RM, Roush E, & Conrad DH. (2003) Temperature effect on IgE binding to CD23 versus Fc epsilon RI. Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950), 170(4), 1839-45. PMID: 12574349  

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