Curating the Internet: Science and technology digest for December 2, 2019

in rsslog •  8 days ago 

An update on vaping related illness in the United States; Singapore aims to become a global leader in artificial intelligence; New observations lead researchers to question the existence of dark energy; A survey of the history of human thought about alien life; and a Steem essay describing a personal experience with impostor syndrome


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  1. Vaping Update: Policy Versus Reality - According to the video, the current scare over vaping has been an example of a mismatch between policy and reality. In recent months, somewhere around 2,000 individuals have been taken ill and even died from vaping related illnesses, but from the beginning, the evidence seemed to point towards so-called "informal" sources (grey/black market) of the products. The CDC has now confirmed that one of the primary sources seems to be Vitamin E acetate, which is often added by informal sources as a thickening agent. Policy-makers, however embarked quickly on a series of proposals that targeted formal sources. Most of those policies have now stalled, but (according to the video) if they had been enacted, they may have increased the purchases from informal sources, and also driven ex-smokers from vaping back to smoking, thereby increasing the overall health risk to consumers.

    Here is the video:

h/t RealClear Science Videos


  • With Face Scans, Automated Marking, Singapore Carves AI Niche - Outlining five key areas of pursuit, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said that Singapore aims to become a global leader in artificial intelligence by 2030. The five areas of focus include: "transport and logistics planning, provision of municipal services, detection and management of chronic diseases, personalized education and border control." Keat also noted that, as part of this initiative, Singapore plans to fully automate its immigration process by the year 2025. The country's investment of $368 million through 2020 is attracting AI firms from current AI leaders such as the United States and China. Other applications that are being planned include automated grading for English language assignments in the country's public school system, a governance framework for the finance sector, an AI platform to help small and mid-sized start-up businesses, and more. h/t Communications of the ACM

  • Dark energy might not exist after all - In this video and transcript, Sabine Hossenfelder discusses a recent paper claiming that dark energy is an artifact of a data sampling error in Nobel Prize winning work from 1998 that is believed to have found observational evidence for the existence of dark energy. According to the new paper, the data from the original work were skewed by adjustments, and also by the fact that they only looked at supernovas in a single direction. The new work, after backing out the data adjustments to start with the original measurements, and looking in all directions found that the expansion of the universe is not increasing in speed, which eliminates the need for dark energy in cosmology models. Hossenfelder notes that the new paper was peer reviewed and published in a high quality journal, so it deserves to be taken seriously, but that it now needs to be checked by other groups before reaching any conclusions. The 2011 Nobel Prize winning work that was published in 1998 was by Saul Perlmutter, Brian P. Schmidt, and Adam Riess. The new work was done by Jacques Colin, Roya Mohayaee, Mohamed Rameez, and Subir Sarkar.

    Here is Hossenfelder's video:

  • Click through for the transcript.


  • The First Alien - This post runs through the history of human thought on the subject of aliens. One of the earliest discussions of alien life was from a satire writer in Turkey in 200 AD, who wrote a fictional account of his trip to the moon and discovery of aliens who were at war with aliens from the Sun. This essay was written as a philosophical critique against the notion of objective truth. The notion of life on the Sun persisted until the 18th and 19th centuries, when the famed astronomer, William Herschel, was still speculating that alien life might exist on the supposed solid surface of the Sun. The moon also makes an appearance in the 10th century Japanese The Tale of Princess Kaguya where the princess was an alien, in human form, who arrived from the moon. The origin of people thinking of alien life having non-human form seems to have arrived after Darwin's Origin of the Species. in the late 19th century, the French astronomer, Camille Flammarion, had some forward-thinking ideas on alien life, including Mermaid like creatures, human-like creatures with extra appendages, and beings whose respiratory and digestive systems were combined into a single system. The author says that this sort of examination can be useful because it helps us to eliminate bias in the scientific search for alien life, and because it is fascinating as a stand-alone topic.

  • STEEM Saying Yes to Projects - Overcoming my Imposter Syndrome as a Software Developer - Describing "impostor syndrome" as "pangs of self-doubt, uncertainty and a fear of being exposed as a fraud", @koalazub posts about the author's experience of successfully working through impostor syndrome during a software development project. The post points out the need to avoid overworking oneself, obtaining the needed sleep and down time, unlearning and eliminating destructive habits, and acknowledging the existence of empathy in the human existence. Trivia: I initially spelled it, as @koalazub did, "imposter", but my spell-checker flagged it, and according to Webster, "impostor" is preferred. Who woulda guessed? (A 10% beneficiary setting has been applied to this post for @koalazub.)


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