Hilda Geiringer: a Nazi refugee who helped shape modern mathematics; An argument that science research is bogged down by bad incentives; Using CRISPR to defend rice from pathogens; Internet Freedom is declining in much of the world - governments are stepping up disinformation and propaganda efforts; and a Steem essay about selective breeding of an aquarium fish
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- The woman who reshaped maths - After six years of trying to evade the Nazi threat, Hilda Geiringer made her way to New York City in 1939. As a Jewish woman from Vienna, she made foundational mathematical contributions and narrowly escaped internment as she, eventually, made her way to the United States. Here's the back-story. In Germany, she had been the first woman to teach applied mathematics at the University level, and she also launched a successful career for a period of five years in Turkey. During this time, she made groundbreaking contributions to the study of metal and plastic deformation and also realized innovations in probability theory and Mendelian genetics. It was at this time that her situation in Europe became precarious. She and her mentor, Richard von Mises planned to go to the US, with von Mises securing a faculty position at Harvard. Because of Kristallnacht, though, the US immigration quota was filled for 1939, and Geiringer was stranded in Lisbon, facing probable deportation to Germany and subsequent internment. Fortunately, with help from Einstein and Richard von Mises, Geiringer was able to secure an unpaid position at Bryn Mawr College, in Bryn Mawr, PA - coincidentally, a (relatively) short drive from where I am writing this. She later married von Mises, in 1943. In the US, however, because of restricted demand for female mathematicians, she struggled to reclaim that elite status. She was able to work in the field, by pursuing jobs at women's colleges, but those positions didn't offer the same research capabilities. Eventually, she became the head of the math department at Wheaton College. After arriving in the US, her most significant mathematical contribution was editing and completing von Mises' book, in two posthumous editions: "Probability, Statistics, and Truth in 1964 and Mathematical Theory of Probability and Statistics in 1957." (Of interest to libertarians and economists, Richard von Mises was the brother of the famed Austrian economist, Ludwig Von Mises.) h/t RealClear Science
- We’re Incentivizing Bad Science - In this essay, James Zimring expresses concern that conditions in scientific research currently resemble the financial sector just before the 2008 financial bubble. In particular, he notes that scientists who publish low quality at high volume are better rewarded than those that publish high quality at low volume. On top of that, he notes that the results of efforts that fail to replicate findings from low-rigor studied are rarely published, as scientists move on - in search of positive findings. Zimring acknowledges that science is ultimately self-correcting, but asserts that "this takes a great deal of time." In closing, Zimring expresses the thought that science has arrived in its current state by centuries of self-regulation, and calls for "leadership at the societal level." to avoid a scientific crisis like the one that the economy experienced in 2008. It occurs to me that, in addition to self-regulation, intellectual property laws have also played a big role in the current state of scientific publishing, and I hope that so-called "web 3.0" technologies, like Steem, may find ways to improve the landscape. h/t RealClear Science
- CRISPR used to edit rice DNA as defense against pathogen - Discussing an article in Nature Biotechnology, the article describes efforts to combat Xanthomonas oryzae pathovar oryzae (Xoo), which is a pathogen that sustains itself by hijacking rice genes that normally serve to export sugars. This is accomplished by secreting transcription activator-like effector molecules (TALES), which accomplishes the binding to specific areas in the targeted genes. By studying 63 strains of this pathogen, scientists were able to find away to rewrite the genes so that Xoo can no longer bind to it. Testing has revealed that the edited rice is resistant to at least three strains of Xoo, but the researchers note that much more testing is needed before the modified strain of rice can be trialed at scale.
- Internet freedom is declining around the world—and social media is to blame - In the latest report from Feedom House, the authors say that governments around the world are increasingly using social media for propaganda initiatives and spying on citizens. The article says that censorship still exists, and disinformation efforts are growing. Of 65 countries studied in the report, half had a decline in their Internet freedom score, and only 16 registered improvements. Iceland led the pack, and it will surprise few to learn that China brought up the rear. Because most of the big tech companies are headquartered in the US, the report calls on US lawmakers to "improve transparency and oversight of online political ads, enact robust data privacy legislation, and strictly regulate the use of social-media surveillance tools by law enforcement, among other measures.".
- STEEM Using selective breeding to create new color morphs of Ancistrus sp. - In this post, @valth combines a fishkeeping hobby and a biology profession. The post starts by covering the background of the Ancistrus sp. fish, then moves on to describe some of the color variants that have been created by selective breeding. It seems that Ancistrus sp. originated in South America, but it is most likely a mix of a variety of species that are capable of interbreeding, rather than a unique species. Color variants of the fish are created by selective breeding, a process where fish with a desirable characteristic are interbred for a series of generations. In one such exercise, a calico variety of the fish was eventually morphed into a bright orange variant. The post has a photo of these. It also describes other colors like, “green dragon”, “piebald”, and "albino". Perhaps the most interesting color described is the bright yellow, Ancistrus sp. L144. This variant is interesting because it has an unknown origin. It was originally claimed to be found in the wild, but in the subsequent 40 years, not another one of this color has been found. However, no one has been able to reproduce the color in captivity, either. (A 10% beneficiary setting has been applied to this post for @valth)
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