Tuesday S&T

Science:

[Sc1] Carl V Phillips looks at the (generally positive) National Academies report on ecigarettes, and why they got the gateway effect so wrong on vaping.

[Sc2] Overcommitment? Excessive optimism? Danielle Teller says that almost all of our medical research is wrong.

[Sc3] Jon Christian is explaing how Black Mirror is affecting scientific ethics.

[Sc4] Theodore Dalrymple wants to know why so much bad science is being published.

[Sc5] Avoiding social media scorn has become a criteria for science, evidently. The dynamics referred to here have always been in place, I’m pretty sure. Social media is just throwing new dynamics into the sociology of science.

[Sc0]

Space:

[Sp1] The Challenger explosion, thirty years later.

[Sp2] Uhhh, maybe some things should go uninvented?

[Sp3] Nicole Mortillaro investigates why Canada doesn’t have a rocket program, and the brain drain that may be creating.

[Sp4] Behold, the gooey, cheesy goodness of Jupiter’s moon, Io!

[Sp5] Oooh, a zombie satellite!

Energy:

[En1] Ute Collier wants more attention paid to renewable heat (which would, in turn, allow us to use less fossil fuels in producing heat).

[En2] Shell is considering the idea that Peak Oil may be a demand issue instead of a supply one, and is planning accordingly.

[En3] What if Trump isn’t wrong on solar panel tariffs?

[En4] This winter Texas’s electrical grid took a record licking, but kept on ticking. And next summer, they might need microgrids.

[En5] Good news: China’s coal consumption may have peaked.

[En6] New Jersey’s governor is going all-in on renewables.

Technology:

[Te1] Measuring farts.

[Te2] Doom!!!!

[Te3] Yes and no. You can go three generations back on the Samsung Galaxy S series and still have a perfectly capable phone. But while computers have nowhere to go, there are still some interventions smartphones need to make and the market won’t really settle until they have.

[Te4] The truth is that we will probably always be able to tell when these videos are fake. The concern is that we won’t want to.

[Te5] On acclimating ourselves to our self-wiretapping.

[Te6] As Rufus pointed out to me, this article on smartphones destroying the next generation has been atop their “most popular” list for a really long time.

[Te7] The anatomy of an iPhone leak.

[Te0]


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62 thoughts on “Tuesday S&T

  1. Te0: despite my repeated pleas/threats that students turn their phones to “silent” (or better, off altogether) in class, I had a student yesterday whose phone screamed

    TINY RICK!!!!! (from Rick and Morty, I guess?)

    about 10 minutes into class. It derailed everything, most of all my train of thought. (And then I spent the rest of the hour anticipating what random thing would get screamed at me next).

    That guy never anticipated bad ringtones, is what I guess I’m saying.

    I also had a student in a lab class I had to talk to because their “social media alert” tone was a warning klaxon. After jumping the first few times (“Holy crap is the building on fire”) I reminded them lab policy was to put away distractions like that.

    I think we’ve lost the battle, though. I can’t compete with a cell phone in class; I can’t compete with a cell phone when in a public place. I’ve been out with friends where they were all dinking on their smartphones and not talking to anyone. (I don’t have a smartphone so I wind up extra left-out)

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    • I sympathize… a lot of modern smartphones have do-not disturb features that automatically mute the phone during scheduled calendar events… then all you have to do is suggest that they add your class time as a recurring event (and enable dnd). Tall order for 18-22 yr olds I know, but technologically feasible.

      Although as conventions evolve, I’m noticing that fewer and fewer folks even have their phones on anything other than silent/vibrate; only old folks like my parents have ringtones set to stun.

      And, apropos to the cartoon, it is now a quaint habit of the past to “answer” the phone when someone calls… that’s the punch of the joke… how inconvenient to have to answer your phone. That convention has come and gone.

      Phones out during social times? That’s a matter of manners and there’s probably a dissertation to be written about how looking at your phone with others present in 2008 was a status symbol, but by 2020 it will be the mark of a Trump voter.

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    • My wife and all of my friends know not to pull out a smart phone around me when we go out to a restaurant. I have informed them all that I will walk out of there immediately if they cannot put the stupid thing away for at least the time we are breaking bread together. In my eyes it is the rudest thing to be having a conversation with someone who constantly has to check the screen of their electronic crack pipe.

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      • Some people stealth-text in class. I have got sick of calling people out for it, so I figure “They’re adults, when they come to me complaining about a C I can explain why.”

        In this case, it was just the phone sitting on the desk. Not sure why she even had it out, wasn’t looking at it.

        The “social exclusion” I feel when people are on their phones – they are texting other people, or updating FB, or sometimes even watching videos. I mean, I know I’m boring, but I don’t need people to be so in-my-face about it.

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  2. [Sc2] “If such changes were implemented, however, the number of published studies would plummet precipitously. Journals would go out of business and so would most scientists, unless new criteria were devised for doling out grant money and handing out promotions. Some areas of research would be invalidated if everyone had access to negative studies, and researchers would be discredited. ” This is why it’ll never happen. Too much institutional resistance, ’cause, you know, it’s not about the science, it’s about the money.

    [Sp5] Please…da aliums fixed it.

    [Te3] I recently lost my Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini. All the new phones were near 1K and bigger than I like. I bought a new S4 Mini on Amazon for 150 dollars. WTF do I need to spend a grand to text, call, and surf the web? I don’t stream on it.

    [Te5] Yes, but this has been going on for a very long time. No one ever reads the user agreement.

    [Te6] I think it’s more likely social media than smart phones, but everyone could spend more time interfacing with humans and less with machines.

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    • This is why it’ll never happen. Too much institutional resistance, ’cause, you know, it’s not about the science, it’s about the money.

      “Science” is nice, but most landlords won’t accept it in lieu of a rent check.

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    • yeah, scientific publishing is a huge (and rather corrupt) game. Those of us who labor at universities have to publish to keep our gigs (yes, even with tenure; many places we now have post-tenure review, where if you get two bad reviews in a row, it is legal for them to revoke your tenure). So bad research proliferates. (As does trivial research, which, arguably, most of which I do is.)

      Also:

      Journals cost from hundreds to thousands of dollars PER YEAR for a subscription (often library rates are even higher, on the grounds there are many users

      Some journals charge “page charges” where either the scientist’s institution, or the granting agency he or she is getting money from pay to publish the paper

      Most journals require you to sign away your copyright, so they now own your work. (This was quite an issue in the era of coursepacks: having to pay a journal to reprint a paper YOU wrote seems like an abuse)

      And if you want to read an article from a journal you or your university doesn’t subscribe to? In some cases (Wiley and Elsevier, I am looking at you), the journal wants to charge you $35 for a .pdf download, or $6 to “rent” the article (no downloading, no printing, just read it on the screen) for 48 hours. (Granted, in many cases there are backdoors around this and a professor chat group I am part of will swap back and forth articles they have access to – there’s actually a whole thread on there called “Sourcing Scholarship.” Normally I feel guilty about using pirate-y backdoors like that but in the case of scientific journals that have apparently learned from the best of the robber barons, I don’t have too many qualms)

      Part of the reason I do “small” trivial research? The journals that publish it don’t follow those practices: if you’re a member of the society (usually not more than $50 a year at full price) you get the journal, they let you retain copyright, and they make their archives freely available online.

      Granted, the editing of these journals is 100% volunteer labor, which is where the downside comes. But I really wonder what kind of golden toilets the Elsevier people must own, given the money they apparently rake in.

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            • I would, in those cases, question whether their institution and/or the granting agencies they are working with are paying something. (FTR I’ve had scientists assert to me they weren’t paying anything when I knew their *library* of all people was paying all page charges for that journal….)

              Nature charges to be open. Science charges to be open. “PLOS ONE publication fees are US$1495 per manuscript and will be billed upon acceptance. Authors’ ability to pay publication fees will never be a consideration in the decision whether to publish.” Journal of Neuroscience charges for color unless they determine your stuff doesn’t work without color. These are not minor players, and certainly not “garbage” ones.

              I could go on. There are lots more. Y’all have never paid. It doesn’t mean someone isn’t paying somewhere on your behalf and/or, your original claim, that having page charges means a journal is generally likely to be garbage. You were oversimplifying.

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              • I’m not oversimplifying because I am merely relaying my own experience. In my experience paying for open access is always an option and one that I have never seen any researcher that I have worked with exercise and have in fact witnessed several speak of disparagingly. I acknowledge that costs may be rolled into subscriptions, covered by libraries, departments, etc., I have just never seen this happen in my limited experience. Journals need to make money. The model that tends to be preferred by scientists is for the journal to make money by charging for subscriptions, not by charging for publication.

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                • “The model that tends to be preferred by scientists is for the journal to make money by charging for subscriptions, not by charging for publication.”

                  Do you see the difference between that claim, and your original, arguably dismissive move to tell a (fellow?) working scientist that
                  “Journals that require payment to publish your work are generally considered garbage.”

                  No scientist considers PLOS One garbage, that I know personally (and that’s a lot of them, at all levels from post-doc to ancient tenured prof, and outside of academia as well). If you literally have a scientific colleague set that only includes people who consider PLOS One garbage, you are in an odd niche, to say the least, rather than in a position to declare what is or isn’t “general” in the field. There are plenty of other, similar, examples of non-garbage-considered journals that at least technically have page charges.

                  You can relay your own experiences in ways that don’t sound like you think they’re the only ones that count. That was where my “oversimplifying” comment came from.

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    • [Te3] I’ve become a bit of a convert to phones for various Asian markets. For under $200 I can get a device with practically the same capabilities as a Samsung / Nokia / whatever $800-1000 ‘flagship’ phone. My last Samsung phone, I had to tinker and download a bunch of apps to do things that seem like they ought to be basic features of the OS. My new Xiaomi phone has those things in the settings if you just turn them on.

      It takes a bit of careful cross-referencing between your carrier’s protocols and frequencies vs. the phone’s capabilities. I appreciate the security of my carrier having a pre-screened list of phones that will definitely work on their network – just not for $600-800 of appreciation.

      And it means I can’t walk into a brightly lit store and play with the phones on their little retracty anti-theft cables.

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    • “If such changes were implemented, however, the number of published studies would plummet precipitously. Journals would go out of business and so would most scientists, unless new criteria were devised for doling out grant money and handing out promotions. Some areas of research would be invalidated if everyone had access to negative studies, and researchers would be discredited. ” This is why it’ll never happen. Too much institutional resistance, ’cause, you know, it’s not about the science, it’s about the money.

      There is this entire thing called a systematic review and meta-analysis that comes with a statistical device called a funnel plot that fairly easily detects publication bias.

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  3. I’m not a parent myself but from what I’ve seen with kids and smart phones it seems like it would probably be very wise to strictly limit internet access in general until the kid is in their mid to late teens and absolutely not let them get a smart phone until they’re around that time too.

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    • We also added a wrinkle that all the “mobile devices” are common property… so while you could text/email/call to coordinate things with pals, all of those things could and would be read by siblings (and parents). Helps to jumpstart them on the idea that things posted online are for public consumption.

      Plus the device needs to remain available to all, so no one thinks of it as their personal secret digital world.

      Has worked very well… we can send the little ones off with a device when needed, and there’s a way for children to learn about technology and do the little things that need doing vis-a-vis modern coordination of events in a manner that is supervised without being micromanaged at the parental level.

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        • For a while at least, there were kid-specific cell phones that had a few pre-programmed numbers in them and couldn’t do anything else.

          My question for people who insist their 9-year-olds have phones “in case of an emergency”… how often are your 9-year-olds unsupervised or otherwise more than a few feet away from a phone? Its weird… we’ve simultaneously tripled-down on the level of supervision we demand for children AND dramatically ramped up how much access we think they need to other adults.

          I hear some say that a lot of social interactions that used to happen in real life or over land line telephones now happen via text, social media, or online gaming and that cutting kids off from devices cuts them off from their peers and risks making them social pariahs. I’m sensitive to that but don’t think the answer is iPhones for 8-year-olds.

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          • I am really itching for the day when child the eldest can take the bus to school by herself – there isn’t a school bus, but there’s a city bus such that I could double her a few blocks on my bike, drop her off at the bus stop, see her onto the bus, and she could get off a block from her school without transferring.

            This is not going to happen without her having a cell phone.

            Realistically, not because a cell phone is needed for her to ride the bus, but because it is needed for her mom to be comfortable with her riding the bus.

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            • That doesn’t strike me as unreasonable… but the idea that a (I’m guessing?) teenager can’t ride the bus without a phone ignores like… decades of evidence.

              ETA: I should clarify and reduce the level of flip-ness… I struggle to understand the level of discomfort so many people have with letting kids do things these days. A cell phone is probably a small price to pay for peace of mind. But why do so many of us seem to have so little peace of mind these days?

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              • She’s 7 now. I don’t know when exactly we will have consensus that she can ride the bus on her own, but I’m sure it will be before her teens.

                In her teens I’m not doubling her and I sure hope she can figure out a route with a transfer or two. (Though, I can’t even do that without a phone nowadays. I mean, I as a teenager I used to lay out the paper map and our collection of possibly-out-of-date route brochures on the dining room table and cobble together a possibly suboptimal route, which then might not work because didn’t you know they changed where the #12 ran months ago)

                And I totally agree about the anxiety we seem to have developed about our kids being briefly unable to talk to us.

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          • I was a pariah because my parents wouldn’t buy designer jeans for me, and I didn’t get a big enough allowance to buy them.

            Kids will find a way to pariah-ize other kids no matter what the technology. I suspect in caveman days the kids whose parents let them play with mastodon bones lorded it over the kids whose parents did not.

            I guess what I’m saying is some kids are born with an invisible tattoo saying “Exclude this one” and it doesn’t matter WHAT the tech is.

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            • Good point. It isn’t an argument that should necessarily rule the day but it also isn’t nothing. Much of it depends on individual parents.

              The lady and I have very different thoughts on some of these matters: she won’t let her otherwise-disinterested-10-year-old daughter leave the house in an outfit that might get her teased. Meanwhile, I bought Mayo sparkly leggings cuz he felt they were easier to run in than jeans (which is true). There lots baked into both those ways of thinking (lots of it gendered) and no obvious right or wrong… just a recognition of the different weights we put on such matters.

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  4. Sc2 and Sc4 are both excellent, and well worth reading. Another interesting aspect of the problem that gets little attention is which fields are most affected by the reproducibility problem. When we read about the crisis in “science” it turns out to be certain fields, typically those that rely heavily on statistical correlations, while simultaneously tending to attract less mathematically inclined researchers. After all, if young budding scientist has mad math skills, he is more likely to be attracted to physics than to sociology. Cutting edge physics has its own set of issues, where the theory side has out paced the experimental side, but this is a different sort of problem than we see in medical research.

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  5. My sons (almost 5 and almost 3) have very minimal interaction with phones and never unmonitored. Mayo likes to send “sticker notes” (i.e., long text messages full of random emojis) and they both understand we can look for pictures of videos of things… which leads to some very funny search histories (“bear eating a dragon”; “bear eating a shark”; “what do bears eat?”).

    In a pinch, I have a few Netflix shows chambered. Oh, and they like to take and look and photos and videos of themselves.

    I have no games, for them or me.

    As a result, unlike most kids their age, they see the phone as a kinda boring, sometimes useful tool.

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  6. Sc3: Good! It’s easy to get lost in the excitement of doing something ‘cool’ without thinking through the wider implications. I doubt such reflection will halt progress, but it might help researchers to be more thoughtful about how they present technology, or how they think about security from the beginning (when it’s easier to implement good security).

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  7. [Te6] Well, to correct myself, I didn’t mean “atop” but it keeps coming back in their most popular list and then disappearing for a few days and then coming back. I think it probably struck a chord, although I’m not sure what that means.

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