Summary of “Are Smartphones Making Us Stupid?”

It’s nice to have some empirical evidence to remind us all to keep our smartphones out of sight whenever we need to be fully present and in the moment.
For their latest research on the reduction of cognitive capacity caused by the mere sight of one’s own smartphone, Adrian Ward and co-authors from McCombs conducted two different experiments with nearly 800 smartphone users.
Participants were randomly assigned to place their smartphones either on the desk face down, in their pocket or personal bag, or in another room.
In the second experiment, the researchers found that participants who had been identified as extremely dependent on their smartphones performed much worse on cognitive tests than their less-dependent peers if they kept their smartphones on the desk, in their pocket, or in a bag.
The good news is that when the smartphone was placed in another room, all study participants-regardless of someone’s pre-existing degree of smartphone dependence-performed equally well on cognitive capacity tests.
Adrian Ward summed up his team’s research findings in a statement to UT Austin: “We see a linear trend that suggests that as the smartphone becomes more noticeable, participants’ available cognitive capacity decreases. Your conscious mind isn’t thinking about your smartphone, but that process-the process of requiring yourself to not think about something-uses up some of your limited cognitive resources. It’s a brain drain.”
Luckily for all of us, putting your smartphone in another room, a pocket, or the bottom of a bag seems to be an easy remedy for this problem.
Remember: Anytime you need to optimize attentional control and cognitive function, keeping smartphones out of sight helps to boost brain power and minimize brain drain.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Want to Stay Young Longer? Science Says This Exercise Makes Your Body Act Like It’s 9 Years Younger”

Now, researchers from Brigham Young University say they’ve found that a certain type of physical exercise can slow the aging process within our cells.
That ultimately means better health, and physical conditioning that matches the natural age progression of a significantly younger person-as many as nine years younger.
So let’s dive right into the study and examine what the researchers claim-along with exactly how much exercise we’re talking about here to achieve the results.
Researchers at BYU, led by a professor of exercise science named Larry Tucker, studied 5,823 adults who had participated in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research project called the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
They’re like our biological clock and they’re extremely correlated with age; each time a cell replicates, we lose a tiny bit of the endcaps.
According to Tucker’s paper, which was published in the July 2017 edition of Preventive Medicine, that results in a “Biologic aging advantage of nine years.”
As for the BYU research project, the question of exactly how physical exercise preserves telomere length wasn’t part of the study; Tucker surmises it might be tied to either oxidative stress or inflammation.
“We all know people that seem younger than their actual age. The more physically active we are, the less biological aging takes place in our bodies.”

The orginal article.

Summary of “Pay attention: Practice can make your brain better at focusing”

Practicing paying attention can boost performance on a new task, and change the way the brain processes information, a new study says.
“The brain is still figuring out ways to make itself better.” There’s a long-standing debate about how exactly paying attention helps us learn.
The question is: which part of this attention equation is more important for learning, and how is it affected by practice? To find out, researchers led by Sirawaj Itthipuripat at the University of California, San Diego, subjected 12 research participants to the least entertaining computer game in the world, while measuring their brain activity.
The researchers suspect that this more automatic phase is the result of the brain fine-tuning what exactly it needs to pay attention to, basically switching over to a process that’s more like muting the volume on the rest of the orchestra.
For some of the sessions, the students were told where the contrast-boosted circle might appear, and to pay attention to that spot.
Turns out, the students got much better at picking out the correct, contrast-boosted circle after two or three days of training when they knew which part of the screen to pay attention to.
Then as the task becomes more natural, another mechanism takes over that refines the pattern of brain activity that drives the task, cutting down on the neural background noise.
“The brain is still figuring out ways to make itself better.”

The orginal article.

Summary of “Facebook’s AI accidentally created its own language”

Researchers from the Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research lab recently made an unexpected discovery while trying to improve chatbots.
The bots – known as “Dialog agents” – were creating their own language – well, kinda.
Using machine learning algorithms, dialog agents were left to converse freely in an attempt to strengthen their conversational skills.
Over time, the bots began to deviate from the scripted norms and in doing so, started communicating in an entirely new language – one they created without human input.
In an attempt to better converse with humans, chatbots took it a step further and got better at communicating without them – in their own sort of way.
Researchers also found these bots to be incredibly crafty negotiators.
After learning to negotiate, the bots relied on machine learning and advanced strategies in an attempt to improve the outcome of these negotiations.
Over time, the bots became quite skilled at it and even began feigning interest in one item in order to “Sacrifice” it at at a later stage in the negotiation as a faux compromise.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Talking to Boys the Way We Talk to Girls”

The words they use with sons are more focused on achievement – such as “Win” and “Proud.” Researchers believe that these discrepancies in fathers’ language may contribute to “The consistent findings that girls outperform boys in school achievement outcomes.”
They are nearly four times more likely to tell girls than boys to be more careful if undertaking the same activity again.
In his book “Manhood in America,” Michael Kimmel, the masculine studies researcher and author, maintains that “The traditional liberal arts curriculum is seen as feminizing by boys.” Nowhere is this truer than in English classes where, as I’ve witnessed after more than 20 years of teaching, boys and young men police each other when other guys display overt interest in literature or creative writing assignments.
Such squelching messages run counter-intuitively to male wiring, it turns out: Guys are born more emotionally sensitive than girls.
“So the ‘manning up’ of infant boys begins early on in their typical interactions,” Dr. Tronick said, “And long before language plays its role.”
Judy Chu, a human biologist, conducted a two-year study of 4- and 5-year-old boys and found that they were as astute as girls at reading other people’s emotions and at cultivating close, meaningful friendships.
In her book “When Boys Become Boys” she maintains that by the time the boys reached first grade, sometimes earlier, they traded their innate empathy for a learned stoicism and greater emotional distance from friends.
How can we change this? We can start, says Dr. David, by letting boys experience their emotions, all of them, without judgment – or by offering them solutions.

The orginal article.

Summary of “An Artificial Intelligence Developed Its Own Non-Human Language”

A buried line in a new Facebook report about chatbots’ conversations with one another offers a remarkable glimpse at the future of language.
In the report, researchers at the Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research lab describe using machine learning to train their “Dialog agents” to negotiate.
At one point, the researchers write, they had to tweak one of their models because otherwise the bot-to-bot conversation “Led to divergence from human language as the agents developed their own language for negotiating.” They had to use what’s called a fixed supervised model instead. In other words, the model that allowed two bots to have a conversation-and use machine learning to constantly iterate strategies for that conversation along the way-led to those bots communicating in their own non-human language.
The detail about language is, as one tech entrepreneur put it, a mind-boggling “Sign of what’s to come.”
They do demonstrate how machines are redefining people’s understanding of so many realms once believed to be exclusively human-like language.
Already, there’s a good deal of guesswork involved in machine learning research, which often involves feeding a neural net a huge pile of data then examining the output to try to understand how the machine thinks.
The fact that machines will make up their own non-human ways of conversing is an astonishing reminder of just how little we know, even when people are the ones designing these systems.
“There remains much potential for future work,” Facebook’s researchers wrote in their paper, “Particularly in exploring other reasoning strategies, and in improving the diversity of utterances without diverging from human language.”

The orginal article.

Summary of “The human brain can create structures in up to 11 dimensions”

What they’ve discovered is that the brain is full of multi-dimensional geometrical structures operating in as many as 11 dimensions.
We’re used to thinking of the world from a 3-D perspective, so this may sound a bit tricky, but the results of this new study could be the next major step in understanding the fabric of the human brain – the most complex structure we know of.
This latest brain model was produced by a team of researchers from the Blue Brain Project, a Swiss research initiative devoted to building a supercomputer-powered reconstruction of the human brain.
“There are tens of millions of these objects even in a small speck of the brain, up through seven dimensions. In some networks, we even found structures with up to 11 dimensions.”
To perform the mathematical tests, the team used a detailed model of the neocortex the Blue Brain Project team published back in 2015.
According to the researchers, algebraic topology provides mathematical tools for discerning details of the neural network both in a close-up view at the level of individual neurons, and a grander scale of the brain structure as a whole.
By connecting these two levels, the researchers could discern high-dimensional geometric structures in the brain, formed by collections of tightly connected neurons and the empty spaces between them.
These findings provide a tantalising new picture of how the brain processes information, but the researchers point out that it’s not yet clear what makes the cliques and cavities form in their highly specific ways.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The human brain can create structures in up to 11 dimensions”

What they’ve discovered is that the brain is full of multi-dimensional geometrical structures operating in as many as 11 dimensions.
We’re used to thinking of the world from a 3-D perspective, so this may sound a bit tricky, but the results of this new study could be the next major step in understanding the fabric of the human brain – the most complex structure we know of.
This latest brain model was produced by a team of researchers from the Blue Brain Project, a Swiss research initiative devoted to building a supercomputer-powered reconstruction of the human brain.
“There are tens of millions of these objects even in a small speck of the brain, up through seven dimensions. In some networks, we even found structures with up to 11 dimensions.”
To perform the mathematical tests, the team used a detailed model of the neocortex the Blue Brain Project team published back in 2015.
According to the researchers, algebraic topology provides mathematical tools for discerning details of the neural network both in a close-up view at the level of individual neurons, and a grander scale of the brain structure as a whole.
By connecting these two levels, the researchers could discern high-dimensional geometric structures in the brain, formed by collections of tightly connected neurons and the empty spaces between them.
These findings provide a tantalising new picture of how the brain processes information, but the researchers point out that it’s not yet clear what makes the cliques and cavities form in their highly specific ways.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Why being grumpy at work is good for you”

I grew up, like so many junior employees, understanding that the way to get and keep a good job was through hard work and unflappable politeness.
“The argument for promoting happiness at work has always been primarily about productivity,” he notes.
“People who focus on being happy actually, over time, become less happy.” Depending on where you work, efforts to boost morale could include everything from offering office employees free ice cream on Fridays to instructing baristas to fake cheerfulness during their early-morning shifts.
Even the more sophisticated and well-intentioned efforts-like providing technology so workers can work from home easily-can dissolve the important distinctions between work and private life.
Dieter Zapf, the chairman of the work and organizational psychology department at the University of Frankfurt am Main, has conducted thousands of interviews of customer-service workers forced to hide their true emotions from customers.
A study published in 2011 in the Academy of Management Journal concluded that faking a smile at work can worsen your mood and cause you to withdraw from your work.
All workers benefit when their emotional well-being is not being dictated by corporate overlords or being manipulated for company gain.
Like Melissa Sloan, Mears is quick to point out that the burden of emotional labor tends to be shouldered more heavily by people in the working class: “Professional women can probably pull off being grumpy a lot more easily than service working women-part of that is the class privilege of being in the professions.”

The orginal article.

Summary of “Scientists Brace for a Lost Generation in American Research”

The budget proposal President Donald Trump released on Thursday calls for major cuts to funding for medical and science research; he wants to slash funding to the National Institutes of Health by $6 billion, which represents about one-fifth of its budget.
For decades, scientists have been rattled by the erosion of public funding for their research.
Along with the business side of science, the world’s tech leaders have built a robust philanthropic network for research advancement.
What happens to all the crucial basic science without billionaire backing-the kind of research with wide-ranging applications that can dramatically enhance human understanding of the world? NIH funding is spread across all disciplines, several scientists reminded me, whereas private funding tends to be driven by the personal preferences of investors.
The squeeze on public funding in recent years has posed a similar concern, as young scientists are getting a smaller share of key publicly-funded research grants, according to a 2014 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
In 1983, about 18 percent of scientists who received the NIH’s leading research grant were 36 years old or younger.
While most people said they believed government investment in basic scientific research “Usually” paid off in the long run, other research has showed a sharp decline in public trust in science-notably among conservatives.
In her view, there is something almost sacred about using taxpayer dollars to fund research.

The orginal article.