Summary of “The End of an Epidemic”

A treatment for food allergies has eluded researchers for the 100-plus years that the diseases have been recognized.
My 20-month-old son, William, was diagnosed with a food allergy as an infant after a pebbly red rash spread across his chin the first and only time he licked peanut butter from my fingertip.
In any given year, one in five kids with a food allergy ends up in the emergency room.
Chicago is home to experts at the forefront of almost every area: epidemiologists crunching numbers to help us understand prevalence and severity, doctors conducting clinical trials for the first Food and Drug Administrat ion-approved food allergy drugs, and scientists like Nagler and her partners at the University of Chicago who seek to alter food-allergic bodies from deep within the digestive tract.
The epidemic of food allergies has been very recent, one that first became apparent in the mid-’80s. Between 2007 and 2016 alone, the number of reported anaphylactic reactions increased nearly 400 percent in the United States, according to James Baker, who retired in June as CEO of the advocacy organization Food Allergy Research & Education, which has an office in Skokie.
Roughly 8 percent of children – or two in every average-sized classroom – and 13 percent of adults have at least one food allergy, according to Gupta’s research.
The rise in food allergies mirrors that of other modern diseases – namely, type 2 diabetes, obesity, autism, inflammatory bowel syndrome, and asthma, which have all been linked by researchers to a depleted microbiome.
If the two aforementioned food allergy drugs – the AR101 pill by the California-based company Aimmune and the Viaskin patch from the French company DBV – are approved, they will bring immunotherapy for food allergies into the mainstream.

The orginal article.

Summary of “This Is What Your Brain and Body Do When You Hang Out With Animals”

“If you’re feeling sad, they know to come to you. The reliability of companionship is a big part of it because your dog is molded to your schedule. They’re never going to be too busy to take your call. If you train your dog right and treat them nicely, your dog is going to love you and need you, even if you’re failing in every other part of your life.”
Research has consistently shown that animals, particularly dogs, provide psychological benefits for humans-although the exact reasons are not known.
One lab result has been consistent: When interacting, humans and their pet dogs both experience increased levels of oxytocin, a “Love hormone” that is also triggered by hugging, orgasm, and lactation.
If spikes in oxytocin reveal how much humans love dogs, they really show how much dogs love humans.
There haven’t been any studies testing the oxytocin effect of humans interacting with cats, and feline-related research is scant compared to studies of the impact of dogs.
If you are looking for evidence that animals make people feel better, particularly when they are distressed, there are seemingly endless examples: Therapy dogs were shown to have reduced anxiety in people hospitalized with depression in Germany and did the same for long-term residents of a senior home in South Africa.
“As clinical psychologists, what have observed in other settings is that dogs provide wellbeing. Patients that are partnered with a dog might get to walk the dog or give the dog a treat. That gives them a purpose, and we know that there is good data to support that dogs help patients with their mood.”
Perhaps the trend that most shows the medicalizing of pets is the increase in “Emotional support animals.” ESAs, unlike therapy dogs, require no special training for the designation.

The orginal article.

Summary of “What You Found In 3 Million Russian Troll Tweets”

Last week, FiveThirtyEight published nearly 3 million tweets sent by handles affiliated with the Internet Research Agency, a Russian “Troll factory.” That group was a defendant in one of special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictments, which accused the IRA of interfering with American electoral and political processes.
The projects reinforce and expand upon the Clemson researchers’ initial finding: The trolls were engaged in a sophisticated and intricate Russian assault on the political debate in America and several other countries.
A number of these projects focused on the networks of users and groups of topics that the Russian trolls both created and operated within.
Christopher Marcum, a staff scientist at the National Human Genome Research Institute, wrote code in R to plot the network of which troll accounts mention which other troll accounts.
Large swaths of the Right Troll network are devoted to topics such as media outlets, free speech, American jobs and discrediting the FBI. The Left Troll network skewed more toward topics such as racism, police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Still other readers, and news outlets, focused on the geography of the troll tweets.
Christian MilNeil, a reporter with the Portland Press Herald in Maine, highlighted the subset of troll tweets that mentioned that state’s governor and senators – there were hundreds of them.
Canada wasn’t the only country to take an interest in the troll data.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Happy, Healthy Economy”

Another, from researchers at the University of Michigan, discovered that, over the same period, excessive drinking, particularly among people between the ages of 25 to 34, correlated with a sharp rise in deaths from liver disease.
Each year, his team asks more than 100,000 people a series of questions about their physical, social, and financial wellbeing-things like whether they smoke or have diabetes, how economically secure they are, whether they have loving relationships, and the extent to which they like what they do each day.
In economic terms, growth is only worth something if it improves people’s lives.
Still, there is a valuable lesson we can take from the Progressives, who shaped American institutions in ways that aimed to enhance people’s sense of contentment: the role of government is to promote the wellbeing of citizens.
For any household, “Once you get past that point, the probability of daily positive emotions is not higher, and the probability of sadness is not lower.” On the self-anchoring scale, he continued, contentment rises indefinitely along with income, though for rich people it takes much more money to move up a notch than it does for the poor.
For people who are struggling financially, relatively small income increases can make a big difference in wellbeing.
“If you look at the low end of the labor market, people deal with tons of daily stress because everything’s unpredictable,” Graham said.
The truth, Graham said, is that there’s plenty political leaders could do that would improve people’s lives-from creating more green spaces to providing better access to health care to making public services more reliable.

The orginal article.

Summary of “What you’re getting wrong about mindfulness”

A new study suggests that mindfulness meditation, a popular type of meditation that practises being aware in the present, may not be the best way to increase your motivation at work.
In the first, 109 participants were given audio instructions in common mindfulness meditation techniques by a meditation coach.
“If mindfulness meditation came in a pill form, we’d all be on top of it. It’s calorie-free, portable, it doesn’t cost anything, and it’s capitalised onto you sitting down and doing nothing. To think the antidote to what ails you is to ‘just be’ is probably a welcome message, but it’s pure speculation.”
The effect of mindfulness and meditation in the workplace is a relatively unexplored field.
Research on mindfulness itself though is gathering pace – the number of high-quality trials has increased significantly in recent years but many studies have been small-scale and focused on short meditation interventions.
In Sunnyvale, a recent count found the nine mindfulness rooms were used on average 15 times a day, with over half of these visits specified as meditation.
The company measures the success of its wellness programme by keeping track of how many employees participate in meditation classes, use the mindfulness rooms, attend mindfulness workshops and use the promoted mindfulness apps.
“We certainly don’t teach or promote mindfulness as a way to be content in one’s current state. In fact, I would say the aim of mindfulness is the opposite. If a person finds discontent in their current state, mindfulness can help them understand why there is discontent, and ultimately, find their way out of the discontent,” he says.

The orginal article.

Summary of “These are the best songs to dance to, according to computer science”

Those songs are among the most “Danceable” number-one hits in the history of pop, according to new research from Columbia Business School and French business school INSEAD, using data from Billboard and audio-tech company Echonest.
Developed by students at the MIT Media Lab and owned by Spotify, Echonest uses digital processing technology to identify attributes of songs, such as valence, instrumentation, and key signature.
The company created a proprietary algorithm to determine the “Danceability” of a song based on its tempo and beat regularity.
The calculation emphasizes the ability to dance throughout the whole song, so a bridge that even briefly changes the mood is highly penalized.
Although they were able to calculate danceability for more than 90% of Billboard-ranked songs, Taylor Swift’s album 1989 was not available from Echonest at the time.
The purpose of the research-published in the American Sociological Review and beautifully explained here by data scientist Colin Morris-was not to rank the most danceable mega-hits; it was to identify song features that could be predictive of mega-hits.
Researchers found that top-ranked songs tended to have more difference from past hits than lower-ranked songs, defying the trope that popular songs are just copies of other popular songs.
Still, the optimal pop song should be only slightly off the beaten bath.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Carbon tax debate: the top 5 things everyone needs to know”

A carbon tax is just what it sounds like – a per-ton tax on the carbon dioxide emissions embedded in fuels or other products.
2) A carbon tax hits coal first, hardest, and, at least early on, almost exclusively A carbon tax can reduce emissions quickly, but in the early years, reductions come overwhelmingly from a single industry: electricity.
3) The macroeconomic effect of a carbon tax depends on how the revenue is spent Republicans’ favorite attack on a carbon tax is that it will raise costs and slow economic growth – that it will be, in the words of the anti-carbon-tax resolution the House just passed, “Detrimental to the United States economy.”
4) The equity of a carbon tax also depends on how the revenue is spent A carbon tax is, in and of itself, somewhat regressive.
Using carbon tax revenues to reduce employee payroll taxes would result in a net benefit for upper middle-income taxpayers, while increasing tax burdens modestly for low-income and the highest-income households.
The economic theory behind carbon prices is that, if carbon is priced correctly – i.e., at the true “Social cost of carbon” – then the economy will respond with the optimal level of carbon reduction.
The main problem is less theoretical than practical: Political resistance has kept carbon prices well below any reasonable social cost of carbon pretty much everywhere carbon prices have been implemented.
Nowhere in the US, certainly not in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative or the Western Climate Initiative, or even the carbon tax in BC, has carbon prices close to $50/ton, which is the central case in the Columbia research.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The man who invented the self-driving car – POLITICO”

Tesla and Uber got into the self-driving car business, a team of German engineers led by a scientist named Ernst Dickmanns had developed a car that could navigate French commuter traffic on its own.
Before becoming the man “Who actually invented self-driving cars”, as Berkeley computer scientist Jitendra Malik put it, Dickmanns spent the first decade of his professional life analyzing the trajectories space ships take when they reenter the Earth’s atmosphere.
An engineer remained in the front seat of each car – with his hands on the steering wheel in case something went wrong – but the cars were doing the driving.
A year later, Dickmanns’ team took a re-engineered car on an even longer trip, traveling for more than 1,700 kilometers on the autobahn from Bavaria to Denmark, reaching speeds of more than 175 kilometers per hour.
Dickmanns’ work on autonomous driving began during the first winter and ended after a second one hit the field.
To drive autonomously, a car needs to react to its surroundings, and to do that, Dickmanns calculated that computers would need to analyze at least 10 images per second.
Dickmanns thought, a car should focus only on what’s relevant for driving, such as road markings.
Driving on a highway, it turns out, is one of the easier tasks a self-driving car can perform.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Liquid water ‘lake’ revealed on Mars”

Researchers have found evidence of an existing body of liquid water on Mars.
Previous research found possible signs of intermittent liquid water flowing on the martian surface, but this is the first sign of a persistent body of water on the planet in the present day.
Lake beds like those explored by Nasa’s Curiosity rover show water was present on the surface of Mars in the past.
The planet’s climate has since cooled due to its thin atmosphere, leaving most of its water locked up in ice.
Marsis wasn’t able to determine how deep the layer of water might be, but the research team estimate that it is a minimum of one metre.
The continuous white line at the top of the radar results above marks the beginning of the South Polar Layered Deposit; a filo pastry-like accumulation of water ice and dust.
So while the findings suggest water is present, they don’t confirm anything further.
In order to remain liquid in such cold conditions, the water likely has a great many salts dissolved in it.

The orginal article.

Summary of “‘The discourse is unhinged’: how the media gets AI alarmingly wrong”

In June of last year, five researchers at Facebook’s Artificial Intelligence Research unit published an article showing how bots can simulate negotiation-like conversations.
Should We Stop It? The story focused almost entirely on how the bots occasionally diverged from standard English – which was not the main finding of the paper – and reported that after the researchers “Realized their bots were chattering in a new language” they decided to pull the plug on the whole experiment, as if the bots were in some way out of control.
While the giddy hype around AI helped generate funding for researchers at universities and in the military, by the end of the 1960s it was becoming increasingly obvious to many AI pioneers that they had grossly underestimated the difficulty of simulating the human brain in machines.
As reports of deep learning’s “Unreasonable effectiveness” circulated among researchers, enrollments at universities in machine-learning classes surged, corporations started to invest billions of dollars to find talent familiar with the newest techniques, and countless startups attempting to apply AI to transport or medicine or finance were founded.
Lipton, a jazz saxophonist who decided to undertake a PhD in machine learning to challenge himself intellectually, says that as these hyped-up stories proliferate, so too does frustration among researchers with how their work is being reported on by journalists and writers who have a shallow understanding of the technology.
“If you compare a journalist’s income to an AI researcher’s income,” she says, “It becomes pretty clear pretty quickly why it is impossible for journalists to produce the type of carefully thought through writing that researchers want done about their work.” She adds that while many researchers stand to benefit from hype, as a writer who wants to critically examine these technologies, she only suffers from it.
While closer interaction between journalists and researchers would be a step in the right direction, Genevieve Bell, a professor of engineering and computer science at the Australian National University, says that stamping out hype in AI journalism is not possible.
“Experts can be really quick to dismiss how their research makes people feel, but these utopian hopes and dystopian fears have to be part of the conversations. Hype is ultimately a cultural expression that has its own important place in the discourse.”

The orginal article.