Summary of “ahead of the science. Here’s why.”

Fasting proponents will also note that there’s a long tradition of religious fasting, though the focus there tends to be more spiritual than health-oriented.
“Many religious groups incorporate periods of fasting into their rituals,” this article points out, “Including Muslims who fast from dawn until dusk during the month of Ramadan, and Christians, Jews, Buddhists, and Hindus who traditionally fast on designated days of the week or calendar year.”
Much of the science on fasting focuses on disease prevention and longevity, not weight loss But here’s something important to note about what we know from science about fasting: Though a lot of the popular interest is in weight loss, many of the key researchers who study fasting aren’t focusing on that at all.
The first group was crossed over into the fasting group, so the researchers could gather even more data on fasting.
As this 2017 review of the science found, the studies on fasting to control Type 2 diabetes come to contradictory results, and there’s “Minimal data” comparing the effects of fasting to plain old calorie restriction in overweight or obese people with the disease.
The researchers looked at randomized controlled trials of intermittent fasting and found that the people who fasted lost about 4 to 8 percent of their original bodyweight, on average.
There are some people who should never fast Debra Safer, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University, told me in 2016 that people with troubled relationships with food should think twice before fasting to lose weight.
Fasting studies have not been done in children, very elderly people, or people who are underweight – so it’s possible fasting could be harmful in these cases.

The orginal article.

Summary of “How the Ketogenic Diet Went Mainstream”

A classic keto diet consists of 90 percent of calories from fat, 6 percent from protein, and 4 percent from carbs.
The first weeks of his eponymous diet centered on eating fat and very little carbs to induce ketosis, a “Happy state . . . [in which] your fat is being burned off with maximum efficiency and minimum deprivation.” That was how keto blipped on the radar of Stephen Phinney, Ph.D., an MIT-trained nutritional biochemist, who began researching this way of eating for endurance sports.
“One day she opened her show pulling a red wagon that contained 67 pounds of pig and beef fat. And she points to it and says, ‘That’s how much weight I’ve lost.’ ” The Oprah Effect was soon in full effect: Optifast immediately received more than 200,000 inquiries, and keto research surged in the early ’90s. That’s when the diet was adopted by the hard-core bodybuilding underground.
With the rediscovery of the Atkins diet in the 2000s, new generations of Americans warmed to the idea that low-carb could be a safe diet tool.
The keto diet could, as the press release put it, “Slow the aging process and may one day allow scientists to better treat or prevent age-­related disease, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and many forms of cancer.” Nutritionally woke biohackers-interested in keto for fat loss, athletic performance, productivity, and longevity in equal parts-began to self-experiment.
Recent research by Phinney showed that those who followed a ketogenic diet and received diet counseling for a year significantly decreased diabetes-medication usage and lost an average of 30 pounds.
Consider the results of an influential 2018 study in JAMA. It found no significant difference in the amount of weight loss at one year between people who ate a low-fat diet and those on a low-carb diet.
“And the conclusion was that the best diet is whatever diet works for you. Keto works for me.”

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Summary of “Sports Science Is Finally Talking About Its Methodology Problems”

A few years ago, as I started researching my book about the science of exercise recovery, I found something curious: the methodological flaws that have roiled psychology were also lurking in sports science.
As I plowed through the published studies in the sports and exercise science literature, I saw many studies with small sample sizes, a journal system that appeared to be biased toward publishing studies showing that a treatment or regimen improves performance and studies that collected multiple measures in a way that could make it tempting for researchers to fish around for a favorable result.
Today at SportsRxiv, a place where researchers can share their unpublished studies to get feedback before peer review, 36 researchers have released an editorial urging the field to adopt practices that have been gaining traction in the social sciences to combat “Questionable research practices” such as p-hacking.
They’ve formed The Society for Transparency, Openness, and Replication in Kinesiology, which is modeled after the Society for the Improvement of Psychological Science that has brought psychology researchers together to develop better research practices.
In the former, researchers submit their hypotheses in advance and commit to a specific methodology and analysis plan, which they post in an independent registry.
This prevents researchers from playing around with different ways of looking at their data until they get an appealing result, said lead author Aaron Caldwell, a graduate student in exercise science at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville.
Registered reports, on the other hand, give researchers an opportunity to submit their studies to journals where they’ll be accepted or rejected based on the rigor of their methodology, rather than on the sexiness of their results.
The reaction so far has ranged from “This is good – it’s how science should be operating” to “Why are you trying to make science harder to do? It’s already hard enough,” Caldwell said.

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Summary of “An Anthropologist Investigates How We Think About How We Think”

Martin wanted to understand how this research is done and whether the scope of experiments was changing with the advent of cheap and bountiful behavioral data, which we all shed, often unknowingly, in every one of our interactions online.
While she’s in field-work mode, Martin is always alert to what she calls these “Ethnographic moments.” Even the smallest action or fragment of speech, she believes, can be a useful clue to the mostly invisible wider cultural assumptions that shape how research is done in any specialized field.
Every few months, she and a fledgling group-Susan Harding, who was studying Jerry Falwell’s megachurch in Lynchburg, Virginia; Harriet Whitehead, who was doing research on Scientology; Lorna Rhodes, who was writing about the psychiatric clinic in which she worked-met at Martin’s Baltimore row house, “Trying to figure out how in the world you do anthropological field work in your own culture.” At childbirth classes, Martin tentatively interviewed other pregnant women; she scoured textbooks on obstetrics and gynecology.
Martin wrote an article, “The Egg and the Sperm: How science has constructed a romance based on stereotypical male-female roles,” which was published in 1991 and became a cult feminist classic.
In the book, Martin observes how people wield the labels handed down to them from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual as a “Cloak against further scrutiny,” a means of using standardized categories to avoid sharing more intimate or divergent psychic experiences.
The C.E.O. of one ad agency told her that, after Bill Clinton became President, two companies, with two different drugs, decided that they wanted their drug to be like Hillary Clinton: strong, tough, knows what she wants, but with “That feminine sort of feeling to it.” Martin also observed how marketers made appeals to psychiatrists’ artistic sides: a Lithium-P campaign featured a portrait of Beethoven and an offer for doctors of a free CD of the Ninth Symphony, taking for granted “Cultural associations between manic depression and creative energy.”
People either see it as the most “Natural” of the drugs, Martin writes, or they fiercely resist taking it, “Loath to have the pleasures of a rising mood taken away from them.” Some psychiatrists believe lithium is now under-prescribed because both doctors and patients are attracted to newer, supposedly “Technologized” medicines, and, at the conference, Martin was accused of contributing to this problem.
Exactly how illuminating it is to match digital data with psychometric profiles is up for debate: the app wrongly identified Martin, based on her answers, as a thirty-five-year-old male-though it did correctly describe her as “Introspective.” Some of the researchers’ findings are intriguingly absurd: Facebook likes of “Thunderstorms” and “Curly fries” supposedly correlated with high intelligence, for instance.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The Sugar Industry’s Secret Science Is Being Exposed By Ex-Dentist Cristin Kearns”

The first sheet of paper was a 1975 tip sheet from a sugar trade group to sugar company executives, marked “CONFIDENTIAL.” It gave instructions on how to talk to the press about a pro-sugar series of scientific studies – research funded by the trade group, a fact that had not been disclosed at the time.
For decades, Kearns and a cadre of researchers have discovered, Big Sugar sought to influence journalists, scientists, and regulators with the effect of delaying research into its product’s potentially harmful health effects.
By combing through thousands of pages of internal documents, Kearns and her team have gained unprecedented clarity into the machinations of the sugar industry during the mid-20th century.
“The Sugar Association is proud of our long research history and believe that sugar is best enjoyed in moderation, a fact that is supported by decades of scientific research.”
Wondering if something might be similarly afoot with sugar, Kearns stumbled onto the website for the Sugar Association.
The University of Illinois turned out to house the papers of Roger Adams, an emeritus professor of organic chemistry who had advised the Sugar Research Foundation and a later incarnation, the International Sugar Research Foundation, from 1959 to 1971.
“Added sugar in particular has been clearly indicated to be a risk factor for weight gain, for type 2 diabetes, for cardiovascular disease, and I think there’s little doubt that sugar plays a role in these conditions, in the US population in particular,” Deirdre Tobias, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School who is not involved in Kearns’ work, told BuzzFeed News.
The nuances of the sugar industry documents will incite debate for decades to come, but Kearns has forged a path by hunting them down in the first place.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Genetic information as self-fulfilling prophecy”

Genetic information can exert a potent placebo effect-or the opposite, the nocebo effect, wherein if you think that something can harm you, it in fact does.
Some psychologists at Stanford wondered if the perception of genetic risk could actually increase people’s risk, independent of their actual genetic risk.
First, the researchers focused on genetic risk information for obesity; they figured that learning you are at risk would obviously suck, but it’s not like they were telling people they were at risk for cancer or Alzheimer’s.
Finally, the team notes that “The potentially iatrogenic effects of learning one’s genetic risk are already occurring at scale.” One in twenty-five American adults have already purchased personalized genetic test results; we might as well study how this information is impacting them.
While genetic information can change behavior, it can’t account for the rapid physiological changes they saw here.
Society is already grappling with deciding who should get information about genetic risk, including for Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases, as well as other conditions that are hereditary but for which we have no known cure or even much treatment.
People are getting information about far more subtle genetic influences anyway.
If the very information can affect health, like this study suggests, should doctors ask patients if they know their genetic risk profiles, much like they would ask patients which pills they’re taking? And if the mere knowledge of risk itself compounds that risk-if such knowledge becomes an additional risk factor that impacts health-could doctors withhold such knowledge from patients? Should they?

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Summary of “Why you shouldn’t be afraid of your aging brain”

“Is exercise and intellectual engagement, social interaction, diet, going to cure anything? There’s no evidence of that,” says Art Kramer, professor of psychology and director of the Center for Cognitive and Brain Health at Northeastern University, where he researches the effect of exercise on cognition.
Kramer is one of scores of researchers in Boston and elsewhere who can now measure cognition with functional MRIs that show not just the structure of the brain but what parts of it subjects actually use when performing specific tasks.
Brain size peaks around age 20.”We prune our brain to get rid of the excess, based on which nerve cells are making connections, and so the nerve cells making more connections are preserved,” says Dr. Marissa Natelson Love, assistant professor in the division of memory disorders and behavioral neurology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Aging brains also deal with what Natelson Love calls “Software problems,” issues that are not related to the structure of our brains but affect how well we use them – disrupted sleep, chronic pain, vascular disease, mood disorders, medications, alcohol, and stress, among others.
After a while, it was, wait a minute. We can actually see now that the brain does make new brain cells in adulthood, but it has to be certain activities that will promote the production of new brain cells.”
Not only do super agers’ brains have the memory networks of younger brains, but those networks seem to help keep super agers motivated and engaged.
“We started out by measuring the structure, the size and shape, and thickness of certain parts of the brain, within networks of the brain we know are important for memory or important for motivated performance and attention,” Dickerson says.
Forget websites like Lumosity, which promises to build brain fitness through cognitive games, and concentrate on taking on new cognitive challenges, whatever they might be, says Richmond.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The AI boom is happening all over the world, and it’s accelerating quickly”

Just how fast the industry is moving, and to what end, is typically measured not just by actual product advancements and research milestones, but also by the prognostications and voiced concerns of AI leaders, futurists, academics, economists, and policymakers.
The first report, published last December, found that investment and work in AI was accelerated at an unprecedented rate and that, while progress in certain fields like limited game-playing and vision has been extraordinary, AI remains far behind in general intelligence tasks that would result in, say, total automation of more than a limited variety of jobs.
“There is no AI story without global perspective. The 2017 report was heavily skewed towards North American activities. This reflected a limited number of global partnerships, not an intrinsic bias,” reads the 2018 report’s introduction.
There’s an especially high concentration in Europe and Asia, with China, Japan, and South Korea leading Eastern countries in AI research paper publication, university enrollment, and patent applications.
When it comes to the type of AI activity, the report finds that machine learning and so-called probabilistic reasoning – or the type of cognition-related performance that lets a game-playing AI outsmart a human opponent – is far and away the leading research category by a number of published papers.
In a separate “Human-level milestones” section, the report breaks down some big 2018 milestones in fields like game-playing and medical diagnostics where progress is accelerating at surprising rates.
AI is increasingly being put to work by governments in situations that are ripe for abuse Google said it would pull out of the project once its contract expired, and it also published a wide-ranging set of AI ethics principles that included a pledge never to develop AI weaponry surveillance systems or to contribute to any project that violated “Widely accepted principles of international law and human rights.” But it’s clear that the leaders of Silicon Valley see AI as a prime business opportunity and such projects and contracts as the financial reward for participating in the AI research arms race.
Part of the philosophy behind the AI Index report is about asking the right questions and making sure that the people making policy, the public, and the leaders of the AI industry have data to make informed decisions.

The orginal article.

Summary of “How to Teach the Civil War in the Deep South”

Kaelon McNeece, a student from Brandon, a suburb of Jackson, researched J. G. Parsons, a Confederate soldier, which led to an exploration of undiagnosed PTSD following the war.
Dairian Bowles-a student from Byhalia, a rural town in northern Mississippi, who performed the story of state Senator Gleed-also investigated the life of a progressive doctor, John H. Hand.
The Tales From the Crypt project, which added research and community performances to the U.S. history curriculum, was started by Yarborough’s late colleague and mentor, Carl Butler, in 1990.
In 2007, Yarborough founded the African American history course, for which students also research those buried in Sandfield and perform their stories as part of the Eighth of May Celebration of Emancipation-a yearly tribute that had fizzled out in Columbus in the 1970s and was later revived by Yarborough’s course.
As part of the African American history class this year, Edith Marie Green, a student from Oxford, a city in northern Mississippi, investigated the life of Allen L. Rabb, owner of Rabb’s Meat Market, started by Allen’s father in the post-Civil War years.
Other students researched historic records for William Isaac Mitchell, the president of Penny Savings Bank, the first African American-owned bank in Columbus, and Richard Littlejohn, the publisher of a local black newspaper in the 1880s, among others.
“Black students encouraged white students to go beyond outrage over great injustices to think about what we can do to change things now,” she said.
Helping more Americans recognize black history as part of U.S. history is a priority for Green.

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Summary of “When algorithms go wrong we need power to fight back, say researchers”

That’s one of the major conclusions in a new report issued by AI Now, a research group home to employees from tech companies like Microsoft and Google and affiliated with New York University.
The report examines the social challenges of AI and algorithmic systems, homing in on what researchers call “The accountability gap” as this technology is integrated “Across core social domains.” They put forward ten recommendations, including calling for government regulation of facial recognition and “Truth-in-advertising” laws for AI products, so that companies can’t simply trade on the reputation of the technology to sell their services.
The authors of AI Now’s report say this incident is just one of a number of “Cascading scandals” involving AI and algorithmic systems deployed by governments and big tech companies in 2018.
In all these cases there has been public outcry as well as internal dissent in Silicon Valley’s most valuable companies.
The year saw Google employees quitting over the company’s Pentagon contracts, Microsoft employees pressuring the company to stop working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and employee walkouts from Google, Uber, eBay, and Airbnb protesting issues involving sexual harassment.
These include requiring technology vendors which sell services to the government to waive trade secrecy protections, thereby allowing researchers to better examine their algorithms.
For affect recognition, where companies claim technology can scan someone’s face and read their character and even intent, AI Now’s authors say companies are often peddling pseudoscience.
With regards to the algorithmic scandals incubated by Silicon Valley’s biggest companies, Crawford says: “Their ‘move fast and break things’ ideology has broken a lot of things that are pretty dear to us and right now we have to start thinking about the public interest.”

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