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Silly Stories Demean Science

first_imgIf science had an icon like the Statue of Liberty, she would be hanging her head in disgrace for what passes for science these days.It’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry at the following sorry excuses for scientific research and reporting. For those who care about the reputation of science in society, perhaps outrage would be a more appropriate response.Men may have evolved better ‘making up’ skills (BBC News). This notion (hard to call it a scientific hypothesis) follows from observations that some men will hug longer after a boxing match or other contest than women will. It’s based on a “scientific” paper published by Cell Press in Current Biology, “Cross-Cultural Sex Differences in Post-Conflict Affiliation following Sports Matches.” The two authors (a man and a woman) claim that “After sports matches, male opponents engage in friendly touches longer than females,” and “Male winners and losers make more friendly touches than their female counterparts.” It’s hard to imagine how such things could even be measured by any objective standard. How many sports matches would a scientist have to watch to conclude this? From how many countries? For how long a time period? What constitutes a “friendly” touch, on what kind of an objective scale? What if one of the men is a transgender? (We throw in that idea to be politically correct.)Even more ridiculous is to claim that men evolved this skill. Was it a mutation on the Y chromosome? Or did the female get it on her mitochondrial DNA? How could a behavior this vague be tied to an objective change in the genes? How did it spread through the population? Don’t men and women exchange genes every time they have children? We have not even begun to ask the multitude of questions raised by this hypothesis. Even more alarming is the reckless reporters and editors at the BBC who let this silliness pass without any critical analysis. On the contrary, they say: “Other researchers say that this is an ‘impressive’ study.” Impressive in its ineptness, perhaps. A suitably trained philosophical gadfly could undermine the whole premise with a counter-proposal: “Scientists may have evolved better ‘making up stories’ skills.”Where there’s smoke — and a mutation — there may be an evolutionary edge for humans (Science Daily). This idea makes one wonder if the geniuses at Penn State were imbibing certain hallucinogenic fumes when they dreamed it up. “Aha!” they must have said under the influence of something. “Now we know how we moderns defeated the Neanderthals!” It doesn’t seem to matter to them that Neanderthals were cooking with fire for possibly 200,000 years or more (so says the consensus) before moderns came on stage. According to this new story, “A genetic mutation may have helped modern humans adapt to smoke exposure from fires and perhaps sparked an evolutionary advantage over their archaic competitors” — notice the high perhapsimaybecouldness index there. Surely the astute science guys at the BBC News will bring some sense into the smoke-filled room. “Tolerance of smoke may have given us an edge over Neanderthals.” Guess not.A quick Google search shows over 200,000 hits on “smoke Neanderthals” but no obvious critical responses, except for ours and one at Uncommon Descent. Colin Barras at U.D. had some laughs, having seen this kind of campfire story before:This theory is possibly 27 minutes in the queue with: Neanderthals were inbred, A different theory puts it down to the fact that Neanderthals chewed more. And another one has it that they did not eat enough rabbits. A paleo-psychoanalyst claims they had large eyes and might have been weird loners. And, oh yes, of course, climate change killed them.All the others in the internet echo chamber just repeated the theme with minor variations to the headline, such as, “Can’t Quit Smoking? Blame Neanderthals.” It gave them an excuse to trot out all the stock photos of Neanderthal reconstructions housed in museums. Of course, everybody should know this theory is untenable.Parkas helped early humans survive (Live Science). Let’s see if we can get this one straight. Neanderthals survived for nearly 500,000 years in all kinds of climate, but then lost out to modern humans who came on the scene late with new tailoring skills. Because the “moderns” knew how to sew parkas, they survived while their brethren froze.  “The reason for the clothing difference between Neanderthals and early modern humans is yet unclear.” That’s for sure; no clothes were found! The scientists only found animal bones “whose skins may have been used to produce clothing.” In a blatant example of historical racism, the reporter suggests that “the Neanderthals were not intelligent enough to manufacture garments of the same thermal effectiveness as those used by early modern humans,” or else it was a cultural thing. But they survived for half a million years! Good grief; if the environment drives evolution, why didn’t they just evolve body fur in all that time?Birds of a fibula (PLoS Blogs). Emphasize the fib in Jon Tennant’s headline, because it starts with an imaginary dino-chicken in the artwork. Then he shows baby chicks strutting across the stage in an animated loop. To give an appearance of empirical validity, he shows a bunch of femur bones side by side. Running evolution divination on them, he comes to the conclusion that birds are dinosaurs. In a trance, he shouts ecstatically, “Eagles are dinosaurs. Pigeons are dinosaurs, annoyingly. Even penguins are weird, swimming dinosaurs.”How well does Jon know this to be true? His last paragraphs leave some room for distrust after he pronounces his oracle.This means that dinosaurs and early birds shared the same or similar pattern of fibula development, reflected in their evolutionary relationships and through time.The reason why this happens though remains a bit of a mystery. Modern birds of different sizes and ecologies all show evidence of this fibula reduction. This suggests that it is what is called a ‘non-adaptive’ process, as it is highly unlikely that such a feature would play a part in such different roles.We’re only just beginning to unlock the molecular links between dinosaurs and birds, and this represents a really neat glimpse into the future of this research field. Stay tuned!What channel are we tuned into, again? Is this Comedy Central?Folks, we try to bring you the news about evolution objectively, but it’s extremely difficult to be charitable when reading some of it. Please forgive us. (Visited 23 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

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Shark Week Scores LOLs with Facebook Connect Promo

first_imgIn 2007, Discovery Channel impressed us by embracing the social web in their attempts to promote perennial favorite Shark Week.Back in the day, a five-track DIY video mixer was enough to tickle our fancy. But we have gone the way of all users and have grown lazier over the ensuing two years. We now require our personalized videos to be mixed for us. Shark Week to the rescue! This year’s promotional coup pulls all kinds of data from a user’s Facebook profile to generate creepily personal results.At first, this year’s FrenziedWaters.com promo site was irritating and confusing. Until we clicked a link reading “My Story.”What ensued could only have been better if Discovery/Shark Week had let us embed the video. All we can tell you is that you’ve got to try it for yourself. The app mined a few bits of data to create a sort of video obituary/newsreel that was a strange reminder of how much personal information we really do publish inside that particular walled garden. A Comprehensive Guide to a Content Audit Related Posts The Dos and Don’ts of Brand Awareness Videos jolie odell That being said, it is a crime against humanity that users are not able to download, embed, email, or even pause the videos that are created through this hilarious little app. With a little more sharing, this Shark Week promo could’ve been hugely popular.In addition to favorite programming from Shark Week’s past, this year’s lineup will include a two-hour docudrama of the true story behind Jaws and segments on sharks’ diurnal behavior and their favorite spots to hang out and maul people. Shark Week begins August 2. Try to get in the last of your summer beach outings beforehand. Guide to Performing Bulk Email Verification Facebook is Becoming Less Personal and More Pro… Tags:#Facebook#web last_img read more

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What Glee Means for Twitter & Television

first_imgRelated Posts Facebook is Becoming Less Personal and More Pro… mike melanson The Dos and Don’ts of Brand Awareness Videos When you watch TV, do you watch with a smartphone in-hand or a laptop by your side, so you can keep up with what everyone is saying on Twitter? One TV show, more than the rest, has captured the attention of the Twitterverse and its popularity has implications for both Twitter and television.More and more, Twitter is becoming a side dish for prime time entertainment and, as the networks catch on, it’s becoming a tool for bringing the audience back from the land of DVRs and time-shifted television into real-time viewing. But how?Twitter CEO Dick Costolo discussed the Glee phenomena earlier this month at the Consumer Electronics Show when he sat down to talk with Kara Swisher. Costolo explains that TV and Twitter have an interesting relationship because, more and more, viewers have a device in their hand while they’re watching TV.“The characters on Glee actually tweet and they tweet during the show. When Glee starts, the moment it airs for the first time on the East Coast, the tweets per second for Glee shoot up,” said Costolo. “They stay up there at a super high level at hundreds of [times] what they are before the show comes on until the moment the show ends and then they drop. […] People feel like they have to watch the show while it’s going on because the community is tweeting about the show and the characters are tweeting as the show’s happening so [they have to] watch it in real time.” Click here to view full screen.Appozite co-founder Jenn Deering Davis said that TweetReach, a tweet-tracking media analytics tool, saw the same phenomena last weekend during the Golden Globe awards. Glee not only took the award for “Best TV Series” but also for reaching the largest audience, with one “#Glee” tweet being retweeted 2,262 times, passing its nearest competition by 1,348 retweets. It seems that, by including in-show tweeting and interaction with fans when the show is off the air, Glee has managed to create a following of Twitter-dependent fans who love to tweet about it.“It’s interesting what this kind of behavior says about the growing convergence between internet and TV,” said Deering Davis. “It’s not all Google TV and Roku; it’s also taking the web tools we already use (Twitter, Facebook, IM) and integrating them into our TV-watching experience. People seem to be doing this a lot.”What does this Twitter popularity mean for the show and the networks?Costolo says that it means big things for getting viewers back to real-time viewing, rather than recording an episode on DVR and skipping the commercials, and that the networks are loving it.Deering Davis agreed, saying that the phenomenon is a sort of cultural shift in television viewing.“There is something culturally significant to the real-time shared experiences created by TV/media events like the Golden Globes or the newest episode of Glee,” said Deering Davis. “With Twitter, we now are able to collectively experience TV like never before. In the past, TV has often been a passive, even isolating, form of entertainment consumption, but with Twitter and other social media it can be much more social and interactive.”The big question now is, what form does this interaction come in? Costolo noted this point in his interview with Kara Swisher, asking if this will come as an on-screen experience or if it will remain on the tiny screens in hands and on our laps. Twitter has already made its way onto the big screen in the form of integrated TV sets and set-top boxes like Google and Apple TV, but are people using it?Whatever screen they’re looking at, one thing is certain – they’re watching TV and tweeting at the same time. During the Golden Globes last weekend, tweets reached a peak of 3,554, according to the TweetReach data, which is just under half of the 7,400 tweets per minute seen during the iPad launch last year. As networks take notice, we’re likely to see more and more in-character tweeting to assure we’re paying attention when they want us to pay attention and not on our own, commercial-free time frame.As for what all of this means for Twitter, perhaps it will end the age old question of non-Twitter users about why they would want to hear about what someone is eating for lunch. Perhaps connecting Twitter with television is just what it needs to reach critical mass.center_img Tags:#Internet TV#NYT#twitter#web Guide to Performing Bulk Email Verification A Comprehensive Guide to a Content Auditlast_img read more

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