Friday, July 31, 2015

Research Scientists to Use Network Much Faster Than Internet - The New York Times

Research Scientists to Use Network Much Faster Than Internet - The New York Times:



 "SAN FRANCISCO — A series of ultra-high-speed fiber-optic cables will weave a cluster of West Coast university laboratories and supercomputer centers into a network called the Pacific Research Platform as part of a five-year $5 million dollar grant from the National Science Foundation."



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How Emotions Are Made: The New Science of the Mind and Brain - Kindle edition by Lisa Feldman Barrett. Health, Fitness & Dieting Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

How Emotions Are Made: The New Science of the Mind and Brain - Kindle edition by Lisa Feldman Barrett. Health, Fitness & Dieting Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.:



Emotions feel automatic to us; that’s why scientists have long assumed that emotions are hardwired in the body or the brain. Today, however, the science of emotion is in the midst of a revolution on par with the discovery of relativity in physics and natural selection in biology. This paradigm shift has far-reaching implications not only for psychology but also medicine, the legal system, airport security, child-rearing, and even meditation. 

  
Leading the charge is psychologist and neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett, whose theory of emotion is driving a deeper understanding of the mind and brain, and what it means to be human. Her research overturns the widely held belief that emotions are housed in different parts of the brain, and are universally expressed and recognized. Instead, emotion is constructed in the moment by core systems interacting across the whole brain, aided by a lifetime of learning. 
  
Are emotions more than automatic reactions? Does rational thought really control emotion? How does emotion affect disease? How can you make your children more emotionally intelligent? How Emotions Are Made reveals the latest research and intriguing practical applications of the new science of emotion, mind, and brain. 


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What Emotions Are (and Aren’t)

Photo
CreditMrzyk & Moriceau
OUR senses appear to show us the world the way it truly is, but they are easily deceived. For example, if you listen to a recorded symphony through stereo speakers that are placed exactly right, the orchestra will sound like it’s inside your head. Obviously that isn’t the case.
But suppose you completely trusted your senses. You might find yourself asking well-meaning but preposterous scientific questions like “Where in the brain is the woodwinds section located?” A more reasonable approach is not to ask a where question but a howquestion: How does the brain construct this experience of hearing the orchestra in your head?
I have just set the stage to dispel a major misconception about emotions. Most people, including many scientists, believe that emotions are distinct, locatable entities inside us — but they’re not. Searching for emotions in this form is as misguided as looking for cerebral clarinets and oboes.
Of course, we experience anger, happiness, surprise and other emotions as clear and identifiable states of being. This seems to imply that each emotion has an underlying property or “essence” in the brain or body. Perhaps an annoying co-worker triggers your “anger neurons,” so your blood pressure rises; you scowl, yell and feel the heat of fury. Or the loss of a loved one triggers your “sadness neurons,” so your stomach aches; you pout, feel despair and cry. Or an alarming news story triggers your “fear neurons,” so your heart races; you freeze and feel a flash of dread.
Such characteristics are thought to be the unique biological “fingerprints” of each emotion. Scientists and technology companies spend enormous amounts of time and money trying to locate these fingerprints. They hope someday to identify your emotions from your facial muscle movements, your body changes and your brain’s electrical signals.
Some scientific studies seem to support that such fingerprints exist. But many of those studies disagree on what the fingerprints are, and a multitude of other studies indicate there are no such fingerprints.
Let’s start with neuroscience. The Interdisciplinary Affective Science Laboratory (which I direct) collectively analyzed brain-imaging studies published from 1990 to 2011 that examined fear, sadness, anger, disgust and happiness. We divided the human brain virtually into tiny cubes, like 3-D pixels, and computed the probability that studies of each emotion found an increase in activation in each cube.
Overall, we found that no brain region was dedicated to any single emotion. We also found that every alleged “emotion” region of the brain increased its activity during nonemotional thoughts and perceptions as well.
The most well-known “emotion” region of the brain is the amygdala, a group of nuclei found deep within the temporal lobes. Since 2009, at least 30 articles in the popular press have claimed that fear is caused by neurons firing in the amygdala. Yet only a quarter of the experiments that we analyzed showed an increase in activity in the amygdala during the experience of fear. Indeed, it has long been known that certain “fear” behaviors, such as fleeing, don’t require the amygdala.
Other evidence against the amygdala-fear relationship comes from a pair of identical twins, known in the scientific literature as “BG” and “AM,” who both have a genetic disease that obliterates the amygdala. BG has difficulty feeling fear in all but the most extreme situations, but AM leads a normal emotional life.
Brain regions like the amygdala are certainly important to emotion, but they are neither necessary nor sufficient for it. In general, the workings of the brain are not one-to-one, whereby a given region has a distinct psychological purpose. Instead, a single brain area like the amygdala participates in many different mental events, and many different brain areas are capable of producing the same outcome. Emotions like fear and anger, my lab has found, are constructed by multipurpose brain networks that work together.
If emotions are not distinct neural entities, perhaps they have a distinct bodily pattern — heart rate, respiration, perspiration, temperature and so on?
Again, the answer is no. My lab analyzed over 200 published studies, covering nearly 22,000 test subjects, and found no consistent and specific fingerprints in the body for any emotion. Instead, the body acts in diverse ways that are tied to the situation. Even a rat facing a threat (say, the odor of a cat) will flee, freeze or fight depending on its surrounding context.
The same goes for the human face. Many scientists assume that the face clearly and reliably broadcasts emotion (scowling in anger, pouting in sadness, widening the eyes in fear, wrinkling the nose in disgust). But a growing body of evidence suggests that this is not the case. When we place electrodes on a human face and actually measure muscle movements during anger, for example, we find that people make a wide variety of movements, not just the stereotypical scowl.
CHARLES DARWIN famously vanquished the notion of essences in biology. He observed that a species is not a single type of being with a fixed set of attributes, but rather a population of richly varied individuals, each of which is better or worse suited to its environment.
Analogously, emotion words like “anger,” “happiness” and “fear” each name a population of diverse biological states that vary depending on the context. When you’re angry with your co-worker, sometimes your heart rate will increase, other times it will decrease and still other times it will stay the same. You might scowl, or you might smile as you plot your revenge. You might shout or be silent. Variation is the norm.
This insight is not just academic. When medical researchers ask, “What is the link between anger and cancer?” as if there is a single thing called “anger” in the body, they are in the grip of this error. When airport security officers are trained on the assumption that facial and body movements are reliable indicators of innermost feelings, taxpayers’ money is wasted.
The ease with which we experience emotions, and the effortlessness with which we see emotions in others, doesn’t mean that each emotion has a distinct pattern in the face, body or brain. Instead of asking where emotions are or what bodily patterns define them, we would do better to abandon such essentialism and ask the more revealing question, “How does the brain construct these incredible experiences?”

Christopher Henshilwood - TRACSYMBOLS

Christopher Henshilwood - TRACSYMBOLS:



"I believe that ground breaking results in the field of modern human evolution in Africa result from the discovery and excavation of new sites. Combined with the precision excavation techniques that I have developed, and the application of theoretical approaches and analytical methods developed in tandem with a multi-disciplinary team, we have over 20 years, changed or refined the interpretation of the earliest instances of complex human behaviour and imposed new standards on the analysis of prehistoric material culture. I have published wide ranging papers on the origins of language and symbolism; the effects of climatic variation on human demographics, and on the theory of human behavioural evolution. My journal publications (e.g. 10 in J. Hum. Evol)  have been cited 1822 times (Scopus: H-Index 18) and my 4 Science publications 458 times (Impact factor 33.6). Over the past 8 years I have led our research in the field and authored more than 30 peer reviewed papers (>500 citations), including 2 in Science, and published two books. A key strength of these publications is the input of more than thirty cross-disciplinary researchers, a factor I believe essential in addressing the complexities that are integral to original research articles on early human behavioural evolution."



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A Company Copes With Backlash Against the Raise That Roared - The New York Times

A Company Copes With Backlash Against the Raise That Roared - The New York Times:



 "There are times when Dan Price feels as if he stumbled into the middle of the street with a flag and found himself at the head of a parade."



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Minimum Wage

China’s Naked Emperors

Politicians who preside over economic booms often develop delusions of competence. You can see this domestically: Jeb Bush imagines that he knows the secrets of economic growth because he happened to be governor when Florida was experiencing a giant housing bubble, and he had the good luck to leave office just before it burst. We’ve seen it in many countries: I still remember the omniscience and omnipotence ascribed to Japanese bureaucrats in the 1980s, before the long stagnation set in.
This is the context in which you need to understand the strange goings-on in China’s stock market. In and of itself, the price of Chinese equities shouldn’t matter all that much. But the authorities have chosen to put their credibility on the line by trying to control that market — and are in the process of demonstrating that, China’s remarkable success over the past 25 years notwithstanding, the nation’s rulers have no idea what they’re doing.
Start with the fundamentals. China is at the end of an era — the era of superfast growth, made possible in large part by a vast migration of underemployed peasants from the countryside to coastal cities. This reserve of surplus labor is now dwindling, which means that growth must slow.
But China’s economic structure is built around the presumption of very rapid growth. Enterprises, many of them state-owned, hoard their earnings rather than return them to the public, which has stunted family incomes; at the same time, individual savings are high, in part because the social safety net is weak, so families accumulate cash just in case. As a result, Chinese spending is lopsided, with very high rates of investment but a very low share of consumer demand in gross domestic product.
This structure was workable as long as torrid economic growth offered sufficient investment opportunities. But now investment is running into rapidly decreasing returns. The result is a nasty transition problem: What happens if investment drops off but consumption doesn’t rise fast enough to fill the gap?
What China needs are reforms that spread the purchasing power — and it has, to be fair, been making efforts in that direction. But by all accounts these efforts have fallen short. For example, it has introduced what is supposed to be a national health care system, but in practice many workers fall through the cracks.
Meanwhile, China’s leaders appear to be terrified — probably for political reasons — by the prospect of even a brief recession. So they’ve been pumping up demand by, in effect, force-feeding the system with credit, including fostering a stock market boom. Such measures can work for a while, and all might have been well if the big reforms were moving fast enough. But they aren’t, and the result is a bubble that wants to burst.
China’s response has been an all-out effort to prop up stock prices. Large shareholders have been blocked from selling; state-run institutions have been told to buy shares; many companies with falling prices have been allowed to suspend trading. These are things you might do for a couple of days to contain an obviously unjustified panic, but they’re being applied on a sustained basis to a market that is still far above its level not long ago.
What do Chinese authorities think they’re doing?
In part, they may be worried about financial fallout. It seems that a number of players in China borrowed large sums with stocks as security, so that the market’s plunge could lead to defaults. This is especially troubling because China has a huge “shadow banking” sector that is essentially unregulated and could easily experience a wave of bank runs.
But it also looks as if the Chinese government, having encouraged citizens to buy stocks, now feels that it must defend stock prices to preserve its reputation. And what it’s ending up doing, of course, is shredding that reputation at record speed.
Indeed, every time you think the authorities have done everything possible to destroy their credibility, they top themselves. Lately state-run media have been assigning blame for the stock plunge to, you guessed it, a foreign conspiracy against China, which is even less plausible than you may think: China has long maintained controls that effectively shut foreigners out of its stock market, and it’s hard to sell off assets you were never allowed to own in the first place.
So what have we just learned? China’s incredible growth wasn’t a mirage, and its economy remains a productive powerhouse. The problems of transition to lower growth are obviously major, but we’veknown that for a while. The big news here isn’t about the Chinese economy; it’s about China’s leaders. Forget everything you’ve heard about their brilliance and foresightedness. Judging by their current flailing, they have no clue what they’re doing.

Paul Krugman

Professor Krugman knows how to write Relevant Science.

He is about to start, what I hope will be a permanent stay, at CUNY, to study the biggest human problem of our time.

Inequality.

China’s Naked Emperors - The New York Times

China’s Naked Emperors - The New York Times:



"Politicians who preside over economic booms often develop delusions of competence. You can see this domestically: Jeb Bush imagines that he knows the secrets of economic growth because he happened to be governor when Florida was experiencing a giant housing bubble, and he had the good luck to leave office just before it burst. We’ve seen it in many countries: I still remember the omniscience and omnipotence ascribed to Japanese bureaucrats in the 1980s, before the long stagnation set in."



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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Rosetta’s Philae Lander Discovers a Comet’s Organic Molecules - The New York Times

Rosetta’s Philae Lander Discovers a Comet’s Organic Molecules - The New York Times:



 "Philae, the little lost lander that the European Space Agency dropped on a comet last November, is still lost.

"



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Blue Moon? Friday's Celestial Event Comes With a Catch - The New York Times

Blue Moon? Friday's Celestial Event Comes With a Catch - The New York Times:



"WASHINGTON — This is an astronomy story that comes up only once in a blue moon, like on Friday. Maybe."



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U.S. Economy Grew at 2.3% Rate in 2nd Quarter - The New York Times

U.S. Economy Grew at 2.3% Rate in 2nd Quarter - The New York Times:



"The American economy regained its footing last quarter, expanding at an annual rate of 2.3 percent amid a better trade picture, robust consumer spending and a healthy housing sector."



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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Greece’s Relentless Exodus

BERLIN — One of the most heartbreaking scenes I’ve witnessed from the Greek crisis took place in Swabia, a hilly, prosperous region of southern Germany.
Swabia is home to a thriving auto industry that has long lured laborers from Southern Europe, including many Greeks. Most of them came in the 1960s and early 1970s. By the time I visited in 2013, the economic depression back home was creating a new exodus. From 2010 to 2013, about 218,000 Greeks emigrated, according to an estimate from the Greek statistics agency. Nearly half of them went to Germany.
In a factory town dotted with half-timbered houses, I visited a warehouse owned by the son of Greek immigrants. There, I met a new employee who had recently arrived from northern Greece, a 38-year-old woman named Maria Saoulidou. She was hanging packages of children’s party supplies on a rack. Ms. Saoulidou told me the supermarket where she had worked in Greece had stopped paying her. For a while, she kept working there anyway in the hope that the paychecks would arrive, but the money never came. Work for her husband, a truck driver, had also dried up. When they ran out of savings, the couple decided to start a new life in Germany, where an uncle lived. They left their two young sons back home with the children’s grandparents.
In Swabia, the couple lived in a gloomy, dank basement rental that was sparsely furnished with a mattress and a couple of chairs. They were planning to bring the children once they had a more suitable home. “It’s very hard,” Ms. Saoulidou said, nearly in tears with a package of balloons in her gloved hand. I looked down at the floor and noticed that one of her shoes was badly torn. Once the boys arrived in Germany, she said, the family would never return to Greece for more than a visit. “We’re looking after the future of our children, and unfortunately, there is none for them in Greece.”
Ms. Saoulidou’s story resonates with me in part because I’m the American-born son of Greek immigrants and have inherited a grasp of what Greeks call xeniteia — a term for wandering abroad but that implies nostalgia for the motherland.
Greece has a long history of emigration, and there are large Greek diasporas in America, Germany, Britain and Australia. Almost everyone you meet in Greece has extended family members living abroad. In decades past, the pain of seeing them depart inspired many folk songs. “My exiled and dissatisfied bird,” go the lyrics to one of them. “Won’t you have mercy and turn around?”
My paternal grandfather left Greece for the United States in 1916. He worked for two decades laying railroad tracks and cooking in kitchens from Chicago to El Paso before his homesickness got the better of him and he returned to his village near the Corinthian Gulf. There, with the money he’d saved, he built a nice home and started a family that included my father. When my father was a teenager, he received some simple guidance about life in America from my grandfather: “In America, if you work for a week, you get paid for a week.” My dad left Greece on a ship bound for New York at age 17.
Over the course of my life, Greece secured its place in the European Union, benefiting greatly from subsidies for agriculture and infrastructure, and later, from the cheap borrowing euro membership enabled. Even as dire problems loomed, an increasingly wealthy Greece became a nation people migrated to rather than a place people left behind. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, waves of Albanians and ethnic Greeks from the former Soviet Union flocked to Greece.
Over the past several years, however, life for many people in Greece has become insufferable. Unemployment exceeds 25 percent, and Greek businesses routinely fail to pay their workers on time. Young families have been particularly hard hit; 40 percent of Greek children live below the poverty line. In these circumstances, many Greeks put off having kids.
Given these conditions, many Greeks have chosen to take advantage of the European Union’s free movement of labor. Germany is one of the main destinations. There is a simple reason: Greece has the highest unemployment rate in the European Union; Germany has the lowest. Resentments against Germany — Greece’s most powerful creditor — quickly fade when it comes to the prospect of a regular paycheck.
Many of those leaving Greece are highly educated professionals and scientists seeking greater opportunity and better pay. An estimated 135,000 Greeks with post-secondary degrees have left since 2010 and are working abroad, according to Lois Labrianidis, an economic geographer and official in Greece’s Economy Ministry. “We think this is human capital that is crucial for the development of the country,” Mr. Labrianidis told me recently, calling the departures a “major blow.”
Still, emigration — for both the emigrants and Greece — is often better than the alternative: remaining unemployed at home. In theory, expatriate Greeks could send their earnings to family or return and apply the skills they’ve gained abroad. But recent emigrants aren’t sending much home in the way of remittances, and it’s unclear whether Greece will ever be able to offer the opportunities that could lure back its brightest minds. Why return to a place where it’s almost impossible to find a good job?
While much of the attention on recent Greek emigration has focused on the highly educated, I’ve been surprised by the number of working-class Greeks I’ve met who left due to financial desperation. On more than one occasion, I’ve met Greeks who, upon learning that I live in Germany, have asked me for help finding menial work there.
“Can you help get my son a job?” one woman asked me, while her granddaughters played with my child in a suburban Athens square. The woman told me her son had closed his construction business after demand for his work disappeared. He had recently left for Düsseldorf, where he was renting a cheap room and looking for a job. He’d left his wife and daughters behind until he could get settled. She told me she was afraid her granddaughters weren’t getting enough to eat. “Please, mister,” she said. “You’d be saving a whole family.”
The latest bout of political and economic tumult has further damaged Greece’s battered economy. And the recent agreement for a third bailout deal — with its emphasis on austerity — only repeats the mistakes of the past. Unless the Greek government and its creditors act with far more urgency to restore growth, one outcome is certain: Many more Greeks will be seeking their futures elsewhere.
James Angelos is the author of “The Full Catastrophe: Travels Among the New Greek Ruins.”
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