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How a data detective exposed suspicious medical trials

After seeing so many cases of fraud, alongside typos and mistakes, Carlisle has developed his own theory of what drives some researchers to make up their data. “They think that random chance on this occasion got in the way of the truth, of how they know the Universe really works,” he says. “So they change the result to what they think it should have been.”

Finding the 'Goldilocks' level of enthusiasm for business pitches -- ScienceDaily

They found that, generally speaking, the higher the peak level of enthusiasm, the more likely the entrepreneur was to receive funding, after controlling for differences in the products and business ideas. But there was a bell curve in the results, where the likelihood of funding tended to fall as "peak joy" levels went on for too long. "Although a higher level of peak joy displayed by entrepreneurs during their pitches leads to better funding performance over time, prolonged display of peak joy seemed to undermine funding performance," Liu said. "Another possible interpretation is that investors may believe the entrepreneur is acting and the pitch is manipulative. Maybe they feel the entrepreneur is using his or her excitement to manipulate the investors' perceptions in hopes of increasing the odds of getting funding."

Game Of Thrones brutally asserts that the game in question will have no winner (experts)

It’s not that the final season is failing to live up to my specific expectations of what was supposed to happen, which I avoided having for that reason. It’s that the final season is failing to live up to what I believe a final season should do: enriching the show that came before it. And while the notion that power corrupts has always been at the heart of this story, the way it manifests here feels like a simplification of the show and its ideas, as opposed to a culmination of its larger journey.

Why Is It So Hard to Predict the Future? - The Atlantic

One subgroup of scholars, however, did manage to see more of what was coming. Unlike Ehrlich and Simon, they were not vested in a single discipline. They took from each argument and integrated apparently contradictory worldviews. They agreed that Gorbachev was a real reformer and that the Soviet Union had lost legitimacy outside Russia. A few of those integrators saw that the end of the Soviet Union was close at hand and that real reforms would be the catalyst. The integrators outperformed their colleagues in pretty much every way, but especially trounced them on long-term predictions. Eventually, Tetlock bestowed nicknames (borrowed from the philosopher Isaiah Berlin) on the experts he’d observed: The highly specialized hedgehogs knew “one big thing,” while the integrator foxes knew “many little things.”

Perseverance toward life goals can fend off depression, anxiety, panic disorders: Looking on the bright side also acts as a safeguard, according to 18-year study -- ScienceDaily

At each interval, participants were asked to rate their goal persistence (e.g., "When I encounter problems, I don't give up until I solve them"), self-mastery (e.g., "I can do just anything I really set my mind to") and positive reappraisal (e.g., "I can find something positive, even in the worst situations"). Diagnoses for major depressive, anxiety and panic disorders were also collected at each interval. People who showed more goal persistence and optimism during the first assessment in the mid-1990s had greater reductions in depression, anxiety and panic disorders across the 18 years, according to the authors.

April Fools hoax stories could offer clues to help identify 'fake news' -- ScienceDaily

The researchers found that April fools hoax stories, when compared to genuine news: Are generally shorter in length Use more unique words Use longer sentences Are easier to read Refer to vague events in the future Contain more references to the present Are less interested in past events Contain fewer proper nouns Use more first person pronouns

Thanking and apologizing: Talk that isn't cheap -- ScienceDaily

The researchers proposed that, for the communicator, all four types of communications involve a trade-off between projecting competence and projecting warmth. Thanking and apologizing make the speaker appear caring or generous, but usually at the cost of seeming incompetent or weak. The opposite is true of bragging and blaming, which can bolster the speaker's perceived competence and status, but at the cost of seeming selfish or inconsiderate. The recipient of the communication experiences a different impact on their image: Thanking and apologizing elevate both perceived competence and warmth for the recipient, while bragging and blaming decrease both.

First evidence for necessary role of human hippocampus in planning -- ScienceDaily

The work centers on the hippocampal "cognitive map," the brain's spatial localization system discovered by University College of London's John O'Keefe, who was awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. The hippocampal cognitive map has been long thought to allow us to "mentally simulate" the future outcomes of our actions as we plan into the future. However, there had previously been no direct evidence in humans that the hippocampus is actually necessary for planning. "Our results show that both goal-directed planning and remembering locations in space depend on the human hippocampus" says Oliver Vikbladh, a doctoral candidate at New York University's Center for Neural Science and the paper's lead author. "By clarifying the scope of hippocampal contributions to behavior, the study may have implications for diseases that affect the hippocampus, such as epilepsy and Alzheimer's disease."

Stone Age Cave Symbols May All Be Part of a Single Prehistoric Proto-Writing System

And when von Petzinger looked through archaeology papers for mentions or illustrations of symbols in cave art outside Europe, she found that many of her 32 signs were used around the world. There is even tantalising evidence that an earlier human, Homo erectus, deliberately etched a zigzag on a shell on Java some 500,000 years ago. “The ability of humans to produce a system of signs is clearly not something that starts 40,000 years ago. This capacity goes back at least 100,000 years,” says Francesco d’Errico from the University of Bordeaux, France.

Opinion: The Free Solo Documentary Addressed Some Uncomfortable Truths, But Ignored Others - Climbing Magazine

The filmmakers do a good job of questioning Honnold leading up to the ascent, which is why it's so jarring when they stop. After Honnold tops out, the ambiguity disappears and it becomes a wild celebration of an athletic achievement, complete with triumphant guitar riffs. It’s as though the filmmakers believe that since Honnold succeeded, it was a good idea all along, and we were wrong to ever doubt him; victory silences scrutiny.

This hyperlocal news site in San Francisco is reinventing itself with an automated local news wire » Nieman Journalism Lab

“There are so many stories news organizations could potentially do, that nobody can afford to, because it’s expensive and time-consuming to have that many people on the ground,” Eldon sad. “We’re starting with the simple stuff right now: New business openings, rental price trends — simple story types that we can produce using data sets that cover a lot of geographical places and then distribute to a lot of people. Over time, we’ll want to get more sophisticated with how we analyze the data we have.”

Data Mining Reveals the Six Basic Emotional Arcs of Storytelling - MIT Technology Review

The idea behind sentiment analysis is that words have a positive or negative emotional impact. So words can be a measure of the emotional valence of the text and how it changes from moment to moment. So measuring the shape of the story arc is simply a question of assessing the emotional polarity of a story at each instant and how it changes. Reagan and co do this by analyzing the emotional polarity of “word windows” and sliding these windows through the text to build up a picture of how the emotional valence changes. They performed this task on over 1,700 English works of fiction that had each been downloaded from the Project Gutenberg website more than 150 times.

Life's transitions easier with a sense of a well-rounded ending -- ScienceDaily

"Starting a new life phase in a positive and constructive way is often challenging, so we examined methods that could help people find a good start to a new job, a new relationship, or a new home," explains Gabriele Oettingen, a professor in New York University's Department of Psychology and the senior author of the study, which appears in the journal Motivation Science. "We observed that how people end their previous life periods makes a difference. In fact, the more people feel that they have done everything they could have done, that they have completed something to the fullest, and that all loose ends are tied up, the happier they are later on, the less they are plagued by regrets, and the more constructively they enter the next life phase."

The music of conversing

He knew an Irish composer who lived in Paris and who noticed a pattern at his local boulangerie. Customers who said “Bonjour!” in an ascending line, with two notes a sixth apart, got served first. English has similar patterns, studies have found. We use minor thirds when telling sad stories and major thirds when telling happy ones. We match pitches with those we admire and expect the same of those who admire us. We harmonize when we agree—starting our sentences a perfect fifth or an octave from where the last sentence left off—and grow dissonant when we disagree. Our arguments are full of tritones. Whether we know it or not, Wells said, we’re always singing.

Pitch perfect: Strategic language use maximizes the chances of influencing an audience: Researcher determines pitching strategies used by influential entrepreneurs -- ScienceDaily

"In our paper we call it a logical time gap, which basically refers to the idea that if someone pitches an idea to you and you start thinking about how it plays out in the future, then these things don't match because you don't know what the future looks like," Dr van Werven said. "But if you talk about the future in terms of the present, both the evidence and the claim are in the same time and space.

Pitch perfect: Strategic language use maximizes the chances of influencing an audience: Researcher determines pitching strategies used by influential entrepreneurs -- ScienceDaily

The study found that entrepreneurs who successfully influenced their audience often implied a point without actually making it when talking about the future; they encouraged their audience to fill in the blanks. "The audience becomes engaged, they start becoming a part of the argument, they actually even complete it, so they're more likely to be convinced by it," Dr van Werven said.

How the Surprise Interactive 'Black Mirror' Came Together | WIRED

The magic of combinatorial math means that there are technically more than a trillion paths through the story, though in reality the number is much smaller. But "much smaller" is still pretty huge: There are five main endings, with multiple variants of each—though upon reaching an ending, Netflix will also helpfully bring you back to pivotal decision points so that you can ease your FOMO and try the path not traveled. In a visit to Netflix's headquarters in Los Gatos, California, I had about 75 minutes to make my way through it, and was only able to trigger three endings. Suffice it to say that the Branch Manager visualization of Bandersnatch looks a little bit like Davy Jones from Pirates of the Caribbean trying to eat an entire bowl of spaghetti at once. Todd Yellin thinks the end result will provide anywhere from 60 to 120 minutes of entertainment for most people. Sure, if you don't touch the remote—or tablet, or keyboard, or phone, or game controller—it'll choose for you, and curate your experience down to a 90-minute default. But that won't be the best one, not by a long shot

talking to your TV, Black Mirror backstory

"Kids in general don't hesitate to talk to the screen," Engelbrecht says. "But they immediately lit up. One of my absolutely favorite moments was with an 8- and 9-year-old brother and sister. They'd go back and forth: 'Shake hands!' 'Kiss!' They'd cheer and boo, and all all the while had these smiles on their faces—and their mom too."

Poker Skills Help Debut Author Scrutinize Relationships In 'The Adults' | Here & Now

"I think you can talk to several people about the same hand of poker, and they'll tell you what was going on, and they'll tell you a slightly different version of the story, and I think that's life. And I think we've all got our own versions of the stories, and I think depending on how well they stack up next to each other, that can make things easier or it can make things hard."

The Human Brain Is a Time Traveler - The New York Times

In 2001, Randy Buckner’s adviser at Washington University, Marcus Raichle, coined a new term for the phenomenon: the “default-mode network,” or just “the default network.” The phrase stuck. Today, Google Scholar lists thousands of academic studies that have investigated the default network. “It looks to me like this is the most important discovery of cognitive neuroscience,” says the University of Pennsylvania psychologist Martin Seligman. The seemingly trivial activity of mind-wandering is now believed to play a central role in the brain’s “deep learning,” the mind’s sifting through past experiences, imagining future prospects and assessing them with emotional judgments: that flash of shame or pride or anxiety that each scenario elicits.

Scientists find evidence of mathematical structures in classic books | Books | The Guardian

The academics write in their paper that: “Studying characteristics of the sentence-length variability in a large corpus of world famous literary texts shows that an appealing and aesthetic optimum … involves self-similar, cascade-like alternations of various lengths of sentences.” “An overwhelming majority of the studied texts simply obey such fractal attributes but especially spectacular in this respect are hypertext-like, ‘stream-of-consciousness’ novels. In addition, they appear to develop structures characteristic of irreducibly interwoven sets of fractals called multifractals.”

What if the Placebo Effect Isn’t a Trick? - The New York Times

The findings of the I.B.S. study were in keeping with a hypothesis Kaptchuk had formed over the years: that the placebo effect is a biological response to an act of caring; that somehow the encounter itself calls forth healing and that the more intense and focused it is, the more healing it evokes. He elaborated on this idea in a comparative study of conventional medicine, acupuncture and Navajo “chantway rituals,” in which healers lead storytelling ceremonies for the sick. He argued that all three approaches unfold in a space set aside for the purpose and proceed as if according to a script, with prescribed roles for every participant. Each modality, in other words, is its own kind of ritual, and Kaptchuk suggested that the ritual itself is part of what makes the procedure effective, as if the combined experiences of the healer and the patient, reinforced by the special-but-familiar surroundings, evoke a healing response that operates independently of the treatment’s specifics. “Rituals trigger specific neurobiological pathways that specifically modulate bodily sensations, symptoms and emotions,” he wrote. “It seems that if the mind can be persuaded, the body can sometimes act accordingly.”

Time-traveling illusion tricks the brain: How the brain retroactively makes sense of rapid auditory and visual sensory stimulation -- ScienceDaily

The first illusion is called the Illusory Rabbit. To produce the illusion, first a short beep and a quick flash are played nearly simultaneously on a computer, with the flash appearing at the left side of the screen. Next, 58 milliseconds after the first beep, a lone beep is played. Finally, 58 milliseconds after the second beep, a second nearly simultaneous beep-flash pair occurs, but with the flash appearing on the right side of the screen. The beep location is always central and does not move. Though only two flashes are played, most people viewing the illusion perceive three flashes, with an illusory flash coinciding with the second beep and appearing to be located in the center of the screen. The fact that the illusory flash is perceived in between the left and right flashes is the key evidence that the brain is using postdictive processing. "When the final beep-flash pair is later presented, the brain assumes that it must have missed the flash associated with the unpaired beep and quite literally makes up the fact that there must have been a second flash that it missed," explains Stiles. "This already implies a postdictive mechanism at work. But even more importantly, the only way that you could perceive the shifted illusory flash would be if the information that comes later in time -- the final beep-flash combination -- is being used to reconstruct the most likely location of the illusory flash as well."

Mental imagery manages pain independent of opioid system: Study supports clinical use of mental imagery techniques in conjunction with pain-relieving drugs -- ScienceDaily

Mentally reframing pain as a pleasant experience is an effective regulation strategy that acts independently of the opioid system, finds new human research published in JNeurosci. The study supports clinical use of mental imagery techniques, such as imagining a new context or consequence of a painful event, in conjunction with pain-relieving drugs. Chantal Berna, Siri Leknes and colleagues tested two approaches toward modulating pain perception. For a mental imagery task, healthy men and women were instructed to imagine individually calibrated heat pain applied to their forearm as a pleasant experience, for example by thinking about warming up by a fire after coming in from the cold. A relative relief task used visual cues to manipulate participants' expectations about the forthcoming heat pain. Although both tasks made the pain experience more pleasant, only the effects of the relative relief task were blocked by naloxone -- the life-saving drug used to treat opioid overdose. Mental imagery was unaffected by naloxone, indicating that this approach works through opioid-independent mechanisms.

Hot streak: Finding patterns in creative career breakthroughs: International research team discovers career hot streaks occur in science, art and film -- ScienceDaily

"Our findings provide a different point of view regarding individual careers," said Liu. "We found a period when an individual performs better than his normal career, and that the timing of a hot streak is random." She added, "Different from the perception [in innovation literature] that peak performance occurs in an individual's 30s or 40s, Our results suggest that individuals have equal chance to perform better even in their late careers." The researchers also wanted to learn if individuals were more productive during their hot streak periods, which last an average of four to five years. Unexpectedly, they were not. "Individuals show no detectable change in productivity during hot streaks, despite the fact that their outputs in this period are significantly better than the median, suggesting that there is an endogenous shift in individual creativity when the hot streak occurs," wrote the team in their paper.

Model can more naturally detect depression in conversations: Neural network learns speech patterns that predict depression in clinical interviews -- ScienceDaily

One key insight from the research, Alhanai notes, is that, during experiments, the model needed much more data to predict depression from audio than text. With text, the model can accurately detect depression using an average of seven question-answer sequences. With audio, the model needed around 30 sequences. "That implies that the patterns in words people use that are predictive of depression happen in shorter time span in text than in audio," Alhanai says. Such insights could help the MIT researchers, and others, further refine their models.