Nature Is Free

Sep 30 2014 @ 5:45pm

Well, that’s not quite right. But as of next month, the journal’s sister publication Nature Communications will be. In light of the news, The Economist deems the rise of open-access academic publishing “unstoppable”:

All seven of Britain’s research councils, for example, now require that the results of the work they pay for are open-access in some way. So does the Wellcome Trust, a British charity whose medical-research budget exceeds that of many scientifically successful countries. And by 2016 every penny of public money given to British universities by the government will carry the same requirement.

Elsewhere, the story is the same.

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A reader writes:

The United States should feel some pressure to enhance relations with India and Prime Minister Modi. Chinese President Xi Jinping visited India this month andUS-INDIA-DIPLOMACY-MODIsigned signed three pacts meant to boost trade and investment between the two nations. Setting aside the economic impact, the visit indicated a significant trend in two ways: It was the first time India has welcomed a Chinese head of state with a public reception since the Sino-Indian War in 1962. The leaders were said to have had an easy chemistry and seem to be looking to ease border tensions through the pragmatism of economic trade. The other aspect worth noting is that the trade pacts weren’t signed in Delhi, setting aside the tradition of making international agreements in the capital. Prime Minister Modi’s tenure as Chief Minister of the western state of Gujarat saw rapid industrial growth. He clearly was aiming to highlight the impressive development the region has made since 2001.

The Obama Administration’s outreach toward the new Prime Minister has been circumspect. There was an understandable caution given Modi’s unabashed Hindu nationalism and the Gujarat religious riots in 2002. However, a détente between India and China would certainly complicate Obama’s “Asian Pivot”. The diplomatic dance over waivers on the Iranian sanctions certainly hasn’t helped matters. The “champagne and roses” probably aren’t a bad idea.

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Foodies Are Fools

Sep 30 2014 @ 4:44pm

The evidence mounts:

Paying $27 for a burger might seem extortionate. But the chefs behind the most expensive burger in Washington, D.C. – a wagyu skirt steak burger at BLT Steak – can take comfort in new research suggesting that inflated prices can translate into inflated enjoyment:

A new paper, forthcoming in the Journal of Sensory Studies, has found that we enjoy food more if we spend extra money on it. A team of researchers at the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, led by David Just, carried out an experiment on 139 unwitting diners at an Italian restaurant in upstate New York. Customers were charged either $4 or $8 for an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet of pizza, salad, breadsticks, pasta, and soup; the researchers stopped them on their way out and asked them to fill out a short questionnaire on the amount they ate, the quality of the pizza, and their enjoyment of the whole experience. Diners who paid the higher price rated the whole lunch more highly, and judged the pizza more favorably on measures of taste, satisfaction and enjoyment. “The way people appreciate taste,” said Just, is tied into “expectations based on the presentation of the food or what other people have said. They interpret taste through that lens.”

Update from a reader:

I may be a foolish foodie, but the phenomenon Alice Robb describes is, I think, that of the Veblen Good, whereby the demand for (the conspicuous consumption of) a thing is driven by its price. That must surely be universal across any luxury category, so at least we foodists (my preferred term) are in good company.

Mental Health Break

Sep 30 2014 @ 4:20pm

Catching some air:

A Sunny Energy Future

Sep 30 2014 @ 3:57pm

Rebecca Leber spotlights two reports suggesting that “the world could be largely powered by the sun, instead of coal, within decades”:

The reports come from the International Energy Agency (IEA). It focuses on two kinds of solarthe kind that’s commonly seen installed on homes and businesses in the U.S. (solar photovoltaic) and the kind that generates heat to power (solar thermal). Within 35 years, according to the reports, they could account (respectively) for 16 and 11 percent of the world’s electricity generation.

It wouldn’t be easy to get to this level. Today, solar accounts for less than 1 percent of global energy consumption and 0.2 percent in the United States. To hit the levels IEA projects, there would have to be substantial investment upfront. But advances in technology, in addition to taxpayer subsidies, have helped solar panel costs come down some 80 percent in the last five years. If the IEA is right, costs may shrink another 65 percent by 2050.

Dave Roberts highlights the fact “that solar costs are plunging so fast that even the stodgy IEA is scrambling to keep up”:

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China vs #OccupyCentral

Sep 30 2014 @ 3:42pm


Beijing’s censors have been working overtime to scrub coverage of the Hong Kong protests from social media:

Weibo censorship hit its highest point this year at 152 censored posts per 10,000, according to Weiboscope, an analytics project run by the University of Hong Kong. (“Hong Kong” and “police” were the day’s top censored terms.) To put that in perspective, the Sept. 28 censorship rate was more than double that on June 4, the 25th anniversary of the crackdown on the Tiananmen student movement — an event so meticulously censored in both traditional and social media that many of China’s younger generation are largely ignorant of the event. …

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Going Viral

Sep 30 2014 @ 3:20pm

Kalev Leetaru considers the role that online data – even blogs – could have in halting diseases like Ebola:

It turns out that monitoring the spread of Ebola can teach us a lot about what we missed — and how data mining, translation, and the non-Western world can help to provide better early warning tools.

Earlier this month, Harvard’s HealthMap service made world headlines for monitoring early mentions of the current Ebola outbreak on March 14, 2014, “nine days before the World Health Organization formally announced the epidemic,” and issuing its first alert on March 19. Much of the coverage of HealthMap’s success has emphasized that its early warning came from using massive computing power to sift out early indicators from millions of social media posts and other informal media.

As one blog put it: “So how did a computer algorithm pick up on the start of the outbreak before the WHO? As it turns out, some of the first health care workers to see Ebola in Guinea regularly blog about their work. As they began to write about treating patients with Ebola-like symptoms, a few people on social media mentioned the blog posts. And it didn’t take long for HealthMap to detect these mentions.”

The unfortunate flip side:

But there was some great news today:

Meanwhile, Maryam Zarnegar Deloffre assesses the latest US role in combatting the Ebola epidemic – boots on the ground:

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Parody For Profit

Sep 30 2014 @ 3:00pm

David Hajdu charts the rise of the satirical music video:

Song parodies now generate more revenue than official videos, according to YouTube data provided in the 2014 Annual Report of the International Federation of Phonographic Industries (IFPI), a music-recording trade group. While YouTube once discouraged parody videos on the dubious grounds of copyright infringement – its attorneys must have skipped the readings on Berlin v. E. C. Publications in law school – YouTube now welcomes music parodies, because it has figured out how to make money from them. YouTube is helping record companies and rights administrators to hit up parodists (and others who employ copyrighted music in their content) for licensing fees.

He finds himself ambivalent about the genre. On the one hand, parody amounts to “critique in creative form, and as such it provides a service essential to society”:

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Fluid Dynamics

Sep 30 2014 @ 2:41pm

Vanessa Vitiello Urquhart objects to describing women as more “sexually fluid” than men:

There is some evidence that women experience arousal in response to a wider range of visual stimuli than men do. There’s also a great deal of evidence that females can go from having female partners to male ones, or vice versa. But nowhere in the literature is any firm line drawn between this vague concept of “fluidity” and the other word we use for people who experience attraction to people of both genders: bisexuality. Why don’t we just call it that? …

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Is John Oliver A Journalist? Ctd

Sep 30 2014 @ 2:19pm

Several readers comment on our praise of Last Week Tonight:

My brother and I have fallen into something of a Monday-morning ritual where we rave about how great John Oliver‘s expose-of-the-week had been the night before. Not because the extra 8 minutes have afforded him the equivalent of brutally delivered “long-form comedy-news journalism”, but because Oliver routinely taps into the collective influence of his audience’s Internet fluency toward a sort of “social media civic engagement” we haven’t seen before.

Seemingly without exception, he always gives the audience an opportunity to participate in his issue-of-the-week in surprisingly meaningful ways: send comments to the FCC about net neutrality, donate to other scholarship funds made available to women to supplant Miss America’s status at the top, copy a satirical letter to APSCU lampooning the abuse of student loan subsidies by for-profit colleges.

Where Jon Stewart tends to end his rants with pithy statements that leave us feeling angry but hopeless, John Oliver seems to be going out of his way to channeling that outrage into non-trivial calls for action. Even if his goal is only to dominate the next day’s cable news cycle in replays, it makes the endeavor seem much more traditionally journalistic than The Daily Show or The Colbert Report.

Another sends the above video:

I know how you feel about Michael Moore, but he did much the same thing with his show TV Nation.

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