It Takes a World to End a Pandemic

Great article for discussing the production of scientific knowledge, shared knowledge, and also the new knowledge and technology theme.

Scientific Cooperation Knows No Boundaries—Fortunately

Infectious diseases, it is commonly said, know no borders, and neither does the knowledge needed to fight them. Scientists around the world routinely share information and collaborate across borders.  The current pandemic has scientists working together on platforms such as Slack, and using new tools, such as machine learning, to rapidly detect the novel coronavirus in tests that use large amounts data from multiple sources. This outbreak has demonstrated in real time how scientific understanding can indeed be a global public good.

https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2020-03-21/it-takes-world-end-pandemic

When it comes to nutrition, we’re all too eager to ignore the evidence. Here’s why.

So, it could be that the effect is all in your head. It could be that the effect is real, whether it’s placebo pain relief or measurable weight loss. But either way, if your experience flies in the face of research results, you’re probably going to go with your experience. And Hitchcock says that could be a completely rational decision. If the cost of continuing (say, paying for a supplement) is small compared to the risk of discontinuing (and potentially giving up the perceived benefit), it makes sense to keep on keeping on.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/when-it-comes-to-nutrition-were-all-too-eager-to-ignore-the-evidence-heres-why/2020/02/23/d4dd8534-54a8-11ea-9e47-59804be1dcfb_story.html

Here are some other articles related to natural sciences and diet

An algorithm that can spot cause and effect could supercharge medical AI

How do we make better use of this piecemeal information? Computers are great at spotting patterns—but that’s just correlation. In the last few years, computer scientists have invented a handful of algorithms that can identify causal relations within single data sets. But focusing on single data sets is like looking through keyholes. What’s needed is a way to take in the whole view. 

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/615141/an-algorithm-that-can-spot-cause-and-effect-could-supercharge-medical-ai/?utm_source=newsletters

Panicking About Your Kids’ Phones? New Research Says Don’t

A topic rich for TOK discuss. Seemingly all people have an opinion on the impact of smart phones on society so this topic pits intuition and personal experience against scientific investigation. This is one of the top comments that accompanies the article

I don’t care what the “academics” say. My experience as a teacher in the trenches tells a different story. One of the top reasons I retired early was cellphone addiction. All of the teachers on our campus was losing their minds because of them. My students turned into zombies. Between social media, video games, and porn, they showed zero interest in learning anything . Also, explain to me, after almost 30 years of teaching, I lost six senior girls in my last two years. Four of them my last year. All of the girls dropped out because of anxiety/depression. I have never seen anything like it in my career.

This raises article also raises questions about how we produce knowledge in the natural sciences, the role of an individual study, what high quality science is, the concept of a meta analysis, and questions about correlation vs. causation as well.

Ms. Twenge’s critics argue that her work found a correlation between the appearance of smartphones and a real rise in reports of mental health issues, but that it did not establish that phones were the cause.

It could, researchers argue, just as easily be that the rise in depression led teenagers to excessive phone use at a time when there were many other potential explanations for depression and anxiety. What’s more, anxiety and suicide rates appear not to have risen in large parts of Europe, where phones have also become more prevalent.

“Why else might American kids be anxious other than telephones?” Mr. Hancock said. “How about climate change? How about income inequality? How about more student debt? There are so many big giant structural issues that have a huge impact on us but are invisible and that we aren’t looking at.”

Here is a good short version of the same topic.

https://www.technologyreview.com/f/615071/your-kids-phone-probably-isnt-making-them-depressed/

How app culture turned astrology into a modern obsession

But now, the pseudoscience isn’t as much of a taboo as it used to be. It’s been embraced by young people, who jokingly ascribe the inconveniences of life — a delayed train, a broken laptop — to Mercury’s retrograde. They know that Pisces are sensitive and Leos are self-involved and Geminis are kind of the worst. They follow astrology podcasts such as “Stars Like Us,” buy zodiac-themed candles and fragrances and crystals, and share astrology memes from Instagram accounts such as Drunk Astrology and Not All Geminis.

“There’s a tendency that if there’s an app for it, it somehow gives it more credibility,” Alcock said.

But the app horoscopes are just like the wrappers: momentarily poignant, but disposable. When you look at your natal chart, you’re the center of the universe. But everyone else is the center of theirs.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/how-app-culture-turned-astrology-into-a-modern-obsession/2019/11/20/2d14e362-f9a7-11e9-8906-ab6b60de9124_story.html

Scientism and Philosophy: Wittgenstein’s forgotten lesson

There are many questions to which we do not have scientific answers, not because they are deep, impenetrable mysteries, but simply because they are not scientific questions. These include questions about love, art, history, culture, music-all questions, in fact, that relate to the attempt to understand ourselves better. There is a widespread feeling today that the great scandal of our times is that we lack a scientific theory of consciousness. And so there is a great interdisciplinary effort, involving physicists, computer scientists, cognitive psychologists and philosophers, to come up with tenable scientific answers to the questions: what is consciousness? What is the self?

https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/magazine/ray-monk-wittgenstein