Technology

Can you catch a mood from someone online? Most people would answer 'yes', because lots of comments on the Internet enrage them.

A political science paper says they can confirm it.


Alan Turing was long famous in computer science and then became notable due to his sexuality and its controversy in England. Less well known is his work in biology and chemistry.

During World War II, Turing helped cracked the German Enigma Code, which made it possible to decipher enemy transmissions.  After the war, he was convicted of homosexuality — a criminal offense in England — and sentenced to chemical castration.  Shortly after his trial, and before he killed himself in 1954, he published a biology paper, "The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis."


A recent analysis found that DietBet, a web-based commercial weight loss program that pairs financial incentives with social influence, delivers significant weight loss to participants.

On Dietbet.com, players join a game to lose weight while betting money on themselves. Players all have four weeks to lose four percent of their starting weight. At the end of week four, all players who have lost at least 4 percent of their initial body weight are deemed "winners" and split the pool of money collected at the start of the game.

To verify weight losses, players submit photo-based evidence of their weigh-ins to DietBet's referees at the start and end of each game.


Boy scouts know this, and now we'll let you in on a secret too: if you've run out of drinking water during a lakeside camping trip, there's a simple solution. Break off a branch from the nearest pine tree, peel away the bark, and slowly pour lake water through the stick. This improvised filter will trap any bacteria, producing fresh, uncontaminated water. 

An MIT team has discovered that this low-tech filtration system can produce up to four liters of drinking water a day — enough to quench the thirst of a typical person. 


If a name is ambiguous and given without context, humans struggle to understand the meaning, so you can imagine the struggle computers have.

 When Germans read the last name "Merkel" without context, they will not know if it refers to the Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel or tsoccer coach Max Merkel.  And 


You might recall that a few years ago, lots of athletes wore magnetic bracelets in the belief that their performance would improve. Like much woo, be it homeopathy or organic food or skull drilling, it proceeded from a reasonable basis; in the case of magnets, are we not governed by inductance? What if we could more optimally guide our bodily functions using mass-produced magnets? Then throw in a bunch of stuff about negative ions and tourmaline and get rich.

Today you can pick up those used for a dollar on Ebay.


You probably recognize that there are no objective measures to creating those "Top 10" and "Top 100" lists. There is a generous sprinkling of personal bias and subjective decisions.

Yet the assumption is that rankings of median home prices and crime rates and the "best places to live" aren't being done deceptively. Still, a way to account for unintentional bias would be great, and so Harvard researchers have created LineUp, an open-source application that empowers ordinary citizens to make quick, easy judgments about rankings based on multiple attributes.


DNA sequencing technologies continue to make bold strides, and that means a lot for the plant sciences.

Genome-scale data sets obtained from these new technologies will allow researchers to greatly improve our understanding of evolutionary relationships, because studies of phylogenetic relationships among different plant species have traditionally relied on analyses of a limited number of genes, mostly from the chloroplast genome. Limited data often means limited ability to fully or accurately resolve phylogenetic relationships.  


When you think of systems biology, you don't ordinarily think of process verification and methodology.Sure, there has been data verification in biology and clinical trials in pharmaceuticals, but best methods and best practices don't really exist for systems biology.

And when you think of systems biology, you really don't think of Philip Morris, the cigarette folks.

It may be time to rethink both.