1,500 scientists lift the lid on reproducibility

Monya Baker in Nature:

More than 70% of researchers have tried and failed to reproduce another scientist’s experiments, and more than half have failed to reproduce their own experiments. Those are some of the telling figures that emerged from Nature’s survey of 1,576 researchers who took a brief online questionnaire on reproducibility in research.

The data reveal sometimes-contradictory attitudes towards reproducibility. Although 52% of those surveyed agree that there is a significant ‘crisis’ of reproducibility, less than 31% think that failure to reproduce published results means that the result is probably wrong, and most say that they still trust the published literature.

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Do You Believe in God, or Is That a Software Glitch?

Kate Murphy in The Times:

We’ve all seen them, those colorful images that show how our brains “light up” when we’re in love, playing a video game, craving chocolate, etc. Created using functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fM.R.I., these pictures are the basis of tens of thousands of scientific papers, the backdrop to TED talks and supporting evidence in best-selling books that tell us how to maintain healthy relationships, make decisions, market products and lose weight.

But a study published last month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences uncovered flaws in the software researchers rely on to analyze fM.R.I. data. The glitch can cause false positives — suggesting brain activity where there is none — up to 70 percent of the time.

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Let Us Now Praise Famous Short Story Writers (And Demand They Write a Novel)

Amber Sparks in Electric Literature:

As a short story writer, I lived in denial for years. I pretended that the editors were all wrong when they said that short story collections don’t sell, that the Goodreads comments were sullen outliers. After all, most of my friends loved short stories! Never mind that most of my friends were writers, and when I told non-writer friends that my book was a short story collection they were congratulatory but fervent in their expressed hopes that I would someday, finally, write a novel. I did, one sad afternoon, suck it up and start asking people — non-writers — whether they read or enjoyed short stories, and after that proved too dispiriting I took to the internet and read lots of reviews and comments and criticisms and understood, finally: It’s all true.

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The Beautiful Powers of Unconscious Thought

Ap Dijksterhuis in Psychological Science Agenda:

When you are facing an important decision, others will sometimes tell you to postpone your decision and “sleep on it” first. In my case it was often my grandmother who gave me this advice. It is a belief many people intuitively share: It helps to put a problem aside for some time in order to arrive at a better decision. Somehow, waiting seems to help us to differentiate between the vital and the futile. Postponing a decision helps us to base our decisions on the appropriate reasons.

But does this “folk belief” hold in a scientific experiment?

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On the Attacks in Dhaka

For a few hours now I’ve been trying to dissect my reaction to yesterday because, if I am honest with you, my mind took me by surprise. It responded differently from other gory incidents I’ve seen on television, even the Bangladesh Rifles Mutiny of 2009.

Back then, I could have never conceived such a thing could happen to our country. Still, I processed the reality that people were dead and many still dying within Pilkhana. A community center was now the site of our national tragedy.

This time around, the attack wasn’t a surprise at all like Pilkhana once was. Subconsciously or not, we all knew this was what we were in for. But yesterday my mind was imagining that it wasn’t Dhaka where gunmen marched into a bakery. In fact, a part of me needed to pretend that the scenes were coming from elsewhere.

Just not Dhaka. Just not home.

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‘The Beginning of Life’ Explores the Brain Science of How Babies Learn

Emily Deruy in the Atlantic:

The idea that new babies are empty vessels waiting to be filled with knowledge of the world around them doesn’t sound unreasonable. With their unfocused eyes and wrinkly skin, tiny humans sometimes look more like amoebas than complex beings.

Yet scientists have built a body of evidence, particularly over the last three decades, that suggests this is patently untrue. “When kids are born, they’re already little scientists exploring the world,” said the filmmaker Estela Renner via a video conference from Brazil before a recent screening of her new documentary The Beginning of Life (streaming on Netflix) at the World Bank in Washington, D.C.

That’s something Renner, a Brazilian mother of three, discovered as she spoke with early-childhood experts and parents in nine countries around the world about the impact a child’s environment in the first few years of life has on not only her physical development, but her cognitive, social, and emotional development, too.

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The Decline of ‘Big Soda’

Five years ago, Mayor Michael A. Nutter proposed a tax on soda in Philadelphia, and the industry rose up to beat it back.

Soda lobbyists made campaign contributions to local politicians and staged rallies, with help from allies like the Teamsters union and local bottling companies. To burnish its image, the industry donated $10 million to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

It worked: The soda tax proposal never got out of a City Council committee.

It’s a familiar story. Soda taxes have also flopped in New York State and San Francisco. So far, only superliberal Berkeley, Calif., has succeeded in adopting such a measure over industry objections.

The obvious lesson from Philadelphia is that the soda industry is winning the policy battles over the future of its product. But the bigger picture is that soda companies are losing the war.

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Indians are never taught to talk to their parents as adults, and that’s a problem

Devang Pathak for Buzzfeed:

“Did you hear what bhaabhi told bhaiya?”

Dad finally breaks the silence. I miss my headphones. Family Sundays – a routine as taxing as it is banal.

In lulls of slow service, I ask, “So, what happened?”

I hear about the hospitalisation of an uncle I can’t remember, the murky dealings of an old batchmate I’ve never met, or a distant relative’s disappointment with their children’s career choices.

I’m hit each time by a weekly epiphany: My parents probably know more about the neighbours than they do about their son.

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Who Blames the Victim?

IF you are mugged on a midnight stroll through the park, some people will feel compassion for you, while others will admonish you for being there in the first place. If you are raped by an acquaintance after getting drunk at a party, some will be moved by your misfortune, while others will ask why you put yourself in such a situation.

What determines whether someone feels sympathy or scorn for the victim of a crime? Is it a function of political affiliation? Of gender? Of the nature of the crime?

In a recent series of studies, we found that the critical factor lies in a particular set of moral values.

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