Wednesday, May 22, 2013

dry-land agriculture tough but not apocalyptic...,

NYTimes | Forty-nine years ago, Ashley Yost’s grandfather sank a well deep into a half-mile square of rich Kansas farmland. He struck an artery of water so prodigious that he could pump 1,600 gallons to the surface every minute. Last year, Mr. Yost was coaxing just 300 gallons from the earth, and pumping up sand in order to do it. By harvest time, the grit had robbed him of $20,000 worth of pumps and any hope of returning to the bumper harvests of years past. 

“That’s prime land,” he said not long ago, gesturing from his pickup at the stubby remains of last year’s crop. “I’ve raised 294 bushels of corn an acre there before, with water and the Lord’s help.” Now, he said, “it’s over.” 

The land, known as Section 35, sits atop the High Plains Aquifer, a waterlogged jumble of sand, clay and gravel that begins beneath Wyoming and South Dakota and stretches clear to the Texas Panhandle. The aquifer’s northern reaches still hold enough water in many places to last hundreds of years. But as one heads south, it is increasingly tapped out, drained by ever more intensive farming and, lately, by drought.
Vast stretches of Texas farmland lying over the aquifer no longer support irrigation. In west-central Kansas, up to a fifth of the irrigated farmland along a 100-mile swath of the aquifer has already gone dry. In many other places, there no longer is enough water to supply farmers’ peak needs during Kansas’ scorching summers. 

And when the groundwater runs out, it is gone for good. Refilling the aquifer would require hundreds, if not thousands, of years of rains. 

This is in many ways a slow-motion crisis — decades in the making, imminent for some, years or decades away for others, hitting one farm but leaving an adjacent one untouched. But across the rolling plains and tarmac-flat farmland near the Kansas-Colorado border, the effects of depletion are evident everywhere. Highway bridges span arid stream beds. Most of the creeks and rivers that once veined the land have dried up as 60 years of pumping have pulled groundwater levels down by scores and even hundreds of feet.
On some farms, big center-pivot irrigators — the spindly rigs that create the emerald circles of cropland familiar to anyone flying over the region — now are watering only a half-circle. On others, they sit idle altogether. 

Two years of extreme drought, during which farmers relied almost completely on groundwater, have brought the seriousness of the problem home. In 2011 and 2012, the Kansas Geological Survey reports, the average water level in the state’s portion of the aquifer dropped 4.25 feet — nearly a third of the total decline since 1996. 

And that is merely the average. “I know my staff went out and re-measured a couple of wells because they couldn’t believe it,” said Lane Letourneau, a manager at the State Agriculture Department’s water resources division. “There was a 30-foot decline.” 

Kansas agriculture will survive the slow draining of the aquifer — even now, less than a fifth of the state’s farmland is irrigated in any given year — but the economic impact nevertheless will be outsized. In the last federal agriculture census of Kansas, in 2007, an average acre of irrigated land produced nearly twice as many bushels of corn, two-thirds more soybeans and three-fifths more wheat than did dry land.
Farmers will take a hit as well. Raising crops without irrigation is far cheaper, but yields are far lower. Drought is a constant threat: the last two dry-land harvests were all but wiped out by poor rains. 

In the end, most farmers will adapt to farming without water, said Bill Golden, an agriculture economist at Kansas State University. “The revenue losses are there,” he said. “But they’re not as tremendously significant as one might think.”

weather getting worse and our ability to forecast not keeping up..,

livescience | Whether fiscal, political or global, we are living in an environment of change. Unfortunately, although our natural environment is changing drastically, our national response to deal with it is not.
During last Thursday's House Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the fiscal year 2014 budget, Chairman Frank Wolf and Ranking Member Chaka Fattah cautioned those present that the nation's fiscal situation simply will not allow for new funding or the expansion of programs. As I sat there listening in full agreement, I couldn't help but wonder why there haven't been more solutions put forward to improve current investments in numerous areas related to commerce, justice and science. Surely, this is a problem we — the most technologically advanced nation in the world — can fix.

Our environmental information capability is a good example. Extreme weather and climatic events have had tremendous social and economic impacts on the nation. Numerous respected institutions, such as the National Research Council and the Government Accountability Office (GAO), have repeatedly called attention to the decline of U.S. Earth-monitoring capabilities such as vital weather satellites. Yet, we have not seen any change in how that investment is made or managed.

Just two weeks ago, GAO added weather satellites to its high-risk list, citing concerns over a potential gap in weather satellite coverage of 17 to 53 months beginning in 2014. As reported broadly through the media these last few weeks, our nation has now fallen behind Europe in weather forecast modeling. The Reinsurance Association of America estimates the insured value of U.S. coasts at $9 trillion, yet the country has only a small, emerging, operational ocean-observing capability. Despite more than 60 percent of the continental U.S. experiencing drought last summer, our national drought monitoring and forecasting capabilities continue to face funding challenges.

Finally, while more and more national security experts identify climate change as a major threat, the country has yet to establish an operational long-term forecasting capability. Our nation's annual investment in that area is estimated at $3 billion, spread across 17 federal agencies. Considering the following statistics from Munich Reinsurance's U.S. Natural Catastrophe Update for 2012, shouldn't we be asking whether this amount, and how it is being invested, is adequate to protect America's future?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

is higher education running AMOOC?

hakesedstuff | ABSTRACT: My discussion-list post “Evaluating the Effectiveness of College” at concerned the failure of U.S. higher education to emphasize student learning rather than the delivery of instruction [Barr and Tagg (1995)] at In response, a correspondent asked me “Is There Some Hope In Coursera’s Pedagogical Foundations? ”

Despite the serious cracks detected in all but one of Coursera’s five pedagogical foundation stones, I don’t think Coursera is necessarily doomed to pedagogic collapse. Instead I think there may actually be some hope IF its MOOCs are evaluated by measurement of pre-to-post-course student learning gains using Concept Inventories If the physics education reform effort is any guide, then (a) such assessment will demonstrate that MOOCs are actually MOORFAPs (Massive Open Online Repetitions of FAiled Pedagogy), and (b) there will be some incentive to transform MOOCs into MOOLOs (Massive Open Online Learning Opportunities).

But even if MOOCs fail to become MOOLOs there still may be some hope since, as Keith Devlin (2013) points out at, MOOCs have the potential to uncover individuals world-wide who have the talent to learn from MOORFAPs, in the same way that most current professional physicists were able to learn physics from FAPs (Failed Academic Pedagogy).

For those who may wish to dig deeper into the MOOC milieu I recommend Nathan Heller’s (2013) scholarly “LAPTOP U: Has the future of college moved online?” at

why open online education is flourishing...,

Fist tap Dale.

Monday, May 20, 2013

a new book release from the people who brought you the Obamamandian Candidate....,

brookings | On May 20, the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings will host an event marking the release of Confronting Suburban Poverty in America, co-authored by Elizabeth Kneebone and Alan Berube. They, along with some of the nation’s leading anti-poverty experts, including Luis Ubiñas, president of the Ford Foundation, and Bill Shore, founder and CEO of Share our Strength, will join leading local innovators from across the country to discuss a new metropolitan opportunity agenda for addressing suburban poverty, how federal and state policymakers can deploy limited resources to address a growing challenge, and why building on local solutions holds great promise.

It has been nearly a half century since President Lyndon Johnson declared his War on Poverty, setting in motion development of America’s modern safety net. Back in the 1960s, tackling poverty “in place” meant focusing resources in the inner city and in isolated rural areas. The suburbs were home to middle- and upper-class families—affluent commuters and homeowners who did not want to raise kids in the city. But the America of 2012 is a very different place. Poverty is no longer just an urban or rural problem but increasingly a suburban one as well.

In Confronting Suburban Poverty in America, Elizabeth Kneebone and Alan Berube take on the new reality of metropolitan poverty and opportunity in America. For decades, suburbs added poor residents at a faster pace than cities, so that suburbia is now home to more poor residents than central cities, composing over a third of the nation’s total poor population. Unfortunately, the antipoverty infrastructure built over the past several decades does not fit this rapidly changing geography. The solution no longer fits the problem. Kneebone and Berube explain the source and impact of these important developments; moreover, they present innovative ideas on addressing them.

The spread of suburban poverty has many causes, including job sprawl, shifts in affordable housing, population dynamics, immigration, and a struggling economy. As the authors explain in Confronting Suburban Poverty in America, it raises a number of daunting challenges, such as the need for more (and better) transportation options, services, and financial resources. But necessity also produces opportunity—in this case, the opportunity to rethink and modernize services, structures, and procedures so that they better reflect and address new demands. This book embraces that opportunity.

The authors put forward a series of workable recommendations for public, private, and nonprofit leaders seeking to modernize poverty alleviation and community development strategies and connect residents with economic opportunity. They describe and evaluate ongoing efforts in metro areas where local leaders are learning how to do more with less and adjusting their approaches to address the metropolitan scale of poverty—for example, collaborating across sectors and jurisdictions, using data and technology in innovative ways, and integrating services and service delivery. Kneebone and Berube combine clear prose, original thinking, and illustrative graphics in Confronting Suburban Poverty in America to paint a new picture of poverty in America as well as the best ways to combat it.

the poor ye shall always have with you, in the burbs...., | The number of impoverished people in America’s suburbs surged 64 percent in the past decade, creating for the first time a landscape in which the suburban poor outnumber the urban poor, a new report shows.

An extensive study by the Brookings Institution found that poverty is growing in the suburbs at more than twice the pace that it’s growing in urban centers. The collapse of the housing market and the subsequent foreclosure crisis were cited as aggravating a problem that was developing before recession struck in the late 2000s.

By 2011, the suburban poor in the nation’s major metropolitan areas outnumbered those living in urban centers by nearly 3 million, according to Confronting Suburban Poverty in America, a book to be released today by Brookings’ Metropolitan Policy Program.

The study placed the number of suburban poor at 16.4 million in 2011, up from about 10 million in 2000.

Around Kansas City, patterns of poverty have been quietly shifting for some time. But the economic downturn and job losses brought suburban poverty out of the shadows, said Karen Wulfkuhle, executive director of United Community Services of Johnson County.

“In the last three or four years, we’ve seen a growing understanding and recognition of suburban poverty,” she said. “It’s hitting people who have been here (in Johnson County) all their lives.”

More than 12 percent of Johnson County children 5 years old or younger lived below the poverty line in 2011. That figure was just 4.5 percent in 2008, Wulfkuhle said.

“Poverty isn’t a static thing,” she added. “People don’t stay on one side of the (poverty) line or the other. They move back and forth.”

More than 23,000 pupils in the county’s public schools qualified for free or reduced-price lunches in the 2012-13 school year — triple the number from a decade ago.

In suburban Platte County, the number of persons receiving food stamps climbed 11 percent between 2009 and the end of last year. Cass County saw a 15 percent jump in that time.

The Brookings study attributed part of the shifting poverty patterns to overall population growth in the nation’s suburbs, where much of the housing stock is more than 50 years old.

The authors said the trends demand new approaches in social-welfare efforts, which currently emphasize “place-based” programs to help neighborhoods with large concentrations of poor residents. Suburban poverty, by contrast, tends to be diffuse and spread across fragmented communities.

“Poverty is touching more people and places than before, challenging outdated notions of where poverty is and who it affects,” said co-author Elizabeth Kneebone.

squeezed out of the affluent urban core...,

mercurynews | The middle-class American dream, which resided for more than half a century in leafy suburban enclaves such as Mountain View, Lafayette and Antioch -- homogeneous bulwarks built by GI loans and fortified by white flight -- has given way to an alarming rise in suburban poverty over the past decade, according to a study by the Brookings Institution scheduled for release Monday.

While the poor are with us everywhere in greater numbers than ever before, the authors of "Confronting Suburban Poverty in America" conclude that the Bay Area's two largest metropolitan areas have experienced the spread of this scourge in starkly different ways.

The percentage of people living in poverty in the suburbs rose 56.1 percent in the San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont metro area from 2000 to 2011, compared to 64 percent nationwide. The San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara metropolitan region surged 53.1 percent. But Silicon Valley experienced a corresponding rise (49 percent) among its urban poor, while in San Francisco, inner-city poverty increased by only 18.4 percent.

"We have a way of dealing with poverty in America that is about five decades old," says Alan Berube, the book's co-author -- along with Elizabeth Kneebone -- and Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program Senior Fellow. "And it's built for where poverty was then: primarily in inner cities. The way the programs are structured and delivered really doesn't compute for a lot of suburbia and the increasing number of low-income people who are living there."

Unknown consequences
Suburban life, which became a fixture of American postwar mythologizing, reached its apex with the release of "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," Steven Spielberg's 1982 film about of life in cookie-cutter tract housing. According to the Brookings study, however, poverty during the past decade grew twice as fast in the suburbs as cities. By 2011, 3 million more poor people lived in suburbs of the nation's major metropolitan areas than in its big cities.

The book actually opens with a description of the suburbs of East Contra Costa County -- places such as Oakley, Antioch and Brentwood -- where the number of people living below the poverty line grew by more than 70 percent in the past decade. Berube says the high cost of living in San Francisco simply pushed the urban poor who bus restaurant tables and drive cabs into a kind of blight flight.

"Try living somewhere in the city of San Francisco on $20,000 a year for a family of four," Berube says. "A lot of families saw an opportunity to live in a safer community, and in a better housing unit, way out in East Contra Costa County. It was a very rational decision in response to a shrinking supply of affordable housing, but I don't think we thought about what would be the consequences for those families when they got there."

nationwide establishment full-court press to get back on agenda....,

abqjournal | The Albuquerque metropolitan area ranks eighth in the country for suburban poverty, according to a new book published by the Brookings Institution.

Albuquerque’s eighth place comes from a 17 percent suburban poverty rate, which falls behind the list-topping Texas metropolitan areas of El Paso and McAllen, with suburban poverty rates of 36.4 percent and 35.4 percent.

The metropolitan areas with the lowest suburban poverty rates are Des Moines, Iowa, with 5.7 percent, the Bridgeport-Stamford, Conn., area with 5.9 percent and Baltimore, with 6.7 percent.

The book, “Confronting Suburban Poverty in America,” published today, compares the top 100 metropolitan areas’ city and suburban poverty numbers.

Yet, unlike many other cities, Albuquerque’s suburbs have a lower poverty rate than Albuquerque itself.
Poverty is generally defined as “not earning enough money to meet one’s basic needs,” according to Kim Posich, executive director of the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. Approximately 22 percent of Albuquerque residents and between 21.5 and 23 percent of New Mexico residents live in poverty, which the federal government calculates as a four-person family living on about $22,500 a year, he added.

In 1970, nationwide, 7.4 million city dwellers and 6.4 million suburbanites lived in poverty. By 2011, the number of poor suburbanites exceeded the number of poor city dwellers. In 2011, 12.8 million people in cities and 15.3 million people in suburbs lived in poverty.

For the Albuquerque metropolitan area — which the U.S. census estimates to include 901,000 people in Sandoval, Valencia, Torrance and Bernalillo counties — numbers trended in the opposite direction. In 1970, 34,116 Albuquerqueans and 34,784 suburbanites lived in poverty, making the split just about even. But 41 years later, 106,397 Albuquerqueans were living in poverty, compared with 74,688 suburbanites.

Albuquerque’s data bucked national trends in the first half of that four-decade period because the city kept gobbling up geographical portions of unincorporated land, says Alan Berube, a senior Brookings fellow who co-wrote the 143-page book with Brookings colleague Elizabeth Kneebone over a two-year period.
“Parts (of Albuquerque) that were in the suburbs in 1970 are actually part of the city today, because the city has absorbed those communities … so that has added to its population, and it (has) added to its poor population, too,” Berube said.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

social psychology catching a right proper shit-hammering...,

interestingly the New Yorker does not concur....,
nature | Thinking about a professor just before you take an intelligence test makes you perform better than if you think about football hooligans. Or does it? An influential theory that certain behaviour can be modified by unconscious cues is under serious attack.

A paper published in PLoS ONE last week1 reports that nine different experiments failed to replicate this example of ‘intelligence priming’, first described in 1998 (ref. 2) by Ap Dijksterhuis, a social psychologist at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands, and now included in textbooks.

David Shanks, a cognitive psychologist at University College London, UK, and first author of the paper in PLoS ONE, is among sceptical scientists calling for Dijksterhuis to design a detailed experimental protocol to be carried out indifferent laboratories to pin down the effect. Dijksterhuis has rejected the request, saying that he “stands by the general effect” and blames the failure to replicate on “poor experiments”.

An acrimonious e-mail debate on the subject has been dividing psychologists, who are already jittery about other recent exposures of irreproducible results (see Nature 485, 298–300; 2012). “It’s about more than just replicating results from one paper,” says Shanks, who circulated a draft of his study in October; the failed replications call into question the under­pinnings of ‘unconscious-thought theory’.

Dijksterhuis published that theory in 2006 (ref. 3). It fleshed out more general, long-held claims about a ‘smart unconscious’ that had been proposed over the past couple of decades — exemplified in writer Malcolm Gladwell’s best-selling book Blink (Penguin, 2005). The theory holds that behaviour can be influenced, or ‘primed’, by thoughts or motives triggered unconsciously — in the case of intelligence priming, by the stereotype of a clever professor or a stupid hooligan. Most psychologists accept that such priming can occur consciously, but many, including Shanks, are unconvinced by claims of unconscious effects.

In their paper, Shanks and his colleagues tried to obtain an intelligence-priming effect, following protocols in Dijksterhuis’s papers or refining them to amplify any theoretical effect (for example, by using a test of analytical thinking instead of general knowledge). They also repeated intelligence-priming studies from independent labs. They failed to find any of the described priming effects in their experiments.

The e-mail debate that Shanks joined was kicked off last September, when Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel-prizewinning psychologist from Princeton University in New Jersey who thinks that unconscious social priming is likely to be real, circulated an open letter warning of a “train wreck looming” (see Nature; 2012) because of a growing number of failures to replicate results. Social psychology “is now the poster child for doubts about the integrity of psychological research”, he told psychologists, “and it is your responsibility” to deal with it.

more making stuff up and getting busted for it....,

NYTimes | One summer night in 2011, a tall, 40-something professor named Diederik Stapel stepped out of his elegant brick house in the Dutch city of Tilburg to visit a friend around the corner. It was close to midnight, but his colleague Marcel Zeelenberg had called and texted Stapel that evening to say that he wanted to see him about an urgent matter. The two had known each other since the early ’90s, when they were Ph.D. students at the University of Amsterdam; now both were psychologists at Tilburg University. In 2010, Stapel became dean of the university’s School of Social and Behavioral Sciences and Zeelenberg head of the social psychology department. Stapel and his wife, Marcelle, had supported Zeelenberg through a difficult divorce a few years earlier. As he approached Zeelenberg’s door, Stapel wondered if his colleague was having problems with his new girlfriend. 

Zeelenberg, a stocky man with a shaved head, led Stapel into his living room. “What’s up?” Stapel asked, settling onto a couch. Two graduate students had made an accusation, Zeelenberg explained. His eyes began to fill with tears. “They suspect you have been committing research fraud.” 

Stapel was an academic star in the Netherlands and abroad, the author of several well-regarded studies on human attitudes and behavior. That spring, he published a widely publicized study in Science about an experiment done at the Utrecht train station showing that a trash-filled environment tended to bring out racist tendencies in individuals. And just days earlier, he received more media attention for a study indicating that eating meat made people selfish and less social. 

His enemies were targeting him because of changes he initiated as dean, Stapel replied, quoting a Dutch proverb about high trees catching a lot of wind. When Zeelenberg challenged him with specifics — to explain why certain facts and figures he reported in different studies appeared to be identical — Stapel promised to be more careful in the future. As Zeelenberg pressed him, Stapel grew increasingly agitated.
Finally, Zeelenberg said: “I have to ask you if you’re faking data.” 

“No, that’s ridiculous,” Stapel replied. “Of course not.” 

That weekend, Zeelenberg relayed the allegations to the university rector, a law professor named Philip Eijlander, who often played tennis with Stapel. After a brief meeting on Sunday, Eijlander invited Stapel to come by his house on Tuesday morning. Sitting in Eijlander’s living room, Stapel mounted what Eijlander described to me as a spirited defense, highlighting his work as dean and characterizing his research methods as unusual. The conversation lasted about five hours. Then Eijlander politely escorted Stapel to the door but made it plain that he was not convinced of Stapel’s innocence.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

ADHD is a fictitious disease - and - the vocabulary of psychiatry is now defined at all levels by the pharmaceutical industry

blicunion | Fortunately, the Swiss National Advisory Commission on Biomedical Ethics (NEK, President: Otfried Höffe) critically commented on the use of the ADHD drug Ritalin in its opinion of 22 November 2011 titled Human enhancement by means of pharmacological agents: The consumption of pharmacological agents altered the child’s behavior without any contribution on his or her part.

That amounted to interference in the child’s freedom and personal rights, because pharmacological agents induced behavioral changes but failed to educate the child on how to achieve these behavioral changes independently. The child was thus deprived of an essential learning experience to act autonomously and emphatically which “considerably curtails children’s freedom and impairs their personality development”, the NEK criticized.

The alarmed critics of the Ritalin disaster are now getting support from an entirely different side. The German weekly Der Spiegel quoted in its cover story on 2 February 2012 the US American psychiatrist Leon Eisenberg, born in 1922 as the son of Russian Jewish immigrants, who was the “scientific father of ADHD” and who said at the age of 87, seven months before his death in his last interview:“ADHD is a prime example of a fictitious disease”

Since 1968, however, some 40 years, Leon Eisenberg’s “disease” haunted the diagnostic and statistical manuals, first as “hyperkinetic reaction of childhood”, now called “ADHD”. The use of ADHD medications in Germany rose in only eighteen years from 34 kg (in 1993) to a record of no less than 1760 kg (in 2011) – which is a 51-fold increase in sales! In the United States every tenth boy among ten year-olds already swallows an ADHD medication on a daily basis. With an increasing tendency.

When it comes to the proven repertoire of Edward Bernays, the father of propaganda, to sell the First World War to his people with the help of his uncle’s psychoanalysis and to distort science and the faith in science to increase profits of the industry – what about investigating on whose behalf the “scientific father of ADHD” conducted science? His career was remarkably steep, and his “fictitious disease” led to the best sales increases. And after all, he served in the “Committee for DSM V and ICD XII, American Psychiatric Association” from 2006 to 2009. After all, Leon Eisenberg received “the Ruane Prize for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Research. He has been a leader in child psychiatry for more than 40 years through his work in pharmacological trials, research, teaching, and social policy and for his theories of autism and social medicine”.

And after all, Eisenberg was a member of the “Organizing Committee for Women and Medicine Conference, Bahamas, November 29 – December 3, 2006, Josiah Macy Foundation (2006)”. The Josiah Macy Foundation organized conferences with intelligence agents of the OSS, later CIA, such as Gregory Bateson and Heinz von Foerster during and long after World War II. Have such groups marketed the diagnosis of ADHD in the service of the pharmaceutical market and tailor-made for him with a lot of propaganda and public relations? It is this issue that the American psychologist Lisa Cosgrove and others investigated in their study Financial Ties between DSM-IV Panel Members and the Pharmaceutical Industry7. They found that “Of the 170 DSM panel members 95 (56%) had one or more financial associations with companies in the pharmaceutical industry. One hundred percent of the members of the panels on ‘Mood Disorders’ and ‘Schizophrenia and Other Psychotic Disorders’ had financial ties to drug companies. The connections are especially strong in those diagnostic areas where drugs are the first line of treatment for mental disorders.” In the next edition of the manual, the situation is unchanged. “Of the 137 DSM-V panel members who have posted disclosure statements, 56% have reported industry ties – no improvement over the percent of DSM-IV members.” “The very vocabulary of psychiatry is now defined at all levels by the pharmaceutical industry,” said Dr Irwin Savodnik, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Friday, May 17, 2013

I.Q. as a measure of intelligence is a myth...,

  • We propose that human intelligence is composed of multiple independent components
  • Each behavioral component is associated with a distinct functional brain network
  • The higher-order “g” factor is an artifact of tasks recruiting multiple networks
  • The components of intelligence dissociate when correlated with demographic variables
What makes one person more intellectually able than another? Can the entire distribution of human intelligence be accounted for by just one general factor? Is intelligence supported by a single neural system? Here, we provide a perspective on human intelligence that takes into account how general abilities or ‘‘factors’’ reflect the functional organization of the brain. By comparing factor models of individual differences in performance with factor models of brain functional organization, we demonstrate that different components of intelligence have their analogs in distinct brain networks. Using simulations based on neuroimaging data, we show that the higher-order factor ‘‘g’’ is accounted for by cognitive tasks co-recruiting multiple networks. Finally, we confirm the independence of these components of intelligence by dissociating them using questionnaire variables. We propose that intelligence is an emergent property of anatomically distinct cognitive systems, each of which has its own capacity. cell |

next to nothing is known about the neurobiological mechanisms underlying individuality

thescientist | When a group of genetically identical mice lived in the same complex enclosure for 3 months, individuals that explored the environment more broadly grew more new neurons than less adventurous mice, according to a study published today (May 9) in Science. This link between exploratory behavior and adult neurogenesis shows that brain plasticity can be shaped by experience and suggests that the process may promote individuality, even among genetically identical organisms.

“This is a clear and quantitative demonstration that individual differences in behavior can be reflected in individual differences in brain plasticity,” said Fred Gage of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, who was not involved the study. “I don’t know of another clear example of that . . . and it tells me that there is a tighter relationship between [individual] experiences and neurogenesis than we had previously thought.”

Scientists have often tried to tackle the question of how individual differences in behavior and personality develop in terms of the interactions between genes and environment. “But there is next to nothing [known] about the neurobiological mechanisms underlying individuality,” said Gerd Kempermann of the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Dresden.

One logical way to study this phenomenon is to look at brain plasticity, or how the brain’s structure and function change over time. Plasticity is hard to study, however, because it mostly takes place at the synaptic level, so Kempermann and his colleagues decided to look at the growth of new neurons in the adult hippocampus, which can easily be quantified. Earlier studies have demonstrated that activity—both physical and cognitive—increases adult neurogenesis in groups of genetically identical mice, but there were differences between individuals in the amount of neuron growth.

To understand why, Kempermann and his colleagues housed 40 genetically identical female inbred mice in a complex 5-square-meter, 5-level enclosure filled with all kinds of objects designed to encourage activity and exploration. The mice were tagged with radio-frequency infer-red (RFIR) transponders, and 20 antennas placed around the enclosure tracked their every movement. After 3 months, the researchers assessed adult neurogenesis in the mice by counting proliferating precursor cells, which had been labeled before the study began.

The researchers found that individual differences in exploratory behavior correlated with individual differences in the numbers of new neurons generated. “To out knowledge, it’s the first example of a direct link between individual behavior and individual brain plasticity,” Kempermann said.

Gage cautions about pinning all the differences on the environment, however. Although the mice in the study were genetically identical, he said, they were not behaviorally identical to begin with: clearly some variation occurs at a very early stage that makes them more or less prone to explore. “It’s incorrect to think of it that the environment caused the difference between the mice,” he said. “The difference was already there, and the environment amplified that difference. My own personal bias is that there are likely genetic events that happened at germline, or somatic events over time,” that set the stage for these subtle behavioral differences that are subsequently amplified.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

primates of park avenue...,

NYPost | They are 1 percenters who are 100 percent despicable. Some wealthy Manhattan moms have figured out a way to cut the long lines at Disney World — by hiring disabled people to pose as family members so they and their kids can jump to the front, The Post has learned. 

 The “black-market Disney guides” run $130 an hour, or $1,040 for an eight-hour day. “My daughter waited one minute to get on ‘It’s a Small World’ — the other kids had to wait 2 1/2 hours,” crowed one mom, who hired a disabled guide through Dream Tours Florida.

“You can’t go to Disney without a tour concierge,’’ she sniffed. “This is how the 1 percent does Disney.”
The woman said she hired a Dream Tours guide to escort her, her husband and their 1-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter through the park in a motorized scooter with a “handicapped” sign on it. The group was sent straight to an auxiliary entrance at the front of each attraction.

Disney allows each guest who needs a wheelchair or motorized scooter to bring up to six guests to a “more convenient entrance.” 

The Florida entertainment mecca warns that there “may be a waiting period before boarding.” But the consensus among upper-crust moms who have used the illicit handicap tactic is that the trick is well worth the cost.

Not only is their “black-market tour guide” more efficient than Disney World’s VIP Tours, it’s cheaper, too.
Disney Tours offers a VIP guide and fast passes for $310 to $380 per hour.

Passing around the rogue guide service’s phone number recently became a shameless ritual among Manhattan’s private-school set during spring break. The service asks who referred you before they even take your call.

“It’s insider knowledge that very few have and share carefully,” said social anthropologist Dr. Wednesday Martin, who caught wind of the underground network while doing research for her upcoming book “Primates of Park Avenue.”

“Who wants a speed pass when you can use your black-market handicapped guide to circumvent the lines all together?” she said.

“So when you’re doing it, you’re affirming that you are one of the privileged insiders who has and shares this information.”

cheating and co-operating..., | Lying, cheating and other forms of Machiavellian skulduggery seem to be the inevitable evolutionary consequences of living in co-operative communities, suggest UK scientists.

Instead of viewing deception and co-operation as polar opposites, Luke McNally from Trinity College Dublin and Andrew Jackson from the University of Edinburgh say we might do better to think of them as two sides of the same evolutionary coin.

"Deception is an inherent component of our complex social lives, and it's likely impossible to separate the good from the bad; the darkest parts of our psychology evolved as a result of the most virtuous," says McNally.

The researchers lay out their evidence in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
First, they use game theory to show the evolution of co-operation creates pressures that favour the evolution of deception.

In their scenario, individuals have three options: to always cheat and not help others; to reciprocate the help that others offer; or cheat and try to conceal this cheating by deceiving others.

"When reciprocal co-operators interact with honest cheaters, they spot their cheating and stop co-operating with them," McNally explains.

"However, as deceivers are better at hiding their cheating, reciprocal co-operators find it harder to spot their cheating.

"This means that the deceivers are able to gain co-operation without having to co-operate themselves, allowing deception to evolve."

The researchers back up this theory with real-world evidence gathered from studies of deception in 24 different primate species.

They show deceptive behaviour is more common in species that co-operate more.

"Our comparative analysis shows the more co-operation a species engages in the more it engages in deception, which is what our model predicts," McNally says.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

POTUS 2016 - remember where you heard it first!

richwine says "he's no racist, and has a tough time spotting it, too"...,

theatlanticwire | Richwine says his passion for outlining the case for racial inferiority is rooted in his love of data not racism. At a 2008 panel, Richwine ranked races by IQ: "Decades of psychometric testing has indicated that at least in America, you have Jews with the highest average IQ, usually followed by East Asians, then you have non-Jewish whites, Hispanics, and then blacks." Now, he tells York, he's not sorry for those comments. "I don't apologize for any of the things that I said," he says. But he does wish he'd put an asterisk on the entire sentence so it doesn't sound like he's endorsing the idea that some ethnic groups are just biologically destined to be less intelligent than others. He would have noted that "there is a nuance that goes along with that: the extent to which IQ scores actually reflect intelligence, the fact that it reflects averages and there is a lot of overlap in any population, and that IQ scores say absolutely nothing about the causes of the differences -- environmental, genetic, or some combination of those things.

Richwine's argument that he is not a racist because he does not think of himself as a racist is not very persuasive, although it is common. But even more problematic is that Richwine also admits to York that he's not very good at spotting racism. In 2010, for example, he wrote for two articles for the white nationalist site Alternative Right. One of his articles made the argument that since "U.S.-born Hispanics are much more likely to be incarcerated than foreign-born Hispanics" that "implies that Hispanic crime will become more of a problem as time goes on, not less." That fits well with the editorial agenda founder Richard B. Spencer, a former editor of The American Conservative, who has a history of saying things like, "There are races who, on average, are going to be superior." People like blogger E.D. Kain have dubbed the site "ugly white nationalism." Richwine said he didn't think anything was problematic, telling York, "I thought it would be like a paleo-conservative website. I had seen that [former National Review writer] John Derbyshire had also published something there." Derbyshire was left The National Review because he wrote an essay about how he tells his kids to avoid groups of black people but to have one black friend to inoculate against charges of racism.

That was in 2012 — and Derbyshire had been writing racist things for years. As I argued at the time, he "effectively demonstrates, year after year, exactly how racist you can be and still get published by people who consider themselves intellectuals." That line has since moved, which Richwine apparently noticed too late.

how misinformed ideas about profit are holding back the world's poor?

fastcoexist | I run a for-profit business that delivers products and services to customers earning less than $6 a day in West Africa. When I tell people this, I frequently encounter disbelief or concern. The three most common responses I hear are:  
  • Surely you can’t make money working with people who are so poor?
  • Don’t you feel like you are taking advantage of these people by making money from them?
  • Wouldn’t charity do a better job of meeting their needs?
While these questions are well-intentioned, I initially found them upsetting because they go far beyond a healthy skepticism about my business model. They made me doubt whether I should be working with poor consumers at all.

While I stayed the course, I fear that many will simply choose a simpler path of building a startup in developed markets. The absolute worst thing that can happen for the poorest people on Earth is that the next generation of superstar entrepreneurs ends up in Silicon Valley making iPhone Apps, rather than trying to address the problems of the 4 billion people who need them the most.

So next time you overhear one of these questions, do the world’s poor a favor and shoot it down. Here’s how:

phantom financial wealth, phantom carrying capacity and phantom democratic power...,

karlnorth | The Interdependence. Economic activity at phantom carrying capacity depletes resources at a rate that causes rising resource costs and decreasing profit margins in the production of real wealth. The investor class therefore turns increasingly to the production of credit as a source of profits. Credit unsupported by the production of real wealth is stealing from the future: it is phantom wealth. It also creates inflation, which is stealing from the purchasing power of income in the present. Protected from the masses by the illusion of democracy, government facilitates the unlimited production of credit and the continued overshoot of real carrying capacity. This causes inflation and permanently rising costs of raw materials. To divert public attention from the resultant declining living standard of the laboring classes, government dispenses rigged statistics and fake news of continued growth to project the illusion of economic health. The whole interdependent phantom stage of the capitalist system has an extremely limited life before it collapses into chaos.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

what does your state's highest paid employee do?

deadspin | You may have heard that the highest-paid employee in each state is usually the football coach at the largest state school. This is actually a gross mischaracterization: Sometimes it is the basketball coach.
Based on data drawn from media reports and state salary databases, the ranks of the highest-paid active public employees include 27 football coaches, 13 basketball coaches, one hockey coach, and 10 dorks who aren't even in charge of a team.

So are my hard-earned tax dollars paying these coaches?
Probably not. The bulk of this coaching money—especially at the big football schools—is paid out of the revenue that the teams generate. 

So what's the problem then? These guys make tons of money for their schools; shouldn't they be paid accordingly?

There are at least three problems.
  1. Coaches don't generate revenue on their own; you could make the exact same case for the student-athletes who actually play the game and score the points and fracture their legs.

  2. It can be tough to attribute this revenue directly to the performance of the head coach. In 2011-2012, Mack Brown was paid $5 million to lead a mediocre 8-5 Texas team to the Holiday Bowl. The team still generated $103.8 million in revenue, the most in college football. You don't have to pay someone $5 million to make college football profitable in Texas.

  3. This revenue rarely makes its way back to the general funds of these universities. Looking at data from 2011-2012, athletic departments at 99 major schools lost an average of $5 million once you take out revenue generated from "student fees" and "university subsidies." If you take out "contributions and donations"—some of which might have gone to the universities had they not been lavished on the athletic departments—this drops to an average loss of $17 million, with just one school (Army) in the black. All this football/basketball revenue is sucked up by coach and AD salaries, by administrative and facility costs, and by the athletic department's non-revenue generating sports; it's not like it's going to microscopes and Bunsen burners