Christian Science Monitor


Understanding why loneliness exists can help ease it, say scientists

Christian Science Monitor

It pushes people who find themselves isolated back into the social fold. And those who scored higher on self-centeredness one year would report greater feelings of loneliness the following year. "People sort of step back, falling in with an old American tradition of kind of admiring self-sufficiency too much," she says. Previous analysis by Cacioppo and his colleagues suggests that targeting social cognition – that is, re-training the way lonely people think about others – can be more effective at combating loneliness than targeting shyness, building social skills, or increasing opportunities for social contact.


Where are all the space hotels? Why smart people make terrible forecasts.

Christian Science Monitor

Such optimism often leads to underestimating the chance of unknown unknowns derailing your project, so planning experts suggest a technique called reference class forecasting, where project planners learn from past risk by predicting overruns based on how similarly complex projects fared before. Virgin Galactic doesn't release public estimates, but according to the US Government Accountability Office's annual review, NASA's large project costs have overrun budget by between 10 percent and 50 percent in each of the last nine years, a figure dominated by the ballooning costs of the JWST. Not one to back down from a challenge, NASA in 2013 and 2014 developed the Technology Cost and Schedule Estimating (TCASE) software, which uses reference class forecasting tenets to predict the most uncertain of undertakings: creating new technology. But to make matters worse, even if reference class forecasting could roughly estimate the chance of unknown unknowns cropping up, it's hard to get advance funding for what-if scenarios.


Why predicting the future is more than just horseplay

Christian Science Monitor

When the odds posted by the track are different from the odds determined using insider information, Kelly's formula explains how to take those differences and place the best bets possible, mathematically speaking. There may be simple patterns that organize seemingly chaotic events, but complicated limits to prediction in rather simple systems. And while predicting what an individual might do is sometimes next to impossible, as we've seen throughout this series in The Christian Science Monitor, complex social systems can exhibit highly predictable behavior at large scales. Finding predictable patterns that emerge from the complicated interactions of many individual parts is the norm when studying complex systems.


Breakthroughs arise from a precise mix of old and new knowledge, say scientists

Christian Science Monitor

Now, a study of nearly 30 million research papers and more than 5 million patents offers clues as to where more of these giants might be lurking. A paper published by researchers at Northwestern University's Institute on Complex Systems in the journal Science Advances on Wednesday reveals that the most-cited papers rely on a specific mix of old and new research that the authors say is "nearly universal in all branches of science and technology." The findings may point to ways to improve the technology that scientists and other scholars use to search for information, an increasingly pressing need amid what Uzzi calls the "absolute explosion in the amount of information that's created every single day." Professor Woolley mentions Google Scholar, a free search engine for academic publishing whose slogan is: "Stand on the shoulders of giants."


British kid finds NASA mistake: when too many cooks don't spoil anything

Christian Science Monitor

His findings add to a long history of amateurs making real contributions to science, a phenomenon many researchers are eager to encourage. Players compete to find top scoring folds, which experts analyze later. The results in this week's paper show that gaming, science and computation can be combined to make advances that were not possible before." In addition to ISS sensor checking and protein folding, scientists are turning to citizens for help with star searching, bird counting, eclipse recording, and even quantum computing.


How origami machines might unlock secrets of Mars and the universe

Christian Science Monitor

March 23, 2017 --If some NASA researchers have their way, Mars exploration technology of the future may rely on an art form from the past. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has developed a Pop-Up Flat Folding Explorer Robot (PUFFER) prototype that could change how we explore Mars. More than just origami-inspired, the solar panel's design relied directly on a classic technique called the flasher pattern. The National Science Foundation has distributed millions of dollars in grants to origami-inspired design, and the PUFFER program received support from JPL's Game Changing Development Program, a NASA funding source that purposely tries to foster what Karras calls "out-there ideas."


Why origami machines may unlock secrets of Mars and the universe

Christian Science Monitor

March 23, 2017 --If some NASA researchers have their way, Mars exploration technology of the future may rely on an art form from the past. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has developed a Pop-Up Flat Folding Explorer Robot (PUFFER) prototype that could change how we explore Mars. More than just origami-inspired, the solar panel's design relied directly on a classic technique called the flasher pattern. The National Science Foundation has distributed millions of dollars in grants to origami-inspired design, and the PUFFER program received support from JPL's Game Changing Development Program, a NASA funding source that purposely tries to foster what Karras calls "out-there ideas."


Stephen Hawking calls for 'world government' to stop a robot uprising

Christian Science Monitor

As the role of artificial intelligence in society grows, computer scientists and policymakers are moving from constructing these systems to harnessing their power for the good of society. "Yes, I think much improved global governance may be necessary to deal with not only advanced AI, but also some of the other big challenges that lie ahead for our species," writes Nick Bostrom, a professor at the University of Oxford who is the founding director of the university's Future of Humanity Institute, in an email to The Christian Science Monitor. "There are two main economic risks: first, that a mismatch may develop between the skills that workers have and the skills that the future workplace demands; and second, that AI may increase economic inequality by increasing the return to owners of capital and some higher-skill workers," Edward Felten, a professor of computer science and public affairs at Princeton University who is the founding director of the university's Center for Information Technology Policy, tells the Monitor in an email. There is a small but growing field of research addressing these problems, these commentators explain – and world government or international harmonization of AI laws may be one approach.


Stephen Hawking calls for 'world government' to stop robot uprising

Christian Science Monitor

As the role of artificial intelligence in society grows, computer scientists and policymakers are moving from constructing these systems to harnessing their power for the good of society. "Yes, I think much improved global governance may be necessary to deal with not only advanced AI, but also some of the other big challenges that lie ahead for our species," writes Nick Bostrom, a professor at the University of Oxford who is the founding director of the university's Future of Humanity Institute, in an email to The Christian Science Monitor. "There are two main economic risks: first, that a mismatch may develop between the skills that workers have and the skills that the future workplace demands; and second, that AI may increase economic inequality by increasing the return to owners of capital and some higher-skill workers," Edward Felten, a professor of computer science and public affairs at Princeton University who is the founding director of the university's Center for Information Technology Policy, tells the Monitor in an email. There is a small but growing field of research addressing these problems, these commentators explain – and world government or international harmonization of AI laws may be one approach.


How lasers are helping flesh out what dinosaurs really looked like

Christian Science Monitor

The powerful lasers actually make the fossils glow, allowing scientists to snap pictures of the specimens that contain more detail than can be spotted with the naked eye or other existing techniques, and reveal the fleshy body outline of the animal. These key similarities suggest that paleontologists aren't wrong to draw comparisons between modern birds and the fossil specimens, Kaye explains in a phone interview with The Christian Science Monitor. "They're not changing our view or our understanding of avian evolution or the evolution of flight," says Peter Makovicky, associate curator of dinosaurs at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, who was not involved in the research. The technique, called laser-stimulated fluorescence (LSF) imaging, harnesses the intensity of lasers to get fossils to fluoresce.