Police Need Warrant to Track Your Cellphone, Supreme Court Rules

“[A]n individual maintains a legitimate expectation of privacy in the record of his physical movements” – Chief Justice John Roberts

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled for a change in the law regulating the ability of police to search citizens’ phone records.

Since a 1979 ruling, which decided that citizens had no expectation of privacy for their phone records kept by a phone company, police have been able to search people’s phones without probable cause (strong evidence the person has committed a crime). However, police can still obtain records without a warrant in the case of an emergency, and they can search other items people carry without probable cause.

The court found that “an individual maintains a legitimate expectation of privacy in the record of his physical movements” as these movements are captured and recorded by phone companies.

The majority of the Supreme court framed the question in terms of a shift in the role and capabilities of technology, specifically cell phones and data collection and records, with one writing that a mobile phone was now “a feature of human anatomy” that “faithfully follows its owner beyond public thoroughfares and into private residences, doctor’s offices, political headquarters, and other potentially revealing locales” and “when the government tracks the location of a cell phone it achieves near perfect surveillance, as if it had attached an ankle monitor to the phone’s user.”

The decision was 5-4.

When political parties reverse their policy stance, their supporters immediately switch their opinions too

At least a significant portion of their supporters, according to U of Aarhus researchers.

When two competing political parties in Denmark reversed their policy stance on an issue — suddenly they both supported reducing unemployment benefits — their voters immediately moved their opinions by around 15% into line with their party.

The same thing happened when one of these parties shifted from opposing to supporting ending Denmark’s early retirement.

The researchers were studying how public opinion is formed. Their recent paper sheds light on how much influence political parties have over their supporters, according to the researchers, who surveyed their panel of subjects in five successive waves between 2010 and 2011. They studied the same group of party supporters before, during and after a policy reversal.

“We can see that [the] welfare programs were actually quite popular … and many of the voters of the center-right party were in favor of these welfare programs,” commented one of the researchers, Rune Slothuus. “Nevertheless, we can see that they reversed their opinion from supporting these welfare programs to opposing these welfare programs.”

“I was surprised to see the parties appeared this powerful in shaping opinions,” Slothuus said. “Our findings suggest that partisan leaders can indeed lead citizens’ opinions in the real world, even in situations where the stakes are real and the economic consequences tangible.”

The researchers pondered Western democracy in light of their findings: “If citizens just blindly follow their party without thinking much about it, that should lead to some concern about the mechanisms in our democracy. Because how can partisan elites represent citizens’ views if the views of citizens are shaped by the very same elites who are supposed to represent them?”

Source: How Political Parties Shape Public Opinion in the Real World. Rune Slothuus and Martin Bisgaard. First published: 04 November 2020 https://doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12550

The brain listens for things it is trying to predict

The brain interprets sounds as they contrast with its expectations. It recognizes patterns of sounds faster when they’re in line with what it is predicting it will hear, but it only encodes sounds when they contrast with expectations, according to Technische U researchers.

Researchers showed this by monitoring the two principal nuclei of the subcortical pathway responsible for auditory processing: the inferior colliculus and the medial geniculate body, as their subjects listened to patterns of sounds which the researches modified so that sometimes they would hear an expected sound pattern, and other times something unexpected.

Source: Alejandro Tabas, Glad Mihai, Stefan Kiebel, Robert Trampel, Katharina von Kriegstein. Abstract rules drive adaptation in the subcortical sensory pathway. eLife, 2020; 9 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.64501

We have a particular way of understanding a room

When several research subjects were instructed to explore an empty room, and when they were instead seated in a chair and watched someone else explore the room, their brain waves followed a certain pattern, as recorded by a backpack hooked up to record their brain waves, eye movements, and paths. It didn’t matter if they were walking or watching someone else, according to UC researchers led by Dr Matthias Stangl.

The researchers also tested what happened when subjects searched for a hidden spot, or watched someone else do so, and found that brain waves flowed more strongly when they had a goal and hunted for something.

Source: Matthias Stangl, Uros Topalovic, Cory S. Inman, Sonja Hiller, Diane Villaroman, Zahra M. Aghajan, Leonardo Christov-Moore, Nicholas R. Hasulak, Vikram R. Rao, Casey H. Halpern, Dawn Eliashiv, Itzhak Fried, Nanthia Suthana. Boundary-anchored neural mechanisms of location-encoding for self and others. Nature, 2020; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-03073-y

Extroverts and introverts use different vocabularies

Extroverts use ‘positive emotion’ and ‘social process’ words more often than introverts, according to new research conducted at Nanyang Technological U.

‘Love,’ ‘happy,’ and ‘blessed’ indicate pleasant emotions, and ‘beautiful’ and ‘nice’ indicate positivity or optimism, and are among the words found to be used more often by extroverts. So too are ‘meet,’ ‘share,’ and ‘talk,’ which are about socializing. Extroverts use personal pronouns — except ‘I’ — more too, another indication of sociability.

The correlation, however, was small, and the researchers think that stronger linguistic indicators need to be found to achieve their general goal, which is improving machine learning approaches to targeting consumer marketing.

Source: Jiayu Chen, Lin Qiu, Moon-Ho Ringo Ho. A meta-analysis of linguistic markers of extraversion: Positive emotion and social process words. Journal of Research in Personality, 2020; 89: 104035 DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2020.104035

WhatsApp is changing today - Users must give the app permission to send their private data to Facebook or lose account

WhatsApp was bought by Facebook in 2014, but has thrived while promoting itself as a privacy-respecting messaging app that now has 1.5b monthly active users. This week, though, WhatApp sent out an update to users’ phones that they must ‘consent’ to a new policy or lose access.

Whatsapp will now share more of your data, including your IP address (your location) and phone number, your account registration information, your transaction data, and service-related data, interactions on WhatsApp, and other data collected based on your consent, with Facebook’s other companies. Facebook has been working towards more closely integrating Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger.

Users who do not agree to ‘consent’ to the new policy will see their WhatsApp account become inaccessible until they do ‘consent.’ These accounts will remain dormant for 120 days after which they will be ‘deleted.’

The biggest change to the user policy, which many people ignored and clicked ‘agree’ to, thinking it was just another unimportant app update message, now reads,

‘We collect information about your activity on our Services, like service-related, diagnostic, and performance information. This includes information about your activity (including how you use our Services, your Services settings, how you interact with others using our Services (including when you interact with a business), and the time, frequency, and duration of your activities and interactions), log files, and diagnostic, crash, website, and performance logs and reports. This also includes information about when you registered to use our Services; the features you use like our messaging, calling, Status, groups (including group name, group picture, group description), payments or business features; profile photo, “about” information; whether you are online, when you last used our Services (your “last seen”); and when you last updated your “about” information.’

Notably, Elon Musk tweeted on the news, saying that WhatsApp users should switch to Signal, one of several popular privacy-focused messaging apps similar to WhatsApp.

The data sharing policy change doesn’t affect people in Europe due to GDPR data protection regulations.

Thousands Protest for Spanish Unity

Thousands Protest for Spanish Unity

As many as 950,000 people have descended upon Barcelona Sunday, from all over Spain to protest Catalonia’s bid for Independence and to support the continued unification of the Spain with cries of “Long live Spain, long live Catalonia.”

Josep Borrell a speaker in the rally, a Catalan and Ex-president of the European Parliament spoke out against Carles Puigdemont, leader of the separatist movement and asked him “Not to throw this country off the cliff.”

From the beginning when the illegal referendum began on the 1st of October, a propaganda war between Catalonia and Spain ensued, and it was clear from the outset that Catalonia was winning, the victory handed to them by the Spanish state that deployed more than 4000 of the Spanish Civil guard and Police across the province looking to close down polling booths.

The photographs of armed Police firing rubber bullets and brutally mistreating protestors flashed across the globe, garnering international support from such newspapers as The Guardian who openly supports Catalonia´s right to self-determination. Julian Assange has put his weight behind the cause from day one, calling the Spanish response “Very serious repression by European standards.” He has gone so far as to compare Spain with China in the way it has dealt with the situation.

The independence referendum was intended to be etched in the minds of the Catalans as the day Catalonia defied Spain, harking back to the war of the reapers and the Catalan uprising of 1640. It was to be a day of revolution and an official long-awaited divorce from Spain, like a bad marriage that has run its course. The outcome had been predicted by a test vote from November 2014 that the voting would produce a positive result for the Catalan government and that independence would be declared within 48 hours of the last vote being made.

A week has passed since the vote on the 1st of October and no independence has been declared yet.

The Catalan government has been seen to be stalling with rumors of infighting between the various independence parties and no real long-term implementation strategy for any kind of self-governance.

To add to this the Spanish government is refusing to enter into any talks regarding Independence. The interior minister Juan Ignacio Zoido Called the vote “Nothing more than a spectacle.”

2.3 Million people voted on the 1st of October, many of those people voted 3 or 4 times, regardless of the presence of international mediators there was little control or organization. Only 42% of the Catalan population turned out to vote. Some were excluded, including a large foreign population and migrants from the rest of Spain. Others refused to vote and others simply were too worried to leave the house, knowing full well that things were going to get ugly at the polls. This 58% have become the majority without a voice, caught between two polarized Political opposites, heavily invested in their own agenda.

Since the vote, this silent majority without a voice has begun fractioning, some have come out in support of Spain and the unity of the state, some have joined the independence movement; unhappy with the way the Spanish state handled the referendum. Others have looked to the middle ground and “Hablamos” (Let’s talk) a movement which has opted for white flags, believing in a truce and dialogue between Catalonia and Spain with the tagline. “We are better than our leaders, let’s talk.”

Meanwhile, the Catalan parliament stalls, banks, and large conglomerates are leaving the province in droves. Banco Sabadell, Spain’s fifth largest banking group has moved its headquarters to Alicante, Biotech firm Oryzon Genomics has said it will be moving to Madrid. Its shares have surged 29% since then.

In turn, hotels owned by pro-independence supporters have asked any Police or Civil Guards stationed under their roof to leave.

As a result an audio recording went viral regarding a phone call to the Police in Madrid by a concerned citizen of Barcelona offering beds for the night and thanking the police for their help has led to an overwhelming surge in support to the Police, the caller saying in an emotional and tearful phone call that she felt alone and forgotten by the Spanish state. As a consequence Pro-Spanish support has begun to rise, something which was somewhat lacking during the voting. During the lead up to the referendum, the streets in Barcelona were filled with the independence flag, the “Estelada” (based on the flag of Cuba,) flying from balconies. Spanish flags have now also begun to appear in support of the continued unity of Spain. The King of Spain in a televised interview said that the people of Barcelona who believed in unity were not alone.

However the events in Catalonia continue to play out, a large proportion of the population is feeling insecure with the way their future is being decided for them.

By Anthony Bain

When political parties reverse their policy stance, their supporters immediately switch their opinions too

At least a significant portion of their supporters, according to U of Aarhus researchers.

When two competing political parties in Denmark reversed their policy stance on an issue — suddenly they both supported reducing unemployment benefits — their voters immediately moved their opinions by around 15% into line with their party.

The same thing happened when one of these parties shifted from opposing to supporting ending Denmark’s early retirement.

The researchers were studying how public opinion is formed. Their recent paper sheds light on how much influence political parties have over their supporters, according to the researchers, who surveyed their panel of subjects in five successive waves between 2010 and 2011. They studied the same group of party supporters before, during and after a policy reversal.

“We can see that [the] welfare programs were actually quite popular … and many of the voters of the center-right party were in favor of these welfare programs,” commented one of the researchers, Rune Slothuus. “Nevertheless, we can see that they reversed their opinion from supporting these welfare programs to opposing these welfare programs.”

“I was surprised to see the parties appeared this powerful in shaping opinions,” Slothuus said. “Our findings suggest that partisan leaders can indeed lead citizens’ opinions in the real world, even in situations where the stakes are real and the economic consequences tangible.”

The researchers pondered Western democracy in light of their findings: “If citizens just blindly follow their party without thinking much about it, that should lead to some concern about the mechanisms in our democracy. Because how can partisan elites represent citizens’ views if the views of citizens are shaped by the very same elites who are supposed to represent them?”

Source: How Political Parties Shape Public Opinion in the Real World. Rune Slothuus and Martin Bisgaard. First published: 04 November 2020 https://doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12550

The brain listens for things it is trying to predict

The brain interprets sounds as they contrast with its expectations. It recognizes patterns of sounds faster when they’re in line with what it is predicting it will hear, but it only encodes sounds when they contrast with expectations, according to Technische U researchers.

Researchers showed this by monitoring the two principal nuclei of the subcortical pathway responsible for auditory processing: the inferior colliculus and the medial geniculate body, as their subjects listened to patterns of sounds which the researches modified so that sometimes they would hear an expected sound pattern, and other times something unexpected.

Source: Alejandro Tabas, Glad Mihai, Stefan Kiebel, Robert Trampel, Katharina von Kriegstein. Abstract rules drive adaptation in the subcortical sensory pathway. eLife, 2020; 9 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.64501

We have a particular way of understanding a room

When several research subjects were instructed to explore an empty room, and when they were instead seated in a chair and watched someone else explore the room, their brain waves followed a certain pattern, as recorded by a backpack hooked up to record their brain waves, eye movements, and paths. It didn’t matter if they were walking or watching someone else, according to UC researchers led by Dr Matthias Stangl.

The researchers also tested what happened when subjects searched for a hidden spot, or watched someone else do so, and found that brain waves flowed more strongly when they had a goal and hunted for something.

Source: Matthias Stangl, Uros Topalovic, Cory S. Inman, Sonja Hiller, Diane Villaroman, Zahra M. Aghajan, Leonardo Christov-Moore, Nicholas R. Hasulak, Vikram R. Rao, Casey H. Halpern, Dawn Eliashiv, Itzhak Fried, Nanthia Suthana. Boundary-anchored neural mechanisms of location-encoding for self and others. Nature, 2020; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-03073-y

Extroverts and introverts use different vocabularies

Extroverts use ‘positive emotion’ and ‘social process’ words more often than introverts, according to new research conducted at Nanyang Technological U.

‘Love,’ ‘happy,’ and ‘blessed’ indicate pleasant emotions, and ‘beautiful’ and ‘nice’ indicate positivity or optimism, and are among the words found to be used more often by extroverts. So too are ‘meet,’ ‘share,’ and ‘talk,’ which are about socializing. Extroverts use personal pronouns — except ‘I’ — more too, another indication of sociability.

The correlation, however, was small, and the researchers think that stronger linguistic indicators need to be found to achieve their general goal, which is improving machine learning approaches to targeting consumer marketing.

Source: Jiayu Chen, Lin Qiu, Moon-Ho Ringo Ho. A meta-analysis of linguistic markers of extraversion: Positive emotion and social process words. Journal of Research in Personality, 2020; 89: 104035 DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2020.104035

WhatsApp is changing today - Users must give the app permission to send their private data to Facebook or lose account

WhatsApp was bought by Facebook in 2014, but has thrived while promoting itself as a privacy-respecting messaging app that now has 1.5b monthly active users. This week, though, WhatApp sent out an update to users’ phones that they must ‘consent’ to a new policy or lose access.

Whatsapp will now share more of your data, including your IP address (your location) and phone number, your account registration information, your transaction data, and service-related data, interactions on WhatsApp, and other data collected based on your consent, with Facebook’s other companies. Facebook has been working towards more closely integrating Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger.

Users who do not agree to ‘consent’ to the new policy will see their WhatsApp account become inaccessible until they do ‘consent.’ These accounts will remain dormant for 120 days after which they will be ‘deleted.’

The biggest change to the user policy, which many people ignored and clicked ‘agree’ to, thinking it was just another unimportant app update message, now reads,

‘We collect information about your activity on our Services, like service-related, diagnostic, and performance information. This includes information about your activity (including how you use our Services, your Services settings, how you interact with others using our Services (including when you interact with a business), and the time, frequency, and duration of your activities and interactions), log files, and diagnostic, crash, website, and performance logs and reports. This also includes information about when you registered to use our Services; the features you use like our messaging, calling, Status, groups (including group name, group picture, group description), payments or business features; profile photo, “about” information; whether you are online, when you last used our Services (your “last seen”); and when you last updated your “about” information.’

Notably, Elon Musk tweeted on the news, saying that WhatsApp users should switch to Signal, one of several popular privacy-focused messaging apps similar to WhatsApp.

The data sharing policy change doesn’t affect people in Europe due to GDPR data protection regulations.

New mathematical law found to beautifully explain crowd phenomena

New mathematical law found to beautifully explain crowd phenomena

A new law of science has been found to beautifully explain crowd movements for first time. The as-yet unnamed law, which is a mathematical, universal power law for human interactions, was found by U of M researchers who analyzed complex datasets that have only recently been available. The movement of crowds is fundamentally anticipatory in nature, according to the researchers, and the new, simple energy law expresses, in the words of its lead author, “the beauty of human nature.”

“The law we identified is brand new; such a law would have been impossible to identify 10 years ago as we simply did not have the technology to track pedestrian crowds at a large-scale,” Dr Ioannis Karamouzas, Research Associate at the University of Minnesota’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering and first author of the report, told The Speaker.

New law of science found to beautifully explain crowd phenomena
Dr Ioannis Karamouzas

“Nowadays, though, in the era of big-data there is a plethora of publicly available human crowd data. By analyzing such data, we found that, unlike particle-based interactions, the interactions between pedestrians are anticipatory in nature,” Karamouzas told us, referring to previous models that had attempted to predict crowd behavior with data based on repulsive particles rather than humans.

“To be more specific, when two particles interact the amount of energy that they have to expend to avoid colliding with each other depends on how close they are. In contrast, when two pedestrians interact, their energy depends on the ‘time-to-collision,’ i.e., the time that it takes for the pedestrians to collide assuming that they do not change course; as a collision becomes more imminent, this energy increases drastically.”

Karamouzas and his team have discovered a universal parameter based on single variable that explains crowd movement.

New mathematical law found to beautifully explain crowd phenomena“Surprisingly, the relationship between interaction energy and time-to-collision consistently follows a simple mathematical law stating that the degree to which two pedestrians are willing to respond to each other is inversely proportional to the square of their projected time-to-collision.”

Karamouzas elaborated on the types of crowd phenomena that could be explained by the new law.

“This law is broadly applicable as it consistently holds across different crowd settings; we analyzed both sparse and dense human crowds and found that pedestrian interactions follow the same power-law relationship. Our law has allowed us to gain a better understanding into how human behave and interact in a crowd.

“Looking into the future, I believe that such a law will have broad applications into our everyday life, from simulating in a more accurate way pedestrian behaviors in games, training simulators and animated movies, to designing safer buildings and pedestrian facilities.”

Karamouzas also explained how a law could so simply cover such range in speeds, densities and situations.

“That’s the beauty of the human nature! Every person in a crowd is certainly unique with his/her own desires and individual goals. What our law captures is how people adapt their courses in response to others around them. And such adaptations directly follow from the psychology of anticipation. As we move through a crowd our brain is able to process visual and acoustic cues and recognize the future consequences of our actions allowing us to react accordingly. And it’s the interaction between each person’s individual goals and our inferred law that allows pedestrians to exhibit such a large variety of behaviors.”

The law could not have been found in the past, due to the complexity required of the analysis.

“When we move in a crowd, we typically experience a complex system of competing forces,” said Karamouzas. “On one hand we have a goal that we are tying to reach–e.g. grocery store–and on other hand we try not to bump into other people. On top of that, we hardly ever walk alone but in small groups–such as couples, families, friends, etc. As such, we have to account for all these factors and continuously make our own decisions, which makes very hard to isolate/identify the primary rule that describes our interactions in a crowd. Much of the work in our paper was developing a new analysis technique which can account for the effect of all these forces simultaneously. Because the technique we employed was statistical in nature, we needed to analyze thousands of trajectories to robustly determine the pedestrian interaction law.”

Karamouzas went into detail about how his team found the law.

“We turned into a large collection of publicly available pedestrian datasets that are nowadays available thanks to the advances in automated tracking and computer vision,” said Karamouzas. “Overall, we analyzed six datasets New mathematical law found to beautifully explain crowd phenomenaconsisting of students walking in college campuses, pedestrians interacting at commercial streets, and a few controlled experiments where participants navigate through narrow bottlenecks.

Previously, there had been formidable challenges facing researchers who wanted to find an accurate and general rule for pedestrian behavior.

“To overcome the challenges that I mentioned already and robustly quantify the interaction law of pedestrians we employed a novel approach rooted in condensed matter physics. We initially measured the probability that any pair of pedestrians in the data has of maintaining a certain separation distance. We basically hypothesized that similar to charged particles, the interaction between pedestrians is distance-dependent. However, we found that the probability plots were very different for different walking speeds; when two pedestrians approach each other very fast they tend to maintain a larger separation distance than when they move slowly, as opposed to particles. As such, we started looking into different variables that can describe the interactions between pedestrians and we found that the time-to-collision is a sufficient descriptor. The probability plots were the same for different speeds as well as different orientations at which pedestrians approach each other. In addition, the time-to-collision measure naturally accounts for pedestrians coming relatively close to one another when moving in roughly the same direction–e.g. a pair of friends walking line-abreast. Eventually, by analyzing all the data, we inferred a simple energy law for the interactions between pairs of pedestrians.”

The research is considered to hold new promise for improved public architecture and spaces, the failings of which in the past have caused deaths.

“First of all, the nice thing about our newly identified law is that it directly implies an accurate model of simulating crowd flows. And through such simulations, we can design safer buildings as well as improve the efficiency of New mathematical law found to beautifully explain crowd phenomena (4)existing facilities–e.g., better egress times at a stadium. Furthermore, our novel way of analyzing crowd data and directly measuring the “interaction energy” between pairs of pedestrians opens interesting avenues for future work. For example, we would like to analyze crowd data from mass gatherings, such as concerts, and see how the interaction energy can be used to identify critical areas preventing the likelihood of crowd disasters–like the Love Parade in 2010).

Karamouzas commented on what he thought may be the most important thing for readers to understand of the research.

“The main take-away message is that a lot of the complexity of pedestrian interactions can be captured using simple mathematical equations. The universality of how pedestrian respond to each other is really surprising, and understanding this can lead to more accurate simulations, safer building designs, and shed some light into the anticipatory nature of human interactions.

The report, Universal Power Law Governing Pedestrian Interactions, was authored by Drs. Ioannis Karamouzas, Brian Skinner, and Stephen J. Guy, and was published in Physical Letters Reviews last week.

Feature image: Karl Baron

Images belong to the work of the researchers

VIDEOS from the researchers

Agents positioned at two concentric circles have to walk to their antipodal points.

Self-directed agents form collective patterns.

Bi-directional flow through a corridor.

The “busiest intersection in the world,” Shibuya Crossing, Tokyo, Japan (LIVE)

When political parties reverse their policy stance, their supporters immediately switch their opinions too

At least a significant portion of their supporters, according to U of Aarhus researchers.

When two competing political parties in Denmark reversed their policy stance on an issue — suddenly they both supported reducing unemployment benefits — their voters immediately moved their opinions by around 15% into line with their party.

The same thing happened when one of these parties shifted from opposing to supporting ending Denmark’s early retirement.

The researchers were studying how public opinion is formed. Their recent paper sheds light on how much influence political parties have over their supporters, according to the researchers, who surveyed their panel of subjects in five successive waves between 2010 and 2011. They studied the same group of party supporters before, during and after a policy reversal.

“We can see that [the] welfare programs were actually quite popular … and many of the voters of the center-right party were in favor of these welfare programs,” commented one of the researchers, Rune Slothuus. “Nevertheless, we can see that they reversed their opinion from supporting these welfare programs to opposing these welfare programs.”

“I was surprised to see the parties appeared this powerful in shaping opinions,” Slothuus said. “Our findings suggest that partisan leaders can indeed lead citizens’ opinions in the real world, even in situations where the stakes are real and the economic consequences tangible.”

The researchers pondered Western democracy in light of their findings: “If citizens just blindly follow their party without thinking much about it, that should lead to some concern about the mechanisms in our democracy. Because how can partisan elites represent citizens’ views if the views of citizens are shaped by the very same elites who are supposed to represent them?”

Source: How Political Parties Shape Public Opinion in the Real World. Rune Slothuus and Martin Bisgaard. First published: 04 November 2020 https://doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12550

The brain listens for things it is trying to predict

The brain interprets sounds as they contrast with its expectations. It recognizes patterns of sounds faster when they’re in line with what it is predicting it will hear, but it only encodes sounds when they contrast with expectations, according to Technische U researchers.

Researchers showed this by monitoring the two principal nuclei of the subcortical pathway responsible for auditory processing: the inferior colliculus and the medial geniculate body, as their subjects listened to patterns of sounds which the researches modified so that sometimes they would hear an expected sound pattern, and other times something unexpected.

Source: Alejandro Tabas, Glad Mihai, Stefan Kiebel, Robert Trampel, Katharina von Kriegstein. Abstract rules drive adaptation in the subcortical sensory pathway. eLife, 2020; 9 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.64501

We have a particular way of understanding a room

When several research subjects were instructed to explore an empty room, and when they were instead seated in a chair and watched someone else explore the room, their brain waves followed a certain pattern, as recorded by a backpack hooked up to record their brain waves, eye movements, and paths. It didn’t matter if they were walking or watching someone else, according to UC researchers led by Dr Matthias Stangl.

The researchers also tested what happened when subjects searched for a hidden spot, or watched someone else do so, and found that brain waves flowed more strongly when they had a goal and hunted for something.

Source: Matthias Stangl, Uros Topalovic, Cory S. Inman, Sonja Hiller, Diane Villaroman, Zahra M. Aghajan, Leonardo Christov-Moore, Nicholas R. Hasulak, Vikram R. Rao, Casey H. Halpern, Dawn Eliashiv, Itzhak Fried, Nanthia Suthana. Boundary-anchored neural mechanisms of location-encoding for self and others. Nature, 2020; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-03073-y

Extroverts and introverts use different vocabularies

Extroverts use ‘positive emotion’ and ‘social process’ words more often than introverts, according to new research conducted at Nanyang Technological U.

‘Love,’ ‘happy,’ and ‘blessed’ indicate pleasant emotions, and ‘beautiful’ and ‘nice’ indicate positivity or optimism, and are among the words found to be used more often by extroverts. So too are ‘meet,’ ‘share,’ and ‘talk,’ which are about socializing. Extroverts use personal pronouns — except ‘I’ — more too, another indication of sociability.

The correlation, however, was small, and the researchers think that stronger linguistic indicators need to be found to achieve their general goal, which is improving machine learning approaches to targeting consumer marketing.

Source: Jiayu Chen, Lin Qiu, Moon-Ho Ringo Ho. A meta-analysis of linguistic markers of extraversion: Positive emotion and social process words. Journal of Research in Personality, 2020; 89: 104035 DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2020.104035

WhatsApp is changing today - Users must give the app permission to send their private data to Facebook or lose account

WhatsApp was bought by Facebook in 2014, but has thrived while promoting itself as a privacy-respecting messaging app that now has 1.5b monthly active users. This week, though, WhatApp sent out an update to users’ phones that they must ‘consent’ to a new policy or lose access.

Whatsapp will now share more of your data, including your IP address (your location) and phone number, your account registration information, your transaction data, and service-related data, interactions on WhatsApp, and other data collected based on your consent, with Facebook’s other companies. Facebook has been working towards more closely integrating Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger.

Users who do not agree to ‘consent’ to the new policy will see their WhatsApp account become inaccessible until they do ‘consent.’ These accounts will remain dormant for 120 days after which they will be ‘deleted.’

The biggest change to the user policy, which many people ignored and clicked ‘agree’ to, thinking it was just another unimportant app update message, now reads,

‘We collect information about your activity on our Services, like service-related, diagnostic, and performance information. This includes information about your activity (including how you use our Services, your Services settings, how you interact with others using our Services (including when you interact with a business), and the time, frequency, and duration of your activities and interactions), log files, and diagnostic, crash, website, and performance logs and reports. This also includes information about when you registered to use our Services; the features you use like our messaging, calling, Status, groups (including group name, group picture, group description), payments or business features; profile photo, “about” information; whether you are online, when you last used our Services (your “last seen”); and when you last updated your “about” information.’

Notably, Elon Musk tweeted on the news, saying that WhatsApp users should switch to Signal, one of several popular privacy-focused messaging apps similar to WhatsApp.

The data sharing policy change doesn’t affect people in Europe due to GDPR data protection regulations.

Material advantage: new metal matrix may cause marine engineers to switch

metal matrix

Metal sea wreckage might be made to float

The development of a new metal matrix composite foam may tip the balance back towards metal materials in the construction of marine vehicles — in addition to offering heat resistance well beyond that of the fiberglasses common in the industry today. According to NYU engineers, the first lighter-than-water metal construction foam can withstand significant pressure and three times as much heat as fiberglass.

“This is the first time anybody has been able to achieve density of the composite lower than that of water to create naturally buoyant materials,” explained New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering’s Dr. Nikhil Gupta.

Dr. Nikhil Gupta
Dr. Nikhil Gupta

The metal matrix composite is a magnesium alloy reinforced with spherical silicon carbide particles. The density — 0.92 grams per cubic centimeter versus water’s 1.0 – still allows the material to withstand 25,000 pounds per square inch of pressure before rupturing.

Some of the strength of the material is due to the hallow particles embedded in the material, which absorb energy during a fracture. With different measures of spheres added to the matrix, various densities can be created.

“The spheres are manufactured by our industrial partner Deep Spring Technology, Toledo, OH, USA,” noted Gupta, an expert in mechanical and aerospace engineering.

GUP_3482Spheres were the shape of choice for the foam. “This company also has capabilities of manufacturing hollow particles of many other shapes,” said Gupta, who referred to two other types of particle shapes — made of silicon carbide [gray color] and alumina [white color].

GUP_3486 - Copy“Spherical particles have advantage that their properties are the same from any side. Particles of different shapes need to be used with more caution with regard to loading them along their strongest direction.”

The light-weight heat-resistant material is also expected to offer potential improvements in fuel economy for land transportation. The ability of metallic materials to withstand high temperatures is one of the main selling points, Gupta noted.

“Some of the competing materials are polymer matrix composites, commonly known as ‘fiberglass.’ One of the limitations of fiberglass materials is that they cannot be used over 150 degrees Celsius because polymer will degrade or burn. In addition, fire, smoke, and toxicity are concerns when polymers are exposed to high temperature. Magnesium and Magnesium matrix composites can be used up to about 500 degrees Celsius. Automotive components such as pistons, connecting rods, exhaust systems and structural components can be made of lightweight Mg matrix composite materials. High temperature in many of these components prohibits use of polymer matrix composites.

“The Magnesium-hollow sphere composites that we have developed also absorb a large amount of energy under compression. This property is desirable in automotive energy absorber components in cursing zones. These foams can also be filled in A and B-pillars of cars, and doors for side impact energy absorption.”

The technology may be put into use in prototype automobiles and boats within three years, as well as in amphibious vehicles developed by the US military, where currently the trend is toward other materials, although experts consider that the new lightweight product may again give metals a material advantage.

“Weight reduction in transportation applications can help in reducing the fuel consumption,” Gupta told us. “In addition, the high energy absorption capability per unit mass in these materials can also help in making vehicles safer. However, one material cannot be used to make all components, we need to find the components that will benefit the most from these new materials.

The report, “Dynamic Properties of Silicon Carbide Hollow Particle Filled Magnesium Alloy (AZ91D) Matrix Syntactic Foams,” was completed by Harish Anantharaman, Vasanth Chakravarthy Shunmugasamy, Oliver M. Strbik III, Nikhil Gupta and Kyu Cho, and was published in the International Journal of Impact Engineering.

By Sid Douglas

When political parties reverse their policy stance, their supporters immediately switch their opinions too

At least a significant portion of their supporters, according to U of Aarhus researchers.

When two competing political parties in Denmark reversed their policy stance on an issue — suddenly they both supported reducing unemployment benefits — their voters immediately moved their opinions by around 15% into line with their party.

The same thing happened when one of these parties shifted from opposing to supporting ending Denmark’s early retirement.

The researchers were studying how public opinion is formed. Their recent paper sheds light on how much influence political parties have over their supporters, according to the researchers, who surveyed their panel of subjects in five successive waves between 2010 and 2011. They studied the same group of party supporters before, during and after a policy reversal.

“We can see that [the] welfare programs were actually quite popular … and many of the voters of the center-right party were in favor of these welfare programs,” commented one of the researchers, Rune Slothuus. “Nevertheless, we can see that they reversed their opinion from supporting these welfare programs to opposing these welfare programs.”

“I was surprised to see the parties appeared this powerful in shaping opinions,” Slothuus said. “Our findings suggest that partisan leaders can indeed lead citizens’ opinions in the real world, even in situations where the stakes are real and the economic consequences tangible.”

The researchers pondered Western democracy in light of their findings: “If citizens just blindly follow their party without thinking much about it, that should lead to some concern about the mechanisms in our democracy. Because how can partisan elites represent citizens’ views if the views of citizens are shaped by the very same elites who are supposed to represent them?”

Source: How Political Parties Shape Public Opinion in the Real World. Rune Slothuus and Martin Bisgaard. First published: 04 November 2020 https://doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12550

The brain listens for things it is trying to predict

The brain interprets sounds as they contrast with its expectations. It recognizes patterns of sounds faster when they’re in line with what it is predicting it will hear, but it only encodes sounds when they contrast with expectations, according to Technische U researchers.

Researchers showed this by monitoring the two principal nuclei of the subcortical pathway responsible for auditory processing: the inferior colliculus and the medial geniculate body, as their subjects listened to patterns of sounds which the researches modified so that sometimes they would hear an expected sound pattern, and other times something unexpected.

Source: Alejandro Tabas, Glad Mihai, Stefan Kiebel, Robert Trampel, Katharina von Kriegstein. Abstract rules drive adaptation in the subcortical sensory pathway. eLife, 2020; 9 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.64501

We have a particular way of understanding a room

When several research subjects were instructed to explore an empty room, and when they were instead seated in a chair and watched someone else explore the room, their brain waves followed a certain pattern, as recorded by a backpack hooked up to record their brain waves, eye movements, and paths. It didn’t matter if they were walking or watching someone else, according to UC researchers led by Dr Matthias Stangl.

The researchers also tested what happened when subjects searched for a hidden spot, or watched someone else do so, and found that brain waves flowed more strongly when they had a goal and hunted for something.

Source: Matthias Stangl, Uros Topalovic, Cory S. Inman, Sonja Hiller, Diane Villaroman, Zahra M. Aghajan, Leonardo Christov-Moore, Nicholas R. Hasulak, Vikram R. Rao, Casey H. Halpern, Dawn Eliashiv, Itzhak Fried, Nanthia Suthana. Boundary-anchored neural mechanisms of location-encoding for self and others. Nature, 2020; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-03073-y

Extroverts and introverts use different vocabularies

Extroverts use ‘positive emotion’ and ‘social process’ words more often than introverts, according to new research conducted at Nanyang Technological U.

‘Love,’ ‘happy,’ and ‘blessed’ indicate pleasant emotions, and ‘beautiful’ and ‘nice’ indicate positivity or optimism, and are among the words found to be used more often by extroverts. So too are ‘meet,’ ‘share,’ and ‘talk,’ which are about socializing. Extroverts use personal pronouns — except ‘I’ — more too, another indication of sociability.

The correlation, however, was small, and the researchers think that stronger linguistic indicators need to be found to achieve their general goal, which is improving machine learning approaches to targeting consumer marketing.

Source: Jiayu Chen, Lin Qiu, Moon-Ho Ringo Ho. A meta-analysis of linguistic markers of extraversion: Positive emotion and social process words. Journal of Research in Personality, 2020; 89: 104035 DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2020.104035

WhatsApp is changing today - Users must give the app permission to send their private data to Facebook or lose account

WhatsApp was bought by Facebook in 2014, but has thrived while promoting itself as a privacy-respecting messaging app that now has 1.5b monthly active users. This week, though, WhatApp sent out an update to users’ phones that they must ‘consent’ to a new policy or lose access.

Whatsapp will now share more of your data, including your IP address (your location) and phone number, your account registration information, your transaction data, and service-related data, interactions on WhatsApp, and other data collected based on your consent, with Facebook’s other companies. Facebook has been working towards more closely integrating Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger.

Users who do not agree to ‘consent’ to the new policy will see their WhatsApp account become inaccessible until they do ‘consent.’ These accounts will remain dormant for 120 days after which they will be ‘deleted.’

The biggest change to the user policy, which many people ignored and clicked ‘agree’ to, thinking it was just another unimportant app update message, now reads,

‘We collect information about your activity on our Services, like service-related, diagnostic, and performance information. This includes information about your activity (including how you use our Services, your Services settings, how you interact with others using our Services (including when you interact with a business), and the time, frequency, and duration of your activities and interactions), log files, and diagnostic, crash, website, and performance logs and reports. This also includes information about when you registered to use our Services; the features you use like our messaging, calling, Status, groups (including group name, group picture, group description), payments or business features; profile photo, “about” information; whether you are online, when you last used our Services (your “last seen”); and when you last updated your “about” information.’

Notably, Elon Musk tweeted on the news, saying that WhatsApp users should switch to Signal, one of several popular privacy-focused messaging apps similar to WhatsApp.

The data sharing policy change doesn’t affect people in Europe due to GDPR data protection regulations.

Vancouver’s Mansion Owners In Poverty

Vancouver's Mansion Owners In Poverty

Why in Vancouver’s wealthy neighborhoods — where houses cost over $2 million — over 30 percent of residents claim poverty

Mansion owners in Vancouver are claiming poverty at the same levels as those suffered by the city’s homeless struggling in the Downtown Eastside.

A recent study by University of B.C. geographer Dan Hiebert has revealed that wealthy business-investor immigrants to Canada — hundreds of thousands of whom have chosen to relocate to Vancouver — are “poor” enough to receive social welfare.

Vancouver's Mansion Owners In Poverty (2)
Areas of Vancouver that report extreme low income (Dan Hiebert)

The neighborhoods that report the most poverty, according to Hiebert’s report, which is based on Statistics Canada data, are the upscale Metro neighborhoods with high proportions of immigrants — mostly Chinese.

In these areas over 30 percent of adults claim poverty.

The houses in these areas, including Shaughnessy-Arbutus, south of Oakridge Shopping Center, and north-central Richmond — sell in the range of $2 million to $6 million Canadian.

Shaughnessy-Arbutus is currently 50 percent Chinese and 34 percent white, although the percentage of Chinese in all of Vancouver’s neighborhoods is currently rising.

South of Oakridge Shopping Center, the percentage of Chinese is 70 percent. Whites make up 20 percent.

Several north Richmond neighborhoods are “low-income” according to tax stats. These neighborhoods are also approximately 60 percent Chinese.

Hiebert’s data echoes another recent study conducted by Vancouver mathematician Jens Von Bergmann which found that 1 in 10 households declare less income than they spent on housing costs — mostly in Vancouver’s West Side.

Canada’s business investor program allowed foreign nationals to obtain a Canadian passport in exchange for a temporary investment of $800,000 Canadian — an amount much lower than similar programs in other countries popular with wealthy immigrants. The program was cancelled last year but the Quebec business investor program remains in use, allowing thousands to land in Quebec before relocating to Vancouver.

Just those immigrants who have relocated to Vancouver (current population under 2.5 million for Greater Vancouver Area) using this program amount to approximately 200,000 in the last generation. However, the number of new immigrants to Vancouver is estimated to be over 30,000 per year.

Many Canadians see this issue in terms of tax fairness because those rich in assets but poor in income do not pay for public services.

However, a further consideration exists, according Vancouver immigration lawyer Samuel Hymm.

Many of these families actually do have high incomes — a phenomenon in Canada known as “astronauts” because the husband usually works overseas while the wife and children live in Canada — but these incomes are not reported and, according to Hymm, neither the B.C. government or the federal government are cracking down on rich home buyers.

Critics such as Immigration Watch Canada’s Dan Murray have pointed out the political nature of the problem. Despite the breadth of the issue and the cost to Canadian taxpayers, no Canadian political party has said a word about it, despite the current federal election.

“So far, none of our five major political parties has even uttered a peep about this matter,” Murray told The Speaker. “The point is that several million immigrants — particularly hundreds of thousands of Investor Immigrants — have been taking huge amounts of economic and social benefits from Canada, but have been contributing next to nothing. And they have been getting away with it because the Canada Revenue Agency has not pursued these hundreds of thousands or millions of cheats.”

Murray has asserted that the issue should be a top election matter. “It translates into a major scandal,” Murray said. “It should be a major election scandal.”

Note: The UBC news source for this story was removed from the internet after publication, so we link to a copy of the cached version here

When political parties reverse their policy stance, their supporters immediately switch their opinions too

At least a significant portion of their supporters, according to U of Aarhus researchers.

When two competing political parties in Denmark reversed their policy stance on an issue — suddenly they both supported reducing unemployment benefits — their voters immediately moved their opinions by around 15% into line with their party.

The same thing happened when one of these parties shifted from opposing to supporting ending Denmark’s early retirement.

The researchers were studying how public opinion is formed. Their recent paper sheds light on how much influence political parties have over their supporters, according to the researchers, who surveyed their panel of subjects in five successive waves between 2010 and 2011. They studied the same group of party supporters before, during and after a policy reversal.

“We can see that [the] welfare programs were actually quite popular … and many of the voters of the center-right party were in favor of these welfare programs,” commented one of the researchers, Rune Slothuus. “Nevertheless, we can see that they reversed their opinion from supporting these welfare programs to opposing these welfare programs.”

“I was surprised to see the parties appeared this powerful in shaping opinions,” Slothuus said. “Our findings suggest that partisan leaders can indeed lead citizens’ opinions in the real world, even in situations where the stakes are real and the economic consequences tangible.”

The researchers pondered Western democracy in light of their findings: “If citizens just blindly follow their party without thinking much about it, that should lead to some concern about the mechanisms in our democracy. Because how can partisan elites represent citizens’ views if the views of citizens are shaped by the very same elites who are supposed to represent them?”

Source: How Political Parties Shape Public Opinion in the Real World. Rune Slothuus and Martin Bisgaard. First published: 04 November 2020 https://doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12550

The brain listens for things it is trying to predict

The brain interprets sounds as they contrast with its expectations. It recognizes patterns of sounds faster when they’re in line with what it is predicting it will hear, but it only encodes sounds when they contrast with expectations, according to Technische U researchers.

Researchers showed this by monitoring the two principal nuclei of the subcortical pathway responsible for auditory processing: the inferior colliculus and the medial geniculate body, as their subjects listened to patterns of sounds which the researches modified so that sometimes they would hear an expected sound pattern, and other times something unexpected.

Source: Alejandro Tabas, Glad Mihai, Stefan Kiebel, Robert Trampel, Katharina von Kriegstein. Abstract rules drive adaptation in the subcortical sensory pathway. eLife, 2020; 9 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.64501

We have a particular way of understanding a room

When several research subjects were instructed to explore an empty room, and when they were instead seated in a chair and watched someone else explore the room, their brain waves followed a certain pattern, as recorded by a backpack hooked up to record their brain waves, eye movements, and paths. It didn’t matter if they were walking or watching someone else, according to UC researchers led by Dr Matthias Stangl.

The researchers also tested what happened when subjects searched for a hidden spot, or watched someone else do so, and found that brain waves flowed more strongly when they had a goal and hunted for something.

Source: Matthias Stangl, Uros Topalovic, Cory S. Inman, Sonja Hiller, Diane Villaroman, Zahra M. Aghajan, Leonardo Christov-Moore, Nicholas R. Hasulak, Vikram R. Rao, Casey H. Halpern, Dawn Eliashiv, Itzhak Fried, Nanthia Suthana. Boundary-anchored neural mechanisms of location-encoding for self and others. Nature, 2020; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-03073-y

Extroverts and introverts use different vocabularies

Extroverts use ‘positive emotion’ and ‘social process’ words more often than introverts, according to new research conducted at Nanyang Technological U.

‘Love,’ ‘happy,’ and ‘blessed’ indicate pleasant emotions, and ‘beautiful’ and ‘nice’ indicate positivity or optimism, and are among the words found to be used more often by extroverts. So too are ‘meet,’ ‘share,’ and ‘talk,’ which are about socializing. Extroverts use personal pronouns — except ‘I’ — more too, another indication of sociability.

The correlation, however, was small, and the researchers think that stronger linguistic indicators need to be found to achieve their general goal, which is improving machine learning approaches to targeting consumer marketing.

Source: Jiayu Chen, Lin Qiu, Moon-Ho Ringo Ho. A meta-analysis of linguistic markers of extraversion: Positive emotion and social process words. Journal of Research in Personality, 2020; 89: 104035 DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2020.104035

WhatsApp is changing today - Users must give the app permission to send their private data to Facebook or lose account

WhatsApp was bought by Facebook in 2014, but has thrived while promoting itself as a privacy-respecting messaging app that now has 1.5b monthly active users. This week, though, WhatApp sent out an update to users’ phones that they must ‘consent’ to a new policy or lose access.

Whatsapp will now share more of your data, including your IP address (your location) and phone number, your account registration information, your transaction data, and service-related data, interactions on WhatsApp, and other data collected based on your consent, with Facebook’s other companies. Facebook has been working towards more closely integrating Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger.

Users who do not agree to ‘consent’ to the new policy will see their WhatsApp account become inaccessible until they do ‘consent.’ These accounts will remain dormant for 120 days after which they will be ‘deleted.’

The biggest change to the user policy, which many people ignored and clicked ‘agree’ to, thinking it was just another unimportant app update message, now reads,

‘We collect information about your activity on our Services, like service-related, diagnostic, and performance information. This includes information about your activity (including how you use our Services, your Services settings, how you interact with others using our Services (including when you interact with a business), and the time, frequency, and duration of your activities and interactions), log files, and diagnostic, crash, website, and performance logs and reports. This also includes information about when you registered to use our Services; the features you use like our messaging, calling, Status, groups (including group name, group picture, group description), payments or business features; profile photo, “about” information; whether you are online, when you last used our Services (your “last seen”); and when you last updated your “about” information.’

Notably, Elon Musk tweeted on the news, saying that WhatsApp users should switch to Signal, one of several popular privacy-focused messaging apps similar to WhatsApp.

The data sharing policy change doesn’t affect people in Europe due to GDPR data protection regulations.

Poetry Slam Madrid

On the first Wednesday of every month, Poetry Slam Madrid invades Bar Intruso for a few hours and a poetry slam event takes place. This reporter met with one of the organizers to find out a little bit more about the emerging art form.

In a bar in the La Latina area of Madrid, Jonathan Teuma sits across me from with his eyes wide and full of ideas and his goatee tufting out like two fingers to the powers that be. He very much puts me in mind of Gustave Courbet’s “Desperate Man,” and Jonathan, much like the painter himself, lives his life under no regime save for the regime of liberty, and he comes from a socialist agitator stock. When I first met this affable Gibraltarian, he had tucked under his arm book called “My Grandmother was an Anarchist” and we had a discussion about the pointlessness of nationalism, with me for and him against. This man, literally and figuratively, from between two worlds has travelled extensively this big world we all share, from Angola to England, and now to Madrid. Jonathan Teuma, as one of the coordinators of the Poetry Slam movement in Madrid, shows himself as a passionate promoter of the group.

The tenor of the poetry slam is generally a leftie one, with artists shouting, acting, musing, and condemning through the performance art of poetry slam. Every month, a guest poet opens proceedings by doing a reading and this is followed by local poets vying to win that night’s competition, as voted for by the crowd. It’s like Eminem’s 8 Mile but less depressing, more political, and equally as socially conscious.

“My poetry is a look at what is around me, it is mental digestion of what is around me, and a comment on that.”

Any prop used by a poet automatically disqualifies the poet and so the poet must solely rely on their voice, their body, and their passion. In my time observing them, the economic recession, forced evictions, abortion, religion, and a whole host of hot-button issues have been adapted into the poetry slam format. It is quite an experience to witness a slam as many of the poems are poor enough when read but when spoken are animated through the vocalizations of the modern equivalent of ancient poets passing down myths.

Jonathan is the embodiment of all aspects of Poetry Slam. His actions are theatrical and his voice seems catapulted from center stage. His family, on both sides and from both sides of the Civil War divide, escaped the increasingly intense conflict for the refuge of Gibraltar. His Great-Grandfather evaded Franco’s troops and was smuggled over by a reluctant fisherman and, for the second leg of the journey, by an off-duty policeman. His Great-Grandmother was smuggled children over into Gibraltar on one occasion, and other members of his family distributed anti-Franco propaganda in the south of Spain or were strike leaders. This lineage has had an influence on his poetry, with Jonathan stating that, “I have been put squarely on the left by my family,” and that, “My poetry is a look at what is around me, it is mental digestion of what is around me, and a comment on that. It is impregnated with a Leftist ideology.”

The Poetry Slam movement is quite international and it is arguably at its strongest in Germany. The movements around Spain are interlinked and they share poets for workshops up and down the country while poetry slammers from around the globe are invited to perform or sometimes eve ask on their own volition to participate. Starting this month, there will be a monthly English poetry slam that hopes to widen the net of the slam over the heads of new and aspiring performers.

It is a growing movement and if you want to witness it or participate, then call in to Bar Intruso, C/ Augosto Figueroa, 3. Its biggest value for me, after absorbing as much as I can, is that in a country such as Spain, where free speech is limited and protests harder to implement, the Poetry Slam Madrid movement is one way to verbalize and debate, the two key parts of any healthy democracy that are now essential in this democratically sick country where there are those trying to stop people using their voice.

By Enda Kenneally

When political parties reverse their policy stance, their supporters immediately switch their opinions too

At least a significant portion of their supporters, according to U of Aarhus researchers.

When two competing political parties in Denmark reversed their policy stance on an issue — suddenly they both supported reducing unemployment benefits — their voters immediately moved their opinions by around 15% into line with their party.

The same thing happened when one of these parties shifted from opposing to supporting ending Denmark’s early retirement.

The researchers were studying how public opinion is formed. Their recent paper sheds light on how much influence political parties have over their supporters, according to the researchers, who surveyed their panel of subjects in five successive waves between 2010 and 2011. They studied the same group of party supporters before, during and after a policy reversal.

“We can see that [the] welfare programs were actually quite popular … and many of the voters of the center-right party were in favor of these welfare programs,” commented one of the researchers, Rune Slothuus. “Nevertheless, we can see that they reversed their opinion from supporting these welfare programs to opposing these welfare programs.”

“I was surprised to see the parties appeared this powerful in shaping opinions,” Slothuus said. “Our findings suggest that partisan leaders can indeed lead citizens’ opinions in the real world, even in situations where the stakes are real and the economic consequences tangible.”

The researchers pondered Western democracy in light of their findings: “If citizens just blindly follow their party without thinking much about it, that should lead to some concern about the mechanisms in our democracy. Because how can partisan elites represent citizens’ views if the views of citizens are shaped by the very same elites who are supposed to represent them?”

Source: How Political Parties Shape Public Opinion in the Real World. Rune Slothuus and Martin Bisgaard. First published: 04 November 2020 https://doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12550

The brain listens for things it is trying to predict

The brain interprets sounds as they contrast with its expectations. It recognizes patterns of sounds faster when they’re in line with what it is predicting it will hear, but it only encodes sounds when they contrast with expectations, according to Technische U researchers.

Researchers showed this by monitoring the two principal nuclei of the subcortical pathway responsible for auditory processing: the inferior colliculus and the medial geniculate body, as their subjects listened to patterns of sounds which the researches modified so that sometimes they would hear an expected sound pattern, and other times something unexpected.

Source: Alejandro Tabas, Glad Mihai, Stefan Kiebel, Robert Trampel, Katharina von Kriegstein. Abstract rules drive adaptation in the subcortical sensory pathway. eLife, 2020; 9 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.64501

We have a particular way of understanding a room

When several research subjects were instructed to explore an empty room, and when they were instead seated in a chair and watched someone else explore the room, their brain waves followed a certain pattern, as recorded by a backpack hooked up to record their brain waves, eye movements, and paths. It didn’t matter if they were walking or watching someone else, according to UC researchers led by Dr Matthias Stangl.

The researchers also tested what happened when subjects searched for a hidden spot, or watched someone else do so, and found that brain waves flowed more strongly when they had a goal and hunted for something.

Source: Matthias Stangl, Uros Topalovic, Cory S. Inman, Sonja Hiller, Diane Villaroman, Zahra M. Aghajan, Leonardo Christov-Moore, Nicholas R. Hasulak, Vikram R. Rao, Casey H. Halpern, Dawn Eliashiv, Itzhak Fried, Nanthia Suthana. Boundary-anchored neural mechanisms of location-encoding for self and others. Nature, 2020; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-03073-y

Extroverts and introverts use different vocabularies

Extroverts use ‘positive emotion’ and ‘social process’ words more often than introverts, according to new research conducted at Nanyang Technological U.

‘Love,’ ‘happy,’ and ‘blessed’ indicate pleasant emotions, and ‘beautiful’ and ‘nice’ indicate positivity or optimism, and are among the words found to be used more often by extroverts. So too are ‘meet,’ ‘share,’ and ‘talk,’ which are about socializing. Extroverts use personal pronouns — except ‘I’ — more too, another indication of sociability.

The correlation, however, was small, and the researchers think that stronger linguistic indicators need to be found to achieve their general goal, which is improving machine learning approaches to targeting consumer marketing.

Source: Jiayu Chen, Lin Qiu, Moon-Ho Ringo Ho. A meta-analysis of linguistic markers of extraversion: Positive emotion and social process words. Journal of Research in Personality, 2020; 89: 104035 DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2020.104035

WhatsApp is changing today - Users must give the app permission to send their private data to Facebook or lose account

WhatsApp was bought by Facebook in 2014, but has thrived while promoting itself as a privacy-respecting messaging app that now has 1.5b monthly active users. This week, though, WhatApp sent out an update to users’ phones that they must ‘consent’ to a new policy or lose access.

Whatsapp will now share more of your data, including your IP address (your location) and phone number, your account registration information, your transaction data, and service-related data, interactions on WhatsApp, and other data collected based on your consent, with Facebook’s other companies. Facebook has been working towards more closely integrating Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger.

Users who do not agree to ‘consent’ to the new policy will see their WhatsApp account become inaccessible until they do ‘consent.’ These accounts will remain dormant for 120 days after which they will be ‘deleted.’

The biggest change to the user policy, which many people ignored and clicked ‘agree’ to, thinking it was just another unimportant app update message, now reads,

‘We collect information about your activity on our Services, like service-related, diagnostic, and performance information. This includes information about your activity (including how you use our Services, your Services settings, how you interact with others using our Services (including when you interact with a business), and the time, frequency, and duration of your activities and interactions), log files, and diagnostic, crash, website, and performance logs and reports. This also includes information about when you registered to use our Services; the features you use like our messaging, calling, Status, groups (including group name, group picture, group description), payments or business features; profile photo, “about” information; whether you are online, when you last used our Services (your “last seen”); and when you last updated your “about” information.’

Notably, Elon Musk tweeted on the news, saying that WhatsApp users should switch to Signal, one of several popular privacy-focused messaging apps similar to WhatsApp.

The data sharing policy change doesn’t affect people in Europe due to GDPR data protection regulations.

Mexico: Thousands March One Year After Disappearance Of 43 Students – Photo Document

MEXICO CITY — Thousands of people took to the streets Saturday to mark the anniversary of the disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa, Guerrero in a case involving corrupt police and high-ranking members of the army that continues to trouble Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.

Parents and relatives of the missing students led the march from an area close to the presidential residence of “Los Pinos,” carrying with them pictures of their loved ones and shouting slogans rejecting the official statement of their fate.

Days before the march, President Nieto held a meeting with the parents of the 43 missing students to hear their demands and show support for their cause.

“We are on the same side,” Peña declared.

Nevertheless, the Parents described the president’s attitude toward the case as “indifferent,” and while more than 10,000 people were marching through one of the main boulevards of Mexico City, Nieto was attending to the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York City.

“Because alive they were taken, alive we want them back!” was the slogan of the march; Signs that read “Crime of the State,” “Get out Peña,” and “Peña, Murderer” were shown all along the march. Various Mexican personalities such as Elena Poniatowska, a Mexican journalist, author and activist, and Hipolito Mora, leader of self-defense groups in Guerrero, were also present, asking for justice.

The march proceeded peacefully except for one group 0f self-named “anarchists,” who launched a series of riots, ending in clashes with police but without causing much damage.

The march culminated at the historic Zocalo, a giant square in the heart of Mexico City, with a speech by the spokesman for the families, Felipe de la Cruz, in which he encouraged demonstrators to show their outrage over what happened in Ayotzinapa, Atenco and Tlatlaya, where state crimes have been committed and where impunity still reigns.

Text and Images by David Córdova

 

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When political parties reverse their policy stance, their supporters immediately switch their opinions too

At least a significant portion of their supporters, according to U of Aarhus researchers.

When two competing political parties in Denmark reversed their policy stance on an issue — suddenly they both supported reducing unemployment benefits — their voters immediately moved their opinions by around 15% into line with their party.

The same thing happened when one of these parties shifted from opposing to supporting ending Denmark’s early retirement.

The researchers were studying how public opinion is formed. Their recent paper sheds light on how much influence political parties have over their supporters, according to the researchers, who surveyed their panel of subjects in five successive waves between 2010 and 2011. They studied the same group of party supporters before, during and after a policy reversal.

“We can see that [the] welfare programs were actually quite popular … and many of the voters of the center-right party were in favor of these welfare programs,” commented one of the researchers, Rune Slothuus. “Nevertheless, we can see that they reversed their opinion from supporting these welfare programs to opposing these welfare programs.”

“I was surprised to see the parties appeared this powerful in shaping opinions,” Slothuus said. “Our findings suggest that partisan leaders can indeed lead citizens’ opinions in the real world, even in situations where the stakes are real and the economic consequences tangible.”

The researchers pondered Western democracy in light of their findings: “If citizens just blindly follow their party without thinking much about it, that should lead to some concern about the mechanisms in our democracy. Because how can partisan elites represent citizens’ views if the views of citizens are shaped by the very same elites who are supposed to represent them?”

Source: How Political Parties Shape Public Opinion in the Real World. Rune Slothuus and Martin Bisgaard. First published: 04 November 2020 https://doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12550

The brain listens for things it is trying to predict

The brain interprets sounds as they contrast with its expectations. It recognizes patterns of sounds faster when they’re in line with what it is predicting it will hear, but it only encodes sounds when they contrast with expectations, according to Technische U researchers.

Researchers showed this by monitoring the two principal nuclei of the subcortical pathway responsible for auditory processing: the inferior colliculus and the medial geniculate body, as their subjects listened to patterns of sounds which the researches modified so that sometimes they would hear an expected sound pattern, and other times something unexpected.

Source: Alejandro Tabas, Glad Mihai, Stefan Kiebel, Robert Trampel, Katharina von Kriegstein. Abstract rules drive adaptation in the subcortical sensory pathway. eLife, 2020; 9 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.64501

We have a particular way of understanding a room

When several research subjects were instructed to explore an empty room, and when they were instead seated in a chair and watched someone else explore the room, their brain waves followed a certain pattern, as recorded by a backpack hooked up to record their brain waves, eye movements, and paths. It didn’t matter if they were walking or watching someone else, according to UC researchers led by Dr Matthias Stangl.

The researchers also tested what happened when subjects searched for a hidden spot, or watched someone else do so, and found that brain waves flowed more strongly when they had a goal and hunted for something.

Source: Matthias Stangl, Uros Topalovic, Cory S. Inman, Sonja Hiller, Diane Villaroman, Zahra M. Aghajan, Leonardo Christov-Moore, Nicholas R. Hasulak, Vikram R. Rao, Casey H. Halpern, Dawn Eliashiv, Itzhak Fried, Nanthia Suthana. Boundary-anchored neural mechanisms of location-encoding for self and others. Nature, 2020; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-03073-y

Extroverts and introverts use different vocabularies

Extroverts use ‘positive emotion’ and ‘social process’ words more often than introverts, according to new research conducted at Nanyang Technological U.

‘Love,’ ‘happy,’ and ‘blessed’ indicate pleasant emotions, and ‘beautiful’ and ‘nice’ indicate positivity or optimism, and are among the words found to be used more often by extroverts. So too are ‘meet,’ ‘share,’ and ‘talk,’ which are about socializing. Extroverts use personal pronouns — except ‘I’ — more too, another indication of sociability.

The correlation, however, was small, and the researchers think that stronger linguistic indicators need to be found to achieve their general goal, which is improving machine learning approaches to targeting consumer marketing.

Source: Jiayu Chen, Lin Qiu, Moon-Ho Ringo Ho. A meta-analysis of linguistic markers of extraversion: Positive emotion and social process words. Journal of Research in Personality, 2020; 89: 104035 DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2020.104035

WhatsApp is changing today - Users must give the app permission to send their private data to Facebook or lose account

WhatsApp was bought by Facebook in 2014, but has thrived while promoting itself as a privacy-respecting messaging app that now has 1.5b monthly active users. This week, though, WhatApp sent out an update to users’ phones that they must ‘consent’ to a new policy or lose access.

Whatsapp will now share more of your data, including your IP address (your location) and phone number, your account registration information, your transaction data, and service-related data, interactions on WhatsApp, and other data collected based on your consent, with Facebook’s other companies. Facebook has been working towards more closely integrating Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger.

Users who do not agree to ‘consent’ to the new policy will see their WhatsApp account become inaccessible until they do ‘consent.’ These accounts will remain dormant for 120 days after which they will be ‘deleted.’

The biggest change to the user policy, which many people ignored and clicked ‘agree’ to, thinking it was just another unimportant app update message, now reads,

‘We collect information about your activity on our Services, like service-related, diagnostic, and performance information. This includes information about your activity (including how you use our Services, your Services settings, how you interact with others using our Services (including when you interact with a business), and the time, frequency, and duration of your activities and interactions), log files, and diagnostic, crash, website, and performance logs and reports. This also includes information about when you registered to use our Services; the features you use like our messaging, calling, Status, groups (including group name, group picture, group description), payments or business features; profile photo, “about” information; whether you are online, when you last used our Services (your “last seen”); and when you last updated your “about” information.’

Notably, Elon Musk tweeted on the news, saying that WhatsApp users should switch to Signal, one of several popular privacy-focused messaging apps similar to WhatsApp.

The data sharing policy change doesn’t affect people in Europe due to GDPR data protection regulations.

Cairo’s Walls Of Freedom Demolished – Photo Document

Mohamed Mahmoud street graffiti thespeaker.co

Mohamed Mahmoud street, one of the most iconic locations of modern Egyptian history, famous for its walls graffitied by artists who gave color to the Revolution of 2011, is now being demolishing as part of a renovation project.

Online news website Ahram Online reported that the order for demolishing the walls of The American University in Cairo, where the most famous graffiti is located, came from the Cairo Governorate. The instructions also include tearing down the university’s science building.

The indignation of the the Egyptian youth was immediate. Many consider Mohamed Mahmoud Street’s graffiti to be a monument to the 2011 revolution, in which President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown after almost 30 years in power.

A meme has been circulating on social media showing President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi peeking behind the wall that is now being destroyed, raising questions about the leader’s responsibility for the demolition of the iconic revolutionary locale, right next to Tahrir Square.

11958116_10204625413747279_5772814571252653751_o

Image credit: Ahmed M. Tuni

A law that recently passed in Egypt dictates that any anti-government graffiti is now considered a criminal act. Many Egyptians have voiced opposition to the legislation, saying the law hits strongly against freedom of speech in the country.

 

With the destruction of the revolutionary graffiti wall, some fear that an era will sadly come to an end in Mohamed Mahmoud Street and the symbolic center of the Egyptian Revolution.

Text and photography by David A Córdova M.

Mohamed Mahmoud Street Graffiti

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When political parties reverse their policy stance, their supporters immediately switch their opinions too

At least a significant portion of their supporters, according to U of Aarhus researchers.

When two competing political parties in Denmark reversed their policy stance on an issue — suddenly they both supported reducing unemployment benefits — their voters immediately moved their opinions by around 15% into line with their party.

The same thing happened when one of these parties shifted from opposing to supporting ending Denmark’s early retirement.

The researchers were studying how public opinion is formed. Their recent paper sheds light on how much influence political parties have over their supporters, according to the researchers, who surveyed their panel of subjects in five successive waves between 2010 and 2011. They studied the same group of party supporters before, during and after a policy reversal.

“We can see that [the] welfare programs were actually quite popular … and many of the voters of the center-right party were in favor of these welfare programs,” commented one of the researchers, Rune Slothuus. “Nevertheless, we can see that they reversed their opinion from supporting these welfare programs to opposing these welfare programs.”

“I was surprised to see the parties appeared this powerful in shaping opinions,” Slothuus said. “Our findings suggest that partisan leaders can indeed lead citizens’ opinions in the real world, even in situations where the stakes are real and the economic consequences tangible.”

The researchers pondered Western democracy in light of their findings: “If citizens just blindly follow their party without thinking much about it, that should lead to some concern about the mechanisms in our democracy. Because how can partisan elites represent citizens’ views if the views of citizens are shaped by the very same elites who are supposed to represent them?”

Source: How Political Parties Shape Public Opinion in the Real World. Rune Slothuus and Martin Bisgaard. First published: 04 November 2020 https://doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12550

The brain listens for things it is trying to predict

The brain interprets sounds as they contrast with its expectations. It recognizes patterns of sounds faster when they’re in line with what it is predicting it will hear, but it only encodes sounds when they contrast with expectations, according to Technische U researchers.

Researchers showed this by monitoring the two principal nuclei of the subcortical pathway responsible for auditory processing: the inferior colliculus and the medial geniculate body, as their subjects listened to patterns of sounds which the researches modified so that sometimes they would hear an expected sound pattern, and other times something unexpected.

Source: Alejandro Tabas, Glad Mihai, Stefan Kiebel, Robert Trampel, Katharina von Kriegstein. Abstract rules drive adaptation in the subcortical sensory pathway. eLife, 2020; 9 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.64501

We have a particular way of understanding a room

When several research subjects were instructed to explore an empty room, and when they were instead seated in a chair and watched someone else explore the room, their brain waves followed a certain pattern, as recorded by a backpack hooked up to record their brain waves, eye movements, and paths. It didn’t matter if they were walking or watching someone else, according to UC researchers led by Dr Matthias Stangl.

The researchers also tested what happened when subjects searched for a hidden spot, or watched someone else do so, and found that brain waves flowed more strongly when they had a goal and hunted for something.

Source: Matthias Stangl, Uros Topalovic, Cory S. Inman, Sonja Hiller, Diane Villaroman, Zahra M. Aghajan, Leonardo Christov-Moore, Nicholas R. Hasulak, Vikram R. Rao, Casey H. Halpern, Dawn Eliashiv, Itzhak Fried, Nanthia Suthana. Boundary-anchored neural mechanisms of location-encoding for self and others. Nature, 2020; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-03073-y

Extroverts and introverts use different vocabularies

Extroverts use ‘positive emotion’ and ‘social process’ words more often than introverts, according to new research conducted at Nanyang Technological U.

‘Love,’ ‘happy,’ and ‘blessed’ indicate pleasant emotions, and ‘beautiful’ and ‘nice’ indicate positivity or optimism, and are among the words found to be used more often by extroverts. So too are ‘meet,’ ‘share,’ and ‘talk,’ which are about socializing. Extroverts use personal pronouns — except ‘I’ — more too, another indication of sociability.

The correlation, however, was small, and the researchers think that stronger linguistic indicators need to be found to achieve their general goal, which is improving machine learning approaches to targeting consumer marketing.

Source: Jiayu Chen, Lin Qiu, Moon-Ho Ringo Ho. A meta-analysis of linguistic markers of extraversion: Positive emotion and social process words. Journal of Research in Personality, 2020; 89: 104035 DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2020.104035

WhatsApp is changing today - Users must give the app permission to send their private data to Facebook or lose account

WhatsApp was bought by Facebook in 2014, but has thrived while promoting itself as a privacy-respecting messaging app that now has 1.5b monthly active users. This week, though, WhatApp sent out an update to users’ phones that they must ‘consent’ to a new policy or lose access.

Whatsapp will now share more of your data, including your IP address (your location) and phone number, your account registration information, your transaction data, and service-related data, interactions on WhatsApp, and other data collected based on your consent, with Facebook’s other companies. Facebook has been working towards more closely integrating Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger.

Users who do not agree to ‘consent’ to the new policy will see their WhatsApp account become inaccessible until they do ‘consent.’ These accounts will remain dormant for 120 days after which they will be ‘deleted.’

The biggest change to the user policy, which many people ignored and clicked ‘agree’ to, thinking it was just another unimportant app update message, now reads,

‘We collect information about your activity on our Services, like service-related, diagnostic, and performance information. This includes information about your activity (including how you use our Services, your Services settings, how you interact with others using our Services (including when you interact with a business), and the time, frequency, and duration of your activities and interactions), log files, and diagnostic, crash, website, and performance logs and reports. This also includes information about when you registered to use our Services; the features you use like our messaging, calling, Status, groups (including group name, group picture, group description), payments or business features; profile photo, “about” information; whether you are online, when you last used our Services (your “last seen”); and when you last updated your “about” information.’

Notably, Elon Musk tweeted on the news, saying that WhatsApp users should switch to Signal, one of several popular privacy-focused messaging apps similar to WhatsApp.

The data sharing policy change doesn’t affect people in Europe due to GDPR data protection regulations.

Fragrances are a woman’s secret, even from her friends

fragrance

A recent study by Dutch design aesthetics researchers has discovered that women closely guard their fragrance identity to the point that they will keep it secret from the entire world if they can — so secret that even their friends cannot copy their personal scent, and they certainly won’t buy perfumes they like for their friends.

“The question here is not only: how do you express you identity? But it is: what types of items can someone else buy for you?” Dr. Rick Schifferstein of Delf University of Technology in the Netherlands told The Speaker. Schifferstein and his team were studying what effects packaging has on fragrance purchase when they made the somewhat unexpected discovery.

“Everyone expresses their identity through their appearance and their actions,” he explained. “Apparently, your identity  is not only expressed through the way you dress or your haircut, but also by the fragrance you wear.

Women won’t buy perfumes for each other, the team found, unless they don’t like the scent themselves, or when they may have previously liked the scent but no longer have a purpose for it. Actually, the researchers found, women tend to “sabotage” their friends when they give this type of gift. Women will buy a scent they like for themselves or their boyfriend — which is something women like to do, the findings showed — but will only buy scents they dislike for their female friends.

“While women hold fragrances as personally intimate and respect other women’s intimate choices, they happily want to influence what fragrances men wear,” Dr Bryan Howell, co-author of the study, said. “Assuming it is for a spouse or boyfriend, they want to pick fragrances they also like since they’ll be around that person often.”

The issue is more complicated than a simple concept of “sabotage” though, according to the researchers, and has to do with the importance of personal identity. Schifferstein explained some of the complexity of the issue by referring to the gift motivations, concerns and preferences of women.

Rick Schifferstein
Dr. Rick Schifferstein

“Giving someone a fragrance might suggest that they need one because they smell bad. This could cause unwanted questions to occur between friends. Women prefer to avoid that possibility and look for a gift that is safer to share.”

In case women do give their friends fragrances, it may concern fragrances that are no longer working for themselves and that are passed on to their friends, in hopes that they will work for them. Alternatively, women may appreciate the personality or preference differences between themselves and their friends, and may decide to give them a fragrance that has a different character than what they would buy for themselves.

“Fragrance categories — for example, fruity, spicy, citrus, floral — may play an important role in this process: Some women identified themselves as belonging to a certain category and they would consider purchasing only fragrances from this category for themselves. Consequently, they would not recommend these fragrances for their female best friends.”

The gifts women choose for each other tend to be purchased with a strong motivation to play it safe: “The more intimate the item, the less likely it will be considered appropriate as a gift.” Gifts such as CDs, books, and flowers tend to suit this less intimate, more safe approach, Schifferstein told us.

The report, “Using color–odor correspondences for fragrance packaging design” was completed by Bryan F. Howell and Hendrik N.J. Schifferstein, and was published on Science Direct.

By Andy Stern

When political parties reverse their policy stance, their supporters immediately switch their opinions too

At least a significant portion of their supporters, according to U of Aarhus researchers.

When two competing political parties in Denmark reversed their policy stance on an issue — suddenly they both supported reducing unemployment benefits — their voters immediately moved their opinions by around 15% into line with their party.

The same thing happened when one of these parties shifted from opposing to supporting ending Denmark’s early retirement.

The researchers were studying how public opinion is formed. Their recent paper sheds light on how much influence political parties have over their supporters, according to the researchers, who surveyed their panel of subjects in five successive waves between 2010 and 2011. They studied the same group of party supporters before, during and after a policy reversal.

“We can see that [the] welfare programs were actually quite popular … and many of the voters of the center-right party were in favor of these welfare programs,” commented one of the researchers, Rune Slothuus. “Nevertheless, we can see that they reversed their opinion from supporting these welfare programs to opposing these welfare programs.”

“I was surprised to see the parties appeared this powerful in shaping opinions,” Slothuus said. “Our findings suggest that partisan leaders can indeed lead citizens’ opinions in the real world, even in situations where the stakes are real and the economic consequences tangible.”

The researchers pondered Western democracy in light of their findings: “If citizens just blindly follow their party without thinking much about it, that should lead to some concern about the mechanisms in our democracy. Because how can partisan elites represent citizens’ views if the views of citizens are shaped by the very same elites who are supposed to represent them?”

Source: How Political Parties Shape Public Opinion in the Real World. Rune Slothuus and Martin Bisgaard. First published: 04 November 2020 https://doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12550

The brain listens for things it is trying to predict

The brain interprets sounds as they contrast with its expectations. It recognizes patterns of sounds faster when they’re in line with what it is predicting it will hear, but it only encodes sounds when they contrast with expectations, according to Technische U researchers.

Researchers showed this by monitoring the two principal nuclei of the subcortical pathway responsible for auditory processing: the inferior colliculus and the medial geniculate body, as their subjects listened to patterns of sounds which the researches modified so that sometimes they would hear an expected sound pattern, and other times something unexpected.

Source: Alejandro Tabas, Glad Mihai, Stefan Kiebel, Robert Trampel, Katharina von Kriegstein. Abstract rules drive adaptation in the subcortical sensory pathway. eLife, 2020; 9 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.64501

We have a particular way of understanding a room

When several research subjects were instructed to explore an empty room, and when they were instead seated in a chair and watched someone else explore the room, their brain waves followed a certain pattern, as recorded by a backpack hooked up to record their brain waves, eye movements, and paths. It didn’t matter if they were walking or watching someone else, according to UC researchers led by Dr Matthias Stangl.

The researchers also tested what happened when subjects searched for a hidden spot, or watched someone else do so, and found that brain waves flowed more strongly when they had a goal and hunted for something.

Source: Matthias Stangl, Uros Topalovic, Cory S. Inman, Sonja Hiller, Diane Villaroman, Zahra M. Aghajan, Leonardo Christov-Moore, Nicholas R. Hasulak, Vikram R. Rao, Casey H. Halpern, Dawn Eliashiv, Itzhak Fried, Nanthia Suthana. Boundary-anchored neural mechanisms of location-encoding for self and others. Nature, 2020; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-03073-y

Extroverts and introverts use different vocabularies

Extroverts use ‘positive emotion’ and ‘social process’ words more often than introverts, according to new research conducted at Nanyang Technological U.

‘Love,’ ‘happy,’ and ‘blessed’ indicate pleasant emotions, and ‘beautiful’ and ‘nice’ indicate positivity or optimism, and are among the words found to be used more often by extroverts. So too are ‘meet,’ ‘share,’ and ‘talk,’ which are about socializing. Extroverts use personal pronouns — except ‘I’ — more too, another indication of sociability.

The correlation, however, was small, and the researchers think that stronger linguistic indicators need to be found to achieve their general goal, which is improving machine learning approaches to targeting consumer marketing.

Source: Jiayu Chen, Lin Qiu, Moon-Ho Ringo Ho. A meta-analysis of linguistic markers of extraversion: Positive emotion and social process words. Journal of Research in Personality, 2020; 89: 104035 DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2020.104035

WhatsApp is changing today - Users must give the app permission to send their private data to Facebook or lose account

WhatsApp was bought by Facebook in 2014, but has thrived while promoting itself as a privacy-respecting messaging app that now has 1.5b monthly active users. This week, though, WhatApp sent out an update to users’ phones that they must ‘consent’ to a new policy or lose access.

Whatsapp will now share more of your data, including your IP address (your location) and phone number, your account registration information, your transaction data, and service-related data, interactions on WhatsApp, and other data collected based on your consent, with Facebook’s other companies. Facebook has been working towards more closely integrating Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger.

Users who do not agree to ‘consent’ to the new policy will see their WhatsApp account become inaccessible until they do ‘consent.’ These accounts will remain dormant for 120 days after which they will be ‘deleted.’

The biggest change to the user policy, which many people ignored and clicked ‘agree’ to, thinking it was just another unimportant app update message, now reads,

‘We collect information about your activity on our Services, like service-related, diagnostic, and performance information. This includes information about your activity (including how you use our Services, your Services settings, how you interact with others using our Services (including when you interact with a business), and the time, frequency, and duration of your activities and interactions), log files, and diagnostic, crash, website, and performance logs and reports. This also includes information about when you registered to use our Services; the features you use like our messaging, calling, Status, groups (including group name, group picture, group description), payments or business features; profile photo, “about” information; whether you are online, when you last used our Services (your “last seen”); and when you last updated your “about” information.’

Notably, Elon Musk tweeted on the news, saying that WhatsApp users should switch to Signal, one of several popular privacy-focused messaging apps similar to WhatsApp.

The data sharing policy change doesn’t affect people in Europe due to GDPR data protection regulations.

Wikipedia Vulnerabilities Explored In New Research

Monopolization of community-based information networks by cartels of a few “super editors” among several risks that could lead to a diminished Wikipedia

Wikipedia’s quality benefits from high levels of free participation, but volunteer information databases like Wikipedia can be negatively effected by tendencies toward information monopolization, and, according to a recent study, this negative effect is more prevalent in more frequently edited articles — articles that could be considered to be more important.

In the study, researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology and the Korea Institute for Advanced Study looked at how editors interact with each other as well as how they interact with articles, and integrated previously-ignored factors such as the consideration of real time — not just the number of edits used in previous studies to mark time.

Among the team’s findings: infrequently-referred articles grow faster than frequently-referred ones. Not only that, but articles that attracted a high motivation to edit actually reduced the number of participants. Yun and his colleagues inferred that this type of Wikipedia article participation decay results in inequality among community editors. The trend will become more severe as time goes on, they suspected:

“For the previous decade, many of these open-editing access movements have significantly affected the entire

Jinhyuk Yun
Jinhyuk Yun

society,” Jinhyuk Yun, a Ph.D. candidate at the Complex Systems and Statistical Physics Lab at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in Daejeon, South Korea, told us.

“Wikipedia, Creative Commons Licenses, GNU, etc. To sustain such movements, they must maintain their motivations for participants, which might be taken away by monopolization.”

Yun explained how communal information databases like Wikipedia slow down.

“There are various reasons to participate in such ‘open-editing’ movements. Some are collective reasons shared in a society, and others are somewhat personal. Because the motivation is diverse, slowing down is also due to various causes. First, there can be a loss of necessity to contribute due to changes in society — or technology. Some GNU software based on old platforms no longer continue because the number of users of such software is getting smaller. In addition, there can be new barriers caused by governmental regulations — not about such communal databases, but considering the case of UBER. One particular candidate we discussed in the paper is the monopolization by few ‘super-editors.'”

Yun also commented on how we can consider the health of such community databases?

“It is very hard to quantify the ‘health’ of such database because of the ambiguity in the definition of health. In my point of view, the databases should meet the standard of accuracy and instantaneity. In other words, it should keep the trend, but it should not lose its accuracy in the contents. Although these databases are mainly based on the contribution of anonymous sources, it should also have reliable references to cross-check.”

However, data monopolization is not a black and white issue, Yun noted.

“To be honest, monopolization sometimes does good in particular occasions,” Yun told us, “yet it has many risks in most cases. Consider political issues in authoritarian governments, where media controlled by the government sometimes manipulates people’s opinions by a simple nudge or filtering. Such manipulation can also happen in Wikipedia — for example, by cartels of super-editors.”

Yun offered some possible remedies for content monopolization on Wikipedia:

“Based on our observations, Wikipedia could consider a reward program to recruit new editors. Simple achievement reward programs — like those in video games — at an early stage might be helpful, yet it should be done under strict supervision to avoid vandals. For instance, giving merit to editors who supply new reliable references might help to keep the quality of articles.”

The report, “Intellectual interchanges in the history of massive online open-editing encyclopedia, Wikipedia” was completed by J. Yun, S. H. Lee, and H. Jeong.

By Andy Stern

When political parties reverse their policy stance, their supporters immediately switch their opinions too

At least a significant portion of their supporters, according to U of Aarhus researchers.

When two competing political parties in Denmark reversed their policy stance on an issue — suddenly they both supported reducing unemployment benefits — their voters immediately moved their opinions by around 15% into line with their party.

The same thing happened when one of these parties shifted from opposing to supporting ending Denmark’s early retirement.

The researchers were studying how public opinion is formed. Their recent paper sheds light on how much influence political parties have over their supporters, according to the researchers, who surveyed their panel of subjects in five successive waves between 2010 and 2011. They studied the same group of party supporters before, during and after a policy reversal.

“We can see that [the] welfare programs were actually quite popular … and many of the voters of the center-right party were in favor of these welfare programs,” commented one of the researchers, Rune Slothuus. “Nevertheless, we can see that they reversed their opinion from supporting these welfare programs to opposing these welfare programs.”

“I was surprised to see the parties appeared this powerful in shaping opinions,” Slothuus said. “Our findings suggest that partisan leaders can indeed lead citizens’ opinions in the real world, even in situations where the stakes are real and the economic consequences tangible.”

The researchers pondered Western democracy in light of their findings: “If citizens just blindly follow their party without thinking much about it, that should lead to some concern about the mechanisms in our democracy. Because how can partisan elites represent citizens’ views if the views of citizens are shaped by the very same elites who are supposed to represent them?”

Source: How Political Parties Shape Public Opinion in the Real World. Rune Slothuus and Martin Bisgaard. First published: 04 November 2020 https://doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12550

The brain listens for things it is trying to predict

The brain interprets sounds as they contrast with its expectations. It recognizes patterns of sounds faster when they’re in line with what it is predicting it will hear, but it only encodes sounds when they contrast with expectations, according to Technische U researchers.

Researchers showed this by monitoring the two principal nuclei of the subcortical pathway responsible for auditory processing: the inferior colliculus and the medial geniculate body, as their subjects listened to patterns of sounds which the researches modified so that sometimes they would hear an expected sound pattern, and other times something unexpected.

Source: Alejandro Tabas, Glad Mihai, Stefan Kiebel, Robert Trampel, Katharina von Kriegstein. Abstract rules drive adaptation in the subcortical sensory pathway. eLife, 2020; 9 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.64501

We have a particular way of understanding a room

When several research subjects were instructed to explore an empty room, and when they were instead seated in a chair and watched someone else explore the room, their brain waves followed a certain pattern, as recorded by a backpack hooked up to record their brain waves, eye movements, and paths. It didn’t matter if they were walking or watching someone else, according to UC researchers led by Dr Matthias Stangl.

The researchers also tested what happened when subjects searched for a hidden spot, or watched someone else do so, and found that brain waves flowed more strongly when they had a goal and hunted for something.

Source: Matthias Stangl, Uros Topalovic, Cory S. Inman, Sonja Hiller, Diane Villaroman, Zahra M. Aghajan, Leonardo Christov-Moore, Nicholas R. Hasulak, Vikram R. Rao, Casey H. Halpern, Dawn Eliashiv, Itzhak Fried, Nanthia Suthana. Boundary-anchored neural mechanisms of location-encoding for self and others. Nature, 2020; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-03073-y

Extroverts and introverts use different vocabularies

Extroverts use ‘positive emotion’ and ‘social process’ words more often than introverts, according to new research conducted at Nanyang Technological U.

‘Love,’ ‘happy,’ and ‘blessed’ indicate pleasant emotions, and ‘beautiful’ and ‘nice’ indicate positivity or optimism, and are among the words found to be used more often by extroverts. So too are ‘meet,’ ‘share,’ and ‘talk,’ which are about socializing. Extroverts use personal pronouns — except ‘I’ — more too, another indication of sociability.

The correlation, however, was small, and the researchers think that stronger linguistic indicators need to be found to achieve their general goal, which is improving machine learning approaches to targeting consumer marketing.

Source: Jiayu Chen, Lin Qiu, Moon-Ho Ringo Ho. A meta-analysis of linguistic markers of extraversion: Positive emotion and social process words. Journal of Research in Personality, 2020; 89: 104035 DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2020.104035

WhatsApp is changing today - Users must give the app permission to send their private data to Facebook or lose account

WhatsApp was bought by Facebook in 2014, but has thrived while promoting itself as a privacy-respecting messaging app that now has 1.5b monthly active users. This week, though, WhatApp sent out an update to users’ phones that they must ‘consent’ to a new policy or lose access.

Whatsapp will now share more of your data, including your IP address (your location) and phone number, your account registration information, your transaction data, and service-related data, interactions on WhatsApp, and other data collected based on your consent, with Facebook’s other companies. Facebook has been working towards more closely integrating Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger.

Users who do not agree to ‘consent’ to the new policy will see their WhatsApp account become inaccessible until they do ‘consent.’ These accounts will remain dormant for 120 days after which they will be ‘deleted.’

The biggest change to the user policy, which many people ignored and clicked ‘agree’ to, thinking it was just another unimportant app update message, now reads,

‘We collect information about your activity on our Services, like service-related, diagnostic, and performance information. This includes information about your activity (including how you use our Services, your Services settings, how you interact with others using our Services (including when you interact with a business), and the time, frequency, and duration of your activities and interactions), log files, and diagnostic, crash, website, and performance logs and reports. This also includes information about when you registered to use our Services; the features you use like our messaging, calling, Status, groups (including group name, group picture, group description), payments or business features; profile photo, “about” information; whether you are online, when you last used our Services (your “last seen”); and when you last updated your “about” information.’

Notably, Elon Musk tweeted on the news, saying that WhatsApp users should switch to Signal, one of several popular privacy-focused messaging apps similar to WhatsApp.

The data sharing policy change doesn’t affect people in Europe due to GDPR data protection regulations.

Dia De Los Muertos In Prague – Photo Document

Dia de los Muertos in Prague-Juan Manuel Garcia

Day of the Dead is a holiday celebrated throughout Mexico. The celebration focuses on gatherings where family and friends pray for and remember those who have died, in order to support their spiritual journeys. In 2008, the tradition was inscribed in UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

It is not only a very emotional time, but also an important holiday in which pre-Hispanic culture meets the Catholic church. The sadness of the loss of loved ones blends with celebration because death, as the Mexicans see it, is not a definitive end to life but is just another kind of life. According to Mexican belief, the souls of the dead come to earth in this time period to visit their relatives. And they lay flowers, fruit, pastries or drinks on the graves of their loved ones.

The production Motus Prague, in cooperation with Cristina Maldonado, brings a bit of Mexico to the Czech lands — all with the support of Prague 7 City District and the Embassy of Mexico in the Czech Republic.

In the surroundings of Stromovka park, parents and children experience the traditional customs and various cultural events — for the kids the events are staged by Toy Machine and Nebezpečné divadlo/Dangerous Theatre, and Aztec dance performance by Juan Manuel Garcia.

They also enjoy live Mexican music by Sombrero Negro. Participants can take part in special food making, such as decorating skull lemon cookies by Prague Pie Hole, or can simply taste various the Mexican dishes provided for festival goers.

Children also engage in a large number of workshops, such as hand-made lanterns by Artual, masks by Kreslírna/Artroom Letná, and clay graffiti by Muddum.

By Michaela Škvrňáková
Photos: Michaela Škvrňáková

Dia de los Muertos in Prague Dia de los Muertos in Prague

Dia de los Muertos in Prague Dia de los Muertos in Prague-Prague Pie Hole

7 Dia de los Muertos in Prague

Dia de los Muertos in Prague-Dangerous Theatre Dia de los Muertos in Prague

Dia de los Muertos in Prague Dia de los Muertos in Prague

Dia de los Muertos in Prague 29

Dia de los Muertos in Prague Dia de los Muertos in Prague

Dia de los Muertos in Prague-Muddum Dia de los Muertos in Prague

 

When political parties reverse their policy stance, their supporters immediately switch their opinions too

At least a significant portion of their supporters, according to U of Aarhus researchers.

When two competing political parties in Denmark reversed their policy stance on an issue — suddenly they both supported reducing unemployment benefits — their voters immediately moved their opinions by around 15% into line with their party.

The same thing happened when one of these parties shifted from opposing to supporting ending Denmark’s early retirement.

The researchers were studying how public opinion is formed. Their recent paper sheds light on how much influence political parties have over their supporters, according to the researchers, who surveyed their panel of subjects in five successive waves between 2010 and 2011. They studied the same group of party supporters before, during and after a policy reversal.

“We can see that [the] welfare programs were actually quite popular … and many of the voters of the center-right party were in favor of these welfare programs,” commented one of the researchers, Rune Slothuus. “Nevertheless, we can see that they reversed their opinion from supporting these welfare programs to opposing these welfare programs.”

“I was surprised to see the parties appeared this powerful in shaping opinions,” Slothuus said. “Our findings suggest that partisan leaders can indeed lead citizens’ opinions in the real world, even in situations where the stakes are real and the economic consequences tangible.”

The researchers pondered Western democracy in light of their findings: “If citizens just blindly follow their party without thinking much about it, that should lead to some concern about the mechanisms in our democracy. Because how can partisan elites represent citizens’ views if the views of citizens are shaped by the very same elites who are supposed to represent them?”

Source: How Political Parties Shape Public Opinion in the Real World. Rune Slothuus and Martin Bisgaard. First published: 04 November 2020 https://doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12550

The brain listens for things it is trying to predict

The brain interprets sounds as they contrast with its expectations. It recognizes patterns of sounds faster when they’re in line with what it is predicting it will hear, but it only encodes sounds when they contrast with expectations, according to Technische U researchers.

Researchers showed this by monitoring the two principal nuclei of the subcortical pathway responsible for auditory processing: the inferior colliculus and the medial geniculate body, as their subjects listened to patterns of sounds which the researches modified so that sometimes they would hear an expected sound pattern, and other times something unexpected.

Source: Alejandro Tabas, Glad Mihai, Stefan Kiebel, Robert Trampel, Katharina von Kriegstein. Abstract rules drive adaptation in the subcortical sensory pathway. eLife, 2020; 9 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.64501

We have a particular way of understanding a room

When several research subjects were instructed to explore an empty room, and when they were instead seated in a chair and watched someone else explore the room, their brain waves followed a certain pattern, as recorded by a backpack hooked up to record their brain waves, eye movements, and paths. It didn’t matter if they were walking or watching someone else, according to UC researchers led by Dr Matthias Stangl.

The researchers also tested what happened when subjects searched for a hidden spot, or watched someone else do so, and found that brain waves flowed more strongly when they had a goal and hunted for something.

Source: Matthias Stangl, Uros Topalovic, Cory S. Inman, Sonja Hiller, Diane Villaroman, Zahra M. Aghajan, Leonardo Christov-Moore, Nicholas R. Hasulak, Vikram R. Rao, Casey H. Halpern, Dawn Eliashiv, Itzhak Fried, Nanthia Suthana. Boundary-anchored neural mechanisms of location-encoding for self and others. Nature, 2020; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-03073-y

Extroverts and introverts use different vocabularies

Extroverts use ‘positive emotion’ and ‘social process’ words more often than introverts, according to new research conducted at Nanyang Technological U.

‘Love,’ ‘happy,’ and ‘blessed’ indicate pleasant emotions, and ‘beautiful’ and ‘nice’ indicate positivity or optimism, and are among the words found to be used more often by extroverts. So too are ‘meet,’ ‘share,’ and ‘talk,’ which are about socializing. Extroverts use personal pronouns — except ‘I’ — more too, another indication of sociability.

The correlation, however, was small, and the researchers think that stronger linguistic indicators need to be found to achieve their general goal, which is improving machine learning approaches to targeting consumer marketing.

Source: Jiayu Chen, Lin Qiu, Moon-Ho Ringo Ho. A meta-analysis of linguistic markers of extraversion: Positive emotion and social process words. Journal of Research in Personality, 2020; 89: 104035 DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2020.104035

WhatsApp is changing today - Users must give the app permission to send their private data to Facebook or lose account

WhatsApp was bought by Facebook in 2014, but has thrived while promoting itself as a privacy-respecting messaging app that now has 1.5b monthly active users. This week, though, WhatApp sent out an update to users’ phones that they must ‘consent’ to a new policy or lose access.

Whatsapp will now share more of your data, including your IP address (your location) and phone number, your account registration information, your transaction data, and service-related data, interactions on WhatsApp, and other data collected based on your consent, with Facebook’s other companies. Facebook has been working towards more closely integrating Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger.

Users who do not agree to ‘consent’ to the new policy will see their WhatsApp account become inaccessible until they do ‘consent.’ These accounts will remain dormant for 120 days after which they will be ‘deleted.’

The biggest change to the user policy, which many people ignored and clicked ‘agree’ to, thinking it was just another unimportant app update message, now reads,

‘We collect information about your activity on our Services, like service-related, diagnostic, and performance information. This includes information about your activity (including how you use our Services, your Services settings, how you interact with others using our Services (including when you interact with a business), and the time, frequency, and duration of your activities and interactions), log files, and diagnostic, crash, website, and performance logs and reports. This also includes information about when you registered to use our Services; the features you use like our messaging, calling, Status, groups (including group name, group picture, group description), payments or business features; profile photo, “about” information; whether you are online, when you last used our Services (your “last seen”); and when you last updated your “about” information.’

Notably, Elon Musk tweeted on the news, saying that WhatsApp users should switch to Signal, one of several popular privacy-focused messaging apps similar to WhatsApp.

The data sharing policy change doesn’t affect people in Europe due to GDPR data protection regulations.

3D Printing Against Daesh: “We Will Recreate What ISIS Destroyed”

digital archaeology

3D technology comes to the rescue after the destruction of several world cultural treasures by the militant group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

According to the United Nations, ISIS has destroyed and damaged 200 world heritage sites along with hundreds of statues and artefacts since 2014.

ISIS’ plan is simple. It is about erasing all traces of previous cultures to establish their own and take advantage of the media coverage following massing destructions of historic sites to grab the world’s attention. In addition, this cultural cleaning is a way for Daesh to finance their activities by selling to dealers and private collectors.

Yet those lost treasures that some call “blood artifacts” may not be lost forever.

Through her digital fabrication and 3D printing project “Material Speculation : ISIS”, Iranian artist and activist Morehshin Allahyari chose to focus on the reconstruction of selected artifacts and statues destroyed by ISIS in Iraq in 2015.

In addition, to repair history and memory, each 3D printed object comprises a flash drive and a memory card. The data in these flash drives contain materials: maps, images, videos and pdf files on the destroyed artifacts and sites. They were gathered thanks to a collaboration with different archeologists and historians, including and museum staff.

“Like time capsules, each object is sealed and kept for future civilizations.”
– Morehshin Allahyari

Just like Murehshin Allahyari artifacts, Palmyra has suffered numerous act of vandalism. The Syrian desert city known as the Venice of the Sands lost the triumphal arch from 2,000-year-old Temple of Bel.

Devastated, many archaeologists talked restoration and reconstruction such as American lawyer/archaeologist Roger Michel. Indeed, as the founder of Oxford’s Institute for Digital Archaeology, Michel has built a 3D facsimile arch from Palmyra’s destroyed Temple of Bel.

Thanks to 3D technology, Pamlyra’s rose again in London’s Trafalgar Square last April to coincide with world heritage week. It should then travel on to Times Square in New York City.

London, Trafalgar Square

This 3D replica of the 15-meters arch that formed the temple’s entrance is a gesture of defiance against ISIS’ desire to erase cultural and historical evidence.

“My intention is to show Islamic State that anything they can blow up we can rebuild exactly as it was before, and rebuild it again and again. We will use technology to disempower ISIS.” Roger Michel

Moving for some or uncanny for others, this incredible public display of 3D reconstruction is the proof that new technology can restore entire parts of 20th-century historical sites. Although out of their original context and site, 3D monuments or artefacts might still conserve their precious sense of place and craftsmanship, thus preserving everybody’s heritage.

By Pauline Schnoebelen

When political parties reverse their policy stance, their supporters immediately switch their opinions too

At least a significant portion of their supporters, according to U of Aarhus researchers.

When two competing political parties in Denmark reversed their policy stance on an issue — suddenly they both supported reducing unemployment benefits — their voters immediately moved their opinions by around 15% into line with their party.

The same thing happened when one of these parties shifted from opposing to supporting ending Denmark’s early retirement.

The researchers were studying how public opinion is formed. Their recent paper sheds light on how much influence political parties have over their supporters, according to the researchers, who surveyed their panel of subjects in five successive waves between 2010 and 2011. They studied the same group of party supporters before, during and after a policy reversal.

“We can see that [the] welfare programs were actually quite popular … and many of the voters of the center-right party were in favor of these welfare programs,” commented one of the researchers, Rune Slothuus. “Nevertheless, we can see that they reversed their opinion from supporting these welfare programs to opposing these welfare programs.”

“I was surprised to see the parties appeared this powerful in shaping opinions,” Slothuus said. “Our findings suggest that partisan leaders can indeed lead citizens’ opinions in the real world, even in situations where the stakes are real and the economic consequences tangible.”

The researchers pondered Western democracy in light of their findings: “If citizens just blindly follow their party without thinking much about it, that should lead to some concern about the mechanisms in our democracy. Because how can partisan elites represent citizens’ views if the views of citizens are shaped by the very same elites who are supposed to represent them?”

Source: How Political Parties Shape Public Opinion in the Real World. Rune Slothuus and Martin Bisgaard. First published: 04 November 2020 https://doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12550

The brain listens for things it is trying to predict

The brain interprets sounds as they contrast with its expectations. It recognizes patterns of sounds faster when they’re in line with what it is predicting it will hear, but it only encodes sounds when they contrast with expectations, according to Technische U researchers.

Researchers showed this by monitoring the two principal nuclei of the subcortical pathway responsible for auditory processing: the inferior colliculus and the medial geniculate body, as their subjects listened to patterns of sounds which the researches modified so that sometimes they would hear an expected sound pattern, and other times something unexpected.

Source: Alejandro Tabas, Glad Mihai, Stefan Kiebel, Robert Trampel, Katharina von Kriegstein. Abstract rules drive adaptation in the subcortical sensory pathway. eLife, 2020; 9 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.64501

We have a particular way of understanding a room

When several research subjects were instructed to explore an empty room, and when they were instead seated in a chair and watched someone else explore the room, their brain waves followed a certain pattern, as recorded by a backpack hooked up to record their brain waves, eye movements, and paths. It didn’t matter if they were walking or watching someone else, according to UC researchers led by Dr Matthias Stangl.

The researchers also tested what happened when subjects searched for a hidden spot, or watched someone else do so, and found that brain waves flowed more strongly when they had a goal and hunted for something.

Source: Matthias Stangl, Uros Topalovic, Cory S. Inman, Sonja Hiller, Diane Villaroman, Zahra M. Aghajan, Leonardo Christov-Moore, Nicholas R. Hasulak, Vikram R. Rao, Casey H. Halpern, Dawn Eliashiv, Itzhak Fried, Nanthia Suthana. Boundary-anchored neural mechanisms of location-encoding for self and others. Nature, 2020; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-03073-y

Extroverts and introverts use different vocabularies

Extroverts use ‘positive emotion’ and ‘social process’ words more often than introverts, according to new research conducted at Nanyang Technological U.

‘Love,’ ‘happy,’ and ‘blessed’ indicate pleasant emotions, and ‘beautiful’ and ‘nice’ indicate positivity or optimism, and are among the words found to be used more often by extroverts. So too are ‘meet,’ ‘share,’ and ‘talk,’ which are about socializing. Extroverts use personal pronouns — except ‘I’ — more too, another indication of sociability.

The correlation, however, was small, and the researchers think that stronger linguistic indicators need to be found to achieve their general goal, which is improving machine learning approaches to targeting consumer marketing.

Source: Jiayu Chen, Lin Qiu, Moon-Ho Ringo Ho. A meta-analysis of linguistic markers of extraversion: Positive emotion and social process words. Journal of Research in Personality, 2020; 89: 104035 DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2020.104035

WhatsApp is changing today - Users must give the app permission to send their private data to Facebook or lose account

WhatsApp was bought by Facebook in 2014, but has thrived while promoting itself as a privacy-respecting messaging app that now has 1.5b monthly active users. This week, though, WhatApp sent out an update to users’ phones that they must ‘consent’ to a new policy or lose access.

Whatsapp will now share more of your data, including your IP address (your location) and phone number, your account registration information, your transaction data, and service-related data, interactions on WhatsApp, and other data collected based on your consent, with Facebook’s other companies. Facebook has been working towards more closely integrating Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger.

Users who do not agree to ‘consent’ to the new policy will see their WhatsApp account become inaccessible until they do ‘consent.’ These accounts will remain dormant for 120 days after which they will be ‘deleted.’

The biggest change to the user policy, which many people ignored and clicked ‘agree’ to, thinking it was just another unimportant app update message, now reads,

‘We collect information about your activity on our Services, like service-related, diagnostic, and performance information. This includes information about your activity (including how you use our Services, your Services settings, how you interact with others using our Services (including when you interact with a business), and the time, frequency, and duration of your activities and interactions), log files, and diagnostic, crash, website, and performance logs and reports. This also includes information about when you registered to use our Services; the features you use like our messaging, calling, Status, groups (including group name, group picture, group description), payments or business features; profile photo, “about” information; whether you are online, when you last used our Services (your “last seen”); and when you last updated your “about” information.’

Notably, Elon Musk tweeted on the news, saying that WhatsApp users should switch to Signal, one of several popular privacy-focused messaging apps similar to WhatsApp.

The data sharing policy change doesn’t affect people in Europe due to GDPR data protection regulations.