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Curating the Internet: Science and technology micro-summaries for October 16, 2019

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Crash risk may be linked to heartbeat timing; In a TED talk, David Deutsch argues a view of the universe that's shaped by the frequency of novelty; AI expert flagged for plagiarism; An argument that the Internet is becoming less creative with the loss of Flash; and a new refrigeration technology that harnesses twisting and stretching of materials like rubber, nickel-titanium, and polyethylene fishing line


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  1. Your heartbeat may shape how likely you are to have a car crash - Along with colleagues, the University of Sussex's Sarah Garfinkel created a virtual reality driving game that presented obstacles in time with participant heart beats, or between beats. The researchers observed that reaction times were lower when the obstacles were presented in time with heartbeats. Garfinkel suggested that this may be do to the effect of "systoles - the squeezing of the heart ventricles that occurs in the middle of a heartbeat". This research adds to an accumulating body of evidence showing that the ability to respond to stimuli is reduced by systoles. Another example is a finding that feelings of pain are perceived as less painful when timed with a heartbeat. On the other hand, some stimuli - such as perception of fear - may be augmented during a heartbeat. While this may be a contributory factor in automobile accidents, the article quotes the Max Planck Institute's Michael Gaebler, saying that it is probably just a single component of an extended cascade of events. He says, "My guess would be that while cardiac-related perceptual fluctuations may contribute [to accidents], a lot of other things have to go wrong to lead to an accident."

  2. After billions of years of monotony, the universe is waking up - In this TED talk, physicist, David Deutsch discusses his take on the metaforces that are at work in the universe. He starts off talking about the human tendency to interpret the cosmos as a metaphysical battle between competing metaforces, giving examples such as: good and evil, sustainability and wastefulness, and even gravity vs. dark energy in physics. He goes on to put forward his own competing pair of metaforces, monotony and innovation. In his view, innovation was undetectable for the great majority history, because truly novel inventions happened with less frequency than the human life span. It's only during the last couple of hundred years where human innovation happens at a speed that makes it visible to the average observer. He points out that the Cosmos has a similar history. The big bang was novel, so was the first star, the first black hole, the first galaxy, and so on. But most of cosmological history was accompanied by a complete absence of novelty. He also brings up a principle, called the hierarchy rule, which is the observation that big things act on little things. If a comet plunges into a comet, the star is basically unchanged, but the star is vaporized. These things changed, he says, with the origin of life and DNA. Suddenly, a little thing (DNA) was capable of transforming big things (the planet), and novelty continues to gain ground because of the human capacity for explanatory knowledge. His fundamental idea seems to be that cosmic metaforces are no longer things that merely act on humans, but they are increasingly becoming things that humans wield in order to expand novelty in the universe.

  3. Controversial AI expert admits to plagiarism, blames hectic schedule - In a recently published paper on neural qubit, Siraj Raval admits that he plagiarized large quantities of text. He has apologized and says he removed the paper from his web site. He may have delinked it, but as of Tuesday afternoon, the paper is still available. The plagiarism in the preprint paper was reported on Twitter by Andrew M. Webb.

  4. Flash is responsible for the internet’s most creative era - Although Flash is disappearing from the Internet, this article points out that it wasn't all bad. It was a fertile target for malware, but it was also responsible for a great deal of creativity on the Internet. The article argues that the promise of HTML5 as a secure way to accomplish the same things has never been completely realized. Because of increasing dominance of walled-gardens, and the disappearance of Flash programming, the blog post argues that the Internet may be getting increasingly less creative.

  5. STEEM New Refrigerator Developed By Twisting And Untwisting Of Fibers. - Citing a report in Physics World, @malay11 describes new technique that can cool refrigerators without the chemical pollution in today's devices. It has long been known that stretching rubber makes it hotter and relaxing it cools it off. Building on that knowledge, researchers have developed new refrigerators which use this cooling mechanism with materials like rubber and nickel-titanium. By continuously twisting and stretching the materials, researchers have "achieved a surface cooling of 16°c for supercoiled fibers of natural rubber and 20°c for nickel-titunium wire and 5°c for polyethylene fishing line." (A 10% beneficiary setting has been applied to this post for @malay11.)


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