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We Know Where You Live – From Location Data Alone, Even Low-Tech Snoopers Can Identify Twitter Users’ Homes, Workplaces.

TwitterResearchers at MIT and Oxford University have shown that the location stamps on just a handful of Twitter posts — as few as eight over the course of a single day — can be enough to disclose the addresses of the poster’s home and workplace to a relatively low-tech snooper. Twitter’s location-reporting service is off by default, but many Twitter users choose to activate it. The new study is part of a more general project at MIT’s Internet Policy Research Initiative to help raise awareness about just how much privacy people may be giving up when they use social media.

“Many people have this idea that only machine-learning techniques can discover interesting patterns in location data,” says Ilaria Liccardi, a research scientist at MIT’s Internet Policy Research Initiative and first author on the paper. “And they feel secure that not everyone has the technical knowledge to do that. With this study, what we wanted to show is that when you send location data as a secondary piece of information, it is extremely simple for people with very little technical knowledge to find out where you work or live.”

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2016 | Emmanuel Didier – Conventions and Quantification – Transdisciplinary Perspectives on Statistics and Classifications

EPIDAPO’s, Emmanuel Didier, has co-edited the Historical Social Research Volume 41, 2016 No.2 “Conventions and Quantification – Transdisciplinary Perspectives on Statistics and Classifications.

Where You Are is Who You Are: How Enclosed and Open Spaces Affect Cognition

Skateboarding, Park, Skating, Basketball, PlaygroundA recent study suggests that who we are might be more integrated with where we are than previously thought. “The built environment can restrict or promote spatial cognition, which can influence one’s self-hood,” the researchers explain. “Our spatial coordinates and our ‘selves’ are intertwined.” The fact that experience can shape individual differences, which in turn can affect the quality of spatial and social cognition a person, suggests that growing up in certain built environments can have detrimental or beneficial effects on their cognitive ability. This brings up questions such as whether raising children in enclosed spaces versus open spaces will result in differences in spatial and social cognition.

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How Did Birds Get Their Wings? Bacteria May Provide a Clue, Say Scientists

Animal, Bird, Colorful, Creature, Critter, FlyingNew research from an international team of evolutionary biologists, led by the University of Oxford, has used bacteria to show that acquiring duplicate copies of genes can provide a ‘template’ allowing organisms to develop new attributes from redundant copies of existing genes. The researchers allowed 380 populations of Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria to evolve novel metabolic traits such as the ability to degrade new sugars. This gave the researchers the opportunity to witness evolution happening in real-time. After 30 days of evolution, they sequenced the genomes of bacteria that had evolved novel metabolic traits. They found that mutations mainly affected genes involved in transcription and metabolism, and that novelty tended to evolve through mutations in pre-existing duplicated genes in the P. aeruginosa genome.

‘These findings provide important empirical evidence to support the role of gene duplication in evolutionary innovation, and they suggest that it may be possible to predict the ability of pathogenic bacteria to evolve clinically important traits, such as virulence and antibiotic resistance.’

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Humans Have Faster Metabolism Than Closely Related Primates, Enabling Larger Brains

140909123522-largeLoyola University Chicago researchers are among the co-authors of a groundbreaking study that found humans have a higher metabolism rate than closely related primates, which enabled humans to evolve larger brains. The study, published in the journal Nature, found that humans also have a higher percentage of body fat, providing the energy reserves to fuel their faster metabolism. The findings may point toward strategies for combating obesity, researchers said. “Humans exhibit an evolved predisposition to deposit fat whereas other hominoids remain relatively lean, even in captivity where activity levels are modest,” researchers wrote. “Untangling the evolutionary pressures and physiological mechanisms shaping the diversity of metabolic strategies among living hominoids may aid efforts to promote and repair metabolic health for humans in industrialized populations and apes in captivity.”

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How We Understand Others

Face, Head, Empathy, Meet, Sensitivity, FriendlinessPeople who empathize easily with others do not necessarily understand them well. To the contrary: Excessive empathy can even impair understanding as a new study conducted by psychologists from Würzburg and Leipzig has established. “Successful social interaction is based on our ability to feel with others and to understand their thoughts and intentions,” Anne Böckler explains. She says that it had been unclear previously whether and to what extend these two skills were interrelated – that is whether people who empathize easily with others are also capable of grasping their thoughts and intentions. According to the junior professor, the scientists also looked into the question of whether the neuronal networks responsible for these abilities interact. The authors believe that the results of this study are important both for neurosciences and clinical applications. For example, they suggest that training aimed at improving social skills, the willingness to empathize and the ability to understand others at the cognitive level and take their perspective should be promoted selectively and separately of one another. The group in the Department of Social Neurosciences in Leipzig is currently working on exactly this topic within the scope of the ReSource project, namely how to specifically train different social skills.

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Analysis of Dog Genome Will Provide Insight Into Human Disease

WOLFNew research published today in PLOS ONE reveals an improved annotation of microRNAs in the dog genome to further understand its biological role. Providing a platform for future studies into biomedicine, evolution and the domestication of important animals including dogs, cows, horses and pigs. This discovery provides a significant opportunity not only to enhance our understanding of how miRNAs regulate a variety of biological processes in an important model species for studying human diseases, but can lead to further, similar research into the role that miRNAs play in animal domestication.

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Diets Heavy In Fructose Damage Genes Related To Memory And Metabolism, Says Study

high fructose corn syrup sodaHigh-fructose corn syrup is a grocery store staple, an inexpensive additive found in everything from soda to spaghetti sauce. We already know that diets heavy in it are a likely road to obesity and diabetes, but according to a new study funded by the National Institutes of Health, fructose may also be doing widespread damage to our genes. The study is the first to examine all of the gene networks affected by fructose that result in changes to brain function and metabolism–more than 20,000 genes in total. Although the study was conducted using rats, the researchers report that the majority of the sequenced genes are comparable to those in humans, including more than 200 genes in the hippocampus, a brain area crucial to memory, and 700 in the hypothalamus, the seat of the brain’s metabolic control center. When genes in the brain are disrupted by fructose, say the researchers, a host of health badness is on the horizon. According to Xia Yang, co-senior author of the study and a UCLA assistant professor of integrative biology and physiology, “Parkinson’s disease, depression, bipolar disorder and other brain diseases” are all potential outcomes from gene disruptions caused by fructose.

The UCLA researchers reported that they were able to identify the mechanism by which fructose damages genes in the brain. By altering one of the four nucleotides that make up DNA, diets high in fructose trigger the genes’ “on” or “off” switch, altering their function. Previous rat studies have shown similar gene-altering results, though the research hasn’t yet been replicated in humans.

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