Science and Technology links (March 23rd, 2018)

  1. Sending your kids to highly selective schools is maybe less useful than you think: “However, once we controlled for factors involved in pupil selection, (…) the variance in exam scores at age 16 explained by school type dropped from 7% to <1%.”
  2. Ugly people are more likely to be great scientists: we find that attractiveness is negatively correlated with the probability of being awarded the Nobel, with the magnitude of this effect being non-negligible.
  3. Occulus will be releasing the Occulus Go, a stand-alone wireless VR headset for US$200. It appears that the quality is good but there is no tracking of your position, obviously:

    Oculus Go is a good VR device, made even better by the fact that it’s powering everything you see without the help of a smartphone or PC. It’s well-built, comfortable and capable. (…) If there’s enough high-quality content to play and the battery life is sufficient, this could be the VR headset we see under many Christmas trees later this year.

    (Via Greg Linden)

    In related news, the movie describing a future where we all seem to live in VR (Ready Player One) has good ratings.

  4. The game Skyrim VR is one of the most sold game right now, even though if it is not yet released.
  5. Higher income inequality of municipalities is associated with lower mortality in Switzerland. (Via P.D. Mangan)
  6. The number of children in the world will not increase much more. We are close to the peak.
  7. Unlike other animals, humanity has voluntarily limited its reproduction. The population bomb has probably been defused.
  8. We can measure very accurately how old a cell is by its epigenetic markers (in effect, by recording which genes are activated). Moreover, at the end of your chromosomes, you have telomeres which get shorter with every division. Your telomeres tend to get shorter as you age, but not in a very consistent way. However, once the telomeres in a cell are too short, the cell either dies or become senescent. We can make your telomeres longer using telomerase. However, a paper in Nature suggests that telomerase grows your telomeres but also changes the epigenetics of your cells to age them.
  9. From their Harvard University laboratory, Guarente and Sinclair have a paper claiming that a nutritional supplement (which they market) can rejuvenate blood vessels. It works in genetically-edited mice. Sinclair has a promotional video.
  10. A stem-cell therapy has given back sight to an elderly patient suffering from macular degeneration.
  11. In a couple of years, we might have robots picking strawberries in actual farms.

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