Science and Technology links (July 6th, 2019)

  1. Jim Keller, the vice president of silicon engineering at Intel, is optimistic regarding the continued exponential progress in computing: “It’s going to keep going, Moore’s law is relentless.”
  2. England did away with free college. The result?

    England’s shift has resulted in increased funding per head and rising enrolments, with no apparent widening of the participation gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students.

    The authors make available a short summary of their paper.

  3. Japanese have significant lower risks of cardiovascular diseases. Yet the difference is not explained with normal risk factors such as cholesterol (which is higher in Japan) or blood pressure (higher in Japan).
  4. A protein called eNAMPT has a rejuvenating effect on mice when injected in the blood. Older mice and humans have lower levels of this protein compared to the young.
  5. Music training does not improve academic outcomes.
  6. We can grow functional hair out of stem cells.
  7. Even a little bit of exercise appears to be enough to promote learning and make the brain healthier. (Source: Nature, tested in mice)
  8. Future computers might benefit from persistent memory that is both fast and requires very little power. (Source: Nature)
  9. We sent a spaceship that runs on a solar sail. A solar sail is,
    as the name suggest, a sail pushed by solar winds.
  10. The Bitcoin cryptocurrency uses about 0.2% of the world’s electricity consumption (46 TWh).
  11. China is producing over 25% of the world’s factory output. The USA is second at 17%, Japan is at less than half the USA while India is a mere 3%.
  12. A Russian scientist is demanding the right to do “germline gene editing” to cure deafness in some families. Germline editing is drastic in the sense that it changes the genome of children and all their descendants.

Published by

Daniel Lemire

A computer science professor at the University of Quebec (TELUQ).

10 thoughts on “Science and Technology links (July 6th, 2019)”

  1. England did away with free college. The result?

    Can’t read this article. Do you have a reference or source other people can read?

    Also, is this finding replicated anywhere? Is this a mainstream finding or an outlier?

          1. This is actually a summary of a 2017 work published by the Brooking Institute: https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/es_20170427_scott-clayton_evidence_speaks.pdf It’s also available here https://www.researchcghe.org/perch/resources/publications/wp30.pdf published by the Centre for Global Higher Education.

            The figures provided in the Brookings report are questionable. For example, in Figure 5, the figures before 1994 are estimates, and in Figure 4, those after 1998 are “authors’ calculations”. The spending profile depicted looks very different from other published accounts (where the methodology is documented), for example, here: https://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/sites/default/files/files/R126.pdf

            The difference is caused by the authors of the Brooking Report conflating loans (which must be paid back by students) with funding. There is also some cherry-picking of data (for example, figure 2 in the summary calculates “Net liquidity (grants and loans minus upfront fees)”, eliding the impact of tuitions charged up front (which historically was sometimes 0 and sometimes 1,000 pounds).

            I would be very hesitant to claim, on the basis of the Brookings report (and therefore, this publication, which I still haven’t seen) that “England’s shift has resulted in increased funding per head and rising enrolments, with no apparent widening of the participation gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students.”

            Overall, what we see in the UK is a long-term reduction in support for higher education. The graph of resources available to institutions (see figure 6.1b, 0. 29, of the nuffeldfoundation report cited above) looks like a sawtooth, with increases in funds created by tuition fee increases being short-lived, as the overall trend continues downward.

            As for the impact on attendance, the summary provided in this BBC article https://www.bbc.com/news/education-40511184 is consistent with what the reports say. First, student enrollments overall have continued to climb, though the rate at which enrollments were climbing dropped sharply with the introduction of tuition fees.

            What’s significant here is the comparison between what enrollment rates would have been without the introduction of tuition fees (the null hypothesis, in other words, is not zero increase, which the Brookings report seems to suggest, but a continuation of previous rates of increase under pre-tuition fee policies). And here we have peer-reviewed literature stating that “Taking into account possible anticipation effects of the fee increase, I find that enrolment declined by 15 % in the treated groups as a result of the tuition fee increase.” https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-20877-0_31

            Moreover, the gap between rich and poor remains wide. , and the tuition fees (plus loans and grants) have done nothing to change that. Most significant, however, is that poor students graduate with significant debt loads totaling more than 100 billion pounds. It’s not clear what impact this will have on lower-income students in later life, but based on my own life experience I can speculate.

            None of what I’ve posted here is definitive, of course. But it’s certainly enough to question the Brookings report. I wouldn’t have simply reposted their conclusions as fact.

            1. My quote from their paper is:

              England’s shift has resulted in increased funding per head and rising enrolments, with no apparent widening of the participation gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students.
              

              As with all work, including peer-reviewed work, one can find objections, flaws and mistakes. This being said, this quote appears correct and none of your excellent qualifications change it.

              There has been rising enrolments. Could the enrolments rise faster? I am sure they could and I am convinced that the authors would agree that they could, but this is nevertheless an empirical fact: the hypothesis that a rise in fees would lead to lower enrolments is invalidated. There is other evidence elsewhere of the same effect: you can increase the cost of higher education (cost to the student) and people will still eagerly attend college. See what happened in the US.

              The gap between the poor and the rich has not widened due to the increase in tuition fees. Of course, you could argue that the gap is still too wide. But that calls for a separate discussion. The fact is that, empirically, we see that increasing tuition fees does not lead to a relatively reduced participation of the poorer among us (with the qualifications in the paper: financial aid need to follow).

              These are important observations because, frequently, people call on a cap on the tuition fees because they claim that this leads to lower enrolments, or relatively lower enrolments by poorer people. What this natural experiment suggests is that these are not clearly valid argument (at least when used without qualification).

              Note that I did not refer, in my post, to the increased funding issue. You are taking this from the paper itself.

  2. Hi,

    Even a little bit of exercise appears to be enough to promote learning
    and make the brain healthier. (Source: Nature, tested in mice)

    I think the reference link for this one might be wrong.

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