Science and Technology links (March 31 2024)

      1. Large language models (e.g., ChatGPT) do better at legal questions than lawyers: Our empirical analysis benchmarks LLMs against a ground truth set by Senior Lawyers, uncovering that advanced models match or exceed human accuracy in determining legal issues (Martin et al.).
      2. Gene therapy-mediated partial reprogramming extends lifespan and reverses age-related changes in aged mice.
      3. Increased vegetation greenness is called greening. Increased atmospheric CO2 is expected to lead to greening since CO2 is effectively a fertilizer. Global greening is a robust process that continued from 2001 to 2020 according to Chen et al. This confirms earlier studies which shows significant greening of the Earth (up 30% in a few decades).
      4. Babylonia was one of the earliest civilizations (established around 1900 BC). The Old Kingdom in Egypt began earlier, around 2500 BC. What was happening elsewhere? We do not really know, but, in America, Caral–Supe was a complex pre-Columbian era society that included as many as thirty major population centers in modern-day Peru. The civilization flourished between the fourth and second millennia BC, with the formation of the first city generally dated to around 3500 BC.
      5. University students have average intelligence according to Uttl et al. They suggest the following consequences: First, universities and professors
        need to realize that students are no longer extraordinary but merely average, and have to adjust curricula and academic standards. Second, employers can no longer rely on applicants with university degrees to be more capable or smarter than those without degrees. Third, students need
        to realize that acceptance into university is no longer an invitation to join an elite group.
      6. Multicellular organisms arose 1.6 billion years ago.
      7. Some stone tools are 1.4 million years old.
      8. Being overweight (abdominal adiposity) is associated with mental decline.
      9. The decimal point might have been invented by mathematician Giovanni Bianchini in the 1440s.
      10. Climate models have been found lacking in a study by Simpson et al. (2023). From the article…

        Water vapor in the atmosphere is expected to rise with warming because a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture. However, over the last four decades, near-surface water vapor has not increased over arid and semi-arid regions. This may indicate a major model misrepresentation of hydroclimate-related processes.

        Statement by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR):

        The discrepancy between observations and models indicates a major gap in our understanding and modeling capabilities which could have severe implications for hydroclimate projections, including fire hazard, moving forward. Resolving this discrepancy is an urgent priority.

      11. Good looks are inherited from the parents and associated with substantially higher incomes.
      12. Researchers have rejuvenated the immune systems of mice.
      13. Environmental activism is associated with the dark triad traits (i.e., Machiavellianism, psychopathy, narcissism) and authoritarianism (e.g., top-down censorship).
      14. Solar power plants increase local temperatures.
      15. In countries where there is more equality between women and men, women are less likely to pursue careers in science or engineering.
      16. Among our ancestors, women did hunt occasionally. Nevertheless, there was a clear division of labor.
      17. Psychopaths may have poor planning and be unable to foresee and represent future consequences of their actions.
      18. Northern lights in Northern countries significantly warm the atmosphere, reducing the heating bills in Finland.
      19. Urban environments is where biodiversity is thriving.
      20. Oral contraceptives reduce the clitoral volume, they worsens the pain during intercourse and reduce the frequency of orgasm.
      21. Higher healthcare spending is not associated with greater longevity, but higher wealth is: a $10,000 increase in GDP per capita in a state is associated with 1.13 years more life expectancy.
      22. Asking people to sign an agreement which says they won’t cheat does not reduce cheating.
      23. The term ‘two-spirit’ used to describe a gender specific to indigenous North Americans was coined in the 1990s. Wikipedia warns: Two-spirit, as a term and concept, is neither used nor accepted universally in Native American cultures.
      24. For a long time, diabetes was described as a progressive disease. Once you had diabetes, it was viewed as incurable condition that could only be mitigated. At least in Canada, diabetes is now considered reversible: lifestyle choices (among other things) can reverse diabetes.
      25. Some people have a mutated protein RIMS1 and they exhibit much greater intelligence.
      26. One billion people in the world are obese. Intellectuals in the 1950s and 1960s predicted mass starvation. Most famously Paul R. Ehrlich predicted in his book “The Population Bomb” (1968) that we would see widespread famine and mass starvation. He predicted that 65 million Americans would die of starvation between 1980-1989. He later stated that “India couldn’t possibly feed two hundred million more people by 1980.” Today our greatest problem is not mass starvation in India, but rather the fact that their obesity curves are exponential.
      27. Brain volume has increased during the XXth century in human beings.
      28. Overall, the Antarctic ice shelf area has grown by 5305 km2since 2009. Or nearly 100 times Manhattan Island.
      29. Obesity seems to affect semen quality.
      30. You want to make sure that your ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 is low. Think about eating salmon, sardines, and walnuts.
      31. We are often told that modern media is pushing women to dislike their bodies. However, that effect might be exaggerated. There could be deeply rooted evolutionary reasons for women to be anxious about the appearance of their bodies.
      32. Instead of being rewarded, loyal employees are targeted by managers for exploitative practices.
      33. Overbearing parents may cause their children to become emotionally unstable. Overreactive parenting is related to decreases in child agreeableness and emotional stability. There might be wisdom in cultivating freedom.
      34. Oreo Cookies lowers LDL cholesterol more than high-intensity statin therapy.
      35. We found water on the surface of an asteroid.
      36. It is believed that low-dose aspirin has an anti-cancer effect. It might be due to its suppression of some platelets.

Daniel Lemire, "Science and Technology links (March 31 2024)," in Daniel Lemire's blog, March 31, 2024.

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Daniel Lemire

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

2 thoughts on “Science and Technology links (March 31 2024)”

  1. On item 34, note that the study involved a single subject who is a (statistically rare) “lean mass hyper-responder” on a keto diet that makes his baseline LDL be sky-high, and the effect might be due simply to extra carbs rather than anything specific to Oreo cookies. “This dramatic metabolic demonstration, consistent with the lipid energy model, should provoke further research and not be seen as health advice.”

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