July 26, 2012, 10:57 pm
The peer-review process failed to identify significant, disqualifying problems with a controversial and widely publicized study
that seemed to raise doubts about the parenting abilities of gay couples, according to an internal audit scheduled to appear in the November issue of the journal, Social Science Research,
that published the study.
The highly critical audit, a draft of which was provided to The Chronicle by the journal’s editor, also cites conflicts of interest among the reviewers, and states that “scholars who should have known better failed to recuse themselves from the review process.”
Since it was published last month, the study, titled “How Different Are the Adult Children of Parents Who Have Same-Sex Relationships?,” has been the subject of numerous news articles and blog posts. It…
July 1, 2012, 9:45 am
The ecological effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill are still largely unknown. Senior writer Josh Fischman is on the research vessel Endeavor in the Gulf of Mexico with a team of university scientists seeking answers. He is filing reports from the ship.
On the deck of Endeavor, biogeochemist Joseph Montoya examines sea-floor sampling equipment.
One hundred and twenty miles south of the Mississippi Delta—The Endeavor is moving at 1 knot through a thin but wide slick of oil. The sheen glints in the water for a hundred yards or more around the ship. “It’s a little disturbing when you see fish swimming underneath it,” says Nigel D’Souza, a postdoctoral researcher at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, part of Columbia University. “I was on deck earlier collecting some of the oil with …
June 28, 2012, 12:22 pm
Could a casual comment—something as simple as “Boys are really good at this game”—make children perform less well on a given task? That’s what a new paper suggests. One of the authors, Andrei Cimpian, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, answered questions via e-mail about the findings:
We know from the work of Carol Dweck and others that praising a child’s intelligence, rather than his or her effort, seems to inhibit the child’s ability to carry out challenging tasks. How does your research build on that finding?
In this paper, we suggest that children’s ability to perform an activity may be undermined by statements that link success at that activity with membership in a social group. For example, statements to the effect that…
June 26, 2012, 2:20 pm
There’s an amazing moment in one of Michael Sandel’s popular “Justice” classes. The Harvard philosopher is lecturing on John Rawls’s view of meritocracy, challenging the assumption that life’s playing field is ever level. Sandel even takes on the idea that we should be given full credit for our hard work. He asks the students in his large class to raise their hands if they are first-borns. About three-quarters of the hands go up. He’s been asking the same question for years and getting the same overwhelming show of hands.
But does this mean that first-borns work harder in school and are therefore more likely to attend Harvard?
Antony Millner and Raphael Calel don’t think so. In the June 2012 issue of the statistical magazine Significance, they unpack the math behind the claim and argue that it doesn’t support Sandel’s conclusion. The question, they say, isn’t whether a lot of…
June 7, 2012, 5:24 pm
If you argue that scientists should try to communicate their ideas and findings more widely, rather than just staying hunched over their microscopes, everyone will nod vigorously. Of course they should, right? They have lots of important things to share with us, from the latest on the eating habits of vampire jumping spiders to the evidence that we’re on the cusp of a life-altering, worldwide catastrophe.
A recent editorial in The Biological Bulletin, for instance, makes the case that if you’re in a lab but not on Twitter, you’re falling down on the job and placing science in a “perilous position.”
But the idea of outreach—the term that’s inevitably applied when scientists talk to nonscientists about science—is complicated. And in the past week several researchers who also blog and Tweet have been explaining why it’s not always so simple.
As Jeanne Garbarino, a postdoc at…
February 24, 2012, 2:24 pm
Trying to be happy all the time can make you unhappy. You should make room for less smiley emotions—like, say, anger.
Or so say the authors of a new paper. Researchers had subjects role-play scenarios like a police officer questioning a subject or a politician lobbying for the passage of a bill. Beforehand, they allowed them to choose clips of music deemed in previous trials to provoke anger (the Sepultura song “Refuse/Resist,” performed by thrash cellists Apocalyptica), happiness (“Estudiante,” by Waldteufel), or something in-between (“Indecision,” by Yo-Yo Ma). They were then asked whether they wanted to listen to the entire song before completing the role-play scenario.
Some subjects were more interested in listening to “Refuse/Resist” when they were going to act out a confrontational scenario. Those same people also scored higher on well-being indicators, while those who…
February 20, 2012, 8:42 pm
Vancouver, British Columbia—A new technology lets people control a speech synthesizer with gestures, allowing them to speak or sing with their hands. Along with opening new realms of musical expression, research with the speech-generating system may deepen understanding of how the brain drives spoken language and song.
Sidney Fels, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of British Columbia, led the team of researchers that created the device. He talked about it in a session here at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The new technology is mimicking a complicated physiological process. Speech uses 200 muscles between the abdomen and the nose, with the lungs driving air movement and the larynx generating sound.
The speech-generating system (a video demonstration is available for download here) uses two…
February 14, 2012, 5:03 pm
Your maximum number of real friends is 150, according to Robin Dunbar, a finding often cited to show that having a large number of Facebook friends is silly. The idea behind “Dunbar’s number,” as it’s usually called, is that human beings can’t maintain meaningful relationships with more than (roughly) 150 people. There is a cognitive upper limit on friendship—our brains can’t handle more buddies.
But that doesn’t mean having lots of friends on Facebook is meaningless. In fact, according to a new study, having a higher number of Facebook friends, even well past Dunbar’s number, seems to increase life satisfaction. The researchers surveyed 88 college students about their Facebook habits (number of friends, frequency of wall posts, etc.) and then measured how satisfied they were with their lives. They found that students who had more friends on Facebook were more satisfied. Among those…
January 30, 2012, 5:16 pm
We are easily fooled, more biased than we believe, less rational than we think, unable to accurately recall the past, unrealistically positive about the future, spoiled by money, controlled by hormones, hamstrung by prejudices, overwhelmed by choice. We can’t stop eating. We pay for free stuff. Our minds go blank. There is something—actually, lots of things—wrong with us.
Or so it feels after attending two days of talks at the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, in which researcher after researcher explained how they had exposed humanity’s multitudinous foibles.
What, how, and how much we eat was a much-discussed topic. Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, rehearsed his finding that the size of our plates (or bowls or glasses) affects how much we consume, though with his national TV appearances and best-selling book, this …