Why Grumpy Dogs Outperform Friendly Ones on Some Learning Tests

Dogs that would not be the first choice of many pet owners do better than some of the more agreeable fellows when they have to learn from a stranger.

#animal-behavior, #animal-cognition, #budapest-hungary, #dogs, #oregon-state-university, #udell-monique-a-r, #university-of-pennsylvania, #working-dog-center, #your-feed-science

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Decades After Police Bombing, Philadelphians ‘Sickened’ by Handling of Victim’s Bones

The disclosure that anthropologists at two Ivy League universities had kept bones from a victim of the 1985 MOVE bombing infuriated its members as well as city leaders.

#black-people, #bones, #forensic-science, #fringe-groups-and-movements, #move, #philadelphia-pa, #police-brutality-misconduct-and-shootings, #princeton-university, #university-of-pennsylvania, #university-of-pennsylvania-museum-of-archaeology-and-anthropology

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Kati Kariko Helped Shield the World From the Coronavirus

Collaborating with devoted colleagues, Dr. Kariko laid the groundwork for the mRNA vaccines turning the tide of the pandemic.

#biontech-se, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #kariko-katalin, #moderna-inc, #pfizer-inc, #philadelphia-pa, #rna-ribonucleic-acid, #university-of-pennsylvania, #vaccination-and-immunization, #weissman-drew

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George Bass, Archaeologist of the Ocean Floor, Dies at 88

He was called the father of underwater archaeology, finding treasures in shipwrecks around the world that illuminated ancient history.

#archaeology-and-anthropology, #bass-george-f-1932-2021, #deaths-obituaries, #diving-and-divers, #oceans-and-seas, #shipwrecks-historic, #turkey, #university-of-pennsylvania

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Racial disparity in Chicago cops’ use of force laid bare in new data

Analysis of a trove of data extracted from the Chicago Police Department has revealed major differences between how black and white officers, as well as male and female ones, actually enforce the law. This rare apples-to-apples comparison supports the idea that improving diversity in law enforcement may also improve the quality of policing.

Historically hard data from police departments has been extremely hard to come by, for a variety of reasons. As the authors put it in the paper:

Rigorous evaluation of the effects of police diversity has been stymied by a lack of sufficiently fine-grained data on officer deployment and behavior that makes it difficult or impossible to ensure that officers being compared are facing common circumstances while on duty.

…At present, a patchwork of nonstandard record-keeping and disclosure practices across roughly 18,000 U.S. police agencies has severely impeded broader policy evaluation.

This study by B.A. Ba et al., however, is based on highly detailed CPD records resulting from requests made to the department over a period of three years. It’s a collaboration between researchers from UC Irvine, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Columbia, and was published today in Science (access is free).

The records include millions of shifts and patrols from 2012 through 2015, which the team carefully sorted and pruned until it had a set that would allow the kind of analysis they hoped to do: comparing police work that is similar in all respects except the demographics of the officers doing it.

If on a Monday in March, in the same district at the same time of day, no serious differences could be found between Black officers and white officers, then race could be tentatively ruled out as a major contributor to how police do their work. On the other hand, if there were serious differences found, then that might indicate — as a topic for further study — the possibility of systemic bias of some kind.

As you might expect, the analysis found that there are indeed serious differences that, having isolated all the other variables, only correlate with the race of the officer. This may seem obvious to some and controversial to others, but the point of this work is not to assume or confirm assumptions, but to show plainly with data that there are disparities associated with race that need investigation and explanation.

Some of the specific findings can be summarized as follows:

  • Minority officers (black and Hispanic, self-identified) “receive vastly different patrol assignments,” something that had to be controlled for in order to provide effective comparisons for the other findings.
  • Black officers use force 35 percent less than white officers on average, with most of the difference coming from force used against black civilians.
  • Black officers perform far fewer “discretionary stops” for “suspicious behavior.”
  • Hispanic officers showed similar, but smaller reductions.
  • Female officers use force considerably less often than male ones, again especially when it comes to black civilians.
  • Much of the disparity in stops, arrests, and use of force results from differences in pursuing low-level offenses, especially in majority-black neighborhoods.

The data show (as a sort of inverse image of the above list) that white male officers stop, arrest, and use force more often, especially on people of color, and frequently as a result of minor crimes or “discretionary stops” with vague justifications.

This diagram shows a sampling of the collected data, indicating stops, arrests, and uses of force by officers on a map of the Wentworth District of Chicago.

The researchers are careful to point out that as conclusive as the patterns may appear to be, it’s important to understand that there is no causal mechanism studied or suggested. In fact they expressly point out that the data could be interpreted in two directions:

One explanation for these disparities centers on racial bias, i.e., white officers are more likely than Black officers to harass Black civilians. Technically, it is also possible that Black officers respond more leniently when observing crimes in progress.

More study is required, but they point out that one explanation — leniency by Black officers on minor offenses — has very little effect on public safety (violent crimes are addressed largely the same regardless of race and gender). The other — systemic racism — is significantly more harmful. Though they are “observationally equivalent” in the context of this data specifically, they are not equivalent in consequence. (Nor in likelihood — nor are they entirely incompatible with each other.)

In a valuable commentary on the paper and its implications, Yale’s Philip Atiba Goff notes that its findings are rich in implications that we ignore at our peril:

The magnitude of the differences provides strong evidence that — at least in some cities — the number of officers who identify with vulnerable groups can matter quite a bit in predicting police behavior. Although this does not settle the matter, the work stands alone in its ability to make apples-to-apples comparisons across officers – regardless of how many may be bad apples.

Given that Ba et al. find negligible demographic differences in officers’ responses to community violence, such a large difference in discretionary stops compels a reader to ask: Are any of those excess stops by white officers necessary? Should a department even be making them, given the demonstrated risk for abuse so evident in vulnerable communities?

Are any of those excess use of force incidents by white officers necessary? And if the excess force is not necessary for public safety, why does the department target Black communities for so much physical coercion? These questions are difficult to answer outside a broader engagement with the purpose of policing — and its limitations.

In other words, while it may require further study to get at the core of these issues, police departments may look at them and find that their resources are not necessarily being used to best effect. Indeed they may have to face the possibility — if only to refute it — that much of what officers do has little, no, or even negative value to the community. As Goff concludes:

With violence trending downward the past three decades, mostly troubling small geographic areas, and possibly occupying a small portion of police activity, what should the role of police be? Failing to take seriously the possibility that the answer should be “much less” may end up frustrating both researchers and a public that has been asking the question for far longer than most scientists.

This revealing study was only possible because the authors and legal authorities in Chicago compelled the police there to release this data. As noted above it can be difficult, if it is even possible, to collect large-scale data from any department, let alone from many departments for analysis at a national scale. The authors freely admit that their findings, in their specificity to Chicago, may not apply equally in other cities.

But that’s meant to be a call to action; if when finally given access to real data, researchers find problems of this magnitude, every department in the country should be weighing the benefits and risks of continued obfuscation with those of openness and collaboration.

#columbia-university, #justice, #policing, #princeton-university, #racism, #science, #tc, #uc-irvine, #university-of-pennsylvania, #yale-university

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Evidence Builds That Pregnant Women Pass Covid Antibodies to Newborns

A new study suggests that protective antibodies can be transferred through the placenta, and the baby may receive more of them if a mother is infected with Covid earlier in her pregnancy.

#antibodies, #babies-and-infants, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #parenting, #pregnancy-and-childbirth, #research, #university-of-pennsylvania

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The Composer Tyshawn Sorey Enters a New Phase

The Newark native has long been lauded for his brilliant abstractions. Lately he’s writing about something more concrete — and producing his most powerful music yet.

#assn-for-the-advancement-of-creative-musicians, #black-people, #classical-music, #columbia-university, #content-type-personal-profile, #george-floyd-protests-2020, #jazz, #music, #philadelphia-pa, #university-of-pennsylvania

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A Theory About Conspiracy Theories

In a new study, psychologists tried to get a handle on the personality types that might be prone to outlandish beliefs.

#anxiety-and-stress, #computers-and-the-internet, #conspiracy-theories, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #journal-of-personality, #psychology-and-psychologists, #research, #rumors-and-misinformation, #trump-donald-j, #university-of-pennsylvania, #your-feed-health, #your-feed-science

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Colleges Plan to Reopen Campuses, but for Just Some Students at a Time

To provide some semblance of the campus experience during a pandemic, colleges say large chunks of the student body will have to stay away and study remotely for all or part of the year.

#colleges-and-universities, #cornell-university, #coronavirus-reopenings, #dormitories, #e-learning, #foreign-students-in-us, #georgia-institute-of-technology, #harvard-university, #immigration-and-customs-enforcement-us, #princeton-university, #rutgers-the-state-university-of-new-jersey, #stanford-university, #tuition, #university-of-pennsylvania, #yale-university

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Is It Safe to Go to a Pool During Coronavirus?

Worry less about the water, and more about the person standing next to you in a crowded locker room or wading in the shallow end as you swim by.

#centers-for-disease-control-and-prevention, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #coronavirus-reopenings, #mailman-school-of-public-health, #swimming-pools, #university-of-pennsylvania

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R&D Roundup: ‘Twisted light’ lasers, prosthetic vision advances and robot-trained dogs

I see far more research articles than I could possibly write up. This column collects the most interesting of those papers and advances, along with notes on why they may prove important in the world of tech and startups.

In this edition: a new type of laser emitter that uses metamaterials, robot-trained dogs, a breakthrough in neurological research that may advance prosthetic vision and other cutting-edge technology.

Twisted laser-starters

We think of lasers as going “straight” because that’s simpler than understanding their nature as groups of like-minded photons. But there are more exotic qualities for lasers beyond wavelengths and intensity, ones scientists have been trying to exploit for years. One such quality is… well, there are a couple names for it: Chirality, vorticality, spirality and so on — the quality of a beam having a corkscrew motion to it. Applying this quality effectively could improve optical data throughput speeds by an order of magnitude.

The trouble with such “twisted light” is that it’s very difficult to control and detect. Researchers have been making progress on this for a couple of years, but the last couple weeks brought some new advances.

First, from the University of the Witwatersrand, is a laser emitter that can produce twisted light of record purity and angular momentum — a measure of just how twisted it is. It’s also compact and uses metamaterials — always a plus.

The second is a pair of matched (and very multi-institutional) experiments that yielded both a transmitter that can send vortex lasers and, crucially, a receiver that can detect and classify them. It’s remarkably hard to determine the orbital angular momentum of an incoming photon, and hardware to do so is clumsy. The new detector is chip-scale and together they can use five pre-set vortex modes, potentially increasing the width of a laser-based data channel by a corresponding factor. Vorticality is definitely on the roadmap for next-generation network infrastructure, so you can expect startups in this space soon as universities spin out these projects.

Tracing letters on the brain-palm

#biotech, #electronics, #extra-crunch, #health, #laser, #market-analysis, #optics, #prosthesis, #rd-roundup, #robotics, #science, #startups, #tc, #university-of-pennsylvania

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Colleges Won’t Refund Tuition. Autumn May Force a Reckoning.

Educators at schools from Brown to Northern Arizona know the experience is lacking. So why won’t they give some money back?

#brown-university, #colleges-and-universities, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #northern-arizona-university, #paxson-christina-hull, #tuition, #university-of-pennsylvania

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This Florida Student Was Accepted at All 8 Ivy League Schools

Craig McFarland, the valedictorian of his high school in Jacksonville, Fla., received acceptance letters from 17 colleges and universities in all.

#brown-university, #colleges-and-universities, #columbia-university, #cornell-university, #craig-mcfarland, #dartmouth-college, #duke-university, #emory-university, #florida, #florida-state-university, #georgia-institute-of-technology, #harvard-university, #ivy-league, #jacksonville-fla, #princeton-university, #stanford-university, #university-of-pennsylvania, #yale-university

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‘An Eviction Notice’: Chaos After Colleges Tell Students to Stay Away

One after the other, like dominoes, colleges announced that because of coronavirus fears, they were suspending classes and asking students to pack up and go.

#city-university-of-new-york, #colleges-and-universities, #columbia-university, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #financial-aid-education, #harvard-university, #iowa-state-university, #new-york-university, #university-of-pennsylvania

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