Concept experience #5

Facebook tinkered with users’ feeds for a massive psychology experiment

By William Hughes

Jun 27, 2014 3:30 PM

Scientists at Facebook have published a paper showing that they manipulated the content seen by more than 600,000 users in an attempt to determine whether this would affect their emotional state. The paper, “Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks,” was published in The Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences. It shows how Facebook data scientists tweaked the algorithm that determines which posts appear on users’ news feeds—specifically, researchers skewed the number of positive or negative terms seen by randomly selected users. Facebook then analyzed the future postings of those users over the course of a week to see if people responded with increased positivity or negativity of their own, thus answering the question of whether emotional states can be transmitted across a social network. Result: They can! Which is great news for Facebook data scientists hoping to prove a point about modern psychology. It’s less great for the people having their emotions secretly manipulated.

In order to sign up for Facebook, users must click a box saying they agree to the Facebook Data Use Policy, giving the company the right to access and use the information posted on the site. The policy lists a variety of potential uses for your data, most of them related to advertising, but there’s also a bit about “internal operations, including troubleshooting, data analysis, testing, research and service improvement.” In the study, the authors point out that they stayed within the data policy’s liberal constraints by using machine analysis to pick out positive and negative posts, meaning no user data containing personal information was actually viewed by human researchers. And there was no need to ask study “participants” for consent, as they’d already given it by agreeing to Facebook’s terms of service in the first place.

Facebook data scientist Adam Kramer is listed as the study’s lead author.

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In response to the concerns about the published study, Adam D. I. Kramer posted on his Facebook page the following proclamation on June 29, 2014:
OK so. A lot of people have asked me about my and Jamie and Jeff’s recent study published in PNAS, and I wanted to give a brief public explanation. The reason we did this research is because we care about the emotional impact of Facebook and the people that use our product. We felt that it was important to investigate the common worry that seeing friends post positive content leads to people feeling negative or left out. At the same time, we were concerned that exposure to friends’ negativity might lead people to avoid visiting Facebook. We didn’t clearly state our motivations in the paper.

Regarding methodology, our research sought to investigate the above claim by very minimally deprioritizing a small percentage of content in News Feed (based on whether there was an emotional word in the post) for a group of people (about 0.04% of users, or 1 in 2500) for a short period (one week, in early 2012). Nobody’s posts were “hidden,” they just didn’t show up on some loads of Feed. Those posts were always visible on friends’ timelines, and could have shown up on subsequent News Feed loads. And we found the exact opposite to what was then the conventional wisdom: Seeing a certain kind of emotion (positive) encourages it rather than suppresses is.

And at the end of the day, the actual impact on people in the experiment was the minimal amount to statistically detect it — the result was that people produced an average of one fewer emotional word, per thousand words, over the following week.

The goal of all of our research at Facebook is to learn how to provide a better service. Having written and designed this experiment myself, I can tell you that our goal was never to upset anyone. I can understand why some people have concerns about it, and my coauthors and I are very sorry for the way the paper described the research and any anxiety it caused. In hindsight, the research benefits of the paper may not have justified all of this anxiety.

While we’ve always considered what research we do carefully, we (not just me, several other researchers at Facebook) have been working on improving our internal review practices. The experiment in question was run in early 2012, and we have come a long way since then. Those review practices will also incorporate what we’ve learned from the reaction to this paper. — in Floyd, VA.

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In an interview the company released a few years ago, Kramer is quoted as saying he joined Facebook because “Facebook data constitutes the largest field study in the history of the world.” It’s a charming reminder that Facebook isn’t just the place you go to see pictures of your friends’ kids or your racist uncle’s latest rant against the government—it’s also an exciting research lab, with all of us as potential test subjects.

Reflection

I have decided to add hyperlinks to Facebook,  to the paper in question, to the main author of the paper, to the interview mentioned in the paper.I believe that these links will make life easier for a person trying to investigate and understand the issues that are mentioned in this article, bringing the person to the sources of this paper.

I have added the text of the Facebook post that Adam Kramer published  following the publication of the paper

I have also used bold font to highlight passages of the paper that I felt may be of particular interest to the reader, namely the passages concerning “Facebook data use policy” which may cause concerns about users privacy.

After reading the sources I felt that the paper could use more quotes from the sources and address the topic in more detail to the benefit of the reader. By not clicking on the links the reader may miss on many important details that were not mentioned in the original short paper.

Research nugget #5

Article citation: Relation between facial morphology, personality and the functions of facial make-up in women, R. Korichi, D. Pelle-de-Queral, G. Gazano and A. Aubert, International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 2011, 33, 338–345.
Link to article:
http://web.a.ebscohost.com.proxy.library.vcu.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=8625e9ab-c622-40f7-bbd8-337ffaf0533a%40sessionmgr4001&vid=2&hid=4206

This paper concerns itself by the study of relations between specific emotional and psychological profiles and the use of makeup. In an experiment, sixty-two Caucasian female subjects, that use makeup daily, were divided into two distinct groups depending whether hey use makeup for camouflage (group C) of seduction (group S). Women in group S had high self-esteem, high assertiveness and low anxiety, while women in group C low self-esteem, low assertiveness and high anxiety. The study revealed that women from the group C have a greater asymmetry of the lower face and that this could be related to a possible larger amount of negative emotional experiences. It was observed that women from the group S more extensively changed their facial attractiveness by using a large range of colors. They also spend more time putting on makeup around mouth and lips area than women in group C. The results of this article suggest that make-up is used differently, depending on psychological profiles of women, to manipulate their facial features to enhance their attractiveness.

These findings are in agreement with the paper “Cosmetics: They Influence More Than Caucasian Female Facial Attractiveness” by NASH, REBECCA FIELDMAN, GEORGE HUSSEY, TREVOR LÉVÊQUE and JEAN-LUC PINEAU, that was discussed in my “Research nugget #4,” that I analyzed in Research Nugget #4, which concluded that there are monetary and other benefits offered to women who use makeup to enhance their beauty.

Nugget #1

Concerning morphological variables, further analyses of our data revealed significant differences in upper vs. lower facial asymmetry (i.e. eyes and mouth) between our two groups. Indeed, group C subjects have significantly greater lower facial asymmetry than ‘S’ subjects, while expressing marginally lower upper asymmetry. Such differences could be related to fluctuating asymmetry (i.e. random differences between two sides, as opposed to the global asymmetry) that have been argued to develop throughout the lifespan of the individual and would represent a sign of the phenotype being subjected to some levels of stress [50]. Interestingly, some studies reveal that lower face was associated with emotions and more specifically with valence-related asymmetries [51]. As lower face asymmetry is greater in women from group C, it could be hypothesized a link between their facial asymmetry pattern and a possible larger amount of negative emotional experiences [50], especially as negative emotions implies more salient facial features [52]. Interestingly, mouth asymmetry and make-up duration was highly correlated in subject from group S, but not in group C. As mouth and lips have been related to secondary sexual signals [33], it could be therefore hypothesized that make-up would be used as a tool to adjust visual asymmetry in women from group S, and therefore increase for potential attractiveness. However, the exact relation between facial asymmetry and emotional expression remains to be further examined.

In this nugget the authors observed that most women’s foreheads are more or less symmetric. The authors report on their observation that women with asymmetric faces use makeup more often to conceal their flaws while women with symmetric faces use makeup more often to make themselves more desirable and attractive. In other words, all experimental subjects used makeup to enhance their looks. So the authors experimentally verified that women don’t use makeup to make themselves less attractive (unless, maybe, if they want to rob the bank, but bank robbers were obviously not part of this study 🙂 ). This nugget supports the main claim of the paper and is consistent with the results of the paper studied in Research nugget #4.

Nugget #2

Total duration of make-up, duration of self-observation and duration of make-up for forehead, eyes, cheekbones, cheeks, chin and neck were not significantly different between C and S groups
(P > 0.22). However, as shown in Fig. 3, subjects from group S displayed significantly longer application of make-up on the mouth and lips area compared to group C (t = 2.098; df = 59;
P < 0.0412). Moreover, make-up duration of the mouth was highly correlated with mouth asymmetry (p9p10) in subjects of the group S (r = 0.938; P 0.31).

In this nugget the authors observed that women in group S spend more time putting on makeup around mouth and lips area than women with bigger facial asymmetries. (Mouth and lips are related to secondary sexual signals.) When a good looking women makeups herself into a stunning beauty, man and companies are willing to pay a huge premium for that. This upgrade can be compared to being promoted from a senior management position to a CEO (a significant salary gap between the two). Therefore, it is logical that women will spend more time transforming themselves into a knock-out (which means that they will also spend more time applying makeup to areas associated with secondary sexual signals such as mouth and lips) than women from camouflage group, who merely want to fix their facial imperfections.

Research Nugget #4

I am sorry to say that VCU database proved to be not useful in my case because the database does not contain a lot of papers about makeup from the viewpoint that I am trying to analyze it. The search engine is inferior to Google where I am getting much better results. Even when I find the article in the VCU database, I am unable to get the full text of the papers I am interested in. I can request an inter-library loan with options to pick the article at the front desk or have it mailed (by snail mail) to my home for a fee. Neither of these options are acceptable, since I need the publication now. Therefore, for my today’s nugget I have choose the following article that I found on the web.

Article citation :Cosmetics: They Influence More Than Caucasian Female Facial Attractiveness, NASH, REBECCA; FIELDMAN, GEORGE; HUSSEY, TREVOR; LÉVÊQUE, JEAN-LUC; PINEAU, PATRICIA. Journal of Applied Social Psychology. Feb2006, Vol. 36 Issue 2, p493-504.
Link to article: http://www.femininebeauty.info/f/makeup.pdf

Summary
The primary goal of this paper is to investigate the effect of makeup on the perception of health, confidence, earning potential, and professional class on Caucasian women in their 30’s. Four volunteers aged 31 to 38 were photographed with and without makeup. To make sure that all faces were as similar as possible from the outset, they each wore a white headband to keep their hair away from their face, removed all jewelry, and wore a black bib to mask their clothes. They were also asked to sustain a relaxed, neutral expression while being photographed. 152 men and 171 women were presented with the women’s facial photographs either with or without cosmetics. Women presented wearing cosmetics were perceived as healthier and more confident than when presented without. Participants also perceived women wearing cosmetics with a greater earning potential and with more prestigious jobs than the same women without cosmetics. The study concluded that women can employ cosmetics to manipulate their appearance and reap up possible benefits, such as being successful at a job interview or negotiating higher salary. By wearing makeup they may also benefit from a boost in positive self-perception and well-being that appears to be associated with wearing makeup.

Nugget #1
For analysis, the professions allocated to each image were translated to their social class coding. High, Average, Low, and Unemployed. This converted the results into categorical data, and consequently the results were analyzed using chi-square. Analysis of data revealed that wearing makeup had a significant impact on the rating of a woman’s professional class, chi-square (3, N=1,292)=19.981, p=0.000. The percentage allocation of the four employment categories (Figure 1) revealed that women wearing cosmetics were more likely to be assigned a high- or average-status profession than women without makeup (high status: women With Cosmetics=21.1%, women Without Cosmetics=16.3%; average status: women With Cosmetics 546.9%, women Without Cosmetics=39.8%). By contrast, women without cosmetics were more likely to be assigned a low-status job or unemployed professional status than women with cosmetics (low-status: women Without Cosmetics=37.4%, women With Cosmetics=26.8%; unemployed:
women Without Cosmetics=6.5%, women With Cosmetics=5.2%). Splitting the results by participant sex revealed that the significant effect of cosmetics on the perception of Professional Class was generated by male participants, chi-square (3, N=608)517.645, p=0.001, rather than female respondents, chi-square (3, N=5684) 53.133, p=0.060.

This nugget provides the statistical data from the experiment and informs the reader about the statistics that were employed to analyze the data. The authors also note that a woman wearing a makeup is more likely to be perceived as professional by men than by women.

Nugget #2
In accordance with predictions, wearing cosmetics was found to have a significant impact upon participants’ ratings of female confidence. An intriguing question remains as to whether this effect is genuinely caused by the physical change brought about by the application of makeup or as a consequence
of the general increase in positive self-perception women experience when wearing cosmetics. The volunteers within this study did report feelings of enhanced well-being and improved self-worth when prepared by the beautician. It is possible that this change in self-perception is reflected in the photographs despite the retention of a neutral expression. This question could be resolved by using computer image manipulation to investigate whether makeup renders faces more confident while avoiding the potential confound caused by volunteers’ responses to the application of cosmetics by a beautician. Makeup could be applied digitally onto cosmetic-free female faces, rather than directly onto a volunteer.

In this nugget the authors note that the effect of makeup may also be enhanced by the following effect. A woman wearing make up looks more healthy and more attractive, therefore she feels better about herself. These positive feelings translate in her being more confident, which actually makes her healthier and more attractive.

Ebsco Host Tutorial Work

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screenshoot1

1) Do all women agree that wearing make-up has positive impact on women’s career, improves her relationship with a partner and boosts her self-esteem and confidence?

2) I searched for “wearing make-up AND self-esteem AND confidence.”

3) The article that I will probably use are article #4, “Look More Lovable,” and article #5, “The Effect of Make-up On Perceived Competency,” because both of these articles conclude that make-up helps women not only to look better but also boost their self-confidence and self-esteem.

Research nugget #3

In my research nuggets, Research nugget #1 and Research nugget #2, I have researched about ovarian and pancreatic cancers. The symptoms for both of these cancers are similar and non alarming in the early stages of the disease. Both tend to be analyzed late and have high mortality rate.

My first research nugget was from the paper “How to recognize the symptoms of ovarian cancer

This article describes symptoms of ovarian cancer and follows the lives of several women who were diagnosed with ovarian cancer. It is a very scary paper that shows the reader how tricky the symptoms of this disease can be and how difficult it can be to diagnose it.

Here is the nugget that I choose.

Ovarian cancer has been overlooked for a long, long time – it’s been put into the ‘too difficult’ box,’ says Annwen Jones, chief executive of the target Ovarian cancer charity. “There has been a vicious circle: it’s typically diagnosed at a late stage so we have had poor survival rates and, as a result, there’s been little awareness of the disease and therefore very little funding for research. We desperately need to break that circle.”
The main problem is its symptoms: persistent bloating, abdominal or pelvic pain, urinary and/or bowel problems and difficulty in eating.
Taken on its own, each sign could easily indicate some other medical problem. In fact, 30 per cent of sufferers are misdiagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome. It’s only when the symptoms are pieced together that a diagnosis is made easier. For years, ovarian cancer was known as a silent killer, which really frustrates campaigners. “there are clear symptoms,” says Jones. “You just have to know about them.”

Unlike breast cancer, that many are familiar with, only 3% of women in the UK can identify symptoms of ovarian cancer . The symptoms of an ovarian cancer, as described in the nugget above, are often misdiagnosed. One patient notes:

“I thought there was no way it could be cancer – I hadn’t been losing weight, my periods were still regular and I had mistakenly assumed if you had clear smear tests you were fine. It was only later I learned that smear tests will only detect cervical cancer, not ovarian cancer.”

This clearly demonstrates how many women underestimate ovarian cancer. Much of current research is focused on early detection. One promising direction is to focus on so called biomarkers. All diseases have proteins, or concentrations of proteins, specifically linked to them called biomarkers. Identifying biomarkers is a powerful diagnostic tool. Antibodies can be used to test for specific biomarkers because they only bind to specific molecules or groups of molecules. Problems can arise when they bind to groups of similar molecules, leading to false positives and unreliable information.In practice this can be very costly and unreliable method. Jack Andraka delivered a recent breakthrough by finding one particular protein that serves as a biomarker for pancreatic, lung and ovarian cancers and constructing an ingenious testing device for these cancers by utilizing carbon nanotubes, that is extremely cheap, fast, effective and minimally invasive.

My second nugget was about a prognoses for pancreatic cancer, taken from the online publication “Pancreatic cancer.”

This is an extensive article that thoroughly describes pancreatic cancer, deliveries survival statistics, discusses methods of diagnoses and treatment, describes symptoms, pathophysiology and discusses prevention. Smoking and unhealthy diet without vegetables increase risks of pancreatic cancer. Consumption of vitamin D decreases the risks of developing the cancer.

Here is the nugget that I choose.

“For all stages combined, the 1-year relative survival rate is 25%, and the 5-year survival is estimated as less than 5% to 6%.
For local disease, the 5-year survival is approximately 20%.
For locally advanced and for metastatic disease, which collectively represent over 80% to 85-90% of individuals, the median survival is about 10 and 6 months, respectively. Without active treatment, metastatic pancreatic cancer has a median survival of 3–5 months; complete remission is very rare.”

As is is clear from the nugget, pancreatic cancer strikes fast and is a deadly disease. It cause about 330,000 deaths worldwide in 2012 and it is the seventh most common cause of deaths due to cancer (fourth in the US). 43,000 people in the US were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and 37,000 died from it. Pancreatic cancer has one of the highest fatality rates of all cancers. It accounts for only 2.5% of new cases but is responsible for 6% of cancer deaths each year. The disease occurs more often in the developed world, where about 68% of new cases occur. `it is almost never detected in its early stages. Pancreatic cancer often has a poor prognosis, even when diagnosed early. It usually spreads rapidly, which is a main reason of it’s a low survival rates. Signs and symptoms may not appear until pancreatic cancer is in the metastasis stage and is surgically irremovable.

In my Research nugget #1, I have discussed ovarian cancer, which is also a very effective killer. Pancreatic and ovarian cancers have lots in common.

Symptoms
Both ovarian and pancreatic cancers are hard to detect. Signs and symptoms are frequently absent in early stages and when they exist they may be subtle. Therefore, these cancers is often misdiagnosed until they are in advanced stages. Most common symptoms include: abdominal or pelvic pain, heartburn, loss of appetite or nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, involuntary weight loss, back pain and tiredness.

Prognosis
For the pancreatic cancer the prognosis was discussed in the nugget.
The five-year survival rate for all stages of ovarian cancer is 47%. For cases where a diagnosis is made early in the disease, when the cancer is still confined to the primary site, the five-year survival rate is 92.7%.

Genetics
Both cancers are linked to mutations in BRCA2 gene whose mutations also increases risk of breast cancer.

Diagnosis
Occurrences of both cancers are effectively through specialized blood tests and CT scans. Until recently these tests were very expensive and therefore rarely used. See here for a recent breakthrough (mentioned also in my previous posts).

Conclusion
Both ovarian and pancreatic cancers are very deadly silent killers. There is a specialized blood test called cA125 which measures the concentration of certain protein in your blood. Higher than normal concentrations indicate with great precision the presence of cancerous cell. Please insist that your doctor performs this test if you have any of the symptoms mentioned above. It may save your life!

Inquiry Project Proposal #2

After reading plethora of Bonnie’s helpful comments, I have realized that my idea of inquiry project was completely wrong. First I thought that can write a nice paper about a physical phenomenon that I was excited about as a teenager and make it interesting, illustrated and with online references to be a nice reading for preteen kids or kids in their early teens, like my children. But the problem was that this problem was solved more than hundred years ago. My second try was about cancer research. This is a very current topic, but it is impossible to get new results/conclusions about cancer treatment or detection from reading online articles or joying awareness forums. Finally, and I am sorry that I got it so late, I understood that this project is not about a nice readable online article about an interesting topic (like a textbook chapter), neither it is about reporting on the latest progress of someone else (I cannot hope that I will come up with a breakthrough in cancer treatment when even this young genius needed a John Hopkins University lab to finish his research). I finally got it that this project is about how to use online media (as many as possible) to obtain an answer to a question that intrigues me but was not answered yet (in other words we cannot find a definitive answer of it on the internet). It cannot be a scientific question since I don’t think I have the capacity to solve problems that even experts don’t have answers to. Hence it has to be a question that is debatable and people have variable opinions about the topic. All of a sudden, it struck me.

My Instagram

I have been working as a make-up artist in Qatar for five years. In the Middle East, make-up is a must for any woman and most women wear full heavy make-up (so called Khaliji make-up) all day long. Since doing make-up is my daily work, I completely forgot about how important actually make-up is for my clients and women in general. I also realized how much controversy make-up generates. I have recently seen articles on the internet that were bashing make-up. Thus, I decided to change my topic once again (for the last time). Here is my research project:

Do all women agree that wearing make-up has positive impact on women’s career, improves her relationship with a partner and boosts her self-esteem?

The power of make-up

I will tell you about my own experience with make-up. When I was younger, I didn’t like make up. I was against it because I thought it alters the a natural beauty of women. I did not realize the importance of make up until we moved to the Middle East. People here pay much more attention to their looks than people in the US. How you look is very important here, because you will be treated according to your looks. Women wearing designer clothes, shoes hand bags, expensive watches are treated better. Also Caucasian people are treated better that Asian people or people from Africa. I experienced it first-hand. When I am in a mall without make-up people treat me as if I was a maid. I don’t want to go into details, but believe me, you will feel the difference. When I put on make-up things significantly changed. Especially if I do a make-up that changes my face completely so that I look Caucasian (I usually end up looking as a Lebanese 🙂 ). So, looking back at those times when I did not wear make-up I now realize I would have been much more successful if I was wearing make-up. Make-up can also help you conceal not only imperfections in your face, but also emotions that you don’t want to reveal. For instance, during the interview for a position at MAC Cosmetics I was wearing full make up. I was very nervous and stressed and I without make-up I would look like a white sheet of paper. But, because I had face drenched with make-up complemented with a strong red lipstick, I was able to hide my fears behind my make-up mask, like an actor in Old Greece hides used to hide his face behind a mask. So, using this mask, I was able to project this strong persona with mega self-confidence to the hiring manager and , of course, I got the job as a make-up artist 🙂 . Since that day I started loving make up. I became to think of my make-up as a shield. It was a mask under which I can hide, and I can be someone else, a tougher and stronger person, that will not be so easily hurt. I always loved to draw, and with my new profession, I realized that instead of painting pictures on canvas, I can create art on a person’s face using my make-up brushes. In my research I intend to use, twitter, blogging, Facebook, Instagram, online forums to get answers to my questions.

Research nugget #2: Pancreatic cancer

The following nugget is a prognoses for pancreatic cancer, taken from the online publication “Pancreatic cancer.”

“For all stages combined, the 1-year relative survival rate is 25%, and the 5-year survival is estimated as less than 5% to 6%.
For local disease, the 5-year survival is approximately 20%.
For locally advanced and for metastatic disease, which collectively represent over 80% to 85-90% of individuals, the median survival is about 10 and 6 months, respectively. Without active treatment, metastatic pancreatic cancer has a median survival of 3–5 months; complete remission is very rare.”

As is is clear from the nugget, pancreatic cancer strikes fast and is a deadly disease. It cause about 330,000 deaths worldwide in 2012 and it is the seventh most common cause of deaths due to cancer (fourth in the US). 43,000 people in the US were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and 37,000 died from it. Pancreatic cancer has one of the highest fatality rates of all cancers. It accounts for only 2.5% of new cases but is responsible for 6% of cancer deaths each year. The disease occurs more often in the developed world, where about 68% of new cases occur. `it is almost never detected in its early stages. Pancreatic cancer often has a poor prognosis, even when diagnosed early. It usually spreads rapidly, which is a main reason of it’s a low survival rates. Signs and symptoms may not appear until pancreatic cancer is in the metastasis stage and is surgically irremovable.

In my Research nugget #1, I have discussed ovarian cancer, which is also a very effective killer. Pancreatic and ovarian cancers have lots in common.

Symptoms
Both ovarian and pancreatic cancers are hard to detect. Signs and symptoms are frequently absent in early stages and when they exist they may be subtle. Therefore, these cancers is often misdiagnosed until they are in advanced stages. Most common symptoms include: abdominal or pelvic pain, heartburn, loss of appetite or nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, involuntary weight loss, back pain and tiredness.

Prognosis
For the pancreatic cancer the prognosis was discussed in the nugget.
The five-year survival rate for all stages of ovarian cancer is 47%. For cases where a diagnosis is made early in the disease, when the cancer is still confined to the primary site, the five-year survival rate is 92.7%.

Genetics
Both cancers are linked to mutations in BRCA2 gene whose mutations also increases risk of breast cancer.

Diagnosis
Occurrences of both cancers are effectively through specialized blood tests and CT scans. Until recently these tests were very expensive and therefore rarely used. See here for a recent breakthrough (mentioned also in my previous posts).

Research Nugget #1: Ovarian Cancer

The following nugget is from the online publication “How to recognize the symptoms of ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer has been overlooked for a long, long time – it’s been put into the ‘too difficult’ box,’ says Annwen Jones, chief executive of the target Ovarian cancer charity. “There has been a vicious circle: it’s typically diagnosed at a late stage so we have had poor survival rates and, as a result, there’s been little awareness of the disease and therefore very little funding for research. We desperately need to break that circle.”
The main problem is its symptoms: persistent bloating, abdominal or pelvic pain, urinary and/or bowel problems and difficulty in eating.
Taken on its own, each sign could easily indicate some other medical problem. In fact, 30 per cent of sufferers are misdiagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome. It’s only when the symptoms are pieced together that a diagnosis is made easier. For years, ovarian cancer was known as a silent killer, which really frustrates campaigners. “there are clear symptoms,” says Jones. “You just have to know about them.”

Unlike breast cancer, that many are familiar with, only 3% of women in the UK can identify symptoms of ovarian cancer . The symptoms of an ovarian cancer, as described in the nugget above, are often misdiagnosed. One patient notes:

“I thought there was no way it could be cancer – I hadn’t been losing weight, my periods were still regular and I had mistakenly assumed if you had clear smear tests you were fine. It was only later I learned that smear tests will only detect cervical cancer, not ovarian cancer.”

This clearly demonstrates how many women underestimate ovarian cancer. Much of current research is focused on early detection. One promising direction is to focus on so called biomarkers. All diseases have proteins, or concentrations of proteins, specifically linked to them called biomarkers. Identifying biomarkers is a powerful diagnostic tool. Antibodies can be used to test for specific biomarkers because they only bind to specific molecules or groups of molecules. Problems can arise when they bind to groups of similar molecules, leading to false positives and unreliable information.In practice this can be very costly and unreliable method. Jack Andraka delivered a recent breakthrough by finding one particular protein that serves as a biomarker for pancreatic, lung and ovarian cancers and constructing an ingenious testing device for these cancers by utilizing carbon nanotubes, that is extremely cheap, fast, effective and minimally invasive.

Nugget #3: Ted Nelson’s “Computer Lib/Dream Machines”

In that case the obvious question would be, how can computers help? How can computers usefully supplement and extend the traditional and accepted forms of teaching? This is the question to which present-day efforts in “computer-assisted instruction” —called CAI—seem to respond.

But such an approach is of no possible interest to the new generation of critics of our school system—people like John Holt (Why Children Fail), Jonathan Kozol (Death at an Early Age) and James Herndon (The Way It Spozed to Be). More and more, such people are severely questioning the general framework and structure of the way we teach.

These writers describe particularly ghastly examples of our schooling conditions. But such horror stories aside, we are coming to recognize that schools as we know them appear designed at every level to sabotage the supposed goals of education. A child arrives at school bright and early in his life. By drabness we deprive him of interests. By fixed curriculum and sequence we rob him of his orientation, initiative and motivation, and by testing and scoring we subvert his natural intelligence.

Schools as we know them all run on the same principles: iron all subjects flat than then proceed, in groups, at a forced march across the flattened plain. Material is dumped on the students and their responses calibrated; their interaction and involvements with the material is not encouraged nor taken into consideration, but their dutifulness of response is carefully monitored.

While an exact arrangement of intended motivations for the student is preset within the system, they do not usually take effect according to the ideal. It is not that students are unmotivated, but motivated askew. Rather than seek to achieve in the way they are supposed to, students turn to churlishness, surliness, or intellectual sheepishness. A general human motivation is god-given at the beginning and warped or destroyed by the educational process as we know it; thus we internalize at last that most fundamental of grownup goals: just to get through another day.

Because of this procedure our very notion of human ability has suffered. Adult mentality is cauterized, and we call it “normal.” Most people’s minds are mostly turned off most of the time. We know virtually nothing of human abilities except as they have been pickled and boxed in schools; we need to ignore all that and start fresh. To want students to be “normal” is criminal, when we are all so far below our potential. Buckminster Fuller, in “I Seem to Be a Verb,” says we are all born geniuses: Sylvia Ashton-Warner tells us in Teacher of her success with this premise, and of the brilliance and creative potential she was able to find in all her schoolchildren.

The nugget above that I choose foe my discussion is a long one. For convenience, I have printed in bold those parts of the nugget that I would like to respond to most. Ted Nelson provides a harsh criticism of the US educational system in 1974. Unfortunately, I think that the current state of affairs of education got much worse than that. In the beginning of my nugget he asks two important questions:

“In that case the obvious question would be, how can computers help? How can computers usefully supplement and extend the traditional and accepted forms of teaching?”

Unfortunately, Ted Nelson falsely hopes that hopes that computers may provide a solution to bad educational system. I believe that they made it even worse. In the rest of this blog I will try to give reasons.

Most of the subjects are still taught “flattened out.” History is usually taught as a list of dated events. Geography is taught as a list of geographical, agricultural, industrial and demographical facts. Sciences tend to isolated from both history and geography and from each other. Mathematics is taught as a list of formulas that are then applied to various types of examples according to given schemes. This is a completely boring and debilitating experience for any curious student. I wish when I was in grade, middle school and high school I would learn about Pythagorean Theorem in history class while studying Old Greek history. I wish that I was taught about parabolas while learning about Archimedes’ burning mirrors in the siege of Syracuse. I wish that in geography, when learning, for instance, about India, instead of , population (number), land area (number), the most grown agricultural plant, (name), most mined mineral (name), etc., we learned about Himalayas (lots of interesting geology about how India crashed into Asia), about the dangers of Nanga Parbat (Killer Mountain)), about the first white man who probably reached the summit of Chomolungma (Mount Everest) and it was not Sir Edmund Hillary. It would be much more interesting to learn about India through the rock-cut temples of India, the legend of Taj Mahal, Yoga, cashmere wool, the mathematics of Brahmagupta, the ideas of Ghandi, the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore, the genius of Srinivasa Ramanujan, etc. Of course, this list includes geology, geography, history, literature and mathematics and is therefore much more demanding for the teachers, who usually specialize in one or two disciplines. I wish that more time was given studying the lives of people who really contributed to enhancement of mankind, such as Archimedes, Euclid, Hippocrates, Socrates, Diophantus (the father of algebra), Eratosthenes (the man who measured the Earth), Newton (invented calculus), Leibniz (also independently invented calculus), Ole Rømer (a man who measured the speed of light) Fermat (see Fermat’s principle in optics), Giordano Bruno (who paid the ultimate price for promoting science), Galileo Galilei, Copernicus, Kepler, Bach (a genius who dis-tuned the piano and influenced music much more than Beatles did), Beethoven, Euler, Gauss, Mendel (the father of genetics), Fleming (not the one who wrote James Bond books), Emmy Noether, Marie Curie (the only person (man or woman) to be awarded two Nobel prices in two different areas (physics and chemistry)), Roentgen (the first X-man 🙂 , received the very first Nobel price in physics in 1901) , Einstein, Alan Turing (single-handily cracked German code used in WWII, invented a generally accepted theoretical model for computers), John von Neumann (the last of the renaissances men), etc., instead of learning about psychopaths, sociopaths, fanatics, perverts, misogynists and crooks such as Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Hitler, all of the sect/religious leaders, pharaohs, generals and Kings that ruled any piece of land in the history regardless of the roman numeral after their name. They had been the same useless parasites of the society as are most of today’s heads of countries, presidents, all dictators, etc., without whom the world would be a much better place.

Since 1974, personal computers, laptops, notebooks, tablets etc., have become part of the school curriculum. But the new generation is not on average smarter or more knowledgeable than the class of 1974. The problem is not with the computers. Computer is of course an excellent tool and one can use it extremely effectively to do things that would not be possible to do without it. One example that stands out recently is how the structure of the HIV virus was decoded with the help of an online game. Another example, that I mentioned in my inquiry project, is a fascinating invention of a young genius named Jack Andraka. Computers also opened Pandora’s box of passive/dumbing games entertainment that is only a click away. I don’t want to generalize, so I will only focus on mathematics. Mathematics curriculum did not change significantly since 1974. Students are not asked to solve more complicated problems with the help of computers. They are solving essentially the same problems as in 1974, but with the help of computers. So their task is now much easier, since the computers can differentiate, integrate, solve differential equations and much more (no need to buy specialized software, just type “integrate online” into “Google”). Many solutions to problems in widely used textbooks are now available on youtube. Also writing assignments can be many times reduced to copy and paste exercise. As a result of this, an average student is more passive than he/she was in 1974. I am at loss what can be done in this case. Maybe it is a natural tendency of the human race to self destruct (viz misuse of atomic energy), or it will naturally evolve into Brave New World society. Another option is that we are just preparing to submit our leadership role on Earth to cyborgs and thereafter to higher forms of intelligence that will develop by itself as the dumbing of the human race will continue through laziness and genetic deterioration. The fact is that people are naturally lazy and so given better computer they will become on average even lazier. As they say, you can take a monkey out of the jungle, but you cannot take the jungle out of the monkey.

Let me end this blog by a folklore story about a freshmen and his instructor called Barometer Question to demonstrate what is wrong with our educational system. This happened some time ago in a far away country, but I believe the story has the same relevance today as it had 100 years ago. It will metaphorically address the concerns raised in the last bold text of my nugget.

In a first-year physics class an instructor asked a student question how to measure the height of a building using a barometer, expecting the correct answer: “the height of the building can be estimated in proportion to the difference between the barometer readings at the bottom and at the top of the building”. The student provided a different, and also correct answer: “Take the barometer to the top of the building. Attach a long rope to it, lower the barometer to the street, then bring it up, measuring the length of the rope. The length of the rope is the height of the building.”

The instructor and the student got into argument. According to the format of the exam, a correct answer deserved a full credit, but issuing a full credit would have violated academic standards by rewarding a student who had not demonstrated competence in the academic field that had been tested (physics).

The instructor and the student agreed that in order for the student to get an “A” for the answer, he needs to come up with another solution of the problem. The student than sat for several minutes thinking. Seeing this , the instructor approached the student and said; “You don’t know any other answer, do you?”. Upon which the student answered:”In fact I know several of them, I am just deciding which one to write down.” The student then wrote that he will tie the barometer on one end of the rope and swing it holding the other end. He will measure the period of the swing both on the ground and on the top of the building and based on the difference of these periods he will use a well known formula (to him) to determine the height of the building. The instructor did gave him “A” for this answer but was not happy. So he asked the student what are the other ways of measuring the building. He received a wealth of different answers from the student including dropping the barometer from the top of the building, timing its fall with a stopwatch, comparing the building’s and the barometer’s shadows and trading the barometer to the building’s superintendent in return for the information wanted. The student ultimately admitted that he knew the expected “correct” answer but was fed up with the professors “teaching him methods how solve problems, rather than teaching him how to learn to understand and analyze the subject”.