Tag: research (page 1 of 4)

Moral outrage and social media

I’ve largely quit Twitter these days, mainly because the social network I joined in 2007 turned into a rage machine sometime in the last 5-10 years. I suspect it had something to do with their IPO in 2013 and transformation to what I term “software with shareholders”.

This Yale study proves a link between increased outrage and the number of likes and retweets received. But then, we already knew that.

Moral outrage can be a strong force for societal good, motivating punishment for moral transgressions, promoting social cooperation, and spurring social change. It also has a dark side, contributing to the harassment of minority groups, the spread of disinformation, and political polarization, researchers said.

Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter argue that they merely provide a neutral platform for conversations that would otherwise happen elsewhere. But many have speculated that social media amplifies outrage. Hard evidence for this claim was missing, however, because measuring complex social expressions like moral outrage with precision poses a technical challenge, the researchers said.

To compile that evidence, Brady and Crockett assembled a team which built machine learning software capable of tracking moral outrage in Twitter posts. In observational studies of 12.7 million tweets from 7,331 Twitter users, they used the software to test whether users expressed more outrage over time, and if so, why.

The team found that the incentives of social media platforms like Twitter really do change how people post. Users who received more “likes” and “retweets” when they expressed outrage in a tweet were more likely to express outrage in later posts. To back up these findings, the researchers conducted controlled behavioral experiments to demonstrate that being rewarded for expressing outrage caused users to increase their expression of outrage over time.

Source: ‘Likes’ and ‘shares’ teach people to express more outrage online | YaleNews

95% of fish are ‘dark fish’

If scientists have indeed got this correct, it’s an incredible finding.

Fish in the sea

Prof Duarte led a seven-month circumnavigation of the globe in the Spanish research vessel Hesperides, with a team of scientists collecting echo-soundings of mesopelagic fish.

He says most mesopelagic species tend to feed near the surface at night, and move to deeper layers in the daytime to avoid birds.

They have large eyes to see in the dim light, and also enhanced pressure-sensitivity.”

They are able to detect nets from at least five metres and avoid them,” he says.”

Because the fish are very skilled at avoiding nets, every previous attempt to quantify them in terms of biomass that fishing nets have delivered are very low estimates.”

So instead of different nets what we used were acoustics … sonar and echo sounders.”

Source: Ninety-five per cent of world’s fish hide in mesopelagic zone | Phys.org

Fractional dosing of COVID vaccines may help more people get immunity faster

The advice to date has, quite rightly, to get any COVID vaccine that’s available to you. For me, that’s meant a double dose of AstraZeneca, and I’m happy about that.

But as the pandemic progresses, we need to be aware that some vaccines are more effective than others. This working paper, building on one published in Nature earlier this year, looks at how ‘fractional dosing’ of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines could reach more people more quickly.

Needless to say, we shouldn’t be in the position where people in less developed countries are getting access to vaccines much more slowly than the rest of the world. But, pragmatically speaking, this may help.

We supplement the key figure from Khoury et al.’s paper to show that fractional doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have neutralizing antibody levels (as measured in the early phase I and phase II trials) that look to be on par with those of many approved vaccines. Indeed, a one-half or one-quarter dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine is predicted to be more effective than the standard dose of some of the other vaccines like the AstraZeneca, J&J or Sinopharm vaccines, assuming the same relationship as in Khoury et al. holds. The point is not that these other vaccines aren’t good–they are great! The point is that by using fractional dosing we could rapidly and safely expand the number of effective doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.


One more point worth mentioning. Dose stretching policies everywhere are especially beneficial for less-developed countries, many of which are at the back of the vaccine queue. If dose-stretching cuts the time to be vaccinated in half, for example, then that may mean cutting the time to be vaccinated from two months to one month in a developed country but cutting it from two years to one year in a country that is currently at the back of the queue.

Source: A Half Dose of Moderna is More Effective Than a Full Dose of AstraZeneca | Marginal REVOLUTION