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Archive for 'Research News'

Research About Coffee-and-Health is Often and Easily Confounded

Friday, June 26th, 2020

It’s easy to say that coffee has a good or bad effect on people’s health, but it’s not easy to know, suggests a study about studies about whether coffee has a good or bad effect on people’s health.

The study is: “Dietary research on coffee: Improving adjustment for confounding,” David R. Thomas, Ian D. Hodges, Current Developments in Nutrition, 2019, nzz142. The authors, at the University of Auckland, and at HealthSearch Limited, New Zealand, explain:

this narrative review critically evaluated the methods and analyses of cohort studies investigating coffee and mortality. A specific focus was adjustment for confounding related to smoking, healthy and unhealthy foods and alcohol. Assessment of 36 cohort samples showed many did not adequately adjust for smoking. Consuming 1–5 cups of coffee per day was related to lower mortality among never smokers, in studies which adjusted for pack-years of smoking, and studies adjusting for healthy and unhealthy foods. Possible reduced health benefits for coffee with added sugar have not been adequately investigated. Research on coffee and health should report separate analyses for never smokers, adjust for consumption of healthy and unhealthy foods, and for sugar added to coffee.

Dead Salmon Spirit: Can You Not Tell Cats from Covid-19?

Tuesday, June 16th, 2020

[NOTE: The paper was retracted, as described below—here is an updated link to a copy of it.]

In the spirit of the Ig Nobel Prize-winning dead salmon study (and subsequent studies that went looking for fishy things) comes this new study about Covid-19, cat images, and some limitations of technology:

Can Your AI Differentiate Cats from Covid-19? Sample Efficient Uncertainty Estimation for Deep Learning Safety,” Ankur Mallick, Chaitanya Dwivedi, Bhavya Kailkhura, Gauri Joshi, and T. Yong-Jin Han, a paper presented at the ICML 2020 Workshop on Uncertainty and Robustness in Deep Learning. The authors, at Carnegie Mellon University and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, explain:

Deep Neural Networks (DNNs) are known to make highly overconfident predictions on Out-of-Distribution data…. In this work, we show that even state-of-the-art BNNs and Ensemble models tend to make overconfident predictions when the amount of training data is insufficient….

We demonstrate the usefulness of the proposed approach on a real-world application of COVID-19 diagnosis from chest X-Rays by (a) highlighting surprising failures of existing techniques, and (b) achieving superior uncertainty quantification as compared to state-of-the-art.

UPDATE (June 17, 2020): One of the study’s authors sent us a note that says:

  • that their study is NOT about “Covid-19, cat images, and some limitations of technology”
  • that the paper, which says on its first page “Presented at the ICML 2020 Workshop on Uncertainty and Robustness in Deep Learning”, was not presented at the ICML 2020 Workshop on Uncertainty and Robustness in Deep Learning
  • that their study “has been retracted”

Today in Fluid Dynamics: “Can a Toilet Promote Virus Transmission?”

Tuesday, June 16th, 2020

Pressure from the pandemic is bringing an urgent flow of partial information about the safety-or-danger of everyday activities. That flow brings us this new study:

Can a Toilet Promote Virus Transmission? From a Fluid Dynamics Perspective Featured,” Yun-yun Li, Ji-Xiang Wang, and Xi Chen, Physics of Fluids, vol. 32, 2020, 065107.

The authors, at Southeast University, Suzhou University of Science and Technology, and Yangzhou University, China, report:

“It is clear from daily experience that flushing a toilet generates strong turbulence within the bowl. Will this flushing-induced turbulent flow expel aerosol particles containing viruses out of the bowl? This paper adopts computational fluid dynamics to explore and visualize the characteristics of fluid flow during toilet flushing and the influence of flushing on the spread of virus aerosol particles…. The simulation results are alarming in that massive upward transport of virus particles is observed, with 40%–60% of particles reaching above the toilet seat, leading to large-scale virus spread. Suggestions concerning safer toilet use and recommendations for a better toilet design are also provided.”

Mate Abundance and Engagement Ring Size and Cost Expectations [study]

Monday, June 15th, 2020

“One growing area of research involves the study of engagement ring preferences, as a putative cue to male commitment to, and willingness to share resources with, the female recipient.”

– explain Ashley Locke, Jessica Desrochers, Danielle Lynch and Steven Arnocky of Nipissing University, Canada, in a 2019 publication of the Human Evolution Laboratory.

“We examined whether females primed with mate abundance versus scarcity exhibited differing expectations for an engagement ring purchased by a male proposer. Results showed that females primed with mate abundance expected a significantly larger and more expensive engagement ring relative to females primed with mate scarcity – a finding that held when controlling for age and current romantic relationship status.

This finding suggests that when females perceive mates to be abundant, they increase their expectation of cues to long-term male investment in a mateship.”

See: Induced Mate Abundance Increases Women’s Expectation for Engagement Ring Size and Cost

Research research by Martin Gardiner

A question of smoked ham in goat

Friday, June 12th, 2020

Non-specialists sometimes are confused by the titles of research papers. This study about goats is a particular problem for some non-goat readers:

The impact of diet on the quality of fresh meat and smoked ham in goat,” Snezana Ivanovic, Ksenija Nesic, Boris Pisinov, and Ivan Pavlovic, Small Ruminant Research, vol. 138, May 2016, pp. 53-59. The authors are at the Institute of Veterinary Medicine of Serbia.

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