Numlock News: August 15, 2018

By Walt Hickey

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Medical School Lecture Attendance

I don’t know if I’m old-fashioned, but when I get medical help from a doctor I generally prefer a physician who went to classes when they were in med school. A new study found 23.5 percent of second-year med students said they “almost never” attended class during their first two years of med school, up 5.3 percentage points from 2015. These students (hopefully) prefer self-teaching rather than availing themselves of the instruction offered by their med school. At Johns Hopkins, pre-clinical lecture attendance was down to 30 to 40 percent according to an administrator.

Orly Nadell Farber, STAT and AAMC

Opt-In Eavesdroppers

As it stands, in the U.S. kids under the age of 13 are the only class of internet users who must opt in to having their data collected, the rest of us can only opt out. This is thanks to a piece of legislation called COPPA, which protects kids, who are uniquely susceptible to targeted marketing. The makers of smart listening devices have to contend with the likes of COPPA, as tracking data on kids without their parents consent is both not legal and also entirely possible when always-on smart speakers are analyzing any speech within earshot. A forecast from January projected sales of smart speakers to pass 38 million units in 2018, so the question of how the devices handle data about children isn’t exactly academic anymore.

Joseph Bien-Kahn, New York Magazine

Oh, The Humanities

The humanities never recovered from the Great Recession. From 1990 to 2008, 8 percent of U.S. college degrees were in English, history, foreign languages and philosophy. Right now, it’s about 5 percent. Perhaps someday the sciences will realize that quantitative skills are useless if you can’t articulate or contextualize them.

Noah Smith, Bloomberg

Tiger Woods Bump

Tiger Woods is back, and people are tuning into golf as a result. When Woods tied for second place at the Valspar Tournament in March, NBC notched the best rating for a non-major PGA event in five years. Since then, ratings have been up at each of Tiger’s outings: The Masters’ Sunday ratings were up 14 percent year over year, the British Open’s Sunday ratings were up 37 percent, and the PGA Championship — where Tiger landed in second place — saw ratings up 69 percent year over year. When Woods missed the U.S. Open in June, ratings were flat.

Daniel Roberts, Yahoo Finance

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MIT scientists have solved a decades-old mystery of why spaghetti breaks into more than 2 pieces when you snap it in half. When you bend a long, thin rod of pasta (or, for that matter, some other material) and it snaps in two, the initial break will cause a snap back that causes a vibration that causes additional fractures. But a new paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows MIT researchers cracked a way to crack pasta in two cleanly: by twisting about 270 degrees before bending, both Barilla No. 5 and Barilla No. 7 were made to snap cleanly in two.

Jennifer Chu, MIT News

Clean Energy

So far in 2018 corporations have purchased 7.2 gigawatts of clean energy, smashing the 5.4 gigawatt record set in 2017. Corporate sustainability programs have promoted the idea of buying clean energy to offset emissions. Tech companies are the biggest buyers, accounting for 1.8 gigawatts of that purchased power in 2018 with Facebook in particular accounting for 1.1 gigawatts alone, buying 437 megawatts of solar and 680 megawatts of wind.

Bloomberg NEF


Organic food accounts for over $45 billion in sales annually and can be found in 82 percent of American homes, but still the definition of what precisely is “organic” and what isn’t remains a dicey one. As it stands, the Department of Agriculture says that restaurants can call their food organic if they make a “reasonable” effort to use organic ingredients, while farms and other businesses can call their product organic only if it contains at least 95 percent organic ingredients. So when organic dishes contain dozens of ingredients, it’s entirely possible the restaurant cut a few corners.

Priya Krishna, The New York Times

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