Outburst of interesting news in one hour

December 1, 2012

(This article was originally published at Learning From Data » Statistics, and syndicated at StatsBlogs.)

I guess I would carry an “NPR” label when I’m profiled by google’s personalized searching algorithm or other targeted online advertising algorithms. On my way to work or home, I usually pick up one or two good stories from NPR. Nov 29, 2012 was an outlier in some sense. I found much more than a usual number of stories that I’m interested in during the one hour of program: “All things considered”.

Starting from the universe and the science, Physics, that studies it. Which Came First: The Galaxy Or The Black Hole?

Galaxy NGC 1277 (Credit: NASA/ESA/Andrew C. Fabian)

Galaxy NGC 1277 (Credit: NASA/ESA/Andrew C. Fabian)

So what is the problem? The problem is that we found something we cannot explained by our current thoughts on how blackholes were formed. Texas Astronomers Measure Most Massive, Most Unusual Black Hole Using Hobby-Eberly Telescope

Astronomers have used the Hobby-Eberly Telescope at The University of Texas at Austin’s McDonald Observatory to measure the mass of what may be the most massive black hole yet — 17 billion Suns — in galaxy NGC 1277. The unusual black hole makes up 14 percent of its galaxy’s mass, rather than the usual 0.1 percent. This galaxy and several more in the same study could change theories of how black holes and galaxies form and evolve. The work will appear in the journal Nature on Nov. 29.

Narrowing back to our galaxy, the second report:  Space Probe Finds Ice In Mercury’s Craters (while JPL scientists are working on preparing big news from Mars)

Mercury (seen here in this Oct. 8, 2008, image from the Messenger spacecraft)

Mercury (seen here in this Oct. 8, 2008, image from the Messenger spacecraft)

Mercury is not the first planet to come to mind if you were searching for ice in the solar system. After all, the surface temperature across most of the planet is hot enough to melt lead.

But at the poles on Mercury it’s a different story. Almost no sun reaches the poles, and as a result, temperatures can drop to less than -100 degrees Fahrenheit. Now, three papers in the journal Science suggest there really is ice at the bottom of craters near the poles on Mercury.

Then to the Earth, we found  Greenland, Antarctic Ice Is Melting Faster

Credit: Ian Joughin/Science/AAAS

Credit: Ian Joughin/Science/AAAS

And when the researchers put all their data together, they found that Antarctica and Greenland together have melted enough over the past 20 years to raise sea level a very modest amount: about half an inch. They published their results in Science magazine.

Scientists at one point thought the ice could melt catastrophically, adding more than 10 feet to sea level in the course of a century or so. Now, the experts in this field are thinking that sea level is much more likely to rise 2 or 3 feet by the end of the century. [...] And 3 feet (about 1 meter) is a lot.

“What today is a once-in-a-century storm surge event in New York City would happen every three years if you had a 1-meter rise in sea level,” says Stefan Rahmstorf at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research near Berlin. “So a 1-meter sea level rise is huge.”

And to our society, This one is right on the topic, the wisdom of crowds, that has fascinated me for a long time. A Bet Or A Prediction? Intrade’s Purpose Is Debated


‘More Accurate Than Pundits’

“Conceptually, to an economist, there’s not a difference between betting and trading — apart from the fact that one sounds more polite than the other,” says Justin Wolfers, who grew up in Australia working for bookies taking bets.

Now a University of Michigan professor who’s studied Intrade, Wolfers says the site is not just a venue for winning and losing money. It also generates news as a byproduct, he says. That is, the odds on Intrade are almost always right.

“It tends to be more accurate than pundits, it tends to be more accurate than polls, and in the past it’s even more accurate than very sophisticated poll-watchers like The New York Times’ Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight.com,” Wolfers says.

The last one at individual level is funny but practically useful. Tried And True Tricks For Beating A Cold

Al Tyke(ph) of North Bethesda, Maryland, writes this: “My father, who grew up in Austria, Hungary, would occasionally make something he called a goggle-moggle, a concoction of hot milk, a raw egg, melted butter and honey for a cold and sore throat. But, Mr. Tyke continues, he was never able persuade me to try it.

Well, there’s this option suggested by John Patterson(ph) of Barry, Vermont. He says, it’s a cold cure from my Scottish grandparents. Take a basin of nearly boiling water and add dry mustard. Soak feet as soon as bearable. Take a shot of whiskey and put a towel over your head. When water is cool, go to bed in heavy socks and sweatshirt. And he adds, good for ages 10 and above.

Michael J. Graphics(ph) of South San Francisco says, I’ve always sworn by the two hats cold remedy. Here it is. Just put your favorite hat somewhere near the foot of the bed where you can see it. Snuggle into the covers with a bottle of your favorite spirits. And Graphics prefers the Highland Park 18-year-old whiskey. Focus on the hat and begin to sip your beverage. When you see two hats, you won’t necessarily be cured, but by then, you won’t much care.

You got to love the wisdom in this crowd :)

What a busy and happy hour!

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