Sex, Obama and God: What the People Want (In That Order)
If knowledge is power, then Google is the New York Yankees, CIA and Vitali Klitschko rolled into one. As the internet juggernaut maintains its dominance online, its influence on the physical world is growing thanks to the sheer amount of data it controls.
While one arm of Google is fighting to digitize and sell the field of human knowledge, another arm, Google Trends, is analyzing search terms as raw sociological data. By counting the frequency with which a given search term is entered over time, Google has its finger on our collective pulse.
Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist, claims that the real-time data is a more accurate gauge of public behavior than traditional predictors which rely on agèd data to make forecasts. Varian has urged the U.S. government to stop looking at the past to predict the future.
The government, for example, was caught off guard by the popularity of its Cash for Clunker’s program. Google’s data, however, showed a tremendous spike in interest over the length of the program i.e. the number of people searching for the program online was very, very high. Had the government been aware of this data, or so the logic goes, it could have been better equipped to deal with the program’s popularity.
Google Trends is still part of Google Labs, a classification which is given to projects still in the development phase, but already Trends provides a rose-colored window into our collective soul. Keying search terms Sex, Obama and God into Google Trends yields a line graph displaying their popularity as search terms over time. Only during the month of his election was Obama more popular than Sex; since his campaign began in 2008, Obama has been a more popular search term than God.
Google Trends' current forecast calls for lower unemployment and a rising housing market. Varian reports that fewer people are searching for unemployment benefits online while more frequently searching for affordable housing and real estate agents.
Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.
- Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
- Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
- Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
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