If You Want an Engaging Debate About Ideas, Stay Off Social Media, Study Warns
Increasingly, the Internet reflects our vision of the offline world where people naturally gravitate toward groups who already share our opinion on social and political matters.
The technology many of us use to stay in touch with friends is poorly suited to creating meaningful debate and discussion, argues a new study which examined how revelations of widespread NSA media surveillance played out on Twitter and Facebook. Conducted by Rutgers University and the Pew Center for Research, the study points out that since social media functions as a bonding tool between groups and individuals, those who hold dissenting views are hesitant to express them. Groups formed on social media tend to be like-minded so contradicting people's opinions can result in exclusion which, psychologically speaking, is not a good feeling.
"'People who use social media are finding new ways to engage politically, but there’s a big difference between political participation and deliberation,' said Keith N. Hampton, an associate professor of communication at Rutgers and an author of the study. 'People are less likely to express opinions and to be exposed to the other side, and that’s exposure we’d like to see in a democracy.'"
Powerful search engines like Google add to the exclusion of dissimilar similar ideas by modifying algorithms to turn out search results that conform to our established online behavior. Increasingly, the Internet reflects our vision of the offline world where people naturally gravitate toward groups who already share our opinion on social and political matters.
In his Big Think Floating Interview lecture, Harvard sociologist Nicholas Christakis explains how social tendencies are reflected in social media rather than determined by them.
Read more at the New York Times
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Here's the science of black holes, from supermassive monsters to ones the size of ping-pong balls.
- There's more than one way to make a black hole, says NASA's Michelle Thaller. They're not always formed from dead stars. For example, there are teeny tiny black holes all around us, the result of high-energy cosmic rays slamming into our atmosphere with enough force to cram matter together so densely that no light can escape.
- CERN is trying to create artificial black holes right now, but don't worry, it's not dangerous. Scientists there are attempting to smash two particles together with such intensity that it creates a black hole that would live for just a millionth of a second.
- Thaller uses a brilliant analogy involving a rubber sheet, a marble, and an elephant to explain why different black holes have varying densities. Watch and learn!
- Bonus fact: If the Earth became a black hole, it would be crushed to the size of a ping-pong ball.
Protected animals are feared to be headed for the black market.
In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.
- The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
- Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
- Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
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