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How a Quick Lesson About Vaccination Can Help Stop Fake News
Is misinformation causing outbreaks of diseases long thought curable? A recent study found that just a simple "heads up" about fake news can help save thousands of lives.
It is easier to fool a person than it is to convince a person that they’ve been fooled. This is one of the great curses of humanity.
Given the incredible amount of information we process each day, it is difficult for any of us to critically analyze all of it. This is made even more difficult by the natural tendency to be overly critical of any information that threatens our worldview and under-critical of information that supports it.
The menace of misinformation can plague a society with grave consequences. For instance, the failure of people to understand that HIV causes AIDS killed an estimated 300,000 people in South Africa at the turn of the millennium. The state of Minnesota is battling a measles outbreak caused by anti-vaccination propaganda. And discussion over the effects of misinformation on recent elections in Austria, Germany, and the United States is still ongoing.
If only we had a way to prevent our seduction by misinformation. A vaccine of some kind perhaps…
A recent set of experiments shows us that there is a way to help reduce the effects of misinformation on people: the authors amusingly call it the “inoculation.”
In two experiments, groups of test subjects were exposed to misinformation after having been exposed to an “inoculation”. This inoculation was given in the form of either a warning of future misinformation or a review of why the misinformation they were about to read was a fallacy, with an additional group being given both. The control group was merely given misinformation.
The tests showed that this “pre-bunking” was extremely effective. While members of the control group saw a significant decrease in acceptance of the scientific consensus on climate change, members of all other groups saw minor drops at worst, which even then were heavily influenced by their pre-existing worldviews.
The most effective of these methods was an explanation of how the misinformation would be presented and how it would attempt to mislead them. This method was effective not only at slowing the pace of false information taking hold, but also worked across all worldviews and even reduced the polarization of all test subjects.
So, we can help prevent rampant misinformation now? Where do I sign up?
Research into how this works is still ongoing, though it is well known that suspicious people are less likely to be taken in by fraudulent action. The researchers also pointed out that several studies support the notion that teaching about misconceptions leads to greater learning overall then just telling somebody the truth. While the topic used in the study was climate change consensus, the researchers saw no reason to suppose these methods function differently with other subjects.
We all know somebody who has been taken in by a bad argument or by information they wanted to wanted to believe is true. Sometimes, it is even ourselves that can be fooled. A method to help prevent being taken in by bad arguments and false narratives could be a powerful tool for educating ourselves and others.
This storm rained electrons, shifted energy from the sun's rays to the magnetosphere, and went unnoticed for a long time.
- An international team of scientists has confirmed the existence of a "space hurricane" seven years ago.
- The storm formed in the magnetosphere above the North magnetic pole.
- The storm posed to risk to life on Earth, though it might have interfered with some electronics.
What do you call that kind of storm when it forms over the Arctic ocean?<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/8GqnzBJkWcw" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> Many objects in space, like Earth, the Sun, most of the planets, and even some large moons, have magnetic fields. The area around these objects which is affected by these fields is known as the magnetosphere.</p><p>For us Earthlings, the magnetosphere is what protects us from the most intense cosmic radiation and keeps the solar wind from affecting our atmosphere. When charged particles interact with it, we see the aurora. Its fluctuations lead to changes in what is known as "space weather," which can impact electronics. </p><p>This "space hurricane," as the scientists are calling it, was formed by the interactions between Earth's magnetosphere and the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interplanetary_magnetic_field" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">interplanetary magnetic field,</a> the part of the sun's magnetosphere that goes out into the solar system. It took on the familiar shape of a cyclone as it followed magnetic fields. For example, the study's authors note that the numerous arms traced out the "footprints of the reconnected magnetic field lines." It rotated counter-clockwise with a speed of nearly 7,000 feet per second. The eye, of course, was still and <a href="https://www.sciencealert.com/for-the-first-time-a-plasma-hurricane-has-been-detected-in-space" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">calm</a>.</p><p>The storm, which was invisible to the naked eye, rained electrons and shifted energy from space into the ionosphere. It seems as though such a thing can only form under calm situations when large amounts of energy are moving between the solar wind and the upper <a href="https://www.reading.ac.uk/news-and-events/releases/PR854520.aspx" target="_blank">atmosphere</a>. These conditions were modeled by the scientists using 3-D <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-21459-y#Sec10" target="_blank">imaging</a>.<br><br>Co-author Larry Lyons of UCLA explained the process of putting the data together to form the models to <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/science/space/space-hurricane-rained-electrons-observed-first-time-rcna328" target="_blank">NBC</a>:<br><br>"We had various instruments measuring various things at different times, so it wasn't like we took a big picture and could see it. The really fun thing about this type of work is that we had to piece together bits of information and put together the whole picture."<br><br>He further mentioned that these findings were completely unexpected and that nobody that even theorized a thing like this could exist. <br></p><p>While this storm wasn't a threat to any life on Earth, a storm like this could have noticeable effects on space weather. This study suggests that this could have several effects, including "increased satellite drag, disturbances in High Frequency (HF) radio communications, and increased errors in over-the-horizon radar location, satellite navigation, and communication systems."</p><p>The authors <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-21459-y#Sec8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">speculate</a> that these "space hurricanes" could also exist in the magnetospheres of other planets.</p><p>Lead author Professor Qing-He Zhang of Shandong University discussed how these findings will influence our understanding of the magnetosphere and its changes with <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-03/uor-sho030221.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">EurekaAlert</a>:</p><p>"This study suggests that there are still existing local intense geomagnetic disturbance and energy depositions which is comparable to that during super storms. This will update our understanding of the solar wind-magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling process under extremely quiet geomagnetic conditions."</p>
Research reveals a new evolutionary feature that separates humans from other primates.
- Researchers find a new feature of human evolution.
- Humans have evolved to use less water per day than other primates.
- The nose is one of the factors that allows humans to be water efficient.
A model of water turnover for humans and chimpanzees who have similar fat free mass and body water pools.
Credit: Current Biology
Being skeptical isn't just about being contrarian. It's about asking the right questions of ourselves and others to gain understanding.
- It's not always easy to tell the difference between objective truth and what we believe to be true. Separating facts from opinions, according to skeptic Michael Shermer, theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, and others, requires research, self-reflection, and time.
- Recognizing your own biases and those of others, avoiding echo chambers, actively seeking out opposing voices, and asking smart, testable questions are a few of the ways that skepticism can be a useful tool for learning and growth.
- As Derren Brown points out, being "skeptical of skepticism" can also lead to interesting revelations and teach us new things about ourselves and our psychology.