Longer Looks: The Psychology Of Voting; Overexcited Neurons And Artificial Intelligence; And More
Each week, KHN finds interesting reads from around the Web.
Does Knowing Whom Others Might Vote For Change Whom You’ll Vote For?
When a presidential race that was supposed to be won by a mainstream moderate instead ends being captured by a far-right gadfly, you better believe pollsters are gonna get some scrutiny. But when this situation took place in the first round of French elections in 2002, bumping the incumbent prime minister from the final round, it wasn’t just the failure of prediction that led to a polling protest. Instead, people were concerned that opinion polling, itself, had caused the outcome. Twenty-four years earlier, France had muzzled opinion polling, banning the publication of poll results for a week before any election out of fear that voters were following the polls, rather than the other way around. (Koerth, 12/5)
How Overexcited Neurons Might Affect How You Age
A thousand seemingly insignificant things change as an organism ages. Beyond the obvious signs like graying hair and memory problems are myriad shifts both subtler and more consequential: Metabolic processes run less smoothly; neurons respond less swiftly; the replication of DNA grows faultier. But while bodies may seem to just gradually wear out, many researchers believe instead that aging is controlled at the cellular and biochemical level. They find evidence for this in the throng of biological mechanisms that are linked to aging but also conserved across species as distantly related as roundworms and humans. Whole subfields of research have grown up around biologists’ attempts to understand the relationships among the core genes involved in aging, which seem to connect highly disparate biological functions, like metabolism and perception. (Greenwood, 11/30)
Unpacking The Black Box In Artificial Intelligence For Medicine
In clinics around the world, a type of artificial intelligence called deep learning is starting to supplement or replace humans in common tasks such as analyzing medical images. Already, at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, “every one of the 50,000 screening mammograms we do every year is processed through our deep learning model, and that information is provided to the radiologist,” says Constance Lehman, chief of the hospital’s breast imaging division. In deep learning, a subset of a type of artificial intelligence called machine learning, computer models essentially teach themselves to make predictions from large sets of data. The raw power of the technology has improved dramatically in recent years, and it’s now used in everything from medical diagnostics to online shopping to autonomous vehicles. (Bender, 12/4)
The New York Times:
The Champion Who Picked A Date To Die
Champagne flutes were hastily unpacked from boxes, filled to their brims and passed around the room. Dozens of people stood around inside Marieke Vervoort’s cramped apartment, unsure of what to say or do. This was a celebration, Vervoort had assured her guests. But it did not feel like one. Eleven years earlier, Vervoort had obtained the paperwork required to undergo doctor-assisted euthanasia. Since her teenage years she had been battling a degenerative muscle disease that stole away the use of her legs, stripped her of her independence, and caused her agonizing, unrelenting pain. The paperwork had returned some sense of control. Under Belgian law, she was free to end her life anytime she chose. (Addario, 12/5)
Your Morning Routine Doesn't Have To Be Perfect
My mornings are the messiest part of my day. I do not rise and shine. Instead, I hit snooze on the alarm and throw the covers over my head. As I hear the early bus shuffle through my stop outside my window, my mind fills with thoughts from the night before, with to-do lists and deadlines. The alarm goes off again, and I repeat the snooze cycle twice more. By the time I roll out of bed, I’m a tangle of anxiety. (Koren, 12/2)