Disney Unveils First Virgin Princess – The Onion – America’s Finest News Source

Disney Unveils First Virgin Princess – The Onion – America’s Finest News Source

In an effort to better reflect the diverse backgrounds and experiences of their audience, Disney officials this week introduced Lily of Hazelberry, the company’s first virgin princess. “While our fans have long been enchanted by Belle, Ariel, and Elsa, we wanted to create a relatable princess for girls everywhere who are still virgins,” said Disney executive vice president Zenia Mucha, describing the only Disney princess who has never had sexual intercourse as a quirky, confident, and pure 14-year-old ascendant to the throne of the magical kingdom of Hazelberry. “All Disney princesses have extraordinary stories and inner qualities that make them wonderful and unique, but we’ve always lacked a heroine who hasn’t yet slept with her boyfriend or another male character. We are proud that Lily will finally provide a princess to look up to for the large demographic of young girls who, due to age, choice, or unavailability of sexual partners, have not yet experienced intercourse.” Disney representatives added that sexually active girls would also love Lily’s best friend, Princess Misty, who lives in a neighboring enchanted realm and just moved in with her slightly older boyfriend, Clint.



Muscial classification system: Computers get with the beat: Automatic classification of music by genre — ScienceDaily

Muscial classification system: Computers get with the beat: Automatic classification of music by genre — ScienceDaily

Rare is the musical artist described as genre-defying. Most singers and musicians tend to stick to a particular genre, whether electronic dance music, reggae, classical, folk, jazz, rock or Indian genres such as Bhangra and Ghazal, or any of hundreds of other categories. Listeners might categorize any given song into one of a few dozen genres with which they are familiar while dedicated fans of a specific genre may well distinguish between dozens of sub-genres within each classification. In the age of digital distribution and archiving of music and music recommendation systems it makes sense to have a way to automate the process of genre categorization.

Now, researchers in India have devised a simple system that, rather than attempting to quantify many different parameters — tempo, pulse, loudness, melody, rhythm, timbre etc — focuses on just pitch, tempo, amplitude variation pattern and periodicity in order to tag a given song as belonging to a specific genre. Their approach uses random sample consensus (RANSAC) as a classifier.

In the team’s approach their system decomposes, or breaks down, the sound signal into 88 frequency bands, divides each sub-band into short duration frames and for each frame, computes the short-time mean-square power (STMSP) and the average STMSP, this gives a metric for pitch. The team demonstrates that for seven major musical genres, this metric is very distinct. In order to be more precise, however, they also measure rhythm or tempo of a song, which is an important perceptual description essentially independent of melody. Tempo can be extracted from a sound file using a mathematical process known as a Fourier transform that gives the metric in beats per minute (BPM).

Pitch and tempo can both help decide on genre, but there is often overlap. For instance, these characteristics are often similar in North Indian Bhangra and Western rock music. So, another metric — amplitude variation — is also added to the mix. Additionally, the team also uses correlation-based periodicity. This is another perceptual feature which captures the repetitions within a given signal.


Fundamental differences in how pain is processed in males and females — ScienceDaily

Fundamental differences in how pain is processed in males and females — ScienceDaily

“Research has demonstrated that men and women have different sensitivity to pain and that more women suffer from chronic pain than men, but the assumption has always been that the wiring of how pain is processed is the same in both sexes,” said co-senior author Jeffrey Mogil, Ph.D., E.P. Taylor Professor of Pain Studies at McGill University and Director of the Alan Edwards Centre for Research on Pain. “The realization that the biological basis for pain between men and women could be so fundamentally different raises important research and ethical questions if we want to reduce suffering.”

The research was conducted by teams from McGill University, The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), and Duke University, and looked at the longstanding theory that pain is transmitted from the site of injury or inflammation through the nervous system using an immune system cell called microglia. This new research shows that this is only true in male mice. Interfering with the function of microglia in a variety of different ways effectively blocked pain in male mice, but had no effect in female mice.

According to the researchers, a completely different type of immune cell, called T cells, appears to be responsible for sounding the pain alarm in female mice. However, exactly how this happens remains unknown.

“For the past 15 years scientists have thought that microglia controlled the volume knob on pain, but this conclusion was based on research using almost exclusively male mice,” said Mogil. “This finding is a perfect example of why this policy, and very carefully designed research, is essential if the benefits of basic science are to serve everyone.”


Fact or Fiction?: Chocolate Is Good for Your Health – Scientific American

Fact or Fiction?: Chocolate Is Good for Your Health – Scientific American

Thousands of popular headlines over the past couple of decades have touted the supposed health benefits of chocolate—particularly dark chocolate (in moderation, of course). But every single one of the major studies on which those claims are based actually failed to prove any such connection. They weren’t designed to—they are observational studies, whose main purpose is to identify interesting ideas that warrant closer, more rigorous investigation without wasting too much time and energy. You can blame traffic-hungry journalists (or their editors) for the specious headlines.

Really getting to the bottom of whether or not chocolate is good for you requires what’s known as a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. This is the most scientifically rigorous type of study researchers ever conduct and it’s designed to separate honest-to-goodness real evidence from wishful thinking. As it happens, just such a randomized controlled trial got underway this spring. And no, you can’t volunteer for it—unless you already participated in one of two other studies.

With 18,000 expected participants, the new study is big. It has to be because no one wants to wait decades for definitive results. Because the participants are older and thus at higher risk of suffering heart attacks and strokes, investigators should be able to collect enough data to determine whether or not the intervention is worthwhile over the course of about four years. Women are being recruited from the Women’s Health Initiative and male participants hail from the Vitamin D and OmegaA-3 study.

But test subjects will not be getting free samples of chocolate. Indeed, the study pills they’ll be taking won’t even taste like chocolate. That is because the researchers won’t actually be testing chocolate. Instead, they will be studying the health benefits of certain plant-based substances called flavanols, which are found not only in chocolate but also in tea, fruits and vegetables. (There’s also a section of the study that will evaluate the health benefits of multivitamins.)

Laboratory experiments suggest that the flavanols may help keep the insides of arteries nice and flexible—a characteristic that is known to protect the heart and brain over the course of a lifetime. But the process of fermenting, drying and roasting cocoa beans in order to turn them into chocolate destroys most of their original flavanol content.


Fingerprints change over time, but not enough to foil forensics | Science/AAAS | News

Fingerprints change over time, but not enough to foil forensics | Science/AAAS | News

In both TV crime dramas and real-life courtrooms, fingerprints are often the lynchpin connecting a criminal to a crime. Many studies have demonstrated that the loops, whorls, and arches on an individual’s “friction ridge skin” are unique enough to be admissible as evidence, but few have investigated whether they remain the same over time. It turns out that fingerprints do evolve, but only slightly: A statistical analysis published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that fingerprints change over time, but not enough to impact forensic analyses. The study followed 15,597 subjects, whose prints were taken at least five times over a minimum of 5 years. The results show that larger time intervals between printings reduced the odds of correctly matching a print to a finger in the database, but only by an operationally inconsequential amount. Further, the scenario in which an innocent defendant would be wrongfully convicted—where the machine finds a match even though there isn’t one—was even less likely, with a probability close to zero regardless of the time between printings. Overall, the best predictor of mistakes was the quality of the image. Poor images yielded more errors, leading the team to conclude that image quality plays a bigger role in explaining the variation than elapsed time.


Fish diversity exploded when dinosaurs went extinct | Science/AAAS | News

Fish diversity exploded when dinosaurs went extinct | Science/AAAS | News

The ray-finned fishes, so called because their fins are supported by bony spines or rays, make up more than 95% of all fish species. They come in all shapes and sizes, from the showy lionfish (pictured above) to the delicious Atlantic salmon. Yet paleontologists have been unsure when and why ray-finned fishes exploded into such prominence, in large part because the preservation of fish fossils is a very hit-or-miss affair. Now, researchers have taken a new approach to the problem: They looked at marine sediments taken from deep-sea cores at six sites around the world, including the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. To figure out when ray-finned fish numbers took off, they calculated the ratio of fossilized teeth from ray-finned fishes to the fossilized scales from another major group of fish: sharks. As they report online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, this ratio shows that sharks well outnumbered the ray-finned fish at the end of the Cretaceous, about 66 million years ago. That was when dinosaurs, ammonites, and most marine reptiles went extinct, probably because of a large asteroid hitting Earth. After the extinction event, the ratio of these ray-finned fish remains shot up dramatically, quickly outnumbering those of sharks. Although the sharks also survived the end of the Cretaceous, their numbers appear to have remained flat, whereas the size and diversity of ray-finned fish populations took off. The researchers suggest that the mass extinction, especially of ammonites (which probably competed with fish for food), allowed the ray-fins to exploit new ecological niches and launched what the authors call a “new age of fish.”


AWS Introduces Budgets – A Simple Way to Manage your AWS Costs

AWS Introduces Budgets – A Simple Way to Manage your AWS Costs

You can now simplify the task of managing costs on AWS with Budgets. Starting today, you can define a monthly budget for your AWS costs—whether at an aggregate cost level (i.e., “all costs”) or further refined to include only those costs relating to specific cost dimensions or groups of cost dimensions, including Linked Account, Service, Tag, Availability Zone (“AZ”), Purchase Option (e.g., Reserved), and/or API Operation.

Further, you can attach email notifications to these budgets that are triggered when your actual or forecasted costs exceed a threshold—that you define—relative to your budgeted costs. For example, you could create a monthly budget titled “Monthly Marketing Budget – EC2” and include within it only those costs relating to EC2 that you have tagged “Department:Marketing.” You could then elect to receive email notifications when your actual costs exceed 80% of your budgeted costs or when your forecasted costs exceed 100% of your budgeted costs. All of your budgets are available for viewing within the Budgets Dashboard—complete with detailed data (e.g., budget dimensions and time range) and variance analyses—and within Cost Explorer.

[This appears to be only an alarm system not a hard stop.  Amazon is more than willing to let you continue spending.  To be fair, most Amazon customers don’t want their infrastructure to abruptly stop. Its not good for their customers.]


Happiness is an illusion, here’s why you should seek contentment instead

Happiness is an illusion, here’s why you should seek contentment instead

Having worked as a psychiatrist for over four decades and got to know dozens of men, women, and children of diverse backgrounds and with unique life stories, I have witnessed many a sad narrative, although suicide has mercifully been a rare event.

These experiences, in tandem with a lifelong fascination with what makes people tick, have led me most reluctantly to the judgement that while we may savour happiness episodically, it will invariably be disrupted by unwelcome negative feelings. Still, most of humankind will continue to harbour the expectation of living happily and remain oblivious that this wishful fantasy is an unconscious way of warding off the threat of psychic pain.

Rather than confront and demoralise those who have sought my help, I have gently but honestly responded to their plaintive yearning (“all I want is just to be happy”), by highlighting an inherent human sentiment. Namely that clinging to the fiction of being able to avoid suffering and enjoying a continuing state of pleasure is tantamount to self-deception.

I have offered them the hope – but not a guarantee – that they have the potential to lead a more fulfilling life than hitherto by participating in a challenging, and at times even distressing process of self-exploration whose purpose is to enhance self understanding and acceptance of the reality-bound emotional state I call contentment.

You may retort: “But you treat people who are miserable, pessimistic and self-deprecating, surely you must be hopelessly biased.” I would readily understand your reaction but suggest that all of us, not just those in treatment, crave happiness and are repeatedly frustrated by its elusiveness.

As the father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud emphasised in his 1930 essay, Civilization and Its Discontents, we are much more vulnerable to unhappiness than its opposite. That’s because we are constantly threatened by three forces: the fragility of our physical self, “doomed” by ageing and disease; the external world, with its potential to destroy us (through floods, fires, storms and earthquakes, for example); and our unpredictably complicated relationships with other people (regarded by Freud as the most painful source of unhappiness).

So, am I simply a misanthrope? I hope not but I am inclined to agree with Elbert Hubbard, the American artist and philosopher, who said, “Life is just one damn thing after another”.


In greater Dallas area, segregation by income and race | Pew Research Center

In greater Dallas area, segregation by income and race | Pew Research Center

Income segregation has increased over the past three decades in 27 of the largest 30 metropolitan areas across the U.S., according to a 2012 Pew Research Center report. In Dallas and many of the other metro areas we mapped, there were clear divisions between low-income neighborhoods and middle- and upper-income areas, as well as divisions along racial lines.

Our analysis found that, in the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington and Houston metros, 37% of low-income households (those that take in less than 67% of the metro area’s median annual household income, for example less than $38,000 in Dallas) are located in census tracts in which at least half of households are low-income. Residential concentration among upper-income households (defined as making at least 200% of the metro area’s median household income, for example at least $113,000 in Dallas) is also high in Texas. Houston and Dallas topped the charts among the 10 largest metropolitan areas, with 24% and 23%, respectively, of upper-income households lying in census tracts that were at least half upper-income.

Overall, these cities (along with the San Antonio metro area) had the highest Residential Income Segregation Index (RISI) scores among the country’s largest metropolitan areas in 2010; Dallas scored 60 points on our 200-point scale, where 200 signifies complete segregation by income. Meanwhile, the median RISI score for America’s top 10 metropolitan areas was 50, and Boston scored only a 36.

However, our 2012 report also found that residential segregation by income is still less prevalent than segregation by race, despite the fact that black-white segregation has been falling for decades nationally.


Humans around the world dance to the same beat: Study reveals a common beat in global music — ScienceDaily

Humans around the world dance to the same beat: Study reveals a common beat in global music — ScienceDaily

A new study carried out by the University of Exeter and Tokyo University of the Arts has found that songs from around the world tend to share features, including a strong rhythm, that enable coordination in social situations and encourage group bonding.

Dr Thomas Currie from the University of Exeter said: “Our findings help explain why humans make music. The results show that the most common features seen in music around the world relate to things that allow people to coordinate their actions, and suggest that the main function of music is to bring people together and bond social groups — it can be a kind of social glue.

“In the West we can sometimes think of music as being about individuals expressing themselves or displaying their talent, but globally music tends to be more of social phenomena. Even here we see this in things like church choirs, or the singing of national anthems. In countries like North Korea we can also see extreme examples of how music and mass dance can be used to unite and coordinate groups.”