Clues to deception; who is telling the truth?

In a highly-cited study from 2003, DePaulo, et al. investigated if “people behave in discernibly different ways when they are lying compared with when they are telling the truth.”  The quest for determining consistent and obvious behavioral cues for deception is longstanding.  In the virtual world we live in today, separating falsehoods from the the truth is even more important.

Through a review and analysis that looked at some 158 different behavioral cues to deception from 120 separate independent samples, these cues emerged as significant:

*Liars provide fewer details in their accounts than do truth tellers.

*Liars pressed their lips more than truth tellers.

*Lies make less sense than the truths; they are less plausible, less likely to be structured in a logical way, and more likely to convey ambivalence.

*Liars seem less involved verbally and vocally in their self-presentations than do truth tellers, and liars use fewer gestures when speaking.

*Liars sound more uncertain, evasive, unclear, and impersonal.

*Liars raise their chins more often than truth tellers.

*Liars are more nervous and tense than truth tellers and have more dilated pupils.

*Truth tellers are more likely to make spontaneous corrections to their stories, and are more likely to admit an inability to remember something.

*”Cues to deception were more pronounced when people were motivated to succeed” especially for identity reasons.  Plus, cues were stronger when lies were about transgressions.

Today, we arguably face more deception and much of that happens virtually–through social media and the Internet–where behavioral cues are harder to read.  We are often remote participants watching video or hearing audio–both of which can be manipulated.  And, opportunities for technological deception will only grow more sophisticated.

In the end, it is up to each of us to go the extra mile (to seek information) to gain understanding, reduce the effect of fear, and make our own independent decisions.

(Kevin Engel, September 28, 2018).

For more information about the impacts of social media and technological deception, search the Science Primary Literature Database and the Headline Science Database.

Migration due to climate change is already happening in the United States

With more frequent and stronger hurricanes, torrential and extended rainfall, expanding wildfires, increasing heat, inexorable sea level rise, and more, climate migration is already happening in the United States.  “The population shift gathering pace is so sprawling that it may rival anything in U.S. history.”

“By the end of this century, sea level rise alone could displace 13 million people, including 6 million in Florida.”

This migration will be “from every coastal place in the U.S. to every other place in the U.S.”  “Not everyone can afford to move, so we could end up with trapped populations that would be in a downward spiral.”

Climate pressure will not only be on the U.S. coasts.  Inland, heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and other climate-fueled changes will also push people to migrate.  Research indicates “that the economies of the southern states, along with parts of the west, will suffer disproportionally as temperatures rise.”  Wealth in the U.S. is expected to shift north and west.

Of course, it is not just the United States where climate change is causing people to move.  By 2050, there may be 150 to 300 million climate refugees worldwide.  In areas to be impacted by longer stretches of high heat, even with air conditioning  and even in the U.S., areas that have been attractive destinations will become less habitable and much less desirable by 2050.

“By 2065, southern states are expected to lose 8% of their U.S. population share.”  People may be moving to the northwest and to areas close to the Great Lakes and in New England–areas where temperatures are expected to remain more bearable and where weather extremes are less likely to happen.  As a result, the population of the northeast U.S. may increase 9%, the western U.S. by more than 10% over the next 50 years.

The true cost of relocation is huge–perhaps $200,000 to $1 million per person.  Governments–local, state, and federal–either won’t be able to afford this or will decide not to help pay for it.  The U.S. is not “set up to deal with slow-moving disasters like this”; people around the country will be on their own.

Read the article; see the graphic (Oliver Milman, The Guardian, September 24, 2018).

For more information about the impacts of climate change, search the Science Primary Literature Database and the Headline Science Database

Microplastic pollution can be spread by mosquitoes

“There is little doubt that plastic and microplastic pollution is a major environmental concern globally.”  Mosquito larvae, living in ponds and puddles, tend to eat everything in sight (that is small enough for them to ingest) and that includes miniscule pieces of plastic that are present in their environment.

Not only do the larvae ingest the plastic, but a recent study found that “microplastics can linger in an insect’s body even as it shifts from its larval to adult life stage.”  Plus, the smaller the plastic particles, the more likely they were to be ingested by the mosquitoes.

The implication of these findings?  Microplastics eaten by mosquito larvae stay with the mosquito as it matures and leaves the water.  Predators on land that eat mosquitoes–birds, bats, and dragonflies–then ingest the plastic when they eat the mosquito.

It’s already known that microplastics “can be toxic to many underwater animals“; this transport of microplastics “may pose a threat to insect-eating species on land as well.”

Read the article (Erica Tennenhouse, Science, September 18, 2018).

For more information about the environmental effects of plastic waste, search the Science Primary Literature Database and the Headline Science Database.

Using recycled plastic for building roads

As we already know, very little plastic is actually recycled.  “The vast majority ends up being dumped, most of it in landfills.”  Much plastic also ends up as litter, a portion of that gets into waterways and washes out to sea.  The vast amount of plastic fouling the oceans and the many problems it causes is well-documented.

Bitumen is a substance that is used to make asphalt; asphalt is used to build and repair roads.  Plastic and bitumen are similar polymers produced from petrochemicals.  Plastics are strong and last a long time–features also useful for roads.

As a result, recycled plastic is now beginning to be used for road building.  A project in the Netherlands–a bicycle track–was made from 70% recycled plastic and 30% polypropylene.  The track was constructed from prefabricated sections.

“Prefabricated plastic roads should last 2 to 3 times longer than conventional roads and cost less … mainly because construction times would be reduced by almost two-thirds.”  The plastic road sections, when replaced themselves, could then also be recycled.

Another project in California uses recycled plastic mixed with hot bitumen to make asphalt.  In this case, a variety of mixes are being tested–using plastics that are “not easily or cheaply recycled” and thus usually end up in landfills.  Other projects have involved recycled plastic being used for “roads, car parks, and airport runways” in various places including Britain, India, and Australia.

“Cleaning and sorting plastic made out of multiple polymers can be relatively expensive,” but using this plastic for road building “is cost-effective.”  Plus, plastic used for roads is that much less going into landfills.

Read the article (Recycling, The Economist, September 13, 2018).

For more information about recycling and plastics, search the Science Primary Literature Database and the Headline Science Database.

Climate change is impacting airports and air travel

Another impact of climate change–“a quarter of the world’s 100 busiest airports are less than 10 meters/32 feet above sea level.”  “12 of those airports–including hubs in Shanghai, Rome, San Francisco, and New York–are less than 5 meters above sea level.”

This makes these airports–and significant amounts of world air traffic–especially vulnerable to rising sea levels and extreme weather.

The Kansai International Airport, built on an artificial island near Osaka, Japan, was inundated by sea water amid the typhoon that hit Japan the first week of September (2018).  The airport and runways were damaged, planes were grounded, and passengers were stranded at the airport for 30+ hours.  Hurricane Sandy flooded all 3 New York City airports in 2012 impacting air travel for days.  Devastating floods in Kerala, India closed Cochin Airport for 2 weeks in August 2018.  And, there are many other examples.

“Air travel accounts for about 3 percent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide,” but that is expected to triple by 2050.  Climate change is also impacting air travel in other ways–“extreme heat can ground planes because hotter, thinner air makes achieving lift difficult; a changing climate can also increase turbulence.”

Read the article (Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times, September 7, 2018).

For more information about the impacts of climate change, search the Science Primary Literature Database and the Headline Science Database.

Chatbots; propaganda is being taught how to speak

Bots–“simple computer scripts–were originally designed to automate repetitive tasks … sparing humans hours of tedium.”  But, bots “can also be used to operate large numbers of fake [social media] accounts, which makes them ideal for manipulating people.”

As became evident after the 2016 election in the United States and from many other examples, not only do bot-operated fake social media accounts “broadcast extremist viewpoints,” but they also enhance and amplify similar views from authentic human accounts by “liking, sharing, retweeting,” etc., etc.  They game the algorithms and give those posts and tweets more visibility.

While current bot technology uses brute-force (large numbers of bots) to have influence, and some progress has been made to try and limit them, the next generation of bots will be harder to recognize and control.  Just like Alexa, Cortana, and Google Assistant, the new bots (chatbots) will behave and talk a lot more like real people.

While Alexa and other current chatbots (also used by various companies for customer service purposes) declare themselves to be automated, chatbots used for propaganda will not do that.  They will present themselves as humans participating in online comment sections, group chats, message boards, and private chat channels.  Will you be able to tell that you are talking to a machine?

The technology to make chatbots indistinguishable from humans in speech is not there yet.  But, it is getting close.  “Some simple preprogramed bot scripts have been successful at misleading users.”  The open development strategies used by companies like Google and Amazon to improve natural-language processing by machines–by “opening their language-processing algorithms to the public” via APIs–also help the developers teaching chatbots to spread propaganda.

“There’s still a long way to go before a bot will be able to spoof a human in one-on-one conversation.  Yet as the algorithms evolve, those capabilities will emerge” and probably sooner than we think.

This is important; read the article (Lisa-Maria Neudert, MIT Technology Review, August 22, 2018).

For more information about the impacts of social media, algorithms, and bots, search the Science Primary Literature Database and the Headline Science Database.