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“Handy bit of research finds sexuality can be determined by the lengths of people’s fingers” was one recent headline based on a peer-reviewed study by well-respected researchers at the University of Essex published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, the leading scholarly publication in the area of human sexuality.
And, to my stats-savvy eye, it is a bunch of hogwash.
Just when it seems that news consumers may be wising up—remembering to ask if science is “peer-reviewed,” the sample size is big enough or who funded the work—along comes a suckerpunch of a story. In this instance, the fast one comes in the form of confidence intervals, a statistical topic that no layperson should really ever have to wade through to understand a news article.
But, unfortunately for any number-haters out there, if you don’t want to be fooled by breathless, overhyped, or otherwise worthless research, we have to talk about a few statistical principles that could still trip you up, even when all the “legitimate research” boxes are ticked.What’s my real risk?
One of the most depressing headlines I ever read was “Eight-year study finds heavy French fry eaters have ‘double’ the chance of death.” “Ugh,” I said out loud, sipping my glass of red wine with a big ole basket of perfectly golden fries in front of me. Really?
Well, yes, it’s true according to a peer-reviewed study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Eating french fries does double your risk of death. But, how many french fries, and moreover, what was my original risk of death?
The study says that if you eat fried potatoes three times per week or more, you will double your risk of death. So let’s take an average person in this study: a 60-year-old man. What is his risk of death, regardless of how many french fries he eats? One percent. That means that if you line up 100 60-year-old men, at least one of them will die in the next year simply because he is a 60-year-old man.
Now, if all 100 of those men eat fried potatoes at least three times per week for their whole lives, yes, their risk of death doubles. But what is 1 percent doubled? Two percent. So instead of one of those 100 men dying over the course of the year, two of them will. And they get to eat fried potatoes three times a week or more for their entire lives—sounds like a risk I’m willing to take.
This is a statistical concept called relative risk. If the chance of getting some disease is 1 in a billion, even if you quadruple your risk of coming down with it, your risk is still only 4 in a billion. It ain’t gonna happen.
So next time you see an increase or decrease in risk, the first question you should ask is “an increase or decrease in risk from what original risk.”
Plus, like me, could those men have been enjoying a glass of wine or pint of beer with their fried potatoes? Could something else have actually been the culprit?Eating cheese before bed equals die by tangled bedsheets?
Finland’s infant mortality rate decreased at a rapid rate with the introduction of these baby boxes, and the country now has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world. So it makes sense to suppose that these baby boxes caused the infant mortality rate to go down.
But guess what also changed? Prenatal care. In order to qualify for the baby box, a woman was required to visit health clinics starting during the first four months of her pregnancy.
In 1944, 31 percent of Finnish mothers received prenatal education. In 1945, it had jumped to 86 percent. The baby box was not responsible for the change in infant mortality rates; rather, it was education and early health checks.
This is a classic case of correlation not being the same as causation. The introduction of baby boxes and the decrease in infant mortality rates are related, but one didn’t cause the other.
However, that little fact hasn’t stopped baby box companies from popping up left, right, and center, selling things like the “Baby Box Bundle: Finland Original” for a mere $449.99. And U.S. states use tax dollars to hand a version out to new mothers.
So the next time you see a link or association—like how eating cheese is linked to dying by becoming entangled in your bedsheets—you should ask “What else could be causing that to happen?”When the margin of error is bigger than the effect
Recent numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show national unemployment dropping from 3.9 percent in August to 3.7 percent in September. When compiling these figures, the bureau obviously doesn’t go around asking every person whether they have a job or not. It asks a small sample of the population and then generalizes the unemployment rate in that group to the entire United States.
This means the official level of unemployment at any given time is an estimate—a good guess, but still a guess. This “plus or minus error” is defined by something statisticians call a confidence interval.
What the data actually says is that it appears the number of unemployed people nationwide decreased by 270,000—but with a margin of error, as defined by the confidence interval, of plus or minus 263,000. It’s easier to announce a single number like 270,000. But sampling always comes with a margin of error and it’s more accurate to think of that single estimate as a range. In this case, statisticians believe the real number of unemployed people went down by somewhere between just 7,000 on the low end and 533,000 on the high end.
This is the same issue that happened with the finger length defining sexuality study—the plus or minus error associated with these estimates can simply negate any certainty in the results.
The most obvious example of confidence intervals making our lives confusing is in polling. Pollsters take a sample of the population, ask who that sample is going to vote for, and then infer from that what the entire population is going to do on Election Day. When the races are close, the plus or minus error associated with their polls of the sample negate any real knowledge of who is going to win, making the races “too close to call.”
So the next time you see a number being stated about an entire population where it would have been impossible to ask every single person or test every single subject, you should ask about the plus or minus error.
Liberty Vittert is a Visiting Assistant Professor in Statistics at Washington University. This article was originally featured on The Conversation.
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Since the United Kingdom attempts to sharpen its attention on the way that it governs big tech businesses, Facebook is carrying a large step upward from the function it plays in presenting media to the U.K. people, and to the way that it works together with the nation’s media sector.
Now it’s launching Facebook News from the U.K., Facebook’s first market beyond the U.S. because of its committed, curated news portal accessed, such as the U.S. variant, via a tab at the Android or iOS app menu.
The portal site will start with information from hundreds of national and local media organizations such as Channel 4 News, Daily Mail Group, DC Thomson, Financial Times, Sky News and Telegraph Media Group. The Economist, The Guardian, The Independent, STV and countless local news websites out of Archant, Iliffe, JPI Media, Midlands News Association, and Attain, also as”lifestyle” names GQ, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Vogue and many others were declared in a previous record of partners this past year.
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Facebook has confirmed to us that it’s going to be working with an agency named Upday to curate the tales which look on News. “The item is a mixture of curated, top stories and customized links selected by algorithm,” a spokesperson said. Upday is apparently a joint alliance involving German publisher Axel Springer and Samsung, which also conducts an information agency on its own telephones powered by it.
People have used newsfeeds on Facebook and other social websites to catch up with information while at the same time browsing articles from buddies, Groups and Pages they follow. Facebook News intends to take that a step farther, as a curated page to get headlines and links from hundreds of books in the nation to supply customers of its mobile programs a one-stop location to browse the stories of this moment.
Social networking has been a important source of information for customers , but as we have seen, an extremely skewed and faulty supply at that.
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Additionally, it helps Facebook News provides still another method for Facebook — that has made attempts in movie, entertainment material, mentoring and job-hunting, Nextdoor-style community listings, peer reviewed marketing, and much more — to keep on diversifying away in your Newsfeed for people who have grown tired with this: today, individuals are able to visit the Facebook program to browse information, also.
However, this global growth was a long time coming: Facebook News initially started as a evaluation in the US over one year ago, in October 2023, before heading to all consumers continue June.
No word from Facebook how many consumers or participation that the U.S. edition of Facebook News has picked up, except that”it’s risen steadily,” according to a spokesperson.
It is not clear why there has been such a long gap between its initial attempts in the U.S. and also the U.K. start now, but Facebook has more going on along with procuring those licensing prices to roll out within this marketplace.
Launching a brand new news portal site, together with the concept that it is intended to”assist” publishers, takes to a new dimension when you believe that Facebook continues to be in the crosshairs of labs from Europe, who were on a long-term assignment to inspect the range of major technology companies.
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Whether those regulatory motions will affect how a service such as Facebook News functions, or what earnings reductions and use information are shared with information spouses, remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, it is full speed ahead for much more climbing: Facebook supported plans annually that its long term goal is to get a larger global expansion for Facebook News, together with the longer list of countries such as Brazil, France, Germany, and India. At a blog post now, Facebook’s manager of information partnerships in Europe, Jesper Doub, supported France and Germany were next in line for Facebook News, but no launch dates were given.
Did you sign up for Apple News+ as a paid service or trail and want to cancel the subscription? You can easily stop the Apple News Plus monthly $9.99 subscription fee if you are no longer interested in using the Apple News Plus service.
For the unfamiliar, Apple News Plus is a paid subscription service from Apple that charges $9.99/month for access to hundreds of magazines and newspapers through the “News” app on iPad, iPhone, and Mac. The Apple News Plus paid service is in addition to the freely available magazines and papers available through the Apple News app, and is being heavily promoted within the News app with a free trial period.How to Cancel & Unsubscribe Apple News+ Subscription on iPad or iPhone
Open the Apple News app on the iPhone or iPad
On iPad, tap the Sidebar icon in the top left corner; On iPhone, tap the “Following” tab on the bottom
Scroll down in the list and tap on “Manage Subscriptions”
At the “Edit Subscription” screen for Apple News+, tap on ‘Cancel Subscription’
Tap Confirm to confirm the cancellation of Apple News+ subscription
Tap on “Done”
After you cancel the Apple News+ subscription you will no longer have access to Apple News Plus+ content, but you will still have access to regular Apple News content through the Apple News app.
If you’re on the fence about canceling a subscription to Apple News+ you might find it useful to know that you can also keep a subscription but hide and block “News” sources in Apple News on the iPhone or iPad if you’re tired of some particular source or category of ephemera. And if you don’t like the Apple News app at all, you can always delete it like any other default app in iOS now. You might also be interested in disabling the Apple News alerts from appearing on iPad or iPhone lock screen, which is the default setting for iOS Apple News notifications.How to Cancel Apple News+ Subscription on Mac
On the Mac, you can cancel Apple News Plus subscriptions through iTunes or the Mac App Store the same way you manage other subscriptions by logging into the Apple ID, then choosing “Manage” to adjust the subscription to Apple News Plus from there.Troubleshooting
If you cancel the Apple News+ subscription on an iPhone, iPad, or Mac, and decide you want it back again, you can easily return to the Manage Subscriptions section if you feel like paying $9.99 a month for the Apple News+ service again. This is much like you can change the Apple Music subscription renewal which is a separate additional $9.99 per month fee service, or even adjust iCloud subscriptions, which is another varying monthly service fee depending on the iCloud storage size chosen. Each of these are optional services from Apple, though arguably iCloud is the most necessary of since it allows you to easily backup an iPhone or iPad to iCloud allowing for simple device restores and recovery of data.
Whether you love Apple News Plus or not, now you know how to manage your subscription and cancel the monthly fee if needed!
The Apple News app has been around for nearly five years and, in that time, has become a quiet giant. With the opportunity to see top feeds curated by human editors, trending stories suggested by Siri or stories popular with other readers, there is something for everyone. The more time you spend in Apple News, the more personalized the stories become. If you have not tried the app, you really are missing out on a customizable experience. What if you want to really make the Apple News app “your own”? Try these settings to customize your Apple News app.Adding Channels
The first thing you want to do is start adding channels. If it’s your first time opening the News app, “Discover Channels & Topics” is down on the left side of the screen. If you have already been using the News app to add topics, go to File on the menu bar and select “Discover Channels & Topics.”
When the popup opens, the app essentially wants you to choose your favorite topics or news sites to follow. When going through these options, there is a fairly endless scroll taking you through a variety of news, celebrity, gaming, science, politics, culture and other sources or topics. As the Apple News app starts to recognize you are selecting a lot of gaming sites to follow, you will start to see more gaming options appear.Unfollowing Channels Restricted View
As noted above, Apple News is something of a combination of human editors plus your own selection of topics or channels to follow. Perhaps you want to cut out of a lot of the superfluous activity that is not of interest to you. That might be the top stories around politics, world events or sports. Either way, you can make this happen easily by restricting the stories you to see to only those that come from the channels or topics you follow.Voting on Stories
Among other options, you will see two choices to either “Suggest More Like This” or “Suggest Less Like This.” Each of these choices will help the News app algorithm learn your interests and help you discover more stories on your own that might be of interest. The more you select either of these two options, the more the system can learn and help customize the type of news and sources you see on a daily basis.Manage Notifications
Like the mobile Apple News app, the Mac app can send as many or as few notifications as you would like. Do you want to see notifications from every topic or site you follow or just a few? If you choose the former, you could potentially get inundated with notifications all day long. In that case, it is good to manage your notifications and limit to specific channels or topics.
To get started, head to File in the Mac menu bar and select “Manage Notifications & Email.” When the small pop-up opens, you can scroll through and select which channels you want to receive notifications from. You will have the option of both channels or topics you selected or “More Channels,” which is full of sites you have previously read or voted for.
It is easy to customize the Apple News app on Mac, as it allows for plenty of control over who and what you follow. If you are on iOS, here is how you can sign up for a new subscription in your iPhone.
David is a freelance tech writer with over 15 years of experience in the tech industry. He loves all things Nintendo.
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If only all Photoshop jobs were this obvious, recognizing faked photos would be a lot easier. Stan Horaczek
We see hundreds or even thousands of images a day, and almost all of them have been digitally manipulated in some way. Some have gotten basic color corrections or simple Instagram filter effects, while others have received full on Photoshop jobs to completely transform the subject. It turns out humans aren’t very good at recognizing when an image has been manipulated, even if the change is fairly substantial. Hany Farid is a professor of computer science at Dartmouth College who specializes in photo forensics, and while he can’t share all of his fancy software tools for detecting editing trickery, he has shared a few tips for authenticating images on your own.Try reverse image searching
A reverse image search in Google looks for images that are exact matches, as well as those that are thematically similar. Stan Horaczek
Before you start trying to CSI an image too hard, you can often debunk a faked photo by finding its source using a reverse image search. Google includes this function as part of its Images suite and looks for the exact image, as well as images that are similar in both subject matter and color aesthetics.
Another powerful tool is Tineye, which performs a similar function, but often returns fewer results that are closer to exact matches, which can make them easier to sort through.
“Often if you just do a reverse image search, you’ll find it right away,” says Farid. “You’ll see the original image that someone took from Getty Images and then added a UFO to the sky or something like that.”
Reverse image search can also be a useful tool if you suspect someone is stealing your social media photos and impersonating you. Upload your own photos to the tools and you can see where they appear on the web.Look for weirdness
Fight the urge to zoom in too far to examine an image. This unedited image shows weirdness and artifacts when you’re up this close. You don’t have the CSI “enhance” tool. Stan Horaczek
The first step in analyzing an image involves a logical analysis, an area in which humans typically perform much better than computers—at least for now. “Computers are very good at measuring this fine grain details like compression artifacts and inconsistencies in geometry,” says Farid. “But if someone created a picture of a boat sailing down the middle of the road, a computer might not see anything wrong with that.”
Look at an image closely and examine objects that may have been inserted, or look for evidence that other objects may have been removed. Farid warns against zooming in too far, however, because that can introduce its own obstacles. “Sometimes if you zoom into an image up to 500%, it’s very easy to look at something that’s perfectly valid, like artifacts from lens distortions or noise, and start attributing that to manipulation,” says Farid. He recommends zooming to 200% or 300% maximum to avoid false positives.
This is also the time to look for errors in scale and perspective, which are some of the trickiest things to fix in a fake. Does one person in a group photo have an abnormally large head? Does an object look like it’s sitting at an odd angle? These are warning signs that warrant an even closer look.Check the EXIF data
You can learn a lot about a photo by checking out the metadata associated with it. Stan Horaczek
When a digital camera captures an image, it appends a whole array of information called EXIF data to the image file. This data includes all the critical camera settings, as well as other info like GPS data if it’s available (which is typically the case with smartphone photos, unless the person has intentionally turned location settings off).
If you have the location of the photo, you can plug it into Google Maps and use Street View to get a general idea of what the location might actually look like. The Street View scene won’t necessarily be 100 percent accurate and up-to-date, but it can be a good starting point.
This analysis from chúng tôi shows the metadata attached to the JPEG file. Stan Horaczek
You can also sometimes find the original pixel dimensions of the image. This may not sound very useful, but you can easily look up the typical image dimensions of a photo from a particular camera and then compare them to the file you’re currently viewing. If the final version is smaller, that indicates that the photo may have been cropped to exclude information.
Also in the EXIF data is a software tag. “If an image is opened up in Photoshop and then saved, the metadata will then say “Photoshop” and then whatever version they used,” says Farid. He warns, however, that this tag doesn’t necessarily indicate that a photo is trying to trick you. Many photographs go through Photoshop or some other editing program for simple adjustments like color correction, or even just resizing.Examine the shadows
The image has been edited to flip the man’s face, which creates a clear contradiction in the direction of the shadows. It was part of a study to determine how well people can recognize faked photos. Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications
We know that the shadow cast by an object will appear opposite the light that caused it. Using that information, investigators can actually map lines between shadows, objects, and the corresponding light sources to see if the image is physically possible.
“Out in the physical 3D world, I have a linear constraint on a shadow, an object, and a light source,” says Farid. “That means I can find all the objects that are casting shadows—as long as I can very clearly attribute a point on a shadow to a point on an object in the image.”
One of the original examples in the study about people’s ability to recognized edited photos showed a man whose face had been flipped so the light source was landing on the same side as the shadow. It can be easy to identify once you’re looking for it.Mess with it in Photoshop
(The comparison above show two versions of the same image. The one on the right has been subjected to the levels adjustments that clearly show brush adjustments over the front license plate)
If you have access to Photoshop yourself, there are a few adjustments you can make to try and draw out artifacts that you might miss with your naked eye.
One tool Farid suggests using is Levels. You can access this by pressing Command + L (Mac) or Control + L (PC). “If you bring the white point all the way down really close to the black point, what’s going to happen is that the narrow range of black will expand out quite a bit,” says Farid. “If somebody has taken the eraser tool and erased something in a dark area, you can see the traces of the tool.” The same effect happens if you drag the black point all the way up to draw more detail out of the image highlights.
You can try a few other Photoshop tricks to shed some light on alterations. Cranking up the contrast or the sharpness will help emphasize hard edges in the photo, which can sometimes occur when an object is pasted in. Farid also suggests inverting the colors on an image (control + I or command + I) to get a new perspective on the photo, which could jolt your brain into drawing out some irregularities.Look for patterns
There are some patterns you can recognize with your eyeballs. A novice Photoshop user may well leave repeating patterns behind when trying to clone out an object. Zoom out and look at the image from afar to see if your eye can pick up on any patterns, then zoom in closer to see if there might be some repeating objects in the scene.
Researchers also often look for patterns in artifacts left from JPEG image compression. JPEG is a “lossy” format, which means it jettisons some information from the original file to save space and make it readable by a wider array of machines. This causes artifacts, or changes in the data introduced over time—especially when you save it more than once. “Imagine you go out and you buy your brand new iPhone and even the packaging is beautiful. Everything fits just right down to the tape,” says Farid. “Try putting that back together and see what happens. It never works. The same thing is true of a digital file. When you unpack it in Photoshop, and then recompress it, you can’t get it perfectly right. It leaves artifacts that we can recognize.”Be wary of online tools
A popular image validation tool says my photo of corn has been edited because the EXIF has been stripped and it was exported from Adobe Lightroom. This is, in fact, what the corn looked like. Stan Horaczek
There are places online where you can upload an image to check for warning signs of editing, but results can be very tricky to interpret. For instance, I uploaded this picture of corn to a popular site and it was flagged because it was “not an original camera image.” I exported a JPEG from a DSLR raw file with some color corrections myself, so I know it wasn’t faked, but it’s still flagged. It didn’t claim the photo was doctored, but it also casts doubt where there shouldn’t be any.
There are some websites that can read the software tags, like this one that can tell you exactly what actions were taken in Lightroom when editing a photo. That’s more useful, but you still need an understanding of the software itself to make an accurate interpretation.
There is software out there that can identify these more complex manipulations, but it’s typically only available commercially, for security and law enforcement operations.
“Making that stuff public is tricky because the more I make the information public, the easier it is to circumvent,” says Farid. “We release the details in scientific publications, but to really go back and implement all that technique would be really hard for somebody. That’s the compromise we have right now.Don’t fall for false positives
The final step is realizing that sometimes things look altered when they aren’t. “Photographs just look weird sometimes,” says Farid.
Much has been said in recent weeks regarding the fake news that is published, specifically at Facebook. Not everyone realizes it’s fake news, and it can go on to have an effect if a certain number of people end up believing it. This was the case with the recent presidential election in the United States. It’s been said that the outcome was changed through fake news that was reported and believed about the loser.
But what will happen with fake news moving forward? Now that it’s been identified, will it be easy to put a stop to it? Or now that it has had an impact, will it create a fake news industry so that no one will ever know whether a news story is true or not? We posed this question to our writers to get their take on it – “What do you think will happen with fake news in the future?”Our Opinion
Derrik sees it as a problem that “stems from social media.” He believes it’s easy to “pad yourself with your own worldview, to feel safe and comfortable.” He believes it is so prolific because no one wants to be challenged. He thinks to combat it, people need more critical thinking skills and a skeptical mindset. He also thinks if Facebook started doing some fact-checking, it would help the more naive people. Mahesh falls in line with him, stating that “Fake news will continue to exist, and it’s up to the individuals to distinguish between fake and real news.”
Ada doesn’t feel there are any efforts that will stop fake news, “while there are morons to fall prey.” She believes that if you only use reputable sources and double-check your facts, that you’ll be safe. Once the majority of people do that, fake news won’t be as much of an issue. The thought here is that if you read news on a reputable news site and not a social one, then it might be true. “Fake news undermines the authority on social media. – it’s like crying wolf.” Ada fears that eventually no one will read anything they read on social media, even if it’s true.
Robert is looking at the issue from a few different angles. He believes social networks could flag the fake news as ultimately they are private companies, and they can decide how they should best deal with it. He doesn’t agree with “outright blocking fake news” but believes some kind of note stating, “This comes from a source associated with fake news” could be good. He also agrees with others that people need to be able to distinguish between real and fake news and that it’s on them to do the research to check the facts.
He also brings up another good point that sometimes it’s not necessarily fake news with the intention of fooling people. Sometimes it’s just satire with the intention of entertaining people. Sites that publish satiric news stories wouldn’t be as fun if they were flagged and there was a big note stating it was false. That’s what makes it so fun. So should everyone lose out on their fun with the satire just because there is a section of people who are unwilling to fact check and will go around and republish it as if it is fact?Your Opinion
Laura has spent nearly 20 years writing news, reviews, and op-eds, with more than 10 of those years as an editor as well. She has exclusively used Apple products for the past three decades. In addition to writing and editing at MTE, she also runs the site’s sponsored review program.
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