Sunday, September 10, 2017

Epidemiology and prosecution of sexual violence against women in Germany

Epidemiology and prosecution of sexual violence against women in Germany (Epidemiologie und Strafverfolgung sexueller Gewalt gegen Frauen in Deutschland), von Deborah F. Hellmann und Christian Pfeiffer. Monatsschrift für Kriminologie und Strafrechtsreform, 2015, 527 - 542 (Heft 6).,0/

Abstract: Sexual victimizations are associated with severe consequences for the victims. Additionally, there is a risk of secondary victimization as well as consequences thereof, that can (in)directly result from a penal procedure and its outcome among others. According to research by the Criminological Research Institute of Lower Saxony, Germany, the prevalence of sexual violence against women in Germany has almost halved from 1992 to 2011. However, only about one in five cases of sexual violence is made known to law enforcement agencies. Those cases, in turn, that are made known to the authorities are associated with particularly severe consequences. Data from police crime statistics and criminal prosecution statistics on the one hand indicate an increased reporting of cases of sexual violence. On the other hand, those data reveal a decline in the conviction rates in the same time period. Furthermore, according to the criminal prosecution statistics considerable regional differences of conviction rates occurred in a nationwide comparison that need to be explained. In this paper, possible causes for the presented results are described and open questions as well as possible solutions are discussed.

Keywords: Sexual violence against women, prosecution of rape, police crime statistics, criminal prosecution statistic, § 177 StGB

Increased task-related neural responses when infected may reflect a compensatory strategy or a greater social cognitive processing as a function of sickness

Experimental human endotoxemia enhances brain activity during social cognition. Jennifer S. Kullmann, Jan-Sebastian Grigoleit, Oliver T. Wolf, Harald Engler, Reiner Oberbeck, Sigrid Elsenbruch, Michael Forsting, Manfred Schedlowski, and  Elke R. Gizewski. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, Volume 9, Issue 6, June 01 2014, Pages 786–793,

Abstract: Acute peripheral inflammation with corresponding increases in peripheral cytokines affects neuropsychological functions and induces depression-like symptoms. However, possible effects of increased immune responses on social cognition remain unknown. Therefore, this study investigated the effects of experimentally induced acute inflammation on performance and neural responses during a social cognition task assessing Theory of Mind (ToM) ability. In this double-blind randomized crossover functional magnetic resonance imaging study, 18 healthy right-handed male volunteers received an injection of bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS; 0.4 ng/kg) or saline, respectively. Plasma levels of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines as well as mood ratings were analyzed together with brain activation during a validated ToM task (i.e. Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test). LPS administration induced pronounced transient increases in pro- (IL-6, TNF-α) and anti-inflammatory (IL-10, IL-1ra) cytokines as well as decreases in mood. Social cognition performance was not affected by acute inflammation. However, altered neural activity was observed during the ToM task after LPS administration, reflected by increased responses in the fusiform gyrus, temporo-parietal junction, superior temporal gyrus and precuneus. The increased task-related neural responses in the LPS condition may reflect a compensatory strategy or a greater social cognitive processing as a function of sickness.

Keywords: peripheral inflammation, social cognition, fMRI, cytokines, endotoxin

Sunstein: Misconceptions About Nudges

Sunstein, Cass R., Misconceptions About Nudges (September 6, 2017). Available at SSRN:

Abstract: Some people believe that nudges are an insult to human agency; that nudges are based on excessive trust in government; that nudges are covert; that nudges are manipulative; that nudges exploit behavioral biases; that nudges depend on a belief that human beings are irrational; and that nudges work only at the margins and cannot accomplish much. These are misconceptions. Nudges always respect, and often promote, human agency; because nudges insist on preserving freedom of choice, they do not put excessive trust in government; nudges are generally transparent rather than covert or forms of manipulation; many nudges are educative, and even when they are not, they tend to make life simpler and more navigable; and some nudges have quite large impacts.

Keywords: nudges, behavioral economic, default rules, manipulation

Effects of elevated CO2 concentration on growth and photosynthesis of Chinese yam under different temperature regimes

Effects of elevated CO2 concentration on growth and photosynthesis of Chinese yam under different temperature regimes. Nguyen Cong Thinh, Hiroyuki Shimono, Etsushi Kumagai & Michio Kawasaki.  Plant Production Science, Volume 20, 2017 - Issue 2, Pages 227-236,

Abstract: Chinese yam (‘yam’) was grown at different carbon dioxide concentrations ([CO2]), namely, ambient and elevated (ambient + 200 μmol mol−1), under low- and high-temperature regimes in summer and autumn, separately. For comparison, rice was also grown under these conditions. Mean air temperatures in the low- and high-temperatures were respectively 24.1 and 29.1 °C in summer experiment and 20.2 and 24.9 °C in autumn experiment. In summer experiment, yam vine length, leaf area, leaf dry weight (DW), and total DW were significantly higher under elevated [CO2] than ambient [CO2] in both temperature regimes. Additionally, number of leaves, vine DW, and root DW were significantly higher under elevated [CO2] than under ambient [CO2] in the low-temperature regime. In autumn experiment, tuber DW was significantly higher under elevated [CO2] than under ambient [CO2] in the high-temperature regime. These results demonstrate that yam shows positive growth responses to elevated [CO2]. Analysis of variance revealed that significant effect of [CO2] × air temperature interaction on yam total DW was not detected. Elevated-to-ambient [CO2] ratios of all growth parameters in summer experiment were higher in yam than in rice. The results suggest that the contribution of elevated [CO2] is higher in yam than in rice under summer. Yam net photosynthetic rate was significantly higher under elevated [CO2] than under ambient [CO2] in both temperature regimes in summer. Elevated [CO2] significantly affected on the rate in yam but not in rice in both experiments. These findings indicate that photosynthesis responds more readily to elevated [CO2] in yam than in rice.

Keywords: Chinese yam, elevated CO2, nagaimo, photosynthesis, rice

My comment: First of all, this is not news, we already knew this for these and other cultivars. Second, referring to yam in the summer experiment, "number of leaves, vine DW, and root DW were significantly higher" means 38-61 pct for high [CO2], and 40-83pct for higher temperature + higher [CO2] (they interactuate strongly). Third, as to yam in autumn and rice in both summer and autumn, the results are positive but much smaller (7-36 pct). Fourth, not all cultivars of economic interest will grow more with higher temperatures or higher [CO2], but many do. These two, yam and rice, are important cases.

On multi-level thinking and scientific understanding

McIntyre, M. E., 2017: On multi-level thinking and scientific understanding. Adv. Atmos. Sci., 34(10), 1150–1158, doi: 10.1007/s00376-017-6283-3.

ABSTRACT: Professor Duzheng YE’s name has been familiar to me ever since my postdoctoral years at MIT with Professors Jule CHARNEY and Norman PHILLIPS, back in the late 1960s. I had the enormous pleasure of meeting Professor YE personally in 1992 in Beijing. His concern to promote the very best science and to use it well, and his thinking on multi-level orderly human activities, reminds me not only of the communication skills we need as scientists but also of the multi-level nature of science itself. Here I want to say something (a) about what science is; (b) about why multi-level thinking—and takign more than one viewpoint—is so important for scientific as well as for other forms of understanding; and (c) about what is meant, at a deep level, by “scientific understanding” and trying to communicate it, not only with lay persons but also across professional disciplines. I hope that Professor YE would approve.

Key words: communication skills, cross-disciplinary communication, scientific understanding, unconscious assumptions, multiple viewpoints, brain hemispheres, biological evolution

Warm Periods in the 20th Century Not Unprecedented during the Last 2000 Years

Warm Periods in the 20th Century Not Unprecedented during the Last 2000 Years. Chinese Academy of Sciences, Press Release, Aug 08, 2017. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research. Editor: Na CHEN.

great deal of evidence relating to ancient climate variation is preserved in proxy data such as tree rings, lake sediments, ice cores, stalagmites, corals and historical documents, and these sources carry great significance in evaluating the 20th century warming in the context of the last two millennia.
Prof. GE Quansheng and his group from the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, collected a large number of proxies and reconstructed a 2000-year temperature series in China with a 10-year resolution, enabling them to quantitatively reveal the characteristics of temperature change in China over a common era.
"We found four warm epochs, which were AD 1 to AD 200, AD 550 to AD 760, AD 950 to AD 1300, and the 20th century. Cold periods occurred between AD 210 and AD 350, AD 420 and AD 530, AD 780 and AD 940, and AD 1320 and AD 1900. The temperature amplitude between the warmest and coldest decades was 1.3°C," said Prof. GE.
The team found that the most rapid warming in China occurred over AD 1870–2000, at a rate of 0.56 ± 0.42°C (100 yr)−1; however, temperatures recorded in the 20th century may not be unprecedented in the last 2000 years, as reconstruction showed records for the period from 981 to 1100, and again from 1201 to 1270, were comparable to those of the present warm period, but with an uncertainty of ±0.28°C to ±0.42°C at the 95% confidence interval. Since 1000 CE—the period covering the Medieval Climate Anomaly, Little Ice Age, and the present warm period—temperature variations over China have typically been in phase with those of the Northern Hemisphere as a whole.
They also detected some interactions between temperature variation and precipitation change. The ensemble means of dryness/wetness spatial patterns in eastern China across all centennial warm periods illustrate a tripole pattern: dry south of 25°N; wet from 25°–30°N; and dry to the north of 30°N. For all cold periods, the ensemble mean drought/flood spatial patterns showed an east to west distribution, with flooding east of 115°E and drought dominant west of 115°E, with the exception of flooding between approximately110°E and 105°E.
The general characteristics of the impacts of climatic change historically were negative in the cold periods and positive in the warm periods. For example, 25 of the 31 most prosperous periods in imperial China during the past 2000 years occurred during periods of warmth or warming. A cooling trend at the centennial scale and social economic decline run hand-in-hand. The rapid development supported by better resources and a better environment in warm periods could lead to an increase in social vulnerability when the climate turns once more to being relatively colder.
"Throughout China’s history," Prof. GE added, "both rulers and the ruled have adopted strategies and policies to cope with climate change, as permitted by the prevailing geography and circumstances of the time."
2000-year temperature reconstruction in China (Image by GE Quansheng)
(Editor: CHEN Na)

Climate-driven variability in the occurrence of major floods across North America and Europe

G.A. Hodgkins et al., Climate-driven variability in the occurrence of major floods across North America and Europe, Journal of Hydrology, Volume 552, September 2017, Pages 704-717


Concern over the potential impact of anthropogenic climate change on flooding has led to a proliferation of studies examining past flood trends. Many studies have analysed annual-maximum flow trends but few have quantified changes in major (25–100 year return period) floods, i.e. those that have the greatest societal impacts. Existing major-flood studies used a limited number of very large catchments affected to varying degrees by alterations such as reservoirs and urbanisation. In the current study, trends in major-flood occurrence from 1961 to 2010 and from 1931 to 2010 were assessed using a very large dataset (>1200 gauges) of diverse catchments from North America and Europe; only minimally altered catchments were used, to focus on climate-driven changes rather than changes due to catchment alterations. Trend testing of major floods was based on counting the number of exceedances of a given flood threshold within a group of gauges. ***Evidence for significant trends varied between groups of gauges that were defined by catchment size, location, climate, flood threshold and period of record, indicating that generalizations about flood trends across large domains or a diversity of catchment types are ungrounded. Overall, the number of significant trends in major-flood occurrence across North America and Europe was approximately the number expected due to chance alone. Changes over time in the occurrence of major floods were dominated by multidecadal variability rather than by long-term trends.*** There were more than three times as many significant relationships between major-flood occurrence and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation than significant long-term trends. […]

Is procedural memory enhanced in Tourette syndrome?

Is procedural memory enhanced in Tourette syndrome? Evidence from a sequence learning task.     Ádám Takács et al. Cortex,

Abstract: Procedural memory, which is rooted in the basal ganglia, underlies the learning and processing of numerous automatized motor and cognitive skills, including in language. Not surprisingly, disorders with basal ganglia abnormalities have been found to show impairments of procedural memory. However, brain abnormalities could also lead to atypically enhanced function. Tourette syndrome (TS) is a candidate for enhanced procedural memory, given previous findings of enhanced TS processing of grammar, which likely depends on procedural memory. We comprehensively examined procedural learning, from memory formation to retention, in children with TS and typically developing (TD) children, who performed an implicit sequence learning task over two days. The children with TS showed sequence learning advantages on both days, despite a regression of sequence knowledge overnight to the level of the TD children. This is the first demonstration of procedural learning advantages in any disorder. The findings may further our understanding of procedural memory and its enhancement. The evidence presented here, together with previous findings suggesting enhanced grammar processing in TS, underscore the dependence of language on a system that also subserves visuomotor sequencing.

Keywords: basal ganglia; implicit learning; sequence learning; procedural memory; Tourette syndrome