[Popular STEM] Curating the Internet: STEM digest for December 30, 2020

2개월 전

Modern concrete decays while Roman concrete gets stronger; CISA tells government agencies to update Solarwinds Orion by the end of the year or shut it down; Business lessons from the experiences of a TikTok influencer; The Dunning-Kruger Effect probably doesn't exist; and Early humans may have hibernated


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  1. Why Roman concrete is stronger than it ever was, while modern concrete decays (Dec. 28) - Ancient Roman concrete was made from volcanic ash, lime, and seawater and later mixed with volcanic rocks. This recipe, however, was lost after the fall of the volcanic ash, and cement wasn't rediscovered until 1824. The new recipe, by Joseph Aspdin burned finely ground chalk and clay in a kiln until the CO2 was removed. Modern cement extends Aspdin's recipe, using finely ground "limestone, sandstone, ash, chalk, iron, and clay, among other ingredients, which are mixed with sand and crushed stone. One year, on sabbatical, Marie Jackson became intrigued by the resilience of Roman concrete, espedcially in contrast with modern cement, which decays. Eventually, when analyzing the reasons for differences between Roman and modern cements, she noticed that it is strengthened by a chemical reaction that happens when the Roman cement interacts with seawater. As a result of this observation, she is now working to identify a new recipe that will provide similar effects for niche applications in modern construction. -h/t RealClear Science

  2. CISA updates SolarWinds guidance, tells US govt agencies to update right away (Dec. 30) - According to the latest guidance from CISA, US Government agencies using Solarwinds Orion must update to version 2020.2.1HF2 by the end of the year or else shut their systems down. This directive arises from the vulnerability described in CVE-2020-10148. The NSA has already updated its systems, and as many as 18,000 private sector corporations were also impacted by the problem. CISA has released a Powershell Script to detect compromised accounts, and Microsoft published a report suggesting that the compromise was intended by its perpetrators as step-1, gaining a foothold, in a privilege elevation attack against victims.

  3. An Entrepreneur Who Broke the Mold Offers Lessons for Big and Small (Dec. 23) - TikTok influencer, Tony Piloseno turned his Sherman-Williams job into a TikTok hobby where people view his paint-mixing art work. Thinking that it would be a marketing opportunity for his employer, Piloseno took his channel to the company's marketing department. Instead of celebrating and capitalizing on his success, however, he was fired by Sherman-Williams. Their loss turned into a gain for Florida Paints, who took advantage of the opportunity to hire Piloseno. In addition to his new job, Piloseno is also returning to school, online, in order to finish his degree. According to Florida Paints' Don Strube, a lesson for everyone from all this is:
    you can try to spreadsheet everything, but the most important thing is to keep your eyes open. Don’t get jaded, don’t let your preconceived notions get in the way. With streamlining comes missed opportunities, and you miss gems.

  4. The Dunning-Kruger Effect Is Probably Not Real (Dec. 17) - First reported in 1999, the Dunning-Kruger Effect is the observation that non-expert people tend to be overly confident of their ability to do things whereas experts tend to underestimate their own skills. The first report was that study-participants consistently overestimated their skills at grammar, humor, and logical reasoning. In subsequent decades, the effect has also been observed in many other areas. Two recent papers (1, 2), however, report that the effect can also be observed in random data, and it's likely a statistical artifact arising from noise in the data. Instead of the Dunning-Kruger Effect, Dr. Ed Nuhfer and colleagues report that
    both experts and novices underestimate and overestimate their skills with the same frequency. "It’s just that experts do that over a narrower range,"
    -h/t Daniel Lemire

  5. Early humans may have survived the harsh winters by hibernating (Dec. 20) - A team of archaeologist noticed a seasonal pattern in lesions and bones of ancient humans that matches damage seen in bears and other hibernating species like hedgehogs and bats. The claim arises from excavation of a cave in Spain known as Sima de los Huesos, Pit of bones, which is one of the most important archaeological sites on the planet. The researchers who made the observation have published their observations and theory in L'Anthropologie. -h/t archaeology.org

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