A leopard perches in a tree in South Africa's Kruger National Park, in this file picture taken December 10, 2009. The temporary ban comes in the wake of a global uproar last year over the killing of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe by a U.S. dentist. The decision, however, was driven by science, not emotion. South African Environment Minister Edna Molewa is a vocal advocate of the hunting industry, which the government estimates contributes 6.2 billion rand ($410 million) annually to Africa's most advanced economy. Leopard is one of five game most desired by hunters, along with lion, rhino, buffalo and elephant. The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), a government research organization, recommended the temporary ban because it said leopard numbers could not be firmly established. "There is uncertainty about the numbers and this is not a permanent ban, but we need more information to guide quotas," John Donaldson, SANBI's director of research, told Reuters. Given their secretive and nocturnal nature, leopards are not easy to count. SANBI drew on studies and data from a number of sources but Donaldson said most was from protected areas and national parks, not private lands. The Professional Hunters Association of South Africa (PHASA) says this gives an incomplete picture. "There are lots of leopards on private land," said PHASA chief executive Tharia Unwin. She said PHASA was providing the government with leopard data from private lands. South Africa has also been scorched by its worst drought on record and Unwin said this was good for leopard numbers as predators typically thrive when the rains are poor, leaving much of their prey in a weakened and easy-to-kill state. Unwin said it cost up to $20,000 to shoot a leopard and several of PHASA's members had to refund clients who had put down deposits for leopard hunts. Most of the foreign hunters who come to South Africa for such game are American. Hunting all of the Big 5 has been legal in South Africa since the 1980s when hunts for white rhino were resumed.
News Article | March 16, 2016
BMW has witnessed all the turmoil that Volkswagen has gone through — and continues to deal with — over its emissions crisis. It may be part of the reason why the high-end luxury automaker not only wants to make electric vehicles more of its future plans, but also combine EVs with autonomous technology. On Wednesday in Munich, BMW revealed its Strategy Number One > Next plan as its clear path to driving mobility into a higher gear, both now and in the near future. Perhaps the flagship symbol for that is the BMW iNEXT autonomous electric vehicle, as part of the company's project i 2.0, pushing toward automated and fully-networked driving. "BMW iNEXT heralds the next era of mobility," Harald Kruger, chairman of BMW AG's board of management, announced Wednesday, as reported by the automaker's press release statement. "This symbol of our technology leadership will demonstrate how we will bring the future of mobility into series production." While the iNEXT is expected to impact roads closer to the start of the next decade, the automaker has several iPerformance plug-in hybrids that it will be rolling out with from this year and onward, including a Mini. There will also be a BMW i8 roadster down the line, with an i3 touting a bolstered battery capacity being available by the end of the year. The automaker vows to continue developing hydrogen fuel-cell technology as well. Within project i 2.0, BMW says it will place "clear focus" on ramping up areas such as artificial intelligence, high-definition digital maps, cloud technology and sensors. "Our focus is clear — we are securing the BMW Group's position as technological market leader," Klaus Frohlich, a board member dedicated in development, said in the company's press release. "With project i 2.0 we will lead the field of autonomous driving. We will turn research projects into new kinds of industrial processes, bringing future technology onto the road." If the i Vision Future Interaction mobility system, which Tech Times saw at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2016 this past January in Las Vegas, is any indication, then BMW might leave some of its competition in the dust in autonomy. That's because the system offered drivers three different driving modes, including Pure Drive, Assisted Drive and Auto Drive, with the latter allowing the driver to take calls or check emails with full-connectivity while the car is en route to its destination.
From the white Toyota Hilux, its sides lacerated by branches, the 31-year-old researcher from the republic of Benin plays the tormented sound of a distressed buffalo calf over a megaphone. In theory, the lions are supposed to hear the buffalo and come for an easy meal. Then Kiki would shine a floodlight on the hungry, nocturnal cats and count them for a population estimate. But despite broadcasting 29 hours of calls and trekking 150 kilometres (more than 90 miles) through Yankari looking for tracks, Kiki hasn't seen one lion yet. Not even a paw print. "I expected to see more than this," Kiki told AFP in the heart of the reserve, an expanse of savannah the size of Luxembourg in Nigeria's northeast, dubbed the country's "richest wildlife oasis". "The situation has become worse. There has been no response, no tracks," he said, inadvertently likening the situation to one of the darkest scenes from Disney's "The Lion King", when the protagonist's pride is overrun by a pack of mangy scavengers. "In five, 10 years, lions can disappear completely from Nigeria," said Kiki, a languid, boyish man with broad shoulders wearing a worn beige baseball cap. "Now everywhere we're going there are hyena prints." There are only two areas in Nigeria home to lions: Kainji Lake National Park, in the northwest, where some 30 cats are living, and Yankari, where researchers believe there are just under five. The numbers for West Africa are equally dire, with just 400 lions remaining in the region, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), out of a total population of 20,000 lions living in the wild around the world. "When we started our first comprehensive West Africa lion survey in 2009, lions had already lost 99 per cent of their West African range," said Philipp Henschel, a survey coordinator at the lion conservation organisation Panthera. There is no simple solution to saving the West African lions, whose males have shorter manes than their southern counterparts, and in December were listed as endangered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. With chronic mismanagement in the past and underfunding, Yankari today is struggling to attract the funds it needs to preserve its last lions. Parks famous for their lions, including Tanzania's Serengeti Park and South Africa's Kruger National Park, run on a budget of approximately $500 (450 euros) per square kilometre (0.3 square miles). In contrast, most West African parks with lions operate on a budget of just $36 per square kilometre. "Yankari is one of the few areas where fencing makes sense because the situation is so urgent," said Henschel, speaking from Libreville. To protect the animals and allow rangers to patrol more efficiently, fences need to be built around the perimeter of the park, he added. "We know how to conserve cats," he said. "We just need money to do it." Kiki has to go through the whole park for his surveys, even though he knows that in the searing heat of March, when there is no rain, the lions are probably closer to the river to hunt thirsty prey. Field work is difficult. Unmaintained roads render swathes of the reserve inaccessible to rangers' patrol vehicles, which gun-toting, machete-wielding poachers who hunt on foot exploit. Bloody skirmishes are common, so Kiki is escorted at all times by six armed rangers, who have had to defend him more than once during his buffalo calls. "We shot to scare them but instead of them trying to run away, they shot us," he laughed before adding more seriously: "I used to like camping in the bush but now I think it's too dangerous." By the end of his trip, it's clear Kiki's survey will only serve to document the last lions living in Nigeria unless a dramatic conservation effort is put in place—and fast. "You know when you are standing on the same ground as the lion, you feel how strong they are, you can feel your heart beating. You really feel that this is the king of the jungle," he said. "But not in Yankari. Here you can only see lions in pictures." Explore further: Lions are critically endangered in West Africa
Oh good grief, why did I ever say that I would write something about impostor syndrome? What do I know about it, really? I’m not a psychologist or a researcher or a proper expert, I’m just a journalist. I thought I knew what impostor syndrome was — that some people don’t call it a syndrome as such, because that implies a mental disorder. And I thought that I had suffered from those feelings of doubt and inadequacy about my abilities, but now I’m not sure. Maybe other people just suffer from impostor syndrome more badly than I do. What if I simply tell people to go and read the Careers feature that describes how impostor syndrome can affect people in science, and which offers some useful tips on overcoming what, as it turns out, are very common feelings? But then again, won’t that make it clear that I don’t have anything else to say? Maybe I can deflect attention from my own pitiful performance by citing talented celebrities who have admitted to sometimes feeling like frauds and impostors. The multiple-Oscar-winning film star Meryl Streep perhaps? I’m sure I read somewhere, though I might be wrong, that she once said she couldn’t understand why anyone would want to watch her on screen because she felt she couldn’t act. Or the famous and award-gathering author Maya Angelou, who after each of her eleven books, said she felt that this was the time she was going to be found out. See, I have done the research. I do know what I am talking about, so why does it feel as if everyone around me is simply better at this than me? I bet that’s the way the editor thinks, too. Maybe this would be a good time to throw in an Einstein quote, and seek some reflected glory: “The exaggerated esteem in which my lifework is held makes me very ill at ease. I feel compelled to think of myself as an involuntary swindler.” I wish I had that Dunning–Kruger effect, the almost opposite experience to impostor syndrome in which people who really aren’t qualified or knowledgeable show remarkable (and misplaced) confidence in their abilities and decisions. Life would be so much easier then, or at least it would seem that way. The thing about impostor syndrome is that it’s been known and written about since the late 1980s, and yet each generation of young scientists (and teachers, nurses, jet pilots and so on) feel isolated and anxious because of it. They feel that they are the only ones to have these crippling self-doubts, as if someone is about to tap them on the shoulder and confess that the whole situation — the job, the responsibility, the career — is an elaborate hoax and they should go home and stop being so presumptuous as to believe that they had anything to offer. They need to know that these thoughts and ideas are common, and in fact are most common among genuine high achievers. They should be told that rejection — of papers, grants, ideas — in science is the norm and that they shouldn’t lose heart when it happens. After all, this is a field of human endeavour in which experts boast about how little they know and proudly display their margins of error. Young and vulnerable researchers need to know that if they tell someone — a friend or colleague or mentor — about how they are feeling, then they will almost certainly hear the words ‘me too’ and will feel better. I should tell them that. If only I could find the right words.
News Article | March 17, 2016
Study: people who believe in innate intelligence overestimate their own In Understanding overconfidence: Theories of intelligence, preferential attention, and distorted self-assessment, an open access paper published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, psych researchers from Washington State U, Florida State U and Stanford report on their ingenious experiments to investigate how subjects' beliefs about intelligence affect their own intelligence. Specifically, the researchers investigated what effect a belief in "fixed" intelligence (the idea that your intelligence is fixed, possibly at birth or before, and doesn't change over your life) had on problem-solving, versus a belief that intelligence is trainable and can be changed through practice. The result is a kind of microcosm of the Dunning-Kruger effect, where people overestimate their own intelligence. The researchers found that people who believe in fixed intelligence are prone to working hardest at easy problems, neglecting the hard ones, and that they came away from this experience with an overestimation of their own intelligence. By contrast, people who believe that intelligence can be trained give priority to hard problems, as a way of training that intelligence. Interestingly, when the researchers directed subjects to focus their efforts on easy problems at the expense of hard ones, the subjects finished up with overestimations of their own intelligence, regardless of their beliefs about intelligence. There's an interesting correlate here with the idea that "Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is": if you only solve easy problems, you overestimate your own problem-solving ability, and also end up believing that problem-solving ability is innate and can't be changed. The people who freak out at the idea of class analysis, privilege and affirmative action often espouse the idea that promoting people who haven't attained the same success markers is anti-meritorcratic, promoting "less qualified" candidates over "better qualified" ones. But if intelligence and capability are trainable, and if starting on an easy setting makes you prone to overestimating your abilities, then promoting people who've been solving harder problems will fill your positions with people more likely to believe that they can make themselves smarter by applying themselves to your organization's hardest problems. The issue of overconfidence appears to be a secondary effect of a person’s thoughts on intelligence. When participants were instructed to focus on the easiest parts of a task, they also began to show the same thought patterns as people who fundamentally believe that intelligence is fixed and overestimated their abilities. Receiving the opposite instruction reversed this outcome. When participants were instructed to spend most of their time on the most challenging part of a task, their confidence fell, and they were better able to assess their own skill level accurately. In the classroom and workplace, intellectual overconfidence is a problem because it prevents people from learning effectively and developing their abilities—in order to learn and grow, you need to first acknowledge gaps in your knowledge and skills that you lack. Limiting the problem of overconfidence could help everyone develop. But it’s probably best to address the underlying issue while people are young—students may learn more effectively if they are taught to have a growth mindset and abandon the idea that intelligence is fixed. Teaching students to have a growth mindset could potentially have a significant impact on some of the most vulnerable student populations that have the hardest time staying in school but have the most to gain from a strong education. Completing additional years of education has been widely shown as the most reliable way to increase professional opportunities and financial security. Think intelligence is fixed? You’re more likely to overestimate your own [Roheeni Saxena/Ars Technica] Understanding overconfidence: Theories of intelligence, preferential attention, and distorted self-assessment, Joyce Ehrlingera, Ainsley L. Mitchumb and Carol S. Dweckc/Journal of Experimental Social Psychology]