Month: March 2020

Studies find link between belief in conspiracy theories and political engagement

Some political movements, particularly those extremist in nature, are associated with belief in conspiracy theories. Antisemitic demagogues, for example, have long referred to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion to support their cause, in effect using for their purposes a conspiracy theory that is still widely believed although it has long been known that the text itself is a literary forgery. However, the role that a belief in conspiracies actually plays in political extremism and the willingness to use physical force has to date been disputed by psychologists. Researchers at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) have now investigated the possible link on the basis of two studies undertaken in Germany and the USA. The study subjects were asked to assume that the world is controlled by powerful secret societies. Faced with the prospect that practically all areas of society are dominated by such conspiratorial groups, the subjects declared themselves less willing to become involved in lawful political activities. Instead, they would resort to illegal, violent means.

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New electrically activated material could improve braille readers

Refreshable braille displays translate information from computer screens into raised characters, often along the bottom of a keyboard. But this technology can cost thousands of dollars and is limited, typically displaying a string of characters much shorter than most sentences. Researchers now report an improved material that could take these displays to the next level, allowing those who are blind or who have low vision to more easily understand text and images, while lowering cost.

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New paradigm for ‘auto-tuning’ quantum bits could overcome major engineering hurdle

A high-end race car engine needs all its components tuned and working together precisely to deliver top-quality performance. The same can be said about the processor inside a quantum computer, whose delicate bits must be adjusted in just the right way before it can perform a calculation. Who’s the right mechanic for this quantum tuneup job? According to a team that includes scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), it’s an artificial intelligence, that’s who.

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