An international team of researchers has developed a website at d-place.org to help answer long-standing questions about the forces that shaped human cultural diversity.
D-PLACE – the Database of Places, Language, Culture and Environment – is an expandable, open access database that brings together a dispersed body of information on the language, geography, culture and environment of more than 1,400 human societies. It comprises information mainly on pre-industrial societies that were described by ethnographers in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The team’s paper on D-PLACE is published today in the journal PLOS ONE.
“Human cultural diversity is expressed in numerous ways: from the foods we eat and the houses we build, to our religious practices and political organisation, to who we marry and the types of games we teach our children,” said Kathryn Kirby, a postdoctoral fellow in the Departments of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and Geography at the University of Toronto and lead author of the study. “Cultural practices vary across space and time, but the factors and processes that drive cultural change and shape patterns of diversity remain largely unknown.
“D-PLACE will enable a whole new generation of scholars to answer these long-standing questions about the forces that have shaped human cultural diversity.”
Co-author Fiona Jordan, senior lecturer in anthropology at the University of Bristol and one of the project leads said, “Comparative research is critical for understanding the processes behind cultural diversity. Over a century of anthropological research around the globe has given us a rich resource for understanding the diversity of humanity – but bringing different resources and datasets together has been a huge challenge in the past.
The City University of New York (CUNY) is the public university system of New York City.
It is the largest urban university in the United States, consisting of 24 institutions: 11 senior colleges, seven community colleges, the William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, the doctorate-granting Graduate School and University Center, the City University of New York School of Law, CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, the CUNY School of Public Health and the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education. More than 270,000 degree-credit students and 273,000 continuing and professional education students are enrolled at campuses located in all five New York City boroughs. Its administrative offices are in mid-town Manhattan.
The university has one of the most diverse student bodies in the United States, with students hailing from 208 countries. The black, white and Hispanic undergraduate populations each comprise more than a quarter of the student body, and Asian undergraduates make up 18 percent. Fifty-eight percent are female, and 28 percent are 25 or older. CUNY graduates include 12 Nobel laureates, a U.S. Secretary of State, a Supreme Court Justice, several New York City mayors, members of Congress, state legislators, scientists and artists.
CUNY is the third-largest university system in the United States, in terms of enrollment, behind the State University of New York (SUNY), and the California State University system. CUNY and SUNY are separate and independent university systems, although both are public institutions that receive funding from New York State. CUNY, however, is additionally funded by the City of New York.
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Tunable radiation source that reaches coveted THz region of spectrum could be used for medical imaging or security applications
Terahertz radiation, the no-man’s land of the electromagnetic spectrum, has long stymied researchers. Optical technologies can finagle light in the shorter-wavelength visible and infrared range, while electromagnetic techniques can manipulate longer-wavelength radiation like microwaves and radio waves. Terahertz radiation, on the other hand, lies in the gap between microwaves and infrared, whether neither traditional way to manipulate waves works effectively. As a result, creating coherent artificial sources of terahertz radiation in order to harness it for human use requires some ingenuity.
Difficulties of generating it aside, terahertz radiation has a wide variety of potential applications, particularly in medical and security fields. Because it’s a non-ionizing form of radiation, it is generally considered safe to use on the human body. For instance, it can distinguish between tissues of different water content or density, making it a potentially valuable tool for identifying tumors. It could also be used to detect explosives or hidden weapons, or to wirelessly transmit data.
In a step towards more widespread use of terahertz radiation, researchers have designed a new device that can convert a DC electric field into a tunable source of terahertz radiation. Their results are published this week in the Journal of Applied Physics, from AIP Publishing.
This device exploits the instabilities in the oscillation of conducting electrons at the device’s surface, a phenomenon known as surface plasmon resonance. To address the terahertz gap, the team created a hybrid semiconductor: a layer of thick conducting material paired with two thin, two-dimensional crystalline layers made from graphene, silicene (a graphene-like material made from silicon instead of carbon), or a two-dimensional electron gas. When a direct current is passed through the hybrid semiconductor, it creates a plasmon instability at a particular wavenumber. This instability induces the emission of terahertz radiation, which can be harnessed with the help of a surface grating that splits the radiation.
By adjusting various parameters — such as the density of conduction electrons in the material or the strength of the DC electric field — it is possible to tune the cutoff wavenumber and, consequently, the frequency of the resulting terahertz radiation.
“[Our work] demonstrates a new approach for efficient energy conversation from a dc electric field to coherent, high-power and electrically tunable terahertz emission by using hybrid semiconductors,” said Andrii Iurov, a researcher with a dual appointment at the University of New Mexico‘s Center for High Technology Materials and the City University of New York. “Additionally, our proposed approach based on hybrid semiconductors can be generalized to include other novel two-dimensional materials, such as hexagonal boron nitride, molybdenum disulfide and tungsten diselenide.”
Other labs have created artificial sources of terahertz radiation, but this design could enable better imaging capabilities than other sources can provide. “Our proposed devices can retain the terahertz frequency like other terahertz sources but with a much shorter wavelength for an improved spatial resolution in imaging application as well as a very wide frequency tuning range from a microwave to a terahertz wave,” said Iurov.
“Gamifying psychological interventions successfully could revolutionize how we treat mental illness and how we view our own mental health.”
Playing a science-based mobile gaming app for 25 minutes can reduce anxiety in stressed individuals, according to research published in Clinical Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
The study suggests that “gamifying” a scientifically-supported intervention could offer measurable mental health and behavioral benefits for people with relatively high levels of anxiety.
“Millions of people suffering from psychological distress fail to seek or receive mental health services. A key factor here is that many evidence-based treatments are burdensome — time consuming, expensive, difficult to access, and perceived as stigmatizing,” says lead researcher Tracy Dennis of Hunter College.
“Given this concerning disparity between need and accessibility of services, it is crucial for psychological researchers to develop alternative treatment delivery systems that are more affordable, accessible, and engaging.”
That’s where the mobile app comes in.
The game is based on an emerging cognitive treatment for anxiety called attention-bias modification training (ABMT). Essentially, this treatment involves training patients to ignore a threatening stimulus (such as an angry face) and to focus instead on a non-threatening stimulus (such as a neutral or happy face). This type of training has been shown to reduce anxiety and stress among people suffering from high anxiety.
In the study, about 75 participants — who all scored relatively high on an anxiety survey — were required to follow two characters around on the screen, tracing their paths as quickly and accurately as possible.
After playing the game for either 25 or 45 minutes, the participants were asked to give a short speech to the researchers while being recorded on video — an especially stressful situation for these participants.
The videos revealed that participants who played the ABMT-based version of the game showed less nervous behavior and speech during their talk and reported less negative feelings afterward than those in the placebo group.
“Even the ‘short dosage’ of the app — about 25 minutes — had potent effects on anxiety and stress measured in the lab,” explains Dennis, who co-authored the study with Laura O’Toole of The City University of New York. “This is good news in terms of the potential to translate these technologies into mobile app format because use of apps tends to be brief and ‘on the go.’”
The researchers are currently investigating whether even shorter stints of play – similar to how we normally play other smartphone games — would have the same anxiety-reducing effect.
“We’re examining whether use of the app in brief 10-minute sessions over the course of a month successfully reduces stress and promotes positive birth outcomes in moderately anxious pregnant women,” Dennis says.
While it’s unclear whether this app would produce mental health benefits in those with clinically-diagnosed anxiety, it does present a compelling case for gamified ABMT acting as a “cognitive vaccine” against anxiety and stress. The researchers believe that apps could eventually be developed to assist in the treatment for other mental health disorders, such as depression or addiction.
“Gamifying psychological interventions successfully could revolutionize how we treat mental illness and how we view our own mental health. Our hope is to develop highly accessible and engaging evidence-based mobile intervention strategies that can be used in conjunction with traditional therapy or that can be ‘self-curated’ by the individual as personal tools to promote mental wellness,” Dennis concludes.