A Story about Sugar, Bacteria, and Human Health

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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Biologists are intimately familiar with DNA, RNA, and proteins — three types of biological sequences that make life, as we know it, possible. Less familiar (though at least just as important) are glycans or complex carbohydrates. These chains of various sugars (or monosaccharides as they are technically called) can either occur by themselves, for instance to constitute the capsules of bacteria, fungi, as well as plant cells, or adorn all kinds of other biomolecules such as proteins, lipids, or RNA. The specific glycan sequence that is physically attached to a protein fundamentally alters its properties and capabilities, fine-tuning stability, structure, and function. This results in a melange of incredibly complex interactions, in turn producing the exceedingly complex phenomenon we know as life. …


The Counterintuitive Power of Positivity, Importance, and Depth

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Photo by Avery Evans on Unsplash

To journalists, stories are like freshly prepared french fries. The sooner you consume them, the better. And after a mere day, they are just soggy monstrosities that nobody wants to touch anymore. Stories need to be timely, fresh scoops immediately following major events. In fact, even if the topic itself is timeless, you still need to have a timely hook or story lead to persuade readers to part with their precious time. Stories need to be relevant to the lives of readers, because why should they care if their personal life is not affected by the story? These are just two of the rules of thumb handed down by generations of journalists. …


The extraordinary make-up of an oh-so-ordinary food substance

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Photo by Vivek Doshi on Unsplash

Some people like it on their bread, others in their tea, cake, or even cocktail. Honey is not only versatile, it is delicious. Except to me; I’m not a huge fan of the taste of pure honey. But put it in a cocktail and I am in! Yet even if honey is a total showstopper for you, there is something here for you too. Because honey is one of these innocuous everyday items which hide an utterly insane array of scientific curiosities. Just like the non-Newtonian fluid made from cornstarch (called Oobleck) or the thixotropic properties of ketchup (it becoming less viscous when force is applied), honey has hidden depths. Who knew that honey is actually a supercooled liquid for instance? …


Counterintuitive, Episode 7

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The final Counterintuitive episode of the three-part miniseries about human nature is online! After tackling preferences & personality, we now weigh in on the debate about nature vs. nurture to find out how we become who we are. If you like this episode, be sure to check out other episodes on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, YouTube, or SoundCloud (or basically every place where you can get podcasts). Below, you’ll find the transcript of this episode with some references / further reading hyperlinks. The music for this episode comes from FreeSound. At this point it is basically “music by Setuniman”, because that’s really great music! …



Image Classification of Romantic Couples with PyTorch

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Model scheme of DeepConnection.

If there is a root domain to the recent explosion in deep learning, it’s certainly computer vision, the analysis of image and video data. So it doesn’t come as a huge surprise that you try your luck with some computer vision techniques while studying deep learning. Long story short, my partner (Maximiliane Uhlich) and I decided to apply this form of deep learning to images of romantic couples because Maximiliane is a relationship researcher and couple therapist. Specifically, we wanted to find out whether we can accurately tell if any given couple, depicted on an image or video, is happy in their relationship or not? Turns out, we can! With a classification accuracy of nearly 97 percent, our final model (which we dubbed DeepConnection) was able to clearly differentiate between unhappy and happy couples. …


Evidence-Based Policy is Bigger than You or Your Feelings — Part V

We need to talk about academics, people with higher education degrees, and anyone with enough sophistication to critically reflect upon matters of import. People that apply their brainpower to complex problems in their jobs every single day, who basically have been indoctrinated to be critical thinkers and, if you’ve ever visited an academic conference, can be viciously critical indeed. That’s exactly why I’m so utterly astounded when I hear them talk, without further reflection, about matters in which ideology reigns supreme such as environmentalism. Arguments based on ideology are powerful because they are often simple, actionable, and intuitive. …


Counterintuitive, Episode 4

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The fourth episode of my podcast, Counterintuitive, is online! Join me for a journeys into stories which are not what they seem to be. Episodes examine unusual concepts from a broad spectrum that will surprise you and then make you think. Because there’s always a layer beneath. You can find new episodes on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, YouTube, or SoundCloud. Below, you’ll find the transcript of this episode with some references / further reading hyperlinks. The music for this episode comes from FreeSound, specifically these pieces:

https://freesound.org/people/Dexnay/sounds/82310/
https://freesound.org/people/kangaroovindaloo/sounds/138288/
https://freesound.org/people/Setuniman/sounds/154907/
https://freesound.org/people/reecord2/sounds/85040/
https://freesound.org/people/bigmanjoe/sounds/365958/
https://freesound.org/people/fmceretta/sounds/426709/
https://freesound.org/people/tyops/sounds/443086/
https://freesound.org/people/tomtenney/sounds/125225/
https://freesound.org/people/LukeIRL/sounds/176020/
https://freesound.org/people/sofialomba/sounds/467936/


Counterintuitive, Episode 3

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Prepare yourselves for the third episode of my podcast, Counterintuitive! If you’re up to it, join me for journeys into stories that are not what they seem to be. Episodes examine unusual events from a broad spectrum that will surprise you and then make you think. Because there’s always a layer beneath. You can find new episodes on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, YouTube, or SoundCloud. Below, you’ll find the transcript of the first episode with some references / further reading hyperlinks. The music for this episode comes from FreeSound, specifically these pieces:

https://freesound.org/people/sbyandiji/sounds/217491/
https://freesound.org/people/13FPanska_Stranska_Michaela/sounds/378394/
https://freesound.org/people/Setuniman/sounds/154907/
https://freesound.org/people/bigmanjoe/sounds/365958/
https://freesound.org/people/Suz_Soundcreations/sounds/351585/
https://freesound.org/people/fmceretta/sounds/426709/
https://freesound.org/people/tyops/sounds/443086/

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About

Daniel Bojar

Machine Learning, Glycobiology, Synthetic Biology. Strong opinions, weakly held. Fascinated & Inspired by Counterintuitives. @daniel_bojar & dbojar.com

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