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Americans demonstrate a notable deficiency in distinguishing between facts and opinions





Individuals with INS citizenship struggle to effectively distinguish between factual information and political opinions. New research led by experts from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s Department of Political Science may not deliver the news you were hoping for in an election year.

Co-author Professor Jeffery J. Mondak emphasized the need for citizens to be able to distinguish between opinions and facts in order to navigate the abundance of political information they encounter daily.

Navigating through the abundance of controversial content on social media, viral misinformation, and AI-generated false news makes it difficult to uncover the truth behind a political narrative. Mondak and Matthew Mettler, the co-authors, think that the challenges of distinguishing truth from fabrication begin at a higher level.

There is an extensive body of research on disinformation. Mondak stated that individuals struggle to differentiate between claims of fact and opinion before categorizing something as disinformation.

Study participants were tasked with categorizing 12 assertions regarding current events as either “fact” or “opinion” for investigation purposes. An example of a factual statement is “President Barack Obama was born in the United States,” while a statement of opinion is “Democracy is the greatest form of government.” The online survey took place from March 9 to March 14, 2019, and had 2,500 participants from various regions of the country.

45.7 percent of the respondents did this exercise at a level equivalent to random chance.

Common characteristics were observed among individuals who excelled at the task. Increased awareness of current events and civics, higher education levels, and enhanced cognitive ability were all linked to a little improvement in performance.

Political partisanship was the primary factor driving inaccurate responses.

Democrats and Republicans frequently create a distorted reality where they believe their side is presenting facts and the other side is only expressing opinions as political views become more polarized, as Mondak demonstrated.

Many errors were not random, but rather numerous erroneous responses. The inaccuracies were systemic, as many respondents tailored their replies to align with their party narrative.

Mettler stated that partisan bias impairs people’s ability to reason through statements. The evolution of news reporting is exacerbating the situation. “Currently, there is a growing tendency, particularly on cable news, to mix opinion and fact,” Mondak remarked.

These findings reveal a significant percentage of the public that not only holds conflicting views on political matters but also disagrees on the fundamental concept of what qualifies as a fact.

Mondak and Mettler are worried that this makes individuals vulnerable to manipulation and less receptive to attempts to rectify disinformation, like those made by fact-checking organizations or reputable science news websites.

A consensus of agreeing to disagree can arise even for problems of incontrovertible fact. Mondak clarified that it is not possible to simply agree to disagree on the fact that 2 + 2 equals 22.

Is there any action we can take despite the grim scenario?

The authors emphasize in their research that fact-checking can address inaccuracies but cannot prevent them. We need to revisit school, where individuals are initially instructed on distinguishing between fact and opinion. Media organizations can solidify the line between factual reporting and opinion by repeatedly emphasizing it to the audience.

The authors contend that because people struggle to accurately distinguish between facts and opinions, they are more likely to fall prey to misinformation.

The research is featured in the Harvard Kennedy School Misinformation Review.

As Editor here at GeekReply, I'm a big fan of all things Geeky. Most of my contributions to the site are technology related, but I'm also a big fan of video games. My genres of choice include RPGs, MMOs, Grand Strategy, and Simulation. If I'm not chasing after the latest gear on my MMO of choice, I'm here at GeekReply reporting on the latest in Geek culture.

Medicine and Health

The number of global hepatitis deaths is increasing, posing a threat to the goal of eliminating the disease





According to a recent report by the World Health Organization (WHO), the incidence of viral hepatitis-related mortality is rising globally. Approximately 3,500 individuals perish from the disease on a daily basis, positioning it as the second most prevalent infectious cause of death in 2022, with a mortality rate equivalent to that of tuberculosis.

The 2024 Global Hepatitis Report, unveiled during the recent World Hepatitis Summit, presents novel data from 187 countries, marking the highest number of countries ever encompassed in the report. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of fatalities caused by viral hepatitis has risen from 1.1 million in 2019 to 1.3 million in 2022. On a daily basis, around 6,000 individuals get new infections.

What is viral hepatitis?

A viral infection leads to liver inflammation, which is known as viral hepatitis.
Hepatitis is a comprehensive term used to describe an illness that results in inflammation and harm to the liver. Viral hepatitis is classified into five primary groups, namely hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E. If physicians are uncertain about the etiology of an individual’s infection, they may label it as hepatitis X or non-A-E hepatitis.

The primary focus of the WHO report is on hepatitis B, which is responsible for 83 percent of newly acquired infections, and hepatitis C, which accounts for the remaining 17 percent. Usually, each of these viruses results in persistent infections that eventually cause cancer, cirrhosis, and liver failure.

The illness is also common in younger populations: people between the ages of 30 and 54 account for 50% of chronic hepatitis B and C infections, while children under the age of 18 account for 12% of cases.

What is causing the increase in mortality rates due to hepatitis?
Untreated hepatitis can lead to serious consequences, but our capacity to fight these diseases has significantly improved with early detection.

Hepatitis B is most commonly transmitted during childbirth, but there are safe and effective immunizations available to prevent it. Hepatitis C is transmitted through contact with contaminated blood, typically as a result of unsafe injection practices or, less commonly, unprotected sexual activity. Although a vaccine has not been developed yet, the World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that over 95 percent of individuals can achieve complete recovery if they are able to obtain antiviral medicine.

However, it is where the trouble resides. The recent research emphasizes that a limited proportion of individuals affected by hepatitis B and C are being promptly recognized and provided with treatment, aligning with the objectives set by the World Health Organization.

For instance, in the WHO African area, where 63 percent of new hepatitis B infections originate, the vaccination rate for infants is barely 18 percent. On a global scale, the percentage of individuals with hepatitis C who have undergone curative therapy is only 20 percent, which falls significantly short of the targeted 80 percent.

The paper suggests that the reason for this is the differences in pricing, which prevent many lower-income countries from being able to afford antiviral treatments, including generic pharmaceuticals that are no longer protected by patents. Similarly, individuals residing in numerous nations may be compelled to bear the cost of testing and treatment services, which may be unaffordable for certain individuals.

What measures can be taken to mitigate the issue?
The report includes several recommendations that, if promptly executed, will help us regain momentum in attaining the World Health Organization’s objective of eradicating the hepatitis epidemic by 2030.

The WHO emphasizes the need to expand access to diagnostic tests, enhance preventative strategies, and accelerate research in order to discover a potential cure for hepatitis B. However, the organization warns that the current level of worldwide financing for these initiatives is inadequate.

“The report reveals a concerning situation: although there has been global advancement in preventing hepatitis infections, the number of deaths is increasing due to a lack of diagnosis and treatment for a significant number of individuals with hepatitis,” stated Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO).

“The World Health Organization (WHO) is dedicated to assisting countries in utilizing all available resources, at affordable prices, to prevent loss of life and reverse this pattern.”

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Threads, a competitor of Meta’s X, is inviting developers to register for API access and has released documentation





Following the limited release of its developer API to a few chosen firms in March, Threads, Meta’s alternative to Twitter and other similar platforms, is now providing developer documentation and a registration form for individuals or organizations who are interested in using the API before its official public debut in June.

The updated documentation provides comprehensive information about the existing constraints and endpoints of the API. This information is beneficial for developers who wish to commence their development of Threads-connected applications and other projects that interface with the new social network.

For example, those who wish to monitor metrics related to Threads’ articles can utilize an Insights API to obtain data such as views, likes, replies, reposts, and quotes. Additionally, the API provides instructions on publishing posts and media, retrieving answers, and a set of troubleshooting suggestions.

According to the documentation, Threads accounts have a restriction of 250 API-published posts and 1,000 replies within a 24-hour period. This limitation is in place to prevent spam or other forms of excessive usage. Additionally, Threads provides the specific requirements for images and videos uploaded by users. It mentions that text posts in threads are limited to a maximum of 500 characters, which is longer than the previous character limit of 280 characters on Twitter. However, it is significantly less than the 25,000 characters available to paid subscribers on X or the current limit of 100,000 characters for articles posted directly on X’s platform.

It is still to be determined whether Meta will show preference for specific types of apps.

The current beta testers for the Threads API include prominent social media tool developers such as Sprinklr, Sprout Social, Social News Desk, Hootsuite, and the technology news platform Techmeme.

While Threads has started integrating with the broader fediverse, which consists of interconnected social networking sites like Mastodon, it seems that enabling or disabling fediverse sharing cannot be done directly using the API. However, users still need to access their settings within the Threads app in order to submit content to the fediverse.

According to Meta, the new documentation will be periodically updated based on input received from developers. Furthermore, those who are interested in constructing using the latest API and offering input can now apply for access through a registration page. This process can also assist Meta in monitoring the applications that are getting ready to be launched simultaneously with the public release of the API.

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Scientists conducted research on our planet’s responses during the phenomenon of totality





The snapping turtles all simultaneously entered the waters of Lake Tawakoni as soon as the moon covered the sun. The earth was adorned with twilight. The clouds swiftly traversed the sky. Jupiter was present next to the sun and was brightly radiating during the day. The majority of birds and insects had become quiet or completely silent.

Describing the experience of a total solar eclipse is challenging due to its profound effects on the surrounding light and abrupt drop in temperature, causing surprise shivering. However, on April 8th, I, along with many individuals throughout North America, had the opportunity to observe a remarkable astronomical phenomenon.

I traveled to Wills Point, located around one hour east of Dallas, to rendezvous with Darci Snowden, a space physicist from Central Washington University in Ellensburg, along with her undergraduate students. Local families gathered to watch as weather balloons were launched from a wooden pier to collect data, bringing joy to the onlookers.

Prior to the eclipse, the weather forecast in Texas indicated unfavorable conditions, including the possibility of thunderstorms and cloud cover obstructing the view of the heavens. After the situation settled, we experienced an extended period of clear skies while the moon passed in front of the sun, causing it to appear like a thin crescent. At the precise moment of totality, a substantial cloud passed past, resulting in audible expressions of disappointment from all present. Fortunately, the sun’s typically imperceptible atmosphere, known as the corona, became visible through gaps in the clouds. Fiery flares bursting from the sun’s surface were seen as tiny red spots at its edges.

Regardless of whether the weather was cloudy or clear, there were still scientific tasks to be completed. Occasions of total solar eclipses offer exceptional chances to examine the sun and its influence on Earth in unparalleled manners.

In Wills Point, the day before the April 8 eclipse, Snowden’s team initiated the launch of a sequence of 30 weather balloons, commencing at 2 p.m. CDT. The intention was to launch one object into the air every hour, consistently during the whole night, and to continue this pattern for six hours following the occurrence of the eclipse. These balloons, filled with helium, may ascend to a height of 33 kilometers (20 miles) in the stratosphere, which is the second-lowest layer of the atmosphere. They transported battery-operated instrument bundles known as radiosondes to gather data on temperature, humidity, pressure, and wind direction and speed.

Snowden and her students aim to obtain comprehensive data regarding the impact of an extraordinary occurrence, like a total solar eclipse, on Earth’s atmosphere. The researchers are investigating the phenomena occurring in the lowest part of the atmosphere, called the planetary boundary layer, which extends up to around two kilometers and covers the Earth’s surface. The topography of the terrain, which includes features like mountains, buildings, and woods, and solar radiation descending from the atmosphere, both have an impact on the dynamics of this layer.

Specifically, the team is seeking evidence of gravitational waves. It is important to distinguish gravitational waves from gravitational waves, which are disruptions in the spacetime continuum brought about by the collision of sizable celestial objects like black holes. Gravity waves, on the other hand, are a phenomenon that occurs closer to the Earth’s surface. These phenomena can occur when a mountain range or other external force lifts pockets of air, which then fall as a result of gravity. This process generates a regular oscillation that can transfer energy across the atmosphere. Additionally, sudden fluctuations in temperature might trigger their activation. When cool air gets more compact and descends, it occasionally descends to such a low point that it surpasses its balance and then rises again, creating a wave.

“It is akin to exerting pressure on an ice cube submerged in a glass of water,” Snowden remarks.

In the 2017 U.S. total solar eclipse, scientists conducted an experiment by flying balloons in Wyoming and New York, outside the path of totality. They discovered indications that the shadow of the moon, as it swiftly moved across the atmosphere, produced gravity waves near the surface that propagated outward, resembling the bow waves created by a moving ship. This phenomenon had been forecasted over half a century before but had never been conclusively observed. During the same event in 2017, scientists definitively saw eclipse-induced gravity waves at higher altitudes in the atmosphere for the first time (SN: 4/30/18).

In this instance, Snowden aims to verify the prior indications of their presence in the lower layers of the atmosphere. The objective of launching the balloons 24 hours before totality, which occurs when the moon totally obscures the sun, was to gather the first measurements prior to the eclipse. Subsequently, these measures might be juxtaposed with the ones obtained during and subsequent to the occurrence.

This data has the potential to contribute to more accurate forecasts for both short-term weather patterns and long-term climate trends. Although gravity waves are one of the smallest types of atmospheric waves that scientists investigate, they can have a substantial impact. They exert a significant impact on the dynamics of turbulence, facilitate the passage of heat, and facilitate the dispersion of airborne chemicals across the entire world. Numerous individuals traverse extensive distances, occasionally shattering akin to ocean waves at altitudes of 500 kilometers or more above the Earth’s surface.

Eli Pugsley, a senior physics major involved in leading the launches, describes the process of getting the team’s weather balloons up shortly before and during totality as “undoubtedly stressful.” “However, once we establish a consistent pattern, each individual fulfills their responsibilities, and the process proceeds effortlessly.”

The data collected from the students will be combined with data from approximately 40 other teams participating in NASA’s Nationwide Eclipse Ballooning Project. These teams will also be deploying weather balloons along the line of totality. Collectively, the data may ascertain whether the eclipse generated gravity waves in the lower atmosphere. However, it will take around one year to collect and analyze the information, according to Snowden.

Researchers and citizen scientists across the country were conducting various studies connected to the eclipse. Meanwhile, large numbers of eclipse watchers flocked to towns along the path of totality, hoping for an unobstructed glimpse of the celestial event.


Physicist Fabiano Rodrigues and his team at the University of Texas, Dallas campus, focused their attention on the ionosphere, which begins at an altitude of around 80 to 90 kilometers above the Earth’s surface.

Solar radiation bombards the thin atmospheric gases in this layer, causing ionization, where the atoms split into electrons and nuclei. During the night, while not exposed to the intense sun radiation, these charged particles have an opportunity to come together again. Analogous transformations occur when there is an abrupt transition into darkness during a complete solar eclipse.

Rodrigues and his students strategically positioned inexpensive, readily available devices with the ability to receive satellite signals, such as GPS, in a large triangular formation. One device was placed at the university, another approximately 100 kilometers to the north, and the third approximately 50 kilometers east in the town of Terrell. These detectors monitor the instantaneous increase and decrease of electron concentration in the ionosphere, which serves as an indicator of its level of ionization.

The data obtained by Rodrigues and his team during the eclipse could potentially validate the forecasts on the extent to which the ionosphere will deionize due to the reduction of sunlight caused by the eclipse. It could also identify any shortcomings in these predictions. The collected data will be utilized to study the influence and deterioration of satellite transmissions caused by changes in the ionosphere. This research aims to enable engineers to mitigate these effects in future communication and navigation systems.

According to Rodrigues, the number of electrons in the ionosphere decreased, as anticipated during the event. However, it would probably take a few days for him to determine which models provided the most precise forecasts. Although there was some cloud cover in Dallas, he is very satisfied with the outcome.

Meanwhile, when the sun regained its usual intensity above Lake Tawakoni, Snowden and her colleagues paused to contemplate the extraordinary event they had just observed before resuming their balloon releases.

“It is an awe-inspiring encounter,” she states. “I consider myself very lucky to have witnessed it.”


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