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We're a little crazy, about science!

Ethics

Nature or nurture: is violence in our genes?

dna violence

dna violence

Nature or nurture? The quest to understand why humans kill one another has occupied the minds of philosophers, sociologists and psychologists for centuries. Are we innately violent, as Englishman Thomas Hobbes postulated in the 1650s, or is our behaviour influenced more by the environment we grow up in, as Jean-Jacques Rousseau theorised a century later?

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Historical analysis examines sugar industry role in heart disease research

high sugar content

high sugar content

Using archival documents, a new report examines the sugar industry’s role in coronary heart disease research and suggests the industry sponsored research to influence the scientific debate to cast doubt on the hazards of sugar and to promote dietary fat as the culprit in heart disease.

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The blur doesn’t cut it: AI can identify people in blurred images

pixelated face

pixelated face

A trio of researchers has found off-the-shelf AI software can be used to identify people in blurred or pixilated images. The researchers have uploaded a paper describing the experiments they carried out with AI software identification of people or other items in blurred out images, what they found and reveal just how accurate they found it could be.

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Prostitution has gone online — and pimps are thriving

internet sex

internet sex

With the sale of sex shifting online, today’s pimps are avoiding police detection by using underground websites, social media, mobile apps and even by hiding their ads on mainstream sites such as Craigslist and Backpage. In a first-of-its-kind study, criminologists interviewed 71 pimps in Atlanta and Chicago to determine how their marketing decisions are influenced by police enforcement of online prostitution.

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In doctors we trust — especially when they admit to bias

Dr. Zoidberg

Dr. Zoidberg

A doctor’s guidance may reassure us more than we realize -especially if she says she is likely to recommend treatment in her field of expertise, known as “specialty bias.” Doing research in a real-world healthcare setting, researchers have found that when surgeons revealed their bias toward their own specialty, their patients were more likely to perceive them as trustworthy. And patients are more apt to follow their recommendation to have surgical treatment.

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Humiliation from stares are worse than tiny seats for obese air travelers

flying obese

flying obese

Feelings of shame and humiliation bother obese air passengers more than tight seat belts and tiny seats, according to a study published by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) researchers. Participants interviewed for the study recounted the typical challenges they encounter while boarding, in-flight and deplaning.

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Extreme beliefs often mistaken for insanity

religious hatred

religious hatred

In the aftermath of violent acts such as mass shootings, many people assume mental illness is the cause. After studying the 2011 case of Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik, researchers are suggesting a new forensic term to classify non-psychotic behavior that leads to criminal acts of violence.

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What is a good death?

life and death quote

life and death quote

Food for the worms, a dirt nap, kicking the bucket, maybe there are so many euphemisms for death because it is still a taboo in certain cultures. Not so fun fact, my Uncle committed suicide some years back. I’m not going to go into details, but because suicide is looked down on, was his death still considered a “good death”? Trying to qualitatively and quantitatively define a good death, researchers have published a new paper offering help in defining the idea of a good death and have ultimately identified 11 core themes associated with dying well.

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Why people oppose same-sex marriage

Marriage
Marriage

More pearls of wisdom from the great Cyanide and happiness.

Marriage is legal (here in the US anyway), now I’m not gay, but that is exciting to me. So the question remains, has society fallen apart? Are cats hanging out with dogs and toast falling butter side up? Of course not, so then why do opponents of same-sex marriage really oppose it? A UCLA psychology study concludes that many people believe gay men and women are more sexually promiscuous than heterosexuals, which they may fear could threaten their own marriages and their way of life.

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Stereotype means girls should expect poorer physics grades

Girls should expect poorer physics grades

Girls should expect poorer physics grades

Imagine that you are a female student and give the exact same answer to a physics exam question as one of your male classmates, but you receive a significantly poorer grade. This is precisely what happens on a regular basis, as concluded in a study by Sarah Hofer, a researcher in the group led by ETH professor Elsbeth Stern.

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Exposure to violence makes you more likely to lie, cheat

Violence, Aggression, and Ethics: The Link Between Exposure to Human Violence and Unethical Behavior
Violence, Aggression, and Ethics: The Link Between Exposure to Human Violence and Unethical Behavior

Maybe it’s not what it looks like…

Can watching a violent movie make you more likely to lie, cheat or steal? What about reading a violent book? While that may seem like a stretch, a new research study shows it may be the case. The study finds that exposure to human violence is strongly linked to an increase in cheating for monetary gain. In other words, violence may be making us less ethical.

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Cancer survivors less likely to receive callbacks from potential employers

Cancer survivors less likely to receive callbacks from potential employers

Cancer survivors less likely to receive callbacks from potential employers

Job applicants who are cancer survivors are less likely to receive callbacks from potential retail employers than those who did not disclose their health history, according to a recent study by Rice University and Penn State University researchers.

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What blocks pro-vaccine beliefs?

What blocks pro-vaccine beliefs?

Despite rhetoric that pits “anti-vaxxers” versus “pro-vaxxers,” most new parents probably qualify as vaccine-neutral–that is, they passively accept rather than actively demand vaccination. Unless there is an active threat of polio or whooping cough, they have to remind themselves that injecting their crying infant with disease antigens is a good thing.

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The science of stereotyping: Challenging the validity of ‘gaydar’

The science of stereotyping: Challenging the validity of 'gaydar'

“Gaydar” — the purported ability to infer whether people are gay or straight based on their appearance — seemed to get a scientific boost from a 2008 study that concluded people could accurately guess someone’s sexual orientation based on photographs of their faces. In a new paper researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison challenge what they call “the gaydar myth.” William Cox, an assistant scientist in the Department of Psychology and the lead author, says gaydar isn’t accurate and is actually a harmful form of stereotyping.

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Commenters exposed to prejudiced comments more likely to display prejudice themselves

anonymous troll comments

Comment sections on websites continue to be an environment for trolls to spew racist opinions. The impact of these hateful words shouldn’t have an impact on how one views the news or others, but that may not be the case. A recent study found exposure to prejudiced online comments can increase people’s own prejudice, and increase the likelihood that they leave prejudiced comments themselves.

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Justice system chips away at women’s rights

Womans rights

Arrests of women increased dramatically in the past two decades, while domestic abuse laws meant to protect female victims have put many behind bars for defending themselves, a new paper argues. These trends suggest evidence, at least in the justice system, of a “war on women” — a term coined during the 2012 election that refers to attempts to limit women’s rights.

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Power of the media’s impact on medicine use revealed

Television doctors

More than 60,000 Australians are estimated to have reduced or discontinued their use of prescribed cholesterol-lowering statin medications following the airing of a two-part series critical of statins by ABC TV’s science program, Catalyst, a University of Sydney study reveals. The analysis of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme medication records of 191,000 people revealed that there was an immediate impact after Catalyst was aired in October 2013, with 14,000 fewer people dispensed statins per week than expected.

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Why good people do bad things

The moral dilemma of a "good" person

Honest behavior is much like sticking to a diet. When facing an ethical dilemma, being aware of the temptation before it happens and thinking about the long-term consequences of misbehaving could help more people do the right thing, according to a new study.  This is the first study to test how the two separate factors of identifying an ethical conflict and preemptively exercising self-control interact in shaping ethical decision-making.

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The new normal? Addressing gun violence in America

don't shoot I want to grow up

Mass shootings have a significant impact on our individual and collective psyche, especially when they happen at schools. Despite the fact that children die every day from gun violence, school shootings upset us in ways that are difficult to comprehend. In our minds, schools serve as safe havens for children. When that image is shattered, the unpredictability and randomness of such heinous acts leave us wondering if anywhere is safe anymore. Thus, the shock and horror expressed following these events is not surprising.

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Suicide and skin color, or how being black is killing you

Racism, it takes many forms

The great racial divide, despite all the evidence showing that racism, hate and frankly plain stupidity is alive and well, there are people who cannot accept it. This probably will not change anything for those people, but for the first time a new study shows that while suicide rates in children younger than 12 have remained steady for the past 20 years, there are significantly higher suicide rates among black children.

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Girls suck at science, and other depressing stereotypes

The stereotype is still alive, girls suck at math and science

Image credit goes to: xkcd.com

The Netherlands had the strongest stereotypes associating science with men more than women, according to a new Northwestern University study that included data from nearly 350,000 people in 66 nations. These stereotypes are prevalent across the world — even in nations such as Argentina and Bulgaria where women are roughly half of science majors in colleges and universities and employed researchers, according to the study, the largest ever of its kind.

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Which is most valuable: Gold, cocaine or rhino horn?

These are elephants in Botswana

These are elephants in Botswana. Image credit goes to: Blaire Van Valkenburgh

Many of the world’s largest herbivores — including several species of elephants, rhinoceroses, hippopotamuses and gorillas — are in danger of becoming extinct. And if current trends continue, the loss of these animals would have drastic implications not only for the species themselves, but also for other animals and the environments and ecosystems in which they live, according to a new report by an international team of scientists.

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The relationship between CEO greed and company performance

Throwing lots of money around

That gut feeling many workers, laborers and other underlings have about their CEOs is spot on, according to three recent studies which all suggest that CEO greed is bad for business.But how do you define greed? Are compassionate CEOs better for business? How do you know if the leader is doing more harm than good? And can anybody rein in the I-Me-Mine type leader anyway?

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US clinics avoiding government oversight of ‘stem cell’ treatments

The pitfalls of stem cell therapy

Clinics across the United States are advertising stem cell treatments that attempt to take advantage of what they perceive as exceptions in FDA regulations.The therapies in question are adipose-derived autologous stem cell treatments, in which fat cells are removed from a patient, broken down to separate components that purportedly contain stem cells, and are then reinjected into the same patient.

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Google searches for ‘n-word’ associated with black mortality

Black lives matter

Google searches could unveil patterns in Black mortality rates across the US, according to a new study. Researchers found that those areas with greater levels of racism, as indexed by the proportion of Google searches containing the “n-word,” had higher mortality rates among Blacks. The study is the first to examine an Internet query-based measure of racism in relation to mortality risk.

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Scientists create worlds first genetically modified human embryos

CRISPR-Cas9

A funny thing happened on the way to the publisher. In a world first, China has successfully created genetically modified human embryos. It was certainly an amazing piece of science, but the paper was rejected by both Nature and Science. Not because the study was flawed, or because the data was falsified, the paper was rejected for ethical reasons.

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Gender differences in moral judgements linked to emotion

comics-SMBC-time-travel-Hitler

You can see more funny stuff like this over at SMBC

If a time machine was available, would it be right to kill Adolf Hitler when he was still a young Austrian artist to prevent World War II and save millions of lives? Should a police officer torture an alleged bomber to find hidden explosives that could kill many people at a local cafe? When faced with such dilemmas, men are typically more willing to accept harmful actions for the sake of the greater good than women. For example, women would be less likely to support the killing of a young Hitler or torturing a bombing suspect, even if doing so would ultimately save more lives.

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Stereotype lowers math performance in women, no one noticed

stereotypes

Stereotypes about people can affect how we look at a person, but sometimes it causes other problems. Gender stereotypes about women’s ability in mathematics negatively impact their performance. And in a significant twist, both men and women wrongly believe those stereotypes will not undermine women’s math performance — but instead motivate them to perform better.

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The hidden neurological impact of explosions on military members

ied blast

More bad news for war Veterans, the brains of some Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans who survived blasts from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and died later of other causes show a distinctive honeycomb pattern of broken and swollen nerve fibers throughout critical brain regions, including those that control executive function. The pattern is different from brain damage caused by car crashes, drug overdoses or collision sports, and may be the never-before-reported signature of blast injuries suffered by soldiers as far back as World War I.

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Experiment showcasing humanity’s ‘dark side’ may offer a way to control it

goodVsEvil

It was an infamous experiment, one on obedience and reprehensible behavior done in 1961. With memories of Holocaust atrocities and the prosecution of Nazi officials at Nuremberg still fresh, psychologist Stanley Milgram made history. You may not remember the name per say, but chances are you know his work.

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Insights into the scientific gatekeepers: A fight for the status quo?

peer review

A new study has found that well respected peer reviewed journals have rejected manuscripts that could discuss outstanding or breakthrough work. The researchers found that some manuscripts rejected by three leading medical journals went on to receive a large number of citations after publication in other journals. The study, which if course was peer reviewed itself, offered insight into the process that the typical researcher might not see.

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Orange Corn Aims to Fight Vitamin A Deficiency

vitamin A blind
vitamin A blind

Corneal blindness often affects people at a young age, such as this twelve year old girl who is blind from vitamin A deficiency. She has had a penetrating corneal graft in her left eye; this has unfortunately failed. Image credit goes to: Lance Bellers

GMO food is still a hot button topic, honestly for no other reason than fear. Sure Monsanto is a big evil corporation, but the science is only as bad as what you do with it. In the modern fortified world we don’t think about vitamin deficiency or the horrible things that come with it, however vitamin A deficiency is a huge problem in developing countries. To combat this researchers have identified a set of genes that can be used to naturally boost the provitamin A content of corn kernels, a finding that could help combat vitamin A deficiency and macular degeneration in the elderly.

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Lie Detection using Brain Waves: It’s just as creepy as it sounds…

polygraph

Currently lie detectors (polygraphs) are not admissible in court, this is because (despite what you may read) there is little proof to show that they are much better than a guess — coming in at roughly 50% accuracy. They aren’t really based in science, making them more of a toy. There might just be a new contender in the lie detection department coming soon however, researchers have found that brain activity can be used to tell whether someone recognizes details they encountered in normal, daily life. This finding may have very real implications for criminal investigations and use in courtrooms.

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Women and sexual assault: Unfortunate news…

bar

I was debating about this new study. On one hand it’s important to share all sorts of different findings. On the other hand, my faith in humanity was more than just a little shaken, but there is no point on sweeping it under the rug. So disturbing news for women on college campuses, a new study indicates that female college students who are victims of sexual assault are at a much higher risk of becoming victims again. Please hold your disgust till the end…

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Jonas Salk and the Polio Comeback

Polio

Jonas Salk, you should know this name, but chances are you don’t. He was the inventor of the polio vaccine, a disease that was feared more than the atomic bomb. Today we don’t think about it, no one “gets” polio anymore. Scientists get a bad rap today with the whole “autism-vaccine” BS. But they don’t know Salk, instead of making a small [see: huge] fortune from the drug, he refused to patent it and gave it to the people for essentially free. You think this story would have a happy ending, I mean we don’t have polio anymore… right? Well the devils in the details and it’s not good.

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Hobby Lobby and the War on Race and Women

womens health

There is a war going on and it’s not on foreign soil. This war is the fight for the status quo, a war where you are only worth your skin color, a war where you are only worth as much as your gender. This war is all around us, we see it everyday, yet we let it quietly pass us by. We do this because, in all actuality, we are losing this war. I don’t blame you if you don’t believe me, you shouldn’t. Frankly I would read this to see the history of this war in action. But where that post focused more on color, I am going to be focusing more on gender and it isn’t pretty.

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Marijuana and the Developing Brain

learning

You can’t get away from it, the big marijuana debate here in the US. Is it good? Is it bad? What are other countries doing? There are also a lot of claims made about marijuana, most of which aren’t true, namely the big medical claims. Then there is the other side of that fence, what about some of the health issues that are claimed, where does science sit on that?

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Suicide, it might be in the blood

suicide-comp

suicide-comp

I tried to kill myself, more than once in fact. It was a troubling time for me and as a former active duty Marine that might not be too surprising for people to hear. I’m not proud of it and with where I am now, it seems like a pretty solid decision to stay alive, honestly if it wasn’t for my brothers in arms I might not even be typing this now. Unfortunately the statistic for suicide in the military is high enough that no one would have been shocked. Typically the “treatment” is therapy and medications, I say “treatment” in parentheses because you would have to know something was wrong first. But what if suicide was more than just in your head? What if it was in your blood too?

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Antiretrovirals and Pregnancy Risk

motherhood

Don’t drink when you are pregnant, we all know that you aren’t supposed to do that. We also know you shouldn’t smoke, use drugs, and should talk to your Doctor about what medications you are taking while pregnant. So then what about when your husband is HIV positive and you want to get pregnant, are antiretrovirals safe to be using while a woman is pregnant? As it turns out, there is no real research on it, and the answer might be a little harder to get at.

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New tool helps Doctors treat Menopause

doctor patent

With the SCOTUS ruling for the Hobby Lobby case [if you have no idea what I am talking about you can read about that anywhere on the net, like here] it may seem like everyone is fighting the war against women’s care at full speed. Thankfully that isn’t the case everywhere, there are still people out there who are trying to make a difference. Introducing the world’s first toolkit is designed for GPs to use with women from the age of 40 to help them decide the best care for dealing with menopause. Thought to be the first of its kind, researchers say the toolkit has the potential to help manage menopausal conditions for women globally.

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St. Johns Wort and the Dangers of “Alternative” Medicine

There is nothing wrong with wanting proof something works.

alternative medicine

Grapefruit juice, I hate the stuff. But did you know that if you drink as little as 8 oz. of it when you take certain medications it could dramatically increase the effectiveness of the medicine? Sounds like a great thing, sure, until you realize that the dose of medication you are taking is specific to you and that increasing it can have serious side effects and in some cases cause death. This discovery led to the inclusion on the labels of certain medications to be cautions about grapefruit juice [and grapefruit] consumption.

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Global Warming doesn’t actually benefit Plants

Global warming signs

Things are heating up. It’s no secret that the mercury is rising and we are to blame. Sure, there is a lot of uncertainty, for example how long we have until we simply cannot reverse global warming, or worse, how long we have before we cannot survive on the planet. That would be a good question to answer; maybe it will get the people who can actually do something to fix it, to make a change.

The planet works in sometimes-unforeseen ways, sometimes that is good and sometimes that is bad. The hope was that global warming might be offset – if only for a short time – by the increased energy in the system [meaning longer warm periods], which would increase the growing season. It is unfortunate then, that this turns out not to be the case.

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Warning: Serious Side Effects may be Overstated

bullet_pills

Black box warnings, I’m all too familiar with them. A quick look in the medicine cabinet and you would see why. In fact I’m surprised the door shuts some days. No, I’m not a druggy, by any means. I have problems and frankly who doesn’t? These days, like millions of Americans I find some sort of comfort in pill form. It’s not perfect, but most days you wouldn’t know I had my own problems. It’s unfortunate then that the black box warning labels we see on just about every type of antidepressant may be doing more harm than good.

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Quantum Conundrum, Puzzling People, and Survey Statistics

Order matters, we all know this when it comes to math, but did you know the order of questions asked can affect how you answer them? It’s true and it isn’t new news, the question-order effect is why survey organizations normally change the order of questions between different respondents, hoping to cancel out this bias. But that isn’t the interesting part, not by a long shot.

It turns out that quantum theory is a much better predictor of the survey results than conventional methods of predictions.

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Lab Made Flu Coming to a Outbreak Near You!

Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918

Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918

Forgive the alarmist title, I had to do it. Researchers have created a genetically engineered version of the flu, similar to the spanish flu that killed roughly 50 million people in 1918. Don’t worry, it’s not as bad as it sounds, that is until someone sneezes and drops the vial… but what are the odds that would… umm… happen.

Truthfully there is already a war coming. If anyone remembers the swine flu outbreak a few years back, you know what I am talking about — for those of you who had it, including yours truly, you know how horrible it can be. Swine flu or H1N1 was a supercharged flu that was 95% or so genetically different from the flu we have typically seen. This lead to all sorts of fun and horrid complications from the outbreak due to the fact it was something the body had never really seen before.

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Lies the Labels Told Me: Beware Food Buzzwords

organic natural

Organic, All natural, and packed full of antioxidants; sounds healthy, doesn’t it? Unsurprisingly however, if something is trying to tout how healthy it is, it probably isn’t. Of course all those buzzwords have to mean something… don’t they?

According to a new research study conducted by scholars at the University of Houston, health-related buzzwords, such as “antioxidant,” “gluten-free” and “whole grain,” lull consumers into thinking packaged food products labeled with those words are healthier than they actually are.

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[Virtually] Free-range Chicken

Why can’t you eat soup in the Matrix? Because there is no spoon.

Dumb joke, I know, but I have another one for you. What do you call a free-range chicken that is mass produced? Caged.

Welcome to the matrix… for chickens. With the popular consumer demand for free-range chicken, but not enough space for all those chickens, what do you do? Like the modern society we are, we turn to technology to solve the problem.

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