President Obama pledges $4 billion for computer science education in schools

President Obama delivers his final State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in Washington January 12, 2016. REUTERS

In his weekly address, President Barack Obama this week pledged $4 billion in federal funding for computer science education in schools throughout the nation.

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Slipstick funnies: in case of power-outage...

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Rodney sez, "Wayne Pollock, a Computer Science instructor at Hillsborough Community College (FL), has this on his office wall. He says, 'I had that idea years ago, and my dad made the darn thing one year as a gift.'" Read the rest

Monkeys make surprisingly terrible random-number generators

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Back in 2002, artists at England's Plymouth University teamed up with Paignton Zoo to see if monkeys could write Shakespeare. Read the rest

Marvin Minsky's "Society of Mind," a free course on AI from MIT

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Artificial Intelligence pioneer Marvin Minsky died yesterday. He was one of computer science's great pioneers, a brilliant researcher who could translate his insights into material accessible even to laypeople. Read the rest

Trumpscript: a programming language based on the rhetorical tactics of Donald Trump

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Trumpscript -- a python variant -- only allows numbers over 1,000,000; has no import statements (all declarations must be homegrown); only has integers because floating-point numbers are un-American (America never does anything halfway); only allows popular words and the names of politicians as variable names; limits error messages to direct Trump quotes; and requires that all programs end with "America is great." Read the rest

Your smartwatch knows your ATM and phone PIN

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Because a PIN-pad is so constrained and predictable, the accelerometer in your smartwatch is able to guess with a high degree of confidence (73%) what you enter into it -- it can also serve as a general-purpose keylogger, though with less accuracy (59%), thanks to the complexity of the keyboard. Read the rest

Piet: Turing-complete abstract art

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Piet was named for Piet Mondrian, and its programs look like Mondrian paintings -- which makes Mondrian Turing-complete. (Shown above: a Piet "Hello World" program.) Read the rest

500 computer-generated novels: the Nanogenmo 2015 entrants

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To enter Nanogenmo, you have to write a program that generates a novel, then post it, along with the novel and the training data used to produce it. 500 teams' entries have been posted to Github. Read the rest

Wishful thinking versus terrorism: why crypto backdoors are a dumb idea

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"We know of no case where such an addition of exceptional access capabilities has not resulted in weakened security." Read the rest

Ada Lovelace: what would go into an Internet of Women's Things?

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Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, is no longer who she once was, 200 years ago. Time changes all famous people, especially cult personalities. Ada has become a modern icon for the digitizing world of science and literature.

UK spy agency posts data-mining software to Github

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Gaffer is a graph database "optimised for retrieving data on nodes of interest" developed by the notorious UK spy agency GCHQ, and now you can download, run and improve it because they've posted it to Github under the permissive, free/open Apache license. Read the rest

Computationally derived Sisyphus Lego automata has to push his ball forever and ever

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JK Brickworks's Sisyphus automata was inspired by Disney Research's work on the "Computational Design of Mechanical Characters". Read the rest

Free usability help for privacy toolmakers

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Simply Secure, a nonprofit I volunteer for, is launching a new series of usability programs for organizations, companies and individuals who are making cryptographic/privacy/security tools. Read the rest

I Can't Let You Do That, Dave: why computer scientists should care about DRM

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I have an editorial in the current issue of Communications of the Association of Computing Machinery, a scholarly journal for computer scientists, in which I describe the way that laws that protect digital locks (like America's DMCA) compromise the fundamentals of computer security. Read the rest

Ar ar humor: Generating jokes algorithmically with Wolfram Mathematica

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Kathryn Cramer writes, "Jesse Friedman, age 14, has developed some code for getting Wolfram Language to tell a few jokes. Although most of WL's jokes are not funny, the generative language tools are an interesting toy." Read the rest

Google releases critical AI program under a free/open license

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Tensorflow, a sophisticated machine learning program that underpins Google Translate, speech recognition, image recognition and many other critical Google services, is now available under an Apache license, one of the least restrictive free/open licenses. Read the rest

New Zealand's lost colossus: all-mechanical racetrack oddsmaking computer

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In 1913, George Julius installed a building-sized, all mechanical odds-calculating computer at Auckland, NZ's Ellerslie racetrack, powered by huge iron weights that slowly pulled down bike chains over sprockets, driving the clockwork device as it "totalised" all the bets laid on horses at the track, keeping the odds in constant balance so that all the bettors were effectively betting against one another, in a system called "pari-mutuel" betting. Read the rest

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