A new (slow) open source JPEG algorithm makes images 35% smaller and looks better than older compression systems

Guetzli is Google's new free/open JPEG compression algorithm, which produces images that are more than a third smaller in terms of byte-size, and the resulting images are consistently rated as more attractive than traditionally compressed JPEGs. It's something of a web holy grail: much smaller, better-looking files without having to convince people to install a plugin or browser makers to support a new file-format. Read the rest

How Big Tobacco invented Donald Trump and Brexit (and what to do about it)

Economist Tim Harford (previously) traces the history of denialism and "fake news" back to Big Tobacco's cancer denial playbook, which invented the tactics used by both the Brexit and Trump campaigns to ride to victory -- a playbook that dismisses individual harms as "anaecdotal" and wide-ranging evidence as "statistical," and works in concert with peoples' biases (smokers don't want cigarettes to cause cancer, Brexiteers want the UK to be viable without the EU, Trump supporters want simple, cruel policies to punish others and help them) to make emprically wrong things feel right. Read the rest

UC Berkeley nuked 20,000 Creative Commons lectures, but they're not going away

A ruling about a DC university held that posting course videos to the open web without subtitling them violated the Americans With Disabilities Act (while keeping them private to students did not) (I know: weird), and this prompted UC Berkeley to announce the impending removal of 20,000 open courseware videos from Youtube. Read the rest

How the "tech support" scam works

Security researchers at Stony Brook deliberately visited websites that try to trick visitors into thinking that their computers are broken, urging them to call a toll-free "tech support" number run by con artists that infect the victim's computer with malware, lie to them about their computer's security, and con them out of an average of $291 for "cleanup services." Read the rest

Smart meters can overbill by 582%

A team from the University of Twente and the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences have published a paper demonstrating gross overbillings by smart energy meters, ranging from -32% to +582% of actual power consumption. Read the rest

Your old CD-ROMs are probably rotting

In 2009, the Library of Congress commissioned a research report into the degradation ofCD-ROMs in storage as a way of assessing the integrity of the media in its collection: the news isn't pretty. Read the rest

Examining the ancient technique of "memory palaces" with brain-imaging

A small (51 men aged 24 +/- 3 years) study published in Neuron tasked experimental subjects with practicing the ancient Greek mnemonic technique of "memory palaces" and then scanned their brains with functional magnetic resonance imaging, comparing the scans to scans from competitive "memory athletes" and also measuring their performance on memorization tasks. Read the rest

Ethics and AI: all models are wrong, some are useful, and some of those are good

The old stats adage goes: "All models are wrong, but some models are useful." In this 35 minute presentation from the O"Reilly Open Data Science Conference, data ethicist Abe Gong from Aspire Health provides a nuanced, meaningful, accessible and eminently actionable overview of the ways that ethical considerations can be incorporated into the design of powerful algorithms. Read the rest

Uber's "sharing economy" is really the "taking economy"

U Washington robot-law scholar Ryan Calo (previously) writes, "Technology ethnographer Alex Rosenblat and I have a new paper arguing that the Uber Greyball program, whereby Uber serves a fake version of the app to police, is part of a broader pattern of participant manipulation. Uber uses Greyball-like tools against drivers and consumers as well." Read the rest

If you cry at work, pretend it's because you're very passionate about your job

Research has shown that crying at work comes off as unprofessional and weakens your promotion prospects -- and surveys suggest that people cry at work a lot, anyway. So how can you balance your human emotional needs with the necessity of presenting yourself as a productive unit of gut-flora for the transhuman, immortal artificial life form that has absorbed you? Read the rest

Who is immigration policy for: "taxpayers," "ordinary people" or all citizens?

The UK Supreme Court recently ruled in MM v SSHD, finding that the UK government could legitimately deny entry to a British citizen's spouse if the citizen didn't have enough money to support them. This same policy is the reason that parents of 15,000 British children are not allowed to live in the UK with their kids. Read the rest

Mathematics for Computer Science: a free, CC-licensed MIT textbook

This is indeed an up-to-the-minute text [PDF], dated Mar 7, 2017. It's written by Googler/MIT prof Eric Lehman, MIT/Akamai scientist F Thomson Leighton and MIT AI researcher Albert R Meyer, as a companion to their Mathematics for Computer Science open course. (via 4 Short Links) Read the rest

What will the 25th century call the 21st century?

Polymath historian-novelist Ada Palmer has just published Seven Surrenders, the long-awaited sequel to her astounding debut novel Too Like the Lightning, in which she continues to spin tales in an intricately devised, wonderfully original 25th century. Read the rest

Superbugs are being fuelled by imaginary penicillin allergies

Lots of people think they're allergic to penicillin, but aren't -- so when they have infections, doctors are obliged to skip the front-line drugs, which accelerates the pace of antibiotic resistance in common bacteria. Read the rest

Breitbart was a unique driver of hyper-partisan, trumpist news that shifted the 2016 election

A team of esteemed scholars including Yochai "Wealth of Networks" Benkler and Ethan Zuckerman (co-founder of Global Voices) analyzed 1.25 million media stories published between April 1, 2015 and election day, finding "a right-wing media network anchored around Breitbart developed as a distinct and insulated media system, using social media as a backbone to transmit a hyper-partisan perspective to the world." Read the rest

Deflationary Intelligence: in 2017, everything is "AI"

Ian Bogost (previously) describes the "deflationary" use of "artificial intelligence" to describe the most trivial computer science innovations and software-enabled products, from Facebook's suicide detection "AI" (a trivial word-search program that alerts humans) to the chatbots that are billed as steps away from passing a Turing test, but which are little more than glorified phone trees, and on whom 40% of humans give up after a single conversational volley. Read the rest

Sugar taxes reduce soda consumption

In 2016's Impact of the Berkeley Excise Tax on Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption (Sci-Hub Onion mirror), UC Berkeley scientists showed that the imposition of a $0.01/ounce tax on sugary drinks led to a sharp decrease in the consumption of sodas in Berkeley. Read the rest

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