American books are getting swearier

Psych scholars from San Diego State and U Georgia used Google Books to systematically explore the growth of swear-words in published American literature: they conclude that books are getting swearier and that this is a bellwether for a growth in the value of individualism: "Due to the greater valuation of the rights of the individual self, individualistic cultures favor more self-expression in general (Kim & Sherman, 2007) and allow more expression of personal anger in particular (Safdar et al., 2009). Thus, a more individualistic culture should be one with a higher frequency of swear word use." Read the rest

For sale: giant lab "gantries," slightly used, FOB Indiana

Indiana U is selling off a huge lot of lab equipment, including these space-pod-looking gantries. Winning bidder is responsible for dismantling and shipping. "To give someone an idea of how large these are, there are two pits that they sit in. Each of the pits are 28'x35'x10' deep." Read the rest

It's not hard to think of ways to outsmart Stingray-detector apps

A group of researchers from Oxford and TU Berlin will present their paper, White-Stingray: Evaluating IMSI Catchers Detection Applications at the Usenix Workshop on Offensive Technologies, demonstrating countermeasures that Stingray vendors could use to beat Stingrays and other "cell-site simulators" (AKA IMSI catchers). Read the rest

A roadmap for AI policy questions

Robot law pioneer Ryan Calo (previously) has published a "roadmap" for an "artificial intelligence policy...to help policymakers, investors, technologists, scholars, and students understand the contemporary policy environment around AI at least well enough to initiative their own exploration." Read the rest

Fake negative reviews are a cheap way to screw up darknet drug marketplaces

In The Network Structure of Opioid Distribution on a Darknet Cryptomarket, (Sci-Hub mirror), a paper presented today at the American Sociological Association meeting in Montreal, social scientists Scott W. Duxbury and Dana L. Haynie lay out their findings on using fake bad reviews to disrupt the darknet drug-trade. Read the rest

Quackspeak ascendant: China's subject-changing astroturfers rule the Chinese internet

The "50-cent army" is an insanely prolific cadre of government workers whose extra duty is to post hundreds of millions of messages to social media, flooding all available channels with feel-good messages about the accomplishments of Chinese sports teams and the high standard of living in China. Read the rest

Americans perceive overweight Asian people as 'less foreign' than skinny Asians

In Unexpected Gains: Being Overweight Buffers Asian Americans From Prejudice Against Foreigners (Sci-Hub mirror), a paper published in Psychological Science, a group of social scientists from UK and US universities as well as Microsoft evaluated the role that weight plays in the perceptions of people of Asian descent in the USA. Read the rest

Audit shows that pharma companies are still cheating by suppressing trials

It's been years since the major pharma companies agreed to participate in the Registry of All Trials, meaning that they'd end the practice of only reporting on trials whose outcomes they were pleased with, leaving about half of all trials unreported-on. Read the rest

American wages are so low, the robots don't want your job

The American "productivity paradox": technology keeps marching, but the amount of profit generated by the average worker's average hour is stagnant. Read the rest

Predatory "scientific journals" tricked into publishing Star Wars-themed hoax

Robbo writes, "A number of so-called scientific journals have accepted a Star Wars-themed spoof paper. The manuscript is an absurd mess of factual errors, plagiarism and movie quotes. We know this because Neuroskeptic wrote it and posted about it on the Discover Magazine site. The paper was about Midi-chlorians and attributed to Dr Lucas McGeorge and Dr Annette Kin. Neuroskeptic takes us through the process used to create the bogus paper and the varied repsonses from the half-assed 'peer review' journals who accepted the work." Read the rest

A brief history of Alice & Bob, cryptography's first couple

Alice and Bob are the hypothetical communicants in every cryptographic example or explainer, two people trying to talk with one another without being thwarted or overheard by Eve, Mallory and their legion of nefarious friends. Read the rest

Being poor in America means you get more mosquito bites

A team of public health researchers studies mosquito populations in neighborhoods in Baltimore, looking for correlation between socioeconomic status and mosquitoes. Read the rest

Around the world, public perception of China's political primacy surges

The US is still viewed around the world as the top political power, but perceptions of China's leadership are growing rapidly, especially in African states with heavy Chinese investment, and in Russia. Read the rest

How big is the market for DRM-Free?

It's the Day Against DRM, and EFF is celebrating by publishing the first public look at How Much Do Consumers Value Interoperability? Evidence from the Price of DVD Players, a scholarly economics paper that uses clever techniques to reveal some eye-popping number on the strangled market for DRM-free gadgets. Read the rest

Limn 8: a social science journal issue devoted to hacking

Gabriella Coleman is the hacker anthropologist whose work on the free software movement, Anonymous and the Arab Spring, the politicization of hacking, and the true role of alt-right dank memes in the 2016 elections are critical reading for the 21st century. Read the rest

Industrial robotics security is really, really terrible

Researchers from Politecnico di Milano and Trend Micro conducted an audit of the information security design of commonly used industrial robots and found that these devices are extremely insecure: robots could be easily reprogrammed to violate their safety parameters, both by distorting the robots' ability to move accurately and by changing the movements the robots attempt to perform; hacked robots can also be made to perform movements with more force than is safe; normal safety measures that limit speed and force can be disabled; robots can be made to falsify their own telemetry, fooling human operators; emergency manual override switches can be disabled or hidden; robots can be silently switched from manual to automatic operation, making them move suddenly and forcefully while dangerously close to oblivious, trusting humans; and of course, robots can be caused to manufacture faulty goods that have to be remanufactured or scrapped. Read the rest

Republicans are the primary beneficiaries of gerrymandering

As the Supreme Court makes ready to rule on the blatant gerrymandering in Wisconsin, the AP has conducted a study using "a new statistical method of calculating partisan advantage" to analyze "the outcomes of all 435 U.S. House races and about 4,700 state House and Assembly seats up for election last year" and report "four times as many states with Republican-skewed state House or Assembly districts than Democratic ones." Read the rest

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