It's too late to do anything about sudden oak death, which has already killed 1,000,000 trees

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Phytophthora ramorum is a mold, related to the Irish Potato Famine pathogen, that causes some oak and tanoak trees to split open and bleed out all their sap, something called "sudden oak death." Read the rest

Society of synthetic linguists explain to court, in Klingon, why Klingon shouldn't be copyrightable

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Last month, I wrote about Paramount's lawsuit against Axanar, a crowdfunded Star Trek fan-film. Read the rest

Astounding, visionary video about hypertext from 1976

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Brett Bobley writes, "'Hypertext: an Educational Experiment in English and Computer Science at Brown University' is an amazing documentary film from 1976 made by Brown University computer scientist Andries 'Andy' van Dam." Read the rest

America's wealth gap has created an ever-increasing longevity gap

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In The Association Between Income and Life Expectancy in the United States, 2001-2014, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, economists from Stanford, MIT and Harvard analyzed 1.4 million US tax records to see how income correlated with lifespan. Read the rest

Classic paper on economic models is secretly a masterclass in thinking, talking, writing and convincing

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Hal Varian, now Google's chief economist, wrote "How to Build an Economic Model in Your Spare Time," a classic paper, in 1994 while teaching at UC Berkeley (he's still an emeritus there). Read the rest

Study: Dyson hand-dryers aerosolize germs on unwashed gloves, spreading them farther than other methods

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In Evaluation of the potential for virus dispersal during hand drying: a comparison of three methods, published in The Journal of Applied Microbiology, researchers from the University of Westminster showed that viruses applied to rubber gloves were aerosolized by Dyson Handblade hand-dryers and spread further than viruses and other germs would be by conventional hand-dryers or paper towels. Read the rest

216 "untranslatable" emotional words from non-English languages

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University of East London pysch professor Tim Lomas has assembled a list of words referring to emotional states from the world's languages that have no correlate in English. Read the rest

How to: apologize

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In An Exploration of the Structure of Effective Apologies , written by business school academics from Ohio State and Eastern Kentucky U and published in Negotiation and Conflict Management Research, the authors report on two studies that trace the reactions of 755 subjects to apologies based and report on the six factors most likely to assuage a wounded party. Read the rest

Virus trading cards, animated and 3D-printable

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Eleanor Lutz used files from the Protein Data Bank to model the molecules comprising the viruses that are the scourge of our human race. Read the rest

URL shorteners are a short path to your computer's hard drive

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Lots of cloud services use URL shorteners to allow their users to share access to networked folders, but with only six characters to brute force, it's possible to scan all the URLs associated with a cloud service, locate the open shared folders, and poison them with malware while you plunder them for secrets. Read the rest

Motel owner spent 30 years spying on his guests' sex lives, considered himself a "researcher"

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In 1980, New Yorker stalwart Gay Talese received a handwritten note by special-delivery: it was from Gerald Foos, a Colorado motel owner, and he revealed that he had been spying on his customers' sex lives for decades and taking meticulous notes, which he offered to share with Talese for his upcoming book, Thy Neighbor's Wife, a now-classic investigation into the hidden sex lives of Americans. Read the rest

The UK government's voice-over-IP standard is designed to be backdoored

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GCHQ, the UK's spy agency, designed a security protocol for voice-calling called MIKEY-SAKKE and announced that they'll only certify VoIP systems as secure if they use MIKEY-SAKKE, and it's being marketed as "government-grade security." Read the rest

Landmark study on the effects of copyright takedown abuse on online free expression

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Three of America's sharpest copyright scholars have released a landmark study of the impact of copyright takedowns on free expression in America: Notice and Takedown in Everyday Practice, by Jennifer Urban (UC Berkeley), Joe Karaganis (Columbia), and Brianna L. Schofiel (UC Berkeley) uses detailed surveys and interviews and a random sample from over 100,000,000 takedown notices to analyze the proportion of fraudulent, malformed or otherwise incorrect acts of censorship undertaken in copyright's name, using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's takedown procedure. Read the rest

MIT Media Lab will default to permitting student code to be free/open

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Historically, MIT Media Lab students who released their work under free/open licenses had to get approval from a committee (that always granted it). Read the rest

People who feel out of control of their lives are more likely to believe in conspiracies

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Like you, I know some people who are really hampered by an irrational belief that the people around them are judging them; I've long thought that these beliefs were linked to a sense that their lives were out of their control, and that this turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy -- the more paranoid compulsions they expressed, the more their lives were made worse. Read the rest

After we make peace with robots doing all the work, will our lives have meaning?

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Philosopher John Danaher's new paper "Will life be worth living in a world without work? Technological Unemployment and the Meaning of Life" assumes that after the robots take all our jobs, and after the economic justice of figuring out how to share the productivity games can be equitably shared among the robot-owning investor class and the robot-displaced 99%, there will still be a burning question: what will give our life meaning? Read the rest

Surveillance has reversed the net's capacity for social change

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Sociologists describe the "spiral of silence": people with socially unpopular ideas fear that they're the only ones who think that way, and say nothing, and their silence convinces others that they, too are alone, begetting yet more silence. Read the rest

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