The first-ever close analysis of leaked astroturf comments from China's "50c party" reveal Beijing's cybercontrol strategy

The Harvard Institute for Quantitative Science team that published 2016's analysis of the Chinese government's '50c Party', who flood social media with government-approved comments has published a new paper, How the Chinese Government Fabricates Social Media Posts for Strategic Distraction, not Engaged Argument, in which they reveal their painstaking analysis of a huge trove of leaked emails between 50c Party members and their government handlers. Read the rest

A potential college course on detecting and combating bullshit in all its forms

University of Washington profs Carl T. Bergstrom (Biology) and Jevin West (Information School) have proposed a course called "Calling Bullshit in the Age of Big Data" that characterizes "the majority of administrative activity" as "sophisticated exercise(s) in the combinatorial reassembly of bullshit" and aims to train students to "navigate the bullshit-rich modern environment by identifying bullshit, seeing through it, and combatting it with effective analysis and argument." Read the rest

Moral panic: Japanese girls risk fingerprint theft by making peace-signs in photographs

Isao Echizen, a researcher at Japan's National Institute of Informatics, told a reporter from the Sankei Shimbun that he had successfully captured fingerprints from photos taken at 3m distance at sufficient resolution to recreate them and use them to fool biometric identification systems (such as fingerprint sensors that unlock mobile phones). Read the rest

Researchers discover that experimental Alzheimer's drug causes teeth to regrow tissue lost to cavities

A paper from a group of Kings College London researchers documents an unexpected and welcome side effect from an experimental anti-Alzheimer's drug called Tideglusib: test subjects experienced a regeneration of dentin, the bony part of teeth that sits between the pulp and the enamel. Read the rest

The arc of history is long, but how do we bend it?

Ada Palmer -- novelist, singer, historian -- just dropped a 10,000 word essay on the nature of progress and historical change that has provided some of the most significant perspective on our own strange moment that I've yet to read -- and in so doing, has provided a set of mental tools for figuring out how to survive 2017 and beyond. Read the rest

Around the world, old, rural voters count more than young people in cities

In The Value of a Vote: Malapportionment in Comparative Perspective, published in the British Journal of Political Science, two scholars from the University of Minnesota Department of Political Science document more than 20 industrial democracies where the votes of rural citizens -- who skew older and more conservative than their urban counterparts -- carry more weight than city-dwellers' votes. Read the rest

When robots take routine middle-class jobs, those workers drop out of the workforce

In Disappearing Routine Jobs: Who, How, and Why? economists from USC, UBC and Manchester University document how the automation of "routine" jobs (welders, bank tellers, etc) that pay middle class wages has pushed those workers out of the job market entirely, or pushed them into low-paying, insecure employment. Read the rest

Happy Public Domain Day: here's what American's don't get this year, thanks to retroactive copyright term extension

Jennifer Jenkins writes, "What could have been entering the public domain in the US on January 1, 2017? Under the law that existed until 1978 -- Works from 1960. The books 'To Kill a Mockingbird' and 'Rabbit, Run' the films 'The Magnificent Seven' and 'The Time Machine' early episodes of 'The Flintstones' the musical 'Camelot' and more -- What is actually entering the public domain this January 1? Not a single published work." Read the rest

It’s about Time: Reading Steampunk’s Rise and Roots

In Like Clockwork: Steampunk Pasts, Presents, and Futures , Rachel A. Bowser and Brian Croxall present a lively, engaging collection of essays about the past, present, future (and alternate versions thereof) of steampunk culture, literature and meaning, ranging from disability and queerness to ethos and digital humanities. We're proud to present this long excerpt from the book's introduction.

Hedge fund managers' sports car ownership predicts their unwise risk-taking

In "Sensation Seeking, Sports Cars, and Hedge Funds" Three business school researchers analyze a huge data-set of previous and current hedge-funds that have been hand-matched with the vehicle-ownership records of the funds' managers and analyze the data to see if the ownership of a "performance car" correlates with a hedge fund manager's willingness to take risks, and whether those risks pay off. Read the rest

Free audiobook of Car Wars, my self-driving car/crypto back-door apocalypse story

Last month, Melbourne's Deakin University published Car Wars, a short story I wrote to inspire thinking and discussion about the engineering ethics questions in self-driving car design, moving beyond the trite and largely irrelevant trolley problem. Read the rest

McGill Neurology will no longer patent researchers' findings, instead everything will be open access

The Neurological Institute at Montreal's McGill University is host to the "Tanenbaum Open Science Institute," endowed by a $20M contribution; since last spring, the unit has pursued an ambitious open science agenda that includes open access publication of all research data and findings, and an end to the practice of patenting the university's findings. Instead, they will all be patent-free and usable by anyone. Read the rest

Lawmakers' support for bank bailouts was correlated with their individual investment in banks

In The Personal Wealth Interests of Politicians and the Stabilization of Financial Markets, researchers from the London Business School and Tillburg University demonstrate the likelihood of US members of Congress voting in favor of bank bailouts was correlated with those politicians' individual investments in banking stocks. Read the rest

Why are hackers so political?

Gabriella Coleman is the "hacker anthropologist" whose book on the anthropology of Anonymous is among the best books on hacking I've ever read; her new paper in Current Anthropology, From Internet Farming to Weapons of the Geek, poses a fascinating question: given that hackers are as well-paid and privileged as doctors, lawyers and academics, how come hackers are so much more political than other members of the professional elites? Read the rest

Accelerando: once you teach a computer to see, it can teach itself to hear

In SoundNet: Learning Sound Representations from Unlabeled Video, researchers from MIT's computer science department describe their success in using software image-recognition to automate sound recognition: once software can use video analysis to decide what's going on in a clip, it can then use that understanding to label the sounds in the clip, and thus accumulate a model for understanding sound, without a human having to label videos first for training purposes. Read the rest

How governments and cyber-militias attack civil society groups, and what they can do about it

The University of Toronto's Citizen Lab (previously) is one of the world's leading research centers for cybersecurity analysis, and they are the first port of call for many civil society groups when they are targeted by governments and cyber-militias. Read the rest

Crooks can guess Visa card details in six seconds by querying lots of websites at once

In Does The Online Card Payment Landscape Unwittingly Facilitate Fraud?, a new paper in IEEE Security & Privacy, researchers from the University of Newcastle demonstrate a technique for guessing secruity details for credit-card numbers in six seconds -- attackers spread their guesses out across many websites at once, so no website gets enough bad guesses to lock the card or trigger a fraud detection system. Read the rest

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