Cops have way more rights than you do

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When you get arrested, what happens next depends on the law and the Constitution, but when a cop arrests their co-worker, what happens next is determined by a cushy contract between the police union and the city that gives suspected crooked law enforcement officers every benefit of the doubt, and lots of ways to walk away free, regardless of the facts. Read the rest

Networked gaming is the new social media, and it's a boys' club

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Earlier this fall, Pew released the results of a new survey documenting how digital networks are key to how teens connect with friends. What was most striking was the gender disparity. Girls socialize via text and social media, and boys tend to connect with friends through video games.

IXmaps: a tool to figure out when the NSA can see Canadians' data

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Canadians' data requests overwhelming flow through US cables, even when the communications are within Canada. Since the NSA takes the view that it is legally entitled to collect, inspect and retain foreign communications, this means that almost all Canadian communications are being spied on by a foreign power. Read the rest

Suicide rates are highest in spring -- not around Christmas

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No one's sure how the story of suicides increasing during holiday season got started (some researchers think it may have come from It's a Wonderful Life!), but it's not true. Read the rest

Airbnb hosts consistently discriminate against black people

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Harvard Business School's Benjamin Edelman, Michael Luca, and Dan Svirsky created 20 identical Airbnb profiles, ten of which had names meant to sound African-American, ten of which were meant to sound white and undertook thousands of attempted Airbnb bookings in Baltimore, Dallas, LA, St Louis and DC. They found that black-seeming Airbnb users were 16% more likely to have their requests declined than white-seeming users. Read the rest

What will it take to get MIT to stand up for its own students and researchers?

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In 2007, 19-year-old MIT Media Lab student named Star Simpson went to Boston's Logan Airport to meet a friend wearing a sweater she'd decorated with LEDs in the shape of a star; the Logan police responded (with machine guns) to a call about a "dark-skinned man" with a suspicious device. Read the rest

Proposal: keep the nuclear launch codes in an innocent volunteer's chest-cavity

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In 1981, Harvard law professor Roger Fisher, director of the Harvard Negotiation Project, published a thought experiment in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists: what if the codes to launch nuclear war were kept inside the chest-cavity of a young volunteer, and the President would have to hack them out of this young man's chest before he could commence armageddon? Read the rest

The moral character of cryptographic work

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Phillip Rogaway, an eminent computer scientist and cryptographer at UC Davis, has made a stir in information security circles with a long, thoughtful paper called The Moral Character of Cryptographic Work. Read the rest

Thomas Piketty seminar on Crooked Timber

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The Crooked Timber folks have assembled a distinguished panel to discuss Thomas Piketty's "Capital in the 21st Century, a must-read economics book (don't be scared by its brick-like appearance!). Read the rest

Harvard Business School: Talented assholes are more trouble than they're worth

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In Toxic Workers , a new Harvard Business School working paper, Michael Housman and Dylan Minor look at the paradox of "superstar" workers who outperform their colleagues by 2:1 or more, but who are "toxic" -- awful to work with and be around. 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

Newly discovered WEB Du Bois science fiction story reveals more Afrofuturist history

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NAACP founder WEB Du Bois wasn't just a committed, effective activist for the rights of black people in America: he was also a prolific author of early 20th century science fiction and fantasy stories. Read the rest

Scholars and activists stand in solidarity with shuttered research-sharing sites

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This week, the scholarly publishing giant Elsevier filed suit against Sci-Hub and Library Genesis, two sites where academics and researchers practiced civil disobedience by sharing the academic papers that Elsevier claims -- despite having acquired the papers for free from researchers, and despite having had them refereed and overseen by editorial boards staffed by more volunteering academics. Read the rest

EAT BUGS: Monetary incentives distort our perceptions of what's good for us

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There are lots of transactions that we're either prohibited from making (selling kidneys), or that are strictly regulated by statute (parental surrogacy). Naturally, these rules are hotly debated, especially among economists, who generally assume that markets of informed buyers and sellers produce outcomes that make everyone better off. Read the rest

CEOs are lucky, tall men

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A new working paper [PDF] from three Harvard Business School researchers builds on the work of Texas A&M professor Markus Fitza, whose paper in last month's Strategic Management Journal showed that nearly everything about a CEO's performance can be attributed to chance. Read the rest

Victoria's Secret's "floral, fruity" perfume almost matches DEET as a mosquito repellent

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Floral/fruity scents have long been characterized as attractive to mosquitoes, so it's natural that New Mexico State’s Molecular Vector Physiology Lab researcher Stacy Rodriguez tested a floral/fruity perfume against DEET in a lab trial. Read the rest

Green tea doesn't promote weight loss

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A meta-analysis of green tea's impact on metabolism and weight-loss, undertaken by the Cochrane trust, finds no statistically significant correlation between drinking green tea and losing weight. Read the rest

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