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

Conservation biologist warns that "cyber-poachers" could use tracking tags to hunt endangered animals

In Troubling issues at the frontier of animal tracking for conservation and management, Carleton University biologist Steven Cooke and colleagues describe a series of incidents in which poachers have used tracking tags placed on wild animals for conservation purposes to find and kill those animals. Read the rest

The automated, invisible revert-wars of Wikipedia's bot ecosystem

In Even good bots fight, a paper written by Oxford Internet Institute researchers and published in PLOS One, the authors survey the edits and reverts made by Wikipedia's diverse community of bots, uncovering some curious corners where bots -- rate-limited by Wikipedia's rules for bots -- slowly and remorseless follow one another around, reverting each other. Read the rest

Artificial sweeteners be damned; these naturally occurring, safe proteins are thousands of times sweeter than sugar

KSU plant biochemical geneticist Raj Nagarajan describes the properties of Thaumatin, Monellin and Brazzein, all found in west African plants that are generally considered safe for consumption; each is a protein, and they are, respectively, 1,000x, 2000x, and 3000x sweeter than sugar. Read the rest

For the past 40 years, the presence of immigrants in US cities was correlated with a reduction in violent and property crime

In a new paper published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice, sociologists and criminologists from University at Buffalo (SUNY), the University of Alabama, Kennesaw State University, the State of Georgia, and Georgia State University review 40 years' worth of FBI data on violent crimes and property crimes, correlating this data series with Census data on the influx of immigrants to US cities. Read the rest

Researchers show they can beat address space layout randomization with Javascript in a browser (!)

Address space layout randomization is an important first line of defense against malicious software: by randomizing where in memory instructions are stored, ASLR makes it much harder to overwrite memory with new code that will be jumped to as a program executes, offering significant protection against buffer overflow attacks. Read the rest

Proof-of-concept ransomware locks up the PLCs that control power plants

In Out of Control: Ransomware for Industrial Control Systems, three Georgia Tech computer scientists describe their work to develop LogicLocker, a piece of proof-of-concept ransomware that infects the programmable logic controllers that are used to control industrial systems like those in power plants. Read the rest

Piketty: the poorest half of Americans saw a "total collapse" in their share of the country's wealth

In a new analysis of the World Income Database published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, Thomas Piketty and colleagues from the Paris School of Economics and UC Berkeley, describe a "collapse" of the share of US national wealth claimed by the bottom 50% of the country -- down to 12% from 20% in 1978 -- along with an (unsurprising) drop in income for the poorest half of America. Read the rest

"The Ambivalent Internet": A scholar of trolling's new book about politics in the internet age

Whitney Phillips is about to publish her second book on internet trolls: The Ambivalent Internet: Mischief, Oddity, and Antagonism Online, co-written with Ryan M. Milner during the 2016 election cycle, when trolling became an indomitable force for political goals. Read the rest

Enterprise firewalls are man-in-the-middling HTTPS sessions like crazy, and weakening security

A group of security researchers from academe and industry (including perennial Boing Boing favorite J Alex Halderman) have published an important paper documenting the prevalence and problems of firewalls that break secure web sessions in order to scan their contents for undesirable and malicious content. Read the rest

Gun violence researchers at UC Davis are racing to save the ATF's gun violence data before Trump blows it away

Magdalena Cerdá and Garen Wintemute are epidemiological researchers with US Davis's Violence Prevention Research Program; when they witnessed the Trump administration's mass-deletion of publicly funded EPA research, they feared gun violence stats would be next. Read the rest

Autonomous bat bot weighs 93g, flies like a bat

A team of roboticists from Caltech and Urbana-Champaign have built a biomimetic "bat bot" that uses nine joints to deform a foot-wide wing membrane to achieve breathtaking aerial maneuvers. Read the rest

You know who else invested in infrastructure? Autobahn spending was key to Hitler's consolidation of power

In Highway to Hitler, Nico Voigtländer (UCLA) and Hans‐Joachim Voth (University of Zurich)'s 2014 paper analyzing the impact of the massive infrastructure investment in creating the Autobahn, the authors conclude that the major spending project was key to Hitler's consolidation of power. Read the rest

Wafting magnetism has transferred oxygen from Earth to the Moon for billions of years

In a new paper in Nature Astronomy, a team from Osaka University publishes its analysis of data gathered by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Selenological and Engineering Explorer, revealing that an isotope present in lunar regolith is a match for an isotope found in terrestrial, atmospheric oxygen. Read the rest

Researchers discover hundreds of thousands of unsuspected, Star Wars-themed twitterbots hiding in plain sight

Twitter is a great place for bots. Botherders like Shardcore produce amazing, politics, artistic bots that mine Twitter, inject useful information into Twitter, or just frolic on Twitter, making it a better place. Twitterbots produce entries in imaginary grimoires, conduct sociological research, produce virtual model railroads, alert the public when governments try to make bad news disappear, and much, much more. Read the rest

Why connecting to wifi is such a pain in the phone

A group of computer scientists from Tsinghua University, Tencent and Tsinghua National Laboratory for Information Science and Technology have posted a first-of-its-kind paper to Arxiv, analyzing the problems that make connecting to wifi networks so achingly slow. Read the rest

The secret to success in local politics: steal from the people, but not too much

In a new paper in Progress, Oxford economist Vuk Vukovic argues that the key to re-election in local politics is to be just corrupt enough: giving lucrative contracts and other benefits to special interests who'll fund your next campaign, but not so much that the people refuse to vote for you. Read the rest

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