Why did it take a private foundation to do public science right?

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Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen funded the Allen Brain Observatory, a detailed, rich data-set derived from parts of a mouse-brain: what's striking is that the Allen Institute released all the data into the public domain, at once, as soon as it was available, which is exactly what you'd want the publicly funded alternatives to do, and what they almost never do. Read the rest

Monopoly power and the decline of small business: big business vs democracy, growth & equality

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In the 15 years between 1997 and 2012: 72,000 small US manufacturers shut down; as did 108,000 local retailers and 13,000 community banks (fully half of America's complement of small banks!). The number of US startups has dropped by 50% since 1970. These statistics are not the result of the changing times: they're due to massive, monopolistic corporations stacking the deck against small competitors through unfair and corrupt practices, to the detriment of American growth, equality and democracy. Read the rest

Mysterious medical research consortium: we should own volunteers' clinical trial data for 5 years

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The "International Consortium of Investigators for Fairness in Trial Data Sharing" -- a group that appears to have just been formed, backed by 282 researcher in 33 countries -- has objected to a plan to limit exclusivity over clinical trial data derived from medical volunteers, insisting instead that the fair thing to do is to lock up this uncopyrightable, factual data for up to five years. Read the rest

Compounds in human exhalations during movies vary in response to suspense and comedy

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Researchers from German's Max Planck Institute and Johannes Gutenberg University have published a paper in Nature documenting the phenomenon whereby the volatile organic compounds exhaled by cinema audiences change in synchrony while the movie plays, with specific cocktails of chemicals exhaled in response to comedy and suspense. Read the rest

How racist traffic stops criminalize black people, and what to do about it

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When Philando Castile was killed by a Minneapolis cop after a traffic stop, we learned that he had been stopped 46 times before and had been fined for driving without a license. Read the rest

Study confirms a physical correlate to PTSD: "brown dust" in the brain

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Since WWI, doctors have speculated that PTSD's underlying cause was some sort of physical damage caused by blast-waves from bombs, which literally shook loose something important in the brains of sufferers. Read the rest

1 billion computer monitors vulnerable to undetectable firmware attacks

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A team led by Ang Cui (previously) -- the guy who showed how he could take over your LAN by sending a print-job to your printer -- have presented research at Defcon, showing that malware on your computer can poison your monitor's firmware, creating nearly undetectable malware implants that can trick users by displaying fake information, and spy on the information being sent to the screen. Read the rest

Mexico-US illegal migration has been at zero for 8 years, and other eye-opening facts

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NPR's On the Media have released a new installment in their indispensable Breaking News Consumer's Handbook (previously), this one about migration -- legal and illegal -- and it's a doozy. Read the rest

Big rigs can be hijacked and driven with software-based attacks

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In a two-month-long class assignment, researchers from the University of Michigan found vulnerabilities in J1939, the standard for networking in big rigs and other large industrial vehicles, that allowed them to control the acceleration, braking, and instrument panels of their target vehicles. Read the rest

Nightwork: the extraordinary, exuberant history of rulebreaking at MIT

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MIT has a complicated relationship with disobedience. On the one hand, the university has spent more than a century cultivating and celebrating a "hacker culture" that involves huge, ambitious, thoughtful and delightful pranks undertaken with the tacit approval of the university. On the other hand -- well, on the other hand: Star Simpson, Bunnie Huang, and Aaron Swartz. In Nightwork, first published in 2003 and updated in 2011, MIT Historian T. F. Peterson explores this contradictory relationship and celebrates the very best, while suggesting a path for getting rid of the very worst.

The Ice Bucket Challenge did not fund a breakthrough in ALS treatment

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Yesterday's science-by-press-release announcement that a research team had made a "breakthrough" in treating ALS thanks to funds raised in last year's viral ice-bucket challenge turns out to be vaporware: the gene identified was already known to be implicated in ALS, but only affects 3% of cases, and the new refinement in the research suggests some avenues for further work, but has no immediate therapeutic value. Read the rest

Dark Patterns: why do companies pursue strategies that make their customers regret doing business?

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In this 30 minute video, Harry Brignull rounds up his work on cataloging and unpicking "Dark Patterns," (previously) the super-optimized techniques used by online services to lure their customers into taking actions they would not make otherwise and will later regret. Read the rest

Censorship company drops bogus lawsuit against researchers who outed them

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Netsweeper sells "internet filtering technology" -- a tool that spies on users' internet traffic and censors some of what they see -- that is used by governments to control their populations, including the government of Yemen, which uses it to block its citizens' access to material critical of its policies. Read the rest

Highest-paid CEOs generate lowest shareholder returns

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In Are CEOs paid for performance? Evaluating the Effectiveness of Equity Incentives, a new study from MSCI, researchers compared the salaries of 800 US CEOs of large and medium-sized companies to the returns to their shareholders during their tenure. Read the rest

MIT Media Lab announces $250,000 "Rewarding Disobedience" prize

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Linkedin founder Reid Hoffman has bankrolled an experimental, one-time prize of $250,000 that the Media Lab will award for research that harnesses "responsible, ethical disobedience aimed at challenging the norms, rules, or laws that sustain society’s injustices?" Read the rest

Our public health data is being ingested into Silicon Valley's gaping, proprietary maw

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In a lead editorial in the current Nature, John Wilbanks (formerly head of Science Commons, now "Chief Commons Officer" for Sage Bionetworks) and Eric Topol (professor of genomics at the Scripps Institute) decry the mass privatization of health data by tech startups, who're using a combination of side-deals with health authorities/insurers and technological lockups to amass huge databases of vital health information that is not copyrighted or copyrightable, but is nevertheless walled off from open research, investigation and replication. Read the rest

Study: top bank execs saw the crash coming and sold off shares in their own institutions

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In a new working paper from the Center for Economic Policy Research, scholars look at the trading records of shareholders, directors and top executives of major financial institutions in the runup to the crash of 2007, and find that the sell-offs by the top five executives at a bank strongly correlated with that bank's losses in the crash, but that other stakeholders' trading do not correlate: in other words, the very top brass of banks knew that they were sitting on piles of worthless paper and sold before anyone else knew about it, and kept their shareholders, direct reports, and the board of directors in the dark. Read the rest

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