The astounding science and engineering of printer jams

Anil Dash's third law holds that "Three things never work: Voice chat, printers and projectors." But Joshua Rothman's long, fascinating, even poetic profile of the Xerox engineers who work on paper-path process improvements is such a bit of hard-science whimsy that it almost makes me forgive every hour I've spent swearing over jammed paper. Read the rest

An incredibly important paper on whether data can ever be "anonymized" and how we should handle release of large data-sets

Even the most stringent privacy rules have massive loopholes: they all allow for free distribution of "de-identified" or "anonymized" data that is deemed to be harmless because it has been subjected to some process. Read the rest

Your early darknet drug buys are preserved forever in the blockchain, waiting to be connected to your real identity

Blockchain transactions are recorded forever and indelibly, and that means that all the Bitcoin transactions on early Tor hidden service marketplaces like Silk Road are on permanent, public display; because many people who made these transactions later went on to link those Bitcoin wallets with their real identities, those early deals are now permanently associated with their public, identifiable selves. Read the rest

Floating 1,600dpi 3D projections made by pushing around flecks of cellulose and hitting them with a laser

Physicists at BYU have demonstrated a volumetric projection system that works by using a laser to unevenly heat single cellulose molecules in order to shove them around in 3D space, then painting the positioned molecules with lasers that cause them to glow; by choreographic both sets of lasers, extremely high-resolution moving images can be attained. Read the rest

How machine learning engineers can detect and debug algorithmic bias

Ben Lorica, O'Reilly's chief data scientist, has posted slides and notes from his talk at last December's Strata Data Conference in Singapore, "We need to build machine learning tools to augment machine learning engineers." Read the rest

Google says it can mitigate Spectre with "negligible" effect

Two days ago, an industry/academic team released a terrifying alert about a pair of CPU bugs called Spectre and Meltdown that allowed one program to steal data from another, even with the best memory-management and isolation techniques -- news that meant that virtually all the mission-critical computers in the world could no longer be trusted to handle sensitive data securely. Read the rest

Critical perspectives on the Singularity from eminent computer scientist Ed Felten

Princeton's Ed Felten (previously) is one of America's preeminent computer scientists, having done turns as CTO of the FTC and deputy CTO of the White House. Read the rest

Snakes and Ladders can be analyzed by converting it to a Markov Chain

University of Washington data scientist Jake Vanderplas found himself trapped in an interminable series of Snakes and Ladders (AKA Chutes and Ladders) with his four-year-old and found himself thinking of how he could write a Python program to simulate and solve the game. Read the rest

Print of "lost" britcom discovered in Nigerian basement and restored with X-rays and laser-cutters

In the early days of TV, it was routine to tape over the recording medium after the initial air-date, which means that no video record exists of many of the pioneering moments in television. Read the rest

Anti-adblock is a lot more common than anyone thought, but it's not hard to defeat

To quote Doc Searls, adblocking is the largest consumer revolt in history; the rise of third-party tracking cookies, mounting awareness of breaches, and a shift in the balance of power between publishers and advertisers have conspired to make ads more visibly and invisibly obnoxious, driving millions to block ads in their browsers. Read the rest

The Australian health authority believed it had "anonymised" a data-set of patient histories, but academics were easily able to unscramble it

The Australian government's open data initiative is in the laudable business of publishing publicly accessible data about the government's actions and spending, in order to help scholars, businesses and officials understand and improve its processes. Read the rest

Researchers trick Google's AI into thinking rifles are helicopters, without any knowledge of the algorithm's design

In Partial Information Attacks on Real-world AI, a group of MIT computer science researchers report on their continuing work fooling Google's image-classifier, this time without any knowledge of how the classifier works. Read the rest

Hey, Kitchener-Waterloo, I'm headed your way next Monday!

I was honoured to be invited to address the University of Waterloo on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Cheriton School of Computer Science; my father is a proud Waterloo grad (and I'm a proud Waterloo dropout!), and so this is indeed a very special opportunity for me. Read the rest

Researchers can fool machine-learning vision systems with a single, well-placed pixel

Three researchers from Kyushu University have published a paper describing a means of reliably fooling AI-based image classifiers with a single well-placed pixel. Read the rest

Distinguished scientist on the mistakes pundits make when they predict the future of AI

Rodney Brooks -- eminent computer scientist and roboticist who has served as head of MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and CTO of Irobot -- has written a scorching, provocative list of the seven most common errors made (or cards palmed) by pundits and other fortune-tellers when they predict the future of AI. Read the rest

Algorithms can write fake reviews that humans rate as "helpful"

One of the reasons that online review sites still have some utility is that "crowdturfing" attacks (in which reviewers are paid to write convincing fake reviews to artificially raise or lower a business or product's ranking) are expensive to do well, and cheap attacks are pretty easy to spot and nuke. Read the rest

Google researchers reveal automated process for removing watermarks from stock images

Businesses like Adobe Stock use large, visible watermarks to deter copyright infringement; a new paper presented by Google Researchers to the Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition shows that these watermarks can be reliably detected and undetectably erased by software. Read the rest

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