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Engineers Nine Times More Likely Than Expected To Become Terrorists ( 412 writes: Henry Farrel writes in the Washington Post that there's a group of people who appear to be somewhat prone to violent extremism: Engineers. They are nine times more likely to be terrorists than you would expect by chance. In a forthcoming book, Engineers of Jihad, published by Princeton University Press, Diego Gambetta and Steffen Hertog provide a new theory explaining why engineers seem unusually prone to become involved in terrorist organizations. They say it's caused by the way engineers think about the world. Survey data indicates engineering faculty at universities are far more likely to be conservative than people with other degrees, and far more likely to be religious. They are seven times as likely to be both religious and conservative as social scientists. Gambetta and Hertog speculate that engineers combine these political predilections with a marked preference towards finding clearcut answers.

Gambetta and Hertog suggest that this mindset combines with frustrated expectations in many Middle Eastern and North African countries (PDF), and among many migrant populations, where people with engineering backgrounds have difficulty in realizing their ambitions for good and socially valued jobs. This explains why there are relatively few radical Islamists with engineering backgrounds in Saudi Arabia (where they can easily find good employment) and why engineers were more prone to become left-wing radicals in Turkey and Iran.

Some people might argue that terrorist groups want to recruit engineers because engineers have valuable technical skills that might be helpful, such as in making bombs. This seems plausible – but it doesn't seem to be true. Terrorist organizations don't seem to recruit people because of their technical skills, but because they seem trustworthy and they don't actually need many people with engineering skills. "Bomb-making and the technical stuff that is done in most groups is performed by very few people (PDF), so you don't need, if you have a large group, 40 or 50 percent engineers," says Hertog. "You just need a few guys to put together the bombs. So the scale of the overrepresentation, especially in the larger groups is not easily explained."


Pearson Credential Manager System Used By Cisco, IBM, F5 Has Been Breached 25

An anonymous reader writes with a report from Help Net Security that the credential management system used by Pearson VUE (part of education company and publisher Pearson) has been breached "by an unauthorized third party with the help of malware." Pearson VUE specializes in computer-based assessment testing for regulatory and certification boards. From the story: Over 450 credential owners (including IT organizations such as IBM, Adobe, etc.) across the globe use the company's solutions to develop, manage, deliver and grow their testing programs. The company is still assessing the scope of the breach, and says that they do not think that US Social Security numbers or full payment card information were compromised. But because the PMC is custom designed to fit specific customer requirements, they are still looking into how this incident affected each of their customers. According to a note on Pearson's site, the system remains down for the time being.

Texas Narrowly Rejects Allowing Academics To Fact-Check Public School Textbooks ( 337

jriding writes with news that in a 8-7 vote the Texas State Board of Education rejected a plan to create a group of state university professors to fact-check textbooks approved for the state's 5.2 million public-school students. The CS Monitor reports: "The Board of Education approves textbooks in the nation's second-largest state and stood by its vetting process — despite a Houston-area mother recently complaining that a world geography book used by her son's ninth grade class referred to African slaves as 'workers.' The publisher, McGraw-Hill Education, apologized and moved to make immediate edits."

The War On Campus Sexual Assault Goes Digital 399 writes: According to a recent study of 27 schools, about one-quarter of female undergraduates said they had experienced nonconsensual sex or touching since entering college, but most of the students said they did not report it to school officials or support services. Now Natasha Singer reports at the NYT that in an effort to give students additional options — and to provide schools with more concrete data — a nonprofit software start-up in San Francisco called Sexual Health Innovations has developed an online reporting system for campus sexual violence. One of the most interesting features of Callisto is a matching system — in which a student can ask the site to store information about an assault in escrow and forward it to the school only if someone else reports another attack identifying the same assailant. The point is not just to discover possible repeat offenders. In college communities, where many survivors of sexual assault know their assailants, the idea of the information escrow is to reduce students' fears that the first person to make an accusation could face undue repercussions.

"It's this last option that makes Callisto unique," writes Olga Khazan. "Most rapes are committed by repeat offenders, yet most victims know their attackers. Some victims are reluctant to report assaults because they aren't sure whether a crime occurred, or they write it off as a one-time incident. Knowing about other victims might be the final straw that puts an end to their hesitation—or their benefit of the doubt. Callisto's creators claim that if they could stop perpetrators after their second victim, 60 percent of campus rapes could be prevented." This kind of system is based partly on a Michigan Law Review article about "information escrows," or systems that allow for the transmitting of sensitive information in ways that reduce "first-mover disadvantage" also known to economists as the "hungry penguin problem". As game theorist Michael Chwe points out, the fact that each person creates her report independently makes it less likely they'll later be accused of submitting copycat reports, if there are similarities between the incidents.

Microsoft Brings Its Embrace-Extend-Extinguish Game To K-12 Schools? 168

theodp writes: A year after it paid $2.5 billion to buy Minecraft, Microsoft has announced a partnership with that makes a Minecraft-themed introduction to programming a signature tutorial of this year's Hour of Code, which hopes to reach 200 million schoolchildren next month in what the Microsoft-funded nonprofit is billing as the largest learning event in history. "A core part of our mission to empower every person on the planet is equipping youth with computational thinking and problem-solving skills to succeed in an increasingly digital world," said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in a press release, which also notes that "Microsoft is gifting Windows Store credit to every educator who organizes an Hour of Code event worldwide." Of the Minecraft tutorial, CEO Hadi Partovi gushed, "Compared to what you would otherwise be doing for school, this is, like, the best thing ever."

Value of University Degree Continues To Decline ( 393

BarbaraHudson writes: Following up from an earlier report from Statistics Canada (pdf), the Parliamentary Budget Officer warns that an increasing number of university graduates are overqualified for their jobs. The CBC reports: "Last year, 40 per cent of university graduates aged 25-34 were overqualified for their job. Five years ago, that percentage was only 36 per cent. In 1991, it hit a low of 32 per cent, or less than one out of every three university graduates. The problem is bigger than that, because those young workers spent money, time, and resources to get those qualifications.

The Next Big IT Projects From the University Labs ( 29

snydeq writes: From unstructured data mining to visual microphones, academic labs are bringing future breakthrough possibilities to light, writes InfoWorld's Peter Wayner in his overview of nine university projects that could have lasting impact on IT. 'Open source programmers can usually build better code faster, often because they have bosses who pay them to build something that will pay off next quarter, not next century. Yet good computer science departments still manage to punch above — sometimes well above — their weight. While a good part of the research is devoted to arcane topics like the philosophical limits of computation, some of it can be tremendously useful for the world at large. What follows are nine projects currently under development at university labs that [could] have a broad impact on the world of computing.'

Hour of Code 2015 Star Wars Tutorial: Spare the IF Statement, Spoil the Child? 156

theodp writes: Teaching U.S. K-12 kids their programming fundamentals in past Hours of Code were an IF-fy Bill Gates and a LOOP-y Mark Zuckerberg. Interestingly, the new signature tutorial — Star Wars: Building a Galaxy with Code — created by Lucasfilm and ("in a locked room with no windows") for this December's Hour of Code, eschews both IF statements and loops. The new learn-to-code tutorial instead elects to show students "events" after they've gone through the usual move-up-down-left-right drills. With the NY Times and National Center for Women & Information Technology recently warning against putting Star Wars in the CS classroom ("Attracting more female high school students to computer science classes might be as easy as tossing out the Star Wars posters," claimed an Aug. 29th NCWIT Facebook post), the theme of the new tutorial seems an odd choice for, whose stated mission includes "increasing [CS] participation by women." But if Star Wars is, as some suggest, more aimed at boys, perhaps has something up its sleeve for girls (a la last year's Disney Princesses) with another as yet unannounced signature tutorial that it teased would be "just as HUGE" as the Star Wars one. Any guesses on what that might be?

Before Barbie's Brainy Makeover, Mattel Execs Met With White House, Google 125

theodp writes: Mattel came under fire last November over its portrayal of Computer Engineer Barbie as incompetent. But the toymaker is now drawing kudos for its new Imagine the Possibilities Barbie ad campaign (video), which shows little girls pretending to be professionals in real-life settings, including a college professor lecturing students about the brain. Ad Age, however, is cynical of the empowering spin on Barbie, which it says "comes across as a manipulative way to silence criticism." Interestingly, some of that criticism may have come from the White House.

WH Visitor Records show that Barbie's brainy makeover came after Mattel execs — Evelyn Mazzocco, Julia Pistor, Heather Lazarus — were summoned to the White House last April to meet with the White House Council on Women and Girls. A little Googling suggests other attendees at the sit-down included representatives of the nation's leading toy makers (Disney Consumer, Nickelodeon, Hasbro, American Girl), media giants (Disney Channels, Viacom, TIME, Scholastic, Univision, Participant Media, Cartoon Network, Netflix), retailers (Walmart, Target), educators, scientists, the U.S. Dept. of Education (including the Deputy Director of Michelle Obama's Reach Higher Initiative), philanthropists (Rockefeller, Harnisch Foundations) — and Google. Representing Google was CS Education in Media Program Manager Julie Ann Crommett, who has worked with Disney to shape programming to inspire girls to pursue CS in conjunction with the search giant's $50 million Made With Code initiative.

The April White House meeting appears to be a reschedule of a planned March meeting that was to have included other Mattel execs, including Stephanie Cota, Venetia Davie, and Lori Pantel, to whom the task of apologizing for Computer Engineer Barbie fell last November. For the first time in over a decade, Barbie was no longer the most popular girls' toy last holiday season, having lost her crown to Disney Princesses Elsa and Anna, who coincidentally teamed up with Google-backed last December to "teach President Obama to code" at a widely-publicized White House event.

Should Programmers Be Called Engineers? ( 568

New submitter nervouscat writes: Game designer Ian Bogost argues that programmers shouldn't use the term "engineer" to describe themselves. He says the tech industry has "cheapened" the title, and that it's more aspirational than anything else. Quoting: "Traditional engineers are regulated, certified, and subject to apprenticeship and continuing education. Engineering claims an explicit responsibility to public safety and reliability, even if it doesn’t always deliver. ... Today’s computer systems pose individual and communal dangers that we’d never accept in more concrete structures like bridges, skyscrapers, power plants, and missile-defense systems. Apple’s iOS 9 update reportedly “bricked” certain phones, making them unusable. Services like Google Docs go down for mysterious reasons, leaving those whose work depends on them in a lurch. ... When it comes to skyscrapers and bridges and power plants and elevators and the like, engineering has been, and will continue to be, managed partly by professional standards, and partly by regulation around the expertise and duties of engineers. But fifty years’ worth of attempts to turn software development into a legitimate engineering practice have failed."

Andrew Tanenbaum Announces MINIXcon ( 104

LichtSpektren writes: Andrew Tanenbaum, author of MINIX, writes: 'MINIX has been around now for about 30 years so it is (finally) time for the MINIXers to have a conference to get together, just as Linuxers and BSDers have been doing for a long time. The idea is to exchange ideas and experiences among MINIX 3 developers and users as well as discussing possible paths forward now that the ERC funding is over. Future developments will now be done like in any other volunteer-based open-source project. Increasing community involvement is a key issue here. Attend or give a presentation.' The con will be held on 1 February 2016 at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Celebrate the 200th Birthday of George Boole With Logic ( 63

mikejuk writes: November 2nd 2015 is the bicentenary of George Boole, dubbed the forefather of modern information technology. To mark the event 55,000 school students globally will be learning about Boolean Logic. Free lesson plans, puzzles and worksheets have been made available in English, Irish and Mandarin and schools in over 30 countries have signed up. According to the George Boole 200 website set up by University College Cork (UCC), the Irish university where he was the first Professor of Mathematics in the mid-19th century, Boole is an unsung hero of the digital age who deserves to be recognized as the forefather of the Information Age. An hour-long documentary, The Genius of George Boole, will be released on November 2 and available to view online until November 16. Although Boole did briefly encounter Charles Babbage during his lifetime he wasn't responsible for bringing together binary arithmetic and what we now call Boolean logic. That achievement is down to Claude Shannon who recognised the relevance for engineering of Boole's symbolic logic. As a result of Shannon's work Boole's thinking became the practical foundation of digital circuit design and the theoretical grounding of the the digital age.

University Reprimands Professor For Assigning Cheaper Textbook ( 363

schwit1 writes: California State University at Fullerton brought a grievance against associate professor Alain Bourget recently. It wasn't for poor results or questionable conduct — it happened because Bourget refused to assign a $180 textbook for his introductory linear algebra and differential equations course, instead using one that cost $75 and supplementing it with free online materials. "Bourget maintains that his choices are just as effective educationally and much less expensive, so he should have the right to use them. But the university says that it makes sense for courses that have multiple sections to all use the same textbooks. Both Bourget and the university say their positions are based on principles of academic freedom."

Revisiting Why Johnny Can't Code: Have We "Made the Print Too Small"? 270

theodp writes: In What is Computer Science?, the kickoff video for Facebook's new TechPrep diversity initiative, FB product manager Adriel Frederick explains how he was hooked-on-coding after seeing the magic of a BASIC PRINT statement. His simple BASIC example is a nice contrast to the more complicated JavaScript and Ruby examples that were chosen to illustrate Mark Zuckerberg's what-is-coding video for schoolkids. In How to Teach Your Baby to Read, the authors explain, "It is safe to say that in particular very young children can read, provided that, in the beginning, you make the print very big." So, is introducing coding to schoolkids with modern programming languages instead of something like BASIC (2006) or even (gasp!) spreadsheets (2002) the coding equivalent of "making the print too small" for a child to see and understand?

National Coalition Calls for Campus Censorship of "Offensive" Speech ( 585

schwit1 writes with this opinion piece from Eugene Volokh, who teaches free speech law at UCLA School of Law, about the push to ban "offensive" speech and censor websites on campus. He writes: "A large coalition of advocacy groups has asked the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights to pressure colleges to (1) punish students for their speech and (2) block student access to certain Web sites — especially sites such as Yik Yak, which allow students to anonymously post their views..... Yet another example of today's Anti-Free Speech Movement for American universities — unfortunately, one that fits well into the Education Department's attitudes. Fortunately, courts have firmly rejected these kinds of calls to restrict college student speech, though the OCR and the college administrations it pressures can get away with a lot of restrictions until the lawsuits are actually brought."

Investigating the Complexity of Academic Writing ( 160

biohack writes: While the general public might expect that researchers should want to maximize comprehension of their work, academic writing tends to follow an opaque style permeated with professional jargon and complex syntax. Proposed explanations for the emergence of this style range from experts generally finding it difficult to be simple when writing about their expertise to more complex social and cultural theories: "Cynics charge ... that academics play an elitist game with their words: They want to exclude interlopers. Others say that academics have traditionally been forced to write in an opaque style to be taken seriously by the gatekeepers—academic journal editors, for example."

Univ. of New Haven Cyber Lab: WhatsApp Collects Phone Numbers, Call Duration, and More 67

An anonymous reader writes: A recent network forensic examination of popular messaging service WhatsApp at the University of New Haven's Cyber Forensics Research & Education Group is offering new details on the data that can be collected from the app's network from its new calling feature: such as phone numbers and phone call duration, and highlights areas for future research and study. The researchers provided an outline of the WhatsApp messaging protocol from a networking perspective, making it possible to explore and study WhatsApp network communications. (Also noted at The Register.)

When Does School Life Begin? Zuckerberg's New School To Admit Fetuses 170

theodp writes: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan's latest initiative to tackle educational inequity is The Primary School, a "private, non-profit school" which will eventually provide both free education and free healthcare for 700 low-income students from the Palo Alto area. "In addition to early childhood and K-12 education," Zuckerberg explained in a Facebook post, "The Primary School will also provide prenatal support for families and on-site healthcare for children. By bringing healthcare and education together in one place, the goal is to support families and help children from underserved communities reach their full potential." A job listing for Assistant Teachers notes that "the school will admit students at or before birth." Zuckerberg joins other Silicon Valley luminaries like Elon Musk and Sal Khan in what Wired calls The Tech Elite's Quest to Reinvent School in Its Own Image.

Official, Customized Raspberry Pi Versions Coming Soon ( 93

DeviceGuru writes: The immensely popular Raspberry Pi will soon be offered in customized versions, through an exclusive arrangement between Raspberry Pi Trading and Element14. According to the companies' announcement, Element14 will provide design and manufacturing services to OEM customers to create 'bespoke designs' based upon the Raspberry Pi technology platform. That's weird U.K. English for saying that contracts for creating customized Raspberry Pi SBCs will entail substantial NRE fees and 3,000 to 5,000 unit orders, depending on the nature of the customization. The tweaked Pi's are likely to have revised board layouts, additional or alternative functions, interfaces, connectors, and memory configurations, and more. A handful of unsanctioned Raspberry Pi knock-offs have already appeared over the past couple of years, including various Orange Pi and Banana Pi flavors, which certainly didn't involve any 'bespeaking.' More info is at Element14's CustomPi page.

Despite $30M Tech Push, Half of US States Had Fewer Than 300 AP CS Test Takers 152

theodp writes: As President Obama was 'taught to code' last December, Politico reported that the $30 million tech-financed campaign to promote computer science education was a smash success. And indeed it has been, at least from a PR standpoint. But and its backers have long spun AP Computer Science test metrics as a true barometer of CS education success, and from that standpoint, things don't look quite so rosy. The College Board raved about "massive gains in AP Computer Science participation (25% growth) AND scores" in a June tweetstorm and at its July conference, where AP CS was declared the '2015 AP Subject of the Year.' But a look at the recently-released detail on 2015 AP CS scores shows wide differences in adoption and success along gender and ethnicity lines (Asian boys and girls, in particular, set themselves apart from other groups with 70%+ pass rates). And, for all the praise the NSF lavished on for 'its amazing marketing prowess', half of the states still had fewer than 300 AP CS test takers in 2015, and ten states actually saw year-over-year declines in the number of test takers (if my math is correct — scraped data, VBA code here).