CWmike writes "Former Reserve Bank chairman Alan Greenspan has long praised technology as a tool to limit risks in financial markets. In 2005, he said better risk scoring by high-performance computing made it possible for lenders to extend credit to subprime borrowers. But today Greenspan told Congress that the data fed into financial systems was often a case of garbage in, garbage out. Christopher Cox, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, told the committee that bad code led the credit rating agencies to give AAA ratings to mortgage-backed securities that didn't deserve them. Explaining in his testimony what failed, Cox noted a 2004 decision to rely on the computer models for assessing risks — a decision that essentially outsourced regulatory duties to Wall Street firms themselves."
Hugh Pickens writes "Laura Holson writes in the NY Times that she 'wandered down to the T-Mobile store at Ninth Ave. and 43rd St. in New York City to see what kind of crowds — if any — were lining up to buy the new T-Mobile G1 which went on sale Wednesday' and saw no lines out the door, no crowding at the counter, and a complete lack of crowds. The iPhone appears to still be the gold standard and Etan Horowitz writes that the G1 'doesn't do a great job showcasing its potential. It isn't as intuitive as the iPhone, and it may take average users a while to figure out basic and advanced shortcuts and features' and 'may appeal more to techies who value open-source products and don't mind a somewhat steep learning curve.' Part of the reason for slow interest may also be that T-Mobile's 3G high-speed data network won't be up and running in many cities until the end of the year."
Hugh Pickens writes "Researchers have found that the winner's curse may apply to the publication of scientific papers and that incorrect findings are more likely to end up in print than correct findings. Dr John Ioannidis bases his argument about incorrect research partly on a study of 49 papers on the effectiveness of medical interventions published in leading journals that had been cited by more than 1,000 other scientists, and his finding that, within only a few years, almost a third of the papers had been refuted by other studies. Ioannidis argues that scientific research is so difficult — the sample sizes must be big and the analysis rigorous — that most research may end up being wrong, and the 'hotter' the field, the greater the competition is, and the more likely that published research in top journals could be wrong. Another study earlier this year found that among the studies submitted to the FDA about the effectiveness of antidepressants, almost all of those with positive results were published, whereas very few of those with negative results saw print, although negative results are potentially just as informative as positive (if less exciting)."
coondoggie writes to tell us that DARPA seems to still be having fun with their funding and continues to aim for the "far out." The latest program, a submersible airplane, seems to have been pulled directly from science fiction. Hopefully this voyage to the bottom of the sea is of the non-permanent variety. "According to DARPA: 'The difficulty with developing such a craft come from the diametrically opposed requirements that exist for an airplane and a submarine. While the primary goal for airplane designers is to try and minimize weight, a submarine must be extremely heavy in order to submerge underwater. In addition, the flow conditions and the systems designed to control a submarine and an airplane are radically different, due to the order of magnitude difference in the densities of air and water.'"
Martin Ecker writes "Mobile phones and other embedded devices are getting more and more powerful each year. The availability of dedicated hardware for 3D rendering is becoming increasingly ubiquitous, and the latest mobile phones come with 3D hardware acceleration that rivals the power of desktop graphics hardware. OpenGL ES 2.0 is the latest version of a cross-platform, low-level graphics API to utilize these new resources available in embedded devices. The OpenGL ES 2.0 Programming Guide published by Addison-Wesley Publishing aims to help the reader make use of the full power of OpenGL ES 2.0 to create interesting 3D applications." Keep reading for the rest of Martin's review.
pgn674 writes "While the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 failed to pass in the House of Representatives, two other bills of interest to this community are currently moving through the US lawmaking process. One is the Broadband Data Improvement Act, which Communications Workers of America claims will help us towards bringing high-speed Internet access to all Americans. It will have the FCC increase their granularity in reporting the Internet accessibility of an area in the US, and redefine broadband measurements. It has passed through the House and the Senate, and differences in the passed versions are currently being resolved. The other bill is the Webcaster Settlement Act of 2008. Pandora is excited for this one as it will give them time to negotiate with SoundExchange (i.e. the RIAA) for new, more affordable royalty rates. The bill is currently in the Senate, and is expected to pass with ease."
AcidAUS sends us the story of an online poker cheating ring that netted an estimated $10M for its perpetrators over almost 4 years. The article spotlights the role of an Australian player who first performed the statistical analyses that demonstrated that cheating had to be going on. "In two separate cases, Michael Josem, from Chatswood, analyzed detailed hand history data from Absolute Poker and UltimateBet and uncovered that certain player accounts won money at a rate too fast to be legitimate. His findings led to an internal investigation by the parent company that owns both sites. It found rogue employees had defrauded players over three years via a security hole that allowed the cheats to see other player's secret (or hole) cards." The (Mohawk) Kahnawake Gaming Commission, which licenses the two poker companies, has released its preliminary report. MSNBC reporting from a couple of weeks back gives deep background on the scandal.
Science Daily has word of a millisecond pulsar in the wrong kind of binary system that has astronomers scratching their heads. According to current models of pulsar evolution, such a system should have no way to develop. The pulsar J1903+0327, which rotates 465 times per second, seems to be in a highly elongated orbit around a Sun-like star. Quoting: "Astronomers think most millisecond pulsars are sped up by material falling onto them from a companion star. This requires the pulsar to be in a tight orbit around its companion that becomes more and more circular with time. The orbits of some millisecond pulsars are the most perfect circles in the Universe, so the elongated orbit of the new pulsar is a mystery."
Anonymous writes "With the releases of Fedora 9, Hardy Heron and OpenSuSE 11 so close together, it's looking more than ever like an evolution to a common interface for major Linux distributions. Here's a compilation of screen shots and descriptions that make it appear to be the case. Would this be a good thing or a bad thing?" There are plenty of other options out there, of course, even considering only Linux distros that are based on Gnome and KDE, and plenty of wilder (or at least less common) desktops to choose from besides.
narramissic writes "A study by the Max Planck Institute for Software Systems found that Comcast and Cox Communications are slowing BitTorrent traffic at all times of day, not just peak hours. Comcast was found to be interrupting at least 30% of BitTorrent upload attempts around the clock. At noon, Comcast was interfering with more than 80% of BitTorrent traffic, but it was also slowing more than 60% of BitTorrent traffic at other times, including midnight, 3 a.m. and 8 p.m. Eastern Time in the U.S., the time zone where Comcast is based. Cox was interfering with 100% of the BitTorrent traffic at 1 a.m., 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. Eastern Time. Comcast spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice downplayed the results saying, 'P-to-p traffic doesn't necessarily follow normal traffic flows.'"
stonyandcher writes to share that the Church of Scientology has come under fire for some items on their recently launched video channel. Most notably, claims have been leveled that dignitaries in one of their videos were faked and at least one of the people featured in the video is claiming their statements were taken out of context.
Techdirt is reporting that the mainstream press may finally be "getting it" when it comes to how the next generation of news readers consumes and shares news. One student summed it up very succinctly by saying "If the news is that important, it will find me." "According to interviews and recent surveys, younger voters tend to be not just consumers of news and current events but conduits as well -- sending out e-mailed links and videos to friends and their social networks. And in turn, they rely on friends and online connections for news to come to them. In essence, they are replacing the professional filter -- reading The Washington Post, clicking on CNN.com -- with a social one."
Amy Bennett writes "A recent poll of about 12,000 US business decision-makers by market researcher CoreBrand found that Microsoft's brand power has taken a dive over the past four years. According to the study, Microsoft dropped from number 12 in the ranking of the most powerful US company brands in 2004 to number 59 last year. In 1996, the company ranked number 1 in brand power among 1,200 top companies in about 50 industries. The CEO of CoreBrand said: 'When you see something decline with increasing velocity, it's a concern.' To add some historical context, IBM suffered a much faster and more severe decline in brand power in the early 1990s and it took them 10 years to rebuild the brand's reputation."
eWeekPete writes "Is the pipe half full or half empty? Not surprisingly, the talk at the second annual Tech Policy Summit was decidedly mixed. 'The US is still the most dynamic broadband economy in the world,' said Ambassador Richard Russell, the associate director of the White House's Office on Science and Technology Policy. 'As opposed to being miles ahead, though, we're only a little ahead.' But Yale Law School's Susan Crawford called Russell's position 'magical thinking. We're not doing well at all.' She proceeded to call the White House's effort 'completely inadequate on broadband competition.'"
An anonymous reader alerts us to new material up on Wikileaks: 208 scanned pages (in one PDF) relating to the Church of Scientology and its former "Office of Special Affairs" employee (and subsequent apostate) Frank Oliver. "The documents are dated between 1986 and 1992 inclusive, when, according to the file, Frank Oliver was declared a 'suppressive person' and excommunicated. Frank Oliver should be able to verify the material and has appeared in the media before on subjects relating to the church. Starting on page 107, the document shows that at the time of writing the Church of Scientology was still actively engaged in black propaganda (especially concerning psychiatry), 'fair game' and infiltration."