Jah-Wren Ryel writes with news that a few CS folks are working on a way to present opposing viewpoints without angering the reader. From the article: "Computer scientists have discovered a way to number-crunch an individual's own preferences to recommend content from others with opposing views. The goal? To burst the 'filter bubble' that surrounds us with people we like and content that we agree with. A recent example of the filter bubble at work: Two people who googled the term 'BP.' One received links to investment news about BP while the other received links to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, presumably as a result of some recommendation algorithm." From the paper's abstract: "We found that recommending topically relevant content from authors with opposite views in a baseline interface had a negative emotional effect. We saw that our organic visualization design reverts that effect. We also observed significant individual differences linked to evaluation of recommendations. Our results suggest that organic visualization may revert the negative effects of providing potentially sensitive content."
sandbagger writes "The Large Hadron Collider is the world's biggest science experiment. When spinning, it reportedly generates up to six gigs of data per second. Today's six-terabyte tape cartridges fill rapidly when you're creating that amount of material. The Economist reports that despite the advances in SSDs and hard drives, tape still seems to be the way to go when you need to store massive amounts of digital assets."
theodp writes "'The night watchman of the future,' explains the NY Times' John Markoff, 'is 5 feet tall, weighs 300 pounds and looks a lot like R2-D2 – without the whimsy. And will work for $6.25 an hour.' California-based Knightscope has developed a mobile robot known as the K5 Autonomous Data Machine as a safety and security tool for corporations, as well as for schools and neighborhoods. 'But what is for some a technology-laden route to safer communities and schools,' writes Markoff, 'is to others an entry point to a post-Orwellian, post-privacy world.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Following a BBC report showing abnormal variation in the number of people taken into police custody with mental health problems, concerns have been raised about the legal definition of "mental illness". Prof. Steve Fuller argues that a much sharper legal distinction is required to ensure criminals with mental disorders are not released without appropriate treatment. Fuller distinguishes between two cases: a 'client', who pays a therapist and enjoys a liberal, level-playing field in face-to-face interactions, and a 'patient' who is being treated by a doctor for a particular disorder. If the former relationship cannot be established due to person's mental state, then the latter one should be enforced. Thus, Fuller calls for 'a return to institutions analogous to the asylums of the early 19th century.'"
The L.A. Times has a short but compelling article about the state of the art (and coming state of the art) in dedicated networking technology in one of the applications where you'd expect the customers to care most about it: connecting financial trading centers. Milliseconds count, and the traders count milliseconds. From the article, one example: "[New York-based networking company] Strike, whose ranks include academics as well as former U.S. and Israeli military engineers, hoisted a 6-foot white dish on a tower rising 280 feet above the Nasdaq Stock Market's data center in Carteret, N.J., just outside New York City. Through a series of microwave towers, the dish beams market data 734 miles to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange's computer warehouse in Aurora, Ill., in 4.13 milliseconds, or about 95% of the theoretical speed of light, according to the company. Fiber-optic cables, which are made up of long strands of glass, carry data at roughly 65% of light speed."
The much-discussed health care finance sign-up website HealthCare.gov has benefited from the flurry of improvements that have been thrown at it in the last several weeks. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid spokesman Aaron Albright told Fox News Saturday that "[w]ith the scheduled upgrades last night and tonight, we're on track to meet our stated goal for the site to work for the vast majority of users." CMM spokeswoman Julie Bataille. "said the installation of new servers Friday night helped improved the response times and error rates, even with heavier-than-usual weekend traffic." If you've used the site this weekend, what has your experience been like?
ananyo writes "Bowing to scientists' near-universal scorn, the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology has fulfilled its threat to retract a controversial paper which claimed that a genetically modified (GM) maize causes serious disease in rats after the authors refused to withdraw it. The paper, from a research group led by Gilles-Eric Séralini, a molecular biologist at the University of Caen, France, and published in 2012, showed 'no evidence of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of the data,' said a statement from Elsevier, which publishes the journal. But the small number and type of animals used in the study means that 'no definitive conclusions can be reached.' The known high incidence of tumors in the Sprague-Dawley rat 'cannot be excluded as the cause of the higher mortality and incidence observed in the treated groups,' it added. Today's move came as no surprise. Earlier this month, the journal's editor-in-chief, Wallace Hayes, threatened retraction if Séralini refused to withdraw the paper, which is exactly what he announced at a press conference in Brussels this morning. Séralini and his team remained unrepentant, and allege that the retraction derives from the journal's editorial appointment of biologist Richard Goodman, who previously worked for biotechnology giant Monsanto for seven years."
v3rgEz writes "Wish you were a little more organized? Have trouble finding that archived contract when you actually need it? Don't feel too bad: The National Security Agency has the same problem, claiming that its contract database is stored manually and impossible to search by topic, category, or even by vendor in most cases."
itwbennett writes "A timely CareerBuilder survey finds that 23% of IT pros spend the holiday with coworkers, either in the office or at another location. But the findings vary widely by city. In Boston, for example, you're pretty sure to be on your own for the holiday — only 6% of coworkers there nosh together. While in Atlanta (35%) or Dallas (30%) things are downright chummy."
KentuckyFC writes "The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence or SETI is one of the highest profile projects in science. And yet its biggest challenge is in generating the funds required to scour the skies for signs of intelligent life. Government funding agencies generally ignore SETI so most funding comes from wealthy patrons such as Paul Allen who has donated $30 million for the construction of a radio interferometer designed to scour the skies for signs of ET. But the lack of other donors means this facility is still incomplete and only partially operational. But one astrobiologist has a solution. Why not create a lottery bond that allows investors to buy shares that yield a fixed rate of interest but also generates enough cash to fund ongoing SETI projects? To add an element of spice, this bond is also a lottery: when the search finally succeeds, a subset of the shareholders will receive a payout from the kitty. This is a fund that is likely to have global appeal but will need a financial institution willing and capable of taking it on. Any suggestions?"
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Matthew Wald reports in the NYT the the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed reducing the amount of ethanol that is required to be mixed with the gasoline supply, the first time it has taken steps to slow down the drive to replace fossil fuels with renewable forms of energy. The move drew bitter complaints from advocates of ethanol, including some environmentalists, who see the corn-based fuel blend as a weapon to fight climate change and was also unwelcome news to farmers, coming at a time when a record corn crop is expected, and the price of a bushel has fallen almost to the cost of production. "Boy, my goodness, are the oil companies going to benefit from this," says Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association. "We're all just sort of scratching our heads here wondering why this administration is telling us to produce less of a clean-burning American fuel." But the EPA says that a big part of the problem was that automobile fuel systems and service stations were not set up to absorb more than about 10 percent ethanol. Most cars on the road are limited to the current mixture, called E10, and there has been little demand by consumers for more. Reasons for the turnaround are many: The boom in domestic oil drilling has dimmed the urgency to find other alternatives to Mideast petroleum. Demand for gasoline has slumped. And criticism of the environmental impacts of corn ethanol has dimmed its luster nationally. The chill on ethanol will certainly affect the industry's powerhouse, corn ethanol. But the risk is far greater for smaller sectors of the industry still struggling to get out of the gate — those aimed at producing next-generation biofuels like "cellulosic" ethanol, made from ingredients like switchgrass and corn stalks. "I don't know if the EPA is aiming for uncertainty, but they may inadvertently create it," says Jan Koninckx, the global business director of biorefineries for DuPont. "The impact could be that another country will lead this rather than the U.S.""
binarstu writes "According to a recent report by Tom Gjelten of NPR, 'NSA officials are bracing for more surveillance disclosures from the documents taken by former contractor Edward Snowden — and they want to get out in front of the story. ... With respect to other information held by Snowden and his allies but not yet publicized, the NSA is now considering a proactive release of some of the less sensitive material, to better manage the debate over its surveillance program.'"
theshowmecanuck writes "A school in British Columbia (the province that now even California can call flakey) has just banned elementary school students from touching each other during recess. You know, one of those times for play and more importantly learning how to socialize (which itself includes touching). CTV News reports: 'A ban on touching during recess at a B.C. elementary school has shocked parents, who call the new no-touch policy "ridiculous." For most kids, recess is a chance to run around and goof-off with their friends, but a new ban on touching at a school in Aldergrove could put a damper on playtime. School administrators at Coghlan Fundamental Elementary School in B.C. have banned kindergarten students from touching each other during recess.'"
An anonymous reader writes "The Sydney Morning Herald reports, 'North Korea is using Russian technology to develop electromagnetic pulse weapons aimed at paralyzing military electronic equipment south of the border, according to South Korea's spy agency. The National Intelligence Service (NIS) said in a report to parliament that the North had purchased Russian electromagnetic pulse (EMP) weaponry to develop its own versions. EMP weapons are used to damage electronic equipment. At higher energy levels, an EMP can cause more widespread damage including to aircraft structures and other objects. The spy agency also said the North's leader Kim Jong-Un sees cyber attacks as an all-purpose weapon along with nuclear weapons and missiles, according to legislators briefed by the NIS.'" Let's not forget that North Korea has also achieved nuclear fusion, developed a super drink that can cure aging and disease, and found a "unicorn lair" last year.
Nerval's Lobster writes "By 2015, Americans' ability to access digital media at home and on mobile devices will raise the average volume of media consumed to the equivalent of nine DVDs worth of data per person, per day – not including whatever media they consume at work. That estimate adds up to 15.5 hours of media use per day per person, which breaks down to 74 gigabytes of data per person and a national, collective total of 8.75 zettabytes, according to a new report. Between 2008 and 2013, Americans grew from watching 11 hours of media per day to 14 hours per day – a growth rate of about 5 percent per year, lead author James E. Short wrote in the report. The increasing number of digital-data consumers and the shift from analog to digital media drove the total volume of data in bytes to grow 18 percent per year. That growth rate 'is less than the capacity to process data, driven by Moore's Law, [of about] 30 percent per year,' he added, 'but is still impressive.' Social media is growing even faster than other options – 28 percent per year, from 6.3 billion hours in 2008 to an estimated 35.2 billion hours in 2015. Companies expecting to catch the attention of either employees or customers will have to do so in the context of an increasingly media-swamped population. Digital data consumption will continue to rise, the SDSC projections estimate, possibly to more than an average of 24 hours per person per day – which is only possible assuming multiple simultaneous data streams running through the minds of Americans watching TV, browsing the Web and texting each other simultaneously, probably to ask why they never have time to just sit and talk any more."