IBM Sues Microsoft's New Chief Diversity Officer To Protect Diversity Trade Secrets ( 197

theodp writes: GeekWire reports that IBM has filed suit against longtime exec Lindsay-Rae McIntyre, alleging that her new position as Microsoft's chief diversity officer violates a year-long non-compete agreement, allowing Microsoft to use IBM's internal secrets to boost its own diversity efforts. A hearing is set for Feb. 22, but in the meantime, a U.S. District Judge has temporarily barred McIntyre from working at Microsoft. "IBM has gone to great lengths to safeguard as secret the confidential information that McIntyre possesses," Big Blue explained in a court filing, citing its repeated success (in 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017) in getting the U.S. government to quash FOIA requests for IBM's EEO-1 Reports on the grounds that the mandatory race/ethnicity and gender filings represent "confidential proprietary trade secret information." IBM's argument may raise some eyebrows, considering that other tech giants -- including Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Facebook -- voluntarily disclosed their EEO-1s years ago after coming under pressure from Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Congressional Black Caucus. In 2010, IBM stopped disclosing U.S. headcount data in its annual report as it accelerated overseas hiring.

Why Hiring the 'Best' People Produces the Least Creative Results ( 333

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report written by Scott E. Page, who explains why hiring the "best" people produces the least creative results: The burgeoning of teams -- most academic research is now done in teams, as is most investing and even most songwriting (at least for the good songs) -- tracks the growing complexity of our world. We used to build roads from A to B. Now we construct transportation infrastructure with environmental, social, economic, and political impacts. The complexity of modern problems often precludes any one person from fully understanding them. The multidimensional or layered character of complex problems also undermines the principle of meritocracy: The idea that the "best person" should be hired. There is no best person. When putting together an oncological research team, a biotech company such as Gilead or Genentech would not construct a multiple-choice test and hire the top scorers, or hire people whose resumes score highest according to some performance criteria. Instead, they would seek diversity. They would build a team of people who bring diverse knowledge bases, tools and analytic skills. That team would more likely than not include mathematicians (though not logicians such as Griffeath). And the mathematicians would likely study dynamical systems and differential equations.

Believers in a meritocracy might grant that teams ought to be diverse but then argue that meritocratic principles should apply within each category. Thus the team should consist of the "best" mathematicians, the "best" oncologists, and the "best" biostatisticians from within the pool. That position suffers from a similar flaw. Even with a knowledge domain, no test or criteria applied to individuals will produce the best team. Each of these domains possesses such depth and breadth, that no test can exist. When building a forest, you do not select the best trees as they tend to make similar classifications. You want diversity. Programmers achieve that diversity by training each tree on different data, a technique known as bagging. They also boost the forest 'cognitively' by training trees on the hardest cases -- those that the current forest gets wrong. This ensures even more diversity and accurate forests.

The Military

The US Is Testing a Microwave Weapon To Stop North Korea's Missiles ( 217

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Vox: According to an NBC News report, the weapon -- which is still under development -- could be put on a cruise missile and shot at an enemy country from a B-52 bomber. It's designed to use microwaves to target enemy military facilities and destroy electronic systems, like computers, that control their missiles. The weapon itself wouldn't damage the buildings or cause casualties. Air Force developers have been working with Boeing on the system since 2009. They're hoping to receive up to $200 million for more prototyping and testing in the latest defense bill. There's just one problem. It's not clear that the weapon is entirely ready for use -- and it's not clear that it would be any more effective than the powerful weapons the U.S. already possesses. The weapon, which has the gloriously military-style name of Counter-electronics High Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project, or CHAMP, isn't quite ready for action, but it could be soon. Two unnamed Air Force officials told NBC that the weapon could be ready for use in just a few days.

'The Traditional Lecture Is Dead' ( 233

Rhett Allain, an Associate Professor of Physics at Southeastern Louisiana University, writing for Wired: What is the traditional lecture? It is a model of learning in which a teacher possesses the knowledge on a given topic and disseminates it to students. This model dates to the beginning of education, when it was the only way of sharing information. In fact, you occasionally still see the person presenting the lecture called a reader, because way back before the internet and even the printing press, a teacher would literally read from a book so students could copy it all down. Now, don't get me wrong. The traditional lecture model worked wonderfully for eons. But it is an outdated idea (free pass for adblockers). Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a college physics course with a professor giving a traditional lecture. Now open your eyes. Did you envision The Best Physics Lecture EVAR? I doubt it. You probably pictured someone droning on and on in front of a chalkboard or PowerPoint presentation. No way that is more engaging or interesting than an episode of The Mechanical Universe , and if you're a teacher who uses traditional lectures, just stop and play the show instead. Everyone will be better off. You may think by now that I think most physics professors are dolts. I promise that's not the case. But traditional lectures simply aren't effective. Research shows students don't learn by hearing or seeing, they learn by doing, a model often called active learning. Physics faculty should start thinking about how they can go beyond just a traditional lecture. There are some easy things they can do (or students can ask them to do) to make learning more engaging. First, make students read the book outside of class, rather than in class. If your lecture merely covers the material in the textbook, why make students buy the textbook? Now, you may put a different spin on the material, but still. You're merely repeating what students can read on their own. Let them do that on their own time, and use the classroom for experiments and demonstrations and so forth.

Programmer Automates His Job For 6 Years, Gets Fired, Realizes He Has Forgotten How To Code 210

An anonymous reader writes: A user on Reddit forum who goes by the alias FiletOfFish1066 (referred to as Mr. Fish hereafter) has been let go by his company after it was discovered that Mr. Fish hadn't actually done anything for six years. Umm, well he did something, but nothing new and productive, his Bay Area-based firm says, which paid him $95,000 (avg) each of these years. When he first got his software testing quality assurance job, he spent eight months automating all of the programming tasks. With all of his tasks fully automated by a computer, he was able to literally sit back and do whatever he wanted. Mr. Fish is pretty despondent in tone after he posted about getting fired from his job. He's upset because he has completely forgotten how to code, having relegated all that work to the computer, and now possesses no marketable skills. But, he also is not stressed financially, having saved up $200,000 during his 6-year long "career."

Can Author Obfuscation Trump Forensic Linguistics? ( 84

An anonymous reader writes: Everyone possesses their own writing style, which may be used to identify authors even if they wish to remain anonymous: linguists employ stylometry to settle disputes over the authorship of historic texts as well as more recent cases, and are called to verify the authors of suicide notes or threatening letters. Computer linguists carry out research on software for forensic text analyses, and a recent study shows many of these approaches to be reproducible. Now, a competition has been announced to develop obfuscation software to hide an author's style with the task: "Given a document, paraphrase it so that its writing style does not match that of its original author, anymore." We'll see what comes out of that. Meanwhile, the question remains: Who will win in the long run? Forensic linguists, or obfuscation technology?

Ask Slashdot: How To Avoid Becoming a Complacent Software Developer? 275

An anonymous reader writes: Next year will be the start of my 10th year as a software developer. For the last nice years I've worked for a variety of companies, large and small, on projects of varying sizes. During my career, I have noticed that many of the older software developers are burnt out. They would rather do their 9-5, get paid, and go home. They have little, if any, passion left, and I constantly wonder how they became this way. This contradicts my way of thinking; I consider myself to have some level of passion for what I do, and I enjoy going home knowing I made some kind of difference.

Needless to say, I think I am starting to see the effects of complacency. In my current job, I have a development manager who is difficult to deal with on a technical level. He possesses little technical knowledge of basic JavaEE concepts, nor has kept up on any programming in the last 10 years. There is a push from the upper echelon of the business to develop a new, more scalable system, but they don't realize that my manager is the bottleneck. Our team is constantly trying to get him to agree on software industry standards/best practices, but he doesn't get it and often times won't budge. I'm starting to feel the effects of becoming complacent. What is your advice?
United States

Did Russia Trick Snowden Into Going To Moscow? 346

An anonymous reader writes "Ex-KGB Major Boris Karpichko says that spies from Russia's SVR intelligence service, posing as diplomats in Hong Kong, convinced Snowden to fly to Moscow last June. 'It was a trick and he fell for it,' Karpichko, who reached the rank of Major as a member of the KGB's prestigious Second Directorate while specializing in counter-intelligence, told Nelson. 'Now the Russians are extracting all the intelligence he possesses.'"

Dump World's Nuclear Waste In Australia, Says Ex-PM Hawke 213

mdsolar writes: "[Former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke said] Australia bore a responsibility to assist with the safe disposal of radioactive waste, given the ample space the country possesses. 'If Australia has – as we do – the safest remote locations for storing the world's nuclear waste, we have a responsibility to make those sites available for this purpose,' he said. Hawke based this conclusion on a 25-year-old report made by Ralph Slayter, whom the former prime minister appointed as Australia's first chief scientist back in 1989. According to Slayter's report, some of the remote reaches of the Northern Territory and Western Australia could provide apt dumping grounds for radioactive waste."

Elite Violinists Can't Distinguish Between a Stradivarius and a Modern Violin 469

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "If you know only one thing about violins, it is probably this: A 300-year-old Stradivarius supposedly possesses mysterious tonal qualities unmatched by modern instruments. However, even elite violinists cannot tell a Stradivarius from a top-quality modern violin, a new double-blind study suggests. Like the sound of coughing during the delicate second movement of Beethoven's violin concerto, the finding seems sure to annoy some people, especially dealers who broker the million-dollar sales of rare old Italian fiddles. But it may come as a relief to the many violinists who cannot afford such prices."

First Asteroid Discovered Sporting a Ring System 29

astroengine (1577233) writes "When you think of a celestial ring system, the beautiful ringed planet Saturn will likely jump to mind. But for the first time astronomers have discovered that ring systems aren't exclusive to planetary bodies — asteroids can have them too. Announced on Wednesday, astronomers using several observatories in South America, including the ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile, have discovered that distant asteroid Chariklo possesses two distinct rings. Chariklo, which is approximately 250 kilometers (155 miles) wide, is the largest space rock in a class of asteroids known as Centaurs that orbit between Saturn and Uranus in the outer solar system. 'We weren't looking for a ring and didn't think small bodies like Chariklo had them at all, so the discovery — and the amazing amount of detail we saw in the system — came as a complete surprise!' said lead researcher Felipe Braga-Ribas, of the Observatório Nacional and MCTI, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil."

Chinese Moon Probe Flies By Asteroid Toutatis 59

hackingbear writes "Chinese moon probe Chang'e-2 made a flyby of the near-earth asteroid Toutatis on December 13 at 16:30:09 Beijing Time (08:30:09 GMT), the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND) announced today. The flyby was the first time an unmanned spacecraft launched from Earth has taken such a close viewing of the asteroid, named after a Celtic god, making China the fourth country after the U.S., the EU and Japan to be able to examine an asteroid by spacecraft. Chang'e-2 came as close as 3.2 km from Toutatis, which is about 7 million km away from the Earth, and took pictures of the asteroid at a relative velocity of 10.73 km per second, the SASTIND said in a statement. Chang'e-2, originally designated as the backup of Chang'e-1, left its lunar orbit for an extended mission to the Earth-Sun L2 Lagrangian point on June 9, 2011, after finishing its lunar objectives, and then again began its mission to Toutatis this year. 'The success of the extended missions also embodies that China now possesses spacecraft capable of interplanetary flight,' said Wu Weiren, chief designer of China's lunar probe program."

The $443 Million Smallpox Vaccine That Nobody Needs 290

Hugh Pickens writes "Once feared for its grotesque pustules and 30% death rate, smallpox was eradicated worldwide as of 1978 and is known to exist only in the locked freezers of a Russian scientific institute and the US government. There is no credible evidence that any other country or a terrorist group possesses smallpox, but if there were an attack, the government could draw on $1 billion worth of smallpox vaccine it already owns to inoculate the entire US population and quickly treat people exposed to the virus. The vaccine, which costs the government $3 per dose, can reliably prevent death when given within four days of exposure. David Williams writes that over the last year, the Obama administration has aggressively pushed a $433-million plan to buy an experimental smallpox drug, despite uncertainty over whether it is needed or will work. So why did the government award a "sole-source" procurement to Siga Technologies Inc., whose controlling shareholder is billionaire Ronald O. Perelman, calling for Siga to deliver 1.7 million doses of the drug for the nation's biodefense stockpile at a price of approximately $255 per dose. 'We've got a vaccine that I hope we never have to use — how much more do we need?' says epidemiologist Dr. Donald A. Henderson who led the global eradication of smallpox for the WHO. 'The bottom line is, we've got a limited amount of money.'"

Germany Says Facebook's Facial Recognition Is Illegal 278

fysdt writes "Although we think it's generally a pretty nifty feature, valid concerns over the misuse of Facebook's auto-recognition tagging have lead Germany to ban it entirely. That's right — Facebook in its current state is now illegal. The German government, which possesses perhaps the world's most adamant privacy laws as a result of postwar abuse, considers Facebook's facial recognition a violation of 'the right to anonymity.'"

Walking HECTOR Robot Inspired By Stick Insect 46

Zothecula writes "In an effort to understand how animals move elegantly and in turn provide robots with the same ability, researchers at the University of Bielefeld's Center of Excellence 'Cognitive Interaction Technology' (CITEC) have developed the hexapod walking robot called HECTOR (Hexapod Cognitive autonomously Operating Robot). Designed within CITEC's multi-disciplinary Mulero project, the robot possesses the scaled up morphology of a stick insect and will be used as a test bed in various departments and projects at the University."

Google Secret Privacy Document Leaked 281

siliconbits writes "A confidential, seven-page Google Inc. 'vision statement' shows the information-age giant in a deep round of soul-searching over a basic question: How far should it go in profiting from its crown jewels—the vast trove of data it possesses about people's activities? Should it tap more of what it knows about Gmail users? Should it build a vast 'trading platform' for buying and selling Web data? Should it let people pay to not see any ads at all?"
First Person Shooters (Games)

Gamer Plays Doom For the First Time 362

sfraggle writes "Kotaku has an interesting review of Doom (the original!) by Stephen Totilo, a gamer and FPS player who, until a few days ago, had gone through the game's 17-year history without playing it. He describes some of his first impressions, the surprises that he encountered, and how the game compares to modern FPSes. Quoting: 'Virtual shotgun armed, I was finally going to play Doom for real. A second later, I understood the allure the video game weapon has had. In Doom the shotgun feels mighty, at least partially I believe because they make first-timers like me wait for it. The creators make us sweat until we have it in hand. But once we have the shotgun, its big shots and its slow, fetishized reload are the floored-accelerator-pedal stuff of macho fantasy. The shotgun is, in all senses, instant puberty, which is to say, delicately, that to obtain it is to have the assumed added potency that a boy believes a man possesses vis a vis a world on which he'd like to have some impact. The shotgun is the punch in the face the once-scrawny boy on the beach gives the bully when he returns a muscled linebacker.'"

FBI Instructs Wikipedia To Drop FBI Seal 485

eldavojohn writes "The FBI got in contact with Wikipedia's San Francisco office to inform them they were violating the law in regards to 'unauthorized production' of this seal. The FBI quoted the law as saying, 'Whoever possesses any insignia... or any colorable imitation thereof... shall be fined... or imprisoned... or both.' Wikipedia refused to take the image down and stated that the FBI was misquoting the law. The FBI claims that this production of this image is 'particularly problematic, because it facilitates both deliberate and unwitting violations of restrictions by Wikipedia users.' Wikipedia's lawyer, Mike Godwin (please omit certain jokes), contacted the FBI and asserted, 'We are compelled as a matter of law and principle to deny your demand for removal of the FBI Seal from Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons,' adding that the firm was 'prepared to argue our view in court.' Wikipedia appears to be holding their ground; we shall see if the FBI comes to their senses or proceeds with litigation."

Matplotlib For Python Developers Screenshot-sm 119

Craig Maloney writes "Ever since there was a collection of numbers, it seems that invariably someone will want a graph of those numbers. There are literally hundreds of different styles of graphs, and almost as many programs and tools to make those graphs. Matplotlib, a library and toolkit for the Python language, provides an easy and effective way to make some impressive graphics with little more than a smattering of Python. Matplotlib for Python Developers is equally impressive at distilling the core set of features of Matplotlib in a way that shows the reader how to get the most out the Matplotlib toolkit." Read below for the rest of Craig's review.

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