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A Mathematician's Lament — an Indictment of US Math Education 677

Scott Aaronson recently had "A Mathematician's Lament" [PDF], Paul Lockhardt's indictment of K-12 math education in the US, pointed out to him and takes some time to examine the finer points. "Lockhardt says pretty much everything I've wanted to say about this subject since the age of twelve, and does so with the thunderous rage of an Old Testament prophet. If you like math, and more so if you think you don't like math, I implore you to read his essay with every atom of my being. Which is not to say I don't have a few quibbles [...] In the end, Lockhardt's lament is subversive, angry, and radical ... but if you know anything about math and anything about K-12 'education' (at least in the United States), I defy you to read and find a single sentence that isn't permeated, suffused, soaked, and encrusted with truth."
The Internet

Internet Giving Rise To "Citizen Spies" 93

reporter writes "According to a startling report by the Wall Street Journal, the Internet has empowered ordinary people to be part-time intelligence officers, uncovering secrets like military facilities and prison camps across the landscape of North Korea. The report states, '[Curtis] Melvin is at the center of a dozen or so citizen snoops who have spent the past two years filling in the blanks on the map of one of the world's most secretive countries. Seeking clues in photos, news reports and eyewitness accounts, they affix labels to North Korean structures and landscapes captured by Google Earth, an online service that stitches satellite pictures into a virtual globe. The result is an annotated North Korea of rocket-launch sites, prison camps and elite palaces on white-sand beaches. "It's democratized intelligence," says Mr. Melvin. More than 35,000 people have downloaded Mr. Melvin's file, North Korea Uncovered. It has grown to include thousands of tags in categories such as "nuclear issues" (alleged reactors, missile storage), dams (more than 1,200 countrywide) and restaurants (47). Its Wikipedia approach to spying shows how Soviet-style secrecy is facing a new challenge from the Internet's power to unite a disparate community of busybodies.'"

Judge Says Boston Student's Laptop Was Seized Illegally 190

You may remember a case we discussed this April in which a Boston College student's computers and other electronics were seized after he allegedly sent an email outing another student as gay. The search warrant made sure to note the student's ever-so-suspicious use of "two different operating systems," one of which was "a black screen with a white font which he uses prompt commands on." Now, the EFF reports that a Massachusetts judge has thrown out the search warrant and declared the search and seizure illegal. Quoting: "In her order Thursday, Justice Margot Botsford rejected the Commonwealth's theory that sending a hoax email might be unlawful under a Massachusetts computer crime statute barring the 'unauthorized access' to a computer, concluding that there could be no violation of what was only a 'hypothetical internet use policy.' Thursday's decision now stands as the highest state court opinion to reject the dangerous theory that terms of service violations constitute computer 'hacking' crimes. Justice Botsford further found that details offered by police as corroboration of other alleged offenses were insufficient and did not establish probable cause for the search." The court order (PDF) is available for viewing, and the EFF has broken down the significant arguments against the Commonwealth's claims.

College Papers Won't Rewrite History For Alumni 221

Hugh Pickens writes "The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that as college papers have begun digitizing their back issues, their Web sites have become the latest front in the battle over online identities. Youthful activities like underage drinking that once would have disappeared into the recesses of a campus library are now preserved on the public record, and alumni are contacting newspapers with requests for redaction. Unlike with Facebook profiles, that other notable source of young-adult embarrassment, the affected parties can't remove or edit questionable content. In 2007, a Cornell University alum sued the Cornell Chronicle over a newly digitized article from 1983 that reported he had been charged with burglary while a student at Cornell. The alum found the article after Googling his name and claimed that its new presence online was causing him 'mental anguish' and 'loss of reputation.' But a California judge threw out the case after determining the report to be accurate. Some student papers, like The University Daily Kansan, have found a middle ground by adding the noindex meta tag so that the documents stay online, but search engines such as Google do not index them. 'I thought that would be better than kind of like sticking it to [the alum] and saying the paper is always right and we can publish anything on the Web we want,' says the paper's editor."

Students, the Other Unprotected Lab Animals 236

theodp writes "Slate reports on the horrible — and preventable — death of a young UCLA biochemist in a t-butyl lithium incident, which led a Chemical Health and Safety columnist to the disheartening conclusion that most academic laboratories are unsafe venues for work or study. It's estimated that accidents and injuries occur hundreds of times more frequently in academic labs than in industrial ones. Why? For one thing, Slate says, occupational safety and health laws that protect workers in hazardous jobs apply only to employees, not to undergrads, grad students, or research fellows who receive stipends from outside funders."

Thai Gaming Sites Ordered Shut Down After Suicide 82

eldavojohn writes "Seventy-two websites have been ordered shut down by the courts in Thailand following the suicide of a 12-year-old boy who jumped from the sixth story of his school after his father banned him from playing computer games. This brings more action from the court: 'Some websites are rumored to take in over 100 million baht from online betting a night at peak periods, causing huge economic losses to the country. To prevent online gambling, the DSI, also a member of the internet safety committee, would notify all Internet service providers across the country about the court order. From now on, any provider found to encourage or provide online gambling will not only face a jail term and a fine, but also have his/her ISP license revoked by the ICT.' Thailand is no stranger to internet censorship of various sites."
The Internet User Data Was Sent To RIAA By CBS 334

suraj.sun sends in an update from TechCrunch on a story that generated a lot of controversy a few months back, "Did Just Hand Over User Listening Data To the RIAA?" "Now we've located another source for the story, someone who's very close to And it turns out was telling the truth, sorta... didn't hand user data over to the RIAA. According to our source, it was their parent company, CBS, that did it. Here's what we believe happened: CBS requested user data from, including user name and IP address. CBS wanted the data to comply with a RIAA request but told the data was going to be used for 'internal use only.' It was only after the data was sent to CBS that discovered the real reason for the request. staffers were outraged, say our sources, but the data had already been sent to the RIAA. We believe CBS lied to us when they denied sending the data to the RIAA, and that they subsequently asked us to attribute the quote to to make the statement defensible.'s denials were strictly speaking correct, but they ignored the underlying truth of the situation, that their parent company supplied user data to the RIAA, and that the data could possibly be used in civil and criminal actions against those users."

Malware Found On Brand-New Windows Netbook 250

An anonymous reader alerts us to an interesting development that Kaspersky Labs stumbled across. They purchased a new M&A Companion Touch netbook in order to test a new anti-virus product targeted at the netbook segment, and discovered three pieces of malware on the factory-sealed netbook. A little sleuthing turned up the likely infection scenario — at the factory, someone was updating Intel drivers using a USB flash drive that was infected with a variant of the AutoRun worm. "Installed along with the worm was a rootkit and a password stealer that harvests log-in credentials for online games such as World of Warcraft. ... To ensure that a new PC is malware-free, [Kaspersky] recommended that before users connect the machine to the Internet, they install security software, update it by retrieving the latest definition file on another computer, and transferring that update to the new system, then running a full antivirus scan."

Safari 4's Messy Trail 200

Signum Ignitum writes "Safari 4 comes with a slew of cool new features, but extensive data generation combined with poor cleanup make for a data trail that's a privacy nightmare. Hidden files with screenshots of your history, files that point back to Web pages you've visited and cleared from your history, and thousands of XML files that track the changes in the pages in your Top Sites can add up to gigabytes of information you didn't know was kept about you." Some of Safari's bloat is kept in quite obscure locations; it takes a fairly knowledgeable user to find it and clean it up. You can avoid some of the worst of it by disabling Top Sites.

Comment Re:Nice kneejerk reaction. (Score 1) 129

You say I have a hand in electing government, but I do not. In terms of the Federal government, I only have a hand in electing the president, two senators and congressman. There are tens of thousands of Federal government members remaining. Also my vote was only one among over a hundred million. My vote does not count. I've got a better chance of winning the lottery than having my vote make a difference.

Only as soon as you begin to take that attitude and stop voting does your vote no longer count. And once you stop voting other people's votes start counting more and if enough people don't vote then the government becomes an oligarchy.


Re-purposing a Student Tech Service Group? 185

discards writes "I help run a student group at a Canadian University. For almost 15 years we've provided students with services such as web space, email, wireless internet on campus, cvs/svn, database access, mailing lists, etc., all using Linux and FOSS. In recent years, however, we have faced becoming obsolete. The university now provides wireless access, people get their email from other places such as Google, which also provides free svn access, web space, and so forth. Since we have a large amount of decent, usable hardware, as well as space, funding and a very fast internet connection, we are looking to possibly reform instead of just withering away and dying. We would like to ask Slashdot for ideas as to what we could do; preferably something that cultivates student research or provides an otherwise useful service to students, though all ideas are welcome."

The Tell-All Campus Tour 34

theodp writes "Want to check out colleges without the bother of having to read about them? Well, my YouTube-loving friend, the NY Times reports that old-school elephantine dead-tree college guidebooks may be a thing of the past thanks to startup, which has launched a free, gigantic, student-generated web-based guide to North American colleges that's laden with photos, Flip-shot videos and reviews (OK, you may have to do some reading)."

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