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Submission + - The Mathematical Case for Buying a Powerball Ticket 4

HughPickens.com writes: Neil Irwin writes at the NYT that financially literate people like to complain that buying lottery tickets is among the silliest decisions a person could make but there are a couple of dimensions that these tut-tutted warnings miss, perhaps fueled by a class divide between those who commonly buy lottery tickets and those who choose to throw away money on other things like expensive wine or mansions. According to Irwin, as long as you think about the purchase of lottery tickets the right way — purely a consumption good, not an investment — it can be a completely rational decision. "Fantasizing about what you would do if you suddenly encountered great wealth is fun, and it is more fun if there some chance, however minuscule, that it could happen," says Irwin. "The $2 price for a ticket is a relatively small one to pay for the enjoyment of thinking through how you might organize your life differently if you had all those millions."

Right now the Multi-State Lottery Association estimates the chances of winning the grand prize at about 1 in 175 million, and the cash value of the prize at $337.8 million. The simplest math points to that $2 ticket having an expected value of about $1.93 so while you are still throwing away money when buying a lottery ticket, you are throwing away less in strictly economic terms when you buy into an unusually large Powerball jackpot. "I am the type of financial decision-maker who tracks bond and currency markets and builds elaborate spreadsheets to simulate outcomes of various retirement savings strategies," says Irwin. "I can easily afford to spend a few dollars on a Powerball ticket. Time to head to the convenience store and do just that."

Submission + - Inside the Internet's hidden science factory (pbs.org)

tcd004 writes: Sarah Marshall has completed roughly 20,000 academic surveys. Clay Hamilton has finished about 40,000. Marshall and Hamilton are part of a small but highly-active community of paid online study participants who generate data at break-neck speed to fuel modern scientific research. But can a person who's completed thousands of surveys still provide good data? Here's a look at the humans feeding science from inside the machine.

Submission + - Inside the Internet's hidden science factory (pbs.org)

tcd004 writes: Sarah Marshall has completed roughly 20,000 academic surveys. Clay Hamilton has finished about 40,000. Marshall and Hamilton are part of a small but highly-active community of paid online study participants on Amazon's Mechanical Turk who generate data at break-neck speed to fuel modern scientific research. But can a person who's completed thousands of surveys still provide good data? Here's a look at the humans feeding science from inside the machine.

Submission + - Doctors Turn to Artificial Intelligence When They're Stumped (pbs.org)

tcd004 writes: Doctors are increasingly turning to big data and simple artificial intelligence when they can't find answers in traditional medical texts. Prodded by the new health care law to seek better ways to incorporate high tech into their everyday tasks, doctors are discovering the power of intelligent search engines and data mining. Artificial intelligence can be a tool to take full advantage of electronic medical records, transforming them from mere e-filing cabinets into full-fledged doctors’ aides that can deliver clinically relevant, high-quality data in real time. And tech giants are jumping on the opportunity. “Electronic health records [are] like large quarries where there’s lots of gold, and we’re just beginning to mine them,” said Dr. Eric Horvitz, who is the managing director of Microsoft Research and specializes in applying artificial intelligence in health care settings.

Submission + - Fixing Google's Gender Gap Shouldn't Be So Hard (pbs.org)

tcd004 writes: Google just released data on the diversity of its employees for the first time. It's a big deal, and the numbers are bleak for both gender and ethnic diversity. But it shouldn't be so hard to find capable women and minorities to fill tech jobs, argues Vivek Wadhwa. In the 70's and 80's a third of all computer sciences grads were women. What happened? The brogrammer culture won out. Wadhwa has advice on how to fix it.

Submission + - Temporary classrooms are bad for the environment, and worse for kids (pbs.org) 3

tcd004 writes: You've always suspected those trailer-type portable classrooms are no good, right? It turns out you’re right. Analysis of prefabricated classrooms in Washington shows the structures often don't allow for proper ventilation, leading to terrible air quality for kids. Students in temporary classrooms have higher rates of absenteeism than those in standard classrooms. And the energy-inneficient structures often become permanent, sucking on school energy bills for decades, and requiring more upkeep than permanent classrooms. What's needed are new designs for healthy, sustainable temporary classrooms.

Submission + - Why You shouldn't use spreadsheets for important work (lemire.me)

An anonymous reader writes: Computer science professor Daniel Lemire explains why spreadsheets shouldn't be used for important work, especially where dedicated software could do a better job. His post comes in response to evaluations of a new economics tome by Thomas Piketty, a book that is likely to be influential for years to come. Lemire writes, 'Unfortunately, like too many people, Piketty used speadsheets instead of writing sane software. On the plus side, he published his code on the negative side, it appears that Piketty’s code contains mistakes, fudging and other problems. ... Simply put, spreadsheets are good for quick and dirty work, but they are not designed for serious and reliable work. ... Spreadsheets make code review difficult. The code is hidden away in dozens if not hundreds of little cells If you are not reviewing your code carefully and if you make it difficult for others to review it, how do expect it to be reliable?'

Submission + - As species decline, so do the scientists who name them (pbs.org)

tcd004 writes: Few sciences are more romantic than taxonomy. Imagine Darwin, perched over a nest of newly-discovered birds in the Galapagos, sketching away with a charcoal in his immortal journals. Yet Taxonomy is a dying science. DNA barcoding, which can identify species from tiny fragments of organic material, and other genetic sciences are pulling students away from the classical studies of anatomy and species classifications. As the biodiversity crisis wipes undiscovered species off the planet, so to go the scientists who count them.

Submission + - Healbe's GoBe, the impossible, amazing calorie-counting gizmo (digitaltrends.com)

Velcroman1 writes: Russian company Healbe claims that sensors on its activity tracking wristband GoBe can discern how many calories you’re consuming each day, simply by resting on your skin and monitoring the sugar level of your cells. The company has raised $1,054,127 on Indiegogo based on that pitch, and for anyone with diabetes who constantly draws blood to monitor their sugar level, the very idea is a game changer. Yet the company’s claims and the crowd-funded cash have led to widespread blowback, notably from James Robinson of Pando Daily, who has written 14 separate reports on the GoBe wristband since March 20, labeling it a scam and calling the team at Healbe “fraudsters.” To get answers, Digital Trends met with senior leadership of Healbe for the first public demonstration of the watch. In short, the GoBe appears to be a real device with real people behind it, and a real history.

Submission + - At G.W. lab, toy cars fearlessly hurl themselves through the air for science (pbs.org)

tcd004 writes: Before you roll an autonomous car out on the street, you have to test. Robotics engineers at G.W. University's Autonomous Robotics & Perception Group test their autonomous car systems on a tiny racetrack, complete with jumps, a half-pipe and a loop-the-loop. The team, which specializes in computer localization technologies, has contributed to Google's Project Tango for a year. The ever-shrinking electronics that give computers, robots and cars the ability to understand 3-D space are laying the foundation for a revolution in autonomous applications.

Submission + - Gamblers wager billions on unregulated Bitcoin betting sites (pbs.org)

tcd004 writes: By most estimates, more than half of global Bitcoin transactions are wagers on gambling sites. Just-Dice.com, where whales regularly make colossal bets, has handled more than $2 billion in wagers since it was founded in June 2013. All of this gambling happens in a currency that is largely unregulated, on websites set up on offshore servers, and right under the noses of officials who are unaware it exists.

Submission + - Protecting the Solar System... From Us (pbs.org)

tcd004 writes: Imagine this crazy scenario: A space vehicle we've sent to a distant planet to search for life touches down in an icy area. The heat from the spacecraft's internal power system warms the ice, and water forms below the landing gear of the craft. And on the landing gear is something found on every surface on planet Earth... bacteria. Lots of them. If those spore-forming bacteria found themselves in a moist environment with a temperature range they could tolerate, they might just make themselves at home and thrive and then, well... the extraterrestrial life that we'd been searching for might just turn out to be Earth life we introduced.

Submission + - Bath Salts: Like a Fish Hook in your Brain (pbs.org)

tcd004 writes: PBS NewsHour published an investigation into Bath Salts, the sometimes legal, little understood street drug that has been linked to bizarre and violent behavior. The chemistry behind bath salts, it turns out, is as fascinating as the side effects. Tests show that the most common application of bath salts works in two-phases with a time-release mechanism. The drug first blasts the user with dopamine, but then limits the ability of the brain to soak it back up. And, researchers think, a unique "fish hook" shaped molecule means that the drug can get locked in, and take days, or even weeks to wear off— often, too late for users who are driven to extreme violence or suicide.

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