When massive open online courses first grabbed the spotlight in 2011, many saw in them promise of a revolutionary force that would disrupt traditional higher education by expanding access and reducing costs. The hope was that MOOCs — classes from elite universities, most of them free, in some cases enrolling hundreds of thousands of students each — would make it possible for anyone to acquire an education, from a villager in Turkey to a college dropout in the United States.
Following the “hype cycle” model for new technology products developed by the Gartner research group, MOOCs have fallen from their “peak of inflated expectations” in 2012 to the “trough of disillusionment.”
There are several reasons for the disillusionment. First, the average student in a MOOC is not a Turkish villager with no other access to higher education but a young white American man with a bachelor’s degree and a full-time job.
Eight of every 10 students enrolled in University of Michigan and University of Pennsylvania MOOCs in 2012-13 already had a degree of some kind. The credentials gap was most pronounced in countries where the courses were supposed to have the biggest impact among the undereducated: Some 80 percent of MOOC students in Brazil, China, India, Russia, and South Africa had a college degree, while in the overall population only 5 percent did. The data represents more than two dozen courses offered through Coursera, a for-profit company that partners with universities and organizations to offer the online courses.
Jeffrey J. Selingo is author of “MOOC U: Who Is Getting the Most Out of Online Education and Why” (Simon & Schuster), from which this essay is adapted.
Nature is updating its policy to state that papers in Nature journals should make computer code accessible where possible.
Although this policy update does not go as far as requiring all code explicitly, it is a major step forward with the journal now indicating code availability and:
Editors will insist on availability where they consider it appropriate: any practical issues preventing code sharing will be evaluated by the editors, who reserve the right to decline a paper if important code is unavailable.
Nature is not requiring open source though, from the Authors and Referees Guidelines
For all studies using custom code that is deemed central to the conclusions, a statement must be included in the Methods section, under the heading “Code availability”, indicating whether and how the code can be accessed, including any restrictions to access.
Given the complexity and the key role played by analysis software and the various tools used to manipulate the data sets, it's an interesting question as to whether this policy goes far enough, especially given such episodes as those highlighted in this article on the Reinhart-Rogoff blunder.
Forget cyber-espionage, cyber-warfare and cyber-terrorism. The biggest threat to Europe’s infrastructure cybersecurity are power outages and poor communication.
On Thursday, ENISA (European Network and Information Security Agency) held its biggest ever cybersecurity exercise involving more than 200 organisations and 400 cyber-security professionals from 29 European countries.
The bi-annual event simulates a lifelike attack, modelled on real events, to test the reaction of national Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERTS), government ministries, telco companies, energy companies, financial institutions and internet service providers.
But Steve Purser, Head of Operations at ENISA explained: “The biggest threats we really see are not attacks, but hardware and software failures.”
We know that about 10 million more people have insurance coverage this year as a result of the Affordable Care Act but until now it has been difficult to say much about who was getting that Obamacare coverage — where they live, their age, their income and other such details. Now Kevin Quealy and Margot Sanger-Katz report in the NYT that a new data set is providing a clearer picture of which people gained health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The data is the output of a statistical model based on a large survey of adults and shows that the law has done something rather unusual in the American economy this century: It has pushed back against inequality, essentially redistributing income — in the form of health insurance or insurance subsidies — to many of the groups that have fared poorly over the last few decades. The biggest winners from the law include people between the ages of 18 and 34; blacks; Hispanics; and people who live in rural areas. The areas with the largest increases in the health insurance rate, for example, include rural Arkansas and Nevada; southern Texas; large swaths of New Mexico, Kentucky and West Virginia; and much of inland California and Oregon.
Despite many Republican voters’ disdain for the Affordable Care Act, parts of the country that lean the most heavily Republican (according to 2012 presidential election results) showed significantly more insurance gains than places where voters lean strongly Democratic. That partly reflects underlying rates of insurance. In liberal places, like Massachusetts and Hawaii, previous state policies had made insurance coverage much more widespread, leaving less room for improvement. But the correlation also reflects trends in wealth and poverty. Many of the poorest and most rural states in the country tend to favor Republican politicians.
Drones have just found their new best friends: coders. On Oct. 13, the Linux Foundation unveiled a nonprofit organization called the Dronecode Project ( https://www.dronecode.org ), an open-source development initiative uniting thousands of coders for the purpose of building an aerial operating system for drones. Hopeful that the project will bring order to the chaos that has surrounded software developers as they sprint to carve out a share of the bourgeoning market for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), UAS operators are now asking whether Dronecode will finally provide the horsepower and industry-wide support needed to launch a universal drone operating system.
Brazil was not bluffing last year, when it said that it wanted to disconnect from the United States-controlled internet due to the NSA's obscenely invasive surveillance tactics. The country is about to stretch a cable from the northern city of Fortaleza all the way to Portugal, and they've vowed not to use a single U.S. vendor to do it.
At first glance, Brazil's plan to disconnect from the U.S. internet just seemed silly. The country was not happy when news emerged that the NSA's tentacles stretched all the way down to Brazil. And the country was especially not happy when news emerged that the NSA had been spying on the Brazilian government's email for years. But really, what are you gonna do?
Brazil made a bunch of bold promises, ranging in severity from forcing companies like Facebook and Google to move their servers inside Brazilian borders, to building a new all-Brazilian email system—which they've already done. But the first actionable opportunity the country was presented with is this transatlantic cable, which had been in the works since 2012 but is only just now seeing construction begin. And with news that the cable plan will not include American vendors, it looks like Brazil is serious; it's investing $185 million on the cable project alone. And not a penny of that sum will go to an American company.
[Additional Coverage]: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-10-30/brazil-to-portugal-cable-shapes-up-as-anti-nsa-case-study.html
By Jessica Rosenworcel, Commissioner, FCC.
The U.S. leads the world in 4G wireless deployment. In fact, while we are home to less than five percent of the globe’s population, we have nearly half of all 4G subscriptions worldwide.
So far, so good. But if we want our wireless future to be bold, we need to do more than rest on our 4G laurels. Because efforts to develop the next generation of wireless technology are already under way. In short, the race to 5G is on.
I can see this clearly from where I sit at the Federal Communications Commission. The world’s wireless economies are busy planning for 5G service, with speeds ranging from one to 10 gigabits per second. South Korea and Japan have plans to deploy 5G services by the time they host the Olympics in 2018 and 2020, respectively. The European Commission has committed to support 5G research with South Korea. In China, three of the nation’s ministries have jointly established a group to promote the development of 5G technologies. There is no need for the U.S. to stay stuck in the starting gate. We can build on our 4G success — if we get going right now.
A major cyber attack will happen between now and 2025 and it will be large enough to cause “significant loss of life or property losses/damage/theft at the levels of tens of billions of dollars,” according to more than 60 percent of technology experts interviewed by the Pew Internet and American Life Project.
But other experts interviewed for the project “Digital Life in 2015,” ( http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/10/29/cyber-attacks-likely-to-increase/ ) released Wednesday, said the current preoccupation with cyber conflict is product of software merchants looking to hype public anxiety against an eternally unconquerable threat.
It’s the old phantom of the “cyber Pearl Harbor,” a concept commonly credited to former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta but that is actually as old as the world wide web. It dates back to security expert Winn Schwartau’s testimony to Congress in 1991 ( http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=pst.000018472172;view=1up;seq=14 ), when he warned of an “electronic Pearl Harbor” and said it was “waiting to occur.” More than two decades later, we’re still waiting. The Pew report offers, if nothing else, an opportunity to look at how the cyber landscape has changed and how it will continue to evolve between now and 2025.
The mission of Google’s DeepMind Technologies startup is to “solve intelligence.” Now, researchers there have developed an artificial intelligence system that can mimic some of the brain’s memory skills and even program like a human.
The researchers developed a kind of neural network that can use external memory, allowing it to learn and perform tasks based on stored data. The so-called Neural Turing Machine (NTM) that DeepMind researchers have been working on combines a neural network controller with a memory bank, giving it the ability to learn to store and retrieve information.
The system’s name refers to computer pioneer Alan Turing’s formulation of computers as machines having working memory for storage and retrieval of data.
The researchers put the NTM through a series of tests including tasks such as copying and sorting blocks of data. Compared to a conventional neural net, the NTM was able to learn faster and copy longer data sequences with fewer errors. They found that its approach to the problem was comparable to that of a human programmer working in a low-level programming language.
Additional Coverage: http://phys.org/news/2014-10-google-deepmind-acquisition-neural-turing.html
Tim Cook has recently chosen to disclose his sexual orientation.
While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now. So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.
At some point society may no longer be surprised when an athlete, celebrity, politician, or other public figure publicly acknowledges his/her sexual orientation. However, we may not be at that point yet.
Will Tim Cook's announcement have any impact on how people view Apple as a company or the likelihood that people will buy their products?
TorrentFreak is reporting that Pirate Bay founder Gottfrid Svartholm has been found guilty of hacking crimes by a Danish court.
After being arrested in his Cambodian apartment in September 2012 it took two years before Gottfrid Svartholm went on trial in Denmark.
The Swede and his 21-year-old co-defendant stood accused of hacking computer mainframes operated by US IT giant CSC. It developed into the largest case of its kind ever seen in the Scandinavian country.
The prosecution insisted that Gottfrid and his Danish accomplice, both experts in computer security, had launched hacker attacks against CSC back in April 2012 and maintained access to those systems until August that same year.
The defense claimed it was a case of mistaken identity and that others had carried out the crimes, remotely accessing Gottfrid’s computer after comprising its security.
All three judges and four of six jurors returned guilty verdicts. Two jurors voted to acquit after concluding that the remote access defense could not be ruled out.
Following his extradition from Sweden, Gottfrid has spent 11 months behind bars in Denmark. His Danish accomplice, who refused to give evidence to the police and maintained silence right up until his trial in September, has spent 17 months in jail.
The NYT reports that Naomi Oreskes, an historian of science at Harvard University, is attracting wide notice these days for a work of science fiction called “The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View From the Future,” that takes the point of view of an historian in 2393 explaining how “the Great Collapse of 2093” occurred. “Without spoiling the story,” Oreskes said in an interview, “I can tell you that a lot of what happens — floods, droughts, mass migrations, the end of humanity in Africa and Australia — is the result of inaction to very clear warnings” about climate change caused by humans." Dramatizing the science in ways traditional nonfiction cannot, the book reasserts the importance of scientists and the work they do and reveals the self-serving interests of the so called “carbon combustion complex” that have turned the practice of science into political fodder.
Oreskes argues that scientists failed us, and in a very particular way: They failed us by being too conservative. Scientists today know full well that the "95 percent confidence limit" is merely a convention, not a law of the universe. Nonetheless, this convention, the historian suggests, leads scientists to be far too cautious, far too easily disrupted by the doubt-mongering of denialists, and far too unwilling to shout from the rooftops what they all knew was happening. "Western scientists built an intellectual culture based on the premise that it was worse to fool oneself into believing in something that did not exist than not to believe in something that did."
Why target scientists in particular in this book? Simply because a distant future historian would target scientists too, says Oreskes. "If you think about historians who write about the collapse of the Roman Empire, or the collapse of the Mayans or the Incans, it's always about trying to understand all of the factors that contributed," Oreskes says. "So we felt that we had to say something about scientists."
There isn't much information yet, but the BBC is reporting that an aeroplane has hit a building at a Kansas airport within the US.
Photographs from the area show grey smoke billowing from the Mid-Continent airport in Wichita, Kansas.
Emergency crews were responding to the FlightSafety International building, local media reported.
Update: KSN has confirmed from the FAA that a twin engine Beechcraft lost an engine on takeoff from Wichita’s Mid-Continent airport and crashed into the FlightSafety building at the airport. The east side of the roof on that building has collapsed. One person is in critical condition. KSN has confirmed 10 people are unaccounted for.
Live streaming video is available from the KSN link.
As more information comes in, please add it in comments to this story. We'll update the main story when we know more.
The control of modern infrastructure such as intelligent power grids needs lots of computing capacity. Scientists of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability and Trust (SnT) at the University of Luxembourg have developed an algorithm that might revolutionise these processes. With their new software the SnT researchers are able to forego the use of considerable amounts of computing capacity, enabling what they call micro mining. Their achievements, which the team headed by Prof. Yves Le Traon published in the International Conference on Software Engineering and Knowledge Engineering, earned the scientists a Best Paper Award during this event.
Modern infrastructure – from the telephone network and alarm systems to power supply systems – is controlled by computer programmes. This intelligent software continuously monitors the state of the equipment, adjusts system parameters if they deviate, or generates error messages. To monitor the equipment, the software compares its current state with its past state by continuously measuring the status quo, accumulating this data, and analysing it. That uses a considerable portion of available computing capacity. Thanks to their new algorithm, the SnT researchers' software no longer has to continuously analyse the state of the system to be monitored the way established techniques do. In carrying out the analysis of the system, it instead seamlessly moves between state values that were measured at different points in time.
Newsweek is reporting that a scrap of aluminum found on Nikumaroro, an atoll in the southwestern Pacific republic of Kiribati is looking more and more like an artifact from Ameleia Earhart's Lockheed Electra.
The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) recovered in 1991 what has been identified as a Patch, to replace a non-standard window in Earhart's plane
The window was installed for unknown reasons prior to the attempted around the world flight. But for equally unexplained reasons, the window was removed and the patch installed just before departing Miami, FL.
The TIGHAR group has released their detailed analysis of the patch, using a sister-ship of Earhart's plane. Their report is published on line yesterday (October 28, 2014), showing that the rivet holes in this aluminum fragment match uniquely the structure of the Electra.
Not just ANY Electra. Because Earhart's Electra had a non-standard sized window installed which required structural modification, and this patch replaced that unique airframe part, the researchers are very confident that this patch came from Earhart's plane, and wouldn't fit any other plane.