2017-07-01 00:00:00 ..
2017-08-15 06:04:22 UTC
2017-08-17 14:38:20 UTC
We always have a place for talented people, visit the Get Involved section on the wiki to see how you can make SoylentNews better.
Diane Ravitch, a top public education advocate, reports via AlterNet:
This month, the Public Broadcasting System is broadcasting a "documentary" that tells a one-sided story, the story that [Trump's Secretary of Education] Betsy DeVos herself would tell, based on the work of free-market advocate Andrew Coulson. Author of "Market Education", Coulson narrates "School, Inc.", a three-hour program, which airs this month nationwide in three weekly broadcasts on PBS.
Uninformed viewers who see this slickly produced program will learn about the glories of unregulated schooling, for-profit schools, teachers selling their lessons to students on the Internet. They will learn about the "success" of the free market in schooling in Chile, Sweden, and New Orleans. They will hear about the miraculous charter schools across America, and how public school officials selfishly refuse to encourage the transfer of public funds to private institutions. They will see a glowing portrait of South Korea, where students compete to get the highest possible scores on a college entry test that will define the rest of their lives and where families gladly pay for after-school tutoring programs and online lessons to boost test scores. They will hear that the free market is more innovative than public schools.
What they will not see or hear is the other side of the story. They will not hear scholars discuss the high levels of social segregation in Chile, nor will they learn that the students protesting the free-market schools in the streets are not all "Communists", as Coulson suggests. They will not hear from scholars who blame Sweden's choice system for the collapse of its international test scores. They will not see any reference to Finland, which far outperforms any other European nation on international tests yet has neither vouchers nor charter schools. They may not notice the absence of any students in wheelchairs or any other evidence of students with disabilities in the highly regarded KIPP charter schools. They will not learn that the acclaimed American Indian Model Charter Schools in Oakland does not enroll any American Indians, but has a student body that is 60 percent Asian American in a city where that group is 12.8 percent of the student population. Nor will they see any evidence of greater innovation in voucher schools or charter schools than in properly funded public schools.
[...] This program is paid propaganda. It does not search for the truth. It does not present opposing points of view. It is an advertisement for the demolition of public education and for an unregulated free market in education. PBS might have aired a program that debates these issues, but "School Inc." does not.
It is puzzling that PBS would accept millions of dollars for this lavish and one-sided production from a group of foundations with a singular devotion to the privatization of public services. The decision to air this series is even stranger when you stop to consider that these kinds of anti-government political foundations are likely to advocate for the elimination of public funding for PBS. After all, in a free market of television, where there are so many choices available, why should the federal government pay for a television channel?
Submitted via IRC for TheMightyBuzzard
Yesterday, the FCC officially granted the 600 MHz spectrum licenses that T-Mobile successfully secured in the recent broadcast incentive auction. The Un-carrier now officially possesses a staggering average of 31 MHz of 600 MHz spectrum licenses across the nation, more than quadrupling its low-band holdings (click for spectrum auction reactions from Verizon and AT&T).
With the spectrum transfer complete, the real fun begins. Despite the cries from skeptics, T-Mobile has already kicked off deployment activities and will see the first sites ready for testing this summer! This timeline - well ahead of expectations – sets the stage for commercial operations later this year.
The source is a bit of a soyvertisement but still interesting if read in that light.
Armed SAS troops have reportedly been deployed to key positions in busy streets across the UK, with hopes that the tactic will have soldiers poised for any unfolding terror attacks.
One source told The Mirror: "The view is there are so many homeless people out there undercover operators will remain safe and anonymous.
[...] Another source claimed to the paper that the operation had been ongoing for "some time", with soldiers stationed around transport hubs and shopping centres.
Soldiers from the Counter Revolutionary Warfare Wing have reportedly been drafted for the operation.
Source: The Sun
Scientists have reconstructed faces nearly perfectly by analyzing the activity of neurons in macaque brains:
[Using] a combination of brain imaging and single-neuron recording in macaques, biologist Doris Tsao and her colleagues at Caltech have finally cracked the neural code for face recognition. The researchers found the firing rate of each face cell corresponds to separate facial features along an axis. Like a set of dials, the cells are fine-tuned to bits of information, which they can then channel together in different combinations to create an image of every possible face. "This was mind-blowing," Tsao says. "The values of each dial are so predictable that we can re-create the face that a monkey sees, by simply tracking the electrical activity of its face cells."
Previous studies had hinted at the specificity of these brain areas for targeting faces. In the early 2000s, as a postdoc at Harvard Medical School, Tsao and her collaborator electrophysiologist Winrich Freiwald, obtained intracranial recordings from monkeys as they viewed a slide show of various objects and human faces. Every time a picture of a face flashed on the screen, neurons in the middle face patch would crackle with electrical activity. The response to other objects, such as images of vegetables, radios or even other bodily parts, was largely absent.
Further experiments indicated neurons in these regions could also distinguish between individual faces, and even between cartoon drawings of faces. In human subjects in the hippocampus, neuroscientist Rodrigo Quian Quiroga found that pictures of actress Jennifer Aniston elicited a response in a single neuron. And pictures of Halle Berry, members of The Beatles or characters from The Simpsons activated separate neurons. The prevailing theory among researchers was that each neuron in the face patches was sensitive to a few particular people, says Quiroga, who is now at the University of Leicester in the U.K. and not involved with the work. But Tsao's recent study suggests scientists may have been mistaken. "She has shown that neurons in face patches don't encode particular people at all, they just encode certain features," he says. "That completely changes our understanding of how we recognize faces."
Professor Rodrigo Quian Quiroga, a neuroscientist at the University of Leicester who was not involved in the work, described it as "quite a revolution in neuroscience". "It's solving a decades-long mystery," he added.
The puzzle of how the brain identifies a familiar face dates back to the 1960s, when the US neuroscientist, Jerry Lettvin, suggested that people have hyper-specific neurons that respond to specific objects, a notion that became known as "grandmother cells", based on the idea that you have a specific neuron that would fire on seeing your grandmother.
More recently scientists found "face patches", clusters of neurons that respond almost exclusively to faces, but how recognition was achieved had remained a "black box" process. In the absence of proof otherwise, the grandmother model continued to appeal because it tallied with the subjective "ping" of recognition we experience on seeing a familiar face.
"This paper completely kills that," said Quian Quiroga.
Quantum entanglement—physics at its strangest—has moved out of this world and into space. In a study that shows China's growing mastery of both the quantum world and space science, a team of physicists reports that it sent eerily intertwined quantum particles from a satellite to ground stations separated by 1200 kilometers, smashing the previous world record. The result is a stepping stone to ultrasecure communication networks and, eventually, a space-based quantum internet.
"It's a huge, major achievement," says Thomas Jennewein, a physicist at the University of Waterloo in Canada. "They started with this bold idea and managed to do it."
[...] The implications go beyond record-setting demonstrations: A network of satellites could someday connect the quantum computers being designed in labs worldwide. Pan's paper "shows that China is making the right decisions," says Zeilinger, who has pushed the European Space Agency to launch its own quantum satellite. "I'm personally convinced that the internet of the future will be based on these quantum principles."
Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has furiously condemned the US decision to issue arrest warrants to 12 members of his security detail because of their involvement in a bloody brawl with peaceful protesters in Washington DC last month.
In a dramatic escalation of tensions between two Nato allies, Erdoğan said on Thursday that his government would "fight politically and judicially" against the warrants that had been issued earlier in the day.
[...] The ministry said in a statement that the ambassador was told the decision to issue arrest warrants was "wrong, biased and lacks legal basis".
"That the brawl in front of the Turkish Ambassador's Residence was caused by the failure of local security authorities to take necessary measures; that this incident would not have occurred if the US authorities had taken the usual measures they take in similar high level visits and therefore that Turkish citizens cannot be held responsible for the incident that took place," the statement said.
Erdoğan echoed these statements in televised remarks on Thursday night. "Why would I take my guards to the United States if not to protect myself?" he said.
[...] US senator John McCain called for Turkey's ambassador to the US to be removed from the country because of the fight and to charge those involved with the incident.
"After all, they violated American laws in the United States of America, so you cannot have that happen in the United States of America," McCain told MSNBC last month. "People have the right in our country to peacefully demonstrate and they were peacefully demonstrating."
The House committee on foreign affairs echoed the senators' call in a letter to secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. "Alarmingly, this behavior is indicative of the broad crackdowns on political activists, journalists and religious freedom in Turkey that have greatly harmed Turkish democracy in recent years," the letter said.
Source: The Guardian
In 2011 an incident happened at the UN, Ban-Ki Moon apologized to Turkey for a "misunderstanding" which left UN security officers injured.
China's first astronomical satellite, an x-ray telescope that will search the sky for black holes, neutron stars, and other extremely energetic phenomena, raced into orbit [June 15th] after a morning launch from the Gobi Desert.
The 2.5-ton Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope (HXMT), dubbed Insight according to the official Xinhua news agency, was carried aloft by a Long March-4B rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The newest of several x-ray telescope in space, the HXMT will observe some of the most turbulent processes in the universe. The x-rays generated by those events cannot penetrate Earth's atmosphere; they can only be observed by instruments mounted on high-altitude balloons or satellites. The HXMT carries three x-ray telescopes observing at energies ranging from 20 to 200 kilo-electron volts as well as an instrument to monitor the space environment, according to its designers. While orbiting 550 kilometers above the planet, the HXMT will perform an all-sky survey that is expected to discover a thousand new x-ray sources. Over an expected operating lifetime of 4 years, it will also conduct focused observations of black holes, neutron stars, and gamma ray bursts.
While the most common methods used for hacking are DDoS attack, ransomware, phishing, virus, Trojan, keylogger, ClickJacking attacks, etc., hackers are now looking to modify e-cigarettes into tools to hack into computers:
To explain this, security researcher Ross Bevington showcased a presentation at BSides London that revealed how an e-cigarette could be used to attack a computer either by interfering with its network traffic or by deceiving the computer to make it believe that it was a keyboard.
[...] Many e-cigarettes can be charged over USB, either with a special cable, or by plugging the cigarette itself directly into a USB port on a computer, security researchers warn that your computer could actually be compromised by the simple act of charging a vape pen with just a few simple tweaks to the vaporizer.
[...] While e-cigarettes could be used to provide malicious payloads to machines, there is typically very little space available on them to host this code.
"This puts limitations on how elaborate a real attack could be made," said Mr Bevington.
"The WannaCry malware for instance was 4-5 MB, hundreds of times larger than the space on an e-cigarette. That being said, using something like an e-cigarette to download something larger from the Internet would be possible."
Humans are generally pretty good at relational reasoning, a kind of thinking that uses logic to connect and compare places, sequences, and other entities. But the two main types of AI—statistical and symbolic—have been slow to develop similar capacities. Statistical AI, or machine learning, is great at pattern recognition, but not at using logic. And symbolic AI can reason about relationships using predetermined rules, but it's not great at learning on the fly.
[A] new study proposes a way to bridge the gap: an artificial neural network for relational reasoning. Similar to the way neurons are connected in the brain, neural nets stitch together tiny programs that collaboratively find patterns in data. They can have specialized architectures for processing images, parsing language, or even learning games. In this case, the new "relation network" is wired to compare every pair of objects in a scenario individually. "We're explicitly forcing the network to discover the relationships that exist between the objects," says Timothy Lillicrap, a computer scientist at DeepMind in London who co-authored the paper.
He and his team challenged their relation network with several tasks. The first was to answer questions about relationships between objects in a single image, such as cubes, balls, and cylinders. For example: "There is an object in front of the blue thing; does it have the same shape as the tiny cyan thing that is to the right of the gray metal ball?" For this task, the relation network was combined with two other types of neural nets: one for recognizing objects in the image, and one for interpreting the question. Over many images and questions, other machine-learning algorithms were right 42% to 77% of the time. Humans scored a respectable 92%. The new relation network combo was correct 96% of the time, a superhuman score, the researchers report in a paper posted last week on the preprint server arXiv.
Gravitational waves were the most controversial and difficult to verify prediction of Albert Einstein's Theory of General Relativity, so much so that at one point even Einstein himself thought that they might just be an artefact of the mathematics. It wasn't until the 1970s that careful observations of binary pulsar systems showed the indirect effects of gravitational waves, and not until 2016 that LIGO, an extremely sensitive instrument designed to detect gravitational waves directly, managed to detect the gravitational waves from the merger of two black holes. It has made two more gravitational wave detections since. However, a new analysis of the LIGO data by an independent team led by Prof. Andrew D. Jackson at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen has cast doubt on the detections, hinting that they might just be seeing patterns in the noise. Sabine Hossenfelder has an article on this:
A team of five researchers — James Creswell, Sebastian von Hausegger, Andrew D. Jackson, Hao Liu, and Pavel Naselsky — from the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, presented their own analysis of the openly available LIGO data. And, unlike the LIGO collaboration itself, they come to a disturbing conclusion: that these gravitational waves might not be signals at all, but rather patterns in the noise that have hoodwinked even the best scientists working on this puzzle.
The LIGO gravitational wave observatory consists of two experimental sites – one in Livingston, Louisiana and one in Hanford, Washington – each of which is a laser interferometer with arms that are several kilometers in length. Even for these super-sensitive detectors, however, gravitational waves are difficult to measure. The problem isn't so much the absolute weakness of the waves, the problem is that there are many other disturbances that also wiggle the interferometer. The challenge, thus, is to tell the signal from the noise.
[...] The Danish group found, however, that the noise at both detector sites — and puzzlingly, between the two supposedly independent detectors — is also correlated. And worse, the correlation time is similar to the time-lag between the recorded signals, for each of the three so-far confirmed events. According to Andrew Jackson, the leader of the Danish group,
"If the correlation properties of signal and the noise are similar, how is one to know precisely what is signal and what is noise?"
That's a really important realization. A correlation in the noise would not affect the individual signals at each of the sites. But in order to achieve a highly significant signal between the detectors, the LIGO collaboration takes into account how both signals are correlated. If this correlation were not reliable, because (for example) there was the possibility that noise correlations contaminated their data, the statistical significance of the detection would be reduced. In other words, what appears to be a signal might actually be caused merely by fluctuations. How much the statistical significance would be affected, however, the Danish researchers have not quantified.
Submitted via IRC for TheMightyBuzzard
We are all aware of the risks introduced by good old third party code. Where would we be without it? Apparently not very far. It is estimated that between 30 to 70 percent of code comes from 3rd party applications. This is why we patch up old libraries and update open source packages.
While the risks of 3rd party code are well known, the risks of using 3rd party containers are more obscure. In this article I will discuss one such risk: the introduction of 3rd party secrets; and look at examples from public registries.
To get a taste of the prevalence of such secrets, we scanned the top 1,000 most popular container images found on public registries. We were not only looking for default passwords, but mostly for less obvious examples of secrets. We selected only the latest images, from the top starred public repositories. What we found convinced us that the risk is very real, as 67% of images had at least one form of a secret.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott yesterday signed a bill allowing clinics and companies in the state to offer people unproven stem cell interventions without the testing and approval required under federal law. Like the "right to try" laws that have sprung up in more than 30 states, the measure is meant to give desperately ill patients access to experimental treatments without oversight from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
In a state where unproven stem cell therapies are already offered widely with little legal backlash, bioethicists and patient advocates wonder whether the state's official blessing will maintain the status quo, tighten certain protections for patients, or simply embolden clinics already profiting from potentially risky therapies.
"You could make the argument that—if [the new law] was vigorously enforced—it's going to put some constraints in place," says Leigh Turner, a bioethicist at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, who last year co-authored a study documenting U.S. stem cell clinics [DOI: 10.1016/j.stem.2016.06.007] [DX] marketing directly to consumers online, 71 of which were based in Texas. But "it would really be surprising if anybody in Texas is going to wander around the state making sure that businesses are complying with these standards," he adds. Either way, Turner says there's "powerful symbolic value" in "setting up this conflict between state law and federal law."
But are the rights of stem cells being protected?
The long range of airborne drones helps them perform critical tasks in the skies. Now MIT spinout Open Water Power (OWP) aims to greatly improve the range of unpiloted underwater vehicles (UUVs), helping them better perform in a range of applications under the sea.
Recently acquired by major tech firm L3 Technologies, OWP has developed a novel aluminum-water power system that's safer and more durable, and that gives UUVs a tenfold increase in range over traditional lithium-ion batteries used for the same applications.
The power systems could find a wide range of uses, including helping UUVs dive deeper, for longer periods of time, into the ocean's abyss to explore ship wreckages, map the ocean floor, and conduct research. They could also be used for long-range oil prospecting out at sea and various military applications. [...] It consists of a alloyed aluminum, a cathode alloyed with a combination of elements (primarily nickel), and an alkaline electrolyte that's positioned between the electrodes.
When a UUV equipped with the power system is placed in the ocean, sea water is pulled into the battery, and is split at the cathode into hydroxide anions and hydrogen gas. The hydroxide anions interact with the aluminum anode, creating aluminum hydroxide and releasing electrons. Those electrons travel back toward the cathode, donating energy to a circuit along the way to begin the cycle anew. Both the aluminum hydroxide and hydrogen gas are jettisoned as harmless waste.
Results in epidemiology often are equivocal, and money can cloud science (see: tobacco companies vs. cancer researchers). Clear-cut cases are rare. Yet just such a case showed up one day in 1984 in the office of Harris Pastides, a recently appointed associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
A graduate student named James Stewart, who was working his way through school as a health and safety officer at Digital Equipment Corp., told Pastides there had been a number of miscarriages at the company's semiconductor plant in nearby Hudson, Mass. Women, especially of childbearing age, filled an estimated 68 percent of the U.S. tech industry's production jobs, and Stewart knew something few outsiders did: Making computer chips involved hundreds of chemicals. The women on the production line worked in so-called cleanrooms and wore protective suits, but that was for the chips' protection, not theirs. The women were exposed to, and in some cases directly touched, chemicals that included reproductive toxins, mutagens, and carcinogens. Reproductive dangers are among the most serious concerns in occupational health, because workers' unborn children can suffer birth defects or childhood diseases, and also because reproductive issues can be sentinels for disorders, especially cancer, that don't show up in the workers themselves until long after exposure.
Digital Equipment agreed to pay for a study, and Pastides, an expert in disease clusters, designed and conducted it. Data collection was finished in late 1986, and the results were shocking: Women at the plant had miscarriages at twice the expected rate. In November, the company disclosed the findings to employees and the Semiconductor Industry Association, a trade group, and then went public. Pastides and his colleagues were heralded as heroes by some and vilified by others, especially in the industry.
As the effects of the chemicals used in chip manufacturing became known, production was shifted to South Korea where the problems continued.
Submitted via IRC for TheMightyBuzzard
The annual Stack Overflow developer surveys often include lots of bad news. "People still use PHP," for example, is a recurring and distressing theme. "Perl exists" is another.
But never before has the survey revealed something as devastatingly terrible as the 2017 survey. Using PHP and Perl are matters of taste. Extremely masochistic taste, certainly, but nobody is wrong for using those languages; it's just the programming equivalent of enjoying Adam Sandler movies. But the 2017 survey goes beyond taste; it goes into deep philosophical questions of right and wrong, and it turns out that being wrong pays more than being right.
Developers who use tabs to indent their code, developers who fight for truth and justice and all that is good in the world, those developers have a median salary of $43,750.
But developers who use spaces to indent their code, developers who side with evil and probably spend all day kicking kittens and punching puppies? Their median salary is $59,140.