"science" entries

Four short links: 18 November 2015

Four short links: 18 November 2015

Crypto Comms, Science Funding, Geo DB, and AI Ambitions

  1. If The Paris Hackers Weren’t Using Crypto, The Next Ones Will (Cory Doctorow) — But the reality is that criminals will be using crypto soon, if they aren’t already, for the same reason they’re using computers. Using crypto is the best way to communicate.
  2. Google $50M Heart Disease Effort — instead of taking bids for $250K chunks of the money, they will fund one team for five years. Applications close Feb 14.
  3. Pyro (Usenix) — This paper presents Pyro, a spatial-temporal big data storage system tailored for high-resolution geometry queries and dynamic hotspots. Pyro understands geometries internally, which allows range scans of a geometry query to be aggregately optimized. Moreover, Pyro employs a novel replica placement policy in the DFS layer that allows Pyro to split a region without losing data locality benefits.
  4. Inside Mark Zuckerberg’s Bold Plan for Facebook (FastCompany) — “One of our goals for the next five to 10 years,” Zuckerberg tells me, “is to basically get better than human level at all of the primary human senses: vision, hearing, language, general cognition.”
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Four short links: 26 October 2015

Four short links: 26 October 2015

Dataflow Computers, Data Set Explorer, Design Brief, and Coping with Uncertainty

  1. Dataflow Computers: Their History and Future (PDF) — entry from 2008 Wiley Encyclopedia of Computer Science and Engineering.
  2. Mirador — open source tool for visual exploration of complex data sets. It enables users to discover correlation patterns and derive new hypotheses from the data.
  3. How 23AndMe Got Regulatory Approval Back (Fast Company) — In order to meet FDA requirements, the design team had to prove that the reports provided on the website would be comprehensible to any American consumer, regardless of their background or education level. And you thought YOUR design brief was hard.
  4. Getting Comfortable with Uncertainty (The Atlantic) — We have this natural distaste for things that are unfamiliar to us, things that are ambiguous. It goes up from situational stressors, on an individual level and a group level. And we’re stuck with it simply because we have to be ambiguity-reducers.
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Four short links: 23 October 2015

Four short links: 23 October 2015

Data Science, Temporal Graph, Biomedical Superstars, and VR Primer

  1. 50 Years of Data Science (PDF) — Because all of science itself will soon become data that can be mined, the imminent revolution in Data Science is not about mere “scaling up,” but instead the emergence of scientific studies of data analysis science-wide.
  2. badwolfa temporal graph store from Google.
  3. Why Biomedical Superstars are Signing on with Google (Nature) — “To go all the way from foundational first principles to execution of vision was the initial draw, and that’s what has continued to keep me here.” Research to retail, at Google scale.
  4. VR Basics — intro to terminology and hardware in the next gen of hardware, in case you’re late to the goldrush^w exciting field.
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Four short links: 16 October 2015

Four short links: 16 October 2015

Tesla Update, Final Feltron, Mined Medicine, and Dodgy Drone Program

  1. Tesla’s Cars Drive Themselves, Kinda (Wired) — over-the-air software update just made existing cars massively more awesome. Sometimes knowing how they did it doesn’t make it feel any less like magic.
  2. Felton’s Last Report — ten years of quantified self. See Fast Company for more.
  3. Spinal Cord Injury Breakthrough by SoftwareThis wasn’t the result of a new, long-term study, but a meta-analysis of $60 million worth of basic research written off as useless 20 years ago by a team of neuroscientists and statisticians led by the University of California San Francisco and partnering with the software firm Ayasdi, using mathematical and machine learning techniques that hadn’t been invented yet when the trials took place.
  4. The Assassination Complex (The Intercept) — America’s drone program’s weaknesses highlighted in new document dump: Taken together, the secret documents lead to the conclusion that Washington’s 14-year high-value targeting campaign suffers from an overreliance on signals intelligence, an apparently incalculable civilian toll, and — due to a preference for assassination rather than capture — an inability to extract potentially valuable intelligence from terror suspects.
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Four short links: 12 October 2015

Four short links: 12 October 2015

Unattended Robots, Replicable Economics, Deep Learning Learnings, and TPP Problems

  1. Acquiring Object Experiences at Scale — software to let a robot examine a pile of objects, unattended overnight.
  2. Economics Apparently Not Replicable (PDF) — We successfully replicate the key qualitative result of 22 of 67 papers (33%) without contacting the authors. Excluding the six papers that use confidential data and the two papers that use software we do not possess, we replicate 29 of 59 papers (49%) with assistance from the authors. Because we are able to replicate less than half of the papers in our sample even with help from the authors, we assert that economics research is usually not replicable.
  3. 26 Things I Learned in the Deep Learning Summer School20. When Frederick Jelinek and his team at IBM submitted one of the first papers on statistical machine translation to COLING in 1988, they got the following anonymous review: The validity of a statistical (information theoretic) approach to MT has indeed been recognized, as the authors mention, by Weaver as early as 1949. And was universally recognized as mistaken by 1950 (cf. Hutchins, MT – Past, Present, Future, Ellis Horwood, 1986, p. 30ff and references therein). The crude force of computers is not science. The paper is simply beyond the scope of COLING.
  4. The Final Leaked TPP Text is All That We Feared (EFF) — If you dig deeper, you’ll notice that all of the provisions that recognize the rights of the public are non-binding, whereas almost everything that benefits rightsholders is binding.
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Four short links: 2 October 2015

Four short links: 2 October 2015

Automatic Environments, Majority Illusion, Bogus Licensing, and Orchestrating People and Machines

  1. Announcing Otto — new Hashicorp tool that automatically builds development environments without any configuration; it can detect your project type and has built-in knowledge of industry-standard tools to setup a development environment that is ready to go. When you’re ready to deploy, Otto builds and manages an infrastructure, sets up servers, builds, and deploys the application.
  2. The Majority Illusion in Social Networks (arxiv) — if connectors do something, it’s perceived as more popular than if the same number of “unpopular” people in the social graph do it. (via MIT TR)
  3. Scientist Says Researcher in Immigrant-Friendly Countries Can’t Use His Software — software to build phylogenetic trees, but the author’s a loon. It’s another sign that it’s unwise to do science with non-free software.
  4. Orchestraan open source system to orchestrate teams of experts and machines on complex projects.
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Four short links: 10 September 2015

Four short links: 10 September 2015

Decentralised Software, Slow Chemistry, Spectrum Maps, and RF Interference

  1. Popcorn Time — interview with the creator. All the elements we used already existed and had done so for a long time. But nobody had put them together in an interface that talked to the user in a nice way, said Abad. Very Anonymous approach to software: Who are you going to sue? The first? The second? The third? I did the design. Was it illegal? I didn’t link the various parts together. There is no comprehensive overview of who did what. For we don’t have any business. We don’t have any headquarters or a general manager.
  2. Slow Chemistry (Nature) — “lazy man’s chemistry”: let a mix of solid reactants sit around undisturbed while they spontaneously transform themselves. More properly called slow chemistry, or even just ageing, the approach requires few, if any, hazardous solvents and uses minimal energy. If planned properly, it also consumes all the reagents in the mix, so that there is no waste and no need for chemical-intensive purification.
  3. Mapping the Spectrum in the Mission — SDR scanner to make a map of spectrum activity.
  4. Electronic Noise is Drowning Out the Internet of Things (IEEE Spectrum) — (paraphrasing) increases deployment costs, decreases battery life, creates interference, ruins policies of spectrum allocation, is expensive to trace, and almost impossible stop.
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Four short links: 20 August 2015

Four short links: 20 August 2015

Automata Class, Low-UI Wearables, Broken Science, and Understandable Eigenvectors

  • Stanford Automata — Stanford course covers finite automata, context-free grammars, Turing machines, undecidable problems, and intractable problems (NP-completeness).
  • Oura — very nice wearable, with no UI to worry about. Put it on, and it’s on. (via Fast Company)
  • Science Isn’t Brokenit’s just a hell of a lot harder than we give it credit for. Beautifully written (and interactively illustrated) description of why science is easy to get wrong.
  • Eigenvectors in Plain English — absolutely the easiest to understand explanation I’ve ever read. It’s a miracle. (And I crashed and burned in linear algebra when matrices were used, so if *I* can get it …)
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    Four short links: 12 August 2015

    Four short links: 12 August 2015

    Economic Futures, Space War, State of Security, and Algorithmic Fairness

    1. Possible Economics Models (Jamais Cascio) — economic futures filtered through Doctorovian prose. Griefer Economics: Information is power, especially when it comes to finance, and the increasing use of ultra-fast computers to manipulate markets (and drive out “weaker” competitors) is moving us into a world where market position isn’t determined by having the best offering, but by having the best tool. Rules are gamed, opponents are beaten before they even know they’re playing, and it all feels very much like living on a PvP online game server where the referees have all gone home. Relevant to Next:Economy.
    2. War in Space May Be Closer Than Ever (SciAm) — Today, the situation is much more complicated. Low- and high-Earth orbits have become hotbeds of scientific and commercial activity, filled with hundreds upon hundreds of satellites from about 60 different nations. Despite their largely peaceful purposes, each and every satellite is at risk, in part because not all members of the growing club of military space powers are willing to play by the same rules — and they don’t have to, because the rules remain as yet unwritten. There’s going to be a bitchin’ S-1 risks section when Planet Labs files for IPO.
    3. Not Even Close: The State of Computer Security (Vimeo) — In this bleak, relentlessly morbid talk, James Mickens will describe why making computers secure is an intrinsically impossible task. He will explain why no programming language makes it easy to write secure code. He will then discuss why cloud computing is a black hole for privacy, and only useful for people who want to fill your machine with ads, viruses, or viruses that masquerade as ads. At this point in the talk, an audience member may suggest that bitcoins can make things better. Mickens will laugh at this audience member and then explain why trusting the bitcoin infrastructure is like asking Dracula to become a vegan. Mickens will conclude by describing why true love is a joke and why we are all destined to die alone and tormented. The first ten attendees will get balloon animals, and/or an unconvincing explanation about why Mickens intended to (but did not) bring balloon animals. Mickens will then flee on horseback while shouting “The Prince of Lies escapes again!”
    4. Algorithms and Bias (NYTimes) — interview w/Cynthia Dwork from Microsoft Research. Fairness means that similar people are treated similarly. A true understanding of who should be considered similar for a particular classification task requires knowledge of sensitive attributes, and removing those attributes from consideration can introduce unfairness and harm utility.
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    Four short links: 24 July 2015

    Four short links: 24 July 2015

    Artificial Compound Eye, Google Patent Licensing, Monitoring and Alerting, Computer-Aided Inference

    1. A New Artificial Compound Eye (Robohub) — three hexagonal photodetectors arranged in a triangular shape, underneath a single lens. These photodetectors work together and combine perceived changes in structured light (optic flow) to present a 3D image that shows what is moving in the scene, and in which direction the movement is happening.
    2. Google’s Defensive Patent Initiative (TechCrunch) — good article, despite TechCrunch origin. Two-tiered program: give away groups of patents to startups with $500k-$20M in revenue, and sell patents to startups.
    3. Bosunan open-source, MIT licensed, monitoring and alerting system by Stack Exchange.
    4. The Rise of Computer-Aided Explanation (Michael Nielsen) — Hod Lipson of Columbia University. Lipson and his collaborators have developed algorithms that, when given a raw data set describing observations of a mechanical system, will actually work backward to infer the “laws of nature” underlying those data. (Paper)
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