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David Metcalfe
Designer, programmer, generalist. Do try and keep up.
Designer, programmer, generalist. Do try and keep up.

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Unfortunate news, given how phenomenal the content from Nautilus has been to read.

“For all the good news and accolades, however, murmurings within the science writing community suggest that not all is well at Nautilus. Rumors of delayed or entirely absent payments to the magazine’s fleet of freelance contributors have reached a crescendo, as have complaints that editorial staff continue to solicit work knowing that the publication may not be able to make good on promised fees.”

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Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales launched Wikitribune, an independent site (not affiliated with Wikipedia or the Wikimedia Foundation) “that brings journalists and a community of volunteers together” in a combination that Wales hopes will combat fake news online. The site is launching with a crowdfunding campaign to fund the first Wikitribune journalists.

Professional journalists will be paid to write “global news stories,” while volunteer contributors will “vet the facts, helps make sure the language is factual and neutral, and will to the maximum extent possible be transparent about the source of news posting full transcripts, video, and audio of interviews. Thus it is hoped that a combined approach like Wikitribune’s can be more successful than WikiNews has been, because it’s a hybrid of the paid and volunteer models.

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"If I’m lucky there’ll be a link somewhere in the paper. But it’s usually a frustrating experience to follow it. Because even if there’s data there (and often there actually isn’t), it’s almost never in a form where one can readily use it. It’s usually quite raw—and often hard to decode, and perhaps even intertwined with text. And even if I can see the data I want, I almost always find myself threading my way through footnotes to figure out what’s going on with it. And in the end I usually just decide it’s too much trouble to actually pull out the data I want.

And I suppose one might think that this is just par for the course in working with data. But in modern times, we have a great counterexample: the Wolfram Language. It’s been one of my goals with the Wolfram Language to build into it as much data as possible—and make all of that data immediately usable and computable. And I have to say that it’s worked out great. Whether you need the mass of Jupiter, or the masses of all known exoplanets, or Alan Turing’s date of birth—or a trillion much more obscure things—you just ask for them in the language, and you’ll get them in a form where you can immediately compute with them."

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"Our plan to label HTTP sites as non-secure is taking place in gradual steps, based on increasingly broad criteria. Since the change in Chrome 56, there has been a 23% reduction in the fraction of navigations to HTTP pages with password or credit card forms on desktop, and we’re ready to take the next steps.
Passwords and credit cards are not the only types of data that should be private. Any type of data that users type into websites should not be accessible to others on the network, so starting in version 62 Chrome will show the “Not secure” warning when users type data into HTTP sites."

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A Texas court ordered Exxon (XOM) on Wednesday to pay $20 million in fines for pollutants released into the air at the Baytown, Texas refining and chemical plant outside of Houston.

U.S. District Judge David Hittner cited "serious" violations that resulted in the release of about 10 million pounds of pollutants into the atmosphere.

The judge ruled in favor of the Sierra Club and Environment Texas Citizen Lobby, finding Exxon violated the Clean Air Act 16,386 times between October 2005 and September 2013.

The court found that Exxon enjoyed $14.2 million in economic benefits by delaying the installation of infrared imaging and other monitoring improvements at the facility, which makes everything from jet fuel to plastic.

"Today's decision sends a resounding message that it will not pay to pollute Texas," Neil Carman, clean air program director for the Sierra Club's Lone Star Chapter, said in a statement. "We will not stand idly by when polluters put our health and safety at risk."

In addition to the civil penalties, Exxon has also been ordered to pay the environmental groups' legal and expert fees.

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The world’s largest gathering of female Muslim clerics in Indonesia issued a fatwa Thursday that declared marital rape haram—or forbidden—under Islamic law and urged the government to make it illegal.
The Indonesian Women’s Ulama Congress (KUPI2017) issued three fatwas—Islamic legal pronouncements that are typically issued by Muslim clerics . The first addressed the issue of marital rape while two others were on ending child marriage and opposing the destruction of the environment.

Marital rape is a serious problem in Indonesia with a one third of women having experienced rape, sexual assualt, or abuse of some kind from romantic partners, a nationwide survey found.

The female clerics also raised a fatwa against child marriage, which was described by Dawn, a Pakistani newspaper as “ a rare example of women taking a leading religious role in the Muslim-majority country.”

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Heads up to folks on World Community Grid.

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The world is awash in bullshit.

Politicians are unconstrained by facts. Science is conducted by press release. Higher education rewards bullshit over analytic thought. Startup culture elevates bullshit to high art. Advertisers wink conspiratorially and invite us to join them in seeing through all the bullshit — and take advantage of our lowered guard to bombard us with bullshit of the second order. The majority of administrative activity, whether in private business or the public sphere, seems to be little more than a sophisticated exercise in the combinatorial reassembly of bullshit.

We're sick of it. It's time to do something, and as educators, one constructive thing we know how to do is to teach people. So, the aim of this course is to help students navigate the bullshit-rich modern environment by identifying bullshit, seeing through it, and combating it with effective analysis and argument.

What do we mean, exactly, by bullshit and calling bullshit? As a first approximation:

Bullshit involves language, statistical figures, data graphics, and other forms of presentation intended to persuade by impressing and overwhelming a reader or listener, with a blatant disregard for truth and logical coherence.

Calling bullshit is a performative utterance, a speech act in which one publicly repudiates something objectionable. The scope of targets is broader than bullshit alone. You can call bullshit on bullshit, but you can also call bullshit on lies, treachery, trickery, or injustice.

In this course we will teach you how to spot the former and effectively perform the latter.

While bullshit may reach its apogee in the political domain, this is not a course on political bullshit. Instead, we will focus on bullshit that comes clad in the trappings of scholarly discourse. Traditionally, such highbrow nonsense has come couched in big words and fancy rhetoric, but more and more we see it presented instead in the guise of big data and fancy algorithms — and these quantitative, statistical, and computational forms of bullshit are those that we will be addressing in the present course.

Of course an advertisement is trying to sell you something, but do you know whether the TED talk you watched last night is also bullshit — and if so, can you explain why? Can you see the problem with the latest New York Times or Washington Post article fawning over some startup's big data analytics? Can you tell when a clinical trial reported in the New England Journal or JAMA is trustworthy, and when it is just a veiled press release for some big pharma company?

Our aim in this course is to teach you how to think critically about the data and models that constitute evidence in the social and natural sciences.”

Carl T. Bergstrom and Jevin West
Seattle, WA.

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“Test after test showed that the bones had been buried more than 100,000 years ago. The result flew in the face of everything we think we know about the spread of humanity across the globe. It took 24 years before Holen and his fellow researchers were certain enough to publish their findings in Nature. Now, based on a reliable dating method using Uranium decay rates and years of repeated tests, the researchers say that an unknown type of early human lived in California roughly 130,000 years ago. If true, it completely changes the story of how humans reached the Americas.”

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“I want to apologize to all you small business startups in advance, who will fail to grow and make the country great, because you didn't have the money to be part of a prioritized network, where only those with millions upon billions of dollars can reside. This isn't me saying "fuck you", but yea it kinda is.”

- Ajit Pai, FCC Chair and Corporate Shill
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