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Medicine

Microsoft Will 'Solve' Cancer Within The Next 10 Years By Treating It Like A Computer Virus, Says Company (independent.co.uk) 258

Microsoft is serious about finding a cure for cancer. In June, Microsoft researchers published a paper that shows how analyzing online activities can provide clues as to a person's chances of having cancer. They were able to identify internet users who had pancreatic cancer even before they'd been diagnosed, all from analyzing web query logs. Several months later, researchers on behalf of the company now say they will "solve" cancer within the next 10 years by treating it like a computer virus that invades and corrupts the body's cells. The goal is to monitor the bad cells and potentially reprogram them to be healthy again. The Independent reports: The company has built a "biological computation" unit that says its ultimate aim is to make cells into living computers. As such, they could be programmed and reprogrammed to treat any diseases, such as cancer. In the nearer term, the unit is using advanced computing research to try and set computers to work learning about drugs and diseases and suggesting new treatments to help cancer patients. The team hopes to be able to use machine learning technologies -- computers that can think and learn like humans -- to read through the huge amounts of cancer research and come to understand the disease and the drugs that treat it. At the moment, so much cancer research is published that it is impossible for any doctor to read it all. But since computers can read and understand so much more quickly, the systems will be able to read through all of the research and then put that to work on specific people's situations. It does that by bringing together biology, math and computing. Microsoft says the solution could be with us within the next five or ten years.
Math

When Blind People Do Algebra, the Brain's Visual Areas Light Up (npr.org) 69

People born without sight appear to solve math problems using visual areas of the brain. NPR has a fascinating report on this: A functional MRI study of 17 people blind since birth found that areas of visual cortex became active when the participants were asked to solve algebra problems, a team from Johns Hopkins reports in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "And as the equations get harder and harder, activity in these areas goes up in a blind person," says Marina Bedny, an author of the study and an assistant professor in the department of psychological and brain sciences at Johns Hopkins University. In 19 sighted people doing the same problems, visual areas of the brain showed no increase in activity. "That really suggests that yes, blind individuals appear to be doing math with their visual cortex," Bedny says. The findings, published online Friday, challenge the idea that brain tissue intended for one function is limited to tasks that are closely related.
China

US Would Be 28th In 'Hacking Olympics', China Would Take The Gold (infoworld.com) 112

After analyzing 1.4 million scores on HackerRank's tests for coding accuracy and speed, Chinese programmers "outscored all other countries in mathematics, functional programming, and data structures challenges". Long-time Slashdot reader DirkDaring quotes a report from InfoWorld: While the United States and India may have lots of programmers, China and Russia have the most talented developers according to a study by HackerRank... "If we held a hacking Olympics today, our data suggests that China would win the gold, Russia would take home a silver, and Poland would nab the bronze. Though they certainly deserve credit for making a showing, the United States and India have some work ahead of them before they make it into the top 25."
While the majority of scores came from America and India, the two countries ranked 28th and 31st, respectively. "Poland was tops in Java testing, France led in C++, Hong Kong in Python, Japan in artificial intelligence, and Switzerland in databases," reports InfoWorld. Ukrainian programmers had the top scores in security, while Finland showed the highest scores for Ruby.
Education

Immigration Attorneys: Industry Pushes Foreign Labor, Claiming 'US Students Can't Hack It In Tech' (breitbart.com) 472

geek writes: According to Caroline May from Breitbart News, "The tech industry is seeking to bolster its argument for more white-collar foreign tech workers with the insulting claim that the education system is insufficiently preparing Americans for tech fields, according to pro-American worker attorneys with the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI). [In an op-ed published at The Daily Caller, IRLI attorneys John Miano and Ian Smith take the tech industry to task for its strategy to promote the H-1B visa program -- alleging a labor shortage of apt American tech workers while importing thousands of foreign workers on H1-B visas from countries with lower educational results than the U.S.]" John Miano and Ian Smith write via The Daily Caller: "But if the H-1B program really is meant to correct the failings of our education system, as BigTech's new messaging-push implies, why is it importing so many people from India? According to results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a global standardized math and science assessment sponsored by the OECD, India scored almost dead last among the 74 countries tested. The results were apparently so embarrassing, the country pulled out of the program all together. Not surprisingly then, there isn't a single Indian university that appears within the top 250 spots of the World University Rankings Survey. And unlike American bachelor's degrees, obtaining a bachelor's in India takes only three years of study."
Security

Galaxy Note 7 Iris Scanner Explained (androidauthority.com) 77

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Android Authority: The Galaxy Note 7 was just announced and one of the most intriguing features is its iris scanner. Android Authority has a report explaining how it works: "According to the company, the device stores your registered iris information as an encrypted code safely in its hardware using its KNOX security platform. Whenever you want to access content, such as a protected app, the device first captures your iris pattern for recognition, extracts and digitizes it, and then proceeds to match it with the encrypted code to provide access. You can be sure that no one else apart from you can access your device in case it is stolen or lost because the Note 7 registers the iris information of only one person. Samsung has made all this possible by including a dedicated iris camera for recognizing the composition of the user's eyeballs. The dedicated iris camera uses a special image filter to receive and recognize the reflected images of the irises through an infrared light on the other end of that panel. The light emitted from the Galaxy Note 7's display allows the scanner to receive data even in low light environments." The iris scanner can be used to access private information via Samsung's Secure Folder feature. Samsung also plans to partner with major financial institutions to incorporate its iris scanner into mobile banking applications.
Operating Systems

One Year Later: Windows 10 Now Runs On Over 21% of All Desktops (winbeta.org) 272

An anonymous reader writes: On June 29, Microsoft announced that Windows 10 was running on 350 million devices -- 50 million more devices than the previous milestone announced by Microsoft on May 5. While the company is expected to update the number of devices running the latest OS when it releases the Windows 10 Anniversary Update on August 2nd, NetMarketShare has decided to conduct some research on its own. According to its report, Windows 10 currently runs on a 21.13% desktop OS share. Meanwhile, Windows 7 continues to dominate the market with a 47.01% share, with Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 representing less than 10% of the PC market, and Windows XP representing 10.34%. While the market share of Windows 10 is all but certain to rise, it likely won't rise as fast as it did between May and June or June and July for example, as Windows 10 is no longer offered as a free upgrade for PCs running Windows 7 or Windows 8. Microsoft has even backtracked on its original statement that Windows 10 will hit one billion devices by mid-2018, saying last month that Windows 10 likely won't in fact make that deadline.
Television

Subscribers Pay 61 Cents Per Hour of Cable, But Only 20 Cents Per Hour of Netflix (allflicks.net) 174

An anonymous reader writes from a math-heavy report via AllFlicks: The folks at AllFlicks decided to crunch some numbers to determine just how much more expensive cable is than Netflix. They answered the question: how much does Netflix cost per hour of content viewed, and how does that compare with cable's figures? AllFlicks reports: "We know from Netflix's own numbers that Netflix's more than 75 million users stream 125 million hours of content every day. So that's (roughly) 100 minutes per user, per day. Using the price of Netflix's most popular plan ($9.99) and a 30-day month, we can say that the average user is paying about 0.33 cents per minute of content, or 20 cents an hour. Not bad! But what about cable? Well, Nielsen tells us that the average American adult cable subscriber watches 2,260 minutes of TV per week (including timeshifted TV). That's equivalent to 5.38 hours per day, or 161.43 hours per 30-day month. Thanks to Leichtman Research, we know that the average American pays $99.10 per month for cable TV. That means that subscribers are paying a whopping 61.4 cents per hour to watch cable TV -- more than three times as much as users pay per hour of Netflix!"
Transportation

Elon Musk: Tesla's Autopilot Software Could Save Half a Million Lives Every Year (fortune.com) 265

An anonymous reader writes: In the wake of a deadly crash involving a Model S that was driving with its Autopilot software turned on, Tesla CEO Elon Musk issued a few interesting remarks on the technology to Fortune. Notably, the publication recently ran a piece attempting to portray Tesla in a bad light by noting that Musk sold more than $2 billion worth of Tesla stock just 11 days after the aforementioned May, 2016 accident. And all the while, shareholders were kept in the dark up until recently. "Indeed, if anyone bothered to do the math (obviously, you did not) they would realize that of the over 1M auto deaths per year worldwide, approximately half a million people would have been saved if the Tesla autopilot was universally available. Please, take 5 mins and do the bloody math before you write an article that misleads the public.
Education

Microsoft President Brad Smith: Computer Science Is Space Race of Today 171

theodp writes: Q. How is K-12 computer science like the Cold War? A. It could use a Sputnik moment, at least that's the gist of an op-ed penned by Senator Jerry Moran (R., KS) and Microsoft President Brad Smith. From the article: "In the wake of the Soviet Union's 1957 Sputnik launch, President Eisenhower confronted the reality that America's educational standards were holding back the country's opportunity to compete on a global technological scale. He responded and called for support of math and science, which resulted in the National Defense Education Act of 1958 and helped send the country to the moon by the end of the next decade. It also created the educational foundation for a new generation of technology, leadership and prosperity. Today we face a similar challenge as the United States competes with nations across the globe in the indispensable field of computer science. To be up to the task, we must do a better job preparing our students for tomorrow's jobs." Smith is also a Board member of tech-bankrolled Code.org, which invoked Sputnik in its 2014 Senate testimony ("learning computer science is this generation's Sputnik moment") as it called for "comprehensive immigration reform efforts that tie H-1B visa fees to a new STEM education fund [...] to support the teaching and learning of more computer science," nicely echoing Microsoft's National Talent Strategy. Tying the lack of K-12 CS education to the need for tech visas is a time-honored tradition of sorts for Microsoft and politicians. As early as 2004, Bill Gates argued that CS education needed its own Sputnik moment, a sentiment shared by Senator Hillary Clinton in 2007 as she and fellow Senators listened to Gates make the case for more H-1B visas as he lamented the lack of CS-savvy U.S. high school students.
Businesses

Clinton Tech Plan Reads Like Silicon Valley Wish List (usatoday.com) 355

theodp writes from a report via USA Today: "If there was any lingering doubt as to tech's favored presidential candidate," writes USA Today's Jon Swartz, "Hillary Clinton put an end to that Tuesday with a tech plan that reads like a Silicon Valley wish list. It calls for connecting every U.S. household to high-speed internet by 2020, reducing regulatory barriers and supporting Net neutrality rules, [which ban internet providers from blocking or slowing content.] It proposes investments in computer science and engineering education ("engage the private sector and nonprofits to train up to 50,000 computer science teachers in the next decade"), expansion of 5G mobile data, making inexpensive Wi-Fi available at more airports and train stations, and attaching a green card to the diplomas of foreign-born students earning STEM degrees." dcblogs shares with us a report from Computerworld that specifically discusses Clinton's support of green cards for foreign students who earn STEM degrees: As president, Hillary Clinton will support automatic green cards, or permanent residency, for foreign students who earn advanced STEM degrees. Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, wants the U.S. to "staple" green cards on the diplomas of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) masters and PhD graduates "from accredited institutions." Clinton outlined her plan in a broader tech policy agenda released today. Clinton's "staple" idea isn't new. It's what Mitt Romney, the GOP presidential candidate in 2012, supported. It has had bipartisan support in Congress. But the staple idea is controversial. Critics will say this provision will be hard to control, will foster age discrimination, and put pressure on IT wages.
Education

Amazon Unveils Inspire Online Education Service For Teachers and Schools (geekwire.com) 32

Amazon on Monday launched a new site called Amazon Inspire where K-12 teachers and schools can upload and access unlimited education and classroom resources such as videos, tests, projects, games, lesson plans with their peers across the country for free of charge. In a statement, the company said, "Our ultimate goal is for every teacher in every single subject to benefit from Amazon Inspire. When they walk into a classroom, we want every teacher to benefit from the collective knowledge, the collective insights and the experience of every single one of their peers." GeekWire reports:It's the latest in a series of moves by Amazon in the education technology market. The company acquired the TenMarks online math startup in 2014, and separately markets e-books and tablets for teachers and school districts. The company describes the project as an outgrowth of its involvement in the U.S. Department of Education's GoOpen initiative. Amazon also provides technical resources and support for the department's Learning Registry open database.
Businesses

Kickstarter Just Did Something Tech Startups Never Do: It Paid a Dividend (bloomberg.com) 103

Joshua Brustein, reporting for Bloomberg: In early March, Kickstarter quietly sent shareholders a dividend. In the wider world of business, such an action would be unremarkable. More than 80 percent of the companies in the S&P 500 pay dividends, and many smaller companies do, too. But divvying up quarterly profits with shareholders is unheard of among tech startups. People who follow the venture capital industry were hard-pressed to come up with a single example of a VC-backed startup that has ever paid regular dividends. Doing so would be a rejection of the industry's basic math. VCs bet that they can find the few companies that will generate enormous payouts by going public or getting acquired; the rest fail. There's not supposed to be anything in between. "It sounds strange for a VC-backed company as it means they're taking out and distributing money versus investing it in the business," said Anand Sanwal, the chief executive officer of research firm CB Insights. Paying a dividend, which the company didn't make public, is just the latest example of Kickstarter's heterodoxy.
Math

The World's Oldest Computer May Have Predicted the Future (gizmodo.com) 143

Gizmodo reports: Discovered in an ancient shipwreck near Crete in 1901, the freakishly advanced Antikythera Mechanism has been called the world's first computer. A decades-long investigation into the 2,000 year-old-device is shedding new light onto this mysterious device... It wasn't programmable in the modern sense, but it's considered the world's first analog computer.
schwit1 shares a report from the Associated Press:: For over a century since its discovery in an ancient shipwreck, the exact function of the Antikythera Mechanism -- named after the southern Greek island off which it was found -- was a tantalizing puzzle.... After more than a decade's efforts using cutting-edge scanning equipment, an international team of scientists has now read about 3,500 characters of explanatory text -- a quarter of the original -- in the innards of the 2,100-year-old remains. They say it was a kind of philosopher's guide to the galaxy, and perhaps the world's oldest mechanical computer.
Education

Ready CEO: Coding Snobs Are Not Helping Our Children Prepare For The Future (qz.com) 342

jader3rd writes: Quartz has an article written by the CEO of Ready, David S. Bennahum, about how public education should be embracing computer science, and how existing programmers don't like these efforts because they feel that doing so will result in kids being exposed to programming in a manner different then how they were introduced to it. Bennahum writes: "Writing software today is eerily similar to what it was like in the late 1950s, when people sat at terminals and wrote COBOL programs. And like the late 1950s, the stereotype of the coder is largely unchanged: mostly white guys with deep math skills, and minimal extroversion. Back in the Sputnik-era, people thought of programmers as a priesthood in lab coats: the sole keepers of knowledge that ran these exotic, and mysterious room-sized machines. Today the priesthood is a little hipper -- lab coats have long given way to a countercultural vibe -- but it's still a priesthood, perhaps more druidic than Jesuitic, but a priesthood nonetheless, largely comprised of white men." "Instead of attempting to lure code-literate teachers away from Silicon Valley, we need to revolutionize the way coding is done. Rather than fit the person to the tool, let's fit the tool to the person. Pop computing can help us get there, offering a gloriously diverse array of tools to match our gloriously diverse species. It's only a matter of time before the process of making software itself is transformed, from one that requires a mastery of syntax -- the precise stringing of sentences needed to command a computer -- to the mastery of logic. Logic is the essence of software creation, and the second step after mastering syntax.'
Power

$30M Stampede 2 Supercomputer To Provide 18 Petaflops of Power To Researchers Nationwide (techcrunch.com) 44

An anonymous reader writes: Funded by grants from the National Science Foundation and built at the University of Texas at Austin, the Stampede 2 supercomputer looks to contend with the global supercomputer Top 5. With 18 petaflops of processing power, it aims to help any researcher with a problem requiring intense number crunching. For example, atomic and atmospheric science simulations would take years to work-out on a desktop PC but only days on a supercomputer. Texas Advanced Computing Center director Dan Stanzione said in a UT press release, "Stampede has been used for everything from determining earthquake risks to help set building codes for homes and commercial buildings, to computing the largest mathematical proof ever constructed." The Stampede 2 is about twice as powerful as the original Stampede, which was activated in March of 2013. Instead of the 22nm fabrication tech in the original Stampede, the Stampede 2 will feature 14nm Xeon Phi chips codenamed "Knights Landing" forming 72 cores compared the original system's 61 cores. With double the RAM, storage and data bandwidth, the Stampede 2 can shift up to 100 gigabits per second, and its DDR4 RAM can perform fast enough to work as a third-level cache as well as fulfill ordinary memory roles. In addition, it will feature 3D Xpoint non-volatile memory. It will be at least a year before the Stampede 2 is powered up since it just received funding.
NASA

Universe Is Expanding Faster Than We Thought (gizmodo.com) 146

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Gizmodo: The Hubble Space Telescope has released some new numbers indicating that the rate of expansion of our universe is approximately 45.5 miles per second per megaparsec. It calculated this by measuring the distance between 19 faraway galaxies. Conceptually, the calculations show that space is expanding fast enough to essentially double the distance between our galaxy and our nearest neighbors in about 10 billion years. The new Hubble constant, which is 5 to 9 percent higher than previous estimates, does not match estimated expansion rates from the energetic leftovers of the Big Bang, thus causing a headache for cosmologists. It could mean that Einstein's theory of relativity is incomplete and/or there are processes pushing space apart that we have yet to account for.
United States

US Death Rate Rises, Health Officials Aren't Sure Why (nbcnews.com) 607

New submitter Ungrounded Lightning writes: According to The New York Times, the U.S. death rate has risen for the first time in more than a decade (or several decades if particular). The rise is across the whole population, though whites, especially the less educated among them, were recently (and separately) documented to be particularly hard hit. The article speculates about drug abuse (prescription as well as illegal), suicides, and Alzheimer's, though it notes that heart disease -- which had been consistently dropping -- has also risen. No mention was made of whether the cutover to Obamacare might have had some effect. The aging of the population was mentioned, though the rise is present even within particular age groups. The National Center for Health Statistics shows the adjusted death rate went up from 723 deaths per 100,000 people in 2014 to nearly 730 deaths per 100,000 in 2015. We do know that the suicide rate in the U.S. has surged to its highest level in almost three decades.
Education

Computer Generates Largest Math Proof Ever At 200TB of Data (phys.org) 143

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: A trio of researchers has solved a single math problem by using a supercomputer to grind through over a trillion color combination possibilities, and in the process has generated the largest math proof ever -- the text of it is 200 terabytes in size. The math problem has been named the boolean Pythagorean Triples problem and was first proposed back in the 1980's by mathematician Ronald Graham. In looking at the Pythagorean formula: a^2 + b^2 = c^2, he asked, was it possible to label each a non-negative integer, either blue or red, such that no set of integers a, b and c were all the same color. To solve this problem the researchers applied the Cube-and-Conquer paradigm, which is a hybrid of the SAT method for hard problems. It uses both look-ahead techniques and CDCL solvers. They also did some of the math on their own ahead of giving it over to the computer, by using several techniques to pare down the number of choices the supercomputer would have to check, down to just one trillion (from 10^2,300). Still the 800 processor supercomputer ran for two days to crunch its way through to a solution. After all its work, and spitting out the huge data file, the computer proof showed that yes, it was possible to color the integers in multiple allowable ways -- but only up to 7,824 -- after that point, the answer became no. Is the proof really a proof if it does not answer why there is a cut-off point at 7,825, or even why the first stretch is possible? Does it really exist?
Math

Billionaire Technologist Accuses NASA Asteroid Mission of Bad Statistics (sciencemag.org) 207

Taco Cowboy quotes a report from Science Magazine: Nathan Myhrvold, ex-CTO of Microsoft, is accusing NASA of providing bad statistics on asteroid size. Mr. Myhrvold alleged that scientists using a prominent NASA space telescope have made fundamental mistakes in their assessment of the size of more than 157,000 asteroids they have observed. In a paper posted to the arXiv.org e-print repository on 22 May, Myhrvold takes aim at the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), a space telescope launched in 2009, and a follow-on mission, NEOWISE, which together are responsible for the discovery of more asteroids than any other observatory. Yet Myhrvold says that the WISE and NEOWISE teams' papers are riddled with statistical missteps. "None of their results can be replicated," he tells ScienceInsider. "I found one irregularity after another" Myhrvold says the NASA teams have made mistakes, such as ignoring the margin of error introduced when extrapolating from a small sample size to an entire population. They also neglected to include Kirchhoff's law of thermal radiation in their thermal models of the asteroids. Based on his own models, Myhrvold says that errors in the asteroid diameters based on WISE data should be 30%. In some cases, the size errors rise to as large as 300%. "Asteroids are more variable than we thought they were," he says. He has submitted the paper to the journal Icarus for review. However, the WISE and NEOWISE teams are standing by their results, and say that Myhrvold's criticism should be dismissed. "For every mistake I found in his paper, if I got a bounty, I would be rich," says Ned Wright, the principal investigator for WISE at the University of California, Los Angeles. Wright says that WISE's data match very well with two other infrared telescopes, AKARI and IRAS. To find out how accurately those infrared data determine the size of an asteroid, scientists have to calibrate them with radar observations, other observations made when asteroids pass in front of distant stars, and observations made by spacecraft up close. When they do that, Wright says, WISE's size errors end up at roughly 15%. Wright says his team doesn't have Myhrvold's computer codes, "so we don't know why he's screwing up." But Wright archly noted that Myhrvold once worked at Microsoft, so "is responsible in part for a lot of bad software."

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