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A Short History of Women at Los Alamos

Posted: 26 Mar 2018 08:30 AM PDT

Submitted via IRC for Fnord666

[...] During the Manhattan Project, 640 women worked at Los Alamos — about 11 percent of the total workforce. Today, women comprise 32 percent of the Lab's workforce — 3,554 of 11,012 total employees. Women hold more than a quarter of management positions, and women are 22 percent of the professional R&D workforce.

[...] Take a look at that history via the following timeline, which highlights notable women at the Laboratory and their achievements, as well changes in federal legislation and the workplace that continue to make Los Alamos a great place for women to work.

[...] 1943: In the 1940s, a "computer" was a person — usually a woman — whose job it was to perform calculations by hand, sometimes with the aid of a mechanical calculator. Women with degrees in mathematics and the sciences often took jobs as computers because of discrimination in their own fields. As a consequence, many of the women who became computers were vastly overqualified for their positions. At Los Alamos, approximately 20 computers worked in the T-5 Computation group by the end of the summer of 1943.

Source: A short history of women at Los Alamos

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Dropbox IPO Values Company at Over $11 Billion

Posted: 26 Mar 2018 07:00 AM PDT

Dropbox Shares Leap in I.P.O., and Silicon Valley Smiles

Dropbox, the file-sharing company and Silicon Valley darling, had a strong market debut Friday, a reassuring sign for the technology industry and for the investors who have billions locked up in other highly valued but privately held start-ups.

Shares of San Francisco-based Dropbox soared above $30 shortly after trading in the stock opened Friday morning. That was 45 percent higher than the $21-per-share price at which the company sold 36 million shares on Thursday night. The initial public offering valued Dropbox at $9.2 billion.

[...] Founded in 2007 by two Massachusetts Institute of Technology computer science students, Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi, Dropbox has never turned an annual profit, despite strong sales growth.


Also at Bloomberg, TechCrunch, and CNBC.

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Prisons as a Haven for Elderly Japanese Women

Posted: 26 Mar 2018 05:37 AM PDT

Japan's Prisons Are a Haven for Elderly Women

Every aging society faces distinct challenges. But Japan, with the world's oldest population (27.3 percent of its citizens are 65 or older, almost twice the share in the U.S.), has been dealing with one it didn't foresee: senior crime. Complaints and arrests involving elderly people, and women in particular, are taking place at rates above those of any other demographic group. Almost 1 in 5 women in Japanese prisons is a senior. Their crimes are usually minor—9 in 10 senior women who've been convicted were found guilty of shoplifting.

Why have so many otherwise law-abiding elderly women resorted to petty theft? Caring for Japanese seniors once fell to families and communities, but that's changing. From 1980 to 2015, the number of seniors living alone increased more than sixfold, to almost 6 million. And a 2017 survey by Tokyo's government found that more than half of seniors caught shoplifting live alone; 40 percent either don't have family or rarely speak with relatives. These people often say they have no one to turn to when they need help.

[...] Neither the government nor the private sector has established an effective rehabilitation program for seniors, and the costs to keep them in prison are rising fast. Expenses associated with elder care helped push annual medical costs at correctional facilities past 6 billion yen (more than $50 million) in 2015, an 80 percent increase from a decade before. Specialized workers have been hired to help older inmates with bathing and toileting during the day, but at night these tasks are handled by guards.

At some facilities, being a correctional officer has come to resemble being a nursing-home attendant. Satomi Kezuka, a veteran officer at Tochigi Women's Prison, about 60 miles north of Tokyo, says her duties now include dealing with incontinence. "They are ashamed and hide their underwear," she says of the inmates. "I tell them to bring it to me, and I will have it washed." More than a third of female correctional officers quit their jobs within three years.

[...] [Ms. N, age 80:] "I can't tell you how much I enjoy working in the prison factory. The other day, when I was complimented on how efficient and meticulous I was, I grasped the joy of working. I regret that I never worked. My life would have been different. I enjoy my life in prison more. There are always people around, and I don't feel lonely here. When I got out the second time, I promised that I wouldn't go back. But when I was out, I couldn't help feeling nostalgic."


Related: Japan Has Aged Out of its Economic Miracle
Japan's Fertility Crisis is Creating Economic and Social Woes Never Seen Before
A Generation in Japan Faces a Lonely Death

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Transport Layer Security Version 1.3 Approved

Posted: 26 Mar 2018 04:07 AM PDT

The web will soon be a little safer with the approval of this new security standard

TLS 1.3 makes a few prominent changes that should keep you safe.

  • The "handshake" between client and server has been streamlined and encryption initiated earlier to minimize the amount of data transmitted in the clear.
  • "Forward secrecy," meaning hackers can't skim decryption keys from one exchange and use it to decrypt others later.
  • "Legacy" encryption algorithms have been removed as options, as these could occasionally be forced into use and their shortcomings leveraged to break the cipher on messages.
  • A new "0-RTT," or zero round-trip time, mode in which the server and client that have established some preliminaries before can get right to sending data without introducing themselves to each other again.

The whole standard is 155 pages long, and really only other engineers will want to dig in. But it's available here if you'd like to peruse it or go into detail on one of the new features.

Also at The Register.

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Why We Still Can’t Stop Plagiarism in Undergraduate Computer Science

Posted: 26 Mar 2018 02:38 AM PDT

Kevin Chen writes a post in his blog about incentives and scaling from his two years as a teaching assistant. Specifically in his current post he addresses plagiarism in computer science and why it has still not stopped.

The most important goal is to keep the course fair for students who do honest work. Instructors must assign grades that accurately reflect performance. A student who grapples with a problem — becoming a stronger programmer in the process — should never receive a lower grade than one who copies and pastes.

Finally, as educators, we also hope that the accused student can learn difficult lessons about ethical behavior in the classroom rather than the workplace.

From his experience, every semester somewhere between 10% to 40% of the students carry out blatant, indisputable cases of plagiarism with an unknown amount of less clear cases left unaddressed. How does this match with soylentil's experiences here, either in computer science or other fields? The perspectives are likely quite different from institution to institution as well as whether you are still studying in college or university, recently graduated, or in a teaching role.

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Flat Earther Manages to Travel One Third of a Mile Into the Sky Using a Steam-Powered Rocket

Posted: 26 Mar 2018 01:08 AM PDT

Self-taught rocket scientist finally blasts off into California sky

"Mad" Mike Hughes, the rocket man who believes the Earth is flat, propelled himself about 1,875 feet into the air Saturday before a hard landing in the Mojave Desert. He told The Associated Press that outside of an aching back he's fine after the launch near Amboy, California.

"Relieved," he said after being checked out by paramedics. "I'm tired of people saying I chickened out and didn't build a rocket. I'm tired of that stuff. I manned up and did it."

The launch in the desert town — about 200 miles east of Los Angeles — was originally scheduled in November. It was scrubbed several times due to logistical issues with the Bureau of Land Management and mechanical problems that kept popping up.

YouTube video

Previously: Flat Earther Plans Manned Steam-Powered Rocket Launch
Federal Government Denies Permission for Flat Earth Researcher's Rocket Launch

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Microsoft: Poisoned Torrent Client Triggered Coin Miner Outbreak

Posted: 25 Mar 2018 11:22 PM PDT

Submitted via IRC for SoyCow3941

A poisoned version of MediaGet, an all-in-one BitTorrent client developed in Russia, was used to offload malicious cryptocurrency miners. According to research from Microsoft, the application helped to kick off the Dofoil campaign that targeted hundreds of thousands of computers. Mediaget says that the issue has been fully resolved at their end.

Source: https://torrentfreak.com/microsoft-poisoned-torrent-client-triggered-coin-miner-outbreak-180315/

"Our continued investigation on the Dofoil outbreak revealed that the March 6 campaign was a carefully planned attack with initial groundwork dating back to mid-February," the Windows Defender team said today in a new report.

Microsoft alleges hackers broke into MediaGet's infrastructure, and sometimes between February 12 and 19, attackers managed to replace the official MediaGet installer with one that also included a backdoor.

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Designing Diamonds For Medical Imaging Technologies

Posted: 25 Mar 2018 10:05 PM PDT

Japanese researchers have optimized the design of laboratory-grown, synthetic diamonds. This brings the new technology one step closer to enhancing biosensing applications, such as magnetic brain imaging. The advantages of this layered, sandwichlike, diamond structure are described in a recent issue of Applied Physics Letters, from AIP Publishing.

[...] Diamonds designed with nitrogen-vacancy (NV) centers that can detect changes in magnetic fields are a powerful tool for biosensing technologies and used in the medical detection and diagnosis of disease. For instance, magnetoencephalography (MEG) is a neuroimaging technique used to map brain activity and trace pathological abnormalities, such as epileptic tissue.

[...] "At the moment, we have just demonstrated stabilization, but we expect it to also improve sensitivity," Mizuochi said. His team is currently testing the sensitivity of the new design to changes in magnetic fields, and hoping that this structure could be used for biosensing applications such as MEG.

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Shedding Light on the Mystery of the Superconducting Dome

Posted: 25 Mar 2018 08:33 PM PDT

University of Groningen physicists, and colleagues from Nijmegen and Hong Kong, have induced superconductivity in a monolayer of tungsten disulfide. By using an increasing electric field, they were able to show how the material turns from an insulator into a superconductor and then back into a 're-entrant' insulator again. Their results show the typical 'dome-shaped' superconducting phase, and finally provide an explanation for this phenomenon. The results were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on 19 March.

The scientists, led by University of Groningen associate professor Justin Ye, used an electric field to induce superconductivity in a monolayer of the semiconductor tungsten disulfide (WS2). In the initial state with very few carriers, the WS2 behaves as an insulator. 'Basically, the electric field adds carriers to this normal band insulator, which increases the conductivity', explains Ye. At low temperatures, this initiates a superconducting state.

[...] 'This full range for the phase diagram, from insulator to superconductor and then to re-entry insulator, had never before been observed this clearly', says Ye. 'We managed it, because we worked with a truly 2D material and used ionic liquid to create an electric field that is much stronger than what is usually applied.' Normally, as more carriers are added to a bulk or quasi-2D system, the electric field is eventually blocked. Ye: 'But in a WS2 monolayer, our stronger field can still pass through, which is why we were able to observe the entire range and eventually reach the insulating phase.'

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Brain-like Computers Moving Closer to Cracking Codes

Posted: 25 Mar 2018 07:16 PM PDT

Submitted via IRC for SoyCow3941

[...] The team of researchers have devised a way to factor large composite integers by harnessing the massive parallelism of novel computer architectures that mimic the functioning of the mammalian brain. So called neuromorphic computers operate under vastly different principles than conventional computers, such as laptops and mobile devices, all based on an architecture described by John von Neumann in 1945.

In the von Neumann architecture, memory is separate from the central processing unit, or CPU, which must read and write to memory over a bus. This bus has a limited bandwidth, and much of the time, the CPU is waiting to access memory, often referred to as the von Neumann bottleneck.

Neuromorphic computers, on the other hand, do not suffer from a von Neumann bottleneck. There is no CPU, memory, or bus. Instead, they incorporate many individual computation units, much like neurons in the brain.

These units are connected by physical or simulated pathways for passing data around, analogous to synaptic connections between neurons. Many neuromorphic devices operate based on the physical response properties of the underlying material, such as graphene lasers or magnetic tunnel junctions. Because of this, these devices consume orders of magnitude less energy than their von Neumann counterparts and can operate on a molecular time scale. As such, any algorithm capable of running on these devices stands to benefit from their capabilities.

Source: Brain-like computers moving closer to cracking codes

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Part Of The Great Barrier Reef Exposed To More CO₂; Results Are Grim

Posted: 25 Mar 2018 05:46 PM PDT

Coral reefs are not just pretty and cool—beyond tourism dollars and once-in-a-lifetime diving experiences, they provide real utility to human society. They provide homes to about a quarter of the world’s fish, which many people rely on as a food source. They can act as a barrier to rising sea levels, and they can protect coastlines from eroding.

But thanks to all the carbon we’ve pumped into the air, coral reefs are disappearing. Fast. Part of that is heat stress, but CO2 can also influence coral's ability to form reefs in the first place. A new experiment gives us our first look at how much this affects a complete reef ecosystem.

[...] CO2 enrichment lowered the coral reef’s net community calcification by 34 percent compared to background. Previous laboratory experiments had estimated the calcification sensitivity of corals to be between 15 and 28 percent. The researchers who conducted this study suggest that their new results might show a larger impact because of the presence of crustose coralline algae in the ecosystem, which can alter the balance of carbonate ions. Alternatively, the calcification rate may increase in sensitivity as the concentration of carbonate ions in the water decreases, and this experiment has revealed a snowball effect that we could eventually see in the wild.

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Optalysys Claims Creation of a Convolutional Neural Network Using its Optical Coprocessor

Posted: 25 Mar 2018 03:25 PM PDT

Optalysys claims to have implemented a convolutional neural network (CNN) using its optical supercomputer/coprocessor:

Optalysys says they have built the world's first implementation of a convolutional neural network using its optical coprocessor.

The UK-based company has developed optical computing hardware that uses lasers and spatial light modulators (SLMs) to perform complex numerical processing at extremely high speeds and using very little power. The technology has been implemented as an HPC coprocessor, which is meant to be attached to a conventional computer – a desktop system or a server. The company's first prototype was announced in 2014.

Although not much detail has been provided on this latest application of the technology, Optalysys says they have implemented a CNN based on the MNIST dataset of hand-drawn numerals. The dataset is comprised of 60,000 training characters and 10,000 testing characters. According to the company, its optical laser technology enables them to process this model several orders of magnitude faster than conventional electronic hardware and does so at a fraction of the energy consumption.

[...] Optalysys is one of a growing number of startups that is applying optical computing to AI. Those companies include Lighton, Light Intelligence, Fathom Computing, and Lightmatter. (We covered that latter two here and here.) All are using various forms of optical technology to encode neural networks and are promising huge speedups and much better energy efficiency than traditional CPU/GPU-based machine learning.

MNIST database. Press release.

Previously: Computing With Lasers Could Power Up Genomics and AI
Optalysys, Back in the (Press Release) News

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Everything We Think about the Political Correctness Debate is Wrong

Posted: 25 Mar 2018 01:04 PM PDT

From the Vox:

Many American pundits seem to firmly believe that the country stands at a precipice in which young, left-wing college students and recent graduates are the leading edge of a rising tide of illiberalism that comes in the form of "political correctness" and poses a clear and present danger to free speech and rational discourse.

[...] The alarm about student protesters, in other words, though not always mistaken about particular cases, is generally grounded in a completely mistaken view of the big-picture state of American society and public opinion, both on and off campus.

[...] Since the 1970s, the General Social Survey has posed a question about whether five hypothetical speakers should be allowed to give a speech in your community — a communist, a homosexual, an opponent of all religion, a racist, and a person who favors replacing the elected government with a military coup.

Justin Murphy of the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom aggregated trend data about all five kinds of speakers and found that public support for free expression has been generally rising

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Thousands of Servers Found Leaking 750MB Worth of Passwords and Keys

Posted: 25 Mar 2018 10:43 AM PDT

"Leaky etcd servers could be a boon to data thieves and ransomware scammers."

etcd is described as "A distributed, reliable key-value store for the most critical data of a distributed system.".

Thousands of servers operated by businesses and other organizations are openly sharing credentials that may allow anyone on the Internet to log in and read or modify potentially sensitive data stored online.

In a blog post published late last week, researcher Giovanni Collazo said a quick query on the Shodan search engine returned almost 2,300 Internet-exposed servers running etcd, a type of database that computing clusters and other types of networks use to store and distribute passwords and configuration settings needed by various servers and applications. etcd comes with a programming interface that responds to simple queries that by default return administrative login credentials without first requiring authentication. The passwords, encryption keys, and other forms of credentials are used to access MySQL and PostgreSQL databases, content management systems, and other types of production servers.

Maybe it's just me, but if the phrases "store for the most critical data of a distributed system" and "Internet facing" both occur in your description of a node of your architecture, you're probably doing it wrong.

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