Sunday, September 28, 2014

Universities Get Serious About Women In Computer Science


When it comes to improving diversity in computer science programs at the university level, private liberal arts college Harvey Mudd College is leading the charge.  After successful initiatives boosted the number of women in its undergraduate computer science programs, the college is joining with the nonprofit Anita Borg Institute to expand its strategy to 15 universities around the U.S. and to track how well different tactics work out in the classroom.

The initiative—called Building Recruiting And Inclusion for Diversity (BRAID)— will work to increase the percentage of women and people of color in undergraduate computer science programs.  

The group of 15 universities will receive $30,000 a year for three years to implement programs similar to the one that helped Harvey Mudd achieve 40% female enrollment in computer science classrooms. Facebook, Google, Intel and Microsoft have committed to funding the program.


Futuristic Eco-City Masdar Keeps Rising, Right On (a New) Schedule


First announced in 2006, Masdar City was promoted as the world’s first fully sustainable, zero-emission city, and as an $18-22 billion project. It was erected 11 miles east-south-east of metropolitan Abu Dhabi — close to Abu Dhabi International Airport — by Masdar (“source” in Arabic), a subsidiary of Mubadala Development Company, and has a planned city core of two square miles. Envisioned with the aid and artwork of architectural firm Foster + Partners, the site is intended to house 50,000 residents and support 1,500 new green businesses, thereby creating a mini-mecca for commercial and manufacturing companies which support (and embody) clean technology. As Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, Masdar’s CEO, told TIME in 2008, the company’s aim has been to “position Abu Dhabi as the hub of future energy.”


What Happens When We All Live to Be 100?

The Atlantic

For millennia, if not for eons—anthropology continuously pushes backward the time of human origin—life expectancy was short. The few people who grew old were assumed, because of their years, to have won the favor of the gods. The typical person was fortunate to reach 40.


Beginning in the 19th century, that slowly changed. Since 1840, life expectancy at birth has risen about three months with each passing year. In 1840, life expectancy at birth in Sweden, a much-studied nation owing to its record-keeping, was 45 years for women; today it’s 83 years. The United States displays roughly the same trend. When the 20th century began, life expectancy at birth in America was 47 years; now newborns are expected to live 79 years. If about three months continue to be added with each passing year, by the middle of this century, American life expectancy at birth will be 88 years. By the end of the century, it will be 100 years.


Viewed globally, the lengthening of life spans seems independent of any single, specific event. It didn’t accelerate much as antibiotics and vaccines became common. Nor did it retreat much during wars or disease outbreaks. A graph of global life expectancy over time looks like an escalator rising smoothly. The trend holds, in most years, in individual nations rich and poor; the whole world is riding the escalator.


Video Games Could Dramatically Streamline Education Research

WSU News

Washington State University (WSU) researchers have developed the Student Task and Cognition Model, a computational modeling method for conducting research on science curricula in classrooms designed to be both easier and more cost-effective than previous systems. The method involves a computer "learning" student behavior and then "thinking" as students would. WSU professor Rich Lamb says the process could revolutionize the way educational research is done. As part of the process, computers examine student responses to science tasks and then mimic the way students think. "Now, instead of taking a shotgun approach, we can test the initial interventions on a computer and see which ones make the most sense to then study in the classroom," Lamb says. As part of the Student Task and Cognition Model, students were given scientific tasks to complete in an electronic game. The researchers used statistical techniques to track everything and assess each task as a success or failure. "The computer is able to see what constitutes success, but it's also able to see how students approach science," Lamb says. He notes the program can collect data on 100,000 students for the cost of running software on a computer.


How to Be Creative

Farnam Street

This short PBS video nicely weaves together some of the themes we’ve covered. A few of which are embracing negative capability (Keats), exploring the stages of creativity (Graham Wallas), and combinatory play.

All of these “new” ideas are actually old ones— a point made in the video.


Applying Data Science to the iPhone 6 Launch: Part One - The Hashtag Effect


Now that all of the dust has begun to settle from the launch of the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus it is a good time to take a look at lessons learned from the launch, what types of earned media helped drive the most buzz and, finally, evaluate the current state of the tech product launch landscape.


The sheer volume of coverage in traditional, digital and social media created an amazing opportunity to explore the flow of information across channels and evaluate how content and coverage drove consumer behavior around the launch. Matching coverage volumes, numbers of tweets and likes or conversation spikes with bottom line consumer action opens the door to a wide range and depth of insights.


William Faulkner on Writing, the Human Dilemma, and Why We Create: A Rare 1958 Recording


It’s the most satisfying occupation man has discovered yet, because you never can quite do it as well as you want to, so there’s always something to wake up tomorrow morning to do.”

The writer’s duty, William Faulkner (September 25, 1897–July 6, 1962) asserted in his magnificent Nobel Prize acceptance speech in 1950, is “to help man endure by lifting his heart.” Faulkner’s idealism about and intense interest in the human spirit permeated all of his creative pursuits, from his views on writing and the meaning of life to his only children’s book to his little-known Jazz Age drawings.

In 1957 and 1958, the period halfway between his two Pulitzer Prizes, Faulkner served as a Writer-in-Residence at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. On the last day of his residency in May of 1958, he read from his favorite novel, The Sound and the Fury, at an event open to the general public. After the reading, he answered questions — wonderfully Southern-drawled questions — from the audience. The surviving recording, found in the University of Virginia’s Faulkner archives, is of questionable audio quality but makes up for it in sheer richness of insight into Faulkner’s views on writing and the project of art.


Exploring Play: The Importance of Play in Everyday Life

University of Sheffield and blog

Play can seem to be a spontaneous and natural part of life, taking little effort and requiring little thought. In this course we aim to persuade you that, to the contrary, play is immensely varied, important and complex across the whole span of our lives.


In this course we’ll introduce you to a range of play worlds and play lives. We’ll be taking in the history of play at the Museum of Childhood in London; discovering how everyday knowledge informs playfulness and imagination; visiting virtual worlds where the boundaries between fantasy and reality are blurred; exploring outdoor play spaces in towns, cities and parks; looking at how play spaces can be designed to encourage playfulness; and seeing what happens when players bend the rules.


Scientists Create Invisibility Cloak

News Tonight

University of Rochester in New York have developed an invisibility cloak. Cloaking is the process by which an object becomes hidden from view, while everything else around the cloaked object appears undisturbed.


The researchers have found a way to hide large objects from sight using inexpensive and readily available lenses. Prior to this, many researchers have made an attempt to develop something similar. But their creations were much more complicated and very expensive.


Virginia Tech Researchers Devise Traffic App to Rival Weather Apps


Researchers at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University's (Virginia Tech) Transportation Institute are developing a cloud-based application that will use real-time information and historical data to predict when and where traffic is likely to occur. The app is based on an algorithm that combines historical and real-time data to predict traffic patterns and congestion. Virginia Tech Ph.D. candidate Hao Chen says typical mapping applications rely on mileage and speed limits to predict travel times, but they are very unreliable. "Most people think traffic prediction has been implemented, used long ago, but it's actually new," Chen says. "We can provide on average 95-percent prediction accuracy for travel time." One of the major challenges in developing the app was managing the massive amount of information that is needed to create accurate predictions. The researchers overcame that obstacle using cloud computing. "The cloud computes the answer and then ships it back to your phone or laptop," says Virginia Tech professor Wu Feng. "The big data simply remains in the cloud."


The Frugal Innovator


Leading authority on creativity and innovation Charles Leadbeater shows what we can learn from entrepreneurs in developing countries, who are responding to constraints of capital and resources by devising low-cost solutions to pressing social challenges which are lean, simple, clean and social.

Listen to the
podcast of the full event including audience Q&A.

Download the video (mp4)
Watch Charles Leadbeater on our Vimeo Channel


Virtual Reality May Become the Next Great Media Platform—But Can It Fool All Five Senses?

Singularity Hub

Jason Silva calls technologies of media “engines of empathy.” They allow us to look through someone else’s eyes, experience someone else’s story—and develop a sense of compassion and understanding for them, and perhaps for others more generally.

But he says, while today cinema is the “the cathedral of communication technology,” looking to the future, there is another great medium looming—virtual reality.

Expanding on the possibilities embodied in the Oculus Rift, Silva envisions a future when we inhabit not virtual realities but “real virtualities.” A time when we discard today’s blunt tools of communication to cloak ourselves in thought and dreams.


Gatorade - Made in New York - Derek Jeter


Gatorade's tribute commercial to Derek Jeter
"My Way" by Frank Sinatra