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Medicine

US Scientists Predict Long Battle Against Ebola 119

Posted by Soulskill
from the time-to-call-in-dustin-hoffman-and-rene-russo dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Despite recent advances in medicine to treat Ebola, epidemiologists are not hopeful that the outbreak in west Africa will be contained any time soon. Revised models for the disease's spread expect the outbreak to last 12 to 18 months longer, likely infecting hundreds of thousands of people. "While previous outbreaks have been largely confined to rural areas, the current epidemic, the largest ever, has reached densely populated, impoverished cities — including Monrovia, the capital of Liberia — gravely complicating efforts to control the spread of the disease. ... What worries public health officials most is that the epidemic has begun to grow exponentially in Liberia. In the most recent week reported, Liberia had nearly 400 new cases, almost double the number reported the week before. Another grave concern, the W.H.O. said, is 'evidence of substantial underreporting of cases and deaths.' The organization reported on Friday that the number of Ebola cases as of Sept. 7 was 4,366, including 2,218 deaths." Scientists are urging greater public health efforts to slow the exponential trajectory of the disease and bring it back under control.
Medicine

Reanalysis of Clinical Trials Finds Misleading Results 74

Posted by Soulskill
from the side-effects-may-include-pretty-much-anything dept.
sciencehabit writes: Clinical trials rarely get a second look — and when they do, their findings are not always what the authors originally reported. That's the conclusion of a new study (abstract), which compared how 37 studies that had been reanalyzed measured up to the original. In 13 cases, the reanalysis came to a different outcome — a finding that suggests many clinical trials may not be accurately reporting the effect of a new drug or intervention. Moreover, only five of the reanalyses were by an entirely different set of authors, which means they did not get a neutral relook.

In one of the trials, which examined the efficacy of the drug methotrexate in treating systemic sclerosis—an autoimmune disease that causes scarring of the skin and internal organs—the original researchers found the drug to be not much more effective than the placebo, as they reported in a 2001 paper. However, in a 2009 reanalysis of the same trial, another group of researchers including one of the original authors used Bayesian analysis, a statistical technique to overcome the shortcomings of small data sets that plague clinical trials of rare diseases such as sclerosis. The reanalysis found that the drug was, as it turned out, more effective than the placebo and had a good chance of benefiting sclerosis patients.
Transportation

Surprising Result of NYC Bike Lanes: Faster Traffic for Cars 213

Posted by timothy
from the zipping-along dept.
A report at vox.com says that the implementation of bike lanes in traffic-heavy New York City has one possibly non-intuitive result: car traffic was sped up as a result. The bike lanes have caused the lanes for cars to be narrowed, but as a result of the street redesign to accomodate bikes, one big change has especially helped to keep cars moving forward more steadily: Although narrower streets can slow traffic, that doesn't seem to have happened here — perhaps because traffic in this area was crawling at around 11 miles per hour to begin with. Instead, the narrower lanes were capable of handling just as much traffic, and one major improvement to intersection design helped them handle more, while also letting bikes travel more safely. This improvement was something called a pocket lane for left-hand turns: a devoted turning lane at most intersections that takes the place of the parking lane, which gets cars out of the way of moving traffic when they're making a left.
Education

Getting Into College the Old Fashioned Way: With Money 161

Posted by timothy
from the all-I've-got-are-these-damn-nepalese-coins dept.
Businessweek (in a story spotted via Tyler Cowen's Marginal Revolution) profiles ThinkTank Learning, a college-admission consultancy founded by Steven Ma, and largely catering to ambitious Asian immigrants like Ma, and their offspring — kids who'd like to go to elite schools, and can afford to have Ma's firm help them navigate the path to getting in. It's a statistics driven system, and backed by a money-back guarantee, so long as the applicant meets certain requirements: ThinkTank will refund their tens of thousands of dollars in fees if they don't make it into the sort of school that the ThinkTank algorithms say they will. Basically, they've reverse engineered the admissions policies at schools, particularly elite schools like MIT, Stanford, and the Ivies, and done so well enough to know which factors in a student's portfolio can be tweaked to increase their odds of getting into the big-name schools. A slice: [Ma's] proprietary algorithm assigns varying weights to different parameters, derived from his analysis of the successes and failures of thousands of students he's coached over the years. Ma's algorithm, for example, predicts that a U.S.-born high school senior with a 3.8 GPA, an SAT score of 2,000 (out of 2,400), moderate leadership credentials, and 800 hours of extracurricular activities, has a 20.4 percent chance of admission to New York University and a 28.1 percent shot at the University of Southern California. Those odds determine the fee ThinkTank charges that student for its guaranteed consulting package: $25,931 to apply to NYU and $18,826 for USC.
Programming

IT Job Hiring Slumps 249

Posted by timothy
from the so-many-variables dept.
snydeq writes The IT job hiring bump earlier this year wasn't sustained in July and August, when numbers slumped considerably, InfoWorld reports. 'So much for the light at the end of the IT jobs tunnel. According to job data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as analyzed by Janco Associates, the IT professional job market has all but lost the head of steam it built up earlier this year. A mere 3,400 IT jobs were added in August, down from 4,600 added for July and way down from the 13,800 added in April of this year. Overall, IT hiring in 2014 got off to a weak start, then surged, only to stumble again.' Anybody out there finding the IT job market discouraging of late and care to share their experiences?
Wikipedia

Why Women Have No Time For Wikipedia 579

Posted by timothy
from the busy-doing-real-stuff dept.
Andreas Kolbe writes Wikipedia is well known to have a very large gender imbalance, with survey-based estimates of women contributors ranging from 8.5% to around 16%. This is a more extreme gender imbalance than even that of Reddit, the most male-dominated major social media platform, and it has a palpable effect on Wikipedia content. Moreover, Wikipedia editor survey data indicate that only 1 in 50 respondents is a mother – a good proportion of female contributors are in fact minors, with women in their twenties less likely to contribute to Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation efforts to address this "gender gap" have so far remained fruitless. Wikipedia's demographic pattern stands in marked contrast to female-dominated social media sites like Facebook and Pinterest, where women aged 18 to 34 are particularly strongly represented. It indicates that it isn't lack of time or family commitments that keep women from contributing to Wikipedia – women simply find other sites more attractive. Wikipedia's user interface and its culture of anonymity may be among the factors leading women to spend their online time elsewhere.
Stats

Statistics Losing Ground To CS, Losing Image Among Students 115

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the big-bad-data dept.
theodp (442580) writes Unless some things change, UC Davis Prof. Norman Matloff worries that the Statistician could be added to the endangered species list. "The American Statistical Association (ASA) leadership, and many in Statistics academia," writes Matloff, "have been undergoing a period of angst the last few years, They worry that the field of Statistics is headed for a future of reduced national influence and importance, with the feeling that: [1] The field is to a large extent being usurped by other disciplines, notably Computer Science (CS). [2] Efforts to make the field attractive to students have largely been unsuccessful."

Matloff, who has a foot in both the Statistics and CS camps, but says, "The problem is not that CS people are doing Statistics, but rather that they are doing it poorly. Generally the quality of CS work in Stat is weak. It is not a problem of quality of the researchers themselves; indeed, many of them are very highly talented. Instead, there are a number of systemic reasons for this, structural problems with the CS research 'business model'." So, can Statistics be made more attractive to students? "Here is something that actually can be fixed reasonably simply," suggests no-fan-of-TI-83-pocket-calculators-as-a-computational-vehicle Matloff. "If I had my druthers, I would simply ban AP Stat, and actually, I am one of those people who would do away with the entire AP program. Obviously, there are too many deeply entrenched interests for this to happen, but one thing that can be done for AP Stat is to switch its computational vehicle to R."
Stats

Among Gamers, Adult Women Vastly Outnumber Teenage Boys 276

Posted by timothy
from the ok-but-in-a-fight-who-would-win dept.
MojoKid writes: The Entertainment Software Association has just released its 2014 report on the state of the video game industry (PDF), and as the title of this post suggests, there have been some significant shifts since the last report. Let's tackle the most interesting one first: Females have become the dominant gamer, claiming 52% of the pie. That's impressive, but perhaps more so is the fact that women over the age of 18 represent 36% of the game-playing population, whereas boys aged 18 and under claim a mere 17%. Statistics like these challenge the definition of "gamer." Some might say that it's a stretch to call someone who only plays mobile games a "gamer" (Candy Crush anyone?). Mental hurdle aside, the reality is that anyone who plays games, regardless of the platform, is a gamer.
The Internet

Students From States With Faster Internet Tend To Have Higher Test Scores 175

Posted by Soulskill
from the in-before-correlation-!=-causation dept.
An anonymous reader sends word of correlation found between higher internet speeds and higher test scores. Quoting: The numbers—first crunched by the Internet provider comparison site HSI — show a distinct trend between faster Internet and higher ACT test scores. On the high end, Massachusetts scores big with an average Internet speed of 13.1Mbps, and an average ACT test score of 24.1. Mississippi, on the other hand, has an average speed of just 7.6Mbps and an average score of 18.9.

In between those two states, the other 48 fall in a positive correlation that, while not perfect, is quite undeniable. According to HSI's Edwin Ivanauskas, the correlation is stronger than that between household income and test scores, which have long been considered to be firmly connected to each other. The ACT scores were gathered from ACT.org, which has the official rankings and averages for the 2013 test, and the speed ratings were taken from Internet analytics firm Akamai's latest report.
Security

51% of Computer Users Share Passwords 117

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the rm-rf-/-of-shame dept.
An anonymous reader writes Consumers are inadvertently leaving back doors open to attackers as they share login details and sign up for automatic log on to mobile apps and services, according to new research by Intercede. While 52% of respondents stated that security was a top priority when choosing a mobile device, 51% are putting their personal data at risk by sharing usernames and passwords with friends, family and colleagues. The research revealed that consumers are not only sharing passwords but also potentially putting their personal and sensitive information at risk by leaving themselves logged in to applications on their mobile devices, with over half of those using social media applications and email admitting that they leave themselves logged in on their mobile device.
Businesses

Apple's Diversity Numbers: 70% Male, 55% White 561

Posted by Soulskill
from the one-button-issue dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Apple has released a diversity report on the genders and races of its employees. As is common in the tech industry, the majority of Apple's workforce is male — only three out of 10 employees around the globe are female. Broken down, males compose 65 percent of non-tech workers, 80 percent of tech workers, and 72 percent of Apple's leadership.

According to CEO Tim Cook, he's unhappy with Apple's diversity numbers and says Apple is working to improve them: "Apple is committed to transparency, which is why we are publishing statistics about the race and gender makeup of our company. Let me say up front: As CEO, I'm not satisfied with the numbers on this page. They're not new to us, and we've been working hard for quite some time to improve them. We are making progress, and we're committed to being as innovative in advancing diversity as we are in developing our products."
United States

For Fast Internet in the US, Virginia Tops the Charts 98

Posted by timothy
from the averages-verses-actuals dept.
According to data gathered by Akamai, an analysis from Broadview Networks comes to the conclusion that the top five U.S. states for broadband speed are Virginia (at the top of the list, with an average transfer speed of 13.78 Mbps), Delaware, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Washington, with Washington, D.C. slightly edging out the similarly-named state; Alaska comes in dead last. These are average speeds, though, and big states have more variation to account for, including connections in the hinterlands. You could still have a fast connection in Chattanooga, or be stuck on dial-up in the Texas panhandle.
Windows

Windows XP Falls Below 25% Market Share, Windows 8 Drops Slightly 336

Posted by Soulskill
from the year-of-something-on-the-somethingtop dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Despite support for Windows XP finally ending three months ago, the ancient OS has only now fallen below the 25 percent market share mark. To add to the bad news for Microsoft, after only nine full months of availability, its latest operating system version, Windows 8.1, has lost share for the first time. For desktop browser share, Chrome is up, taking mostly from Internet Explorer and Firefox. For mobile browsers, Safari continues to fall while Chrome maintains strong growth.
Businesses

Jesse Jackson: Tech Diversity Is Next Civil Rights Step 514

Posted by Soulskill
from the opportunity-shortage dept.
theodp writes: U.S. civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson called on the Obama administration Monday to scrutinize the tech industry's lack of diversity. "There's no talent shortage. There's an opportunity shortage," Jackson said, calling Silicon Valley "far worse" than many others, such as car makers that have been pressured by unions. He said tech behemoths have largely escaped scrutiny by a public dazzled with their cutting-edge gadgets. Jackson spoke to press after meeting with Labor Secretary Tom Perez for a review of H-1B visas, arguing that data show Americans have the skills and should have first access to high-paying tech work. Jackson's Rainbow Push Coalition plans to file a freedom-of-information request next month with the EEOC to acquire employment data for companies that have not yet disclosed it publicly, which includes Amazon, Broadcom, Oracle, Qualcomm and Yelp. Unlike the Dept. of Labor, Jackson isn't buying Silicon Valley's argument that minority hiring statistics are trade secrets. Five years after Google's HR Chief would only reassure Congress the company had "a very strong internal Black Googler Network" and its CEO brushed off similar questions about its diversity numbers by saying "we're pretty happy with the way our recruiting work," Google — under pressure from Jackson — fessed up to having a tech workforce that's only 1% Black, apparently par for the course in Silicon Valley.
Stats

Better Living Through Data 38

Posted by timothy
from the we-call-them-insomnia-anomolies dept.
jradavenport (3020071) writes "Using two years of continuous monitoring of my MacBook Air battery usage (once every minute), I have been able to study my own computer use patterns in amazing detail. This dataset includes 293k measurements, or more than 204 days of use over two years. I use the laptop over 50 hours per week on average, and my most productive day is Tuesday. Changes in my work/life balance have begun to appear over the two-year span, and I am curious whether such data can help inform how much computer use is healthy/productive."
Stats

OKCupid Experiments on Users Too 161

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the statistics-are-only-skin-deep dept.
With recent news that Facebook altered users' feeds as part of a psychology experiment, OKCupid has jumped in and noted that they too have altered their algorithms and experimented with their users (some unintentional) and "if you use the Internet, you’re the subject of hundreds of experiments at any given time, on every site. That’s how websites work." Findings include that removing pictures from profiles resulted in deeper conversations, but as soon as the pictures returned appearance took over; personality ratings are highly correlated with appearance ratings (profiles with attractive pictures and no other information still scored as having a great personality); and that suggesting a bad match is a good match causes people to converse nearly as much as ideal matches would.
The Internet

Internet Census 2012 Data Examined: Authentic, But Chaotic and Unethical 32

Posted by timothy
from the could-have-been-worse dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A team of researchers at the TU Berlin and RWTH Aachen presented an analysis of the Internet Census 2012 data set (here's the PDF) in the July edition of the ACM Sigcomm Computer Communication Review journal. After its release on March 17, 2013 by an anonymous author, the Internet Census data created an immediate media buzz, mainly due to its unethical data collection methodology that exploited default passwords to form the Carna botnet. The now published analysis suggests that the released data set is authentic and not faked, but also reveals a rather chaotic picture. The Census suffers from a number of methodological flaws and also lacks meta-data information, which renders the data unusable for many further analyses. As a result, the researchers have not been able to verify several claims that the anonymous author(s) made in the published Internet Census report. The researchers also point to similar but legal efforts measuring the Internet and remark that the illegally measured Internet Census 2012 is not only unethical but might have been overrated by the press."
Stats

Do Apple and Google Sabotage Older Phones? What the Graphs Don't Show 281

Posted by timothy
from the maybe-apple-fans-are-driven-by-pheremones dept.
Harvard economics professor Sendhil Mullainathan takes a look in the New York Times at interesting correlations between the release dates of new phones and OSes and search queries that indicate frustration with the speed of the phones that people already have. Mullainathan illustrates with graphs (and gives plausible explanations for the difference) just how different the curves are over time for the search terms "iPhone slow" and "Samsung Galaxy slow." It's easy to see with the iPhone graph especially how it could seem to users that Apple has intentionally slowed down older phones to nudge them toward upgrading. While he's careful not to rule out intentional slowing of older phone models (that's possible, after all), Mullainathan cites several factors that mean there's no need to believe in a phone-slowing conspiracy, and at least two big reasons (reputation, liability) for companies — Apple, Google, and cellphone manufacturers like Samsung — not to take part in one. He points out various wrinkles in what the data could really indicate, including genuine but innocent slowdowns caused by optimizing for newer hardware. It's an interesting look at the difference between having mere statistics, no matter how rigorously gathered, and knowing quite what they mean.
Education

AP Computer Science Test Takers Up 8,000; Pass Rate Down 6.8% 119

Posted by timothy
from the everything-that-rises dept.
theodp (442580) writes "Code.org reports that preliminary data on students who took the Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science Exam in 2014 show an increase of 8,276 students over 2013 and represent what the College Board called "the first real indication of progress in AP CS enrollment for women and underserved minorities in years." Girls made up 20% of the 39,393 total test takers, compared to 18.7% of the 31,117 test takers in 2013. Black or African American students saw their share increase by 0.19%, from 3.56% to 3.75% (low, but good enough to crush Twitter). Code.org credits the increased enrollment to its celebrity-studded CS promo film starring Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg ("I even made a personal bet (reflected in my contractual commitment to Code.org donors) that our video could help improve the seemingly immovable diversity numbers in computer science," Code.org founder Hadi Partovi notes). However, some of the increase is likely attributable to the other efforts of Code.org's donors. Microsoft ramped up its TEALS AP CS program in 2013-2014, and — more significantly — Google helped boost AP CS study not only through its CS4HS program, but also by funding the College Board's AP STEM Access program, which offered $5 million to schools and teachers to encourage minority and female students to enroll in AP STEM courses. This summer, explains the College Board, "All AP STEM teachers in the participating schools (not just the new AP STEM teachers), who increase diversity in their class, receive a [$100] DonorsChoose.org gift card for each student in the course who receives a 3, 4, or 5 on the AP Exam." The bad news for AP CS teachers anticipating Google "Excellence Funding" bounties (for increasing course enrollment and completion "by at least five underrepresented students") is that AP CS pass rates decreased to 60.8% in 2014 (from 67.6% in 2013), according to Total Registration. Using these figures and a back-of-the-envelope calculation, while enrollment saw a 26.6% increase over last year, the total number of students passing increased by 13.9%."
Medicine

Google Looking To Define a Healthy Human 125

Posted by Soulskill
from the bet-this-one's-going-to-get-Godwinned-quick dept.
rtoz writes: Google's moonshot research division, "Google X," has started "Baseline Study," a project designed to collect anonymous genetic and molecular information from 175 people (and later thousands more) to create a complete picture of what a healthy human being should be. The blueprint will help researchers detect health problems such as heart disease and cancer far earlier, focusing medicine on prevention rather than treatment. According to Google, the information from Baseline will be anonymous, and its use will be limited to medical and health purposes. Data won't be shared with insurance companies.

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