Data Science newsletter – May 30, 2018

Newsletter features journalism, research papers, events, tools/software, and jobs for May 30, 2018


Data Science News

The results are in from the first study of what encourages and deters people from bullshitting

The British Psychological Society, Research Digest, Christian Jarrett


“Our country doesn’t do many things well, but when it comes to big occasions, no one else comes close,” so claimed an instructor I heard at the gym this week. He might be an expert in physical fitness but it’s doubtful this chap was drawing on any evidence or established knowledge about the UK’s standing on the international league table of pageantry or anything else, and what’s more, he probably didn’t care about his oversight. What he probably did feel is a social pressure to have an opinion on the royal wedding that took place last weekend. To borrow the terminology of US psychologist John Petrocelli, he was probably bullshitting.

“In essence,” Petrocelli explains in his new paper in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, “the bullshitter is a relatively careless thinker/communicator and plays fast and loose with ideas and/or information as he bypasses consideration of, or concern for, evidence and established knowledge.”

While pontificating on Britain’s prowess at pomp is pretty harmless, Petrocelli has more serious topics in mind. “Whether they be claims or expressions of opinions about the effects of vaccinations, the causes of success and failure, or political ideation, doing so with little to no concern for evidence or truth is wrong,” he writes.

Uber chooses Paris for new advanced aviation research centre

The Engineer (UK)


Uber is setting up a new Advanced Technologies Centre in Paris to focus on Uber Elevate, the company’s electric-powered VTOL flight programme.

Before reproducibility must come preproducibility

Nature, Philip E. Stark


Instead of arguing about whether results hold up, let’s push to provide enough information for others to repeat the experiments, says Philip Stark.

The Silence of the Bugs

The New York Times, Curt Stager


Most scientists today live in cities and have little direct experience with wild plants and animals, and most biology textbooks now focus more on molecules, cells and internal anatomy than on the diversity and habits of species. It has even become fashionable among some educators to belittle the teaching of natural history and scientific facts that can be “regurgitated” on tests in favor of theoretical concepts.

That attitude may work for armchair physics or mathematics, but it isn’t enough for understanding complex organisms and ecosystems in the real world. Computer models and equations are of little use without details from the field to test them against.

Are we in the midst of a global insect Armageddon that most of us have failed to notice?

Berkeley prof gets first-hand taste of fake news

UC Berkeley, Berkeley News


Yuriy Gorodnichenko wants you to know that he appreciates the irony of his paper on how political information spreads across Twitter becoming a victim of … how political information spreads across Twitter.

Gorodnichenko, a UC Berkeley economics professor, published a paper this month arguing that automated Twitter bots could have played a small but potentially influential role in the 2016 Brexit vote and 2016 U.S. presidential elections.

“Given the narrow margins of victories in each vote, bots’ effect was likely marginal but possibly large enough to affect the outcomes,” Gorodnichenko wrote, along with his co-authors Tho Pham and Oleksandr Talavera from Swansea University in the U.K.

The paper was picked up by Bloomberg on Monday, and from there it lit up Twitter. Users on the left pointed to the paper as proof that Russian-backed Twitter bots had elected Trump, while those on the right dismissed the paper entirely and journalists and some economists questioned the authors’ claim that bots swayed the election.

ARFL, MIT laboratories are testing advanced waveforms in high frequencies

Military Embedded Systems, Mariana Iriarte


Officials at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory (MIT-LL) and the Air Force Research Laboratory (ARFL) Information Directorate signed a commercial test agreement (CTA) to work together to test advanced waveforms that can work at high frequencies (i.e. HF-band).

The CTA enables for MIT-LL to test a newly developed multi-carrier waveform that can achieve high frequencies. The waveform was developed through work between MIT-LL, the Navy Research Laboratory, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense AT&L. The initial testing was conducted at the Information Directorate’s Stockbridge, New York test site in May of 2016. The testing site is one of only a few research laboratories that conduct research within the high-frequency band.

FPGAs for AI? GPUs and CPUs are the future, shrugs drone biz Insitu

The Register (UK), Gareth Corfield


“It’s just too hard to maintain all of those threads,” eye-in-the-sky drone firm Insitu told The Register, explaining its move away from FPGAs to commercial off-the-shelf compute hardware for its AI and machine learning tech.

The firm’s chief growth officer, Jon Damush, was answering our questions about the tech underneath the bonnet, so to speak. We know all about the aeronautical hardware but what’s the state of play with its real special sauce, its image analysis software?

Damush – formerly a gros fromage at image-crunching firm 2D3 Sensing, which had a significant AI/ML-focused base in Oxford, until that company was snapped up by Insitu a few years ago – told us: “Most of the tools that are deployed today [on Insitu’s gear] are thin client tools that run on local computers, so dedicated metal if you will, which the customer likes because it’s in their secure environment. But in the last two years we’ve been investing in building a cloud-based data management system so that we can store and move data globally with the use of secure cloud.”

Can this bird adapt to a warmer climate? Read the genes to find out

The Conversation, Rachel Bay


I worked with a group of biologists associated with the Bird Genoscape Project who are concerned with the impact of a changing climate. We decided to investigate this question using yellow warblers. These migratory birds are found throughout most of Canada and the U.S. during the summer, inhabiting environments that range from the hot, dry Central Valley of California to the cool damp Pacific Northwest. If you live in North America, there are probably yellow warblers close by.

Pre-clinical drug screening startup A-Alpha Bio wins first place at Univ. of Washington Business Plan Competition

GeekWire, Taylor Soper


Pharmaceutical companies spend a lot of money and time developing new drugs. Now a new startup created by a group of University of Washington students is using technology to bring more efficiency to that process.

A-Alpha Bio took home the $25,000 first place prize at the 21st annual University of Washington Business Plan Competition on Thursday, beating out 36 other teams from 16 colleges and universities across the Pacific Northwest.

The company aims to enable more thorough pre-clinical drug screening and allow drug developers to test for thousands of side effects simultaneously, reducing the amount of time it takes for medicine to reach the clinic.

Turing Award winner Michael Stonebraker suggests that the current “diarrhea of papers” is not healthy for science #slowscience

Twitter, Gerard de Melo


Jeannette Wing Named to New York City Task Force to Study Algorithms Used by the City

Columbia University, Data Science Institute


Jeannette M. Wing, Avanessians Director of the Data Science Institute and Professor of Computer Science at Columbia University, has been appointed to a New York City task force that will develop a process for reviewing how the city uses automatic decision systems, or algorithms.

In announcing the task force, the first of its kind in the United States, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio explained, “As data and technology become more central to the work of city government, the algorithms we use to aid decision making must be aligned with our goals and values. The establishment of the Automated Decision Systems Task Force is an important first step towards greater transparency and equity in our use of technology.”

NSF-Simons centers to search for the Rules of Life

National Science Foundation


The National Science Foundation (NSF), in partnership with the Simons Foundation, has launched four new centers to bring mathematical perspectives to the biological search for the Rules of Life.

The NSF-Simons Research Centers for Mathematics of Complex Biological Systems will explore how information encoded in DNA results in complex organisms with diverse forms, functions and behaviors when it is manipulated by changing environments across multiple time scales.

Opening discussions about Library Carpentry being a Lesson Organisation with The Carpentries

The Carpentries


The Carpentries’ Executive Council and the Library Carpentry governance team vote to start discussions

MSU technology and app could help endangered primates, slow illegal trafficking

Michigan State University, MSU Today


New facial recognition software and app invented at Michigan State University can help protect endangered primates – more than 60 percent of which face extinction.

Golden monkeys have lost so much habitat, they are only found in a handful of national parks in Africa; farming and illegal hardwood trade in Madagascar is gobbling up the island’s forests and displacing native lemurs; in a recent six-year span, more than 22,200 great apes have been lost due to illegal trade, and yet there have been only 27 arrests.

“Intervention is necessary to halt and reverse these population declines,” said Anil Jain, MSU Distinguished Professor of computer science and engineering and senior author on the study. “Automated facial recognition is one way we can help combat these loses.”

The West is ill-prepared for the wave of “deep fakes” that artificial intelligence could unleash

The Brookings Institution, Christopher Meserole and Alina Polyakova


Russian disinformation has become a problem for European governments. In the last two years, Kremlin-backed campaigns have spread false stories alleging that French President Emmanuel Macron was backed by the “
gay lobby,” fabricated a story of a Russian-German girl
raped by Arab migrants, and spread
a litany of conspiracy theories about the Catalan independence referendum, among other efforts.

Europe is finally taking action. In January, Germany’s
Network Enforcement Act came into effect. Designed to limit hate speech and fake news online, the law prompted both
France and
Spain to consider counterdisinformation legislation of their own. More important, in April the European Union unveiled a
new strategy for tackling online disinformation. The EU plan focuses on
several sensible responses: promoting media literacy, funding a third-party fact-checking service, and pushing Facebook and others to highlight news from credible media outlets, among others. Although the plan itself stops short of regulation, EU officials have not been shy about hinting that regulation may be forthcoming. Indeed, when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared at an EU hearing this week, lawmakers reminded him of their regulatory power after he appeared
to dodge their questions on fake news and extremist content.


FORCE2018 – Montreal



Montreal, Quebec, Canada October 11-12. “The FORCE11 Conference brings together a diverse group of people interested in changing the way in which scholarly and scientific information is communicated and shared. Our goal is to maximize efficiency and accessibility.” [$$$]

Tools & Resources

Accelerate Computer Vision & Deep Learning with OpenVINO™ toolkit

Intel Software


The toolkit is a free download that helps fast-track development of high-performance computer vision and deep learning inference solutions, and deliver fast and efficient deep learning workloads across multiple types of Intel® platforms (CPU, CPU with integrated graphics, FPGA, and Movidius™ vision processing units (VPUs).



Postdoctoral Research Associate

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, National Center for Supercomputing Applications; Urbana, IL
Full-time positions outside academia

Senior Manager, Analytics

Conde Nast, The New Yorker; New York, NY

Data Experience – Senior UX Engineer

Netflix; Los Gatos, CA

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