Daily Archives: June 10, 2016

illustrations of witchcraft-caused eye diseases from the 16th century


Georg Bartisch dedicated his life to the study and treatment of the eye and its diseases.

Born in Königsbrück, Saxony in 1535, Bartisch was apprenticed to a barber surgeon at the age of thirteen. After three years training, he set off to ply his trade as an itinerant surgeon—carrying out operations, amputations, and diagnosing illness amongst the populace of Saxony, Silesia, and Bohemia.

Medicine at this time was still prone to a belief in the superstitious. Bartisch believed a patient could be diagnosed through their astrological chart or horoscope and that magic, astrology and indeed witchcraft itself played an important role in the diagnosis and treatment of disease.

His main interest was ophthalmology. Though never academically trained, Bartisch excelled in his study of eye diseases and their cures, and was recognized as a leading expert in ocular medicine and surgery. One can imagine how brutal and painful such procedures would have been at this time when there was very poor hygiene and no anaesthetics.

Bartisch also believed myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism could be corrected by the wearing of masks rather than by the use of eyeglasses (see illustrations below). He believed a glass held in front of the eyes would only further damage the patient’s sight.

Though many of his ideas may seem strange to us now, Bartisch was a pioneer and his major contribution to ocular medicine was his compendium or “atlas” Ophthalmodouleia Das ist Augendienst published in 1583. It was the first book that detailed eye diseases and was responsible in establishing ophthalmology as a separate and distinct medical discipline.

continue http://dangerousminds.net/comments/jeepers_creepers_surreal_illustrations_of_witchcraft-caused_eye_diseases_fr

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First Surgical Robot from Secretive Startup Auris Cleared for Use

Image: Auris Surgical/U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
An artist’s rendering (from Auris’s patent application) that gives a hint of what the teleoperated ARES surgical robot could look like.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just approved the first medical robot from Auris Surgical, a stealthy startup led by the co-founder of industry leader Intuitive Surgical, makers of the widely-used da Vinci robot.

The teleoperated ARES robot (the acronym stands for Auris Robotic Endoscopy System), was cleared by the FDA at the end of May, and could now be used for diagnosing and treating patients.

Auris, which describes itself only as a “technology company based in Silicon Valley,” was previously thought to be working on a robotic microsurgical system designed to remove cataracts, and the company has in fact filed several patent applications along those lines.

However, an investigation by IEEE Spectrum suggests that the company has greater ambitions, including, according to current and former employees, “building the next generation of surgical robots… capable of expanding the applicability of robotics to a broad spectrum of medical procedures.”


continue http://spectrum.ieee.org/the-human-os/biomedical/devices/first-surgical-robot-from-secretive-startup-auris-cleared-for-use

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New Details Emerge About the Plan to Build an Artificial Human Genome

Last month, a group of scientists, lawyers, and entrepreneurs gathered in secret to discuss the possibility of creating a synthetic human genome from scratch. Details of the plan have finally been made public, and it’s as ambitious as it sounds. But critics say they founders of the new project are avoiding the tough ethical questions.

George Church from Harvard Medical School, and one of the co-founders of the new initiative. (Image: Steve Jurvetson)It’s called the Human Genome Project-write (HGP-write), and it’s an effort to build and deploy a fully synthetic genome in human cell lines within 10 years. As the founders of the project describe in a short Science Perspectives article, the goal is to develop powerful new technologies that’ll allow scientists to bind long strings of synthetically made human DNA to power cells in a petri dish.

“The purpose of this project is to develop and test large genomes in cells, and that is where it stops,” noted Nancy Kelley in MIT Review. Kelly is a fundraiser and lead executive of the project. That being said, these biotechnologies could eventually be used to create artificial organisms and even designer humans.

It’s an ambitious goal that will require substantial improvements in DNA synthesis technologies. The new initiative, co-founded by Harvard Medical School’s George Church and NYU Langone Medical Center’s Jef Boeke, is an effort to overcome current limitations and develop the tools and knowledge required to synthesize long strands of DNA. The plan, which will implemented through a new independent, nonprofit organization called the Center of Excellence for Engineering Biology, will need to acquire $100 million if it’s to meet its 10-year timeline. If everything goes according to plan, the cost of fabricating DNA could drop 1,000-fold over that time, making it incredibly affordable to build genomes from scratch.

George Church from Harvard Medical School, and one of the co-founders of the new initiative. (Image: Steve Jurvetson)

If the new name sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve heard of its predecessor, the Human Genome Project-read (HGP-read). But instead of building DNA-reading technologies, the founders of HGP-write want to develop and apply powerful cellular machinery for the purpose of constructing vast chains of DNA. To date, the ability to build DNA sequences in cells has been restricted to a small number of short segments, hindering scientists’ ability to alter and understand biological systems.

continue http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/Dvorsky20160610

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Oklahoma Cops Debut Tool That Allows Them To Drain Pre-Paid Cards During Traffic Stops

In it, the CBC’s Neil MacDonald pointed out that being “not from around here,” coupled with rental vehicles and cash — made visiting Canadians little more than rolling ATMs for “drug interdiction task forces” sporting nifty acronyms and friendly asset-sharing partnerships with federal agencies.

MacDonald listed a few tactics that might lower Canadians’ chances of being robbed at badgepoint:

Avoid long chats if you’re pulled over. Answer questions politely and concisely, then persistently ask if you are free to go.

Don’t leave litter on the vehicle floor, especially energy drink cans.

Don’t use air or breath fresheners; they could be interpreted as an attempt to mask the smell of drugs.

Don’t be too talkative. Don’t be too quiet. Try not to wear expensive designer clothes. Don’t have tinted windows.

And for heaven’s sake, don’t consent to a search if you are carrying a big roll of legitimate cash.

Cash = guilt to many law enforcement agencies, even if they’re only interested in pursuing cash, rather than criminal charges.


[T]he Oklahoma Highway Patrol has a device that also allows them to seize money in your bank account or on prepaid cards.

It’s called an ERAD, or Electronic Recovery and Access to Data machine, and state police began using 16 of them last month.

Here’s how it works. If a trooper suspects you may have money tied to some type of crime, the highway patrol can scan any cards you have and seize the money.

continue http://tinyurl.com/zmc3psn

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Sir Tim Berners-Lee: Internet Has Become ‘World’s Largest Surveillance Network’

World Wide Web creator joins others in the fight for a more secure, private and neutral internet
British physicist and computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee

WORLD WIDE WEB CREATOR Sir Tim Berners-Lee has said that the internet has fallen into the hands of large corporations and governments and become the “world’s largest surveillance network”.

Berners-Lee explained in an interview with The New York Times that his invention has steadily come under the control of powerful interests.

“It controls what people see. It creates mechanisms for how people interact. It’s been great, but spying, blocking sites, repurposing people’s content, taking you to the wrong websites completely undermines the spirit of helping people create,” he said.

INQ debate: The Internet Of Things is an existential threat for technology adoption laggards

“The problem is the dominance of one search engine, one big social network, one Twitter for microblogging.”

Berners-Lee met a group of internet activists this week, including Brewster Kahle, head of the Internet Archive, and fellow internet pioneer Vint Cerf, in San Francisco at the Decentralized Web Summit to discuss ways of “re-decentralising” the internet, giving more control to individuals and ensuring more privacy and security.

It is a subject that he has returned to time and again. Berners-Lee attended the launch of the documentary ForEveryone.net at the Sundance Film Festival in January, and talked about the importance of defending net neutrality in an age when technology allows unprecedented control of the world’s communications.

“The temptation to grab control of the internet by the government or by a company is always going to be there. They will wait until we’re sleeping, because if you’re a government or a company and you can control something, you’ll want it,” he said.

continue http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/2460894/sir-tim-berners-lee-internet-has-become-world-s-largest-surveillance-network

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Getting started with IRC

Getting started with IRC
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Recent years have shown a resurgence in online chat technology. From WhatsApp and SnapChat on mobile to Mattermost, Telegram, and Slack (among others) on all platforms, real time text communication is hot. These tools help support collaboration and communication among distributed team members as well as enable the building and management of diverse communities.

Yet this is an example of “everything old is new again.” Realtime chat has been a cornerstone of online life since before the invention of the World Wide Web. MUDs (and MUSHes and MUCKs), BBSes, and the talk command allowed real- (or near real-) time chat as early as 1980. ICQ, AOL | Yahoo! | Microsoft Messengers, Google Talk—and aggregators for them such as Meebo—dominated the online chat scene throughout the 1990s and early 2000s.

Through all of the realtime chat churn, however, the venerable IRC continues to perservere.

Created in 1988 by Jarkko Orkarinen (a year before Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web), Internet Relay Chat (aka IRC) has had a sometimes tumultuous history. Its networks have forked—and then forked again—over issues of implementation and community, yet still it persists as a robust realtime chat option today.

Software doesn’t reach such a venerable age without developing a reputation. The most commonly mentioned facets of IRC’s reputation is that it is arcane and opaque to learn, with an online presence which is neither logged nor persistent by default. Beyond that, it’s just not as “shiny” or “usable” as more modern alternatives. Whether this reputation is deserved appears to depend upon the experience and preference of the listener. Some of us (and, yes, I proudly count myself among this number) are more swayed by other facets of IRC’s reputation: It is open to anyone. It is loggable. It is scriptable. It is discoverable. It is ubiquitous. It is free, in all senses of the word.

Whatever your personal opinion of IRC, the truth remains that if you wish to participate in open source software and communities, you will need to learn how to use it. The Open and Free Technology Community (OFTC) IRC network has nearly 2500 different channels. Mozilla’s IRC network hosts thousands of users and over a thousand channels. The Freenode IRC network boasts over 50,000 different channels and over eighty thousand users, most of them dedicated to free and open source projects.

continue https://opensource.com/life/16/6/irc

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An IRC quickstart guide

An IRC quickstart guide


With the basic concepts of IRC under your belt, you’re ready to dive in and get started with IRC. This guide will help minimize the learning curve and get you into the conversations as easily as possible. Once you get started you’ll find that IRC can be a great place for learning, fun, and friendships.


Types of input

IRC accepts two basic types of input:

  1. Talking: Simply type & press enter to say something.
  2. Commands: All commands start with a /. Many accept or require arguments. For a full list of commands, run the /help command.

User modes

For the most part, everyone on an IRC channel is technically of the same status. Some people, however, have a higher status and have the ability to police the channel according to its culture and values. These people are called operators (aka “opers”, aka “ops”). The operators on a channel have their nicks prefixed by an @ symbol.

Some channels are configured such that only certain people are allowed to speak in them. These people are said to be “voiced.” Voiced people on a channel have their nicks prefixed by a + symbol.


Connecting to a network

Each client will have their own interface for doing this, but each one will need the same information:

  • Network hostname (chat.freenode.net for Freenode, for instance)
  • Port (6697 is typical)
  • Nickname (of your choice)
  • NickServ password (optional, especially if you’ve not yet registered your nick)

Registering your nickname

Once connected to the server, send a message to the nickserv service:

continue https://opensource.com/life/16/6/irc-quickstart-guide

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Can the Internet Ever Really Be Policed?

On , a report appeared on Gizmodo revealing that Facebook employees were “curating” the trending feed by removing content that would be appealing for politically conservative members of the site. Later the same month, major players in the tech industry agreed voluntarily to enforce the EU’s hate speech rules.

Attempting to police the Internet is no longer a phenomenon that occurs in a country far away from the North American/European bubble. While many consider these actions the diminution of an individual’s freedom of expression, this is a discussion best held in another context at another time. The question I am setting out to answer is whether it is practical to attempt to police speech on the Internet, whatever form this kind of action may take.


Radio band-based broadcasting, both on television and radio, was the key form of entertainment and information during the period where the majority of the Eastern Bloc fell under various forms of authoritarian regimes. They were relatively easy to police due to the fact that each channel would broadcast all of its content in one single steady stream (Romania, for example, broadcast its content through Televiziunea Român for only two hours of the day during the 80s). Of course, there were attempts (with various measures of success) to break into the Iron Curtain through projects such as Radio Free Europe which would broadcast Western content through various frequencies in different nations. But, for the most part, the regimes of Eastern Europe kept a relatively ironclad grip on broadcast content until the civil unrest of the late 80s and early 90s.

continue https://www.maketecheasier.com/internet-policed/

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Could Print Books Actually Be Going Away Anytime Soon?

It seems like a long time ago, but do you remember when the only way to read a book was with paper? Really, it was just a few years ago. There’s some debate about when the concept behind the eBook was created, but we do know they weren’t used much until the late ’90s.

It’s history notwithstanding, it’s so secret that eBooks are pretty big deal today. You don’t even need a dedicated ereader to take in your digital books, as Kindle has its own app that delivers an experience that’s on par with the a reader.

That brings us to the question: are print books in danger of going away, or will they always have a place? The infographic below breaks it all down.

continue http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/could-print-books-actually-be-going-away-anytime-soon/

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The Craziest Demands of Student Activists This Year

No grades, no Shakespeare, and no students of different stripes—welcome to campus insanity in 2016. “We have spoken. We are speaking. Pay attention.” So said Yale University students to the faculty of the English department, perfectly encapsulating the attitude of the college activist in 2016. Students at campuses across the country are demanding—not asking, but demanding—fundamental changes to their education. Sometimes, change is good, and these kids deserve to be heard. But the demands of student activists have increasingly taken an Orwellian bent—and, if met, would eviscerate the free speech rights of faculty members, campus visitors, and even other students.

Here are some of the craziest recent demands of liberal student activists this year.

Abolish English Classes that Feature White Male Poets


Yale activists who told the faculty, “We have spoken. We are speaking. Pay attention,” had a very specific demand: they wanted to purge the English department of its colonialist course offerings by restructuring classes focused on white male poets. Yale English majors are required to take a two-course sequence on the eight great poets of English literature: Geoffrey Chaucer, Edmund Spenser, William Shakespeare, John Donne, John Milton, Alexander Pope, William Wordsworth, and T.S. Eliot. The problem? These poets are all white men.


“It is unacceptable that a Yale student considering studying English literature might read only white male authors,” wrote student activists in a petition. “The Major English Poets sequences creates a culture that is especially hostile to students of color.” Yale does offer courses that feature more diverse readings. But the students have to complete the main sequence—on white male authors—first. For the angry students, that’s a problem. Explicitly, they don’t want more “diversity,” according to their petition: they don’t want to learn about so many dead white guys.

Of course, it’s not the English department’s fault that most of the very best poetry was written by wealthy white men. It’s not right, and it isn’t fair, that rich white men dominated Western culture for centuries, but nevertheless, that’s how history happened. Students should feel free to explore how female authors, and authors of color, were mistreated throughout history, but this shouldn’t exempt them from studying Shakespeare.


Implement Segregated Safe Spaces

It’s not just that the curriculum is too white:

some students actually resent having to spend so much time surrounded by people who don’t belong to their tribe. Many activists, in fact, have asked their colleges to create segregated safe spaces for students of color, female students, LGBT students, or students of some other identity group.


In another age, such demands would have been ridiculed as racist. Imagine white students seeking to create a separate area for whites only. This effort would be denounced on both moral and legal grounds—there’s this thing called the Civil Rights Act—and rightfully so.

But it’s an increasingly popular demand among far-left student protesters. At the University of Arizona, the Marginalized Students (PDF)—a coalition of self-described oppressed students, including the Latino student association, black student association, Asian student association, LGBT student association, Native American student association, and women’s center—want safe spaces for each unique identity group. The black students, for instance, want a residence hall to themselves.


They are hardly alone. Student-activists at New York University want one floor of a campus building turned over to black students, and another floor given to LGBT students.

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It’s not always clear that non-black students would be welcome in such spaces. Following the protests at the University of Missouri that brought about the ouster of Mizzou President Tim Wolfe, black student activists set up spaces of healing. They specifically asked white students—even those who self-identified as allies—to leave.


Students have the right to segregate themselves into groups, but there’s good reason for universities to avoid creating such spaces by design. A Facebook group that doubled as a safe space for women of color at the Claremont Colleges was anything but safe: several of the female students who frequented the group consistently posted hateful and derogatory comments about people of other genders and races.

Isn’t the point of college to bring people from diverse backgrounds together, rather than keep them apart?

continue http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/06/07/the-craziest-demands-of-college-kids-in-2016.html

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The Danger of Corporate Facial Recognition Tech

he Illinois Biometric Privacy Statute Survived a Recent Attack. But the Struggle Continues.

Supporters of unregulated corporate facial recognition systems are waging a sneak attack against our nation’s strongest protection of biometric privacy. On one side are business interests seeking to profit by using invasive facial recognition technologies to identify and track vast numbers of people without their consent.  On the other side are EFF and many other digital privacy and consumer rights organizations. Our side won the latest round. But the future of biometric privacy will require all of our constant vigilance.

The latest example of successfully working together: privacy advocates sprung into action last month and defeated a bill that would have repealed most of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, a groundbreaking law protecting your biometric data. The bill would have deregulated scans of faces, irises, retinas, and hands, and left in place regulation only of fingerprints and voiceprints. In addition to gutting people’s privacy, it would also have undercut lawsuits pending against Facebook and other companies for violating the original strong law. The bill, filed just before the Memorial Day weekend, appeared set for quick passage before the end of the regular legislative session.

The day after the bill was introduced, EFF sent an opposition letter co-signed by the ACLU of Illinois, the Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Action, the Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Watchdog, Illinois PIRG, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Restore the Fourth, U.S. PIRG, the World Privacy Forum, and Professor Alvaro Bedoya. Illinois PIRG and the World Privacy Forum sent additional opposition letters. The Illinois Attorney General also opposed the bill. Amid this chorus of dissent, the bill’s author announced they would not call the bill for a vote—a win for privacy and for the people of Illinois.

EFF also objects to police use of facial recognition technology. Just last week, EFF joined a coalition effort against the FBI’s attempt to exempt its massive Next Generation Identification database of biometric identifiers from the guarantees of the federal Privacy Act.

Facial Recognition Technologies Endanger Our Privacy

The Illinois law is so important because increasingly sophisticated technology is making it easier than ever to capture and match our faces–remotely, secretly, cheaply, and automatically. New cameras can capture our facial images at ever greater distances and with ever higher precision. New computer programs can match our facial images with ever greater accuracy. New interoperability systems allow this facial matching across ever more databases.

Our faces are readily accessible to other people, and most people must expose their faces to other people in order to participate in society. When we do so, there is very little that we can do as individuals to prevent other people from capturing the images of our faces and subjecting us to facial recognition technologies.

If someone stalks us or commits identify theft against us by using our passwords or credit card numbers, we can defend ourselves by simply changing those unique identifiers. We can even change our names. But contrary to what action movies suggest, we cannot change our faces.

The private sector is deploying facial recognition systems with ever growing frequency. For example, Face First sells systems that retailers use to identify the people entering their stores, and assess whether (in the words of Face First) they are “bad guys” likely to shoplift or “good customers” who should be made more welcome. Similarly, Churchix sells systems that allow houses of worship to automatically determine who is attending their worship services. Analysts expect the global market for facial recognition technologies to double from $3 billion in 2015 to $6 billion in 2020.

continue https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2016/06/danger-corporate-facial-recognition-tech

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Supersmart satellites reveal crops and fields like never before

WE’VE long had eyes in the sky. But now a handful of start-ups are using these satellites to monitor everything from flood damage to crop yield with greater frequency and detail than ever before.

Efforts to keep tabs on Earth from above began with NASA’s Landsat programme, which started in 1973. It currently has two satellites in orbit imaging the whole of Earth’s surface every 16 days. The resolution is high enough to capture major roads, but not individual houses.

“Small commercial satellites can now provide previously unavailable intel on crop yields and construction“

More recent satellites supply far greater detail – and more often. Thanks to private firms like SpaceX, the cost of launching a commercial satellite is also a lot less than it used to be. But the real breakthrough is in the computer-assisted analysis that can be done on the images. Improvements in machine learning let us analyse high-definition images of Earth’s surface to gain previously unavailable insights about our planet and the way it is changing.

For example, Google-owned Terra Bella offers its customers overviews of how land is being used around the world and assessments of flood damage, as well as information about the progress of construction projects. Other companies are using satellites to look for landfill sites that might be profitably mined for valuable materials.

Astro Digital, a company based at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, provides similar intel. But it will also focus on monitoring agricultural land – letting farmers monitor their crops from several hundred kilometres up.

It’s all about building tools that mine insight from large volumes of data, says Bronwyn Agrios at Astro Digital. “This is not about creating maps or pretty pictures.”

In three months, Astro Digital will launch the first of its Landmapper satellites on a SpaceX rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base near Lompoc in California. The company’s set-up will eventually consist of 30 satellites orbiting 650 kilometres above Earth.

continue https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg23030771-300-satellites-and-artificial-intelligence-provide-intel-from-space/

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