Reader's Corner for July 2016

July 31, 2016

Trump said he would like to hear from me about my son. Here’s what I have to say.

Academia has become a high-stakes gamble—and the losers can barely afford pants

"Then I asked if she could substantiate rumors that the position would eventually translate into tenure-track position. This answer was more troubling. “Universities aren’t really looking to make thirty-year commitments anymore,” says the beneficiary of such a sinecure. In the space of five minutes this Dean had summarized my plight: because I’ve never held a tenure-track position, my decade of productivity put me in no greater standing for a job than someone fresh out of grad school; and those tenure-track positions—the only means to vindicate that work—aren’t in the interests of higher-education administrators."

1) Intro & Motivations 2) Findings 3) Analysis 4) Methodology 5) Advice 6) Notable bug I: Second order subdomain/page takeovers 7) Notable bug II: DOM Based XSS via subtitle tracks 1) Intro & Motivations At the start of of this year, I set myself a personal goal of finding

Quite impressive

A few years ago, I became aware of serious problem in science: the irreproducibility crisis. A group of researchers at Amgen, an American…

The most common question students have about mathematics is “when will I ever use this?” Many math teachers would probably struggle to give…

"And while Devlin’s particular example is very specialized, a consultant for defense intelligence, his technique is universal. It’s one of the foundations of the wishy-washy term “critical thinking.” So now an average citizen who might discard the idea of mathematics is listening to the news and hears a politician say, “We have strong evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.” If they had a good mathematics education they will ask, “What exactly do you mean by strong evidence and weapons of mass destruction?” And, the crucial follow-up question, does the definition provided justify the proposed response, starting a war? If you don’t understand the definition you can’t make an informed voting decision. (Of course, if you watch the news for entertainment and to be part of a political tribe, the truth is irrelevant)"

July 27, 2016

Clinton aides are addressing a potentially thorny problem: Historically, when Mr. Clinton has time on his hands, he can create dangerous distractions for his wife.

I don't even know where to begin ...

"Mr. Clinton is not likely to shoulder many of the traditional duties of first ladies, advisers say, like selecting [Alice] House china and floral arrangements and presiding as the host in the national home and arranging state dinners. Some of that is expected to fall to the Clintons’ daughter, Chelsea. Mr. Clinton also has not given thought to using the role of first gentleman to redefine images and ideas about American masculinity and patriarchy, nor has he decided if he might draw on his personal interests — like veganism — for a healthy-eating initiative the way [Bob] Obama did, his advisers say."

July 26, 2016

Programmers have been trying to make phone number entry forms that are as terrible and hilariously difficult to use as possible. And, so far, they've been succeeding.

“Reconstituting the Submerged State: The Challenges of Social Policy Reform in the Obama Era,” a paper by Cornell’s Clinton Rossiter Professor of American Institutions Suzanne Met…


Driverless cars threaten to crash insurers’ earnings

"While many in the insurance industry expect the new technologies to improve and proliferate, “we are still operating in an era when car makers are recalling millions of vehicles for the simplest of technology failures: ignition switches, floor mats and air bags,” said Robert Hartwig, president of trade group Insurance Information Institute.

He said many prognosticators with speedy timetables for driverless-car adoption “have drunk too much of the Silicon Valley Kool-Aid.”"

A few days ago, a new type of gold/item scam made the rounds. Usually scamming in MMORPGs is done using social engineering techniques, e.g. an attacker sells a fake item code for alleged in-game items like mounts to a potential victim for in-game currency. But this most recent kind of attack...

Sure, let's make it easy for users to shoot themselves in the foot.

A detailed look at the interesting LSM file organisation seen in BigTable, Cassandra and most recently MongoDB

A pretty good read on LSMs, why they're useful, and where they're needed. I still think it's unfortunate that I haven't seen them covered in databases classes

July 25, 2016

Indian troops have responded to protests in Kashmir with a brutality rare even by their grim standards.

This was tough to read. A few snippets below.

"A single shot from a pellet gun sprays more than a hundred pellets. A pellet is a high-velocity projectile 2mm to 4mm around and with sharp edges. It doesn’t simply penetrate an eye; it ricochets inside it, tearing the retina and the optic nerves, scooping out flesh and bone."

"[Alice] Nazir, a reed-thin boy of 12, barely filled one corner of his bed. A thick swathe of bandages formed a cross across his chest and belly. He had black, adult-size glasses. “He’s lost both his eyes,” Dr. Shafi said. Doctors had yet to deliver the news to Nazir [Bob], the boy’s father, a day laborer in Pulwama, a district in southern Kashmir, but he already seemed to know. Mr. [Bob], tall and wiry, looked at the doctor, his eyes liquid with entreaty: “Dr. Sahib, we own one-fifth of an acre of land in the village. I will sell all my land, but please make him see.”"

"A few days later, the police raided the offices of Greater Kashmir, the daily that had run that story about Insha, as well as several other local newspapers, and shut down the printing presses. The authorities’ familiar silencing routine had begun again. Indian officials and thought leaders fell back on tired rituals of obfuscation and denial. But already one line of graffiti had appeared on every other wall throughout the entire valley: “Go India, Go Back!”

Over the past 600 years, humans have had a rocky relationship with innovation.

Reminds me of the opposition to bicycles

Nintendo shares have skyrocketed since Pokémon Go's release and instant transformation into global cultural phenomenon, but they fell dramatically today after investors realized that Nintendo...


Every now and then, I hear someone say that game theory doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know. In a sense, they are right—game theory is a methodology, so it’s not …

July 24, 2016

Well, you can see the paper right here (“Synthetic recombinase-based state machines in living cells,” by Nathaniel Roquet, Ava P. Soleimany, Alyssa C. Ferris, Scott Aaronson, and Timothy K. Lu).  Unfortunately there’s a paywall, but I think we’ll be able to post our own version before long (will che...

This is a super cool look into hardcore mathematical biology

An injectable, jello-like substance reduces chronic inflammation, and may aid limb transplantations.

Exciting times

July 23, 2016

From lonely pensioners to Japanese schoolgirls with shattered dreams, Takanobu Nishimoto and his crew of middle-aged men will lend an ear to clients who would never dream of spilling their guts to a therapist or worse, their families. "For me, the service is a hobby more than anything," says

Pile of neglected research gets passed off as new data by reporters.

"Here's hoping that, in future, scientists like Dr. Boobis will be taken more seriously."

New programming languages with a system-level compile target should choose Rust over LLVM. Targeting Rust can give new languages free package management, a type system, and memory safety while not imposing too many opinions on the language's runtime. With more work on languages, tooling, and Rust co...

We audited Pornhub, then PHP and broke both. In particular, we have gained remote code execution on and have earned a 20.000$ bug bounty.

Hardcore stuff

Sub-Saharan Africa and Emerging Asia lead the pack over an 8-year term in improving its citizens lives, while Western Europe remains at the top of the current index

July 22, 2016

Biology textbooks tell us that lichens are alliances between two organisms—a fungus and an alga. They are wrong.

This headline takes the cake for the clickbaitiest headline I've ever seen; but the article is still quite interesting once you get past that

In some remote regions of Malawi, girls are made to have sex with a paid sex worker when they reach puberty - but the tradition has the potential to spread disease.

I don't have words for this

The Miami-Dade police union president said the North Miami cop who shot Charles Kinsey, an unarmed healthcare worker, was aiming at the autistic man sitting next to him, who was playing with a toy truck in the street.

After watching the video and then reading this, I don't even know where to begin, from the fact that they say they tried to shoot an autistic person, to leaving their "accidental" gunshot victim handcuffed and bleeding, to the fact that they never went close enough to de-escalate, or to the SWAT officer's skills for hitting the wrong person at 50 yards (and missing two shots too)

A new study examines earnings data to link declining job mobility to lower overall demand for workers, suggesting the focus on supply-side factors such as occupational licensing is misguided.

Don't most phones ask for a password after a certain amount of time anyway?

July 21, 2016

Overview On July 20, 2016 we experienced a 34 minute outage starting at 14:44 UTC. It took 10 minutes to identify the cause, 14 minutes to write the code to fix it, and 10 minutes to roll out the fix...

"This regular expression has been replaced with a substring function."

Turkish media and even government officials accuse America of being in on the plot

The highly intelligent birds gather around their fallen comrades, but why might surprise you.

A new study suggests that thumb sucking and nail biting may actually lower a child's chances of developing certain allergies.

I am still puzzling through the right way to think about some ideas in compression, so let’s take a break from that and talk about generally cleaning up the ...

A great series; this guy is super productive

July 20, 2016

Forget the cool kids. Geeks are now shaping new products and services

While this article does have a point, it's still kind of sad that we have to refer to people as "nerds" or "geeks" instead of, you know, people.

A US air strike killed nearly 60 civilians, including children, in Syria on Tuesday after the coalition mistook them for Islamic State fighters.


I enjoy breaking websites.

July 19, 2016

We surveyed Americans and a panel of nutrition experts about which foods they thought were good or bad for you.

An obscure research project could radically accelerate innovation in programming language design

This is exciting

Millennials could become the first generation to earn less than their predecessors, wiping out generational pay progress, new research concludes.

Activists are campaigning to change a 100-year-old mentality that they say trivializes the single most common cause of traffic incidents: human error.

July 18, 2016

It’s true, as the adage goes, that they’re not making land anymore, but technology that allows more intensive use of land has held down values in the long term.

"A more extreme outcome is also quite plausible. In a hundred years, we might even see much of our former farmland converted back to wildlife preserves. In fact, it’s far from inconceivable that the real price of land could be even lower than it is right now."

1 How I Could Steal Money from Instagram, Google and Microsoft Posted on July 15, 2016 by Arne TL;DR: Instagram ($2000), Google ($0) and Microsoft ($500) were vulnerable to direct money theft via premium phone number calls. They all offer services to supply users with a token via a computer-voiced p...

Definitely an interesting way of making money

I have always loved tech. I even code with it. But, I decided it was time to expand technology’s target audience to include seniors.

Making high-quality biodiesel is hard. Getting paid $100 million to not make it was kind of a snap

"In the early going, sellers sent the EPA spreadsheets listing RINs sold, strictly for record keeping. Skeptics wondered whether this system would work in the real world. [Alice] Hubbard, a former EPA special agent for criminal enforcement in Boston, says, “Folks like me would sit in the room with senior leadership, and they’d be saying people are going to self-report, and we would be rolling our eyes.”"

Quick, what’s the difference between these two C/C++ definitions of initialized local variables? char buffer[32] = { 0 };char buffer[32] = {}; One difference is that the first is legal in C a…

July 16, 2016

New research shows a dramatic drop in painkiller prescriptions after medical marijuana laws are passed.

Interesting data, albeit with a click bait headline.

"In medical-marijuana states, the average doctor prescribed 265 fewer doses of antidepressants each year, 486 fewer doses of seizure medication, 541 fewer anti-nausea doses and 562 fewer doses of anti-anxiety medication.

But most strikingly, the typical physician in a medical-marijuana state prescribed 1,826 fewer doses of painkillers in a given year."

New report calculates that earnings did not rise for more than half a billion people between 2005 and 2014

For as long as I can remember there have been two Microsofts: Microsoft Sales and everyone else. It’s a split that exists in most tech…

The future is high-end Chinese food.

"Consider the cases of steak frites and carne asada. They both involve cooking a fairly high-quality cut of meat over high heat, and they’re both dishes whose origins are foreign to America. But they’re often listed on American menus at vastly different prices. Why?"

Action taken to ‘reinstate constitutional order, human rights and freedoms’, say armed forces

Go offline for a few hours and you miss everything it seems

July 15, 2016

Insights from the mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujan give us a number of ways to explore the infinite.


My mother has been working for one of the largest banks in the EU since before I was born and I’ve always been fascinated by her line of…

This is super cool

July 14, 2016

There is such a surplus of Ph.D.s that in the most popular fields, like biomedicine, fewer than one in six reach their goal in academia.

"Now, as a new crop of graduate students receives Ph.D.s in science, researchers worry over the future of some of these dedicated people; they’re trained to be academics and are often led to believe that anything else is an admission of failure."

Manufacturers have made it increasingly difficult for individuals or independent repair people to fix electronics. A growing movement is fighting back

About Prof. A. Z. Al Hafi A Brief Citation for the Arch-Researcher Prof. A.Z. Al-Hafi: Over the itinerary-course of the new century rising years, the ‘epitome watchword’ Prof. Al Hafi has iconically emerged as a colossal-authority figure, in multi-disciplinary, as well as inter-disciplinary spheres…

This guy takes the cake

July 13, 2016

I enjoy breaking websites.

Virtually all smartphones have FM chipsets inside, but you're probably locked out of using it.

The Frontside is an Ember software consultancy based in Austin, TX. We use Ember.js to build dynamic, rich web applications that make people happy.

July 12, 2016

Google and LinkedIn officials on Tuesday announced a surprise deal for a massive property swap that would trade real estate and development rights, consolidating Google's presence in Mountain View and effectively sending LinkedIn out of North Bayshore and over to the Sunnyvale border.

This is a huge surprise

July 11, 2016

“The axle count of trains in Switzerland must not be a multiple of 2^8 of the system does not detect a train.”

software fail

Technically Incorrect: Police in O'Fallon, Missouri, warn players of the augmented-reality game to be very careful.

It begins

What happened next is a sad indictment of school maths.

"School mathematics is presented as a collection of immutable truths. Problems are binary: there is a right answer and you’re damned if you can’t find it. Curriculum standards do not reflect the rich, exploratory forms of problem solving that underpin mathematical thinking."

When a young labor lawyer named Andrew Schmidt first filed suit against Uber in December of last year, he couldn’t have predicted it would make him a target. Schmidt’s suit was a legal longshot,...


July 10, 2016

Amazon sellers have long dealt with counterfeiters, but with Chinese goods flooding the marketplace the problem is exploding.

The leading killers — cancer, heart disease and stroke – are coming later in life in wealthy countries as people in general live longer in good health.

What Dallas authorities did on Thursday raises concerns about due process and the use of remotely triggered lethal force by law enforcement.

"The ability for police to remotely kill suspects raises due process concerns. If a shooter is holed up and alone, can they be qualified as an imminent threat to life? Are there clear protocols about when a robot can be used to engage a suspect versus when a human needs to engage him or her? When can the use of lethal force be administered remotely?"

I played today’s popular PC games with no dedicated video card, and I kinda liked it.

It's possible that string theory or the multiverse may find strong links with data, but a recent book provides a view of what a truly different philosophical approach would look like, says Adam Frank.

Definitely sounds like an interesting approach

July 9, 2016

Why I don’t talk about race with White people

This is an amazing piece of writing, clearly a must read. So difficult to pick out any one single quote.

"But here is the irony, here’s the thing that all the angry Black people know, and no calmly debating [Alice] people want to admit: The entire discussion of race in America centers around the protection of [Alice] feelings.

Ask any Black person and they'll tell you the same thing. The reality of thousands of innocent people raped, shot, imprisoned, and systematically disenfranchised are less important than the suggestion that a single [Alice] person might be complicit in a racist system.

This is the country we live in. Millions of Black lives are valued less than a single [Alice] person’s hurt feelings."

Joe Walsh said Obama won election because "black man who was articulate."


July 8, 2016

A growing number of young people are selling their bodies online to pay student loans, make the rent, or afford designer labels. Is it just an unorthodox way to make ends meet or a new kind of exploitation? Nancy Jo Sales investigates.

Super engrossing human interest story

"The most surprising thing about Miranda’s story is how unsurprising it is to many of her peers. “Almost all of my friends do some sort of sex work,” says Katie, 23, a visual artist in New York. “It’s super-common. It’s almost trendy to say you do it—or that you would.”

“It’s become like a thing people say when they can’t make their rent,” says Jenna, 22, a New York video-game designer. “ ‘Well, I could always just get a sugar daddy,’ ‘I guess I could just start camming,’ ” or doing sexual performances in front of a Webcam for money on sites like Chaturbate. “And it’s kind of a joke, but it’s also not because you actually could. It’s not like you need a pimp anymore. You just need a computer.”"

Edhi created a charitable empire out of nothing, masterminding Pakistan’s largest welfare organisation.


How a leafy sidewalk or a forest scene can make us feel richer, younger, and more focussed.

European commissions’ opposition to a continued global ban will spell the beginning of a mass extinction of African elephants, warn officials from 29 African states

This is crazy. We need to protect nature

It’s been almost two years now since the renowned Harvard economist Ricardo Hausmann caused a stir in his native Venezuela by posing an uncomfortable question.

The mega-city of New Delhi has tried everything from banning diesel guzzling SUVs to taking about half the city’s cars off the streets in a fight against air pollution. Officials may yet have to do much, much more, based on National Aeronautics and Space Administration satellite research.

This is super scary

July 7, 2016

We use Go at Twitch for many of our busiest systems. Its simplicity, safety, performance, and readability make it a good tool for the…

July 6, 2016

The F.B.I.’s recommendation will have an enormous impact on the presidential election.

""To be clear, this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions. But that is not what we are deciding now.""

July 5, 2016

A 22-year-old Illinois man has been charged with desecrating the American flag after he posted photos on Facebook along with messages decrying the state of violence and race in the U.S. This is the first time the Urbana Police Department has seen the flag desecration statute used in 27 years. Bryton...

Wait, burning a flag is a crime in the US?

The decision came after lawyers for the defendant, who is serving a life sentence, presented new evidence in the 1999 murder.

They’re not cheaters. Instead, they hone the sharpest (legal) edge they can.

"A month later, I met with a woman notorious for having won more than $20 million from casinos in less than five years. Her name was Cheung Yin Sun. Elite Western gamblers and rattled casino bosses know her as Kelly, a fast-talking, sunglasses-wearing advantage player in her 40s. Her father, now deceased, was a wealthy factory owner based in Hong Kong. She says she lost $20 million of his money playing baccarat and slot machines. She claims to be unbothered by having blown a fortune in gambling dens around the world. In fact, she all but brags about her losses."

Five tactics to keep company culture healthy.

"I’ve seen lots of cases where someone goes to their manager to protest a decision — on the direction of a project, resource allocations among teams, or something similar — on the basis that the decision was driven by politics or some other personal factor. More often than not in cases like these, the leadership team and the team’s managers simply haven’t done a good enough job of explaining the decision in the context of the company’s broader priorities. When we dig in and provide that additional context, the notion that the decision was politically driven is dispelled."

As retailers face consumer lawsuits over discounts, Amazon is changing the way it presents bargains to customers.

"The problem with list prices or, as they are sometimes called, manufacturers’ suggested retail prices, is that they are regularly more of a marketing concept than what anyone is actually charging. When Amazon was saying the list price of the Breville Infuser was $800, Breville itself was selling the machine for $500 — about the same as Amazon. Other retailers sell it for $500, too. Breville confirmed the price was $500."

"The shift away from list prices is taking some merchants on Amazon by surprise. A seller named Travis complained in an Amazon forum that the list price on his product — which he did not identify — had disappeared from the site. “I’m well aware that it is bogus but it is a common marketing tactic that works very well at boosting sales,” he wrote."

July 4, 2016

Pupils choose their own subjects and motivate themselves, an approach some say should be rolled out across Germany

Sounds interesting

"African American Vernacular English Is Not Standard English with Mistakes (1999) [pdf]"

A fantastic read on language and dialects

This marks the first bombing in years to attempt to target foreigners in the kingdom.

4 blasts in about 24 hours, the only one getting coverage is the one outside the US consulate :(

The trend helps explain Trump and Brexit. What’s next?

Police and officials in the Ohio town where the incident occurred later apologized.


July 3, 2016

A judge in Virginia rules that people should have no expectation of privacy on their home PCs because no connected computer "is immune from invasion."

How is this reasonable?!

A conversation with Tim Brady, Yahoo's first employee and current YC partner. Employee 1 is a series of interviews focused on sharing the often untold stories of early employees at tech companies. Tim was the first employee at Yahoo, its Chief Product Officer for eight years, and is now a partner at...

Great read.

This is a story about a very interesting bug that I tracked down yesterday. It was causing a bad effect very far from where the bug actually was.

This is amazing

A London-born writer never felt he truly belonged in the places he and his family were from: India, Pakistan, Britain. In America, finally, he feels free—and at home.

Interesting story about intolerance, nationalism, tolerance, and immigration, by Aatish Taseer.

Though I don't get why anyone would put their green card up on the internet (with the id blurred, which can be reversed)

It exploded on a busy street in the Karada neighborhood, where people were gathering to shop, socialize and watch soccer during a hot, lively Ramadan night. The death toll is expected to rise.


July 2, 2016

Young Syrians living in Lebanon are attempting suicide in ever greater numbers.

“She was between life and death,” Sanaa says, stroking her daughter’s hair. “I asked her, ‘My daughter, why did you drink the poison?’ She said, ‘Mama, there are seven of us and you work and work to feed us, but you can’t keep up. Without me, there will be one less person to feed.’ When she said that, I couldn’t stop crying.”

July 1, 2016

trump-speeches - :page_facing_up: 1mb Archive of Donald Trump Speeches

Time to play with all that data

Trinidad Alvarez Lira had been waiting for years to obtain proof that she had been born in 1898 so she could claim government old age benefits

She died without getting a single check from the government because she couldn't prove she was old enough.

Now why anyone didn't just look at her and agree that she's over 60 is beyond me...