by Stephen Downes
Feb 11, 2016
Meet the Robin Hood of Science
This is the story of "Sci-Hub, a website that bypasses journal paywalls, illegally providing access to nearly every scientific paper ever published immediately to anyone who wants it." It's the internet's solution to a problem that has existed for many years. "Before Sci-Hub, this problem was solved manually for years! For example, students would go to an online forum where other researchers communicate, and request papers there; other people would respond to the request." The American courts, of course, are more than willing to grant judgements against the service. "Elsevier alleges 'irreparable harm,' based on statutory damages of $750-$150,000 for each pirated work." There are about 48 million papers in SciHub. They'll never collect the money. Meanwhile, "The bird is out of its cage, and if Elsevier still thinks it can put it back, they may well be sorely mistaken." See also this article on SciHub in the Atlantic. SciHub is here.
The Linguistics of Mass Persuasion: How Politicians Make “Fetch” Happen (Part I)
I'm not going to wait for Part 2, because this story is interesting enough already. 'Making fetch happen' (meaning to successfully start a cultural/linguistic trend) is the objective of entertainers, politicians, and yes, educators. But ultimately, it is media that makes it happen. "Mass media institutions, from the press to social media, follow them around, broadcasting, sharing, and reinterpreting their every word, on repeat, even if they actively disagree with their agenda and ideology." And this mechanism is manipulated; the article has several examples, while in Canada we have the way 'tar sands' became 'oil sands' almost overnight. And the message is deeply personal; "the subtle rhetoric in these terms seems to almost force a stance on identity and the values you hold." If you think education is free of the phenomenon, think again: think of terms like 'diploma mills', 'grade inflation', 'lifelong learning'.
Info for Romance Scam Victims
Alec Couros is hosting an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit on the subject of catfishing. Couros, well known in social media and educational technology circles, has had his image used by dating and romance site scams (also known as 'catfishing') for the last decade. The social media companies do little to help. "With Facebook," writes Couros, "I've never been able to get in contact with a real person. All I can do is use their crappy reporting system that doesn't even acknowledge this kind of scam. I've gotten a few of my blog posts taken up by the media (Canadian media - CBC, Global, CTV, etc.) and Boing Boing wrote a post on my dilemma. However, I can't crack the FB wall. I spoke to a Google employee but I didn't have much luck their. Their reporting system is worse."
Thousands of students caught up in major college collapse
Henrietta Cook, Sarah Danckert,
Sydney Morning Herald,
Following "a federal government crackdown on the scandal-plagued vocational education sector," thousands of Australian students have been left with large debts and unable to complete their studies. It's a fairly typical story: "The group's collapse comes despite Global Intellectual Holdings making a profit of $17.95 million in 2015. During the year it paid $14 million in dividends to its directors Roger Williams and Aloi Burgess. The accounts show the company held $19 million in debt." This underscores the danger of placing a public trust like education into private hands, especially if there's government funding involved. Those concerned about the future of the TAFE system in Australia will no doubt have taken note.
The chips are down for Moore’s law
M. Mitchell Waldrop,
Quantum computing notwithstanding, Moore's law - the idea that computing power doubles every 18 months - has been in force most of my lifetime. But according to this article, there are signs it is coming to an end. Computer chip clock speeds haven't budged since 2004; instead, computers have more than one processor. But this is reaching a limit as well, the victim of heat death and mobile computing. This doesn't mean innovation will stop, but instead the direction of innovation will change - instead of thinking of things we can do with ever faster chips, we'll begin designing applications and custom-designing chips to fit them. Good article, lots of detail, and interesting insights into the thinking of the Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) near the end.
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