Tactile Universe

The Universe is yours to discover.

The following materials are accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired using a combination of Braille, tactile techniques, and descriptions in both large format text and audio formats, as well as a collection of 3D prints of cosmic objects.

— Read on chandra.si.edu/tactile/

Endangered archive of Siberian indigenous voices to be digitised – Museums Association

“Russian cassette tapes from the Soviet era are particularly fragile and here the process of degradation has been speeded up by water leakages in the building, which have increased the humidity,” Anderson said.

“For the most badly damaged tapes, extracting what they contain requires them to be baked in an oven but after that, you only get one chance at playing them before the recordings are lost.

“We will be working with Russian sound technicians on this process which then requires them to be disassembled, rewound and played at different speeds to remove the interference caused by damage to the tapes, which stick together causing squealing sounds.”
— Read on www.museumsassociation.org/museums-journal/news/2021/10/endangered-archive-of-siberian-indigenous-voices-to-be-digitised/

Outrage as Texas school District Considers Holocaust Denial Books in Response to Anti-Racism Crackdown

Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill into law earlier this year that is intended to combat the teaching of critical race theory. A recording obtained by NBC News captures an administrator from Carroll Independent School District—which serves the wealthy, predominantly white Dallas-Fort Worth suburb of Southlake—last week instructing teachers to comply with the new law by offering alternate opinions on topics like the Holocaust, despite mainstream views on the Holocaust not being opposed in any substantial or credible manner.

Gina Peddy, the school district’s executive director of curriculum and instruction, can be heard in the recording telling teachers to “try to remember the concepts of” the new law while planning their lessons. She then tells teachers that if they “have a book on the Holocaust” they should also include a book that has “opposing” views or “other perspectives.” The exchange prompted strong reactions on Twitter, with many prominent figures outrage that Abbott’s law could promote Holocaust denial.
— Read on www.newsweek.com/outrage-texas-school-district-considers-holocaust-denial-books-response-anti-racism-crackdown-1639213

Running Machine Learning Projects: Things to know | by Prashant Mudgal | Oct, 2021 | Towards Data Science

In my experience, ML projects come in all shapes and sizes and vary greatly in their complexity. In the initial 2000/10s, the emphasis was on the model-centric approach which I always found a little bizarre as I heard umpteen times about the fancier models than the results(well, it was a different time and folks used to get awestruck when they would hear ML, AI, DS etc); slowly and steadily the focus has shifted to the result centric approach i.e. use whatever model you can but make use of the data and produce results that are directional, applicable, and coherent.
— Read on towardsdatascience.com/running-machine-learning-projects-things-to-know-316775338eab

Weird Dreams Train Our Brains to Be Better Learners – Facts So Romantic – Nautilus

Neural networks need to “dream” of weird, senseless examples to learn well. Maybe we do, too.
— Read on m.nautil.us/blog/weird-dreams-train-our-brains-to-be-better-learners

BBC World Service – The Inquiry, Is China’s economy in trouble?

For decades China’s economic growth has been the envy of the western world. But current signs suggest all is not well.
Regulations brought in by government to curb businesses reliance on debt have badly hit the its second largest real estate developer, Evergrande and manufacturing output has been hit by power shortages.
So is China’s economy in trouble?

Experts:
Sara Hsu, visiting scholar at Fudan University in Shanghai
Michael Pettis, Finance Professor at Peking University and a Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment
Iris Pang, ING’s Chief Economist for Greater China
Travis Lundy, independent research analyst in Hong Kong
— Read on www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3ct1z2l

Scientists create their own GPS by spying on internet satellites | Science | AAAS

Scientists create their own GPS by spying on internet satellites | Science | AAAS
— Read on www.science.org/content/article/scientists-create-their-own-gps-spying-internet-satellites

A World Without Sci-Hub – Palladium

Aaron Swartz was 26 years old when he took his own life. He did so under the shadow of legal prosecution, pursued by government lawyers intent on maximal punishment. If found guilty, he potentially faced up to 50 years in prison and a $1 million dollar fine. Swartz’s crime was not only legal, but political. He had accessed a private computer network and gained possession of highly valuable information with the goal of sharing it. His actions threatened some of the most powerful, connected, and politically protected groups in the country. Their friends in the government were intent on sending a message.

It’s the kind of story you would expect about some far-off political dissident. But Swartz took his life in Brooklyn on a winter day in 2013 and his prosecutor was the U.S. federal government. When Swartz died, he was under indictment for 13 felony charges related to his use of an MIT computer to download too many scientific articles from the academic database JSTOR, ostensibly for the purpose of making them freely available to the public. Ultimately, Swartz potentially faced more jail time for downloading academic papers than he would have if he had helped Al Qaeda build a nuclear weapon. Even the Criminal Code of the USSR stipulated that those who stored and distributed anti-Soviet literature only faced five to seven years in prison. While prosecutors later pointed toward a potential deal for less time, Aaron would still have been labeled a felon for his actions—and to boot, JSTOR itself had reached a civil settlement and didn’t even pursue its own lawsuit.

But Aaron’s cause lived on. This September marks the ten-year anniversary of Sci-Hub, the online “shadow library” that provides access to millions of research papers otherwise hidden behind prohibitive paywalls. Founded by the Kazakhstani computer scientist Alexandra Elbakyan—popularly known as science’s “pirate queen”—Sci-Hub has grown to become a repository of over 85 million academic papers.

The site is popular globally, used by millions of people—many of whom would otherwise not be able to finish their degrees, advise their patients, or use text mining algorithms to make new scientific discoveries. Sci-Hub has become the unacknowledged foundation that helps the whole enterprise of academia to function. 

Even when they do not need to use Sci-Hub, the superior user experience it offers means that many people prefer to use the illegal site rather than access papers through their own institutional libraries. It is difficult to say how many ideas, grants, publications, and companies have been made possible by Sci-Hub, but it seems undeniable that Elbakyan’s ten-year-old website has become a crucial component of contemporary scholarship.  
— Read on palladiummag.com/2021/09/24/a-world-without-sci-hub/

A World Without Sci-Hub – Palladium

David Wiley has proposed that the federal government take the intellectual property of academic publishers using the power of eminent domain. The fees that public universities have already paid (the University of California system alone paid $13 million to Elsevier in 2021) could go quite a ways towards the “just compensation” for property seizure specified in the Fifth Amendment. 

Recently, supporters of Sci-Hub have begun creating copies of the site’s immense archive in case it is taken down. Their hope is to make Sci-Hub “un-censorable.” But it is still worth contemplating a world without Sci-Hub—that is to say, a world in which Sci-Hub would be unnecessary. The “effective nationalization” proposed by Wiley and by the academic publishers themselves might just pave the way there. Imagine it: a 21st-century Library of Alexandria, a truly utopian creation, gifted to the world by Uncle Sam.
— Read on palladiummag.com/2021/09/24/a-world-without-sci-hub/

Protected Too Late: U.S. Officials Report More Than 20 Extinctions – The New York Times

The animals and one plant had been listed as endangered species. Their stories hold lessons about a growing global biodiversity crisis.
— Read on www.nytimes.com/2021/09/28/climate/endangered-animals-extinct.html

The shape of things to come.