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Topics - Magic Wand

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Education / The Impending Black Hole of Technology and What We Can Do
« on: October 26, 2011, 05:08:02 pm »
Michael Raymond del Castillo on October 26, 2011

The linear thinking model of traditional universities may have served our hunter-gatherer ancestors well. (An elk running through the forest at point A will be at point B when a hunter unleashes his spear, etc.) But recent technological discoveries have presented humanity with a new set of problems, which require an entirely new kind of thinking. One institution, Singularity University, is working to develop that new kind of thinking.

The principle of exponentially-growing technology was most famously elucidated in 1965 by Gordon E. Moore, co-founder of Intel Corporation. Moore was describing the trend that the number of transistors on a circuit doubles roughly every two years. This principle, now known as Moore’s Law, also describes the exponential growth rate of dozens of technologies, including microchip processing speeds, computer memory, and Internet speed.

It didn’t take long for inventor and futurist, Dr. Ray Kurzweil, to recognize other implications of the law. The technological advance at the heart of Kurzweil’s book, The Singularity is Near, is the imminent merging of humanity with machine in what most people think of as Artificial Intelligence. Kurzweil writes, “Just as a black hole in space dramatically alters the patterns of matter and energy accelerating toward its event horizon, this impending Singularity in our future is increasingly transforming every institution and aspect of human life, from sexuality to spirituality.”

When Dr. Peter Diamandis, founder of the X-Prize, read Kurzweil’s book he was struck by the way such technology influences fields as diverse as biotechnology, nanotechnology, medicine, ecological systems, ethics, and entrepreneurship. His conviction that technology holds the power to solve the world’s greatest problems lead to the founding of Singularity University (SU).

But, of course, there is also is an inherent danger in the exponential growth of such advancements. “The reason why we’re focusing on these technologies is that they are naturally scaling and they scale on a global level,” Executive Director Salim Ismail recently told TechCrunch. “And the core [of the focus] is that if we don’t address some of our global challenges with technology then we often end up in war.”

Kurzweil himself harbors no delusions regarding the potentially destructive implications of the Artificial Intelligence Singularity – that we might create our own masters. Our inability to comprehend an intelligence greater than our own is the AI equivalent to the unraveling of conventional physics in a black hole. We can’t possibly know how such a superior intelligence might decide to deal with its creators.

The power and urgency behind this research has proved quite alluring to young academics.

In spite of SU’s hefty tuition ($25,000 for a ten-week summer program) the university received applications from 2,200 applicants in 109 countries last year. Of those, 80 students were selected. The students are divided into various accelerating technology team projects -  each centered around a major each like global health, poverty, energy, education, security, or space and known collectively as the “10^9+ Projects” – and attend roughly 300 hours of lectures from 160 speakers. What happens next? Well, that’s a bit more difficult to explain.

“You can’t script innovation,” says Ismail. “Basically, we're creating a crucible in which we take the top thinkers in the fastest moving technologies, the most accomplished young next-gen leaders, give them a state-of-the-art and future view of these technologies and point them at the biggest problems.” So far, team projects have led to the creation of seven companies, all of which aim to revolutionize the planet.

On August 26, 2011, the students, representing 36 countries, presented pitches for future businesses at the 2011 Student Project EXPO. The goal is to positively impact the lives of one billion people in ten years.

Education / Is Higher Education Worth It?
« on: October 25, 2011, 05:05:47 pm »
The fascinating billionaire entrepreneur Peter Thiel (a Facebook guy, the PayPal guy etc.) seems to be carrying the day against the educational establishment in answering this question negatively.

He's teamed up with Professor Charles Murray to make some fine points. I will of course make the points in my own way.

Higher education must be overpriced.  The cost is rising several times faster than inflation.  What is most of the money for?  Needless amenities, bloated and self-indulgent administrations,  and overpriced tenured profesors.

A really bad way to start out in life is saddled with debts.  Your options are limited, and you, of course, to lack the freedom to take entrepreneurial risks.  You're pretty much stuck with getting the best paid job you can, that is, join the mediocre herd in some corporation or such.

If college is primarily about liberal education (or philosophy, literature, and such), then too many people are going.  According to Murray, most people just don't have the IQs to think both abstractly and precisely enough to appreciate the finer points of language and logic.  The so-called liberal education or "general education" students now receive is a kind of senseless torture.  And the efforts to "engage" the average guy is dumbing down such education in a way that makes it equally boring to the few who could benefit from it.

If education, in most cases, is about  learning technical skills, to prepare people for the kinds of work available to most people in a high-tech, middle-class democracy, then why pay big money to study at a brick-and-mortar university?  The person majoring in exercise science or public relations or beverage management or even elementary education could pick up what's needed in a couple of years.  And most of what is needed, in such cases, could be delivered online.

It's difficult to say that, in most cases, the "residential experience" is actually good for students these days in terms of developing personal responsibility and the other features of moral virtue.  The dorms are "state of nature," and lots of safe yet otherwise irresponsible sex is going on in a way that it just can't in real life.  This is especially corrupting for both men and women in different ways at most liberal arts colleges.  The gender inbalance makes men vain and silly (or vainer and sillier) and women are stuck with the rigors of the artificially competitive marketplace. 

Classes are too easy; nobody flunks out anymore.  Students are catered to like consumers.  They don't have to do much for themselves--like cooking or cleaning.  (Most of this is not true of my school at all, but we're better than most.)

Not only that: Students aren't becoming in any sense literate in ways that would benefit them as citizens, parents, and so forth.  We've punted for the most part on cultural literacy and civic literacy and theological literacy and even personal finance literacy.

It's always been the case that many genuine geniuses haven't gotten much out of school.  Steve Jobs!  And those who are, in my opinion, the very best and deepest American authors of the 20th century--such as Walker Percy or Flannery O'Connor or Shelby Foote or William Faulkner--didn't learn how to read and write in college.  Percy majored in medicine, O'Connor boring, textbook sociology, and Foote and Faulkner dropped out.  That's surely why Thiel is giving fellowships for such people to  drop out.  (Actually, that's not why he's giving them; he's creating the impression that the highest human type is the entrepreneur.)

Certainly professors have become too risk-averse and careerist, saddling themselves for no good reason with autonomy-sucks such as measurable learning outcomes and student evaluations.  Professors, more than ever, are stuck with being agreeable and productive in depressingly conventional ways.  One piece of good news is that they may be less absent minded, a bad piece is that college is becoming progressively more technical and less philosophic or genuinely liberating.

In order to facilitate discussion, I'll leave the case in the other direction mostly for later.  But one thing now:  What makes Thiel more interesting than even Steve Jobs is his serious interest in the philosopher Leo Strauss, one the most impressive thinkers of the 20th century.

What interests Thiel about Strauss--who flourished in the very rigorous and aristocratic German educational system and recived an old-fashioned German doctorate--is his candid and deep exploration of what's required for genuine human liberation.  (A whole separate, pro-American post could be written on why Strauss was, nonetheless, a misfit in the German university system but flourished in ours.0

So Thiel says that the Straussian issue is the libertarian issue.  But, for Strauss, liberation doesn't mean freedom to "do your own thing." It depends on a huge amount of education.  Thiel is a pretty competent amateur Straussian, but his liberation level might be called fairly low from a certain view.  He hasn't acquired, for example, the language skills, as far as I can tell, required to read the premodern texts--Plato, Aristotle, and such--with the care required to liberate himself from modern prejudices.

Libertarianism is a prejudice that's especially strong these days.  It's true enough that Jobs dropped out of college and invented lots of amazing "i" stuff.  But he wasn't liberated the way a theoretical physicist is, and just about all of those physicists needed the discipline of a PhD program to know what's really going on--naturally speaking.

The lack of such liberation may be one reason Thiel sometimes seems suckered by the promises of transhumanism.  Hardly any Straussians are.

For Strauss, there's the still the higher kind of liberation of Socrates.  (Who admittedly didn't have a Ph.D and didn't publish.)  But Socrates was no liberatarian.  He reminded us in most memorable and amusing ways of the self-indulgent and pretentious view of freedom that animates every permissive democracy (such as ours).  That view of freedom is ugly in its self-forgetfulness, in its denial of the necessity that provides the foundation for human nobility and even philosphy.

In general:  Genuine liberation requires a huge amount of conventional discipline.  And in addition to the habituation that comes from a society that takes tradition and tough-minded virtue seriously, there's the need for genuinely higher liberation, which, in the West, has usually found its home in universities.  Our colleges and universities may be failing us, but that doesn't mean we don't need them.

Someone might also talk about Thiel's division of human beings into the "mob" and the liberated, which he learned from misunderstanding Strauss and Plato in a certain way.

Fitness / A personal trainer is making himself obese… on purpose
« on: October 18, 2011, 03:58:07 pm »
    by FatFighterTV, on Thu Oct 13, 2011

Since May, Drew Manning has gained about 70 pounds on purpose. And he’s not done yet.

Drew is a personal trainer and has always been the “fit guy.” He’s now on a journey he calls Fit 2 Fat 2 Fit where he spends six months (he has about 4 weeks left) eating  unhealthy food and not exercising, then he will take six more months to get fit again. Why? To experience for himself what it’s like to be overweight, how tough it is to lose weight, and ultimately show others how to get fit. But this is sooo extreme! And I hate that Drew is deliberately making himself unhealthy. I asked him all about it…

FatFighterTV: As someone who has always been fit, how can you stand doing this to yourself?

Drew Manning: It’s been very tough physically, mentally and emotionally to let myself go like this. The first couple of months were the hardest. I felt like I was going through withdrawals, just like any other addiction. I was jealous seeing people running, going to the gym, and being in shape.

Also see: How Cammy lost 100 pounds

FFTV: Are you concerned about your health?

DM: Yes, definitely. With a BP reading of 161/113 you can’t NOT be concerned. I haven’t felt in danger yet, but I still have 4 weeks left to go.  People tell me all the time to stop now, but I look at it like this…..if others can live years with these unhealthy risk factors, like high BP, glucose levels, cholesterol levels, triglycerides, etc. then I can last another 4 weeks. Plus I want to show people how living a healthy lifestyle can change all of those risk factors.

FFTV: Are you enjoying eating all those unhealthy foods?

DM: Yes and no. To some extent, all of these foods that I’m eating (sugary cereals, granola bars, juices, white breads, white pastas, sodas, crackers, chips, frozen dinners, mac n cheese, etc.) taste delicious. But then I feel like crap later on and I get hungry again and crave those same foods.

See also: Healthified Chicken Salad Sandwiches

FFTV: You’ve gained about 70 pounds now since May – how do you feel?

DM: I’m to the point where I feel lethargic and uncomfortable. I definitely feel “addicted” to these foods. In the beginning, I did not like soda, but now I can’t go a day without, otherwise I’ll get the headaches, bad mood, etc.  Emotionally, it’s taken a toll on my confidence level, even in my marriage. I don’t like the way I look in public; nothing fits right; bending over to tie my shoes or clip my toe nails has become so difficult. I’ve definitely taken those things for granted.

FFTV: You mentioned that you want to gain an understanding of how hard it is to be overweight – what have you learned so far?

DM: I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is how intense and how real these food cravings are.  I think a lot of people associate the word “addiction” with drugs and alcohol, but I do believe this addiction (to America’s processed foods) is real and very similar. I know I’ll never know exactly what it’s like for every person that’s overweight and I don’t claim to, but at least I understand better than I did before when I never had to struggle with this. I hope to learn a lot more in the second half of my journey, from fat 2 fit.


General Discussion / Dear Fellas: 7 Ways To Piss Off Single Women
« on: October 05, 2011, 01:16:28 pm »
from Clutch:

Dear Fellas: 7 Ways To Piss Off Single Women
Wednesday Oct 5, 2011 – by Luvvie Ajayi

Lately, it seems that everyone is concerned about Black women’s love lives. Our singlehood is a huge topic of conversation lately, by the entire blogosphere, media at large and Tony Gaskins (Sidenote: Tony Gaskins is a dude who is holding 6-week classes for women on how they can find relationships. For the low, low price of $99. I’d like to offer him a high chair in the corner to have. Sir, please sit.).

I’m over it. Plus, no one is saying anything new and it seems that a lot of the people offering insight are men. Who happen to be very single. Or newly married. Or divorced.

So, since some fellas are hellbent on pissing off single women with their unsolicited advice, I decided to help them out.

    7 Ways To Piss Off Single Women

1. Tell us we’re single because we wear a weave

Get out of our scalps. What do our hairhats have to do with our ability to be in a relationship? For folks to say some women can’t get booed up because they enjoy lacefronts and other weave varieties is foolish. No, they may not have grown it out their own scalp but they can show you the receipts, so it’s theirs (Ask Whitney). Yes, I get it that it makes it hard for men to give scalp massages but still. Massage folks elsewhere. Let folks’ Yaki 45s be great.

2. Tell us we’re single because we have natural hair

Apparently, some men are saying women can’t find boos because they choose to wear their hair natural. People are telling women they’d find men if they got perms so their hair won’t be “nappy.” LISTEN. Let folks live right with the hair the good Lord blessed them with. No, you might not be able to run your fingers through some of our heads after day 5 of our twistouts but catch us right after a deep conditioning and you can frolic in our coifs for at least 2 hours (after it dries and shrinks, of course).

3. Tell us we’re single because we don’t wear heels enough

If I choose to wear flats to the club, that is my prerogative. No I did not come to get chose. The girl whose Love Pocket is peeking out from under her too-short dress seems good and ready for cuffing season though. Pick her. I’ll be over here in my Converse Chucks, walking comfortably even after 3 hours. Maybe folks don’t want to wear heels all the time because they know they can’t walk well in them. Respect them for staying in their lanes. There are few things as pitiful as seeing someone shuffling across the floor because they got on stilettos in the club.

4. Tell us we’re single because we expect too much

Some fellas are running around telling women they’re single because they want too much. Like chivalry. And a man who can pay for dinner without a coupon. This is, apparently, asking for too much. In the era of “Independent women” (which I shun but that’s another post for another day), some folks still want a man that has ALL of his life together. Things like good credit and 401(k)s are sexy. If folks want their men to be able to co-sign a loan, then hey, that’s what they want. There’s nothing wrong with expecting what you bring to the table to be reciprocated. Just don’t expect someone to have everything together when you can’t even qualify for a Rush Card.

5. Tell us we’re single because we can’t cook. Or don’t cook for you.

Fellas, some of you say you can’t date a woman who doesn’t cook for you. Well, what have you done for me lately? A lot of women can cook but they just don’t want to cook for you nor do they enjoy being in the kitchen. Does this negate their other awesome qualities? Aight fine. Can you change my tires for me? Oh. You can? Well, fine, I might make you a PB&J sammich. But if I don’t want to cook 7 days a week, then you learn to cook yourself and handle your business in the kitchen.

6. Tell us we’re single because we’re prudes

Some of you guys are telling women they’re single because they’re slightly prudish. Well in the era of STIs, can you blame people for wanting to keep their Love Pockets to themselves? When folks hear stuff like 50% of all sexually active adults have HPV, the virus that causes cervical cancer, you just want to join a nunnery and live a life of purity. Especially when condoms don’t stop transmission of this disease because skin-to-skin contact that causes it. Oh and when you further hear that HPV is now causing throat cancer through blowjobs, you just wanna pick up your Dereon duffle and vacate all sexual premises.

Folks should be slightly glad to run into a prudish chick. Wife her so then she can get down and nasty with you. But before then, let her be great.

7. Tell us we’re single because we’re hoes

Folks always say you can’t turn a hoe into a housewife, but the devil is a lie. Everyone is familiar with the girl from college who slept with everyone on the football team. Then when she graduated, moved far away and now has the perfect husband and kids. And according to Twitter, being lax with your Love Pocket is the new Black. Many a woman have a past full of walks of shame. More of you guys do too. Yes, I know it’s a double standard but stop the hypocrisy. Sexual looseness is a phase we call “college.” Get off your high horses because the girl you might want to wife now might not have been Mother Teresa back in the day, and that’s ok. It doesn’t make her an awful person. She might still be an awesome mother and wife one day.

Guys, no one is perfect. Some folks are single by choice, but for those who are looking, the above reasons are not why they’re single. If that were the case, no woman would be in a relationship. Just because you have a strong preference for weaves or freaky virgins, doesn’t mean other dudes will have the same criteria. I want all of you to have a stadium of seats \_\_\_. Or a Sofa {\___/}. Just sat down. Your insight on this topic is no longer wanted, and certainly not needed. Especially since you’re spending all your nights with your favorite lotion. Or on your XBOX.

Latest Flicks / Being Elmo
« on: September 30, 2011, 07:32:21 am »
A Puppeteer's Journey

Elmo visits NASA

Technology / Creepiest, Most Awesome Quadruped Robot Ever!
« on: September 30, 2011, 07:15:24 am »

Hudlin's Huddle / Different Ways of Navigating
« on: September 22, 2011, 07:08:36 pm »
We are all on this earth together learning and teaching together in many different ways.

We're all in the same boat. We just have different paddles, and perhaps we find ourselves on different rivers. We all live in human bodies. These are the vehicles in which we move through our world. We are all made of flesh, blood, and bone, with brains, hearts, and lungs to power us. Our paddles—the tools we use to move through the world—vary, as do the bodies of water—the environments—in which we find ourselves.

Some of us use our high IQs to get where we want to go. Some of use our smiles, others use kindness, a gift with language, or athletic ability. Some of these qualities we were born with and others are skills we have learned. Considering this metaphor in light of your own life can be very enlightening. What tools are you using to get from point A to point B in your life? Chances are, you and the people you know have used many different tools in various combinations throughout your lives to get where you needed to go. Just as with oars or paddles, a balanced approach is best. If you rely too much on one thing, like beauty, to open doors, you fail to be well-rounded and you may eventually lose your equilibrium. And if you lose that one quality, you have no paddle at all. This is inspiration to develop multiple tools to navigate your world.

Some of us may be moving along paths that are like rushing rivers; others may be on a large, still lake. We have all felt, at one time or another, tossed about on a stormy ocean. Through all this, we are never really alone, even though it might seem that way. There is inspiration all around us in the form of other people making their way through the world, in the very same boat. Remember to look around you for role models, companionship, and encouragement.

The Daily OM

Hudlin's Huddle / The Wisdom of Sharing
« on: September 22, 2011, 06:42:53 pm »
Imagine a world in which we all shared our gifts and bounty with each other rather than focusing on self preservation.

There are many variations on the story of stone soup, but they all involve a traveler coming into a town beset by famine. The inhabitants try to discourage the traveler from staying, fearing he wants them to give him food. They tell him in no uncertain terms that there's no food anywhere to be found. The traveler explains that he doesn't need any food and that, in fact, he was planning to make a soup to share with all of them. The villagers watch suspiciously as he builds a fire and fills a cauldron with water. With great ceremony, he pulls a stone from a bag, dropping the stone into the pot of water. He sniffs the brew extravagantly and exclaims how delicious stone soup is. As the villagers begin to show interest, he mentions how good the soup would be with just a little cabbage in it. A villager brings out a cabbage to share. This episode repeats itself until the soup has cabbage, carrots, onions, and beets—indeed, a substantial soup that feeds everyone in the village.
This story addresses the human tendency to hoard in times of deprivation. When resources are scarce, we pull back and put all of our energy into self-preservation. We isolate ourselves and shut out others. As the story of stone soup reveals, in doing so, we often deprive ourselves and everyone else of a feast. This metaphor plays out beyond the realm of food. We hoard ideas, love, and energy, thinking we will be richer if we keep to them to ourselves, when in truth we make the world, and ourselves, poorer whenever we greedily stockpile our reserves. The traveler was able to see that the villagers were holding back, and he had the genius to draw them out and inspire them to give, thus creating a spread that none of them could have created alone.

Are you like one of the villagers, holding back? If you come forward and share your gifts, you will inspire others to do the same. The reward is a banquet that can nourish many.

from the Daily OM

Technology / On the Diversity and IT Paradox
« on: September 22, 2011, 06:03:24 pm »
By Annsonita Robinson

Social Media & IT Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, Cultural Pundit and Global Citizen, Dadisi J. Olutosin, slowed his roll long enough for us to grab an espresso and ponder diversity in the IT industry. It was an eye-opening conversation that required a second espresso.

There is actually a lot of diversity in the IT economy. Look at it from the perspective of people who innovate, create, and distribute technology versus people who use them. If you look at it in the context of technology, people of color are definitely consumers of technology. But, by and large, we are not creators of technology.

Let’s look at Dr. Dre with this Beats Technology. I refer to him as the new Ray Dolby, creator of the DSS Dolby Sound System and in every country on earth he is getting paid perpetually. Dr. Dre just closed a $300 million dollar deal with Beats Audio. He, too, will be perpetually paid.

African Americans have to get out of this mindset that we have to be consumers. Trading up cell phones at every contract renewal or buying the new most popular app is straight consumerism and does nothing to promote diversity in the industry. Recently two young ladies from Spelman College won an AT&T competition for creating an app. Few knew, though, because there was very little media coverage or recognition in the Black community. I’m a Morehouse man, so I emphatically state this: why did this not spawn a consortium with Morehouse, Spelman, and Clark-Atlanta University where students create apps? A technology lab, of sorts. Here we were innovating and creating and no one bothered to move the ball down the field.

I can’t really say that the study of math and science not being priority in the Black community is the reason, either. Business ownership takes business skills. Accounting, finance, marketing and more. IT creators tend to not have those skills. They are similar to artists who use acrylics, chalk or photography, but their art is writing code. Once they create a code that does something unique, it’s time for recognition and feedback; their version of a gallery showing. What they need are business-people to help them take the code-created product to the next level because they don’t have the background, charisma, or know how to launch and sustain a product.

You hear a lot about geeks these days. They’re the new rock stars. But who are the black geeks? Think of one. Many African-Americans can’t. And the hottest one right now is Neil deGrasse Tyson – Director of New York’s Hayden Planetarium, hosts of his own TV show on Nova as well as StarTalk Radio. This guy is brilliant! But, ask the average Black kid who he is and they never heard of him. And, he is not only brilliant in math and science, he is brilliant in societal speak. Listen to him talk about politics and social issues and he uses his brilliance in math and science and applies it in a completely different way! If more of our young people heard about him or really knew who Mae Jamison is – she’s a doctor and an astronaut! – they’d find them both people to emulate.

Before we start looking outwardly for inclusion, we need to do some housekeeping. Honestly, I feel about ‘inclusion’ the same as I feel about trying to make white people feel bad about slavery. (Laughs). Who is talking about inclusion, fairness, victimization? It’s us! We need to have conversations about community issues. Community issues aren’t always about complaining about something. Community issues are also about planning for the future and committing to self-sufficiency.

African Americans don’t need diversity in IT. African Americans need to start doing IT. The African American bourgeois class who claim they have money should start investing in IT incubators. There is value in micro-lending the way Nobel-prize winner Muhammad Yunus does it. No, a million dollars will not be given to a project, but $40,000 might. That amount of money will get you server space, a virtual office, an IT administrator, and marketing materials. We need people who are business-minded to have faith in their own people. We need businesses minded people who have faith in themselves.

I don’t want to be diverse with you. I want to be equal with you when we sit down at the table. Those are two very different things. ~ Dadisi J. Olutosin

In The News / Death by Black Hole
« on: September 22, 2011, 04:22:53 pm »

Education / Universities Seeking Out Students of Means
« on: September 22, 2011, 10:57:53 am »
Universities Seeking Out Students of Means
Published: September 21, 2011
Money is talking a bit louder in college admissions these days, according to a survey to be released Wednesday by Inside Higher Ed, an online publication for higher education professionals.

More than half of the admissions officers at public research universities, and more than a third at four-year colleges said that they had been working harder in the past year to recruit students who need no financial aid and can pay full price, according to the survey of 462 admissions directors and enrollment managers conducted in August and early September.

Similarly, 22 percent of the admissions officials at four-year institutions said the financial downturn had led them to pay more attention in their decision to applicants’ ability to pay.

“As institutional pressures mount, between the decreased state funding, the pressure to raise a college’s profile, and the pressure to admit certain students, we’re seeing a fundamental change in the admissions process,” said David A. Hawkins, director of public policy and research at the National Association for College Admission Counseling. “Where many of the older admissions professionals came in through the institution and saw it as an ethically centered counseling role, there’s now a different dynamic that places a lot more emphasis on marketing.”

In the survey, 10 percent of the admissions directors at four-year colleges — and almost 20 percent at private liberal-arts schools — said that the full-pay students they were admitting, on average, had lower grades and test scores than other admitted applicants.

But they are not the only ones with an edge: the admissions officers said they admitted minority students, athletes, veterans, children of alumni, international students and, for the sake of gender balance, men, with lesser credentials, too.

At many colleges and universities, the survey found, whom you know does matter. More than a quarter of the admissions directors said they had felt pressure from senior-level administrators to admit certain applicants, and almost a quarter got pressure from trustees or development officers.

“If external parties are trying to influence admissions decisions, that’s a concern that strikes at the legitimacy of the whole process,” Mr. Hawkins said. “We certainly have standards, but there needs to be awareness that when the economy starts to crumble, the standards may start to go out the window.”

Lloyd Thacker, executive director of the Education Conservancy, a two-person nonprofit he founded in 2003 to improve college admissions, said the Inside Higher Ed findings were troubling.

“There’s always been elements of this behavior, but it seems to me that it’s growing,” Mr. Thacker said. “I don’t know whether to blame it on hard times or lack of courage and leadership.”

Mr. Thacker said his own research had found students becoming more cynical about higher education.

“Students say, ‘They’re cheating us, so we can cheat them,’ ” he said. “The cheat they see is that colleges are out for themselves, not for them as students. Our research, with 2,500 students, found that of all the sources of information students get about higher education, they thought the least trustworthy sources are the colleges and college reps themselves.”

While community colleges said their most important challenge in the near future was reduced state funding, all the other institutions named rising concerns from families about tuition and affordability.

Admissions directors at many public universities said in the survey that recruiting more out-of-state and international students, who pay higher tuition, was their top strategy. At community colleges and private institutions, admissions officers were more likely to say that providing aid for low- and middle- income students was their focus.

More than half the admissions officers from four-year institutions said that coaching by parents or college counselors was making it harder to really learn about applicants.

In The News / Tyler Perry movies are like malt liquor!
« on: September 22, 2011, 05:35:32 am »

Technology / Online gamers crack AIDS enzyme puzzle
« on: September 21, 2011, 06:13:03 am »
from The Raw Story

PARIS — Online gamers have achieved a feat beyond the realm of Second Life or Dungeons and Dragons: they have deciphered the structure of an enzyme of an AIDS-like virus that had thwarted scientists for a decade.

The exploit is published on Sunday in the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, where -- exceptionally in scientific publishing -- both gamers and researchers are honoured as co-authors.

Their target was a monomeric protease enzyme, a cutting agent in the complex molecular tailoring of retroviruses, a family that includes HIV.

Figuring out the structure of proteins is vital for understanding the causes of many diseases and developing drugs to block them.

But a microscope gives only a flat image of what to the outsider looks like a plate of one-dimensional scrunched-up spaghetti. Pharmacologists, though, need a 3-D picture that "unfolds" the molecule and rotates it in order to reveal potential targets for drugs.

This is where Foldit comes in.

Developed in 2008 by the University of Washington, it is a fun-for-purpose video game in which gamers, divided into competing groups, compete to unfold chains of amino acids -- the building blocks of proteins -- using a set of online tools.

To the astonishment of the scientists, the gamers produced an accurate model of the enzyme in just three weeks.

Cracking the enzyme "provides new insights for the design of antiretroviral drugs," says the study, referring to the lifeline medication against the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

It is believed to be the first time that gamers have resolved a long-standing scientific problem.

"We wanted to see if human intuition could succeed where automated methods had failed," Firas Khatib of the university's biochemistry lab said in a press release.

"The ingenuity of game players is a formidable force that, if properly directed, can be used to solve a wide range of scientific problems."

One of Foldit's creators, Seth Cooper, explained why gamers had succeeded where computers had failed.

"People have spatial reasoning skills, something computers are not yet good at," he said.

"Games provide a framework for bringing together the strengths of computers and humans. The results in this week's paper show that gaming, science and computation can be combined to make advances that were not possible before."

Technology / Steve Jobs Leaves, Apple's Stock Soars
« on: September 20, 2011, 04:25:58 pm »
from Business Insider:

Since Steve Jobs left his post as CEO of Apple, the stock has taken off, rising 10%. Somewhat surprising, since you would think the stock would tank after the company lost its visionary leader.

Apple is trading at an all time high, closing today at $413. The company's market cap is $390, and it will soon be over $400 billion, giving it a very good chance to be worth more than Google and Microsoft combined.

            But, the Jobs situation was hanging over the stock, keeping it in a holding pattern. With him out, that uncertainty is out of the way.

Also holding the stock in check -- the company deviated from its normal pattern by not releasing a new iPhone this summer. The next iPhone launch is expected in weeks, which is getting investors excited.

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