Opinion: Jackie Waring: Ada’s science and technology legacy lives on for women

TODAY is Ada Lovelace Day, an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

Ada, the daughter of the poet Lord Byron and his mathematics-loving wife Annabella Milbanke, showed her gift for mathematics at an early age introducing many computer concepts in the 19th century. However, nearly 150 years since her death, Ada’s legacy reminds us of the work still to be done to create access to more females in STEM-related fields.

According to 2019 UK Government data, women make up 24% of the core-STEM workforce. While this figure is rising, albeit slowly, in some STEM sectors, it appears to be flat-lining in technology where females account for just 17% of the workforce.

Here in Scotland there are a number of other bodies seeking to address this gender imbalance, including the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), an internationally renowned science-focused organisation currently run by

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Opinion: Camera names are getting ridiculous: Digital Photography Review

Canon’s EOS 5D Mark II changed the camera industry forever. In more ways than one.

Looking back, I can’t honestly say I recognized the long-term impact of Canon’s big announcement at Photokina 2008. It’s only with hindsight I can see the significance of the unveiling of the EOS 5D Mark II.

It ushered in the era of Full HD video in DSLRs: that was obviously a big deal. But it was also the herald of an insidious trend in consumer cameras whose enormity is only now becoming clear.

At the time it seemed innocent enough. After all, the ‘Mark II’ was an iteration on an existing design. Sure the whole video thing meant that the second-gen model was arguably even more significant than the original ‘first-sub-$4000 full frame digital’ EOS 5D, but that ‘Mark II’ branding seemed logical, given how much it appeared to have been developed from its forebear.

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Hey kids, don’t use your smartphone to do your Homework | Opinion

By Arnold Glass

Homework, the bane of students since the era of one-room schoolhouses, has taken an unexpected – and unfortunate — turn with the rise of smartphones a decade ago.

The purpose of homework is to prepare students for exams. To the extent that students remember the correct answers to homework questions that are similar to exam questions, they will be better prepared for the exam. Assigning homework to prepare students for exams worked well until about 10 years ago.

Then smartphones came into wide use, destroying the value of homework as preparation for an exam. Students should know that how they use their smartphone for homework affects their retention of that work and ultimately how well they will do on an exam.

For homework to improve performance on an exam, there must be long-term retention of the homework questions and answers. If the student does not remember the

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Opinion | Technology vs. Covid-19: Assessing the Threats

He proposed “guardrails around technology” to limit surveillance and political advertising on social media, promote a healthy free press, and introduce new international norms — “the equivalent of a Geneva convention,” whereby “governments are not permitted to attack the civilian infrastructure of other countries just as they are not allowed to attack civilians in a time of war.”

Facebook’s director of public policy, Katie Harbath, addressed some of the election-related concerns in a parallel session. She said that Facebook was “a fundamentally different company” than it was at the time of the 2016 presidential vote in the United States, and that there was “a lot that we did miss in that election.”

To make sure voters get the right information, she said, Facebook is now monitoring political ads, hiring fact checkers and combating foreign interference. “There will be no finish line in this work,” she said. “Bad actors and adversaries

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Opinion | Don’t Let Amazon Get Any Bigger

We tend to credit Amazon’s enormous reach to its inventiveness. Jeff Bezos has built a logistics operation that rivals UPS and FedEx in the volume of packages it delivers to consumers in the United States. Amazon’s Alexa is the dominant operating system in the new arena of voice-enabled devices and web access.

Amazon produces clothing and advanced computer chips, dispenses a growing share of the nation’s prescription drugs, markets surveillance services to police departments, and runs a rapidly expanding advertising business.

But the evidence presented this week in a long report by the House Judiciary Committee, following a bipartisan investigation of the tech giants, tells a very different story. Amazon’s website forms a choke point through which other companies must pass to reach the market. It has exploited this commanding position to strong-arm other companies, control their means of distribution and drive them out of business.

While the report concludes

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Opinion | The White House coronavirus outbreak shows that testing alone is not enough

But the castle walls were penetrated — presumably by an asymptomatic carrier, a covid-era Trojan horse — and infections among the president’s circle have cascaded out this week. The spotlight is on the Rose Garden reception for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, an event attended by nearly all of those who have recently tested positive: the president, first lady, senators, aides.

Per protocol, attendees were tested before they got near the president. But other defenses were down. According to The Post: “After guests tested negative that day they were instructed they no longer needed to cover their faces. The no-mask mantra applied indoors as well. Cabinet members, senators, Barrett family members and others mixed unencumbered at tightly packed, indoor receptions.” No masks, no distancing and time spent among crowds indoors are a recipe for transmission.

All of this underscores the central flaw in the White House’s approach: Testing alone

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Opinion | Could the Amazon Save Your Life?

From a global perspective, fungi are the least-studied group of organisms with the greatest potential. They have already given us the most important class of drugs ever discovered — antibiotics. More recently, the fungal kingdom provided us with another blockbuster class of pharmaceuticals: statins, cholesterol-lowering drugs that rank among the most important and widely used medicines in the industrialized world today. Though both of these classes of pharmaceuticals were derived from temperate-zone fungi, tropical regions like Amazonia harbor many more species.

Once again, Western science knows very little about the potential utility of tropical fungi. Ethnobotanists in western Amazonia have often encountered piri-piri, a strange-looking sedge — a flowering, grasslike plant — reputed to feature many medicinal qualities. Detailed research in Peru with Indigenous colleagues by the American ethnobotanist Glenn Shepard unlocked the secret: The medicinal virtues attributed to this relatively chemically inert plant actually come from a fungus that

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Opinion | Social Media Needs an Election Declaration of Conscience

Such a united front wouldn’t just be symbolic. “If you had the platforms together making a statement of their values, then when they take action, it creates a permission structure for reticent platform executives to make difficult decisions quickly,” David Kaye, former United Nations special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, told the editorial board. Such a move would also be a strong public signal of the gravity of the moment.

There’s precedent for this type of collaboration. In 2016, Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft came together to combat extremist content. The companies created a shared database using unique digital fingerprints to flag videos, pictures and memes promoting terrorist activity and ideologies. Domestic political disinformation poses different challenges than terrorist threats, but both are urgent matters of national security.

A public, transparent effort from the platforms would offer additional accountability for those spreading disinformation in the weeks and months

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Opinion: The positives of virtual learning that nobody is talking about – Opinion – Austin American-Statesman

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, universities across the world pivoted to virtual learning, and a host of negative consequences quickly followed. Virtual learning exhausts students, exacerbates social class differences and mirrors the gender inequities that exist in in-person classes.

And yet for all its drawbacks, virtual learning has an equalizing power that is undeniable. More institutions of higher learning must leverage many of the features that virtual learning provides to reduce bias and increase accessibility and inclusion for students, and to improve learning outcomes in ways not possible in person.

In a physical classroom, the professor is at the podium and students choose their seats in the classroom. This may result in unconscious biases in both the professor and students about the abilities or motivations of various students (front row or back benchers), fueling disparate effects on learning outcomes.

In a virtual setting, the teacher and students have

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