Great scientific discoveries hide in boring places

NASA's Michelle Thaller explains how an accidental discovery led to the 1978 Nobel Prize in Physics.

  • In 1964, two American radio astronomers, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, discovered the Cosmic Microwave Background by accident. Their resulting work earned them the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1978.
  • They had long been trying to get rid of the annoying "noise" in their data (even thinking it was all the pigeon poop in their telescope) only to realize the noise was the treasure. They had stumbled upon the oldest light in the universe, and some of the strongest evidence to support the Big Bang theory. (What is the Cosmic Microwave Background?)
  • That's why space and science are never boring, explains NASA astronomer Michelle Thaller. One scientist's junk data can be another's Nobel Prize.

These are the world’s longest straight lines

Researchers use algorithms to find the longest straight-line distances on land and at sea

Image: Chabukswar & Mukherjee
  • What links a small town in Portugal and a huge port city in China?
  • The answer may surprise even inhabitants of both places: the world's longest straight line over land
  • That line and its maritime equivalent were determined not by exploration but by calculation
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Facebook gave Spotify and Netflix access to users’ private messages

An exhaustive report from The New York Times shows the alarming extents to which Facebook has been sharing user data.

(Photo: ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images)
  • The report is based on internal documents and interviews with former employees of Facebook and its corporate partners.
  • It shows how Facebook gave more than 100 tech companies access to user data that goes beyond the scope that the social media giant had previously disclosed.
  • Below are some tips for how you can prevent Facebook from sharing your personal data.
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The opioid crisis is profitable. Blockchain tech can end that.

A tech-minded approach to drug fraud could squash those who enable the deadly opioid crisis.

  • The same way blockchain technology could end the blood diamond trade, it could also stop those profiting from the opioid crisis by removing the traditional opportunities for drug fraud, explains Hyperledger's Brian Behlendorf.
  • "I tend not to blame the drug taker because I think they're just medicating to meet their needs, it's really the distributors and those writing fake prescriptions and others who are enabling a lot of this crisis, and I think distributed ledger technology can help us understand where there might be abuses in that system."
  • Blockchain technology could also revolutionize health information systems — from harnessing the IoT to ensure patients take their medication at the right time and often enough (drug adherence is a big problem), to checking the credibility of doctors, and not having to cart around a small filing cabinet of your life's medical records every time you change doctors or providers.

Amazon might have a Cambridge Analytica-size problem

Amazon could be the next big tech firm to find itself in the eye of a data privacy storm.

  • This year the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke, implicating Facebook and creating mass data privacy concern.
  • Concerns have been raised of Amazon user information being leaked to third parties on a regular basis.
  • With the amount of sensitive information and huge number of users on the Amazon platform, this is no small concern.
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