Category: In General

Episode II: Math Jedi Matt Joins Black Jedi Don and Jamar on the BRBD Show

By TSS Admin

This Saturday evening, March 11th, at 6 pm central standard time on Twin Cities News Talk, Matt Johnson, our Editor-in-chief and mathematician, will be making his second guest apprearance on the Black Republican/Black Democrat show (BRBD).

Here’s the link to Matt’s first appearance on BRBD:

He will be joining co-hosts Donald Allen (R) and Jamar Nelson (D), and roving reporter Preya Samsundar from Alpha News, on the Black Jedi Radio Network to discuss Minneapolis economics and politics, why the presidential election polls and forecasts weren’t wrong, and Bill Nye “The Science Guy” and Tucker Carlson’s now infamous climate change exchange. This is sure to be a light-saber blazing event with a large audience.

Speaking of a large audience, the Black Republican/Black Democrat show has blown up on social media since Matt’s last visit on February 11th of this year. During Matt’s first visit, BRBD had 1,535 followers on their Facebook page. Since then, the Black Jedi Radio Network has gained nearly 5,000 followers; and so this time around, the Math Jedi Matt Johnson will have a much larger audience to share the gospel of mathematics with, while dueling with republicans and democrats.

Where can you listen?

For our Twin Cities’ readers, just simply turn the terrestrial dial to AM 1130 or FM 103.5. For our national readers, just download the iHeartRadio app or you can listen LIVE via the world-wide web by going to www.TwinCitiesNewsTalk.com, which is an iHeartRadio station. For our readers who would like to call into the show, dial (612) 986 – 0010.

We’ll see you Saturday night!

 

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Radio Jedi co-hosts Donald and Jamar invite TSS’s Matt Johnson onto the BRBD Show

By TSS Admin

brbd-v1Our very own Editor-in-chief, and research scientist, Matt Johnson will be making his radio debut as a guest on the Black Republican Black Democrat Show this Saturday, February 11th, at 6 pm on Twin Cities News Talk in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

He will join radio Jedi co-hosts Donald Allen (R) and Jamar Nelson (D) for the 6 to 7 pm central time hour. Together, they will take a closer look at the socio-economic data – crime, employment, housing, etc. – for Minneapolis, and other American cities. They will be delving into Matt’s “Number Shrewdness” to get the real scoop on the urban numbers that are not always presented in a truthful light.

What’s going on in Chicago and other cities? Why is there such disparity in economic wealth between racial groups? What might be done to address such issues? These are just a few of the questions that may be addressed during this Saturday’s show.

Where do you listen?

For our Twin Cities’ readers, just simply turn the terrestrial dial to AM 1130 or FM 103.5. For our national readers, just simply download the iHeartRadio app or you can listen LIVE via the world-wide web by going to www.TwinCitiesNewsTalk.com, which is an iHeartRadio station.

 

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NASA Scientist Studies Whether Solar Storms Cause Animal Beachings

A long-standing mystery among marine biologists is why otherwise healthy whales, dolphins, and porpoises — collectively known as cetaceans — end up getting stranded along coastal areas worldwide. Could severe solar storms, which affect Earth’s magnetic fields, be confusing their internal compasses and causing them to lose their way?

Although some have postulated this and other theories, no one has ever initiated a thorough study to determine whether a relationship exists — until now. NASA heliophysicist Antti Pulkkinen, who works at the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, has teamed with the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, or BOEM, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare, or IFAW, to determine whether a link exists.

Strandings occur around the world, involving as few as three to as many as several hundred animals per event. Although a global phenomenon, such strandings tend to happen more often in New Zealand, Australia, and Cape Cod, Massachusetts, said project collaborator Katie Moore, the director of IFAW’s global Animal Rescue Program. Headquartered in Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts, IFAW operates in 40 countries, rescuing animals and promoting conservation to secure a safe habitat for wildlife.

“These locations share some key characteristics, such as the geography, gently sloping beaches, and fine-grained sediment, which we think all play some role in these events,” she said.

Skewed Compasses

Another possibility is that these animals’ internal compasses are somehow skewed by humans’ use of multi-beam echo sounders and other sonar-type equipment used to map the seafloor or locate potential fishing sites, to name just a few applications.

“However, these human-made influences do not explain most of the strandings,” said Pulkkinen, an expert in space weather and its effect on Earth. “Theories as to the cause include magnetic anomalies and meteorological events, such as extreme tides during a new moon and coastal storms, which are thought to disorient the animals. It has been speculated that due to the possible magnetic-field sensing used by these animals to navigate, magnetic anomalies could be at least partially responsible.”

Indeed, magnetic anomalies caused when the sun’s corona ejects gigantic bubbles of charged particles out into the solar system can cause problems for Earth-orbiting satellites and power grids when they slam into Earth’s protective magnetosphere. It’s possible they could affect animals, as well, Pulkkinen said.

“The type of data that Antti has accumulated, together with the extensive stranding data at our disposal, will allow us to undertake the first rigorous analysis to test possible links between cetacean mass strandings and space-weather phenomena,” said Desray Reeb, a marine biologist at BOEM’s headquarters in Sterling, Virginia. Reeb approached Pulkkinen about launching a research effort after hearing his presentation about space weather in June 2015.

Massive Data-Mining Effort

With funding from BOEM and NASA’s Science Innovation Fund, Pulkkinen and his collaborators are carrying out a massive data-mining operation. The team will analyze NASA’s large space-weather databases, including field recordings and space observations, and stranding data gathered by BOEM and IFAW.

“We estimate that records on the order of hundreds of cetacean mass strandings will be available for study, thus making our analyses statistically significant,” Pulkkinen said. “We therefore expect that we will be able to reliably test the hypothesis. So far, there has been very little quantitative research, just a lot of speculation,” Pulkkinen continued. “What we’re going to do is throw cold, hard data at this. It’s a long-standing mystery and it’s important that we figure out what’s going on.”

The team expects to complete the study by the end of September and publish its findings in a scientific, peer-reviewed journal. Should the study reveal a statistical correlation, team members said the results won’t necessarily imply a causal link. However, it would provide the first thorough research into this hypothesis and offer the first step toward determining if it’s correct.

“Save More Animals”

“The results of this study will be informative for researchers, stranding network organizers, resource agencies, and regulatory agencies,” Reeb said. “If we understand the relationship between the two, we may be able to use observations of solar storms as an early warning for potential strandings to occur,” added Moore, who said she “was immediately keen” to get involved in the study. “This would allow stranding responders in global hotspots, and really around the world, to be better prepared to respond, thus having the opportunity to save more animals.”

For more technology-related news, go to: http://gsfctechnology.gsfc.nasa.gov/newsletter/Current.pdf

Lori Keesey
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Photo Credit: NASA

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TSS News Mag: Article #500

TSS Admin

Greetings readers! This is our 500th article! We can’t think of a better way to celebrate this occasion other than to thank you.

Thank you so much for your readership and following TSS News Mag. It is because of you that January became our best month ever!

When TSS started 2 years ago we had a handful of views and followers and did maybe a couple of articles a month. Well, now we publish at least 4-5 articles a day, and last month we had tens of thousands of views and have added over 6,500 followers with more being added daily.

This kind of growth wouldn’t be possible without readers like you commenting on our articles, liking them, and sharing them on social media.

We also created a way for our readers and followers to support TSS News Mag. We at TSS News Mag write, edit, post, and manage the site in our spare time. We are passionate about providing content that makes our readers think, debate and dialog with others but we are limited in ways we can make this happen. So if you’d like to support us please do so at the link below and thank you.

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Also, TSS would like to hear from you if you are interested in writing for us. We are looking for people who are passionate about what they are writing about. If you would like an opportunity to write for us or if you already have written something and like to contribute, please contact us at the link below:

Contact us

Finally, we have some exciting things planned for this year at TSS so stayed tuned! Until then enjoy the ride and continue to read, comment, like, share, donate and write.

Thank you!

TSS News Admin

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What does Trump’s election mean for digital freedom of speech?

As the shock of Donald Trump’s election victory is giving way to analysis about how his presidency will affect Americans’ lives, our digital freedom of speech deserves special consideration. The ability to express ourselves freely is a fundamental right guaranteed to us all.

There are three major elements that determine how free we are in our online expression: The press must be free to publish anything newsworthy about public officials without fear of serious reprisals. Online communications must be able to reach broad audiences without discrimination by internet service providers. And the government must not be able to spy indiscriminately on ordinary law-abiding Americans.

Before and during the campaign, Trump made pronouncements that suggest deep and widespread implications for digital freedom of speech if those ideas end up guiding his administration. As a scholar of digital communication, I am concerned about what he and his administration will do once in office. Trump’s actions could result in weaker protections for our free press, less competition and higher prices for online consumers, certain forms of online censorship and a return to an intrusive online surveillance regime. The public must prepare to stand up to oppose these infringements on our rights.

Attacking the press

During his presidential bid, Donald Trump ran as much against the press as against his Republican primary opponents and Hillary Clinton. This was despite the fact that many press outlets were only doing what they usually do during campaigns: scrutinize both parties’ front-runners and nominees.

Most candidates simply grin and bear the ritual press grillings, but not Trump. He showed an unusually thin skin for a presidential contender, directly attacking the press during raucous rallies and routinely banning certain news outlets from covering his campaign.

Donald Trump attacks the media in this CNN clip.

But he also went beyond even these extraordinary steps, suggesting that he would “open up” libel laws to make it easier for public figures to sue news outlets: “[W]hen people write incorrectly about you and you can prove that they wrote incorrectly, we’re going to get them through the court system to change and we’re going to get them to pay damages,” said Trump.

This is, in fact, what current libel law already allows. Strikingly, Trump has combined his seeming ignorance of libel law (despite his many years in the public eye) with a sense that today’s existing restrictions on the press are too loose. This suggests that he may seek to enshrine in law or policy his particular animosity toward the press.

He also has been willing to attack any and all critics, including private citizens. Combined, these elements raise questions about the degree, if any, to which Trump values freedom of the press, digital or otherwise.

His Cabinet appointments do not inspire confidence in his support of this principle, either. During his confirmation hearing, Trump’s nominee for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions, dodged questions about his willingness to prosecute journalists based on their reporting, including handling leaks from government employees. He has also opposed a federal shield law that would protect journalists against such prosecutions.

Threatening an open internet

Network neutrality was not a hot topic during this presidential election, but that may change during a Trump administration.

During the debate over net neutrality in 2014, Trump tweeted that the policy was a “top down power grab” that would “target conservative media.” He appears to have conflated net neutrality’s nondiscrimination principle with the now-defunct Fairness Doctrine. That policy, discontinued in 1987, required broadcasters to devote equal time to opposing views about controversial public issues. It’s hard to know which is more worrying: his early antipathy toward net neutrality, or his objections despite not knowing what it actually means.

Whatever Trump himself understands, his appointments look like bad news for supporters of an open internet. President-elect Trump has named Jeffrey Eisenach and Mark Jamison to oversee the transition at the Federal Communications Commission, which oversees internet communications policy. Both are staff members at the conservative American Enterprise Institute and former lobbyists for major telecommunications companies. Both are also vocal opponents of net neutrality. Also on his FCC transition team are Roslyn Layton, another staff member at AEI and vocal net neutrality opponent, and North Carolina telecom entrepreneur David Morken.

Morken is not on record as opposing net neutrality, but so far its supporters seem outnumbered. Those signs suggest that a Trump administration could enable an internet where wealthy people and companies can afford to distribute their content everywhere quickly, while regular people and small businesses can’t attract an audience or deliver content efficiently.

Perpetuating the surveillance state

During the campaign, candidate Trump supported keeping or restoring the NSA’s secret surveillance programs, which former agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed in 2013. Those programs, with a questionable legal basis, collected internet and telephone communications from all Americans, storing them in a massive government database.

Although Congress voted across partisan lines to eliminate these programs in 2015, Trump’s election may help revive them. He has named Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas), a supporter of the NSA surveillance programs Congress eliminated, as the next CIA director.

The programs are unpopular with Americans: It is perhaps no coincidence that interest in technologies that would make government surveillance more difficult, such as encrypted email and encrypted instant messaging apps, has surged since Trump’s election.

How successful could Trump be?

We are not necessarily doomed to lose our digital freedom of speech. As with any public policy question, the answer is more complicated. Should Trump begin to wage on a full-fledged assault on digital expression, the degree to which he can succeed may be limited.

One factor is his ability to navigate the extremely complex and time-consuming obstacle course that is the American system of government. With its separation of powers, bicameral legislature, multiple layers of jurisdiction and endless veto points, the American system strongly favors inertia over just about any course of action.

But a highly motivated president with an authoritarian streak could potentially cut through this inertia by, for example, embracing a strong unitary executive view of the presidency.

When the public gets involved, even seemingly entrenched plans can be derailed, or even reversed. For example, a mass of public involvement (with a little assistance from comedian John Oliver) transformed the initial net neutrality debate.

This power the public holds – if it chooses to wield it – can be used in two ways: First, it can resist unwelcome changes, by reinforcing the political tendency toward inertia and the status quo. And second, it can drive policymakers to better serve the public who employ them. It’s unclear at present which tactic protecting our digital freedom of speech will require – or whether we’ll need both. In American politics, elections may have consequences, but they’re never the end of the story.

The Conversation

Luis Hestres -Assistant Professor of Digital Communication, The University of Texas at San Antonio

Photo Credit: Times High Reducation

 

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This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Donald Trump, Betsy DeVos and school choice: Eight essential reads

Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of education, Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos, was questioned on a range of education issues during her confirmation hearing this week. Central to the debate is her major role in supporting school choice policies in her home state.

Her views on this issue are consistent with Trump’s, who during his campaign promised US$20 billion in federal funding for school choice. During the Republican National Convention, Donald Trump Jr. laid out a critique of the U.S. public education system:

“You know why other countries do better on K through 12? They let parents choose where to send their own children to school.”

We turn to The Conversation’s archives to find out what the research says about school choice. And, who is Betsy Devos, anyway?

A billionaire and advocate

Betsy DeVos has never held public office, and neither she nor her children have ever attended a public school. This is unprecedented in the 35-year history of the position of secretary of education.

Her nomination has stirred up questions about her billionaire background and qualifications to serve.

Before her nomination, DeVos spent two decades working in education, primarily advocating for school choice in Michigan. The results of these policies have been mixed, writes Dustin Horbeck of Miami University.

“Stanford University released a study that claims that charter schools in Detroit have a slight edge over public schools. Conversely, a more recent study from New York City’s Independent Budget Office questions whether choice programs actually benefit lower income students.”

When answers depend on the question asked

“School choice” describes policies that allow families to enroll their children in schools other than the ones assigned to them by the public system.

In certain cases, parents may receive state funding – known as school vouchers – to send their children to schools of their choice.

Views on school voucher programs vary widely. As Cornell University’s Glenn Altschuler explains,
there have been school voucher programs since the 19th century, but it is in the past 20 years that the movement has gained steam.

The question is, do school vouchers improve student outcomes?

Michigan State University scholar Joshua Cowen says there is no simple answer:

“What we know about school vouchers depends on what we ask. And what we ask should be informed not only by traditional academic outcomes, such as test scores, but also by a new understanding of the many different ways that schools can contribute to student success.”

Are charters good or bad?

Charter schools offer another way of providing options to parents. These public schools are more autonomous than traditional schools. They are often organized around an educational mission or philosophy.

But, as Cowen writes, not all charter schools are created equally:

“Charters’ governance structure – who can operate a charter and what kind of oversight they face – varies by state. For example, while charter schools in some states are managed by nonprofit organizations, in other states they are run for a fee by for-profit companies.”

Success rates vary. As Cowen points out in a second article:

“One recent study of schools in 27 states containing 95 percent of the nation’s charter students found charter advantages overall, but not necessarily in every state. … Such differences are at least partly due to differences in state laws defining what constitutes a charter school.”

Among concerns about charter schools is trend that has recently emerged – cyber charter schools. David Baker and Bryan Mann of Pennsylvania State University sift through the data on this new hybrid between online learning and the charter school model. The outlook isn’t very good.

“Researchers found these trends across almost all states that they studied: They found lower learning growth in reading in 14 out of the 17 states, and 17 out of 17 states in math.”

Contentious debate

As to Donald Trump Jr.‘s call to look to other countries, Harvard’s Pasi Sahlberg gives us an insider’s look at classrooms in the country that is deemed to have the best school results in the world: Finland.

“In my previous job as director general at the Finnish Ministry of Education in Helsinki, I had an opportunity to host scores of education delegations from the United States. … A common takeaway was that Finnish teachers seem to have much more professional autonomy than teachers in the United States to help students to learn and feel well.”

This difficult debate may be best summed up in the words of University of Colorado’s Kevin Welner.

“Imagine a police officer pulls you over and tickets you for speeding. She tells you she measured you going 50.5 MPH in a 50 MPH zone. No, you reply, my speedometer shows that I was going exactly 49.5. The entire discussion would be absurd, since neither your speedometer nor the officer’s radar gun is sufficiently accurate to support the opposing claims, and a 0.5 MPH difference is not practically meaningful.”

The Conversation

Danielle Douez -Associate Editor, Politics + Society, The Conversation; Emily Costello, Senior Editor, Politics + Society, The Conversation, and Kalpana Jain, Senior Editor, Education, The Conversation

Photo Credit: Phil Roeder

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This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

MLK Day 2017: An Excerpt from a ‘Letter From Birmingham Jail’

By Matt Johnson

To remember, honor, and reflect on the social and political contributions, and the leadership of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I have transcribed for you, my dear reader, my favorite excerpts from Dr. King’s Letter From Birmingham Jail published in The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. 

April 16, 1963:

MY DEAR FELLOW CLERGYMEN:

…I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

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I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn’t this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn’t this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn’t this like condemning Jesus because his unique God-consciousness and never-ceasing devotion to God’s will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion?We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber.

I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: “All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth.” Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational motion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity…

Yours from the cause of Peace and Brotherhood,

Martin Luther King, Jr.

To my reader, the entire letter can be read here. And finally, we take this day to remember, honor, and reflect; and we take the next 365 days to do the deeds and work.

 

Matt Johnson is a writer for The Systems Scientist and the Urban Dynamics blog; and is a mathematical scientist. He has also contributed to the Iowa State Daily and Our Black News.

You can connect with him directly in the comments section, and follow him on Twitter or on Facebook

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