Science and Technology links (May 25th 2019)

  1. Oculus released the Quest, its latest VR goggles. It requires no wiring, no PC. It supports six degrees of freedom, so it is “true VR”. They cost less than $600. The reviews are critical. The goggles still weight too much for long term use and the software is much too limited. I have ordered a pair which I should get in a couple of weeks. I expect that it would work with our GapMinder VR.Oculus is owned by Facebook and there are privacy concerns that come with the Oculus software.
  2. Though many jobs do not legally require a college education, it is increasingly the case that employers require a college degree. It might be irrational according to a Harvard-Business-School report:

    While a majority of employers pay between 11% and 30% more for college graduates, many employers also report that non-graduates with experience perform nearly or equally well on critical dimensions like time to reach full productivity, time to promotion, level of productivity, or amount of oversight required. Moreover, employers incur significant indirect costs. Seeking college graduates makes many middle- skills jobs harder to fill, and once hired, college graduates demonstrate higher turnover rates and lower engagement levels. A systemic view of the total economics of hiring college graduates shows that companies should be extraordinarily cautious before raising credential requirements for middle- skill positions and should not gravitate toward college graduates based only on a vague notion that it might improve the quality of their workforce.

    Requiring college degrees is a policy that harms some communities:

    Degree inflation particularly hurts populations with college graduation rates lower than the national average, such as Blacks and Hispanics, age 25 years and older.

    Apple’s CEO Tim Cook stated that half of Apple’s US employment last year was made up of people who did not have four-year degrees. Cook stresses that there is a mismatch between what colleges teach and assess, and the actual business needs.

    Some of the best software engineers I have worked with did not have a college degree or even any college. I have done some of my best work with these people.

    My impression is that the leading software companies put little weight on even a computer-science degree in the sense that they have applicants undergo extensive technical testing. Such testing would be foreign to lawyers, nurses or medical doctors.

    I still think that if you are going to go to college, studying computer science is a wise move. But I would also not put a degree as a requirement when hiring if I could as an employer.

  3. Many of my environmentally conscious colleagues attempt to offset the footprint of their international travel and conferences by the purchase of carbon credits. The general idea is that you can keep on flying many times a year, you can keep on organizing international events, because you give money so that people in Brazil plant trees, forgo farming and oil in favor of solar panels, and so forth. It is like magic! But if an idea is incredibly convenient, maybe it is just not true… Song does an excellent job of arguing against carbon credits.
  4. Between 40% to 50% of your income is due to your genes.
  5. According to an article in Nature, blocking the CD22 protein with antibodies rejuvenates the brain of a mouse. There is hope that it might be applicable to human beings as well.
  6. Google software can translate your speech using your own voice.
  7. Xenon gas can protect the brain and neurons after a brain injury, in mice.
  8. Smartphones can detect who is carrying them by their gait.

Published by

Daniel Lemire

A computer science professor at the University of Quebec (TELUQ).

One thought on “Science and Technology links (May 25th 2019)”

  1. I think your attribution is incorrect in the carbon credits story. The credits say “By Lisa Song, with additional reporting by Paula Moura. Photography by Fernando Martinho, for ProPublica”.

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