Posts Tagged computer science

IEEE Techwise Conversations

Here is a list of episodes I produced for Techwise Conversations, an IEEE podcast. IEEE is the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers — the world’s largest professional association dedicated to advancing technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity.

As producer, I identify good stories, locate prospective interviewees, invite them to be part of the podcast, “pre-interview” them, write questions for the host, and set up the actual interview for the IEEE interviewer.

Electric Shocks Preferred to Thinking (Especially by Men).  Erin Westgate, a graduate student in social psychology at the University of Virginia, says we — men especially — aren’t so happy to be alone with our thoughts. (08/15/14)

A Case Called Alice: Software Patents and the U.S. Supreme Court. Intellectual property lawyer Linda Thayer discusses the implications of a 2014 ruling for high-tech companies. (07/17/14)

Combing Sensors and Rewards for Good Behavior with “Nudge Engines.” Balaji Prabhakar, a professor in the department of electrical engineering and computer science at Stanford University, says his technology can produce less-crowded streets and healthier employees. (06/17/14)

Economists Predict the Next Century. Ignacio Palacios-Huerta, a professor in the department of management at the London School of Economics, talks about In 100 Years: Leading Economists Predict the Future. (05/16/14)

How Women Got Through the Doors of Engineering Schools. Amy Sue Bix, director of the Center for Historical Studies of Technology and Science at Iowa State University, and author of Girls Coming to Tech!: A History of American Engineering Education for Women, describes how 20th-century pioneers began breaking down the gender barrier. (04/25/14)

The Second Machine Age: Avoiding the Dark Side of the Digital Revolution. Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the MIT Center for Digital Business, and co-author of  The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies, talks about how to keep technology from causing long-term reductions in the quality of life for a significant portion of the population. (03/21/14)

Identifying the Recipe for Literary Success. Yejin Choi, assistant professor of computer science at Stony Brook University in New York, says computer analysis can predict a book’s appeal. (03/07/14)

Is the End of Net Neutrality Near? John Bergmayer, senior staff attorney at Public Knowledge, talks about what the end of net neutrality — treating all Internet traffic equally — would mean to consumers and technological innovation. (02/21/14)

NeuroPace: Controlling Epilepsy With a Brain Implant. Frank Fischer, the CEO of NeuroPace, talks about using sensors and deep-brain stimulation to control severe epilepsy. (12/13/13)

Cyborg Cockroaches to the Rescue. Edgar Lobaton, professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering at North Carolina State University, talks about instrumenting swarms of insects to explore catastrophe zones. (12/5/13)

Crowdsource Control. Sinan Aral, David Austin Professor in Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, shows how easy it is to manipulate online opinions. (10/2/13)

A Digital Jigsaw Puzzle. Roni Shweka of the Friedberg Genizah Project talks about scanning and reassembling 250,000 document fragments that are hundreds of years old. (08/20/13)

Ajay Bhatt: Intel’s Rock-Star Inventor. Ajay Bhatt, co-creator of the USB, now wants to build an all-day computer. (07/23/13)

Jaron Lanier: We’re Being Enslaved by Free Information. Jaron Lanier says our network architecture is shrinking the economy and impoverishing the middle class. (07/16/13)

The Almost-Free Cellphone. CEO Stephen Stokols says Freedom-Pop offers modest cellular voice and data plans for free. (07/09/13)

Telecommuting, Serendipity, and Innovation. Proximity spurs collaboration, says Jason Owen-Smith, associate professor of sociology and organizational studies at the University of Michigan. (07/01/13)

Repackaging the News for Smartphones. Founding editor David Cohn asks, “Is creating fast food journalism, or reinventing it?” (06/20/13)

Your Dad’s Next Nurse Might Be a Robot. Carnegie Mellon University roboticist Jim Osborn notes that the increasing number of elderly and the decline of caretakers creates the perfect storm for nurse-robots. (06/18/13)

Supermarkets Are High-Tech Hotbeds. Kroger’s infrared cameras to shorten checkout queues is just one example, says Kurt Kendall, partner and director at Kurt Salmon. (06/07/13)

Is Data Science Your Next Career? Opportunities abound, and universities are meeting them with new programs, says Chris Wiggins, professor of applied mathematics at Columbia University. (05/28/13)

Will Face Recognition Ever Capture Criminals? Despite thousands of cameras on the scene, the Boston Marathon bombers weren’t caught by face recognition technology, says James Wayman, former director of the National Biometric Test Center at San Jose State University. (05/24/13)

IBM’s Watson Tries to Learn…Everything. Jim Hendler, professor of computer science and cognitive science at Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute, and his students want to find out what happens when Watson learns a million databases. (05/21/13)

Data Science Is Now a Job Market Based Entirely on Merit. Anthony Goldbloom, founder and CEO of Kaggle, talks about a start-up that ranks data scientists and creates competitions between them for specific consulting projects. (05/17/13)

A Social Network for Emergency Notifications. Christine Sommers, co-founder of ePACT, talks about the company;s dedicated system to keep organizations connected in emergencies. (02/02/13)

Marriage By Skype. Adam Candeub, professor of law at Michigan State University and director of its Intellectual Property, Information & Communications Law Program, talks about the legal and technology ramifications of proxy marriages. (04/26/13)

Literature Is Hard to Remember — Compared to Facebook. And gossip is more memorable than the evening news, according to a study by Laura Mickes, senior research fellow at the University of Warwick. (04/19/13)

Robots Are Not Killing Jobs, Says a Roboticist. Henrik Christensen, KUKA Chair of Robotics at Georgia Tech’s College of Computing, believes automation is still creating more jobs than it destroys. (04/09/13)

Paying for Free TV. CEO Chet Kanojia explains how Aereo takes broadcast TV signals and puts them on your computer, tablet, and smartphone — for a fee. (04/05/13)

A 3-D Printer for Human Embryonic Stem Cells. Will [Wenmiao] Shu, a researcher at the School of Engineering & Physical Sciences, Biochemistry, Biophysics and Bioengineering at Heriot-Watt University, hopes to print out an entire human liver one day. (04/02/13)

Going Back to School for Drone Pilot Training. Dan Macchiarella, chairman of the aeronautical science department at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, is training some of the pilots who will navigate the 10,000 drones that will be in use by 2018. (03/26/13)

Are Paywalls Working? Tinypass CEO Trevor Kaufman says the successful paywall for Andrew Sullivan’s blog may have everyone rethinking free content. (03/19/13)

Telecommuting and Yahoo’s Desperate Need for Innovation. Management expert John Sullivan says Yahoo is right to end telecommuting. (03/15/13)

With Better Software, Office Buildings Can Cut Energy Use by 30 Percent. BuildingIQ CEO Mike Zimmerman talks about how existing control systems in buildings can wring out the waste. (03/12/13)

The Most Popular Résumé in the World. Programmer Philippe Dubost turned himself into an Amazon product page that got a million page views. (03/05/13)

Authenticating Video. Nathan Freitas, founder of the Guardian Project, produces software that verifies human rights videos and project activists in the field. (03/01/13)

Can You Trust an Amazon Review? Trevor Pinch, professor of science and technology studies in the Cornell University sociology department, says reviewers are gaming the system at Amazon and elsewhere for mischief, politics, and profit. (02/19/13)

No Textbooks, Just iPads. Gregg Cox, Lynn University vice president for academic affairs, talks abouit putting the school’s two-year common-core curriculum on the iPad Mini. (02/15/13)

Gun Control: What About Technology? Robert Spitzer, professor of political science at the State University of New Yor’s College at Cortland, wants to know why guns can;t recognize their owners. (02/12/13)

Would You Trust a Website With Your Paycheck? Brian Merritt, director of engineering at Simple, argues that does much of what a bank does without bricks, mortar or fees. (02/08/13)

Is Wikipedia a Real-Time News Source? Brian Keegan, a postdoctoral fellow at Northeastern University in Boston, studies the Wikipedia volunteers who publish a story about a disaster within minutes after it occurs. (02/05/13)

Is Micropublishing the Death of Publishing — or Its Salvation? Australia book publisher James Morrison self-publishes thousands of books that almost nobody will read — and makes money at it. (02/01/13)

Do Libraries Have a Future? Maureen Sullivan, president of the American Library Association, advocates for the sale of ebooks to libraries — as opposed to renewing ebook licenses every year. (01/25/13)

The Job Market of 2045. Rice University professor Moshe Vardi asks what human beings will do once robots do all our work. (01/22/13)

Smartphones as Blood Analyzers and Allergen Testers. Aydogan Ozcan, associate professor in the UCLA department of electrical engineering, has developed a phone platform that can analyze blood, tell whether a cookie contains peanuts and watch sperm cells dance. (01/17/13)

Games in Schools: Making “Ender’s Game” a Reality. Jessica Hammer, graduate research fellow at Teachers College (Columbia University), tallies the pluses and minuses of gamification. (01/08/13)

What’s a Good Job, and Why Aren’t There More of Them? Paul Osterman, professor of human resources and management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, dismantles some famous myths about technology and the job market. (01/02/13)

This is Your Computer on Skis. Pete Wagner — engineer, programmer, skier and founder of Wagner Custom Skis — uses algorithms to figure out the “optimal geometry” for your personalized skis. (12/28/12)

Computers: It’s Time to Start Over. Robert Watson, a senior research associate in the Security Research Group at the University of Cambridge, and a research fellow at St John’s College, wants to redesign the computer from scratch — with security foremost in mind. (12/26/12)

License Plates, Cameras and Our Vanishing Privacy. Col. Lisa Shay, professor of electrical engineering at the U.S. Military Academy/West Point, talks about the ubiquity of tracking technologies — and the need to advocate for systems with built-in privacy protections. (12/17/12)

Rewriting the constitution on Facebook. Thorvaldur Gylfason, professor of economics at the University of Iceland, talks about democratizing the new Icelandic constitution through crowdsourcing technologies. (11/30/12)

Son of Sandy. Malcolm J. Bowman, professor of physical oceanography at Stony Brook University’s Marine Sciences Research Center and head of its Storm Surge Research Group, asks, “Are we going to just sit back and wait for the next superstorm, or do something about it?” (11/26/12)

Dynamic Pricing: “How Much” is Not a Simple Question. Eric Best, CEO, Mercent, talks about how the algorithms that price airline seats are also being applied to cameras and cereal. (10/15/12)

Police States and Domestic Terrorism. James Bamford, author of The Puzzle Palace and Body of Secrets, ponders the role of U.S. security agencies, which are collecting billions of our phone calls, texts and e-mails. (10/09/12)

Smartphones are Goldmines of Economic Data. Dan Silverman, an economist at the University of Michigan and Arizona State University, taps into Pageonce, a payment app, to deconstruct the habits behind our financial transactions. (09/24/12)

For IT Outsourcing, Have You Considered North Korea? Paul Tija, senior consultant and founder of GPI Consultancy (The Netherlands), says North Korea has a flourishing information technology industry that’s eager for your business. (09/14/12)

Study: U.S. Colleges Ain’t What They Used To Be. Matthew Chingos, Fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Brown Center on Education Policy, says educational achievement has been stagnant for three decades. Can online learning help? (08/28/12)

Trackable Banknotes, at Last.  Husam Alshareef, associate professor at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, talks about Saudi Arabia’s development of new RFID technology to be embedded into the riyal. (8/28/12)

The Amazon Smartphone. Rumors of an Amazon smartphone are too loud to be ignored, says Yankee Group’s Carl Howe. (8/13/12)

Training the Brain for Happiness. Elaine Fox, psychology professor and director of the Affective Neuroscience Laboratory at the University of Essex, talks about new data on the complicated genetic basis of depression and happiness. (8/6/12)

Does Reddit’s Self-Policing Go Too Far? Erik Martin, Reddit’s general manager, explains why top publications and editors sometimes get banned  from the social news website. (7/27/12)

The Cultural Treasures in Google Ngram. Harvard’s Jean-Baptiste Michel tells Steven Cherry about a Google Books project that reveals what words tell us about language, culture and fame. (7/9/12)

14-Year-Old Student Turns Rain Into Electricity. Raymond Wang talks to Steven Cherry about his Google Science Fair project, which harvests wind too. (7/6/12)

A Butane Recharger For Your Cellphone. Mouli Ramani, vice president of marketing and business development at Lilliputian Systems, talks to Steven Cherry about the company’s efforts to develop a USB-based fuel cell system that will recharge your portable electronics inexpensively. (7/2/12)

Why Bad Jobs – Or No Jobs – Happen to Good Workers. Wharton’s Peter Cappelli talks to Steven Cherry about the non-existent skills gap — and what employers should do about it. (6/19/12)

Can One Chemical Be the Basis of All Morality? Professor of economics, management, and psychology Paul Zak talks to Steven Cherry about the role of oxytocin in helping us play nicely with others. (05/17/12)

Airport Security: Everything You Know Is Wrong. Former TSA head Kip Hawley tells Steven Cherry that we’re spending our money on all the wrong things. (5/8/12)

Arduino’s Playmate. Eben Upton, founder of Raspberry Pi, talks to Steven Cherry about the credit card-sized microprocessor that students can buy for $35 and use as an exciting programming tool. (4/18/12)

Brighter Lights, Quieter Cities? Acoustic engineer Nick Antonio talks to Steven Cherry about the audio engineering feats that can make urban spaces more liveable. (4/17/12)

This Is Your Brain on Metaphor. Neuroscientists use fMRI to look at our most treasured turns of phrase. Steven Cherry interview predictive analytics expert Eric Siegel. (4/6/12)

Your Favorite Stores Know You All Too Well. And your purchases, e-mail address and credit card activities are helping them know you better all the time. Steven Cherry interviews data mining expert Eric Siegel. (3/30/12)

Consumer Electrics, Driver Distraction, and You. Steven Cherry talks to David Strickland, administrator, National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, about the role of dashboard electronics and personal gadgets in automobile accidents. (3/23/12)

Fixing the Brain With Computers. Steven Cherry talks to Richard Bucholz, a neurosurgeon  at the St. Louis University School of Medicine, about implanting little machines into the brain to help “cure” blindness, deafness, depression, epilepsy and Parkinson’s Disease. (3/19/12)

Open Source Comes to Textbooks. Steven Cherry talks to Richard Baraniuk, founder and director of the Connexions platform, who says college professors are ready to reinvent the textbook. The new price: $0. (3/15/12)

Law, as Much as Technology, Made Silicon Valley. Steven Cherry speaks with Anupam Chander, professor at the University of California, Davis, School of Law, about the legal climate that facilitated the exponential growth of the California-based Internet economy. (3/1/12)

Can Software Predict Repeat Offenders? Steven Cherry interviews Richard Berk, a professor of criminology and statistics at the University of Pennsylvania, about an algorithm he developed to help the criminal justice system head off future perps at the pass. (2/22/12)

What’s Wrong With Flight Simulators. Steven Cherry talks to Pete Reynolds, former test pilot for Bombardier and Lear Jet, about efforts by test pilots to reduce pilot error during any number of loss-of-control incidents, especially at high altitudes. (2/17/12)

Bone Transplantation Without Rejection. Steven Cherry talks to Belgium’s Peter Mercelis, founder and managing director of LayerWise, about the technology involved in implanting a titanium jaw into the face of an 83-year-old woman. (2/10/12)

Reinventing the Lecture. Steven Cherry talks to Daphne Koller, professor of artificial intelligence in the Computer Science Department at Stanford University, about the growing prevalence of personalized online instruction. (2/3/12)

Engineering the New Libya. Steven Cherry talks to Mustafa Abushagur, an electrical engineer, IEEE member and interim deputy prime minister of Libya, about rebuilding the country. (1/11/12)

Reinventing the Scientific Method. Host Steven Cherry interviews Michael Nielsen, author of Reinventing Discovery and theoretical physicist specializing in quantum computation (Kindle edition). 12/30/11

The Critical Threat to Critical Infrastructure. Host Steven Cherry interviews Steve Chabinsky, deputy assistant director, Cyber-Security, FBI, about the urgent need to protect corporate networks, personal computers and government systems. 12/12/11

The Future of Work. Host Steve Cherry interviews Andrew McAfee, co-author (along with Erik Brynjolfsson) of Race Against The Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy. McAfee, an economist at the MIT Sloan School of Management, argues that technology really has put a lot of people out of work. He suggests ways in which government and industry can get the U.S. economy going again. 12/7/11

Last updated on August 22, 2014


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It’s over

Confused individual in front of a computer.No, not the race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, although Obama seems to have gotten that one pretty much all sewn up.

I’m talking about my computer science class. I took the final exam today and now I don’t have to spend any more time on algorithms or Boolean logic gates than I want to. And, I’m sad to say, I don’t ever want to study single or multi-core no more.

I’m sad to say because, until I took this course, I styled myself the kind of person who liked to study anything. I figured that if I was determined enough, I would not only become conversant with data clean-up operations but I also would come to love them.

I learned that I can bully my mind into comprehension, but I cannot make myself like something I am somehow not coded to enjoy. I can learn through repetition, or through sheer will, but I cannot change the self that prefers to read literature. This confrontation with my intellectual limitations is a great disappointment to me.

Some of my friends have told me that I can feel proud that I have done well in the course (at least up until the final exam). I would be lying if I said I took no pride in having compelled my English-major brain into coping with math and logic. But after four-and-a-half months of reading Invitation to Computer Science every weekend, and sometimes even on weeknights; after nagging friends to tutor me; after boring family and friends with tales of my misery, I am left with a feeling that I finally have walked out of a nightmare.

I hated studying with kids my son’s age.

I hated having homework — homework! — hang over my head these past few months.

I hated revealing to my researcher-friends that I am a dim bulb when it comes to the subject of classes and objects.

I hated giving my Shabbat away to thoughts of computer science instead of literature or journalism.

I hated foregoing trips to the theater because I was racking my brains over two’s complement. 

I hated having virtually no time to write on my blog.

Most of all, I think I hated having no collegial conversations on the subject I had to study. I didn’t have many collegial conversations about literature when I was in graduate school, either, but my intense motivation to get through a program that interested me assuaged my feelings of loneliness.

Life is short and I just spent way too much time doing something that, I fear, will take me nowhere. 

I fear too that my resentment toward “professional development” indicates some mental weakness, maybe the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease. I’m serious. Maybe I have gotten to an age where I simply don’t want to take on a true intellectual challenge. I see this resistance toward new intellectual pursuits afflicting some of my friends. Am I a casualty of middle-aged intellectual stodginess?

The real test is to see if I really can write another novel in my off-work hours. I no longer have an excuse that my computer science class is eating up my free time. Now it’s back to waking up at five in the morning and putting my bleary-eyed face in front of a computer — and thinking about creating characters, not inputting them; cleaning up bad prose, not redundant data; looking for the logic between sentences, not between transistors.

Give me strength!


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I needed this?

math_symbols What would possess an adult woman to study computer science?

It seemed like such a good idea at the time.

My manager asked me if I thought that studying basic computer science might help me take a “deeper dive” into my various interview podcasts. I thought it would, but that was before I realized that there is no such thing as basic computer science. Starting at chapter one, you are writing algorithms that, true, for somebody like Stu Feldman is pre-K work, but that for somebody like me, whose heart pounds at the sight of variables and integers, is a spur for cognitive lockdown.

Suddenly my life at +40 is on hold until I can figure out how to write an algorithm to indicate what numbers are prime; to read a series of numbers and then print them in reverse order; to create a Caesar cipher — you get the point. I can no longer use my non-work time to read whatever I like, write fiction, do a crossword puzzle, watch a movie, go to the theater or hang out with friends, at least not until I get through a couple pages of computer science.

Actually, I could even write an algorithm of what my life is today:

1. Let X = my life.

2. Let B = computer science studies.

3. Let C = everything else.

If X, then do:

B. Stop. Else do C.

Of course I am the oldest person in the computer science lab at Fordham, and the only female student. I will answer a question if I’m sure I’m right. Occasionally, I have to ask a question. I only hope I don’t look like a drooling escapee from the Hebrew Home for the Aged when I ask the very same question in another five minutes. If I didn’t have a tutor who prepped me through every single practice and homework problem, I would go to class knowing as much about algorithms as I know about the growing season in Punjab province.

I had an epiphany today: I do not actually apply anything I learn from one problem to the next one. I am only capable of understanding, but incapable of learning.

A computer scientist friend of mine at IBM encourages me not to lose heart. “Designing an algorithm is the same as working on a puzzle,” he says. “You just sit with paper and pencil until you figure it out.”

I could sit with paper and pencil in solitary confinement for a thousand years and I still would not be able to figure out by myself how to determine what number is a prime and what is a composite. Here’s the algorithm for my computer science innumeracy:

Let A = My life in solitary confinement.

Let B = Computer science problem.

Let x = years.

If Ax is less than or equal to 1,000, then do:

B. Stop.

Else, cry.

You know what’s really awful about this experience? Not that I will most certainly flunk the course. I don’t even care much if I do. I would care if I flunked a course in Restoration Drama because literature is my strong suit and it’s something I care about.

I don’t even care that much that my incomprehension reduces me to tears every time I stare at the instructions in my Invitation to Computer Science textbook. Maybe everybody needs a good cry on the order of once or twice a week.

What’s really awful is that my manager will have to report to our VP that the funds earmarked for my basic computer science class was good money thrown after bad. Maybe I’ll be fired after I prove beyond a reasonable doubt that I am an imbecile. I will have only myself to thank for thinking I am actually capable of learning something outside my comfort zone. My comfort zone is hard enough. I knew that. I wish I had left well enough alone.

I have to conclude that I am capable of doing exactly one thing in my life: Using the English language. My use of it may not qualify me to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, but it has kept me employed for my entire adult life. Heaven forbid if I ever have to grow my own wheat, sew my own clothing, build my own house or balance my own checkbook. I would be useless. I only hope nobody ever finds out.

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