Lab Notebook – January 19, 2014

  • 100 Songs in a Day – On The Media 011714
    One way to make money making music online is the boring way. Write one song that does incredibly well and live off the royalties for the rest of your life. Matt Farley is a musician who’s gone a different route. He’s written over 14,000 songs and he makes a tiny bit of money each time someone plays one on Spotify or iTunes. OTM producer and TLDR co-creator PJ Vogt visited Matt at his home recording studio to see how it all works. Programming note: This story originally aired on TLDR — OTM’s new blog and podcast.
  • Policing Gangs Through Rap Videos – On The Media 011714
    In New York City, 30 percent of all shootings are tied to youth gang rivalries. There are over 300 street crews in the city, loosely affiliated gangs that battle mainly over turf. The rivalries often play out in rap videos made by the gangs and posted on YouTube. Those videos – and threats of violence in their lyrics – are being used as evidence by New York City police to make arrests. Brooke talks with WNYC reporter Kathleen Horan about this policing technique.
  • Rap Lyrics as Evidence – On The Media 011714
    This coming week, the Supreme Court of New Jersey will consider an appeal of a 2008 that found Vonte Skinner guilty of attempted murder. On what evidence? Inconsistent eyewitness testimony, and rap lyrics written by Skinner. The lyrics didn’t reference the victim or any details of the crime. Bob speaks with Professor Charis Kubrin who studies the surprisingly common use of rap lyrics as evidence, and co-wrote an Op Ed in the New York Times last week called “Rap Lyrics on Trial.”
  • Twitter + Libel = Twibel? – On The Media 011714
    The first Twitter Libel case in the United States went on trial this week. The actress and recording artist Courtney Love is accused of defaming her former lawyer in a 2010 tweet. Bob speaks to Ellyn Angelotti, a lawyer and member of the Poynter Institute’s faculty, who says the decision in this case could set a social media precedent for defamation — and explains how the libel standard for print could apply to an 140-character format.
  • Wearable Sensor Turns Color-Blind Man Into 'Cyborg' : NPR 011114
    Wearable devices were all the rage at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, from smart watches to Google Glass. NPR’s Scott Simon talks to artist Neil Harbisson, who has gone beyond wearable technology and calls himself a cyborg. Harbisson considers the device he wears to correct color blindness to be an integral part of his body.
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Lab Notebook – December 8, 2013

  • Scientists quit their day jobs, head over to YouTube | 120313
    In the last year, YouTube has become the place to watch really smart people with advanced degrees hold forth on science. The top science channels got hundreds of millions of views with their zippy explanations of dark matter and the periodic table. "Education" videos on YouTube now get twice as many views as "Pets & Animals" videos, according to the company. Science nerds are officially beating out the cat playing a piano, that old juggernaut of online video. | Vsauce, the top YouTube science show, averages 20 million viewers a month—something in the range of NBC’s Sunday Night Football audience. Minute Physics, Crash Course, SciShow and The Brain Scoop are a few of the several shows producing fun, compelling science videos. Even Bill Nye the Science Guy, who hosted an Emmy Award-winning show on PBS in the nineties, has made guest appearances on online shows like ASAP Science. | The migration of Nye and these other pop scientists to YouTube has happened within the past two to three years. Kevin Allocca, the head of Culture & Trends at the company, says there have been a few big science moments where millions of viewers went to YouTube to see viral videos: the rover landing on Mars, the Red Bull “Stratos” jump from space, and the Russian Meteor. | At the same time, the trends group within YouTube was seeing the steady rise of these science shows that were regularly producing original content. “As viewers, we’ve come to understand we’re interested in this kind of stuff,” says Allocca, “And people have been getting really good at feeding it to us.”
  • Holiday Window Displays Get Touches of Technology – The Takeaway 120413
    This year, the famous Saks Fifth Avenue windows have been designed by the Science Project, and they allow those passersby to actually participate in a virtual snowfall. | Jeremy Bergstein is managing partner and head of strategy for the Science Project. He joins The Takeaway to discuss the ways new technologies are being incorporated into the age-old tradition of holiday window displays.
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Lab Notebook – November 24, 2013

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Lab Notebook – November 10, 2013

  • Disabled Athlete Tatyana McFadden Completes Marathon Grand Slam – The Takeaway 110713
    On Sunday at the New York City Marathon, Tatyana McFadden sped across the finish line a full 3 minutes and 41 seconds ahead of her nearest competitor. She also rolled her way to an unprecedented victory, becoming the first athlete to ever win a marathon Grand Slam—winning races in Boston, London, Chicago and New York in the same year. | McFadden remained unphased as she navigated her wheelchair over the uneven streets of New York—they are nothing compared to what else she has had to overcome. | The 24-year-old Maryland resident was born in Russia with a condition called spina bifida, which left her paralyzed from the waist down. She spent the first six years of her life in an orphanage before being adopted by an American family. | Outfitted with her first wheelchair, McFadden quickly became interested in racing. But when she encountered resistance from her high school track coach, she sued the state of Maryland, arguing for equal access to school athletics for people with disabilities. | The suit resulted in the passing of country’s first ever law allowing and encouraging students with disabilities to participate in school sports programs. | At 15, McFadden was the youngest member of the USA track and field team at the Athens Paralympic Games. She has since gone on to win 10 Paralympic metals and six world championships, in addition to her marathon wins. | After her win on Sunday, McFadden doesn’t have much time to catch her breath. She’s already preparing for her next race—the Paralympics cross-country skiing World Cup, with the hope that she will qualify for the U.S Paralympic Team in Sochi this winter.
  • Senate Considers Extending Americans with Disabilities Act – The Takeaway
    The United States already has a set of laws protecting the rights of people with disabilities. It set the gold standard on this issue when it passed the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. | Now, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is considering the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a treaty which would put American support behind a broader international effort to ensure the rights of the disabled. | Some Republicans are fiercely opposed to it, saying it would make the United States subject to United Nations laws. | Judith E. Heumann, Special Adviser for International Disability Rights at the U.S. State Department, lives with a disability herself. She joins The Takeaway to explain why the treaty is being held up in Senate.
  • The Roaring Twenties
    Sound archive of Manhattan in the 1920s.
  • Emily Thompson – Princeton University History Department
    Emily Thompson is a historian of technology who studies late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America. Her research explores the cultural history of sound, music, noise, and listening, and focuses on how these phenomena and activities intersect with technologies like the phonograph, motion pictures, and architecture.
  • Why We’re Shutting Off Our Comments | Popular Science 092413
    Comments can be bad for science. That’s why, here at, we’re shutting them off. | It wasn’t a decision we made lightly. As the news arm of a 141-year-old science and technology magazine, we are as committed to fostering lively, intellectual debate as we are to spreading the word of science far and wide. The problem is when trolls and spambots overwhelm the former, diminishing our ability to do the latter.
  • Open Annotation Community Group | W3C
    The purpose of the Open Annotation Community Group is to work towards a common, RDF-based, specification for annotating digital resources. The effort will start by working towards a reconciliation of two proposals that have emerged over the past two years: the Annotation Ontology [1] and the Open Annotation Model [2].
  • Imagine |
    We think simple tools can help us all improve the quality of information on the Internet and in the greater world around us. | will be an open platform for the collaborative evaluation of knowledge. It will combine sentence-level critique with community peer-review to provide commentary, references, and insight on top of news, blogs, scientific articles, books, terms of service, ballot initiatives, legislation and regulations, software code and more. | We are a non-profit organization, funded through the generosity of the Sloan, Shuttleworth and Mellon Foundations– and through the support of hundreds of individuals like yourself that want to see this idea come to fruition.
  • Will robots make us sexist? – 082713
    Soraya Chemaly: “As technologists frequently remind us, the singularity, a time when the realization of smarter-than-human computers irrevocably alters our future, is nearer every day. Futurists take this prospect very seriously. They gather to discuss what it means at the annual Singularity Summit, a meeting hosted by the Singularity University, dedicated to exploring the “disruptive implications and opportunities” of the evolution of artificial technology. But, crucially, most of those doing the exploring are men. | We don’t have to wait for data-like robots to think about how discriminatory norms manifest themselves through technology. Google Instant’s predictive search capability, which saves users 2-5 seconds by making the most likely suggestions “based on popular queries typed by other users,” is a good illustration. Earlier this year, a study conducted by Lancaster University concluded that Google Instant’s autocomplete function creates an echo chamber for negative stereotypes regarding race, ethnicity and gender. When you type the words, “Are women …” into Google it predicts you want one of the following: “… a minority,” “… evil,” “… allowed in combat,” or, last but not least, “… attracted to money.” A similar anecdotal exercise by BuzzFeed’s Alanna Okun concluded that anyone curious about women would end up with the impression that they are “crazy, money-grubbing, submissive, unfunny, beautiful, ugly, smart, stupid, and physically ill-equipped to do most things. And please, whatever you do, don’t offer them equality.” In effect, algorithms learn negative stereotypes and then teach them to people who consume and use the information uncritically.” [what if disability is the criterion/stereotype?]
  • 230: Robot Gender Stereotypes. Facebook Relationship Analysis. Open Annotation. The History of Marginalia. How Noise Annoys. | Spark with Nora Young | CBC Radio 110113
    In her article “Will Robots Make Us Sexist?” Soraya Chemaly argues that the male-dominated tech sector is affecting the way we design artificial intelligence. | Spark producer Dan Misener with what your Facebook profile could be saying about your romantic relationship. | Dan Whaley is the founder of, a company that promises an open annotation web experience where anyone can comment on anything. | Heather Jackson with an historical look at the practice of marginal notes in books, and how it compares to writing in the margins of the web. | Emily Thompson has co-created a very cool website called The Roaring Twenties, an acoustical trip back in time to Manhattan in the late ’20s.
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Lab Notebook – October 20, 2013

  • Genetic Testing Anxiety – On The Media 101813
    Brooke and OTM producer PJ Vogt prepare to send their saliva off to 23andMe, a company that analyzes DNA information. Before they prepare their samples, Brooke and PJ talk with OTM senior producer Katya Rogers, and former OTM producer Jamie York about what they hope to find out from their genetic testing, what they’re concerned about discovering, and the value of having their genetic information online.
  • Lost, Then Found – On The Media 101813
    While PJ and Brooke wait for the genetic test results to come in, WNYC reporter Mary Harris brings us a cautionary tale about a family of sorts, reunited by a gene data bank.
  • The Results Are In – On The Media 101813f
    Brooke and OTM producer PJ Vogt get their genetic tests back and reveal the results to each other. Then, to help them understand what their results really mean, Brooke and PJ speak to geneticist Greg Lennon, co-founder of SNPedia, a wiki-pedia for genetic information that aims to make “DNA stuff” real. Lennon answers some of Brooke and PJ’s pressing questions about their results. Among other things, Brooke finds out she doesn’t have as much Neanderthal in her genes as she hoped.
  • 23andMe – Genetic Testing for Health, Disease & Ancestry; DNA Test
    "The leading health and ancestry DNA service" – just $99… order now!
  • Promethease On Demand
    Promethease understands the data provided by all known consumer genetics companies (23andMe, Ancestry, FamilyTreeDNA, and more). Do not attempt to convert between formats as many of the conversion tools do not work very well. Just upload your original data. Even zip files are fine.
  • SNPedia
    SNPedia is a wiki investigating human genetics. We share information about the effects of variations in DNA, citing peer-reviewed scientific publications. It is used by Promethease to analyze and help explain your DNA.
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