BLAST FROM THE PAST
March 1, 2006
Wikipedia reached one million articles written in English, far surpassing the largest traditional English-language encyclopedia, Encyclopædia Britannica, which has only 120,000 articles. The millionth post was about the Jordanhill railway station located in the West End of Glasgow, Scotland, certainly not something you would find in a traditional encyclopedia.
March 3, 1923
The first issue of TIME was published as a newsmagazine that compiled summaries of the news to keep the “busy men” of the time up with the times. Joseph G. Cannon, the retired Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, was featured on the cover.
March 15, 1985
Symbolics.com becomes the first registered Internet domain name. The inaugural .comdomain was registered by the now defunct Massachusetts-based Symbolics Computer Corporation. In 2009, the domain was sold for an undisclosed sum to XF.com Investments.
March 20, 1987
Azidothymidine (AZT) is approved by the FDA for use against HIV, AIDS, and AIDS Related Complex (a now obsolete medical term). This was the first approved treatment for HIV and the first sign of hope that the disease was not an automatic death sentence. The drug was sold under the brand names Retrovir and Retrovis by what is now GlaxoSmithKline. AZT was subsequently approved as a preventive treatment in 1990.
March 30, 1842
American surgeon Crawford Long is the first to use anesthesia during an operation. Long used inhaled diethyl ether as an anesthetic to remove a tumor from the neck of James M. Venable, in Jefferson, GA. He did not publish the results of these trials, however, until 1849 in The Southern Medical and Surgical Journal. William T. G. Morton was then unaware of Long’s work when he administered ether anesthesia before a medical audience at the Massachusetts General Hospital in October 1846. Morton is credited with the first public demonstration of anesthesia. —Andrew Matthius
CAUGHT IN THE WEB
Whatcha gonna do when the Facebookpolizei come for you?
The state interior minister of Lower-Saxony, Germany recently announced that their police force will start using social media to help find missing persons and suspected criminals. This is following a successful, yet controversial, pilot scheme in the northern city of Hanover last year, in which the police were able to solve six criminal investigations and two missing-person cases after identikit sketches were circulated on Facebook, according to Reuters.
Data protection groups in Europe fear that these images of suspected criminals could end up on an American server and out of the jurisdiction of EU data protection laws. The state minister said they are addressing this issue by directing Facebook users to a site on the police server. That, however, doesn’t change the perception of America as the Wild Web West of data protection. The Obama Administration is attempting to make our Web safer with its recent release of a “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights,” outlined in the report, Consumer Data Privacy in a Networked World: A Framework for Protecting Privacy and Promoting Innovation in the Global Digital Economy (1.usa.gov/AcsRci). The rights include:
Individual Control: Control over what personal data organizations collect and how they use it.
Transparency: Easily understandable information about privacy and security practices.
Respect for Context: An expectation that organizations will collect, use, and disclose personal data in ways consistent with the context in which the data were provided.
Security: Secure and responsible handling of personal data.
Access and Accuracy: The ability to correct personal data in usable formats, if the data is sensitive and there is a risk of adverse consequences to consumers if it’s inaccurate.
Focused Collection: Reasonable limits on the personal data that companies collect and retain.
Accountability: Appropriate measures to assure that companies adhere to the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights. Marketers, take note. —A.M.
The Wayward Wealthy
The greatest incentive to lie, steal, and cheat is apparently not necessity, but just pure good old-fashioned greed. Psychologists at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Toronto performed a series of studies to see which social class was the most likely to engage in unethical behavior—and the well-off are well on their way to claiming the top prize.
This may even be good news for the wealthy—the study revealed the upper-class was more likely to cheat in order to increase their chances of winning a prize. Other unethical behaviors the upper class is more likely to engage in include, breaking the law while driving, exhibiting unethical decision-making tendencies, stealing valued goods, lying in a negotiation, and endorsing unethical behavior at work, according to results published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“The relative privilege and security enjoyed by upper-class individuals give rise to independence from others and a prioritization of the self and one’s own welfare over the welfare of others—what we call ‘greed,’” UC Berkeley lead researcher Paul Piff said in a statement. “This is likely to cause someone to be more inclined to break the rules in his or her favor, or to perceive themselves as, in a sense, being ‘above the law.’”
The researchers conducted seven survey, experimental, and naturalistic studies. In one study, participants were made to feel either high up on the social ladder or at the bottom. Subjects who were made to feel they were in the upper echelon took twice as much candy away from nearby children as those made to feel they were in the lower class.
“Across all seven studies, the general pattern we find is that as a person’s social class increases, his or her tendency to behave unethically also increases,” said Piff. —A.M.
Google Chemistry Set
Never doubt the power of Google. Apparently, Google’s PageRank software can be useful for much more than finding the best sites for info on Jeremy Lin, Whitney Houston, and the Grammys (the top three rising searches on Google over the past 30 days in the U.S.). Researchers at Washington State University (WSU) and the University of Arizona have adapted Google’s PageRank algorithm to determine molecular shapes and predict chemical reactions. Their findings were published in a recent online article in The Journal of Computational Chemistry.
Google’s infamous PageRank software was the perfect starting point for Aurora Clark, an associate professor of chemistry at WSU, when she set out to create this new software, moleculaRnetworks. It turns out that Web pages and molecules are a lot alike. A Web page is ranked both by the number of sites that link to it and the value of those linking sites. Molecules also form links with each other and some of those links are stronger and more probable than others. PageRank prioritizes the most relevant Web pages, and now moleculaRnetworks can do the same with molecules.
“What’s most cool about this work is we can take technology from a totally separate realm of science, computer science, and apply it to understanding our natural world,” Clark said in an interview with WSU News.
The software, of course, focuses on hydrogen bonds in water, which just happens to make up 70% of the Earth and is a key component in almost all biological processes. When water interacts with other molecules, the processes can be incredibly complex and result in a plethora of possible forms. This is another area where the PageRank algorithm excels: the ability to quickly examine and prioritize a massive number of possible outcomes. According to Clark, moleculaRnetworks can ultimately help researchers in various fields, including drug development. —A.M.