From The Editor

“‘If someone is unreservedly enthusiastic about the study, he or she doesn’t understand it.’.”

The above quote is from a 1st March 2018 article in The Mandarin, which warns that

“Randomised trials are in your life, whether you like it or not. In most advanced countries, governments won’t pay for pharmaceuticals unless they’ve undergone a randomised evaluation. Increasingly, the world’s smartest aid agencies are looking for the same level of evidence before they allocate funds to a project.” See below, Randomistas: how radical researchers changed our world 

“It is truly frightening how easily a criminal, voyeur or pedophile can take over these devices,”

This quote is from a 13 March 2018 ScienceDaily article by American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. The devices at risk include  cameras, baby monitors, doorbells, and other IoT devices. In our February 2018 issue, the CSIRO article Insecure by design – lessons from the Meltdown and Spectre debacle reported widespread shock that the Meltdown and Spectre attacks “gather sensitive data from computing devices that are operating as designed”. Now we are finding the same problem with a wide range of Internet of Things devices. See below, Off-the-shelf smart devices found easy to hack.

We have previously given links to a range of Open Source Replacements for Expensive Applications (currently 78) for home and business users, posted by on Datamation by Cynthia Harvey. Now a March 7, 2018 article in The Conversation by Martin Jucker, Maritime Continent Research Fellow, University of Melbourne brings us open source climate models. “Designing climate experiments is all but impossible in the real world. We can’t, for instance, study the effects of clouds by taking away all the clouds for a set period of time and seeing what happens. Instead, we have to design our experiments virtually, by developing computer models. Now, a new open-source set of climate models has allowed this research to become more collaborative, efficient and reliable” See below, Making climate models open source makes them even more useful.

Mark Zukerberg’s 21 March 2018 public post about Cambridge Analytica  gives a timeline which starts In 2013, with   Cambridge University researcher Aleksandr Kogan creating a personality quiz app. However, our  March 2017 Cambridge Analytica article Fear the Geeks  tells a different story. “In 2012, Kosinski proved that on the basis of an average of 68 Facebook “likes” by a user, it was possible to predict their skin color (with 95 percent accuracy), their sexual orientation (88 percent accuracy), and their affiliation to the Democratic or Republican party (85 percent). But it didn’t stop there. Intelligence, religious affiliation, as well as alcohol, cigarette and drug use, could all be determined. From the data it was even possible to deduce whether someone’s parents were divorced.”

Kosinski  had understood that his research could be open to abuse and he  warned that it, “could pose a threat to an individual’s well-being, freedom, or even life.”

 See below, Who is to Blame for Cambridge Analytica?


Current Issue

Articles in the current Issue cover: 

Randomistas: how radical researchers changed our world      

“The key thing about random assignment is that it is the epitome of transparency.”

Off-the-shelf smart devices found easy to hack

“Using these devices in our lab, we were able to play loud music through a baby monitor, turn off a thermostat and turn on a camera remotely, much to the concern of our researchers who themselves use these products.”

Making climate models open source makes them even more useful

“some colleagues and I have built a framework of climate models called Isca. Isca contains models that are easy to obtain, completely free, documented, and come with software to make installation and running easier. All changes are documented and can be reverted. Therefore, it is easy for everyone to use exactly the same models.”

Who is to Blame for Cambridge Analytica?

“The world has been turned upside down. Great Britain is leaving the EU, Donald Trump is president of the United States of America. And in Stanford, Kosinski, who wanted to warn against the danger of using psychological targeting in a political setting, is once again receiving accusatory emails. ‘No,‘  says Kosinski, quietly and shaking his head. ‘This is not my fault. I did not build the bomb. I only showed that it exists.’”



A Volkswagen initiative called The Fun Theory started in 2009, aiming to show  that people’s behavior can be changed for the better by making mundane activities fun. It is still attracting worldwide attention. See The Fun Theory 1 – an initiative of Volkswagen: Piano Staircase.



We are planning ACOSM18 as a QESP/ACS event to be scheduled after Easter. The plan is for an evening event, 5.30 for 6.00, keynote, 2 speakers and  Forum till 7.30, drinks & fingerfood till  8.00. Further details will be provided in the April 2018 Newsletter.



Quote of the Day

“Why shouldn’t we give our teachers a license to obtain software, all software, any software, for nothing? Does anyone demand a licensing fee, each time a child is taught the alphabet?”  William Gibson 

Quote from Yesteryear

“The suddenness of the leap from hardware to software cannot but produce a period of anarchy and collapse, especially in the developed countries.”  Marshall McLuhan


Ted Smillie

QESP Chair