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Software Bug Behind Biggest Telephony Outage In US History
Posted by News Fetcher on April 01 '18 at 05:41 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's inside-story department:
An anonymous reader writes: A software bug in a telecom provider's phone number blacklisting system caused the largest telephony outage in US history, according to a report released by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) at the start of the month. The telco is Level 3, now part of CenturyLink, and the outage took place on October 4, 2016. According to the FCC's investigation, the outage began after a Level 3 employee entered phone numbers suspected of malicious activity in the company's network management software. The employee wanted to block incoming phone calls from these numbers and had entered each number in fields provided by the software's GUI. The problem arose when the Level 3 technician left a field empty, without entering a number. Unbeknownst to the employee, the buggy software didn't ignore the empty field, like most software does, but instead viewed the empty space as a "wildcard" character. As soon as the technician submitted his input, Level 3's network began blocking all incoming and outgoing telephone calls — over 111 million in total.

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Linux 4.16 Released
Posted by News Fetcher on April 01 '18 at 04:21 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's finally department:
An anonymous reader writes: Linus Torvalds has released Linux 4.16. Linux 4.16 integrates more of the VirtualBox guest drivers into the kernel, provides AMDGPU DC multi-display synchronization, continues with mitigation improvements for Spectre and Meltdown mitigation, tightens up access to /dev/mem by default, and many other improvements and changes.

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Teenage Subway Aficionados Help With the Upkeep of Every One of New York City's 472 Subway Stations -- At Least on Wikipedia
Posted by News Fetcher on April 01 '18 at 03:01 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's faith-in-humanity-restored department:
The New York Times has a feature story about two incredible teenagers who work behind the scenes to improve all of the Wikipedia articles about the New York Subway system. An excerpt: Ryan Ng is a 19-year-old freshman at Baruch College in Manhattan. He studies finance, lives at home with his parents in Queens and is a member of the college's "League of Legends" video game club. But in the somewhat fanatical world of Wikipedia supercontributors, he is best known by his alias, Epicgenius. As Epicgenius, Mr. Ng has made over 180,000 edits to Wikipedia and created more than 17,000 pages for the site. Most of his work is in the service of his particular fixation: updating the articles associated with all 472 stations of the New York Subway system. "Sometimes I edit before I do homework, which is not a good thing," Mr. Ng said. But he finds his hobby satisfying. "When I improve an article, I feel like I've accomplished something. I see my editing as more of a mission." Mr. Ng discovered Wikipedia editing when he was 13. He recalled wanting to collaborate on the page for "Gangnam Style," the hugely popular 2012 hit by the South Korean performer Psy. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Ng decided to specialize in public transit, which he considered a somewhat more useful pursuit. He knows his hobby can become obsessive because it's happened before.

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Trump Says He Wants Skilled Migrants But Creates New Hurdles
Posted by News Fetcher on April 01 '18 at 01:41 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
An anonymous reader shares an Associated Press report: It may be a while before President Donald Trump gets another chance at creating a new, "merit-based" immigration system, a keystone of his four-part plan that Congress rejected last month. In the meantime, his administration is busy making it harder, not easier, for skilled migrants to come work in the United States. The State Department has ended an Obama-era program to grant visas to foreign entrepreneurs who want to start companies in the United States. It is more aggressively scrutinizing visas to skilled workers from other countries. And it is contemplating ending a provision that allows spouses of those skilled workers to be employed in the U.S. The administration and its backers contend it's trying to fix flaws in the existing, employer-centric skilled immigration system while advocating for a complete overhaul of America's immigration system. "The stuff that they're actually doing is not so much restricting skilled immigration as enforcing the law," said Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies, which supports reducing immigration. "They're rolling back some of the extralegal measures that other administrations have taken." A primary avenue for skilled immigrants to enter the United States is the H1B visa for specialty workers, which is heavily used by the technology industry. About 85,000 visas are issued annually in a lottery system. Some critics argue they are a way for companies to avoid hiring U.S. citizens; Trump himself has said H1B recipients shouldn't even be considered skilled. Further reading: On Easter Sunday, Trump threatens to end DACA and 'stop' NAFTA.

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Card Data Stolen From 5 Million Saks and Lord & Taylor Customers
Posted by News Fetcher on April 01 '18 at 12:22 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's security-woes department:
Hudson's Bay said on Sunday that data from card payments in some of its Saks and Lord & Taylor stores in North America had been compromised. From a report: A well-known ring of cybercriminals has obtained more than five million credit and debit card numbers from customers of Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor, according to a cybersecurity research firm that specializes in tracking stolen financial data. The data, the firm said, appears to have been stolen using software that was implanted into the cash register systems at the stores and that siphoned card numbers until last month. The Hudson's Bay Company, the Canadian corporation that owns both retail chains, confirmed on Sunday that a breach had occurred. "We have become aware of a data security issue involving customer payment card data at certain Saks Fifth Avenue, Saks Off 5th and Lord & Taylor stores in North America," the company said in a statement. "We have identified the issue, and have taken steps to contain it. Once we have more clarity around the facts, we will notify our customers quickly and will offer those impacted free identity protection services, including credit and web monitoring."

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To Protect AI From Attacks, Show It Fake Data
Posted by News Fetcher on April 01 '18 at 12:22 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
AI systems can sometimes be tricked into seeing something that's not actually there -- remember when Google's software "saw" a 3-D-printed turtle as a rifle. At an event earlier this week, Google Brain researcher Ian Goodfellow explained how AI systems defend themselves. From a report: Goodfellow is best known as the creator of generative adversarial networks (GANs), a type of artificial intelligence that makes use of two networks trained on the same data. One of the networks, called the generator, creates synthetic data, usually images, while the other network, called the discriminator, uses the same data set to determine whether the input is real. Goodfellow went through nearly a dozen examples of how different researchers have used GANs in their work, but he focused on his current main research interest, defending machine-learning systems from being fooled in the first place. [...] GANs are very good at creating realistic adversarial examples, which end up being a very good way to train AI systems to develop a robust defense. If systems are trained on adversarial examples that they have to spot, they get better at recognizing adversarial attacks. The better those adversarial examples, the stronger the defense.

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Non-Tech Businesses Are Beginning To Use AI at Scale
Posted by News Fetcher on April 01 '18 at 11:02 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's growing-trend department:
Artificial intelligence is spreading beyond the technology sector, with big consequences for companies, workers and consumers. An anonymous reader shares a report: Bosses of non-tech companies in a broad range of industries are starting to worry that AI could scorch or even incinerate them, and have been buying up promising young tech firms to ensure they do not fall behind (the link may be paywalled). In 2017 firms worldwide spent around $21.8bn on mergers and acquisitions related to AI, according to PitchBook, a data provider, about 26 times more than in 2015. They are doing this partly to secure talent, which is thin on the ground. Startups without revenue are fetching prices that amount to $5m-10m per AI expert. As AI spreads beyond the tech sector, it will fuel the rise of new firms that challenge incumbents. This is already happening in the car industry, with autonomous-vehicle startups and ride-hailing firms such as Uber. But it will also change the way other companies work, transforming traditional functions such as supply-chain management, customer service and recruitment. The path ahead is exhilarating but perilous. Around 85% of companies think AI will offer a competitive advantage, but only one in 20 is "extensively" employing it today, according to a report by MIT's Sloan Management Review and the Boston Consulting Group. Large companies and industries, such as finance, that generate a lot of data, tend to be ahead and often build their own AI-enhanced systems. But many firms will choose to work with the growing array of independent AI vendors, including cloud providers, consultants and startups.

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Cloudflare Launches 1.1.1.1 Consumer DNS Service With a Focus On Privacy
Posted by News Fetcher on April 01 '18 at 09:42 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
BrianFagioli writes: Today, Cloudflare announces a new consumer DNS service with a focus on privacy. Called '1.1.1.1.' it quite literally uses that easy-to-remeber IP address as the primary DNS server. Why announce on April Fool's Day? Because the IP is four ones and today's date is 4/1 -- clever. The secondary server is 1.0.0.1 -- also easy to remember. The big question is why? With solid offerings from Google and Comodo, for instance, does the world need another DNS service? The answer is yes, because Cloudflare intends to focus on both speed, and more importantly, privacy.

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Our Devices May Listen More Attentively, Patents Filed By Google and Amazon Suggest
Posted by News Fetcher on April 01 '18 at 08:22 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department:
Amazon and Google, the leading sellers of smart speakers, say their AI-powered assistants record and process audio only after users trigger them by pushing a button or uttering a phrase like "Hey, Alexaâ or âoeO.K., Google." But each company has filed patent applications, many of them still under consideration, that outline an array of possibilities for how devices like these could monitor more of what users say and do (the link may be paywalled), The New York Times reports. From the report: That information could then be used to identify a person's desires or interests, which could be mined for ads and product recommendations. In one set of patent applications, Amazon describes how a "voice sniffer algorithm" could be used on an array of devices, like tablets and e-book readers, to analyze audio almost in real time when it hears words like "love," "bought" or "dislike." A diagram included with the application illustrated how a phone call between two friends could result in one receiving an offer for the San Diego Zoo and the other seeing an ad for a Wine of the Month Club membership. Some patent applications from Google, which also owns the smart home product maker Nest Labs, describe how audio and visual signals could be used in the context of elaborate smart home setups. One application details how audio monitoring could help detect that a child is engaging in "mischief" at home by first using speech patterns and pitch to identify a child's presence, one filing said. A device could then try to sense movement while listening for whispers or silence, and even program a smart speaker to "provide a verbal warning." A separate application regarding personalizing content for people while respecting their privacy noted that voices could be used to determine a speaker's mood using the "volume of the user's voice, detected breathing rate, crying and so forth," and medical condition "based on detected coughing, sneezing and so forth."

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April Fool's Day Roundup
Posted by News Fetcher on April 01 '18 at 08:22 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's here-we-go-again department:
It might be a holiday for most of us today, but for tech companies, April Fool's is the day when they work overtime to send weird press releases. So far we have seen Google Maps help users find Waldo, and Google Australia rethink its brand name (to Googz). T-Mobile has revivedthe Sidekick as the world's first smart shoe phone. Google has also added a feature to its file manager app Files Go that detects bad jokes from your phone. Snapchat has finally found a way to make fun of Facebook. Languages learning app Duolingo has launched a range of craft beers. Chinese smartphone maker OnePlus has launched a cryptocurrency. Some more here. What's your favorite prank so far today?

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President of France Emmanuel Macron Talks About Nation's New AI Strategy
Posted by News Fetcher on April 01 '18 at 07:00 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's we-as-a-nation department:
Earlier this week, Emmanuel Macron, President of France, pledged to spend $1.9 billion over the next five years and allow expanded data-sharing to help make France a leader in artificial intelligence. In an interview with Wired, Emmanuel Macron, President of France, explained why he is making big investments to bring France into the "winner takes all" race with the U.S. and China on artificial intelligence. An interesting quote, "At some point, as citizens, people will say, 'I want to be sure that all of this personal data is not used against me, but used ethically, and that everything is monitored. I want to understand what is behind this algorithm that plays a role in my life." An excerpt from the story: AI will raise a lot of issues in ethics, in politics, it will question our democracy and our collective preferences. For instance, if you take healthcare: you can totally transform medical care making it much more predictive and personalized if you get access to a lot of data. We will open our data in France. I made this decision and announced it this afternoon. But the day you start dealing with privacy issues, the day you open this data and unveil personal information, you open a Pandora's Box, with potential use cases that will not be increasing the common good and improving the way to treat you. In particular, it's creating a potential for all the players to select you. This can be a very profitable business model: this data can be used to better treat people, it can be used to monitor patients, but it can also be sold to an insurer that will have intelligence on you and your medical risks, and could get a lot of money out of this information. The day we start to make such business out of this data is when a huge opportunity becomes a huge risk. It could totally dismantle our national cohesion and the way we live together. This leads me to the conclusion that this huge technological revolution is in fact a political revolution.

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Apple Goes on Hiring Spree To Improve Siri's Smarts
Posted by News Fetcher on April 01 '18 at 04:20 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
Thinknum has noticed that Apple has been on a Siri-related hiring spree in recent months, with 161 positions listed as of the end of March. There's been an uptick ever since summer 2016, but there was a distinct surge in February of this year. From a report: Nearly all of the new positions are for engineers, and it's notable that some of those spots are meant to tackle Siri's relative weakness in general questions. There are entries for Siri software engineers tackling "General Knowledge" and the "Knowledge Graph," for instance. Other notable recruiting efforts include a machine learning scientist as well as multiple engineers to address areas like Proactive Intelligence (Siri's ability to anticipate info you might need), the SiriKit developer framework and speech generation.

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Atlanta Still Struggles To Recover From Ransomware Attack
Posted by News Fetcher on April 01 '18 at 12:22 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's old-school-analog department:
An anonymous reader quotes Reuters:
Atlanta's top officials holed up in their offices on Saturday as they worked to restore critical systems knocked out by a nine-day-old cyber attack that plunged the Southeastern U.S. metropolis into technological chaos and forced some city workers to revert to paper... Police and other public servants have spent the past week trying to piece together their digital work lives, recreating audit spreadsheets and conducting business on mobile phones in response to one of the most devastating "ransomware" virus attacks to hit an American city. Three city council staffers have been sharing a single clunky personal laptop brought in after cyber extortionists attacked Atlanta's computer network with a virus that scrambled data and still prevents access to critical systems. "It's extraordinarily frustrating," said Councilman Howard Shook, whose office lost 16 years of digital records...
City officials have declined to discuss the extent of damage beyond disclosed outages that have shut down some services at municipal offices, including courts and the water department. Nearly 6 million people live in the Atlanta metropolitan area... Atlanta police returned to taking written case notes and have lost access to some investigative databases, department spokesman Carlos Campos told Reuters... Meanwhile, some city employees complained they have been left in the dark, unsure when it is safe to turn on their computers. "We don't know anything," said one frustrated employee as she left for a lunch break on Friday.

"Our data management teams are working diligently to restore normal operations and functionalities to these systems," said a spokesperson for the police department, adding that they "hope to be back online in the very near future."

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Microsoft Email Privacy Case No Longer Needed, Says The US
Posted by News Fetcher on March 31 '18 at 09:40 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's adjourning department:
An anonymous reader quotes CNN:
The U.S. Department of Justice is asking the Supreme Court to abandon its case against Microsoft over international data privacy. A new law signed by President Donald Trump last week answers the legal question at the heart of Microsoft's case, the DOJ says. So the case "is now moot," the department said in a court filing posted Saturday.

Microsoft's legal battle began in 2013, when it refused to hand over emails stored on a server in Ireland to US officials who were investigating drug trafficking. Microsoft argued at the time that sharing data stored abroad could violate international treaties and policies, and there was no law on the books to provide any clarity. That changed with the The Cloud Act, which was tucked into the spending bill that Trump signed March 23. The act establishes a legal pathway for the United States to form agreements with other nations that make it easier for law enforcement to collect data stored on foreign soil... Microsoft cheered the new law, saying the Cloud Act provides the legal clarity the company sought.

The ACLU's legislative counsel argues that the new act hurts privacy and human rights, "at a time when human rights activists, dissidents and journalists around the world face unprecedented attacks."

"Would even a well-intentioned technology company, particularly a small one, have the expertise and resources to competently assess the risk that a foreign order may pose to a particular human rights activist?"

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Ask Slashdot: Are 'Full Stack' Developers a Thing?
Posted by News Fetcher on March 31 '18 at 05:42 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's you-vs-UI department:
"It seems that nearly every job posting for a software developer these days requires someone who can do it all," complains Slashdot reader datavirtue, noting a main focus on finding someone to do "front end work and back end work and database work and message queue work...."

I have been in a relatively small shop that for years that has always had a few guys focused on the UI. The rest of us might have to do something on the front-end but are mostly engaged in more complex "back-end" development or MQ and database architecture. I have been keeping my eye on the market, and the laser focus on full stack developers is a real turn-off.

When was the last time you had an outage because the UI didn't work right? I can't count the number of outages resulting from inexperienced developers introducing a bug in the business logic or middle tier. Am I correct in assuming that the shops that are always looking for full stack developers just aren't grown up yet?

sjames (Slashdot reader #1,099) responded that "They are a thing, but in order to have comprehensive experience in everything involved, the developer will almost certainly be older than HR departments in 'the valley' like to hire."
And Dave Ostrander argues that "In the last 10 years front end software development has gotten really complex. Gulp, Grunt, Sass, 35+ different mobile device screen sizes and 15 major browsers to code for, has made the front end skillset very valuable." The original submitter argues that front-end development "is a much simpler domain," leading to its own discussion.
Share your own thoughts in the comments. Are "full-stack" developers a thing?

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'Thousands of Companies Are Spying On You'
Posted by News Fetcher on March 31 '18 at 04:21 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's data-and-Goliath department:
Security guru Bruce Schneier warns that "thousands of companies" are spying on us and manipulating us for profit. An anonymous reader quotes his article on CNN:
Harvard Business School professor Shoshana Zuboff calls it "surveillance capitalism." And as creepy as Facebook is turning out to be, the entire industry is far creepier. It has existed in secret far too long, and it's up to lawmakers to force these companies into the public spotlight, where we can all decide if this is how we want society to operate and -- if not -- what to do about it...
Surveillance capitalism drives much of the internet. It's behind most of the "free" services, and many of the paid ones as well. Its goal is psychological manipulation, in the form of personalized advertising to persuade you to buy something or do something, like vote for a candidate. And while the individualized profile-driven manipulation exposed by Cambridge Analytica feels abhorrent, it's really no different from what every company wants in the end... Surveillance capitalism is deeply embedded in our increasingly computerized society, and if the extent of it came to light there would be broad demands for limits and regulation. But because this industry can largely operate in secret, only occasionally exposed after a data breach or investigative report, we remain mostly ignorant of its reach...
Regulation is the only answer.The first step to any regulation is transparency. Who has our data? Is it accurate? What are they doing with it? Who are they selling it to? How are they securing it? Can we delete it...? The market can put pressure on these companies to reduce their spying on us, but it can only do that if we force the industry out of its secret shadows.

The article also insists that "None of this is new," pointing out that companies like Facebook and Google offer their free services in exchange for your data.

< article continued at Slashdot's data-and-Goliath department >

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Should We Revive Extinct Species?
Posted by News Fetcher on March 31 '18 at 03:01 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's fallen-kingdoms department:
An anonymous reader writes:
The last male northern white rhinoceros died just last week, and a total of just 29,000 rhinoceroses now remain on earth. But National Geographic reports that "the genetic material of several northern white rhinos has been stored away," and scientists hope to give birth to another using in vitro fertilization -- or to breed a hybrid using a genetically similar southern white rhino.

Meanwhile, a postdoctoral fellow in ecology and evolutionary biology reports that scientists are seriously considering the possibility of "de-extincting" the Carolina parakeet, America's only native parrot, which became extinct 100 years ago.
Thanks to the data I compiled as well as cutting-edge machine learning approaches to analyze those data, my colleagues and I were able to reconstruct the Carolina parakeets' likely range and climate niche, [which] turned out to be much smaller than previously believed... While this may seem rather minor, some scientists consider the Carolina parakeet one of the top candidates for 'de-extinction', a process in which DNA is harvested from specimens and used to "resurrect" extinct species... If someone were to spend millions of dollars doing all of the genetic and breeding work to bring back this species, or any other, how will they figure out where to release these birds...? Whether or not de-extinction is a worthwhile use of conservation effort and money is another question, best answered by someone other than me. But this is just an example of one potential use of this type of research. "
It seems like all kinds of havoc could ensue if we released a resurrected species back into the modern ecosystem. And yet Harvard researchers are already working to breed a new creature that's half-elephant, half Wooly Mammoth. What do Slashdot's readers think? Should we revive extinct species?

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MailChimp Bans Emails Promoting Cryptocurrency
Posted by News Fetcher on March 31 '18 at 01:41 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's monkey-see-monkey-don't department:
"MailChimp to Cryptocurrency Promoters: Your Fake Money's No Good Here," jokes the headline at Gizmodo. The mass emailing service -- which sends over a billion emails a day -- just updated its Acceptable Use Policy to warn users that MailChimp "does not allow businesses involved in any aspect of the sale, transaction, exchange, storage, marketing, or production of cryptocurrencies, virtual currencies, and any digital assets related to an Initial Coin Offering, to use MailChimp to facilitate or support any of those activities."
An anonymous reader quotes Gizmodo:
The ban on cryptocurrency promotion isn't out of the blue so much as a clarification of existing use policies... In a statement to Gizmodo, MailChimp further clarified: "We recognize that blockchain technology is in its infancy and has tremendous potential. Nonetheless, the promotion and exchange of cryptocurrencies is too frequently associated with scams, fraud, phishing, and potentially misleading business practices at this time..." MailChimp previously held policies prohibiting multi-level marketing, "make money online" businesses, and "industries hav[ing] higher-than-average abuse complaints," and earmarked "online trading, day trading tips, or stock market related content" for "additional scrutiny..." This follows similar, though less restrictive bans by Facebook (and Instagram by extension), Google, Linkedin, Twitter, and Snapchat on ICO ads, and country-wide bans in China and South Korea.

Futurism reports that the first victims are "responding in kind by attempting to read the riot act to a Twitter account whose avatar is a monkey with a hat," strongly informing that monkey that "Centralized capricious power is exactly why we need blockchains."

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The EFF Hosts a 'John Perry Barlow Symposium' Next Saturday
Posted by News Fetcher on March 31 '18 at 01:41 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's electronic-frontiers department:
An anonymous reader writes:
The EFF is announcing "a celebration of the life and leadership of the recently departed founder of EFF, John Perry Barlow," to be held next Saturday at the Internet Archive in San Francisco from 2:00 to 6:00. The event will also be streamed live on the Internet Archive's YouTube channel.
Confirmed speakers include Edward Snowden, Cory Doctorow, EFF co-founders John Gilmore and Mitch Kapor, and Shari Steele, the executive director of the Tor Project (and a former EFF executive director).

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'Nature' Explores Why So Many Postgrads Have Bad Mental Health
Posted by News Fetcher on March 31 '18 at 01:41 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's lower-education department:
An anonymous reader writes:
This week Nature tweeted that the rates of depression and anxiety reported by postgraduate students were six times higher than in the general population -- and received more than 1,200 retweets and received 170 replies. "This is not a one dimensional problem. Financial burden, hostile academia, red tape, tough job market, no proper career guidance. Take your pick," read one response. "Maybe being told day in, day out that the work you spend 10+ hrs a day, 6-7 days a week on isn't good enough," said another.
The science magazine takes this as more proof that "there is a problem among young scientists. Too many have mental-health difficulties, and too many say that the demands of the role are partly to blame. Neither issue gets the attention it deserves." They're now gathering stories from postgraduates about mental-health issues, and vowing to give the issue more coverage. "There is a problem with the culture in science, and it is one that loads an increasing burden on the shoulders of younger generations. The evidence suggests that they are feeling the effects. (Among the tweets, one proposed solution to improving the PhD is to 'treat it like professional training instead of indentured servitude with no hope of a career at the end?'.)"

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