Male Contraceptive Gel 100% Effective in Primate Trials

Vasalgel rendering (The Guardian)

Vasalgel rendering (The Guardian)

If you’re yearning for male birth control that isn’t a condom, you’re in luck! Scientists have been making progress on Vasalgel, a male contraceptive gel. A recent trial of the product on primates found the gel to be 100% effective at preventing pregnancy.

It’s pretty simple how Vasalgel works: the gel prevents sperm from exiting the penis. If a man decides he’d like to stop using the gel, the effects can be eradicated by using ultrasound waves to dissolve the gel. Vasalgel doesn’t affect “sperm levels or hormone production.”

Here’s how the study, conducted by scientists at the California National Primate Research, was set up:

For the study, 16 rhesus monkeys were selected to undergo the procedure before being placed back into groups with fertile females during mating season. After being monitored for six months, the researchers found that no pregnancies had occurred—the typical pregnancy rate in such unaffected conditions is usually around 80 percent.

The Parsemus Foundation funded the research for the study. Results were published in Basic and Clinical Andrology journal.

Vasalgel isn’t the only contraceptive gel being tested right now. In India, reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance (RISUG) is being tested on men. This gel works differently in that it seeks to injure swimming sperm. RISUG has shown to be effective for up to 10 years within the 200 men on whom the product was tested.

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Sonequa Martin-Green Will be the First Black Woman to Star on a “Star Trek” TV Series

Sonequa Martin-Green (Audrey Can)

Sonequa Martin-Green (Audrey Can)

Once again, science fiction imagines a more inclusive world for all of us. This time, “Star Trek” is adding on to its storied universe, and creating its first new franchise in a decade. Sonequa Martin-Green, actress on “The Walking Dead,” will lead the cast as a lieutenant commander in “Star Trek: Discovery.”

Martin-Green’s lead character Rainsford is a first for the series: She’s the first Black woman to star in a “Star Trek” series. In-universe, the lieutenant commander is also a first. Previous to the new series, all the lead characters had been captains. Executive Producer Bryan Fuller has spoken on the need for context and a new perspective, as well as his desire to have a Black woman lead the series.

Martin-Green will lead an inclusive cast, which includes Asian actress Michelle Yeoh playing another starship’s captain and Anthony Rapp as the series’ first gay character on TV.

#ThrowbackThursday: Beyoncé’s Super Bowl Performance, 2013

Beyonce's Super Bowl performance, 2013 (Wired)

Beyonce’s Super Bowl performance, 2013 (Wired)

We all saw Beyoncé’s amazing performance at the Super Bowl halftime show last weekend. And heard her new song. (And have put it on repeat this week.)

I feel like Beyoncé’s Super Bowl performance from 2013 really kicked off her current stratospheric level. And 10 months later, she released her self-titled visual album, and we all know how that went.

How Many Media Company Employees Had Ashley Madison Accounts?

Ashley Madison homepage (Ashley Madison)

Ashley Madison homepage (Ashley Madison)

Happy Friday! Ashley Madison: It’s the hack that keeps on giving. Every day brings a new joy. And here’s this one: The good people at “Gawker” (who’ve been doing a great job covering this whole thing) took a deep-dive into the data, all 9.7 GBs of it. Why? Well, to see how was dumb enough to use a work email as their AM registration email. (Personally, I’m surprised that nobody got called on the carpet after their network got wind of that verification email in their inbox.)

Now, you’d think that most people would know to use a throwaway email for this kind of thing, right? You’d think that, and you’d be wrong. At the time of the data dump, “Wired” reported that 15K+ domains belonging to the government and military were found, comprising .04% of the total emails found.

Here’s what Sam Biddle at “Gawker” found. (Incidentally, no emails registered to the Gawker domain were found).

'Gawker' Ashley Madison Email Data Analysis (Gawker)

‘Gawker’ Ashley Madison Email Data Analysis (Gawker)

So yeah, have some common sense as to when to use your work email. Have a great holiday weekend!

 

Twitter Announces Diversity Goals for 2016

Twitter logo (Design Trend)

Twitter logo (Design Trend)

Last week, Twitter announced its goals to diversify the company’s employees in 2016. The goals focused on increasing the presence of female and non-white employees. For the women, this includes reaching 35% women overall in the company, with 16% of tech roles going to women and 25% of leadership roles getting filled by women. For minorities, the goals are bringing the number to 11% in the overall company, with 9% of tech roles and 6% of leadership roles. Interestingly, the goals for minorities are marked with a literal asterisk, and apply to within the US only. (I’d like to know the reasoning behind that, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.)

This follows Twitter’s identifying and committing to diversity as a workplace issue. Last year, the company shared its diversity numbers. Spoiler alert (or not): it’s a whole lotta white dudes. While the company overall is about 70% male/30% female, it skews more guy-heavy in the tech section. Ethnically speaking, white and Asian employees comprise the largest portions, at nearly 60% and 30% respectively. Employees who self-identify as Hispanic or Latino or as Black or African-American make up only about 5% of the Twitter workforce.

Even though it looks like Twitter’s taking some big steps forward, Julia Greenberg at “Wired” points out that these steps are actually pretty small:

As it stands now, the company already has 34 percent women on its staff, with 13 percent in tech roles and 22 percent in leadership roles—not too far off from its goals. With 4,100 employees worldwide currently, the difference would be adding at least 41 women to reach its overall gender goal (though it would depend on the company’s growth).

Twitter is just the latest in a line of tech companies who’ve released their not-so-diverse data (following Facebook and Google, among others). It’ll be interesting to see how these goals will change due to supply and demand over time.

Ashley Madison Hackers Post the Site’s User Data

Ashley Madison homepage (Ashley Madison)

Ashley Madison homepage (Ashley Madison)

Happy Friday! Remember when cheating site Ashley Madison was hacked last month? And how the hackers threatened to release user data to the whole Internet?

Well, they’ve finally done it. The Impact Team, as the group of hackers is known, put the data online on the Dark Web, which can only be reached using specialized equipment. They dumped a jaw-dropping 9.7 GigaBytes (GBs) of data that went back to 2008.

(For context/scale, I have a 4 TeraByte (TB) external hard drive that I keep old school projects and work on. I’ve had that thing for over 6 years, and still haven’t filled it up. One TB is equal to .001 GBs. So you can imagine how voluminous this data breach truly is.)

There seems to be some disagreement over exactly how many users had data leaked. “CNN Money” claims 32M, while “Wired” and “Engadget” put the number closer to 37M.

As of July, Ashley Madison claimed to have 40M+ users.

Ashley Madison data dump (Gizmodo)

Ashley Madison data dump (Gizmodo)

Among the metrics leaked were users’  names, addresses and phone numbers. “Wired” looked into some initial data analysis:

A sampling of the data indicates that users likely provided random numbers and addresses, but files containing credit card transactions will yield real names and addresses, unless members of the site used anonymous pre-paid cards. One analysis of email addresses found in the data dump also shows that some 15,000 are .mil. or .gov addresses.

Passwords were broken by “hashing,” or breaking into the algorithm a site would use to protect passwords. The hackers used the “bcrypt” algorithm used in web development language PHP. This is usually a secure measure to protect passwords. But hey, at least Ashley Madison tried:

It’s notable, however, that the cheating site, in using the secure hashing algorithm, surpassed many other victims of breaches we’ve seen over the years who never bothered to encrypt customer passwords.

Have a great weekend, and go change your passwords!

How Many People Identify as Asexual?

AVEN Logo (Asexuality.org)

AVEN Logo (Asexuality.org)

Along the spectrum of sexuality sits asexuality. (Actually for Alfred Kinsey, he put the concept outside his famous Kinsey Scale, marking it with an “X.”) Those who identify as asexual do not feel sexual desire and/or want sexual intercourse (though they may still have romantic feelings).

Asexuality and its nuances have been misunderstood for decades, as have those who self-identify with the term. So how many people identify as asexual?

It’s hard to say. Like many sexual statistics, it’s all self-reported. But there have been a few studies done.

 

Kinsey estimated that asexuals numbered around 1.5% of the adult male population in the later 1940s to early 1950s. But he didn’t mention female asexuals, and we don’t know how thorough his methodology was.

Elsewhere, a 2004 British study analyzed data and found that around 1.1% of Brits claimed the label. A recent article on “Wired” named estimates ranging from .6% to 5.5%.

There’s no definitive way to tell. But hopefully more data will be uncovered as research into asexuality grows.