Category Archives: Technology

Latest on iPhone 8 and When it Might be Released

Apple’s newest smartphone will be on every teenager’s Christmas list, and yet we haven’t gotten the usual conference from Apple introducing the phone.  Here’s the latest on when the iPhone will come out and what types there will be to choose from.

In August, Apple sent out invitations to journalists to an event on September 12 at its newest headquarters. Usually, this means that the week after the event, the device will be released. While everyone is jumping up and down in joy, they might want to reconsider after seeing the changes and price of the phone.

The Apple Logo

There are rumors circling around that the phone has a price tag of almost $1000! You might want to keep that iPhone7 for a couple more years. The colors look like they’re going to be the same; however, there is a third color thought to be a rose gold or copper along with the standard black and white colors. The screen gets major upgrades (or downgrades) as the button in the middle is gone and you get a full screen, an edge-to-edge display.  The screen will be as big as an iPhone7+ but the phone will be the size of an iPhone7.

Gone along with the home button is the Touch ID fingerprint scanner; to replace it is a new infrared scanner that uses a facial recognition software. This was developed in response to Samsung’s Galaxy 8’s similar technology. Of course with a new iPhone comes with it a new iOS that will be available to users of older iPhones.  Also, there is an update to the camera as now it will have 3D to go with the facial scanning. The biggest problem Apple has is wireless charging; they will try to answer the issues but don’t expect a solution this year but rather a new version next year.

Apple is undoubtedly recognized by all Americans. Expect a lot of people to wait in line, drop $1000, and brag about forgetting to pay their bills just to get a small brick.

Weekly App Review: Zello

Photo from zello.com
Photo from zello.com

Today, starts a new weekly series where I will review some of the best apps for college students and rate them from a 1 to 10 scale.

However, to make the series fair, there will be three rules to follow by:

1. Apps must be free to the user. However, this excludes apps that are free but have in-game purchases like Madden Mobile and Temple Run.

2. Apps must be low users of data, so that will disqualify  Madden from future consideration.

3. Apps must be on both Android and Apple Play stores.

So with that, let’s get started.

With this hurricane season being as bad as it has been, people have to get creative when the power goes out. So in comes Zello, the walkie talkie on your phone.  Zello claims that its app works with 4G, 3G, 2G, and WiFi, claims most apps can’t make. With over 50 million downloads in the Google Play Store and a rating of 4.4 out of 5 stars, this app has the fame to back itself up. But does it have enough to stand with me?

The app has over 10 MB to download which isn’t too bad, and it did not take long at all for it to download for me.  I realize when I open the app, Zello wants me to create an account with a username and everything just like in college. Just something else you have to remember. It also wants access to phone contacts, photos, and text messages, another thing I don’t care for. After accepting its requests, it now wants me to create a profile. That takes me about 5 minutes to finish, and now Zello is available for use. Without even using it yet, I notice my battery level and see it is down to 88% from 95% in those 5 minutes.

When testing the audio, I am impressed that the audio I recorded was crystal clear compared to apps like Tango and Facebook Messenger. However, just like any app. when the cell towers go down, the app will not work.  So that means the app is only good for conservations and not even for storms when the power goes out. Now that’s a major bummer.

This app is just like Tango and Facebook Messenger which are just like Zello but with video chats. If you are trying to save on data plans, I would recommend for you to download this app; otherwise just keep your Messenger.

Rating: Five out of Ten stars: More like Jello

 

 

People interpret emojis in different ways

Emojis are used very widely by a diverse range of people. A recent study hoped to find how individuals interpret emojis, and if there was a general consensus among individuals about what different emojis meant.

The study, led by researchers from a Research lab, called GroupLens, at the University of Minnesota, found that individuals often view emojis in different ways. The discoveries will be presented in May at the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence’s Conference on Web and Social Media in Germany.

Emojis can be cryptic in meaning. Graphic from Get Emoji
Emojis can be cryptic in meaning. Graphic from Get Emoji

The study discovered that individuals who viewed the same emoji disagreed on if the emoji expressed a negative, neutral or positive feeling approximately 25 percent of the time. For 95 percent of emojis, individuals did not strongly agree on what feeling the emoji expressed.

Each mobile platform has its own version of emojis, because of this, interpreting emojis can be particularly problematic when the sender and the receiver are using separate platforms.

The study’s participants, made up of 334 individuals, rated a total of 125 emojis. They were asked to rate the feeling expressed by an emoji on a scale from –5 (strongly negative) to 5 (strongly positive).

The researchers discovered, on average, that when two individuals viewed the same emoji, their feeling ratings were different by approximately 1.8 points, and when they looked at different versions of the same emoji, their ratings were different by approximately 2 points.

Individuals used contrasting words to describe the different renderings of the same emojis. For instance, when viewing the emoji of a “person raising both hands in celebration” individuals used words like “hand” or “celebrate” to describe the emoji from the Apple version, and words like “exciting” or “high” to describe the Microsoft version.

According to the study, the findings suggest that it would benefit users to merge the design of emojis across all platforms, which could lower the probability of miscommunication.

According to researchers, future studies may determine how individuals view emojis when they are viewed in the context of a text message, or if individuals from separate cultures also view emojis differently. Because the new study only looked at emoji with human characteristics, or anthropomorphic, future studies could investigate how individuals view non-anthropomorphic emojis.

Brain implant allows paralyzed man move his hands using his thoughts

After diving into a shallow wave at a beach and hitting the sandy bottom, Ian Burkhart severely injured his spinal cord and became paralyzed when he was only 19 years old. He lost the ability to use his legs and forearms due to where the injury occurred on his body.

According to a recent study, Burkhart, now 24 years old, has recovered his ability to move his wrist, hand and some of his fingers by using an electrical device that was implanted into his brain. The electrical device is connected to a sleeve of electrodes that he wears on his forearm.

Burkhart has recovered the functional movements by using the electrical device, said Chad Bouton. Bouton is the lead author of the study published April 13 in the journal Nature and the division leader, at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in New York, of neurotechnology and analytics.

Ian Burkhart, first person to benefit from the neural bypass technology. Image from Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center/Batelle.

According to Bouton, in order for Burkhart to recover his individual finger movements, the researchers had to discover and decipher certain brain signals. Soon after, they had to evaluate the electrical impulse pattern required to release on his forearm.

The researchers and doctors embedded a device with microelectrodes into the part of the brain that controls movement, his motor cortex. When Burkhart wears the sleeve, he has the ability to move and control his arm using brain-computer-interface technology, to translate these signals into electrical pulses in an individual’s’ brain, by using a computer. The sleeve’s 130 electrodes emits electrical impulses to his muscles, which makes them contract.

In an individual who is not paralyzed, signals from the brain move down the spinal cord to nerves connected to muscles in the body, making those muscles move. In paralyzed individuals, because of spinal cord injury, these signals still happen in the brain, yet can’t be transmitted to muscles. To deliver the signals directly to Burkhart’s muscles, the microchip in his brain and the electrode sleeve bypass the injury.

Burkhart can now complete daily tasks with his hand, including the ability to swipe a credit card, pour water into a cup and play Guitar Hero, with the electrical device’s help.

Fundamentally, Burkhart has the ability to make these movements by “mastering his thoughts,” said Dr. Ali Rezai. Rezai is a neurosurgeon at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center where Burkhart was treated, and senior author of the study.

According to researchers, Burkhart’s capacity to move several of his fingers is a noteworthy discovery. They hope that one day this electrical device technology could help other individuals with paralysis, as well as individuals who, due to strokes or traumatic brain injuries, have lost movement.

NSA surveillance: protection or violation?

The National Security Agency/Central Security Service (NSA/CSS) claims that the “NSA/CSS exists to protect the Nation”.

In 2013, a federal U.S. judge ruled that the National Security Agency phone surveillance program was lawful. The agency, however, is known to break the law on a large scale and lie about it.

If you’ve never heard the name Edward Snowden uttered in any political debate or in the news, you should probably learn the importance of his name. Edward Snowden is a former Intelligence Community officer and has been called anywhere from a hero, a whistleblower, a patriot, or a traitor. In May 2013, he revealed documents that provided a look into the NSA and its secret mass surveillance programs and capabilities.

The documents disclosed that the NSA was operating without public oversight and outside the limits of the US Constitution. Snowden was charged with theft of government property, and two charges under the 1917 Espionage Act. The revelations that Snowden divulged led to attention around the world on privacy intrusions and digital security, and now the issue is a global debate.

In an interview with The Guardian, Edward Snowden said, “I don’t want to live in a world where everything I say, everything I do, everyone I talk to, every expression of creativity and love or friendship is recorded.”

Do any of us wants to live in a society that does these things? And even further with no hint of probable cause, and no sham of due process. The NSA has been thoughtlessly and carelessly forcing violence against freedom, ever since the agency was founded on November 4, 1952.

“To live with the benefits of technology, should we also have to deal with the consequences as well?” Graphic from quickmeme.com

The NSA surveillance that invades our privacy because of “national security” was a complete secret before Edward Snowden blew the “freedom” whistle. The phone surveillance violates the fourth amendment in respect to Americans’ privacy rights, and it also violates our natural sense of personal privacy.

Concerning these issues, the government is the one in violation of the laws and should be held accountable, right? But Edward Snowden was the one who was charged and seen as the traitor and as the criminal, for doing the right thing and letting us know that we’re being watched. The government is just hiding its own abusive power, and saving themselves.

To live with the benefits of technology, should we also have to deal with the consequences as well?

Benjamin Franklin, a radical defender of freedom once said, “Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.” This quote has been used by anti-war protestors, and for protests against the National Security Agency’s surveillance program.

The quote has many variations, and has been taken out of context multiple times and is originally “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” However, despite the lack of context and the more-modern form of the quote, believe that Benjamin Franklin would agree with what the quote has been modernized to illustrate.

Industrial technology: solving our problems or providing them?

This semester, I’ve been taking an introductory Philosophy course on Ethics and Society (PHIL 112). I’ll try my best not to ramble on about how I love the course so much, so much so that I decided to change my major from Fashion Design to Philosophy and Religious Studies.

One thing is for sure: this course has challenged my thinking on many things—especially on how we treat our world, the only world that we’ve been given. Through industrial technology and industrialization, we have become a destructive presence on Earth.

We are still dealing with the consequences of industrial technology.

We begin a kind of fragmentation of the world. We look at the world in parts, not as a whole; looking at the world as market value. Corporations and privileged people in power look to spend the least amount of money for the most profit.

“Corporations will do anything to save a penny.” Cartoonist: Justin Bilicki

We begin replacing human workers with machines, market products regardless of usefulness or effects, to make the highest possible profit and concentrate wealth in fewer and fewer hands. All with a maxim that all competition is for competition’s sake.

We can continue to insist that our land-destroying, water-and-air polluting agriculture is the only way, because it’s the most accessible and widespread way of doing so. Economically, “green” ways of production and agriculture are the most financially straining, they cost the most amount of money. Corporations will do anything to save a penny.

We live in this notion that we live on a planet that is unlimited with resources. This notion of an unlimited source of resources is because we’re ashamed about how we’ve lived in the world as a destructive presence. These natural resources that the world depends on, we use destructively and foolishly. We stay oblivious, unaware and naive of the detrimental effects of agriculture and industrialization. We’re headed towards an entire eradication of human beings and a destruction of our planet, because of our finite resources.

We are being programmed that this is supporting “our way of life”, so it is obviously beneficial. “Our ‘natural resources’ are naturally occurring, and so they will not be depleted.” Is this not a way of corruption of young minds? We are not educated to know that one day our actions will catch up to us, as they are currently doing, and will cause a landslide of “unintended” consequences.

The violence towards our own world brings money to our culture. The industrial society is the most violent the world has ever known, and we’re all complicit in it.

But technology solves our problems, right?

iPhone SE: Good things can come in small packages

Image from apple.com
Apple’s latest iPhone model. Image from apple.com

On Thursday, March 31, Apple released the iPhone SE, the latest model of the smartphone that has been around since the first generation was released on June 29, 2007. iPhone SE may look like an updated iPhone 5s with the specs of an iPhone 6s, but the small phone still has a lot going for it. However, if you don’t want to switch from a large screen, you probably don’t want to switch to a four-inch phone, and are better off waiting until the estimated release date of the iPhone 7 in September 2016.

Here are the looks and the technical specifications of the new iPhone SE model, laid out in an easy-to-read format so you can see if the latest model is just what the doctor ordered. 


Design Features

Size

If you don’t want to switch from a 5s to a larger, more impractical sized, phone, the iPhone SE has the same four-inch screen that’s easy to use — you can type easily with one hand, and reach all four corners of the screen of your phone.

Color

The iPhone SE is available in four colors: silver, gold, space gray and rose gold.

The colors of the iPhone SE. Image from apple.com

Other Design Features

The new iPhone SE has a stainless steel Apple logo inset, instead of an Apple logo stamped-on the back of the phone.

The chamfered edges of the iPhone 5s have been redesigned as “refined” and are now more matte than before.

The iPhone SE features a somewhat thicker design, and doesn’t have a bump where the camera is placed.

Tech Specs

Display

The iPhone SE features a 4-inch LED-backlit Retina display with a 1136‑by‑640‑pixel resolution at 326 ppi. The contrast ratio is 800:1, the same as the iPhone 5s. However, if you’re switching from an iPhone 6s (or 6s Plus), they feature 1400:1 and 1300:1 contrast ratios, which is a big difference to take in.

Chip

The iPhone SE features an A9 chip with 64‑bit architecture, with an embedded M9 motion coprocessor. This means that the latest model has the same great performance as the iPhone 6s. The M9 motion coprocessor collects, processes, and stores sensor data, which improves functionality further.

iSight Camera

The iPhone SE iSight camera is rated at 12-megapixels with1.22µ pixels and an ƒ/2.2 aperture.

Video Recording

The new iPhone SE can shoot and edit 4k (3840 by 2160) video at 30fps. It shoots slow-motion video at 240fps (720p) and 120fps (1080p) and 1080p HD video at 30fps or 60fps, and 720p HD video recording at 30fps.

FaceTime HD Camera

The FaceTime HD Camera on the iPhone SE takes 1.2-megapixel photos, 720p HD video recording with an ƒ/2.4 aperture.

Retina Flash allows your iPhone SE screen to flash three times brighter than it normally does on models prior to the iPhone 6s. The features measures current lighting conditions, and a True Tone flash matches ambient light.

Touch ID

The iPhone SE features the Touch ID fingerprint sensor, which is built into the Home button. It’s not as fast as the iPhone 6s’, however, but it’s not noticeable unless you hold either of these phones in each hand.

Apple Pay

Apple Pay allows you to use your device to pay with your iPhone SE using Touch ID in stores and within apps.

Power and Battery

The iPhone SE gets up to 14 hours of talk time on 3G, up to 13 hours on Wi-Fi and LTE of internet use, up to 13 hours of video playback, up to 50 hours of audio playback, and has a standby time of up to 10 days.

Sensors

The iPhone SE doesn’t feature 3D touch, because it’s using the same display technology as the iPhone 5s. But if you haven’t had a iPhone 6s, and even if you do, it doesn’t make that much of a difference.


The iPhone SE has an entry-level price for the 16 GB model of $399, and compared to the iPhone 6 prices from $549 and the iPhone 6s prices from $649 and up, you get enough bang for your buck without breaking the bank.

Snapchat’s new update

Snapchat released a new update, called Chat 2.0 on Tuesday March 29, unveiling 6 new features to add new practical services to the app.

This update, for me at least, wasn’t easily recognizable, except for one key feature — an auto-lay function for Stories. The auto-play function allows users to view each story back-to-back. Personally, and for some of my friends, this feature didn’t go over too well. I like to click on each video one-by-one, to view the stories I want to see, in the order I want to see them. The look of the feature isn’t preferable either, you can barely tell who the story is by because of the small header in the upper left hand corner.

However, after searching through the rest of the updates, I can faithfully say that this update has a lot more going for it. First of all, Snapchat lets people send video and audio messages, and even make voice calls — watch out Skype.

Snapchat’s new voice call feature. Graphic from http://money.cnn.com/

In addition, you can also set up a video call with multiple friends on Snapchat. They can either put on their own audio or video, or simply watch the lifestream and message to the group. Anything you film in the video call, however, can’t be saved or downloaded to your phone.

On top of the new Stories and chat features, Snapchat also revealed brand new stickers, which you can use when sending messages or chatting across the app.

 

 

Snapchat has been pressed to stay in the social media and network competition because less and less people have been spending time on the app. Getting people to use the app and keeping their attention can be hard to do, but I believe, if they keep releasing useful services through updates on their app, Snapchat can continue to grow.

However, Snapchat has a huge competitor coming close in the race. On the same day as Snapchat’s new update, Tuesday March 29, Instagram made an announcement stating that the time limit of videos uploaded to Instagram was raised from 15 seconds, to 60 seconds. Time will see if this is announcement will become an advantage for the platform.

Additionally, every single one of Snapchat’s features exist on other platforms including Facebook, Google Hangouts, Skype and WhatsApp. However, having all of these services inside one app could prove to be an advantage for keeping people on Snapchat.

New app lets you lend your dog and borrow another

Anna Browne is a woman who loves dogs, but unfortunately can’t be responsible for a dog of her own. She discovered an app called Bark’N’Borrow. The app allows for people who don’t have room for a dog, or can’t completely take care of a dog of their own, to be able to borrow other people’s dogs for a small vacation or simply a doggy sleepover.

Browne found the app because she loves corgis but wasn’t ready to have her own. She states “I live in a studio… I work late most nights.” As someone who works in financial services, Browne desperately wanted a cute little pooch to cuddle with at night, but the responsible person in her knew a long term commitment like owning dog wasn’t appropriate for her at this point in her life.

dog
“The app’s founder, Berkeley, individually reviews and approves every borrower’s profile.”

The app, Bark’N’Borrow, allows for dog owners to reach out to dog lovers who can’t have their own man’s best friend. The CEO and Founder Liam Berkeley said “This is the next best thing between not owning a dog and committing to one.”  It allows for dogs to continue to be put into safe environments, with people who have the time, space, and money to take care of them.

This app, however, isn’t just for people who don’t have the time or space to take care of dogs, it’s also for owners who wish to give their dogs more socialization, exposure to new environments and people. Weiling Chen, the owner of Sam the Corgi, made a profile for Sam after hearing about Bark’N’Borrow.

She said she had some initial hesitations, “It sounded a little odd but you kind of figure if they’re dog owners or dog lovers than it shouldn’t be too bad,” Chen said.

She had found a few potential borrowers, but Browne has become her favorite. “It’s like a delight,” Browne said. “On the weekend if I can hang out with a corgi for a couple of hours it’s amazing.”

To prevent the types of people who go on this app who want to hurt the dogs, the app’s founder, Berkeley, individually reviews and approves every borrower’s profile.

If you want to borrow a sweet, little, cute dog for a short period of time, check out Bark’N’Borrow.

Microsoft’s Tay “chatbot” was trolled into becoming the “Hitler-loving sex robot”

Microsoft was forced to shut down the chatbot named Tay, after it tweeted several sexist and racist remarks.

According to the software giant, Microsoft endeavored to connect with millennials 18 to 24 years old, and they planned to do this task through Tay. She was an AI designed to talk like a teenage girl.

According to a Microsoft post, “The more you chat with Tay, the smarter she gets, so the experience can be more personalized for you”.

Microsoft’s concept and idealization for Tay was that the chatbot would produce entertaining and funny reactions and responses based on tweets and other messages it was sent through applications like Kik and GroupMe.

Despite the good-intentions, internet trolls started to connect and bombard Tay on Wednesday March 23 almost exactly when it was launched. Tay started to utilize a percentage of the bigot, racist, and sexist remarks in its own Twitter conversations.

Graphic from the Telegraph and Twitter.
Tay’s responses were learned by conversations she had with people online. Graphic from the Telegraph and Twitter.

 

The bot’s tweets were so offensive and drew such an uproar that one newspaper named Tay the “Hitler-loving sex robot.”

Microsoft’s chat robot Tay was taken offline less than 24 hours after its launch since it was tweeting such sexist and racist language. But not before the AI robot tweeted approximately 96,000 times, which seems like a lot of tweets for an average teen girl or millennial.

 

 

In a released statement by Microsoft, they said ”Unfortunately, within the first 24 hours of coming online, we became aware of a coordinated effort by some users to abuse Tay’s commenting skills to have Tay respond in inappropriate ways”.

Microsoft, who designed the AI with a specific end goal of enhancing the customer service on their voice recognition software, apologized directly after the incident in a blog entry made by Peter Lee, Corporate Vice President at Microsoft Research.

Lee wrote, “We are deeply sorry for the unintended offensive and hurtful tweets from Tay, which do not represent who we are or what we stand for, nor how we designed Tay”.

Microsoft said that it’s modifying Tay, however was not able to say if or when the bot may return. Lee said that they will only bring her back when they are confident that they can make better prepare to limit technical exploits.

Instagram took one more step in becoming Facebook

On March 15, Instagram released a statement telling its subscribers that they will be updating their newsfeed, making it non-chronological, similar to the way Facebook is set up. The way they organize the posts will depend on a variety of factors including the number of post engagements, and other social signals.

Instagram will also take into consideration the posts that you have previously liked in an attempt to find the correct images that are relevant and will interest the subscriber the most.

Instagram is evolving into Facebook. Graphic from Instagram Takipci Satin Al
Instagram is evolving into Facebook. Graphic from Instagram Takipci Satin Al

Since Instagram’s initial launch in 2010, their success has skyrocketed. They started out as, simply, an app used for teens to share the photos and socialize with each other. At the time, Facebook bought Instagram for 1 billion dollars, which in hindsight, was an incredible deal because Instagram is estimated to make 1.86 billion dollars in revenue just this year, thanks to its users constant social networking usage.

Although Instagram is attempting to update its aesthetic for the benefit of the user, there have been thousands of complaints. The users even created a petition on Change.org begging Instagram to leave the newsfeed alone. Most people complained because they didn’t want Instagram to look like Facebook, as well as the fact that Facebook is well-known for discriminating business pages’ content and their inability for users to reach posts. Instagram, on the other hand, is notorious for their chronological order and an unlimited reach of posts.

There is an argument, however, that the chronological newsfeeds are only effective when businesses post on Instagram every half hour and when their followers have very limited number of people that they follow. According to Optical Cortex data “based on 20,000+ Instagram users, average number of people they follow is 822.” This suggests that chronological order doesn’t matter anyway because the brands said users follow probably weren’t the first things they saw.

The change in newsfeed might be beneficial. If you post amazing pictures, your followers will see it even if it was posted hours ago.

“Instagram user survey indicated that 60% of Instagrammers learn about products and services on the network and 75% take action after being inspired by an Instagram post.” So all you have to do is be clever, be active, and post away!

Machines can cut down domestic violence

In a metropolitan area, arraignment decisions made with the help of machine-learning, decreased new domestic violence occurrences by 50 percent, which led to a cut of more than 1,000 post-arraignment arrests yearly, according to new discoveries made by the University of Pennsylvania.

In the U.S., the average pre-trial process progresses from arrest to preliminary arraignment to a mandatory court appearance.

Throughout the preliminary arraignment, a magistrate or judge decides whether or not to release the offender, depending on the chance that the individual will return to court or commit new violations.

Machines will be able to help us out. Don't be afraid. Photo from coursera.com
Machines will be able to help us out. Don’t be afraid. Photo from coursera.com

Susan B. Sorenson, a professor of social policy in Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice and Richard Berk, a criminology and statistics professor in Penn’s School of Arts & Sciences and Wharton School, discovered that utilizing machine-learning forecasts at the preliminary arraignment can significantly decrease future domestic violence arrests.

To see how machine-learning could assist in cases of domestic violence, Sorenson and Berk acquired data from over 28,000 domestic violence arrangements between January 2007 and October 2011. Additionally, they observed a two-year follow-up period after release, which ended in October 2013.

Computers can “learn” from certain training data which sort of people are prone to re-offend. For this research, the 35 beginning inputs involved age, gender, prior warrants and sentences, as well as residential location. This data assists the computer in understanding proper relationships for projected risk, which offers additional data to a court official deciding whether to release or detain a suspect.

The quantity of inaccurate predictions can be somewhat high, and a few individuals object on a basic level to utilizing information collected and machines for these situations. To these objections, the researchers simply retort that machine-learning is just a tool.

Some criminal justice settings already utilize machine-learning as a procedure, although various types of choices calls for distinctive datasets from which the machine must learn. Nevertheless, the underlying statistical techniques, nevertheless, continue as before.

Sorenson and Berk both contend that the new system of cutting down domestic violence can make current practices better and more improved.

The study was published in the March issue of The Journal of Empirical Legal Studies.

‘Resting bitch face’ is real

The marvel you may know as “resting bitch face” actually exists, as indicated by scientists. Even better, there’s a study available that could clarify why resting bitch face (or RBF) is a real occurrence.

Some consider Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of England, to be the original RBF. Graphic from memecrunch.com
Some consider Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of England, to be the original RBF. Graphic from memecrunch.com

In research conducted in October 2015, scientists Jason Rogers and Abbe Macbeth from Noldus Information Technology, a company that creates programming for observational and behavioral research, utilized the company’s FaceReader software to analyze the faces of public figures with RBF, including Queen Elizabeth II, Anna Kendrick, Kanye West and Kristen Stewart.

Here’s how the software works: Scientists pick an image of an individual in which they aren’t smiling and run it through the FaceReader software. The software then registers the face and gives a rate of underlying feelings it’s picking up.

On a normal face-reading, the program will record a face at 97% neutral. The other 3% is an underlying emotion, Macbeth elucidated. That 3% is made of expressions that show traces of sadness, happiness or anger, for example.

Famous people with neutral faces are individuals like Jennifer Aniston and Blake Lively, Macbeth said. Although their faces are registered as neutral, onlookers will see Aniston and Lively’s faces as happy.

Cultural contrasts and gender bias may play a role in individuals’ impression of RBF. Eastern European people, for example are seen as non-expressive, while most people who are seen as having RBF are women, Macbeth stated.

But RBF is an existing occurrence, according to David B. Givens, director of the Center for Nonverbal Studies in Spokane, Washington. He calls the condition blank face and said in studies, subjects judge a neutral, expressionless face to be “unfriendly.”

With regards to whether software can detect the emotions behind RBF, Anthony S. Youn, a board certified plastic surgeon in Detroit, said he doesn’t know if what Noldus‘ software is seeing are genuine expressions.

Macbeth and Rogers, both behavioral neuroscientists, want to expand their research to find out why some people have it and what RBF means in terms of a person’s psychology. Most importantly, they also want to figure out why individuals react and behave so negatively to a face with RBF.

Death by selfie

Earlier this month, a teenager in India was killed while trying to take a picture of himself in front of an oncoming train. The economics site Priceonomics has aimed to assemble the existing data about the individuals who have died while taking selfies, scouring through three years of news reports stating that an individual had died while trying to take a selfie.

One of India's 'no-selfie zones'. Image from www.compareraja.in
One of India’s ‘no-selfie zones’. Image from www.compareraja.in

They discovered that since 2014, 49 individuals had been reported dead as a result of some sort of unfortunate incident that was selfie-related. More than 25 percent of deaths involving selfies are concentrated among 21-year-olds, and 75 percent are male.

The most threatening places to take a selfie appear to be high places or in water: 16 individuals died from falling off a tall building or a cliff, while 14 drowned. Eight individuals died while posing next to an oncoming train. Four individuals died of gunshot wounds, two individuals died from a grenade, two from a plane crash, two from car crashes, and one individual died from an animal attack.

As far as  where on the planet these deaths involving selfies happen, the information is skewed to a great degree in India, where 19 of the reported deaths involving selfies occurred. Keeping in mind that India’s higher population has something to do with the bloated number of selfie-related deaths, that doesn’t appear to clarify it completely. India’s higher-than-normal drowning rate has an enormous part to play, and the country has declared 16 ‘no-selfie zones’.

Russia's campaign to urge the public to take care when taking selfies. Image from Russian Interior Ministry.
Russia’s campaign to urge the public to take care when taking selfies. Image from Russian Interior Ministry.

Russia has also attempted to address the death-by-selfie issue, by creating a campaign outlining poor selfie ideas to discourage unsafe selfies on cliffs, mountaintops, or near wild animals.

Priceonomics notes that of the 49 cases they inspected, not a single death was caused by the selfie itself. To their knowledge, no one has ever been lethally pierced by a selfie stick. The selfie appears to serve as a distraction in circumstances where the individual taking the selfie ought to focus on their own wellbeing and safety.

You don’t have to stop taking selfies, simply be cautious of your surroundings when taking one — especially when taking one standing on a cliff.

Rap battle: is the Earth flat or spherical?

While the ancient Greeks were among the first to perceive that the Earth is spherical, there were still individuals who thought that couldn’t be possible, the Earth had to be flat. Because the ground is level and clearly flat.

In this depiction of what a flat Earth would look like, Antarctica is represented as a layer of ice surrounding a disc-shaped Earth. Image from LiveScience.
In this depiction of what a flat Earth would look like, Antarctica is represented as a layer of ice surrounding a disc-shaped Earth. Image from LiveScience.

This “levelheaded” thinking is, relatively, what makes up more current flat Earth beliefs. In the last century an entire group — the Flat Earth Society — has grown up around it. The nineteenth century variant of this was called the Zetetic Society, which eventually disbanded.

A Twitter dispute among astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and rapper-singer Bobby Ray Simmons Jr. (known as B.o.B), raised the debate of the flat Earth theory, and it inevitably transformed into a full-out rap battle.

B.o.B initiated things on Monday when he began tweeting about how he truly knows the Earth is flat. He tweeted additionally regarding why he knows NASA is concealing the reality about the edge of the world. Also, he shared several futile charts about Earth including one about flight routes.

The rapper posted more than 50 tweets, including “I’m going up against the greatest liars in history … you’ve been tremendously deceived”.

Tyson logged on to Twitter, and reacted accordingly. He clarified why the Earth was round, in a brief chain of tweets.

Tuesday evening, Tyson’s nephew released his own track, called “Flat To Fact,” composed and rapped by his nephew, Stephen Tyson. He tweeted: “As an astrophysicist I don’t rap, but I know people who do. This one has my back.” Here’s the song:

“Very important that I clear this up / You say that Neil’s vest is what he needs to loosen up? / The ignorance you’re spinning helps to keep people enslaved, I mean mentally.”

I strongly encourage everyone to listen to both the tracks in full, and even check out B.o.B’s and Neil deGrasse Tyson’s twitter accounts.

New “Reactions” to Facebook

Some of us spend countless hours on Facebook while simply scrolling through our timelines. We stop to read posts, shared witty articles, and even leave a “like” or comment on statuses.

The future of Facebook is nigh folks, and it’s looking more enchanting than ever.

Facebook's new Reactions. Graphic from adweek.com
Facebook’s new Reactions. Graphic from adweek.com

Facebook will soon be releasing a new way to connect with friends’ posts and statuses, called Reactions. Soon users will be able to be “angry” and “sad”, or shout “yay” or “wow” — you’ll even be able to finally “love” a comment, photo or video posted on the social media giant.

The social media site is hoping these additional Reactions will boost the amount of time spent on Facebook, and more people will share their thoughts more at regular intervals during the day.

Facebook began testing the wide range of new expressions last October in Chile, the Philippines, Portugal, Ireland, Spain, Japan and Colombia.

Facebook will soon roll out a wider range of reactions to posted items than “like.”

Soon its users will be able to be “angry” and “sad,” or shout “yay” or “wow” — or simply “love” a comment, photo or video posted on the social media site.

On Wednesday January 31, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, our lord and creator, said ”We want people to be able to share all of the things that are meaningful to them, not just the things that are happy and that people are going to like when they see it”. He added that the release of the new expressions will come “pretty soon.”

Additionally on Wednesday, Facebook released its earnings report. The company reported that during the last three months of 2015, Facebook brought in $5.8 billion — a growth of 52%. Making $1.6 billion in profit — an increase of 123% from 2014.

Facebook is now making more money off it’s users than ever before. There are now 1.59 billion people who use the site each month. Facebook makes more than $13 per user, a 50% increase from the $9 they made per person in 2014.

Other changes made to the site, like live video and collages, more tailored notifications, the ability to hide your exs and a more powerful search tool, keep people on the site for longer, and allows Facebook to learn more about its users — using advertising to target people much more effectively.

Facebook may be making more money off of us, but they are giving much more back to us in return. The new Reactions added to the site will generate so much more money, and may mean a huge increase in Facebook’s earnings report of 2016.

Barbie’s new realistic body types

Barbie has been placing an impossible idealistic body shape for young girls since the late 1950s.

If Barbie was a woman in real-life, she’d have to walk on all fours, her head would be two inches bigger than the average American woman’s while her neck would be twice as long and six inches more slender. With these estimations she’d be completely unable to lift her head.

Additionally, her 16-inch waist would be four inches smaller than her head, leaving space for only half a liver and a couple inches of digestive system.

Barbie’s figure compared to an average-sized woman. Image from Huffington Post.

With 3.5 inch wrists and 6-inch ankles she would be unable to do any heavy lifting, making it even impossible for her to walk on her two legs.

Have no fear, future parents of young girls, because now, in addition to the original Barbie, the doll will come in tall, petite and curvy assortments. Youngsters will now have the ability  to play with dolls that they can strive to look like, without developing eating disorders and body dysmorphia.

The look of the Curvy Barbie. Image from Mattel.

According to Mattel, Barbie will now come in four body types and seven skin tones, with 22 eye colors and 24 hairstyles. 33 dolls will roll out in stages, spokeswoman Michelle Chidoni said.

The look of the Petite Barbie. Image from Mattel.

Tania Missad, consumer insights director for the doll line, said “We have to let girls know it doesn’t matter what shape you come in, that anything is possible,” in a video on Mattel’s Barbie website.

The look of the Tall Barbie. Image from Mattel.

The new Barbie dolls come following years of disapproval aimed at Mattel over the doll’s impractical proportions and worry that Barbie reinforced a single, practically impossible standard of the “ideal body” for girls to try to meet.

A 2006 British study found that “girls exposed to Barbie reported lower body esteem and greater desire for a thinner body shape” than girls who were given dolls with larger body types or not given dolls at all.

Thursday’s announcement was met with approval on social media.

For the time being, only a few of the dolls are available for sale and only through Mattel’s online store. Chidori said that the dolls will hit stores on March 1. The full line will come out in stages consistently throughout 2016.

Technology that monitors stress level

In the realm of innovative wearable technology, monitoring fitness and movement is commonly the primary objective. Wearable tech created to tally steps, monitor workouts, and hit more reps has well and genuinely become the standard but be that as it may, in the course of the past twelve months, there’s been an enormous increase in gadgets built in order to keep our minds in check, just as much as our bodies. Recently, a product has been manufactured that strives to assist individuals in managing their anxiety and stress amid their everyday lives.

New wearable technology monitors stress-level, not fitness. Image from CBS Boston.
New wearable technology monitors stress-level, not fitness.
Image from CBS Boston.

The consumers simply clip Spire to their jeans or bra and the device monitors the patterns of your breathing to figure out whether they’re relaxed, centered, or strained. If the breathing speeds up to an excessive amount, the device will buzz and a message will be sent to your iPhone telling you to take a deep breath. “That simplicity of the feedback is what makes it so applicable and what makes it so actionable in daily life,” clarified Spire co-founder Neema Moraveji. “You can take a deep breath without stopping what you’re doing, without distracting from what you’re doing.”

While technology may add to current stress and anxiety levels, Moraveji says there’s no sensible escape. “The question became: ‘how could technology change and improve our state of mind?’” Notices are delivered, as necessary, so consumers can monitor and contrast their activity levels and perspective everyday.

As a doctor, Liz Scheufele perceives how essential the right sort of breathing can be, “the exercise of deep breathing, to bring you out of that tense state, I think that’s highly valuable.”

“I think it’s great”, Peter Kazanjy expressed, who is a loyal Spire user. He says it has made him more aware of his breathing and everyday stress and anxiety degrees. “You kind of notice things like maybe I’m hunched over and I’m not doing as deep breathing through my diaphragm as a I should be.”

Spire may assist in directing your breathing and you’ll have the capacity to be more in control. In any case, it costs about $150 and it is not considered a medical device.

What consumers and speculators truly want to know, is whether wearable technology intended to monitor stress actually helps or hinders with regards to better and a more full comprehension of the physical side effects symptoms of anxiety and stress.