Tag Archives: technology

Real or Virtual Classrooms?

The world is constantly evolving and growing as the level of technology increases and new technology becomes readily available. It seems like every day there is a new technological development that helps us in our daily lives. One of these developments is the rise of online classrooms.

It is becoming more popular to make college or high school courses available online, removing the need for students to be present inside of a classroom. The main reasons for these (relatively) new online classes are their accessibility and convenience. Some students are stay at home parents, some cannot afford both the tuition and campus housing, and some have jobs that prevent them from having a normal class schedule. There are many reasons for people to make use of online courses; they are helpful and they allow many people who could not otherwise manage to get a college degree to do so. But people can also miss out on the experience and knowledge that comes with having an actual class that isn’t just an assignment on a screen.

computer
“There are many reasons for people to make use of online courses; they are helpful and they allow many people who could not otherwise manage to get a college degree to do so.” Photo from: http://oregonstate.edu/cla/sites/default/files/images/students-looking-at-computer.jpg

In traditional classrooms, there is a greater opportunity for discussion among the students. People can ask questions and ask for further explanation if they do not understand the material. With most online classes, you get an assigned reading, a worksheet and/or assignment, and maybe a video explaining what you need to do. The issue is that this method does not provide many, if any, actual teaching moments. If learning was as simple as opening up a textbook and reading it, then we wouldn’t need teachers, or even actual classes. Learning isn’t as simple as reading the material and then taking a test on it.

None of this is to say that online classes are bad or that we should do away with them, but they certainly shouldn’t become the primary method of teaching. We should stick primarily with traditional classrooms and supplement education with online classes. Keep online classrooms, improve them, encourage them, but don’t let them become the main method of teaching.

What the Recent Power Outage Should Teach Us

On Tuesday, January 1, 2017, the city of Radford, along with Radford University, experienced a widespread power outage.  Normally, this is expected to happen occasionally, but on this particular day, there was nothing but decent weather, a few clouds in the sky, and only harsh wind.  Even the students who had already finished their classes for the day faced an unproductive situation since they couldn’t do any homework online.  The power outage lasted a little over an hour, but in that short period of time, it really showed how reliant we all are on technology these days.

While classrooms might still sometimes conjure up the typical teacher drawing on a chalkboard, along with posters and students raising their hands, the reality is that the average classroom has really changed, just like we have in adapting to technology.  Nowadays, the majority of classes are taught through a PowerPoint, and teachers often go to a website, whether Radford-related or otherwise, at least once.  It’s nothing new to be in class and see a teacher ask his or her students to look something up on their phones.  But of course, the thought of not being able to use technology made everyone forget about the other major problem resulting from a power outage: not being able to see.

candles
“The power outage lasted a little over an hour, but in that short period of time, it really showed how reliant we all are on technology these days.” Photo from: jronaldlee.com

For the first time in a while, many of us sat in a class where there were no computers, PowerPoints, or anyone using their phone.  Many students are used to having all of these typical classroom factors every class, but the last time we were in school before technology really took over was in elementary school, where there was very limited computer use, and if we were lucky, the occasional movie.  Not having any technology and only having a chalkboard baffled some teachers even, but classes went on the best they could.

What’s important to take away from the power outage is how reliant our society is on technology.  Things are so different when it isn’t available, and without it, we can see how living was just 10 years ago.  It can be nice having fewer distractions and not having to stare at a screen forever.  I am sure some of us, not feeling compelled to check our phone or look at the time, even learned more than we would in a usual class with power.  The power outage was a strange and unexpected occurrence, but it wasn’t as bad as people thought it would be, and was actually in some ways beneficial.  The people who got to strangely experience having class without technology, or having one in a different classroom because their usual one was pitch black, actually got the chance to reflect on how much being in class has changed. A power outage will most likely not occur again, but if it does, we know that some of us could expect to experience an older way of learning again, and that we are a lot more capable in a power outage than a lot of people initially thought.

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.

Dutch police have a new ally in the fight against illegal drones

Bald eagles have long been a symbol of freedom, justice, and downright bad-assery for Americans. The bald eagle is such a majestic creature that is widely adored by many, but Dutch Police are taking these creatures to a whole new level of awesome.

Eagles and falcons have many uses, but Dutch police are using them to solve a relatively new problem: drones. Just about anyone can buy a drone, and as awesome as that is, it’s also caused issues with privacy and safety. Drones have even become an issue at sporting events. Just recently, Marcel Hirscher, a skiing star, just barely evaded being hit by a falling drone which was being used by a broadcasting company. The drones operator was told to stay outside of the the course and at least 15 meters away from the athlete. The operator failed to do this and the drone fell from the sky, narrowly missing Hirscher. Because of this incident, The International Ski Federation banned camera drones from all of its events.

Bald eagles are expert drone-catchers. Graphic from Daily Mail
Bald eagles are expert drone-catchers. Graphic from Daily Mail

Although drones have been banned in many scenarios and by many organizations, event officials and police have had a hard time confronting the issue without causing even more issues. Drone-catchers, which are larger drones that expel an net and capture illegal drones, aren’t exactly fool-proof just yet. Other methods, such as shooting the drones out of the air, cause another safety issue because many times, the drones are overhead of large crowds.

Dutch police have come up with a pretty graceful solution to this issue: bald eagles. That’s right, bald eagles are being trained to scoop drones out of the sky. Just as falcons and eagles have been used in sporting events to fly over the crowd, sometimes with a GoPro camera, eagles are now being trained to take down illegal drones. The reason this is the ideal solution? While drone catchers may swing their nets and hit an unintended target, or knock a drone out of the sky and onto a crowd, eagles can swoop in to grab the drone and take it to a safe area.

While there have been some concerns for the safety of the birds, eagles scaled feet and sharp talons protect them from the blades that enable the drones to fly. The eagles also have excellent vision which allows them to see the blades separately instead of just a big blur. This allows the birds to very accurately grasp the center of the drone and avoid injury. Besides their physical ability to stop drones in their tracks, the birds naturally dislike drones and tend to show a bit of territoriality towards the machines when they’re used in the birds natural habitat.

Overall, this is a huge win-win for both man and beast: man uses the beast to serve a security purpose, while the beast gets to spread his wings and tackle something they see as a threat. Along with full-fledged attacks on the drone, we can harness the birds intelligence and abilities to actually retrieve the drone without endangering any by-standers.

The only regret I have about this idea is that the Dutch thought of it first, and not the country that adores eagles and taking down domestic terrorists (the United States).

There’s a link between obsessive Facebook checking and sleep-deprivation

Are you obsessed with checking Facebook? If you find yourself looking at Facebook many times a day, it may be a sign that you’re not getting enough sleep. A new study finds a link between obsessive Facebook checking and sleep-deprivation; correlating exhaustion, irritability, attention span with reliance on Facebook browsing.

Sleep deprivation linked with obsession with checking Facebook. Image from The Telegraph.
Sleep deprivation linked with obsession in checking Facebook. Image from The Telegraph.

“When you get less sleep, you’re more prone to distraction,” said head of research Gloria Mark, a University of California, Irvine (UCI) informatics professor. “If you’re being distracted, what do you do? You go to Facebook. It’s lightweight, it’s easy, and you’re tired.”

Specialists in the field of interplay between humans and computers seek to answer how lack of sleep impacts individuals so they can design better technologies and commodities.

“There have been lots of studies on how information technology affects sleep. We did the opposite: We looked at how sleep duration influences IT usage,” said Mark.

The research team gathered informational data from 76 UCI students — 42 females and 34 males — for seven days amid the spring semester in 2014. The study controlled for undergraduates’ course load, homework due dates, age and gender, and depended on sensors to impartially measure their conduct, activities and anxiety levels.

Undergraduates’ cellphones and laptops were rigged with a logging program, and time stamps were documented when research participants moved from one application window to the next and when they answered a call on their smartphone or texted a friend. They were requested to complete a survey of their sleep every morning and an end-of-day survey before going to bed.

Study subjects also completed a general questionnaire before the study and sat for an end-of-study assessment. Routinely during the week, they were presented with examining queries from the studies’ analysts with reference to their mood, the apparent difficulty of the chore that was at hand, and their status of activity in their work.

Mark said the research’s discoveries additionally found that the less sleep individuals have, the more periodically their concentration shifts between separate computer windows, which implies elevated inability to maintain one’s attention.

Mark’s UCI colleagues on the research were Melissa Niiya and Stephanie Reich from the School of Education and Yiran Wang from the Department of Informatics. The study was supported financially by the National Science Foundation.

Mark will present the discoveries of the research at a leading computer-human interaction conference in May.

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.

Flowers in space?

Astronauts on the International Space Station have been trying to cultivate edible plants in microgravity for around two years.

After various unsuccessful attempts at growth, you’d think these astronauts would be weary after these failed growth cycles. However, their perseverance has proven to be worthwhile, because they now have their first ever zinnia flowers blooming in space.

Zinnia is a genus of plants of the sunflower tribe within the daisy family. They are cultivated for their vibrant flowers, but they are also edible.

 

Scott Kelly, U.S. astronaut, posted a picture of one of the zinnia flowers on Twitter.

 

According to a recent NASA blog, after mold started growing on some of the leaves because of high humidity, Kelly was able to bring the flowers back to life.

This isn’t the first time plants have sprouted in space, however. The International Space Station team brought their Veggie plant system to life halfway through the year 2014. The team have also grown red romaine lettuce.

The “Outredgeous” lettuce was grown aeroponically — in an air or mist environment without soil. Plants grown in these environments require much less water and fertilizer without a need for pesticide. These plants also are less prone to disease, and grow up to three times faster than plants grown in soil, NASA has stated.

NASA, in a blog post, wrote that this was the “first time a flowering crop experiment will be grown on the orbiting laboratory”.

Some have argued that a sunflower was actually the first flower to grow in space, although NASA has not yet commented.

Don Pettit, astronaut, grew a zucchini, sunflower and broccoli out of zip-lock bags on the International Space Station as a personal science experiment, documented in a NASA blog called “Diary of Space Zucchini”, in 2012.

Alexandra Whitmire from NASA’s Human Research Program said that NASA’s Veggie project could also provide crucial information for various other missions. For example, understanding watering schedules in microgravity, and knowing what to do if there is mold growth or other challenges in these extreme conditions on Mars.

“In future missions, the importance of plants will likely increase, given the crews’ limited connection to Earth,” Whitmire wrote in a NASA blog.

NASA hopes the veggie project will become a regular facility for International Space Station astronauts to grow fresh food in space.