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In Science and Technology….

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►  Peggy Whitson Just Outdid All Her Fellow Astronauts

Another day, another milestone for US astronaut Peggy Whitson: On Monday, she set the record for cumulative days in space by American. NASA tweeted that Whitson, currently on her third mission, surpassed Jeff Williams’ record of 534 days. “It’s actually a huge honor to break a record like this,“ Whitson told Trump, who called her Monday morning to offer congratulations. “It’s an honor for me to be representing all the folks at NASA who make space travel possible and make me setting this record feasible.“ The 57-year-old first went into space in 2002, and she became the first woman to command the International Space Station five years later, notes the BBC. In March, she went on her eighth spacewalk, the most by a female astronaut, adds CNN.

“On behalf of our nation and, frankly, on behalf of our world, I’d like to thank you,“ Trump told the astronaut. The president, accompanied by daughter Ivanka on the linkup, also asked Whitson about a potential visit to Mars, and she responded that it will take time, money, and international cooperation but will be well worth the effort. “We want to do that during my first term or, at worst, my second,“ Trump joked. “We’ll have to speed that up a little, OK?“ Whitson returns to Earth in September.


►  What an Undisclosed Uber Meeting Says About Its CEO

Mike Isaac’s lengthy look at Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, the result of interviews with more than 50 people who are or have been professionally or personally close to him, isn’t entirely without compliment. “Some consider him a math savant,“ Isaac writes for the New York Times. But the profile is mostly cutting beyond that. Isaac opens with an until-now-unreported 2015 meeting between Kalanick and Apple honcho Tim Cook, in which Kalanick had to answer for an egregious violation of Apple’s privacy guidelines: “Directing his employees to help camouflage the ride-hailing app from Apple’s engineers. The reason? So Apple would not find out that Uber had been secretly identifying and tagging iPhones even after its app had been deleted and the devices erased.“ After a scolding from Cook, Kalanick reversed course in order to avoid getting the boot from Apple’s App Store.

In Isaac’s view, it wasn’t an anomaly, but a regular flouting of rules and norms that’s becoming characteristic of Uber but traces back to Kalanick—and his earliest days. The California native dropped out of UCLA in 1998 to form a Napster-like start-up; it filed for bankruptcy two years later (allowing it to sidestep a $250 billion copyright infringement lawsuit). Next was data transfer startup Red Swoosh. Isaac reports that Kalanick and a Red Swoosh partner illegally took employee tax withholdings that were supposed to go to the IRS and put the money back into the floundering company (the IRS eventually got its money). Read Isaac’s piece in full HERE ; it includes an anecdote about Kalanick refusing some of Jay Z’s money, details about the various and aggressive ways Uber has tried to eat away at rival Lyft, and more on how the Apple violation came to be.


►  Tests find Samsung’s S8 phones more prone to screen cracks

Samsung’s latest phones feature big wraparound screens and lots of glass. They also appear to break more easily, according to tests run by SquareTrade, a company that sells gadget-repair plans.

The nearly all-glass design of Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus makes them beautiful, SquareTrade said, but also “extremely susceptible to cracking when dropped from any angle.“

Samsung had no comment.

The new phones have received positive reviews from The Associated Press and other outlets. Samsung says advanced orders for the S8 were 30 percent higher than that for the Galaxy S7 phones. The company didn’t release specific figures. The S8 starts at $750, which is about $100 higher than the S7.

SquareTrade said Monday that cracks appeared on screens of both the S8 and S8 Plus after just one face-down drop onto a sidewalk from six feet. The phones had similar problems when dropped on the backs and sides.

Unsurprisingly, both models did well in water-drop tests. The phones had some audio distortion, but that is typical and temporary. The S8 has water-resistance features.

SquareTrade didn’t test the phones’ battery, the source of problems that led to a recall of Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 phone.

In Science and Technology….

The Free Press WV

►  Musk: I Want to Link Brains to Computers in 4 Years

Elon Musk might be somewhat skittish at the prospect of artificial intelligence (or at least at its more nefarious potential), but that hasn’t curbed his latest goal: merging human brains with computers by the time we reach the next presidential inauguration, Reuters reports. In what TechCrunch calls “the most science fictional of all three of his ventures,“ the Tesla and SpaceX CEO discussed his new company Neuralink with Tim Urban of the Wait but Why blog, who comments on the “mind-bending bigness” of the firm’s mission. That mission—which TechCrunch notes may irk some investors, as Musk has confirmed he’ll spread himself a little thinner and take the CEO helm for Neuralink, too—is to get a technology to market in four years’ time that would create a high-bandwidth link between machines and severely injured human brains (injuries caused by strokes or cancer lesions, for example).

TechCrunch explains that Musk’s literal brainchild would streamline communications between people by allowing for “uncompressed” signals to pass back and forth, rather than the current way we “compress” our thoughts into language, which the recipient then must “decompress.“ You’ll need a large cup of coffee and a block of free time to get through Urban’s lengthy post about Musk’s “wizard hat,“ but Urban implores people to “wipe your brain clean of what it thinks it knows about itself and its future” and “jump into the vortex” with him. “I knew the future would be nuts but this is a whole other level,“ Urban tweeted Thursday while promoting his story.


►  NASA Releases Stunning New ‘Night Lights’

What can change in a night? NASA intends to find out, at least in so far as detailed images of light patterns can tell us, reports al.com. For nearly three decades, so-called “night lights” compiled from satellite images have provided us with evening views of our planet—and helped us track population centers—about once every 10 years. Now NASA is releasing detailed images captured during every month in 2016 ahead of schedule; the latest ones were published in 2012. And it’s just the start: The agency is developing new software and algorithms so it can publish the “broad, beautiful picture” of our world at night on a yearly, monthly, or possibly even daily schedule.

In the “stunning” images released last week, per CBS News, the agency says we’ve now got the clearest composite views ever captured of human settlement patterns, thanks in large part to the 2011 launch of the NASA-NOAA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite and our ability to crunch the resulting data. Scientists could use the information to not only track human movement (even boat lights are visible), but to help monitor unregulated fishing, track sea ice movements, reduce light pollution, and monitor the effects of war and natural disasters on electric power. The team is separately working on fine-tuning estimates of carbon dioxide emissions. For now, they plan to release daily high-def “night lights” to the science community later this year.

In Science and Technology….

The Free Press WV

►  Naked Mole Rats Can Do What No Other Vertebrate Can

Scientists already know enough about naked mole rats to put them in the “strange” category. The hairless ground-dwelling wonders are notable for being cold-blooded mammals that are practically immune to cancer and far outlive other rodents, reports Science Daily. Now scientists say they’ve observed the creatures surviving without oxygen, too—for as long as 18 minutes, reports NPR. How? They use an alternative fuel, and in a way that has never before been observed in vertebrates. Reporting in the journal Science, researchers explain they put naked mole-rats in a chamber with just 5% oxygen, a quarter of normal levels, which kills mice in minutes. The mole-rats were fine.

“They had more stamina than the researchers,“ says researcher Thomas Park, who called it quits after watching for five hours. Next they took away all oxygen, which kills a mouse in 45 seconds. The mole-rats passed out after 30 seconds but their hearts beat for the 18-minute experiment and they were back to normal once exposed to normal air again. (Those deprived for 30 minutes did not survive.) Turns out that instead of running on glucose for energy, which requires oxygen, they turn to fructose, something humans have but can’t use in this way. “They have a social structure like insects, they’re cold-blooded like reptiles, and now we found that they use fructose like a plant,“ Park says. It’s possible the research could ultimately lead to methods of treating humans who are experiencing oxygen deprivation.


►  Our Space Junk Problem Is Only Getting Worse

Decades’ worth of man-made junk is cluttering up Earth’s orbit, posing a threat to spaceflight and the satellites we rely on for weather reports, air travel, and global communications. More than 750,000 fragments larger than a centimeter are already thought to orbit Earth, and each one could badly damage or even destroy a satellite. Experts meeting in Germany this week say the problem will get worse as private companies send a flurry of new satellites into space over the coming years unless steps are taken to reduce debris, reports the AP.

Luisa Innocenti of the European Space Agency said Friday that a first mission to capture space junk is being planned, but noted that it is highly complex because failure could worsen the problem by creating more debris. That issue was highlighted in miniature recently when astronaut Peggy Whitson went on a March spacewalk. She lost the shield she carried as a protection against space debris, meaning it floated away to become part of the problem it was designed to combat, notes Fox News. It’s one of the bigger objects lost by spacewalkers>.


►  Lawsuit Accuses Bose Headphones of Spying on Us

Sometimes apps enhance products, but sometimes they also unlock access to a user’s private activity. A lawsuit filed in Chicago Tuesday alleges that headphone maker Bose is doing just that with its Bose Connect app—spying on its consumers’ listening habits and gathering data it then provides to third parties without user consent, reports Fortune. The wireless headphones at issue retail for up to $350, and lead plaintiff Kyle Zak says that in taking the company’s advice to “get the most out of your headphones,“ he download the companion app—but ended up providing much more than his name, number, and email address. He argues that Bose is violating the WireTap Act, and while damages are not specified, the complaint alleges “the amount in controversy exceeds $5,000,000.“

The Bose Connect app can be used with several headsets, including QC35, SoundSport wireless, and QuietControl 30, as well as a variety of SoundLink speakers, reports Consumerist. Anything a person listens to on them—the complaint gives examples beyond music, like a Muslim prayer service or LGBT podcast—could be tied to that person, the potential class-action suit alleges, fingering Segment.io as one of the third parties to receive this data. (Billboard notes Segment’s home page reads, in part: “Collect all of your customer data and send it anywhere.“) “This case shows the new world we are all living in,“ an attorney for the plaintiff says. “Consumers went to buy headphones and were transformed into profit centers for data miners.“ A rep for Bose called the allegations “inflammatory, misleading.“

Underground Apps Used By Students Which Are Hidden From Schools

The Free Press WV

Technology is nearly ubiquitous in classrooms, and it holds extreme importance in the lives of today’s children.

But with technology comes responsibility, and many ed-tech stakeholders emphasize the importance of teaching students about digital citizenship, being aware of their digital footprint, and being responsible and safe online.

Despite the best efforts of parents and educators, children can–and do–get into sticky situations with technology. And as everyone knows, things you post online, in group chats, or send in text messages don’t disappear if you delete them.

Here, we’ve compiled a list of apps adults might want to know about, not in an effort to alarm parents and teachers, but rather to inform them of the threats that accompany technology ownership and use.


1. Whisper: The app states users must be 17 years old to download the app. Even if children followed that age restriction, high school students can download and use it. The app lets users share their thoughts or opinions via text that is placed on top of an image. Users also can connect directly with one another. It has the potential for cyberbullying and online harassment.


2. ASKfm: This app lets users ask anonymous questions (they also can choose to not be anonymous). Kids might use it for cyberbullying and to unfairly target certain classmates.


3. Private Photos (Calculator%): According to the app, “anyone who starts this application will see a calculator but if you put in passcode it will open up a private area.”


4. HiCalculator: The app’s description indicates it “ can hide your photos and videos behind a calculator.” Parents, teachers and other adults are likely to pass over the app without realizing it.


5. Hide It Pro: Users can hide pictures and videos behind a lock screen and can create multiple photo and video albums and email them to others from inside the app. The app automatically locks when users exit it, and it also includes a code-enabled feature that makes the app appear empty if someone, like a parent or teacher, finds it and knows what it does.


6. Yik Yak: This location-based app lets users post text-only messages that are visible to users who are closest to the original poster’s location. The app’s iTunes description says the app contains frequent and/or intense sexual content or nudity, frequent and/or intense alcohol, tobacco or drug use references, crude humor, fantasy violence and more–all of which could be problematic in any kind of environment where bullying and cyberbullying or sexual assault or harassment are concerns.

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