Barbara Larson

Barbara Larson

Saturday, 15 April 2017 11:52

How Misinformation Spreads On The Internet

When tragic events happen, social media quickly fills with rumors and fake stories. NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro talks to Kate Starbird of the University of Washington about misinformation on the web.


Was the U.S. duped into striking Syria? No. The grisly deaths this week of women and children in what looks to be a chemical weapons attack was not carried out by opponents of President Trump in his own government - the, quote, unquote, "deep state." But that is the rumor that's been circulating on social media. And of course, this isn't the first time rumors like that have spread. Kate Starbird studies the spread of rumors. She teaches at the University of Washington, and her research traces fake news back past this presidential race to at least the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

KATE STARBIRD: We found a couple of different kinds of rumors, and one of them - there was this weird little rumor. It was kind of small but very different from the other ones and that was this theory that the Navy SEALs had perpetrated the Boston Marathon bombings. And they had been blamed on these what they called patsies, which were the suspects that were the Chechnya brothers. But it was all part of this - it was a false flag that the U.S. government or some elements of the U.S. government had perpetrated this event on itself.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What do we see happen when a tragedy occurs? Is this - did you find that this was common?

STARBIRD: We did see across all of the manmade disaster events, over and over again, these same claims go from, you know, event to event to event.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What we've just seen now on the strike on Syria, saying that somehow these were actors staging the event to sort of dupe the United States to make them - to draw them into the war. It's the same kind of thing.

STARBIRD: Exactly. So as soon as I saw this event, I actually posted on Facebook. I said, you know, you're seeing these images. But within, you know, a couple hours or maybe a day, you're going to see claims that this didn't really happen or that it was perpetrated by someone else. And of course, that comes to fruition.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So the question is, so if we're seeing the same thing happening over and over again, who's doing this?

STARBIRD: I think you have people that are doing it for individual reasons. They have some political motivation, or they have financial motivation. They can make money selling these ideas, selling ads on their website.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Just trying to get eyeballs so that they can sell, you know, whatever product they're pushing.

STARBIRD: So there's that element. Then there's people that are sincere believers in this stuff. They really - they're bought in. They think about this. They're 9/11 truthers (ph). They're JFK conspiracy theorists. And then there was elements of what seemed to be purposeful disinformation strategies. So someone who doesn't believe these things, who's got a political motivation for injecting very confusing ideas that are anti-globalist, anti-corporatist, anti-mainstream media.

And they - a lot of the theories had this idea that there's a group of very powerful people that are outside of government that sort of orchestrate things. Those are the kinds of things that were actually much more problematic than the folks that were doing it for money or the sincere believers.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What does this say to you? What have you learned through looking at this?

STARBIRD: I've learned a lot in the last few months. So, you know, I come from computer science and media studies, but I'm really sort of an engineer background. And I've ended up in this very politicized space looking for sort of a U.S. right versus left kind of spectrum, and that's not what I found.

What I found was these kinds of theories and this way of thinking about the world is appealing to both people on the left and the right - that people are going to see one theory. Like, they're anti-vaccine or they're anti-GMO. And they're getting drawn into these other theories of, you know, deep state actors that are changing world events to manipulate you. And then getting pulled into this worldview that is very potentially dangerous.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Kate Starbird. She teaches at the University of Washington. And she studies the spread of misinformation online, a huge problem these days. Thanks so much for joining us.

STARBIRD: Thank you.

Source : npr.org

Karim Baratov poses in front of his house in Ancaster, Ont., in this undated photo. Online, Baratov presents himself as a high-end car enthusiast who made his 'first million' at age 15. (Facebook)

22-year-old Hamilton resident's social media profiles paint different picture than FBI's

The FBI alleges that 22-year-old Karim Baratov, from Ancaster, Ont., was one of four men connected with a series of cyberattacks carried out on Yahoo that began in early 2014.But you wouldn't know it from Baratov's online persona.

On Instagram, Baratov presents himself as a high-end car enthusiast. He has frequently posted pictures of Aston Martins, Audis, Mercedes and BMWs, among other cars that he claimed to own; gaining nearly 30,000 followers in the process.

In one post, he describes himself as "well off in high school to be able to afford driving a BMW 7 series and pay off a mortgage on my first house.

"In others, he's shown spreading handfuls of $100 bills.

Baratov, who has dual Canadian-Kazakh citizenship, goes by at least two other names according to the FBI. He does not list his profession, nor how he became so well off at such a young age, on social media.

Karim Baratov InstagramThe 22-year-old was arrested Tuesday morning in Ancaster by Toronto police and turned over to the RCMP. (Instagram)

His Instagram profile describes him only as a: "Workaholic. Occasional drawer. Gym rat.

"But a cached search reveals another description: "Self made entrepreneur/programmer/web developer/investor.

"Clues left on Baratov's various social media profiles and websites registered under his name — coupled with allegations of computer hacking and economic espionage made by the FBI — offer a glimpse into how Baratov may have made his living.

He claimed in postings on the social media site Ask.fm that he made his "first million" when he was 15, working on "online services."

 "I prefer online businesses because there is way less risk and less effort in a way," he wrote.

A call to the number tied with Baratov's home address was not answered.

Baratov made a brief appearance in a Hamilton courthouse on Wednesday morning and was returned to custody.

Old websites leave clues

Neighbours on Chambers Avenue where Baratov lives said Wednesday they often puzzled at the young man's lifestyle – to be able to afford to live alone in a large, new house in an expensive subdivision, and to always be seen driving pricey cars.

"His parents either bought him the house, or he's getting money somewhere else, because he doesn't seem to work all day; he just drives up and down the street," said Kerry Carter, a neighbour who lives a few doors down.

Karim Baratov House 56 Chambers Ancaster Yahoo hacking hackerKarim Baratov's house in Ancaster. A call to the number tied to Baratov's house address was not answered. (Kelly Bennett/CBC News)

Baratov's Facebook page links to a website called Elite Space, written in Russian, which claims to offer a number of services, including servers for rent in Russia, protection from distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, and domain names in China.

Though it does not specifically mention hacking, there are clues on other sites that this may also have been among his services.

For example, an email address matching one of Baratov's aliases was used to register an account with a Russian discussion forum, which lists DDoS and hacking as the Canadian user's interests. The profile then links to a website that claims to offer email hacking services for a handful of Russian email services, including Mail.ru, as well as Gmail.

There are also a number of websites registered in Baratov's name, including one called "mail-google.us," and another "mail-yandex.us." Though the websites are no longer online, the URLs appear designed to trick visitors into thinking they are visiting a legitimate Google or Yandex email site — a common phishing tactic. 

Karim BaratovKarim Baratov is shown in a photo from his Instagram account. In online postings, he claims he made his 'first million' when he was 15, working in online services. (Instagram/Canadian Press)

While it is difficult to definitively link the sites to Baratov, they appear to fit the FBI's description of his alleged illicit work.

According to the agency's indictment, Baratov's job was to use the information gleaned from the Yahoo intrusion to gain access to targets' email accounts with other service providers.

​Baratov's last Instagram post was a photo from the 70Down restaurant and lounge in Toronto's Yorkville neighbourhood, the night before his arrest.

Source : cbc.ca

Everyone wants faster software development, but how to get there? Here's how Soasta evangelists are selling the world on data science one customer at a time.

In a rapidly changing world filled with too much information, Tom Lounibos, CEO of Soasta Inc., has a simple, down-to-earth, one-word solution for his customers looking to make a digital transformation: practice.

A one-time college baseball star drafted by the major leagues, Lounibos admitted he often turns to sports metaphors when talking about business solutions. "If you're making the move to playing pro ball, it's the same game, but everything is just so much faster," he explained. "So how do you get there? You watch the films, you hit the batting cage ... in other words, you practice."

For companies looking to develop software like the pros -- Amazon, Netflix, Google -- practice is really all it takes -- sort of. Too bad there's no digital equivalent of a batting cage. Instead, customers have to rely on something that's far from simple: advanced software-monitoring solutions that track everything about software performance, usability and response rates. These platforms theoretically can let companies "practice" a design tweak or marketing campaign, but they generate so much information that mere mortals simply can't wade through it all. Some companies end up with literally thousands of screens monitoring all the data, but at the end of the day, they don't really know how to take the information and make it work for them, Lounibos said.

Hitting and data science

That "not being able to get your players ready for the big game" thing wasn't working for Lounibos, and it's been a very real issue for Soasta. Too much information is, indeed, too much, and sometimes the volume is off-putting. "We spent a lot of time selling people on our data science platform only to discover they just couldn't wrap their heads around it all," Lounibos said.

First college at-bat for Tom Lounibos

So by putting on his coaching hat, Lounibos and his team of "quants" -- as in quantitative analysts, i.e., data scientists -- spend their days selling people on the benefits of data science: what it is, how to use it and why it matters. They explain that understanding and pairing data science and AI (artificial intelligence) can help develop better software faster.

Now, it's like going into a batting cage that simulates a real-world environment.Tom LounibosCEO, Soasta

But that's a leap, particularly when it comes to AI, a long-standing technology that is not broadly used and owns a checkered past (HAL 9000, anyone?). That's where Lounibos' extensive experience in Silicon Valley with startups and established companies comes into play. He's no stranger to fast-paced change or the need to coach customers on new technologies. "What I love about our industry is I think we get caught up with a lot of particular technologies," he said. "But the best thing about this industry is we are more adaptive than pretty much anything else out there. We're looking for change and not comfortable being static.

"For starters, Lounibos realized Soasta needed to practice what it preached. The company ramped up its hiring of data scientists so much that he refers to Soasta as a "data science company" that's training a generation of whiz kid math majors to get out and spread the word about understanding data science and AI. "We're selling data science -- conversion rates, bounce rates, anomaly detection, impact scores, latencies and metrics tied to specific industries," Lounibos said.

The Soasta team is selling the magic behind sites like Amazon, which uses measurements of the most minute details paired with AI to constantly tweak and change what it's offering. His company is placing what many call the "Amazon effect" within reach of nearly any organization.

Tom Lounibos

Tom Lounibos , CEO, Soasta
  • CEO and co-founder of app testing and performance analytics software maker Soasta Inc., recently purchased by Akamai Technologies.
  • Former CEO of software-as-a-service developer CoreLogic Dorado and integration software developer Kenamea Inc.
  • Named one of Silicon Valley's "Top 100 Most Powerful Executives" by the Silicon Valley Business Journal.
  • Earned a bachelor of science in economics from the University of San Francisco (USF).
  • Academic All-American and a member of the USF Athletic Hall of Fame, which includes Boston Celtics greats Bill Russell and K.C Jones.
  • Top baseball prospect at USF, drafted in 1978 by the Minnesota Twins in the same MLB draft class as Hall of Famers Cal Ripken and Ryne Sandberg.
  • Ran 10 marathons, including Boston, New York, London and Rome.
  • One of his first jobs was as a ball boy for the 1976 Super Bowl Champion Oakland Raiders.

By getting data science and AI in the door, other changes will start to happen, Lounibos noted, and those changes are nearly as valuable. First, companies start to see that information silos can be deadly to growth and innovation. "Back when we came out of college, it was about being deeper, not broader," he said, the idea being that an individual was such an expert developer that he or she could work alone. But in this new world order with rapid-fire development, collaborative teams are necessary to take data and run with it. "We're learning now that you have to be broader, not deeper," he stressed. "We're not changing what we do; we're changing how we do it."

Stretching hits into home runs

At one time, software development was really little more than a guessing game, Lounibos said. "Everyone used to rely on a few guys in the back room guessing about how people would use an app," he explained. "Now, it's like going into a batting cage that simulates a real-world environment. We're not guessing how people use an app; we're actually seeing in real time how they use that app. And then a company can change its behavior dynamically if it needs to." Getting to that point once took companies weeks or even months, but "by understanding data science and machine learning," he said, "companies can now quickly get to actionable components of information that can tell them to turn left or turn right."


The promise of data science and AI is so compelling that some of Soasta's customers have gone so far as to create their own data science teams to, as Lounibos put it, "get their hands dirty and really get down in the data." What it all comes down to is a way to gather and use facts to make critical decisions. "People love it when their instincts are proven with facts," Lounibos said. "It's like bringing a gun to a knife fight; now I am bringing actual facts about what happened here."

Source : searchsoftwarequality.techtarget.com


Was former President Barack Obama's birth certificate faked so he could run for office? It depends on how you ask Google.

The search engine giant last week expanded a test fact-checking program worldwide in a bid to help stop the spread of misinformation after it faced criticism for returning fake and offensive information in its popular search queries.

USA TODAY tested the feature out, asking Google a range of questions previously proven false — and some known to be true.

The result: Whether an answer surfaced what Google calls a "fact-check snippet" depended on how you phrased the question and whether the topic had been fact-checked by an organization taking part in Google's program. The snippets aren't tags on specific stories but rather on search words or phrases that appear in the list of results.

Search "Obama Kenyan citizen" and a fact check snippet pops up from Snopes.com, detailing reasons why a purported Kenyan birth certificate for Obama was a fake.

Search "Obama birth certificate fake," however, and no snippet turns up. Instead, the first link is a story from WorldNetDaily, a site run by leading birther proponent Joseph Farah, which says that Obama's Hawaiian birth certificate was faked.

The responses highlight the difficulties the world's most popular search engine faces as it works to offer users more authoritative and credible information after being critiqued for returning fake and offensive information items in response to some queries.

Google had been running a limited test fact check program in the United States and the United Kingdom for articles on news.google.com since October. The new roll-out applies to all searches worldwide — not just news — in all languages it supports. The inclusion of a fact-check topic won't affect the ranking of search results.

The information in the fact check tags comes from third-party fact-checking organizations. In the United States so far those include PolitiFact.org, FactCheck.org, Snopes.com, the Washington Post, the New York Times and GossipCop.com. Internationally there are between 50 and 100 groups offering tags, Google said. The fact checking doesn't just cover political stories, but a broader swathe, including science and health.

The search terms that trigger fact check snippets depend on whether a given topic has been the subject of a fact check and what words and phrases were tagged.

While it's unclear if the results might sway those committed to a specific point of view, they give a sense of the power Google has to tailor search results for a specific purpose.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based search giant's move comes a month after Facebook began adding a "disputed" warning tag to some articles with no basis in fact.

Thus far the fact check tags seem to be most often triggered by long-existing false stories. For example, a search in Google's main search box of the phrase "kidney theft" give a top return that links to a Snopes.com article debunking a popular, and false, Internet topic about unwary travelers being drugged and used as unwilling kidney donors by organ thieves.

Some political topics are also present. Searching on "national parks coal mining" give as its first return a snippet from Snopes titled "Did President Trump Open National Parks and Wildlife Refuges for Coal Mining?" and the label of "Mixed" as to its truth.

President Trump did sign an executive order in March that overturned a temporary moratorium on the leasing of federal lands for coal mining, but Snopes noted that public lands had never been fully and permanently closed to such activity in the first place.

The phrase "30 million undocumented immigrants" brings up Google fact-check snippets because during the presidential campaign, Trump made the claim that the number of undocumented immigrants in the United States could be much higher than the 11 million previously reported by the U.S. government. “It could be 3 million. It could be 30 million," Trump said in a speech in Phoenix in August.

That number was actually pegged at 11.4 million by the federal government in 2012, a number corroborated by groups such as the non-partisan Pew Research Center.

The system isn't partisan and any fact check organization that wants to can take part, as long as it abides by Google's terms of service for fact check snippets, Google says. They require that analysis "be transparent about sources and methods, with citations and references to primary sources."

Each snippet also comes with a Feedback link for users to respond.

Google has been under pressure, both internally and externally, to provide more authoritative and truthful results. In December after it emerged that a Holocaust-denying site was the first one that popped up when someone searched “Did the Holocaust happen?” the company changed its algorithm to “help surface more high quality, credible content on the web,” reported tech news site Search Engine Land.

While such sites make up fewer than 1% of Google queries, the company clearly has begun to address the problem and has been putting a lot of resources into it, said Barry Schwartz, a news editor at Search Engine Land.

“If someone’s searching for something specifically, even if it’s rumor and not true, Google wants to show them that authoritative sites believe it’s not factual,” Schwartz said.

Source : khou.com

Tuesday, 11 April 2017 15:05

Is the internet killing our brains?

Throughout history, people have always worried about new technologies. The fear that the human brain cannot cope with the onslaught of information made possible by the latest development was first voiced in response to the printing press, back in the sixteenth century. Swap “printing press” for “internet” and you have the exact same concerns today, regularly voiced in the mainstream media, and usually focused on children.

But is there any legitimacy to these claims? Or are they just needless scaremongering? There are several things to bear in mind when considering how our brains deal with the internet.

The human brain is always dealing with a constant stream of rich information - that’s what the real world is

First, don’t forget that “the internet” is a very vague term, given that it contains so many things across so many formats. You could, for instance, develop a gambling addiction via online casinos or poker sites. This is an example of someone’s brain being negatively affected via the internet, but it would be difficult to argue that the internet is the main culprit, any more than a gambling addiction obtained via a real world casino can be blamed on “buildings”; it’s just the context in which the problem occurred. However, the internet does give us a far more direct, constant and wide ranging access to information than pretty much anything else in human history. So how could, or does, this affect us and our brains?

Information overload

It’s important to remember that the human brain is always dealing with a constant stream of rich information; that’s what the real world is, as far as our senses are concerned. Whether staring at a video being played on a small screen or watching people playing in a park, the brain and visual system still has to do the same amount of work as both provide detailed sensory information.

It’s too detailed, if anything. The brain doesn’t actually process every single thing our senses present to it; for all its power and complexity, it just doesn’t have the capacity for that. So it filters things out and extrapolates what’s important based on experiences, calculation and a sort of “best guess” system. The point is, the brain is already well adapted to prevent damaging information overload, so it’s unlikely that the internet would be able to cause such a thing.

Is Google destroying my memory?

Another concern is that the constant access to information stored online is atrophying or disrupting our memories. Why bother to remember anything when you can just Google it, right?

Memory doesn’t quite work that way. The things we experience that end up as memories do so via unconscious processes. Things that have emotional resonance or significance in other ways tend to be more easily remembered than abstract information or intangible facts. These things have always required more effort to remember in the long term, needing to be rehearsed repeatedly in order to be encoded as memories. Undeniably, the internet often renders this process unnecessary. But whether this is harmful for the development of the brain is another question.

Doing something often and becoming good at it is reflected in the brain’s structure. For example, the motor cortex of an expert musician, proficient in fine hand movements, differs from that of non-musicians. An argument could be made that constantly committing things to memory rather than just looking them up as and when needed would enhance the brain’s memory system. On the other hand, some evidence suggests that a more stimulating, varied environment aides brain development – so maybe the constant, interesting information found online is better for you than rehearsing dry facts and figures.

But, counter to this, other evidence suggests that the detailed presentation of even simple web pages provides too many features for the human brain’s small-capacity short-term memory to handle, which could have knock-on effects for the memory system. It’s a mixed picture overall.

What about my attention span? 

Does the internet impact on our ability to focus on something, or does having 24/7 access to so many things prove too much of a distraction?

The human attention system is complicated, and so again, it’s an unclear picture. Our two-layer, bottom-up and top-down attention system (meaning there’s a conscious aspect that enables us to direct our attention, and an unconscious aspect that shifts attention towards anything our senses pick up that might be significant) is already something that can make focusing 100% on something quite a challenge. It’s for this reason that a lot of people prefer to have music playing while they work: it occupies part of the attention system that would otherwise look for distractions while we’re trying to do something important.

The internet, however, provides a very quick and effective distraction. We can be looking at something enjoyable within seconds, which is a problem, given that much work in the modern world is done on the same device we use to access the internet. It is such a concern that apps and companies have sprung up specifically to address this.

But it would be unfair to say that the internet is responsible for distracting us from work. The brain’s attention system and preference for novel experiences existed long before the internet did, the internet is just something that makes these aspects particularly irksome.


Competing for likes

Social interactions with other people are a major factor in how we develop, learn and grow at the neurological level. Humans are a very social species. But now the internet has allowed social interactions and relationships to occur between vast numbers of people over great distances, and for them to occur all day, every day.

This means that everything we do can be shared with others at the press of a button, but this has consequences. The positive feelings gained from social media approval are said to work on the same neurological basis as drugs do; providing rewards via the dopamine system. Thus, social network addiction is slowly becoming an issue. By creating a situation where we’re constantly trying to impress and being judged by others, perhaps the internet isn’t doing our brains much good after all.

But, as with most things, the actual problem comes down to other people, not the net.

Source : theguardian.com

Auhtor : Dean Burnett

A $26 investment that can give your earbuds a serious sound boost

Want to hack your own noise-blocking headphones? The WSJ’s Michael Hsu shows you how.

Have you noticed that some of the problems you are experiencing either in interpersonal relationships or work, seem to be recurring?

For example, a person who has had some unpleasant arguments with their co-workers in the past, can expect to go through similar struggles moving forward, no matter if they are in a completely different work environment. And the underlying theme of different arguments is the same – that person has a problem to establish a functional communication with their co-workers.

This is just one example, but many of us tend to repeat the problems and some of us eventually start feeling hopeless, thinking it is just our flawed character and there is nothing we could do about it.

Actually, the reason certain problems keep repeating is because we are not using an efficient problem solving technique. Luckily, we can become better problem solvers and therefore, lessen the number of problems we face.

Your life can be seriously affected if you have poor problem solving ability

Whether we’re happy or successful are largely determined by our problem solving ability. If you just leave problems being unsolved, you may suffer in the following ways:

  • There are countless complicated and ambiguous problems in interpersonal interaction. If we’re not efficient problem solvers, we can hardly clear misunderstanding in communication and get close with people around us.
  • Workplace is where we learn how to tackle different kinds of unexpected problems. If we don’t keep looking for new solutions, our work performance will worsen and we will easily feel frustrated when problems pile up.
  • It is common for us to attribute poor mental health to unpleasant personal experience or genetic factors. But the inability to tackle problems in life can harm our mental health. According to a 1983 study, scientists found that people with weaker ability to deal with interpersonal issues are more prone to depression.[1]

So what are the causes of poor problem solving?

Problem solving is just like other skills we need to master in life. To be good at it, we need to practice it with the right approach. Unfortunately, many of us may not realize the common mistakes we make when solving problems. Here are some examples:

Mistaking symptoms for the real causes of problems

Most of us tend to spend a lot of energy to deal with the symptoms of problems without realizing the real causes. To identify the root causes of a problem, we need to challenge the first conclusion that pops up in our mind and keep asking the right questions until we can see beyond the phenomenon of the problem.

Looking for quick fixes instead of the most effective solutions

It is our tendency to look for quick fixes of problems. This leads us to believe in our intuitive without looking into the causal relationship behind the problem. And that’s why we seldom get to the core of problems and adopts the ineffective solutions.

Relying too much on our knowledge

Finally, we become ineffective problem solvers because of our over-reliance on our knowledge. It is a common misconception that the more we know, the more capable we are to tackle problems. But the fact is mere knowledge doesn’t enable us to become effective problem solvers. What we also need is logical thinking skills, the ability to think critically and creativity.

How to be better at problem solving

In order to become better problem solvers, we need to follow these 4 steps whenever we deal with any problem in life:

1. Defining the real problem

The first and most important step is to identify the root cause of the problem. One of the most effective approach is 5 whys invented by Sakichi Toyoda in the 1930s.[2] Totaya suggests that by asking “why” for 5 times can help us better identify the core problem.

For example, your problem might be that your business website is not getting enough traffic.

  1. Why is the traffic declining? Content on the website is not engaging to readers.
  2. Why is our content not engaging to readers? Our content doesn’t fit readers’ needs and interests.
  3. Why can’t our content fit readers’ needs and interests? We don’t have much understanding of our readers.
  4. Why don’t we have much understanding of our readers? We haven’t conducted any research in this area.
  5. Why haven’t we conducted any research to understand our readers? We have no resources for research.

The solution – allocating more resources on the research to understand our readers.

Please note that we only apply vertical thinking to delve deep in one possible problem, which is unattractive content in this case. If you think there is another possible reason for declining traffic, you should do another set of 5 whys. By doing this, we can train up our logical thinking skills and so what we see from a problem does not stay at the superficial level.

2. Generating alternatives

After we define the root problem, it is time to find possible solutions. Here’s where we can use the lateral instead of learned, vertical thinking.[3] That means, rather than spending all of our energy and time on transforming one initial idea into a perfect solution, we should rather think of at least ten possible ones and write them down first.

By doing so, we won’t draw the conclusion too early or limit our choice to the first few ideas that pop up in our minds, Instead, we postpone our decision making and make use of our creativity to generate potentially better options. Although it takes us more time in this stage, we’re more likely to come up with better solutions later on.

3. Evaluating and selecting alternatives

After generating possible solutions, it is time to select the best one. To make sure we make the right decision, we should list the pros and cons of each option and then compare them on the basis of cost and benefit. In this way, you are more able to make rational choice instead of being deceived by your unreliable biased judgement.

4. Implementing solutions

Although you have gone through 3 stages and take many factors into consideration to pick the best solution, you shouldn’t have the false hope that you solution is going to to be perfect. But it’d be good to implement your solution first and then keep evaluating its effectiveness and make adjustments afterwards. Then you have a clearer direction in mind of how to tackle your problem strategically.

Recommended Reading Materials

By now, you are equipped with the efficient problem solving techniques. But if you want to learn more to further improve your problem solving skills, here are two great books you can read for more insights:

Thinking, Fast and Slow


This book gives a magnificent insight into two types of thinking going on in our brains, and what conditions each. By giving us background to our behavior, the book helps us become better at understanding our programmed ways of dealing with problems so that we can hopefully find a more effective, unbiased ones.

Problem Solving 101: A Simple Book for Smart People


It is a practical, illustrated guide that teaches us critical thinking and resourcefulness in problem solving.


[1]   Sage Journals: Interpersonal Problem-Solving Skills and Depression-Proneness
[2]   Mind Tools: 5 Whys
[3]   Lifehack: Education Kills Our Creativity, Here Is How We Can Regain It

Source : lifehack.org


You might think that the only people who believe in aliens are forum-dwelling internet conspiracy theorists.

But it turns out a lot of Nasa astronauts also think extraterrestrials are real and that they have been in touch with humanity for a long time.

At least four celebrated spacemen have become famous for their outspoken beliefs about the existence of extraterrestrials.

Some have seen UFOs soaring through the sky, while others claim to have been tipped off about alien contact by military top brass.

Here are four Nasa astronauts who believe aliens are real.

Edgar Mitchell

Getty Images

In 1971, Mitchell became the sixth person to walk on the moon.

But he spent the rest of his life convinced that “aliens have been observing us and have been here for some time.”

He once claimed that peace-loving aliens had visited Earth on a mission to save humanity from nuclear war and suggested the Vatican knows the truth about the existence of extraterrestrials.

Mitchell also alleged that UFOs had been seen above nuke bases and often disabled the missiles held within Cold War-era weapons silos.

The spaceman firmly believed the American government covered up the famous Roswell incident in 1947, when a flying disc allegedly crashed near a small town in New Mexico.

“The reason for the denial is they didn’t know if they [the aliens] were hostile and they didn’t want the Soviets to know so they devised to lie about it and cover it up,” he reportedly said.

Gordon Cooper

Gordon Cooper was one of the original Project Mercury astronauts, and was the first man to sleep in space.Getty Images

Cooper was one of the seven astronauts who took part in Project Mercury, the first American manned mission which ran from 1958 until 1963.

The craft he piloted was dubbed “spam in a can” because it was automatically controlled, rather than piloted by the astronauts on board.

But even before he underwent the life changing experience of becoming the first man to sleep in space, he claimed to have seen UFOs flying over Germany in 1951.

The spaceman also said he saw flying saucers spying on a secret airbase where experimental American aircraft were being tested.

“I believe that these extraterrestrial vehicles and their crews are visiting this planet from other planets, which are a little more technically advanced than we are on Earth,” he told the UN in 1984.

“We may first have to show them that we have learned how to resolve our problems by peaceful means rather than warfare, before we are accepted as fully qualified universal team members.

“Their acceptance will have tremendous possibilities of advancing our world in all areas.”

Deke Slayton

Deke Slayton was also an original Project Mercury astronaut.NASA

Slayton was also part of Project Mercury, before enjoying an illustrious career which saw him serve as NASA’s Director of Flight Crew Operations.

But he also reportedly saw a UFO in 1951.

“It looked like a saucer sitting at a 45-degree angle,” he said, according to the Daily Star.

“I didn’t have any cameras otherwise I would have shot some pictures.

“At that time – for whatever reason – it just took off climbing and just accelerated and disappeared.”

Brian O’Leary

NASA selected Brian O’Leary as a scientist-astronaut in 1967, for a potential manned mission to Mars.NASA

He never made it into space, but he was one of 11 astronauts named for a possible Nasa Mars mission in the 1960s.

Later in his life, O’Leary had a near-death experience which changed his perspective on life and reality.

Dr. O’Leary, who became respected physics professor at Princeton University after leaving Nasa, said: “There is abundant evidence that we are being contacted.

Civilizations have been monitoring us for a very long time and that their appearance is bizarre from any type of traditional materialistic western point of view.”

Source : nypost.com

A New York start-up is selling earphones that can translate live speech in real time from five different languages.

Waverly Labs said its $250 (£205) Pilot smart earpieces will start shipping to those who pre-ordered late this summer, after a successful crowdfunding campaign.

The Bluetooth-enabled wearable takes speech from one person wearing an earpiece, and relays the translated version straight into the other wearer’s ear with only a couple of seconds’ delay.

The earpieces and app The earpieces and app (Waverly Labs)

There is also an accompanying app that can translate even more written languages. At the moment, the speech translation part is limited to English, French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish, but from this autumn, 10 more will be available to buy.

At the moment, the device only works if whoever you want to speak to also has an earpiece, but the company said it is working on one that will be able to translate everything around you.

You’ll also need an internet connection for the translation to work.

When not translating they can act as normal noise cancelling wireless headphones that can be used to listen to music.

In a promotional video, CEO Andrew Ochoa said he came up with the idea after meeting a French woman on holiday and struggling to overcome the language barrier.

“Even when we tried to find a solution like using some translation app to communicate it was horrible” he said.

Now holiday romances have technology on their side.

Source : irishnews.com

Though we are in tumultuous times, post-Brexit, nobody has yet confronted the prospect of an enclave of Britain adopting the euro – but it is going to happen, and shortly. For an Austrian developer is set to make this unlikely eventuality a reality; and to understand the supposedly impossible, we need to venture somewhere that specialises in creating what has previously been inconceivable: Dubai.

There, back in 2003, a state-owned construction company began a project that would see an archipelago of 300 man-made islands emerge three miles off Dubai’s coast. Known as The World, and measuring four miles across, they now form a vast map of Earth if viewed from above. 

Plans to build on The World stalled when the emirate’s financial crisis struck, but six islands are now being turned into what Austrian developer Josef Kleindienst expects to become the world’s most exciting holiday destination – a six million sq ft development known as The Heart of Europe

Named Main Europe, Germany, Monaco, Sweden, Switzerland and St Petersburg (“Russia” already exists elsewhere in The World), these islands will feature a range of hotels and leisure amenities, all representing a European country in some way. Islands named after specific destinations will be inspired by those regions: Germany will offer Christmas markets, an Oktoberfest, and specialities from Apfelstrudel to Jägermeister; in Switzerland expect fresh snow produced by an artificial-snow maker, similar to the one used in the Mall of the Emirates indoor ski centre. Main Europe will be a repository for the destinations without a designated island, so visitors will be able to explore “the rest of Europe” – 51 countries in total – by, say, frequenting an Irish pub or sampling French patisserie. How Britain will be represented is unconfirmed but, as with everywhere else, staff will be from the relevant destination – and the official currency will be the euro. 

It was the blank canvas left by the stalling of The World that inspired Kleindienst to create a single destination offering “the best of what Europe has to offer… assembled in a new way. Most people want to travel and experience the world but not many can do it, so visiting The World [and The Heart of Europe] in Dubai is the next best option.” 

He expects the project to be finished by 2018, and although my recent visit suggested there was still much to do, stays in the islands’ Floating Seahorse holiday homes will be possible from the end of 2016. 

floating seahorse
The main living area on board the Floating Seahorse holiday home, with the glass-bottomed Jacuzzi visible overhead

In total, 131 of these three-storey “boats without propulsion” will surround The Heart of Europe. The glass-bottomed Jacuzzis on the rooftop are novel but the most impressive feature awaits below sea level. There, the glass wall of the master bedroom faces a coral garden intended to entice passing sea life. The surrounding area is not yet a diver’s paradise but I did see shoals of silver fish emerge from the murky twilight. 

manmade st petersburg island
"St Petersburg" island, currently under construction at The Heart of Europe

Guests paying £2,100 per night will have access to the surrounding beaches and restaurants; 90 of the units will encircle the heart-shaped St Petersburg to form a Maldives-style honeymoon resortwith infinity pool and spa. Savvy use of nascent technologies has  proved pivotal to the viability of The Heart of Europe, and other innovations will radically change the idea of where, how and why we travel in future. 

The World Travel & Tourism Council calculates that in 2015 tourism generated $7.2 trillion (9.8 per cent of global GDP) and estimates that this figure will rise to $8.7 trillion in 2020 and $11 trillion in 2026. With such predictions, rich spoils await the creators of the tourism products we will adopt in years to come.

Lola Pedro, a regional director with trend-forecasting agency TrendWatching, predicts that increasingly personalised digital platforms will drastically alter the holidays we take over the next decade. “Expect to see a shift from today’s mass-market, internet-driven holiday curation to newer technologies that express a more personalised understanding of a holidaymaker’s personality, interests, and emotional and social needs,” she says. Websites such as Airbnb and instant-dating app Tinder already encourage consumers to trust strangers – and we should expect “more liquid social connections and travel services that immediately match [travellers] with others at their destinations who have shared interests”.

How rapidly new behaviours can develop is ably demonstrated by the current Pokémon Go phenomenon, a smartphone app launched last month that uses augmented reality (overlaying computer-generated elements on a user’s real surroundings) to insert Pokémon characters into a player’s world. Within a week of its arrival it was generating an estimated revenue of $1.6 million per day in the United States and has seen users traverse cities and countries in their efforts to encounter each character. Other augmented-reality apps, encouraging us to rediscover electronically the settings we encounter in reality, are certain to follow shortly.

Qantas virtual reality
Qantas has made virtual reality headsets available for in-flight use to some of its premium passengers CREDIT: QANTAS AIRWAYS LIMITED/BRENT WINSTONE

Expect virtual-reality travel experiences to become more popular, too. Increasingly sophisticated headsets are already enabling the immobile to admire the view from Machu Picchu, for example, and also allowing discerning consumers to “try before they fly”. 

Thomas Cook is harnessing the technology to offer customers tantalising taster experiences, such as helicopter rides above Manhattan and tours of the pyramids. The Australian airline Qantas, meanwhile, has provided headsets preloaded with immersive travel guides to some premium passengers

Affordable headsets are being launched by PlayStation, HTC and Oculus VR (owned by Facebook), so virtual excursions could soon be a reality for many.

Other wearable tech may further alter how we travel. Though the future of Google Glass is uncertain, more discreet types of apparatus are on the way. The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology is developing microscopic circuits so small they can be embedded in a contact lens. 

Apple Watch offers travel-ready apps that provide instant currency conversions and flight information, while easyJet’s Sneakairs prototype uses trainers embedded with vibrating smartphone-synchronised sensors to indicate when notable landmarks are within immediate reach of sightseers. 

rig spotting
Rig-spotting tours are just one of many new emerging types of holidays CREDIT: EDDA ACCOMMODATION

The things we choose to see are changing, too:  the world’s first “rig-spotting” tour last month saw a group of 120 tourists pay from £535 per head to participate in a four-day tour of North Sea oil rigs. From September, guests at Cape Town’s Ellerman House hotel will be able to fly by private jet to the jewel-rich town of Port Nolloth on an £11,400 “diamond safari” package – the first of its kind. Participants who follow professional prospectors are “pretty much 100 per cent” likely to uncover gems. 

More far-fetched travel opportunities are on their way. If the innovators and entrepreneurs of today  achieve their aims, the future of travel might look something like this:

Where we will travel

Nick Trend, Telegraph Travel’s consumer editor, expects the destinations we frequent to change in the years to come. “With the future of key package-holiday destinations such as Turkey, Egypt and Tunisia looking uncertain,” he says, “expect mainstream tour operators to tempt us to some alluring new destinations. The UK’s biggest travel company, Tui, has recently launched holiday packages to Costa Rica and to the beaches of Cayo Santa Maria in Cuba, for example.” 

guggenheim abu dhabi
The forthcoming Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, designed by Frank Gehry

In years to come, we will roam the previously inaccessible, explore entirely new surroundings and reconsider destinations previously overlooked. Abu Dhabi, long in Dubai’s shadow, is a case in point. Currently under development there is Saadiyat Island, a vast cultural district that will house world-class museums in buildings designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architects. The first to open, in 2017, will be the Jean Nouvel-designed Louvre Abu Dhabi; institutions including the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and the Zayed National Museum (designed by Frank Gehry and Norman Foster respectively) will follow.

Environmental factors will have an increasing impact, too. Later this month, the 13-deck Crystal Serenity cruise ship, which accommodates 1,070 guests, will sail along the Northwest Passage on a 32-night voyage that extends from Anchorage to New York. Guests (paying from £16,875 each) are guaranteed spectacular views as they pass through pristine landscapes – but the trip has only been made possible by receding ice levels, and environmentalists have voiced concerns about the imposition of such a momentous vessel on vulnerable ecosystems and communities.

Others will go to greater lengths to explore extreme landscapes. Elizabeth Ellis, founder of tour operator Blue Marble Private, is currently organising a trip to the wreckage of the Titanic. She expects “exploratory travel [in] difficult-to-reach, other-worldly environments” to become increasingly popular. 

Antarctica's Holtanna mountain

In the past 12 months she has chartered flights from Cape Town to the South Pole as a part of an eight-day Antarctic trip that cost participants £50,000 apiece, and arranged for a group to fly to the edge of space on a MiG military aircraft capable of reaching altitudes of about 60,000ft, or 11.5 miles.

While prohibitively priced, commercial space travel is also coming. The severely delayed Virgin Galactic is still planning to sell flights to space at $250,000 a pop; its privileged guests will soar almost 70 miles above the Earth’s surface. 

The Bloon flights offered by Spanish company Zero2Infinity don’t reach the same altitude but at €110,000 (£92, 600) per person they are somewhat cheaper. Launching in 2018, the aircraft capsule will be hoisted 22 miles into the air by balloon, in the same way as daredevil Felix Baumgartner was taken to 128,100ft on the Red Bull Stratos mission in 2012.

Soon we'll be able to travel to space by Bloon

Exploring new depths here on Earth, the proposed SeaOrbiter is an oceanic observation vessel designed to traverse previously uncharted waters on extended research missions. In addition to 12 floors of labs it will feature guest quarters; crowdfunding has provided enough revenue to partially commence construction, though it could be several years before it sails.

The Seaorbiter

How we will travel

Trains, planes, boats and cars will continue to shuttle us hither and yon, but the form of the journeys could change markedly over the coming decade. Here are some examples.

By air

For moneyed travellers, supersonic flights could soon be a reality. The US company Aerion is collaborating with the Airbus Group to launch AS2, a supersonic business jet, in 2023. Expected to reach Mach 1.5, it would be 67 per cent faster than current long-range subsonic jets. 

A rendering of Spike Aerospace's Spike S-512
A rendering of Spike Aerospace's Spike S-512

Rival firm Spike Aerospace is also planning to launch a Mach 1.6 supersonic jet in the early 2020s – but with one significant difference. To reduce drag, its cabin will be devoid of windows. Instead, interior walls will be covered with all-enveloping screens on which the panorama surrounding the aircraft could be broadcast. Travel time from New York to London would be almost halved, to just 3hr 20mins.

Nervous travellers  might prefer to have a different type of elevated aviation experience. Described as “the Netflix of private jets” and launching in October, Surf Air will offer unlimited private-jet flights to subscribers paying £2,500 a month. In New York, Uber-style app Blade is making near-instant, exclusive-use and shared helicopter rides to the Hamptons and elsewhere a possibility

Sadly, it is less exciting in economy class. Major US carriers including Delta and American Airlines are competing with budget operators by introducing extra-cheap ticket options, colloquially called “last class”. Passengers can expect cheaper-than-economy fares, and no frills. 

Among other economy-class cabin reconfigurations that have been suggested, London-based Factorydesign’s Air Lair would see passengers nest in pods stacked one on top of the other in a honeycomb structure. 

Tim Robinson, editor of the Royal Aeronautical Society’s Aerospace magazine, sees the cabin as “a major battleground for airlines to improve the passenger experience and ultimately maximise their profitability”. He predicts innovations such as dedicated sections for passengers wanting high-speed connectivity for gaming, say, or separate zones for those with children. 

Cheaper oil prices, increased competition and improved aircraft should see other enhancements filter through to the mass market. Since May, low-cost airline Norwegian has offered direct flights from London to California, with one-way flights to San Francisco starting at £179, while better aircraft will take us further, and in more comfort. 

Increasingly common, Boeing’s Dreamliners offer bigger windows and invisible but significant improvements such as better air-filtration systems; Airbus A380s can accommodate 544 passengers in a four-class configuration. When it launches next year, a 9,034-mile Qatar Airways service between Doha and Auckland will become the world’s longest flight. It should take between 17.5 and 18.5 hours.

By rail

The rail industry is attempting to reach new extremes too, and the pleasures of slow train travel are being revived by new luxury sleeper services. Belmond (the company behind the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express) will launch multi-day trips in Ireland and Peru over the next year, and Train Suite Shiki-Shima’s service will offer passage through north-eastern Japan from next May

observation car train suite shiki shima
An observation carriage on board Train Suite Shiki-Shima

In late 2014, Golden Eagle Luxury Trains launched its Jewels of Persia tour on the first ever European train to cross into Iran. The service provides a unique opportunity to explore terrains long off-limits to all but the most intrepid travellers. Though passengers have to forego alcohol on Iranian soil, they do benefit from fine dining and comfortable private quarters. 

The experience is available as a Telegraph Tour escorted by rail enthusiast Michael Portillo (for further details, call 03300 299 528).

In contrast, the eponymous transit system proposed by new US company Hyperloop One is focused on speed and aims to harness electric propulsion to accelerate carriages through a tube at up to 800mph – enough to travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 30 minutes. It plans to test a prototype next year. 

By water

Cruise ships are changing and many already come with amenities and novelties to rival the best hotels. Expedition cruise company Lindblad now carries ROVs (remote-operated vehicles) which plunge to 500ft below sea level to provide high-definition video of what lurks beneath the ship; and the Scenic Eclipse, due in 2018, will be capable of sailing in polar waters and will carry two helicopters and a submarine. 


For total extravagance, however, nothing rivals superyachts. With basketball courts and 3D cinemas already de rigueur, owners are demanding ever more outlandish features. The proposed 295ft Moonstone would feature a faceted hull embedded with solar-powered LEDs. Activated by app, they could display the exact hues of that evening’s sunset to partially camouflage the vessel.

By (flying) car 

Currently being developed by a Slovakian company, AeroMobil is a car that converts into a plane in seconds. Prototypes have flown successfully and commercial deliveries are expected in 2018. The new £145,000 ICON A5, meanwhile, is a two-person amphibious aircraft that can take off and touch down on both water and land. Light and easily operated, it should appeal to millionaires who are keen to kick-start their weekend breaks.

Aeromobil, the flying car

Where we will stay

The hospitality sector has been shaken up by the arrival of Airbnb, and various “sharing economy” operators are emerging in its wake. Among them, onefinestay facilitates accommodation in exceptionally luxurious homes; soon-to-launch Freebird Club is a members’ club offering homestays for the over-50s. 

Other increasingly niche “peer to peer” platforms, explicitly targeting a specific demographic, are likely to follow. Already Bud and Breakfast promises access to “cannabis-friendly” accommodation, while KinkBNB encourages users to get to know their hosts more intimately.  

Travellers who are less enthused about engaging with strangers will be catered to by improvements in technology. Though their ability to hold eye contact is unnerving, the human-like robots at Japan’s newly launched Henn-na Hotel can check guests in and tackle general queries without intervention from a human. 

Botlr, a robot butler, is currently being trialled at a number of Aloft hotels in America; some Starwood hotels are now allowing guests to check in digitally, using their smartphones as room keys; and new apps launched by the likes of the Four Seasons chain are increasingly enabling customers to execute every engagement electronically.

Other hotels are being developed to provide a base for customers with specific interests. Upmarket US gym chain Equinox is set to unveil its first hotel – no doubt a haven for keep-fit fanatics and selfie-loving Instagram fans – in New York in 2018, while eco-conscious consumers are being targeted by the emerging 1 Hotels group. Among various energy-saving initiatives are bedroom taps that release “triple-filtered” water so guests can hydrate without recourse to the plastic bottles traditionally replenished at turndown. 

Who we will travel with

Virtuoso, an international network of high-end travel agencies, has highlighted multigenerational travel as this year’s most popular travel trend, and companies are endeavouring to satisfy simultaneously the disparate needs of toddlers, great-grandparents and everyone in between. 

It’s a shift that is seeing hotels significantly reconfigure their inventory and a number of properties have launched high-capacity stand-alone villas that supersede their signatures suites

amanzoe villa 20
Amanzoe's Villa 20

A lavish example is the new, hillside Villa 20 at Amanzoe in Greece(from £12,000 per night for up to 18 guests), which offers residents a cascade of private pools and lounges, in a setting 1.5 times the size of Trafalgar Square. If escaping your family is preferred, various operators cater for solo travellers. Just You’s packages see single travellers gather for Budapest spa breaks and comprehensive tours of Cuba; for particularly solitary types, On Foot Holidays arranges self-guided walks across Europe.

The legalisation of gay marriage is encouraging LGBT individuals to travel more openly and, according to the market research firm Forrester, the gay travel market is now worth £6 billion in the UK. Launched in December, OutOfOffice.com caters to this demographic and has thrived. Predicted revenues for its first month were £50,000; the company made £250,000. 

As interest in specialist areas grows, you can if you wish join similarly committed fans on Game of Thrones-themed tours in Belfast, commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster with a tour, or book a package to see a future solar eclipse. 

Drones will facilitate attractive new ways of documenting our holiday experiences

Travellers who wish to record these sojourns can hire a professional photographer to accompany them in 180 destinations through Flytographer or try the Drone the World service, launched this week by Black Tomato. From Burma to Iceland, drone photographers who have worked on Star Wars and the James Bond films will shoot blockbuster-worthy footage of clients’ escapades. Though our preferred means of documentation may change over time, it’s nice to think our desire to remember and relive our most precious holiday experiences will always stay with us.

Source : telegraph.co.uk

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