David J. Redcliff

David J. Redcliff

Wednesday, 13 September 2017 16:11

How People Approach Facts and Information

People deal in varying ways with tensions about what information to trust and how much they want to learn. Some are interested and engaged with information; others are wary and stressed

When people consider engaging with facts and information any number of factors come into play. How interested are they in the subject? How much do they trust the sources of information that relate to the subject? How eager are they to learn something more? What other aspects of their lives might be competing for their attention and their ability to pursue information? How much access do they have to the information in the first place?

A new Pew Research Center survey explores these five broad dimensions of people’s engagement with information and finds that a couple of elements particularly stand out when it comes to their enthusiasm: their level of trust in information sources and their interest in learning, particularly about digital skills. It turns out there are times when these factors align – that is, when people trust information sources and they are eager to learn, or when they distrust sources and have less interest in learning. There are other times when these factors push in opposite directions: people are leery of information sources but enthusiastic about learning.

Combining people’s views toward new information ­­­– and their appetites for it – allows us to create an “information-engagement typology” that highlights the differing ways that Americans deal with these cross pressures. The typology has five groups that fall along a spectrum ranging from fairly high engagement with information to wariness of it. Roughly four-in-ten adults (38%) are in groups that have relatively strong interest and trust in information sources and learning. About half (49%) fall into groups that are relatively disengaged and not very enthusiastic about information or about gaining more training, especially when it comes to navigating digital information. Another 13% occupy a middle space: They are not particularly trusting of information sources, but they show higher interest in learning than those in the more information-wary groups.

Here are the groups:

The Eager and Willing – 22% of U.S. adults

At one end of the information-engagement spectrum is a group we call the Eager and Willing. Compared with all the other groups on this spectrum, they exhibit the highest levels of interest in news and trust in key information sources, as well as strong interest in learning when it comes to their own digital skills and literacy. They are not necessarily confident of their digital abilities, but they are anxious to learn. One striking thing about this group is its demographic profile: More than half the members of this group are minorities: 31% are Hispanic; 21% are black and 38% are white, while the remainder are in other racial and ethnic groups.

The Confident – 16% of adults

Alongside the Eager and Willing are the Confident, who are made up of the one-in-six Americans and combine a strong interest in information, high levels of trust in information sources, and self-assurance that they can navigate the information landscape on their own. Few feel they need to update their digital skills and they are very self-reliant as they handle information flows. This group is disproportionately white, quite well educated and fairly comfortable economically. And one-third of the Confident (31%) are between the ages of 18 and 29, the highest share in this age range of any group.

The Cautious and Curious – 13% of adults

The Cautious and Curious have a strong interest in news and information, even though they do not have high levels of trust in the sources of news and information – particularly national news organizations, financial institutions and the government. But they are interested in growth, with a great deal of interest in improving digital skills and literacy. This group differs very little from the general population’s average, although its members have somewhat lower levels of educational attainment than the mean.

The Doubtful – 24% of adults

The Doubtful are less interested in news and information than those in the previous groups. They are leery of news and information sources, particularly local and national news. They also have very busy lives, which could be why they also show little interest in updating their digital skills or information literacy. The Doubtful are the most middle-aged of the groups. They tilt towards being white and they are also relatively well-educated and above average in their economic status.

The Wary – 25% of adults

At the edge of the spectrum are the Wary. They are the least engaged with information. They have very low interest in news and information, low trust in sources of news and information and little interest in acquiring information skills or literacies. That places them at a distance from other Americans in terms of engagement with information. This group is heavily male (59%) and one-third are ages 65 or older.

What are the implications of the typology, especially for issues tied to digital divides and information literacy?

Typologies are useful because they add to the insights that can be gained by doing traditional analysis by demographics – such as gender, race, class, age and educational attainment.

One key takeaway from these typology findings is that there is not a “typical,” archetypal information consumer.  A variety of factors shape people’s engagement with information. There is clear variation among citizens about their interest in information, trust in various sources and their eagerness to gain further skills dealing with information.

This typology suggests that one size does not fit all when it comes to information outreach. For instance, information purveyors might need to use very different methods to get material to the Eager and Willing, who are relatively trusting of institutional information and eager to learn, compared with the tactics they might consider in trying to get the attention of the Cautious and Curious, who are open to learning but relatively distrusting of institutional information. Similarly, groups with messages might want to plan wholly different processes to reach the Confident (who are basically information omnivores), compared with the Wary (who are quite reluctant to engage with new material).

Secondly, the typology highlights the challenges faced by those focusing on digital divides and information literacy as they try to help people improve their access to information and find trustworthy material. On the one hand, significant numbers of people are interested in building digital skills and information literacy. On the other hand, about half of adults fall into the groups we call the Doubtful and the Wary, who have lower interest in getting assistance to help them get to more trustworthy material.

And a third takeaway from the typology highlights how useful it would be if there were trusted institutions helping people gain confidence in their digital- and information-literacy skills. Libraries might be relevant here. Library users stand out in their information engagement. Overall, about half (52%) of adults have visited a public library or connected with it online in the past year. Those library users are overrepresented in the two most information-engaged groups. Some 63% of the Eager and Willing were library users in the past year, while this is true for 58% of the Confident. Additionally, both groups are much more likely than others to say they trust librarians and libraries as information sources.

At the same time, some words of caution are warranted. First, as broad as they were, the questions in this survey did not cover the vast range of people’s connection to information and use of it. Nor did they comprehensively probe people’s attitudes about learning and personal growth. The poll covered particular contexts and it focused on digital access to information. Thus, the results are not projectable to all aspects of people’s vast experiences with media and information.

Another caution: While there are numerical descriptions of the groups, there is some fluidity in the boundaries of the groups. Unlike many other statistical techniques, cluster analysis does not require a single “correct” result. Instead, researchers run numerous versions of it (e.g., asking it to produce different numbers of clusters) and judge each result by how analytically practical and substantively meaningful it is. Fortunately, nearly every version produced had a great deal in common with the others, giving us confidence that the pattern of divisions was genuine and that the comparative shares of those who are relatively engaged and relatively wary of information are generally accurate.

A third caution is that the findings represent a snapshot of where adults are today in a changing information ecosystem. The groupings reported here may well change in the coming years as people’s comfort and confidence with accessing information digitally evolve and as technologists offer new ways for people to encounter and create information.

Even allowing for those caveats, these findings add insight to swirling debates about how people think about and use information.

Source: This article was published pewinternet.org By JOHN B. HORRIGAN

Thursday, 07 September 2017 11:47

Bitcoin Is Still a Beast

This week, Bitcoin dipped down to a $4,037 low after China announced it would crack down on cryptocurrencies. Will the Bitcoin bubble pop?

On Friday, September 1, Bitcoin hit a phenomenal new high of over $5,000 before falling back with further price declines. Commentators refer to the astonishing continuing price increase as a "bubble." But is it? 

"Unlike all previous infamous bubbles, Bitcoin is both an investable new asset class that won't go away and can also be used as 'money' to transfer value," said Michael Parsons, a Bitcoin entrepreneur at the UK Digital Currency Association. "It is as if the world has discovered, and is still discovering, the sudden availability of a new digital quality asset hoard which is a good alternative to physical gold and likewise with a limited known supply. And that is one of the underlying bitcoin price drivers." 

Despite the blip this week, Kamil Przeorski, co-founder of platform Experty, remains hopeful the price will continue to climb.

"Bitcoin's price is very likely to continue its trajectory in the next few years," Przeorski said. "As long as Bitcoin's technical fundamentals don't break, the price shall follow up to $10,000 in the next year. The current price level is much higher than expected at the beginning of 2017 -- which is a very nice surprise to the community, that we are going to hit $5,000 mark even before the other experts in the field expected." 

For the people who want to join the Bitcoin and blockchain revolution, the best option is to buy small amounts of cryptocurrency. 

"When you see bitcoin price on a discount then you should reconsider buying even more," he said. "The other part of the demand for cryptocurrencies world comes from Token Generation Events. For example, an Experty IO Token that we are working on will create a new opportunities to unlock untapped human productivity worldwide."

#Bitcoin traders seem to be taking the crash on Black Mon, triggered by China ruling initial coin offerings illegal, as buying opportunity. pic.twitter.com/v0Mxb1zLxM

— Holger Zschaepitz (@Schuldensuehner) September 6, 2017

Xavier Hawk, co-founder of Phireon Global Partners likens the Bitcoin boom to the tech bubble of the mid '90s as a reference.

"The reason we have a 'bubble' at all is because there is an underlying technological advancement that everyone knows is something, but they don't quite know how that something will be deployed," Hawk said. "After all, no one knew the internet would be used primarily to share pictures of cats. Go figure." 

Are you investing in cryptocurrency? Don't miss TheStreet's coverage:

Hawk believes that Bitcoin price will continue to skyrocket. "As will each and every other crypto along with it," Hawk said. "We will see considerable money pour into it from very very centralized control centers in efforts to bring down the price so they can buy it back up at lower prices. After all, it would only take a couple hundred million to lower the price considerably. This is what happened in 2015. Not many people know that. Right now there are considerable holdings waiting to be sold and dumped into the market in an effort to bring the price down. I'm fairly certain of it." 

In the future, we can expect to see some corrections, Hawk added -- perhaps even of a massive nature.

"Many people will cry out, 'Behold! The Bitcoin bubble is popped!'" he said. "Meanwhile behind the scenes, the truly powerful and savvy will be buying up as much as they can because it will not die. It will simply get more capable and rise again."

As the Bitcoin market develops ,we just have to ride out the highs and lows of Bitcoin. 

Source: This article was published thestreet.com By Tanzeel Akhtar

Monday, 28 August 2017 11:10

On internet privacy, be very afraid

‘Surveillance is the business model of the internet,’ Berkman and Belfer fellow says

In the internet era, consumers seem increasingly resigned to giving up fundamental aspects of their privacy for convenience in using their phones and computers, and have grudgingly accepted that being monitored by corporations and even governments is just a fact of modern life.

In fact, internet users in the United States have fewer privacy protections than those in other countries. In April, Congress voted to allow internet service providers to collect and sell their customers’ browsing data. By contrast, the European Union hit Google this summer with a $2.7 billion antitrust fine.

To assess the internet landscape, the Gazette interviewed cybersecurity expert Bruce Schneier, a fellow with the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Societyand the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School. Schneier talked about government and corporate surveillance, and about what concerned users can do to protect their privacy.

GAZETTE: After whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations concerning the National Security Agency’s (NSA) mass surveillance operation in 2013, how much has the government landscape in this field changed?

SCHNEIER: Snowden’s revelations made people aware of what was happening, but little changed as a result. The USA Freedom Act resulted in some minor changes in one particular government data-collection program. The NSA’s data collection hasn’t changed; the laws limiting what the NSA can do haven’t changed; the technology that permits them to do it hasn’t changed. It’s pretty much the same.

GAZETTE: Should consumers be alarmed by this?

SCHNEIER: People should be alarmed, both as consumers and as citizens. But today, what we care about is very dependent on what is in the news at the moment, and right now surveillance is not in the news. It was not an issue in the 2016 election, and by and large isn’t something that legislators are willing to make a stand on. Snowden told his story, Congress passed a new law in response, and people moved on.

 

Graphic by Rebecca Coleman/Harvard Staff

 

GAZETTE: What about corporate surveillance? How pervasive is it?

SCHNEIER: Surveillance is the business model of the internet. Everyone is under constant surveillance by many companies, ranging from social networks like Facebook to cellphone providers. This data is collected, compiled, analyzed, and used to try to sell us stuff. Personalized advertising is how these companies make money, and is why so much of the internet is free to users. We’re the product, not the customer.

GAZETTE: Should they be stopped?

SCHNEIER: That’s a philosophical question. Personally, I think that in many cases the answer is yes. It’s a question of how much manipulation we allow in our society. Right now, the answer is basically anything goes. It wasn’t always this way. In the 1970s, Congress passed a law to make a particular form of subliminal advertising illegal because it was believed to be morally wrong. That advertising technique is child’s play compared to the kind of personalized manipulation that companies do today. The legal question is whether this kind of cyber-manipulation is an unfair and deceptive business practice, and, if so, can the Federal Trade Commission step in and prohibit a lot of these practices.

GAZETTE: Why doesn’t the commission do that? Why is this intrusion happening, and nobody does anything about it?

SCHNEIER: We’re living in a world of low government effectiveness, and there the prevailing neo-liberal idea is that companies should be free to do what they want. Our system is optimized for companies that do everything that is legal to maximize profits, with little nod to morality. Shoshana Zuboff, professor at the Harvard Business School, invented the term “surveillance capitalism” to describe what’s happening. It’s very profitable, and it feeds off the natural property of computers to produce data about what they are doing. For example, cellphones need to know where everyone is so they can deliver phone calls. As a result, they are ubiquitous surveillance devices beyond the wildest dreams of Cold War East Germany.

GAZETTE: But Google and Facebook face more restrictions in Europe than in the United States. Why is that?

SCHNEIER: Europe has more stringent privacy regulations than the United States. In general, Americans tend to mistrust government and trust corporations. Europeans tend to trust government and mistrust corporations. The result is that there are more controls over government surveillance in the U.S. than in Europe. On the other hand, Europe constrains its corporations to a much greater degree than the U.S. does. U.S. law has a hands-off way of treating internet companies. Computerized systems, for example, are exempt from many normal product-liability laws. This was originally done out of the fear of stifling innovation.

“Google knows quite a lot about all of us. No one ever lies to a search engine. I used to say that Google knows more about me than my wife does, but that doesn’t go far enough. Google knows me even better, because Google has perfect memory in a way that people don’t.”
               —Bruce Schneier, cybersecurity expert

GAZETTE: It seems that U.S. customers are resigned to the idea of giving up their privacy in exchange for using Google and Facebook for free. What’s your view on this?

SCHNEIER: The survey data is mixed. Consumers are concerned about their privacy and don’t like companies knowing their intimate secrets. But they feel powerless and are often resigned to the privacy invasions because they don’t have any real choice. People need to own credit cards, carry cellphones, and have email addresses and social media accounts. That’s what it takes to be a fully functioning human being in the early 21st century. This is why we need the government to step in.

GAZETTE: You’re one of the most well-known cybersecurity experts in the world. What do you do to protect your privacy online?

SCHNEIER: I don’t have any secret techniques. I do the same things everyone else does, and I make the same tradeoffs that everybody else does. I bank online. I shop online. I carry a cellphone, and it’s always turned on. I use credit cards and have airline frequent flier accounts. Perhaps the weirdest thing about my internet behavior is that I’m not on any social media platforms. That might make me a freak, but honestly it’s good for my productivity. In general, security experts aren’t paranoid; we just have a better understanding of the trade-offs we’re doing. Like everybody else, we regularly give up privacy for convenience. We just do it knowingly and consciously.

GAZETTE: What else do you do to protect your privacy online? Do you use encryption for your email?

SCHNEIER: I have come to the conclusion that email is fundamentally insecurable. If I want to have a secure online conversation, I use an encrypted chat application like Signal. By and large, email security is out of our control. For example, I don’t use Gmail because I don’t want Google having all my email. But last time I checked, Google has half of my email because you all use Gmail.

GAZETTE: What does Google know about you?

SCHNEIER: Google’s not saying because they know it would freak people out. But think about it, Google knows quite a lot about all of us. No one ever lies to a search engine. I used to say that Google knows more about me than my wife does, but that doesn’t go far enough. Google knows me even better, because Google has perfect memory in a way that people don’t.

GAZETTE: Is Google the “Big Brother?”

SCHNEIER: “Big Brother” in the Orwellian sense meant big government. That’s not Google, and that’s not even the NSA. What we have is many “Little Brothers”: Google, Facebook, Verizon, etc. They have enormous amounts of data on everybody, and they want to monetize it. They don’t want to respect your privacy.

GAZETTE: In your book “Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World,” you recommend a few strategies for people to protect their privacy online. Which one is the most effective?

SCHNEIER: Unfortunately, we live in a world where most of our data is out of our control. It’s in the cloud, stored by companies that may not have our best interests at heart. So, while there are technical strategies people can employ to protect their privacy, they’re mostly around the edges. The best recommendation I have for people is to get involved in the political process. The best thing we can do as consumers and citizens is to make this a political issue. Force our legislators to change the rules.

Opting out doesn’t work. It’s nonsense to tell people not to carry a credit card or not to have an email address. And “buyer beware” is putting too much onus on the individual. People don’t test their food for pathogens or their airlines for safety. The government does it. But the government has failed in protecting consumers from internet companies and social media giants. But this will come around. The only effective way to control big corporations is through big government. My hope is that technologists also get involved in the political process — in government, in think-tanks, universities, and so on. That’s where the real change will happen. I tend to be short-term pessimistic and long-term optimistic. I don’t think this will do society in. This is not the first time we’ve seen technological changes that threaten to undermine society, and it won’t be the last.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

 Source: This article was published news.harvard.edu By Liz Mineo

Many are left wondering exactly what the global search giant knows - and how they know

It turns out Google knows a lot about you - an awful lot, in fact.

But exactly how much is "an awful lot"?

Many are left wondering exactly what the global search giant knows - and how they know.

The good news is you can see all this information for yourself.

And, more importantly, you can switch it off.

There are a few steps to follow, but it means you can decide how much of your personal data the company gets to use, reports the Mirror.

The European competition watchdog has fined Google 2.42 billion euros (£ 2.1 billion) for abusing its dominance as a search engine

1. Find 'My Activity'

To see everything you've been using Google for, you'll first need to sign in to your account. Once you're up and running, go to history.google.com/history .

This is your activity page and will display all the information about what you've been up to on Google's services - this includes Maps searches and YouTube videos you've watched.

What search data does Google hold on me?

Scroll down to "Activity controls" and under "Your searches and browsing activity" click "Manage activity".

In the top right hand corner of the "Insights" box, click the arrow next to "last week" and select "all time".

This will give you a chronological list of everything you've searched for on any device, provided you were logged into your Google account at the time.

You can go through and delete specific searches. If you want to stop Google from recording your searches, go back to the "Personal info & privacy" page and under "Activity controls" untoggle "Your searches and browsing activity".

Google warns that pausing this setting will prevent products like Google Now and Google+ from using your web and app activity to improve their suggestions and updates and provide personalised content.

2. Set the time period

The page will show you highlights from various days, weeks or months but you can always decide exactly how much or little of your history you want to see. Click the "Filter by date" box at the top and select the time period you're interested in.

Select "all time" to see just how much you rely on Google's services.

3. View even more information

Google isn't just tracking your browsing - it's also monitoring your location and what devices you use.

Devices

Over the years, you may have logged into your Google account from many devices, so it's worth checking which still ones still have access and removing any you no longer use from the list.

Click the "Sign-in & security" tab and scroll down to "Device activity & notifications". Here it will show you a list of "Recently used devices", with information on when they were last used to access your account.

If there are any devices on the list that you no longer use, click on them and then click the "Remove" button.

Location

From the main activity page, click the three dots on the top right hand corner of the window and select "Settings" then "Show more controls" then "Manage activity" under "Places you go".

Providing you're using location services, you'll get a Google Maps page showing exactly where you've been and when and what transport you used to get there.

This feature is called Google Timeline and it was introduced earlier this year in April as a way to record everything you've done.

"Whether you use Your Timeline to remember your last vacation or what you did last weekend, it’s a useful way to see your life on the map and recall the places you went and activities you enjoyed on any given day, month or year," said Gerard Sanz, the product manager for Google Maps at the time.

4. Who does Google think I am?

A good way to find out who Google thinks you are, is to check what information it uses to serve you ads.

You can do this by going back to the "Personal info & privacy" page, scrolling down to Ads settings and clicking "Manage ad settings".

Here you can see what Google has identified as your gender and age, and a list of any interests Google has associated with your profile.

You can edit these interests, if you want to see more relevant ads, or delete them all, if you'd rather Google didn't try to tailor your ad experience.

However, Google says that the ads you see may still be based on your general location (such as city or state) or recent searches.

5. Download your data

Finally, you can make a copy of the content in your account at any time, and use it for another service or just for your personal records.

Under "Personal info & privacy", scroll down to "Control your content" and under "Download your data" click "Create archive".

This will take you through to a page where you can choose which data to include, and then get a copy emailed to you as a zip file.

 

Google warns that this may take a long time (hours or possibly days) to create, but that it will email you when the file is ready.

6. Delete it ALL

If you're happy with all the information that Google is collecting about you, then all you need to do is carry on as you were. But if you're not, you can delete it all and switch location tracking off.

All you have to do is go back to the three dots in the corner and select the "Delete Options".

This gives you the option to delete data from Today and Yesterday, but click the "Advanced" button and you can wipe everything from the last four weeks of "all time".

If you want to go even further than that and delete your information not just from Google, but also other online services, there is a way.

  1. Go to Deseat.me and sign in with a gmail address.
  2. Look down the list of synced accounts and decide which you want to delete and which you want to keep.
  3. Click the button

It's worth pointing out that the site doesn't pick up everythingyou've ever signed up for - some of the smaller web services appear to fall through the cracks and the delete button is greyed out.

 Source: This article was published birminghammail.co.uk

If you’d like to promote your local business online by posting directly to Google’s search results, you can do that with Posts on Google.

Google experimented with allowing people to post to Google Search and Maps before. Until now, though, the service was only opened to movie studios, sports teams, and some celebrities.

Now, it’s open to you if you have a Google My Business account.

Here’s what you need to know about posting to search results.

What Is Posts on Google?

If you’re not familiar with Posts on Google, it’s an outstanding way to reach people in your target market. That’s because you can post content that appears in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

You might think of it as a shortcut to SEO.

According to Google, 82% of people use a search engine to find local information. That means you can go a long way to reach potential customers with Posts on Google.

If you want to post, start by signing up with Google My Business. If you’re running a local business, you should already have a GMB account anyway because it can help with SEO.

Once you have a GMB account, request access for Posts on Google. Fill out the form, wait for a while, and Google will get back to you.

Content You Can Post

When you have access to Posts on Google, your next step is to determine what kind of content to post. The good news is that you have a variety of options.

You can post any of the following types of content:

  • Standard text
  • Images
  • Videos
  • Animated GIFs

In addition, you can add links to your site. You can also include buttons that enable users to respond to a call to action.

Here’s what Google says about posts: “This enhanced format allows searchers to hear directly from the primary source — you — and complements existing results from across the web.”

When you publish a post, it will appear in the Google business listing. Both mobile and desktop users can see it.

Users can also share posts on social media without even leaving Google.

What You Can Do With Posts

You can use Posts on Google in a number of ways to promote your brand. How you want to use it depends on your business model and how you find it’s best to reach people in your target market.

For example, if you’re trying to reach people who frequent BuzzFeed, then you might find that an animated reaction GIF is a great way to earn a click. On the other hand, if you’re looking for people who are trying to save money, it’s probably best to advertise your current discounts.

It’s best to make sure your posts are timely, though. That means the content you post should be relevant to what’s happening with your business right now.

Here are some types of content that will help promote your business:

  • News about upcoming events
  • Current special offers and sales
  • Information about new products or services
  • Coupon codes

Here are some calls to action that you can include in your content:

  • Schedule an appointment
  • Purchase a product or service
  • Make a reservation
  • Learn more about current promotions
  • Sign up for a newsletter

Creating a Post

Once you’ve determined a great way to reach people in your target market, it’s time to create a post. Fortunately, it’s easy to do that.

If you’re on a desktop PC, sign in to Google My Business. If you manage more than one location, select the location relevant to the post by clicking on Manage Location.

Next, click on Create Post. You can also select Posts on the menu.

When you’re in the “Create Posts” screen, you’ll notice that you have a number of options regarding the type of content you want to post. You can add text content, photos, events, or a button.

When you’re all done adding the content, click on Preview to view your post as Google users will see it. If you’re satisfied with the way it looks, click Publish.

It’s a slightly different process to add a post on a mobile platform. Start by tapping on your Google My Business app icon.

Then, tap the “Create” icon. That’s the icon with the plus sign in the lower right part of the screen.

After that, tap the “Posts” icon. It looks like it has two rectangles in it.

In the “Create Post” screen, you can select the type of content you want to create. You can add text content, photos, events, or a button.

Tap the fields in the screen and add the content you want to show people.

Once you’re done, look at the preview of your post. If it’s exactly as you want it to appear to Google users, click on Publish.

Now you’ve created your first post with Posts on Google.

Wrapping It Up

If you’re looking for an easy new way to reach people in your market, start by creating content with Posts on Google. You’ll find that if offers a variety of ways to promote your brand.

Source: This article was published business2community By John Lincoln

A police officer holds back other policemen as some demonstrators do the same with their side after a contact during an anti-G7 rally near the venue of the G7 summit in the Sicilian town of Taormina, Italy, Saturday, May 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)


WASHINGTON -- Earth is likely to reach more dangerous levels of warming even sooner if the U.S. retreats from its pledge to cut carbon dioxide pollution, scientists said. That's because America contributes so much to rising temperatures.

President Donald Trump, who once proclaimed global warming a Chinese hoax, said in a tweet Saturday that he would make his "final decision" this coming week on whether the United States stays in or leaves the 2015 Paris climate change accord in which nearly every nation agreed to curb its greenhouse gas emissions.

Leaders of seven wealthy democracies, at a summit in Sicily, urged Trump to commit his administration to the agreement, but said in their closing statement that the U.S., for now, "is not in a position to join the consensus."

"I hope they decide in the right way," said Italy's prime minister, Paolo Gentiloni. More downbeat was German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said the leaders' talks were "very difficult, if not to say, very unsatisfactory."

In an attempt to understand what could happen to the planet if the U.S. pulls out of Paris, The Associated Press consulted with more than two dozen climate scientists and analyzed a special computer model scenario designed to calculate potential effects.

Scientists said it would worsen an already bad problem and make it far more difficult to prevent crossing a dangerous global temperature threshold.

Calculations suggest it could result in emissions of up to 3 billion tons of additional carbon dioxide in the air a year. When it adds up year after year, scientists said that is enough to melt ice sheets faster, raise seas higher and trigger more extreme weather.

"If we lag, the noose tightens," said Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer, co-editor of the peer-reviewed journal Climatic Change.

One expert group ran a worst-case computer simulation of what would happen if the U.S. does not curb emissions, but other nations do meet their targets. It found that America would add as much as half a degree of warming (0.3 degrees Celsius) to the globe by the end of century.

Scientists are split on how reasonable and likely that scenario is.

Many said because of cheap natural gas that displaces coal and growing adoption of renewable energy sources, it is unlikely that the U.S. would stop reducing its carbon pollution even if it abandoned the accord, so the effect would likely be smaller.

Others say it could be worse because other countries might follow a U.S. exit, leading to more emissions from both the U.S. and the rest.

Another computer simulation team put the effect of the U.S. pulling out somewhere between 0.1 to 0.2 degrees Celsius (0.18 to 0.36 degrees Fahrenheit).

While scientists may disagree on the computer simulations they overwhelmingly agreed that the warming the planet is undergoing now would be faster and more intense.

The world without U.S. efforts would have a far more difficult time avoiding a dangerous threshold: keeping the planet from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

The world has already warmed by just over half that amount - with about one-fifth of the past heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions coming from the United States, usually from the burning of coal, oil and gas.

So the efforts are really about preventing another 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit (0.9 degrees Celsius) from now.

"Developed nations - particularly the U.S. and Europe - are responsible for the lion's share of past emissions, with China now playing a major role," said Rutgers University climate scientist Jennifer Francis. "This means Americans have caused a large fraction of the warming."

Even with the U.S. doing what it promised under the Paris agreement, the world is likely to pass that 2 degree mark, many scientists said.

But the fractions of additional degrees that the U.S. would contribute could mean passing the threshold faster, which could in turn mean "ecosystems being out of whack with the climate, trouble farming current crops and increasing shortages of food and water," said the National Center for Atmospheric Research's Kevin Trenberth.

Climate Interactive, a team of scientists and computer modelers who track global emissions and pledges, simulated global emissions if every country but the U.S. reaches their individualized goals to curb carbon pollution. Then they calculated what that would mean in global temperature, sea level rise and ocean acidification using scientifically-accepted computer models.

By 2030, it would mean an extra 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide in the air a year, according to the Climate Interactive models, and by the end of the century 0.3 degrees Celsius of warming.

"The U.S. matters a great deal," said Climate Interactive co-director Andrew Jones. "That amount could make the difference between meeting the Paris limit of two degrees and missing it."

Climate Action Tracker, a competing computer simulation team, put the effect of the U.S. pulling out somewhere between 0.1 to 0.2 degrees Celsius (0.18 to 0.36 Fahrenheit) by 2100. It uses a scenario where U.S. emissions flatten through the century, while Climate Interactive has them rising.

One of the few scientists who plays down the harm of the U.S. possibly leaving the agreement is John Schellnhuber, the director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and the scientist credited with coming up with the 2 degree goal.

"Ten years ago (a U.S. exit) would have shocked the planet," Schellnhuber said. "Today if the U.S. really chooses to leave the Paris agreement, the world will move on with building a clean and secure future."

Not so, said Texas Tech climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe: "There will be ripple effects from the United States' choices across the world."

 Source: This article was published on ctvnews.ca by Seth Borenstein, The Associated Press

This piece originally appeared on Travel + Leisure.

Planes have changed a lot since the days of the Wright Brothers (or, perhaps more accurately, Brazilian inventor Alberto Santos). Those first wood-and-cloth contraptions are an entirely different species than the sleek Boeing Dreamliners of today.W

ith the continual advancements in aerospace technology, it's hard to keep up with all the amazing things planes today are capable of doing (and withstanding). Below, 11 things you didn’t know about airplanes and air travel.

© Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Airplanes are designed to withstand lightning strikes

Planes are designed to be struck by lightning—and they regularly are hit. It’s estimated lightning strikes each aircraft once a year—or once per every 1,000 hours of flight time. Yet, lighting hasn’t brought down a plane since 1963, due to careful engineering that lets the electric charge of a lightning bolt run through the plane and out of it, typically without causing damage to the plane.

© Image Source/Getty Images

There is no safest seat on the plane

The FAA says there is no safest seat on the plane, though a TIME study of plane accidents found that the middle seats in the back of the plane had the lowest fatality rate in a crash. Their research revealed that, during plane crashes, “the seats in the back third of the aircraft had a 32 percent fatality rate, compared with 39 percent in the middle third and 38 percent in the front third.”

However, there are so many variables at play that it’s impossible to know where to sit to survive a crash. Oh, and plane crashes are incredibly rare.

© Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Some airplanes have secret bedrooms for flight crew

On long-haul flights, cabin crew can work 16-hour days. To help combat fatigue, some planes, like the Boeing 777 and 787 Dreamliners, are outfitted with tiny bedrooms where the flight crew can get a little shut-eye. The bedrooms are typically accessed via a hidden staircase that leads up to a small, low-ceilinged room with 6 to 10 beds, a bathroom, and sometimes in-flight entertainment.

© Felbert+Eickenberg/Getty Images/Stock4B Creative

The tires are designed not to pop on landing

The tires on an airplane are designed to withstand incredible weight loads (38 tons!) and can hit the ground at 170 miles per hour more than 500 times before ever needing to get a retread. Additionally, airplane tires are inflated to 200 psi, which is about six times the pressure used in a car tire. If an airplane does need new tires, ground crew simply jack up the plane like you would a car.

© danr13/Getty Image

Why cabin crew dims the light when a plane is landing

When a plane lands at night, cabin crews will dim the interior lights. Why? In the unlikely event that the plane landing goes badly and passengers need to evacuate, their eyes will already be adjusted to the darkness. As pilot Chris Cooke explained to T+L: “Imagine being in an unfamiliar bright room filled with obstacles when someone turns off the lights and asks you to exit quickly.”

Similarly, flight attendants have passengers raise their window shades during landing, so they can see outside in an emergency and assess if one side of the plane is better for an evacuation.

© Flightlevel80/Getty Images

You don’t need both engines to fly

The idea of an engine giving out mid-flight sounds frightening, but every commercial airplane can safely fly with just one engine. Operating with half the engine power can make a plane less fuel-efficient and may reduce its range, but planes are designed and tested for such situations, as Popular Mechanics reported. Any plane scheduled on a long-distance route, especially those that fly over oceans or through uninhabited areas like the Arctic, must be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for Extended-range Twin Operations (ETOPS), which is basically how long it can fly with one engine. The Boeing Dreamliner is certified for ETOPS-330, which means it can fly for 330 minutes (that’s five and a half hours) with just one engine.

In fact, most airplanes can fly for a surprisingly long distance with no engine at all, thanks to something called glide ratio. Due to careful aeronautical engineering, a Boeing 747 can glide for two miles for every 1,000 feet they are above the ground, which is usually more than enough time to get everyone safely to the ground.

© Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Why there are ashtrays in the bathrooms

The FAA banned smoking on planes years ago, but eagle-eyed passengers know that airplane lavatories still have ashtrays in them. As Business Insider reported, the reason is that airlines—and the people who design planes—figure that despite the no-smoking policy and myriad no-smoking signs prominently posted on the plane, at some point a smoker will decide to light up a cigarette on the plane. The hope is that if someone violates the smoking policy, they will do so in the relatively confined space of the bathroom and dispose of the cigarette butt in a safe place—the ashtray, not a trash can where it could theoretically cause a fire. If you do smoke in the bathroom, expect a massive fine.

© Jorge Villalba/Getty Images

What that tiny hole in the airplane window does

It’s to regulate cabin pressure. Most airplane windows are made up of three panels of acrylic. The exterior window works as you would expect—keeping the elements out and maintaining cabin pressure. In the unlikely event that something happens to the exterior pane, the second pane acts as a fail-safe option. The tiny hole in the interior window is there to regulate air pressure so the middle pane remains intact and uncompromised until it is called into duty.

e© assalve/Getty Images

Why airplane food tastes so bad

Airplane food has a bad reputation, but the food itself isn’t entirely to blame—the real fault lies with the plane. A 2015 Cornell University study, reported by Time, found that the environment inside an airplane actually alters the way food and drink tastes—sweet items tasted less sweet, while salty flavors were heightened. The dry recycled air inside the plane cabin doesn’t help either as low humidity can further dull taste and smell making everything in a plane seem bland. According to a 2010 study from the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics in Germany, it’s about 30 percent more difficult to detect sweet and salty tastes when you’re up in the air. Next time you fly, skip the meal, and maybe try a glass of tomato juice instead.

© Jupiterimages/Getty Images

About those oxygen masks

The safety instructions on most flight include how to use the oxygen masks that are deployed when the plane experiences a sudden loss in cabin pressure. However, one that thing that the flight attendants don’t tell you is that oxygen masks only have about 15-minutes worth of oxygen. That sounds like a frighteningly short amount of time, but in reality that should be more than sufficient. Remember, oxygen masks drop when the airplane cabin loses pressure, which means the plane is also losing altitude. According to Gizmodo, a pilot will respond to that situation by donning an oxygen mask and moving the plane to an altitude below 10,000 feet, where passengers can simply breathe normally, no extra oxygen required. That rapid descent usually takes way less than 15 minutes, meaning those oxygen masks have more than enough air to protect passengers.

© Richard Newstead/Getty Images

Why planes leave trails in the sky

Those white lines that planes leave in the sky are simply trails of condensation, hence their technical name of “contrails.” Plane engines release water vapor as part of the combustion process. When that hot water vapor is pumped out of the exhaust and hits the cooler air of the upper atmosphere, it creates those puffy white lines in the sky. It’s basically the same reaction as when you see your breath when it’s cold outside.

Source: This article was published on foodandwine.com by MELISSA LOCKER

When it comes to smartphones, there are so many key areas that are important to users. Design, software, apps, battery life, price, and performance are all key factors, as is speed. And when it comes to speed, Samsung’s new Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ are the two fastest Android phones that have been released to date. They utilize new 10nm octa-core processors, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 in the US and Samsung’s Exynos 8895 elsewhere. They also sport the most optimized version yet of the Samsung Experience, formerly known as TouchWiz.

But there’s another factor that contributes to smartphone speed, and a new report suggests Samsung’s just-released Galaxy S8 will smoke the iPhone 8 when it’s released later this year.

There’s plenty we think we know about Apple’s upcoming iPhone 8, which is expected to be announced this September alongside new iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s Plus models.

To mark the tenth anniversary of the original iPhone’s release, Apple will reportedly give the iPhone a complete design overhaul. The home button will be removed from the phone’s face, and the screen-to-body ratio is expected to be even more impressive than the 83% achieved by Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and S8+. We can also likely look forward to a new Touch ID scanner embedded in the display, new cameras on the front and back, nifty new augmented reality features, 3D scanning features, and a lightning-fast A11 processor.

But where speed is concerned, it appears as though there’s one thing we shouldn’t expect: Gigabit LTE.

In a speculative piece published this week, CNET noted that Apple’s upcoming new iPhones may not support the new faster wireless standard carriers are currently working to roll out. Dubbed “Gigabit LTE” because of its theoretical 1Gbps top data transfer speed, the new standard is already being tested by wireless carriers in the United States.

Samsung’s new Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ include support for the new faster wireless standard, and several other Android phones that launch in 2017 will also be compatible with Gigabit LTE. Apple’s iPhone 8, however, may not support the faster download and upload speeds offered by Gigabit LTE.

As CNET pointed out, Apple uses modems built by both Qualcomm and Intel in its current iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus models. Should Apple continue to utilize both suppliers, only one of the iPhone 8’s modems — the Qualcomm model — will support Gigabit LTE. As a result, Apple may intentionally slow the Qualcomm model to match the performance of the Intel model, as it has allegedly done with the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.

“This is not an area where Apple should want to cede competitive ground to Google and Samsung,” GlobalData analyst Avi Greengart told CNET.

Operating on the assumption that this speculation turns out to be accurate, does it really matter? Does it matter if Apple decides to “cede competitive ground” to it Android rivals in 2017? Probably not

Smartphone data connections aren’t like home internet connections, where capacity is important because multiple devices are utilizing available bandwidth. If you run a speed test on your smartphone right now, you might see speeds of 30Mbps, 40Mbps or even more. Those are blazing-fast speeds, but it’s only important to a degree.

First, there aren’t very many mobile services that are even capable of using speeds that fast — just like how large file downloads on your home computer might only hit 5Mbps even though you have a 100Mbps connection. Beyond that, any service that actually does utilize faster Gigabit LTE speeds would devour data caps in no time. What about unlimited plans? Sorry, but they’re all capped as well. The amount of full-speed data varies from one carrier to the next, but all unlimited plans include soft-caps of less than 30GB per billing period. After that, data speeds are likely to be throttled.

Down the road, next-gen technologies like Gigabit LTE and 5G will be crucial because more data-hungry services like live-streamed VR will roll out, and soft caps on “unlimited” data plans will be adjusted to accommodate them. But we’re not there yet, and we won’t get there anytime this year. Keep that in mind when Apple unveils the iPhone 8 (or iPhone Edition, or iPhone Pro, or whatever Apple decides to call it) this coming September.

Author: Zach Epstein
Source: bgr.com

NASA has long been a leader in understanding the science of space weather, including research into the potential for induced electrical currents to disrupt our power systems. Last year, NASA scientists worked with scientists and engineers from research institutions and industry during a pair of intensive week-long workshops in order to assess the state of science surrounding this type of space weather. This summary was published Jan. 30, 2017, in the journal Space Weather.

Storms from the sun can affect our power grids, railway systems and underground pipelines through a phenomenon called geomagnetically induced currents, or GICs. The sun regularly releases a constant stream of magnetic solar material called the solar wind, along with occasional huge clouds of solar material called coronal mass ejections. This material interacts with Earth’s magnetic field, causing temporary changes. That temporary change to the magnetic field can create electric currents just under Earth’s surface. These are GICs.

Long, thin, metal structures near Earth’s surface — such as underground pipelines, railroads and power lines — can act as giant wires for these currents, causing electricity to flow long distances underground. This electric current can cause problems for all three structures, and it’s especially difficult to manage in power systems, where controlling the amount of electric current is key for keeping the lights on. Under extreme conditions, GICs can cause temporary blackouts, which means that studying space weather is a crucial component for emergency management.   

“We already had a pretty good grasp of the key moving pieces that can affect power systems,” said Antti Pulkkinen, a space weather researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “But this was the first we had solar experts, heliospheric scientists, magnetospheric physicists, power engineers and emergency management officials all in a room together.”

Though GICs can primarily cause problems for power systems, railroads and pipelines aren’t immune.

“Researchers have found a positive correlation between geomagnetic storms and mis-operation of railway signaling systems,” said Pulkkinen, who is also a member of the space weather research-focused Community Coordinated Modeling Center based at Goddard.

This is because railway signals, which typically control traffic at junctures between tracks or at intersections with roads, operate on an automated closed/open circuit system. If a train’s metal wheels are on the track near the signal, they close the electrical circuit, allowing electrical current to flow to the signal and turn it on.

“Geomagnetically induced currents could close that loop and make the system signal that there’s a train when there isn’t,” said Pulkkinen.

Similarly, current flowing in oil pipelines could create false alarms, prompting operators to inspect pipelines that aren’t damaged or malfunctioning.

In power systems, the GICs from a strong space weather event can cause something called voltage collapse. Voltage collapse is a temporary state in which the voltage of a segment of a power system goes to zero. Because voltage is required for current to flow, voltage collapse can cause blackouts in affected areas.

Though blackouts caused by voltage collapse can have huge effects on transportation, healthcare and commerce, GICs are unlikely to cause permanent damage to large sections of power systems.

“For permanent transformer damage to occur, there needs to be sustained levels of GICs going through the transformer,” said Pulkkinen. “We know that’s not how GICs work. GICs tend to be much more noisy and short-lived, so widespread physical damage of transformers is unlikely even during major storms.”

The scientists who worked on the survey, part of the NASA Living With a Star Institute, also created a list of the key unanswered questions in GIC science, mostly related to computer modeling and prediction. The group members’ previous work on GIC science and preparedness has already been used to shape new standards for power companies to guard against blackouts. In September 2016, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, released new standards that require power companies to assess and prepare for potential GIC disruptions.

“We’re really proud that our team members made major contributions to the updated FERC standards,” said Pulkkinen. “It also shows that the U.S. is actively working to address GIC risk.”

Author: Rob Garner
Source: nasa.gov

Several new studies and books say this is the best way to spark novel ideas.

Visitors to Steve Jobs's house in Palo Alto or to Apple's corporate headquarters in Cupertino, California, were all too familiar with one habit that helped Jobs to clear his mind and develop novel ideas.

Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson didn't know it when he first met the legendary Apple co-founder, but he soon learned that Jobs preferred to have serious conversations on long walks.

Brent Schlender covered Steve Jobs for 25 years for Fortune and The Wall Street Journal. In Becoming Steve Jobs, Schlender recalled that Jobs would invite him to the house "for a walk" when he wanted to talk about a subject. Jobs and chief designer Jony Ive were often seen taking regular "brainstorming walks" around the Apple campus. Pixar employees told Schlender that Jobs "was always big on going for walks with people."

A recent batch of neuroscience research proves that Jobs was on to something. Walking really does spark our creativity.

Let your brain's genius lounge find novel solutions

In The Net and the Butterfly: The Art and Practice of Breakthrough Thinking, authors Olivia Fox Cabana and Judah Pollack cite current studies that show breakthrough ideas occur when the brain switches modes--from the "executive network" to its "default network." While the executive part of our brain is task and goal-focused, the default network--the "genius lounge"-- meanders and brainstorms. The two work together. The executive network sets a goal or identifies a problem and moves on to perform other tasks while the default network comes up with creative solutions.

According to the research, taking a walk is the best way to trigger cooperation between the two modes and unleash your most creative ideas. "If we had to choose one single mindless activity for you to do, it would be walking," Cabana and Pollack conclude.

According to a Stanford study, walking boosted a person's creative output by 60 percent. The subjects were given "divergent thinking" tests, which measure creativity. They were asked to think of alternative uses for a particular object and they had four minutes to come up with their responses for each set of objects. Responses were "novel" if the other participants in the group had not thought of the idea.

The Stanford researchers measured the creativity of subjects while they walked and while they sat. The majority of participants were far more creative when they walked. Movement was the key. "The act of walking itself, and not the environment, was the main factor," according to the Stanford research.

Florence Williams prefers to walk outside. The author of the new book The Nature Fix and a contributing editor to Outside magazine, she writes, "We benefit cognitively and psychology from having trees, bodies of water, and green spaces to look at." Like The Net and the Butterfly, Williams cites research that shows our brains' default network is the key to creativity. According to Williams, it's the part of our brain that's "free-ranging, day-dreaming, and mind-wandering."

Our ancestors were on the move

Neuroscientists who study attention say the results of walking studies aren't surprising because our ancestors moved--a lot. According to University of Washington biologist John Medina, "from an evolutionary perspective, our brains developed while working out, walking as many as 12 miles a day. The brain still craves that experience."

In a study for the American Journal of Human Biology, Yale researchers say that because our brains evolved while walking, it's good for our health and good for our minds. "So move, and preferably often, since the need for activity seems to be built into our bones and hearts and being."

Certainly there are health benefits to being on the move. Lower blood pressure and the reduced risk of stroke seem to be the primary benefits of walking for exercise, according to the Harvard Medical School. The latest neuroscience confirms that walking really does have a creative benefit, too.

So consider getting up out of your chair and getting on the move. A breakthrough idea might be waiting in your brain's genius lounge.

Source : inc.com

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