Teachers And Those Magical OK Go Videos: A Match Made In Science?
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March 21, 2018 at 11:50AM
Teachers And Those Magical OK Go Videos: A Match Made In Science?
via NPR Topics: News http://ift.tt/2m0CM10
March 21, 2018 at 11:50AM
The Man Who Built His House Out of Stuff He Bought on eBay
Frank Alsema describes himself as a “city maker.” The retired TV producer lives in north Amsterdam, where his house has become a lab for more sustainable urban lifestyle. The community there and throughout the Netherlands aspire to what they call a “circular economy.” That means recycling and reusing everything, including energy. That’s why Frank’s house is built out of stuff he bought on eBay.
I recently visited Frank at his house in Amsterdam, where he took a Gizmodo crew and me on a tour of the curious castle he’s built. When we first walked in, Frank didn’t apologize for the mess. The space was strewn with building supplies, furniture, artwork, and kitsch. It looked like it was still under construction, because it was.
Frank has been building his house since 2013, when he began the so-called Palais Récup endeavor. More than just constructing a home out of recycled materials, the project also aims to invent new technologies and new ways of living in cities. It seems like Frank is crafting his house out of second-hand materials almost as a public display of what’s possible for 21st centuries, as if to say that anybody can live a circular lifestyle if he can.
Building a massive house out of stuff other people don’t want anymore isn’t as simple doing an eBay search, however. Before he started Palais Récup, Frank was living in Buiksloterham Circulair, a neighborhood in North Amsterdam that serves as a laboratory for sustainable city-building based on circular principles. Construction on Palais Récup began in 2013, and a lot of the initial materials needed to be bought new—things like concrete, lumber, and stones. From there, Frank started searching for the largest furnishings for the house.
“I first collected a lot of elements that makes the size of the house like stairs,” Frank told me as we stared up at a massive steel spiral staircase. “I bought these at a second-hand auto shop, and we designed the house around it.”
Frank also showed me a massive cupboard built in the 19th-century. It was filled with all kinds of knickknacks, from family photos to old camera equipment to a handful of cell phones from the late 1990s. It’s a true cabinet of curiosities, one that also happens to serve an important design role in why Palais Récup looks the way it does.
“I found it on eBay, but I sized the height [of] the building… according to the cupboard,” Frank explained. “I gave this to my architect, and he reverse designed the house around it.” His architect is John Zondag. Frank added, “It’s maybe more labor, but it has a narrative. It has history. It has atmosphere.”
This is how the rest of the interior is coming together, too. The overall design could be described as chaotic. Some rooms in the house are still completely unfinished, with sawdust covering the floor and power tools leaning against the walls. But there are elements that look beautifully finished, as well. There’s a set of beautifully engraved French doors, complete with leaded glass details that open out into one of those empty rooms. Up on the roof, there’s a century-old hook, the type that you see on canal-side houses all over Amsterdam. It not only looks charming but it also helps Frank haul up fuel for the furnace and supplies for his rooftop garden. There’s a whole sunroom of storage up there, filled with things waiting to find their home downstairs inside the house.
All things told, Frank guesses that about 60 percent of what’s in his house came from eBay. And the items that didn’t come secondhand from eBay are often used to reuse other materials. In his furnace room—Frank calls it his “engine room”—the equipment is designed to recoup energy from the air, the water, and the toilets. There’s also a compost bin—Frank calls it a “hungry bin”—where worms eat up all of the house’s organic waste and produce a premium fertilizer that feeds the plants on the roof.
“As we want to change the world to a sustainable world, we have to do something and we have to do it quick,” Frank said. “And for that we need a lot of citizens who are going to hack the system, play with the system.”
Frank isn’t alone at Palais Récoup, either. Behind the main house, the one that’s full of stuff bought on eBay, there’s a second house that Frank rents out to help fund construction on Palais Récoup. The apartments looks nice and modern, not unlike what you’d probably see in some of the new developments around Frank’s house. Some of the tenants actually trade services like contracting or design work for rent, which adds an interesting bartering element to the whole experiment. Nevertheless, the arrangement does indicate that there’s still a trade-off when it comes to building a completely sustainable home. Unless they’re rich enough to buy all the eBay goods they want, the average city hacker will need to participate in the traditional economy on their way to truly circular living.
But Frank’s statement is loud and clear: together, we can build better cities. Palais Récoup is just the start. About a mile from Palais Récoup, there’s a whole community of people pursuing circular living in an old shipyard called De Ceuvel. Many of them live in boats that sit on top of polluted soil that they’re trying to clean with special foliage. On a nearby lot, Frank is helping to develop yet another complex of homes for people who want to try out a more sustainable lifestyle.
Project-by-project it’s not hard to see how Frank’s advertised job title is starting to make wonderful sense. He is making a city within city. Most of Amsterdam’s residents will continue to live more conventional lives, but Frank is working towards significant changes in how those around him live. Palais Récup is less of an experiment than it is a command center. The city, for Frank, is the lab.
via Lifehacker http://lifehacker.com
March 21, 2018 at 10:22AM
This New App Is Like Shazam for Your Nature Photos
In July of 2016, thousands of people wandered out into streets and parks under the guidance of a hugely popular wildlife app. The app was Pokemon Go, and the wildlife did not, in any real sense, exist. Yet while Pokemon fans were attempting to collect fantastic—if ultimately digital—animals, some inevitably found real ones as well. The disconnect spawned quite a few jokes, mostly involving possums, and Ecologists and museum curators, sensing a learning opportunity, offered Pokemon Go-themed outreach events; Anna Turkett, a zoo keeper in Birmingham I went to school with, briefly gained internet fame for her pokemon-style animal signage.
However, if you wanted an app that would mimic Pokemon Go but for existing species, you were largely out of luck. That changed in early March, when social media site iNaturalist released SEEK, an IOS app for people who want to search out local flora and fauna. The new app is part of an ongoing attempt to tempt people into citizen science—and to get them to see the wonder in species they might otherwise ignore.
iNaturalist was co-founded in 2008 by Nate Agrin, Jessica Kline, and Ken-ichi Ueda as part of a Masters project at UC Berkeley. The goal was to create an online community for naturalists, ecologists, and nature-loving amateurs, where people could record and discuss their observations from the field, local park, or their own backyard—A hiker could submit a picture of a strange snake they saw on the trail or a biologist back from the field could unload sound recordings of birds collected in the deep jungles.
“It’s a community of people who are going to help each other explore the natural world, and from a scientific side, also vet data and make sure it’s correct,” Scott Laurie, the site’s co-director, told Earther.
While the social aspect of the site is paramount, Stakeholder Engagement Coordinator Carrie Seltzer told Earther acquiring data is an inevitable result of the site’s model: Having a bunch of users outside taking pictures is incredibly useful when it comes to crowdsourcing identifications, and recording localities, dates, and times—the kind of basic information that’s useful but time intensive to actually collect. Much of the data logged on the site is sent to the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, an international organisation that offers open-source biodiversity data to scientists or anyone else who wants to make use of it. (For conservation reasons, locality data around endangered or threatened species is automatically redacted.)
With around 150,000 species logged onto the site and a huge set of labeled images, Laurie said, they soon realized they could make use of the new generation of artificial intelligence neural networks. Over the summer of 2017, they began training an AI that could identify species by recognizing images, a useful complement to the crowdsourcing function of iNaturalist. Now when you post, Laurie said, you still have people chiming in, but the AI will also take a crack on it.
The first thing you see when you open SEEK is a friendly list of common-sense warnings: stay safe, don’t trespass, don’t eat anything you find in the wild, and don’t harass wildlife which might take exception to it. From there, you’re provided with a list of organisms keyed to your location, a set of empty badges, and an encouragement to get out exploring. When you find something that interests you—plant, fungus, insect or vertebrate—you take a picture and wait for the AI to spit out a match and tell you what you’ve collected, along with a summary of information from Wikipedia.
It’s a neat, intuitive little system, although the AI still has some hiccups. I spend a lot of time searching out animals for fun, so I initially plugged a couple of my photos from previous collecting trips into the app to see what it made of them. The app—which was keyed to my current location in Atlanta—correctly identified the slimy salamanders, pickerel frogs, and two-lined salamanders, netting me a tidy badge. It had a much harder time with a picture of a hefty indigo snake I found while reporting in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, though it eventually correctly suggested that it was some sort of colubrid snake.
But the app’s real value quickly became apparent when I took it out into my parent’s front yard. While the neighborhood is nestled in urban Dekalb County, it’s fairly green and can host deer, red foxes, coyotes, raptors, and the occasional turkey. Usually when I visit, I keep an eye out for those; I’ve rarely given much thought to the profusion of small plants that run wild under the big magnolia in our yard, which sprout from the foraging of the birds at our feeders. But by getting down and photographing various small leaves, I discovered that the yard is quite a bit more diverse than I thought—the app helped identify white clover, blue violets, greater periwinkle, black elderberry, common ivy, and the edible common chickweed.
The situation at a local park was equally interesting: The understory near the broad, slow creek is matted with Japanese honeysuckle, a handsome little vine that originated in East Asia, and with red dead-nettle, whose evocatively named flowers hail from greater Eurasia.
I’d had no notion that these non-native plant species were present in a park I’ve been visiting, off and on, since I was a small child. I’m used to being the walking guidebook with friends when out in nature, identifying reptiles and amphibians with ease. It was a delight to be made aware of just how much life is out there that I don’t know anything about.
The AI currently recognizes 30,000 species, according to Laurie, with the best coverage in North American locations where most people are using the site.
“Every hour we’re getting a new species into that pool, just because we’re getting more data coming from thousands of people that are using iNaturalist every day,” he said. “The only way we can improve our modeling of species is to get more data, and to do that we need more people outside taking pictures of their backyards and exploring.”
While SEEK doesn’t collect data or sightings off of people’s phones, anyone who wants to graduate to something more intensive can join iNauralist’s mobile app, which does. In the meantime, the team is really excited about the possibility that SEEK can introduce the habits involved with citizen science in a non-threatening way.
“It’s about teaching people about the lifestyle,” Laurie said. “People have a limited amount of bandwidth. Some people choose golf. Some people choose stamp collecting. And we’re trying to get people excited and engaged with being stewards of the natural world.”
Laurie said that while iNaturalist is a great tool, “it’s kind of preaching to the choir.” SEEK on the other hand, if a better way to get new people hooked.
“I think if we can build with young kids the kind of culture and lifestyle of being curious and interested, and of wanting to do the activities involved in citizen science, which is going outside and making observations—that’s a huge win,” he said.
via Kotaku http://kotaku.com
March 21, 2018 at 10:33AM
Self-driving cars will kill people: Count on it
Uber has suspended road tests of self-driving vehicles after the first pedestrian was killed by one of its vehicles operating under autonomous computer control.
Proponents of self-driving vehicles claim they would be safer, as well as more energy efficient, but those safety claims will now come under heightened scrutiny.
In theory, self-driving vehicles should eliminate several major driver-related causes of road traffic accidents, including excessive speed, intoxication and inattention.
But there are concerns about how self-driving vehicles will interact with unpredictable human drivers and pedestrians — in the case of Sunday’s fatality in Tempe, Ariz., the woman who was killed is said to have walked suddenly into traffic out of shadows at night. There are also concerns about how the technology will handle unmapped hazards such as temporary road obstructions.
There are also fears about how self-driving vehicles would cope with hacking or widespread disruption of their communications systems. Bloomberg recently reported that even solar storms could disrupt the navigation systems of autonomous vehicles.
The accident investigation into Sunday’s crash will mark an important test of the technology but also of the ability of politicians, regulators and the media to think about risk in an intelligent way.
All transportation is fraught with risk, and road transport is particularly dangerous even with a human behind the wheel.
Every year, there are more than 6 million reported crashes involving motor vehicles in the United States, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
In 2016, almost 40,000 people were killed in transport-related accidents, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
Of those, more than 95 percent were killed in accidents involving motor vehicles (37,461), dwarfing the number killed on the railroads (733), marine transport (730), aviation (412) and pipelines (16).
Road traffic fatalities included nearly 6,000 pedestrians, over 5,000 motorcyclists and 840 pedal-cyclists.
Road traffic crashes are the No. 1 cause of death for young people between the ages of 8 and 24, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. And they are one of the top two causes of accidental death for people in all age groups.
In a worrying trend, U.S. roads appear to have become more dangerous in the last few years, reversing the downtrend over the previous quarter of a century.
The number of crashes, injuries and fatalities has been growing faster than highway traffic volumes since around 2015.
Road deaths rose to 1.18 per 100 million miles driven in 2016 up from 1.15 in 2015 and a recent low of 1.08 in 2014.
The trend among pedestrians has been particularly worrying, with fatalities surging by 9 percent in 2016 to the highest level since 1990.
Many road accidents have been attributed in whole or part to driver misbehavior. Alcohol was involved in more than 10,000 fatalities in 2016. Speed in more than 10,000. And distraction in more than 3,000.
Driving is already relatively dangerous in the United States, so the question is whether self-driving vehicles increase or reduce the existing risks, not whether they can eliminate risk altogether.
So far, self-driving vehicles have completed fewer than 10 million miles of on-highway tests.
Supporters and critics have long acknowledged the inevitability of a self-driving vehicle being involved in a serious accident, and eventually being the cause of a fatality.
Some had hoped self-driving vehicles would log 100 million miles or more before the first fatal accident to prove they are safer.
But that shows a misunderstanding of how statistics work, since the first fatal accident is as likely to occur on the first mile as on the 100-millionth mile (assuming the safety level remains constant).
Until self-driving vehicles are tested on actual roads for tens of millions or even hundreds of millions of miles it will not be possible to evaluate their safety relative to human-operated vehicles.
The advent of self-driving vehicles poses complicated questions about safety but is no different from any other new technology.
Every new technology is initially beset by accidents, and that has been particularly true in transportation, where early steam engines, automobiles and aircraft were all initially accident-prone.
All federal safety regulation in the United States stems originally from the response to the problem of exploding steam boilers in the 19th century. The advent of high-pressure steam engines on riverboats prompted a spate of explosions killing crew, passengers, and unlucky bystanders.
Between 1818 and 1824, 47 lives were lost in 15 boiler explosions on steamboats. Between 1825 and 1830 there were 42 explosions killing 273 people. One particularly serious explosion aboard the steamboat “Helen McGregor” near Memphis reportedly killed 50-60 people.
“The many distressing accidents which have of late occurred in that portion of our navigation carried on by the use of steam power deserve the immediate and unremitting attention of the constituted authorities of the country,” President Andrew Jackson wrote in his State of the Union message to Congress in 1833.
The eventual response after many years of delay was a system of safety regulation including boiler standards and inspections.
The arrival of the internal combustion engine and the automobile generated a similar surge of accidents among drivers and pedestrians and a legal and regulatory response. Early aircraft, too, were far more prone to mechanical failure or pilot error than has been the case in recent years.
But no one would now suggest steam boilers, automobiles or aircraft are simply too dangerous to be practical — any more than in future people will think self-driving vehicles are too dangerous.
In every case of new technology, safety lessons have been learned through a painful process of trial and error that has unfortunately cost lives.
Self-driving vehicles will be no different.
The challenge is to introduce sensible and balanced safety regulations while encouraging continued development of a technology that has potential to save lives and bring a range of other benefits.
That requires a very transparent approach from the technology companies and a calm and reasoned response from politicians, regulators and journalists.
Opinion by market analyst John Kemp
via Autoblog http://www.autoblog.com
March 21, 2018 at 10:01AM
This Drone Rocket Hybrid Can Land Vertically
The impressive vertical landings of the SpaceX rockets have been an incredible inspiration. Not only to the general public in getting excited about space travel, but also with hobbyists. Gianluigi, aka RC Lover San, wrote in to show us his project that mimics vertical landings.
This is a quadcopter landing system for model rockets. First, you launch your rocket into the air. Then, instead of deploying a parachute or simply letting your rocket tumble to the ground, you extend the quadcopter’s motors and land directly on the launchpad again.
I’m watching this and wondering if the additional weight has any true benefit over a parachute (aside from not having to chase your rocket), but the simple fact is that it doesn’t have to have a huge benefit. It’s just plain cool! Sure, you could just launch a quadcopter without the whole rocket part…but what is new and exciting about that?
You can find Gianluigi’s full build notes on his Instructables if you’d like to follow along.
via MAKE https://makezine.com
March 21, 2018 at 07:02AM
Google Play Gains Try Now Feature for Some Games
Google Play has a new feature that fans of games should really like. The tech is a new Try Now button that allows you to play some games without having to download and install them. The Try Now link is currently available only on a handful of games reports Ars Technica.
Try Now instant gameplay is available on Clash Royale, Words with Friends 2, Solitaire, Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire, Bubble Witch 3 Saga, and Mighty Battles. With those games when you hit the special landing page for Instant Play games you can play them all with no download to see if you like them.
The tech behind this new feature is called Instant Apps and it streams the app code to your device and runs it in an ephemeral sandbox. Developers have to specifically build in support for this tech using the Android SDK. That SDK breaks the app down into 10MB chunks that can stream to the user.
This allows the game to launch instantly, but since the app size is smaller for streaming you can lose some game features. If you hit a feature that needs the full app to function, users are prompted to download the full app. The video below gives an idea of what the new feature is like in action.
via Legit Reviews Hardware Articles http://ift.tt/Ihhl0h
March 21, 2018 at 08:05AM
Cambridge Analytica suspends CEO Alexander Nix during investigation
As the Cambridge Analytica scandal continues to develop, the company has now announced that its board has suspended CEO Alexander Nix. Cambridge Analytica says that the suspension is immediate and a full, independent investigation will be conducted. "In the view of the Board, Mr. Nix’s recent comments secretly recorded by Channel 4 and other allegations do not represent the values or operations of the firm and his suspension reflects the seriousness with which we view this violation," the company said in a statement.
Alexander Tayler, the company’s chief data officer, will serve as acting CEO and Cambridge Analytica has asked British barrister Julian Malins to head the investigation. The company says it will share the findings of the investigation publicly.
The UK’s Channel 4 aired clips earlier this week of an undercover investigation that it conducted. In its report, company representatives, including Nix, were shown discussing how Cambridge Analytica’s work has been used in more than 200 elections worldwide and how sex workers can be used to entrap political opponents. After the report aired, Nix said in a statement, "In playing along with this line of conversation, and partly to spare our ‘client’ from embarrassment, we entertained a series of ludicrous hypothetical scenarios. I am aware how this looks, but it is simply not the case. I must emphatically state that Cambridge Analytica does not condone or engage in entrapment, bribes or so-called ‘honeytraps’, and nor does it use untrue material for any purpose."
Cambridge Analytica said today, "The Board will be monitoring the situation closely, working closely with Dr. Tayler, to ensure that Cambridge Analytica, in all of its operations, represents the firm’s values and delivers the highest-quality service to its clients."
Source: Cambridge Analytica
via Engadget http://www.engadget.com
March 20, 2018 at 02:36PM