Can Science Beat Jet Lag? Airlines Seek Help for 19-Hour Flights

A wave of ultra-long flights that will get you halfway around the world in one hop is pushing airlines to deal with the one extra you can’t escape: Relentless insomnia, debilitating fatigue and tormented bowels, better known as jet lag.

Qantas Airways Ltd., which will start the first non-stop service between Australia and Europe in March, is working with scientists in Sydney to discover ways to limit body-clock breakdown on the 17-hour flight. They’ve tried to make the color and intensity of the jet’s interior lights mimic dawn and dusk. Cabin temperatures and specially made meals will aim to put passengers to sleep or keep them awake—depending on the time at the destination.

Key to the problem is circadian disruption—messing with the internal body clock that regulates everything from brainwave activity to hormone production and cell regeneration.

The main cue for resetting that clock is light, said Steve Simpson, academic director of the Charles Perkins Centre, which is carrying out the research with Sydney-based Qantas. But there’s a baked-in biological catch: the clock can only reset by about 90 minutes a day, even in the right conditions. An ill-timed dose of sunshine or a badly chosen snack at the wrong hour can mean days of suffering, he said.

Angus Whitley, Bloomberg, February 5, 2018

This simple solution to smartphone addiction is now used in over 600 U.S. schools

He founded a company, Yondr, whose small, gray pouches swallow phones and lock them away from the fingers and eyes of their addicted owners. Since it started in 2014, hundreds of thousands of the neoprene pouches have been used across North America, Europe and Australia

People entering a school, courtroom, concert, medical facility, wedding or other event are asked to slip their phones into the pouches when they enter. Once locked, the phones stay with their owners until they are ready to leave the premises, and then the devices are released from their tiny prisons at an “unlocking base.” The pouches can be rented for a single event or on extended leases. They are now used in more than 600 U.S. schools.

At San Lorenzo High School in California, which this school year began requiring students to Yondr (yes, it’s a verb) their phones from the beginning of first period until the end of the last, the difference has been stark. Grades have gone up, and discipline problems have plummeted, said principal Allison Silvestri. Referrals for defiance and disrespect are down 82 percent, she said, adding that before Yondr, most of them stemmed from arguments between students and teachers over phone use in class.

Tara Bahrampour, Washington Post, February 5, 2018

Robots could replace nearly a third of the U.S. workforce by 2030

Over the next 13 years, the rising tide of automation will force as many as 70 million workers in the United States to find another way to make money, a new study from the global consultancy McKinsey predicts.

That means nearly a third of the American workforce could face the need to pick up new skills or enter different fields in the near future, said the report’s co-author, Michael Chui, a partner at the McKinsey Global Institute who studies business and economics.

“We believe that everyone will need to do retraining over time,” he said.

Danielle Paquette, Washington Post, November 30, 2017

How Fake News Goes Viral—Here’s the Math

NASA runs a child-slave colony on Mars!

Photos taken by a Chinese orbiter reveal an alien settlement on the moon!

Shape-shifting reptilian extraterrestrials that can control human minds are running the U.S. government!

What drives the astonishing popularity of such stories? Are we a particularly gullible species? Perhaps not—maybe we’re just overwhelmed. A bare-bones model of how news spreads on social media, published in June in Nature Human Behavior, indicates that just about anything can go viral. Even in a perfect world, where everyone wants to share real news and is capable of evaluating the veracity of every claim, some fake news would still reach thousands (or even millions) of people, simply because of information overload.

Madhusree Mukerjee, Scientific American, July 14, 2017

Damaging Your Phone, Accidentally on Purpose

Every so often, Apple comes out with an updated iPhone. It typically has new features and attracts a lot of buzz, which causes many consumers to lust for an upgrade. As it turns out, all that buzz can also lead to an increase in iPhone accidents.

When a new model is available, according to recent research, people who have iPhones tend to become more careless with the phones they already own.

Phyllis Korkki, New York Times, April 7, 2017

Police are using software to predict crime. Is it a ‘holy grail’ or biased against minorities?

https://img.washingtonpost.com/rf/image_1484w/2010-2019/WashingtonPost/2016/10/30/Others/Images/2016-10-29/20161024_LAPD-Data-Predictive-Policing_01911477790585.jpg?uuid=afjKlJ4_Eea1UrH4XkhAhg

“Predictive policing” represents a paradigm shift that is sweeping police departments across the country. Law enforcement agencies are increasingly trying to forecast where and when crime will occur, or who might be a perpetrator or a victim, using software that relies on algorithms, the same math Amazon uses to recommend books.

“The hope is the holy grail of law enforcement — preventing crime before it happens,” said Andrew G. Ferguson, a University of District of Columbia law professor preparing a book on big data and policing.

Now used by 20 of the nation’s 50 largest police forces by one count, the technologies are at the center of an increasingly heated debate about their effectiveness, potential impact on poor and minority communities, and implications for civil liberties.

Justin Jouvenal, Washington Post, November 17, 2016

Real Parents, Real Talk About Kids And Screens

NPR Ed convened a group of parents to talk about how they're coping with the information age.

Just today, for example, there’s a new study out that looks at nearly 2,000 parents — who have kids ages 8 to 18. Among the most surprising findings: People with children spend, on average, 9 hours and 22 minutes per day in front of a screen: texting, tweeting, Googling, checking the weather.

And despite spending a big chunk of their day with a device, most parents — 78 percent — told the researchers that they are modeling good media habits for their kids.

The report’s biggest takeaway? Screen time isn’t going anywhere. So let’s talk about it.

Elissa Nadworny, Anya Kamenetz, NPR, December 6, 2016

One swab from the surface of your smartphone can tell scientists all about your lifestyle

Just how dirty is the typical smartphone? Dirty enough that a sample swab from the surface of a phone can accurately predict a person’s lifestyle choices, all the way down to how much beer they drink, a new study suggests.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of California at San Diego School of Medicine and the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, uses chemical analysis from molecules lingering on phones to determine basic lifestyle choices of the owner. Personal routine clues such as diet, cosmetic or makeup use, clothing, and medication could be gleaned from the wide-reaching analysis, as well as environmental clues such as ocean and sunscreen molecules that could point toward locations where the owner recently visited.

The method draws on an understanding that the outermost layer of human skin carries chemical components drastically affected by the body’s inner chemistry and external, environmental factors. Researchers were able to capture the skin molecules present on these personal items and match them to a vast array of environmental and biological factors, quickly processing and crosschecking databases using a supercomputer.

Karen Turner, Washington Post, November 18, 2016

One swab from the surface of your smartphone can tell scientists all about your lifestyle

Just how dirty is the typical smartphone? Dirty enough that a sample swab from the surface of a phone can accurately predict a person’s lifestyle choices, all the way down to how much beer they drink, a new study suggests.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of California at San Diego School of Medicine and the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, uses chemical analysis from molecules lingering on phones to determine basic lifestyle choices of the owner. Personal routine clues such as diet, cosmetic or makeup use, clothing, and medication could be gleaned from the wide-reaching analysis, as well as environmental clues such as ocean and sunscreen molecules that could point toward locations where the owner recently visited.

The method draws on an understanding that the outermost layer of human skin carries chemical components drastically affected by the body’s inner chemistry and external, environmental factors. Researchers were able to capture the skin molecules present on these personal items and match them to a vast array of environmental and biological factors, quickly processing and crosschecking databases using a supercomputer.

Karen Turner, Washington Post, November 18, 2016

We really need to figure out how to stop a killer asteroid, scientists say

Imagine if scientists found out that a massive asteroid was on a collision course with Earth and would strike somewhere near Los Angeles by September 2020. What could humanity do?

Not much. At least, that was the result of a day-long tabletop exercise coordinated by NASA and FEMA late last month. In their hypothetical scenario, the space agency concluded that the 330-foot space rock was approaching too quickly to mount a deflection mission. The team from FEMA was left to figure out how to evacuate millions of people from Southern California.

Still, plenty of researchers don’t want to simply wait around and see what happens. This week, more than 100 planetary scientists, physicists and engineers published an open letter in support of a joint European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA mission to survey a near-Earth asteroid and attempt to deflect it.

Sarah Kaplan, Washington Post, November 18, 2016