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Covid 19

Facebook said It would ban holocaust deniers. Instead, its algorithm provided a network for them

Last month, Facebook announced a crackdown: The platform would no longer permit content that “denies or distorts the Holocaust” as part of its larger policy prohibiting hate speech.

While noting that successful enforcement could take time, Monika Bickert, Facebook’s vice president of content policy, explained the ban in a blog post. “Our decision is supported by the well-documented rise in anti-Semitism globally and the alarming level of ignorance about the Holocaust, especially among young people,” she wrote.

But as of mid-November, The Markup has found, numerous Facebook pages for well-known Holocaust denial groups remain active — and for users who find the pages, Facebook’s algorithms continue to recommend related content, effectively creating a network for pushing anti-Semitic content.

Facebook has long struggled to tamp down on quick-traveling misinformation and shape-shifting conspiracy groups, but many of the discriminatory pages The Markup found either belonged to groups with a long history of prominence within the Holocaust denial movement or directly referenced well-known anti-Semitic or white nationalist memes, making them seem like obvious targets for Facebook’s crackdown.

It’s unclear whether Facebook considers the posts and groups The Markup found unacceptable. The company did not announce how it would define Holocaust denialism, and the company did not respond to multiple requests for comment; all the pages and posts referenced in this article were still active as of Nov. 23 at 5 p.m. ET.

[Read: Why this security engineer loves working in infosec]

None of the organizations tied to the Facebook pages mentioned in this story responded to The Markup’s request for comment.

The Markup relied on the judgments of outside organizations that monitor hate groups to identify Holocaust denial groups. And while some pages were explicit—like the “Holohoax tales”—others were more subtle and shied away from explicitly mentioning the Holocaust.

For example, the Institute for Historical Review (IHR) has a Facebook page with more than 1,300 followers, despite being identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as “a pseudo-academic organization that claims to seek ‘truth and accuracy in history,’ but whose real purpose is to promote Holocaust denial and defend Nazism.”

The group also has a Twitter account, despite that company’s similar ban on Holocaust denial.

Twitter spokesperson Ian Plunkett told The Markup that the account is “not currently in violation of our policies.”

Recent posts on the group’s Facebook page include a link to an episode of the Institute for Historical Review’s podcast attacking the post-WWII Nuremberg trials for being unfair to the German officials who were found guilty of committing war crimes. The host of that podcast, Mark Weber, is described by the SPLC as having “probably done more than any other American to popularize denial of the World War II Holocaust of European Jews.”

Another post links to an article listing Jewish donors who gave the largest amount during the 2020 U.S. election cycle. And another consisted of a link to a Guardian article about how most young people in the U.K. were unaware of many specifics of the Holocaust, adding a string of astonished-face emoji. Comments on the post attacked Jewish people for supposedly trying to assert “victimhood” as a result of the Nazi regime’s genocidal ambitions.

“Holocaust denial, whether on Facebook or elsewhere, is most effective when the deniers mix enough factual material into their arguments to confuse readers (including content moderators) or obfuscate their core beliefs,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). “Others have become adept at communicating with codewords to avoid detection by content moderators. This underscores the importance of high-quality training for both human moderators and detection algorithms.”

In a box on the side of the IHR page, Facebook has suggestions for other “related pages” that users might find interesting. Facebook routinely recommends groups—but in this case, the algorithmically derived suggestions potentially serve as a direct vector for radicalization.

Facebook, for instance, points visitors to IHR’s page to another Facebook group, called CODOH Revisionist Forum, short for Committee for Open Debate on the Holocast. In a 2010 report, the Anti-Defamation League said that group’s mission was “to disseminate Holocaust denial to students on college campuses.”

Visitors to the CODOH page would find a link to a blog entry titled “Holohoax Tales” on the organization’s website. And Facebook users may also encounter additional recommendations for pages to visit on the platform, including Castle Hill Publishers, which the SPLC lists as another active Holocaust denial group and which has deep ties to CODOH. From there, Facebook recommended a fan page for Ernst Zündel, a neo-Nazi who died in 2017 who was notable both for his Holocaust denial and his authorship of a book titled “The Hitler We Loved and Why.” From the Zündel page, Facebook recommended a group named after the white nationalist “white genocide” conspiracy theory, which charges that a shadowy cabal of Jews is actively working to destroy the White race by encouraging race-mixing.

And the chain of recommended pages continues, leading users further and further into a web of discriminatory content. While many of these pages in this algorithmically created network focus on anti-Semitism, some of the recommended pages promote hate against other groups, like African Americans.

Page recommendations on Facebook do vary from user to user, but these related-page recommendations appeared both when The Markup visited them directly while logged into a reporter’s personal account and when the page was captured through a direct, not-logged-in visit by the third-party web archiving tool Archive.Today.

“Unfortunately, Holocaust denial has been a serious problem that ADL has been flagging for Facebook for more than a decade,” Greenblatt said, while also noting that Facebook has removed some anti-Semitic pages after announcing the ban. “The good news is that they are finally taking action, but clearly much more needs to be done to effectively identify and remove this form of blatant antisemitism on their platform.”

Facebook initially resisted banning Holocaust-denying content

In a 2018 interview, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg told Recode that, while he didn’t agree with those saying the Holocaust never happened, he didn’t feel it was his company’s job to remove that content from his platform.

“I find that deeply offensive. But at the end of the day, I don’t believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong,” Zuckerberg said.

Facebook’s stated reason for the policy change stemmed from concerns about how public ignorance about the Holocaust related to the prevalence of anti-Semitism.

“Institutions focused on Holocaust research and remembrance, such as Yad Vashem, have noted that Holocaust education is also a key component in combatting anti-Semitism,” Bickert wrote at the time.

The post also noted that, beginning later this year, Facebook will start directing users to factual information about the Holocaust when they search for terms related to the event or terms associated with Holocaust denial. Those information boxes have yet to appear on any of the Holocaust denial pages The Markup identified in this story.

This article was originally published on The Markup by Aaron Sankin and was republished under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license.

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Covid 19

Spooky space: Blue ring nebula reveals the secrets of binary stars

In 2004, the Galaxy Evolution Explorer, an orbiting space telescope scanning distant groups of galaxies, found a bizarre object. Among other oddities, this body appeared to be blue, despite giving off no visible light. Careful observations showed the presence of a pair of rings within the body, earning it the moniker of the Blue Ring Nebula.

Sixteen years of studying this rare object found it to be a ring of hydrogen gas, surrounding what looks like an ordinary star. However, the properties of this object suggest the star at the center of this object is, itself, the product of the merger of a pair of stars. This discovery of TYC 2597–735-1 could open up a new era of understanding the nature of binary star systems.

“We were in the middle of observing one night, with a new spectrograph that we had recently built, when we received a message from our colleagues about a peculiar object composed of a nebulous gas expanding rapidly away from a central star. How did it form? What are the properties of the central star? We were immediately excited to help solve the mystery!” Guðmundur Stefánsson of Princeton University stated.

[Read: Why this security engineer loves working in infosec]

It takes two to tango

Unlike our own Sun, most stars in the Milky Way are found in binary systems, dancing with another star around their common center of gravity.

“Stellar mergers are a brief but common phase in the evolution of binary star systems. These events have many astrophysical implications; for example, they may lead to the creation of atypical stars… Although a handful of stellar mergers have been observed directly, the central remnants of these events were shrouded by an opaque shell of dust and molecules, making it impossible to observe their final state,” researchers wrote in an article in Nature detailing the study.

In systems where stars are close enough can result in a collision between the stars, merging the bodies together into one massive star.

“Purple haze all in my brain… Lately things, they don’t seem the same
Acting funny, but I don’t know why… ‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky”

 Purple Haze, Jimi Hendrix

Orbital energy once present in the former stars results in the ejection of large quantities of material from the newly-formed body.

“When neutron stars collide, all hell breaks loose. They start producing a tremendous amount of visible light, and also gamma rays, X-rays, radio waves,” describes Frans Pretorius, physics professor at Princeton.

Three eyes are better than two

Image for post
The trio of telescopes responsible for our discoveries concerning the Blue Ring Nebula: (l-r) The Keck Telescope, Galaxy Evolution Explorer, and the Hobby-Eberly Telescope. Image credits: (l-r) Keck Observatory, NASA/GALEX Team, McDonald Observatory.

Astronomers went to work studying the Blue Ring Nebula, using a pair of 10-meter telescopes — the HIRES optical spectrograph at the Keck Telescope in Hawaii, and the near-infrared Habitable-zone Planet Finder attached to the Hobby-Eberly Telescope in Texas.

Analysis revealed TYC 2597–735–1 is the product of a stellar merger that took place thousands of years ago.

The Blue Ring Nebula offers astronomers a unique target to study — a composite star caught still settling down from its birth in a cathartic stellar merger.

Categories
Covid 19

If you want to learn a new tech skill, these training bundles can help. And it’s all under $21

TLDR: These 10 training courses can help give you all the information you need to get started learning a new skill for 2021. 

If you’re looking to get a new business idea off the ground in 2021, we salute you. It may be stressful, but this is actually a great time to be your own boss, grab the reins, and charge forward to make your bold new vision take shape.

That’s if you have the right training and information, of course. No project does well when you aren’t fully informed — so this collection of technical skills training can get you up to speed in all kinds of areas an entrepreneur needs to know.

Plus, with the current Cyber Monday pricing, all this training is now an extra 70 percent off its already discounted price. Just add the promo code CMSAVE70 when you check out — and enjoy your savings.

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Digital marketing is the backbone of any new business — and with this training in using Adobe Creative Cloud’s key creation apps, you’ll be poised to do it all. Across eight courses with more than 500 lessons, you’ll learn how to use image editing powerhouse Photoshop, vector graphics favorite Illustrator, layout king InDesign, and more.

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2. The Salesforce Certification Essentials Bundle

As the industry leader in helping businesses relate to their customers, this Salesforce training could be huge for your startup. This 3-course, 46-hour collection will help you manage the system that manages customer relationships across your entire organization.

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3. The Ultimate 2020 Web Designer and Developer Bundle

This package features six courses with nearly 100 hours of comprehensive training that can get even non-coders up to speed on all the basics of web creation, the foundation you need to get any essential business web presence up and running. This coursework is centered on training in core disciplines and building blocks, like the bedrock essentials HTML and CSS. You’ll also learn about WordPress, Python, Ruby and more.

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Finding the truth inside business data is an art…but it’s also a science. With more than 140 hours of training, this top-to-bottom exploration of data science unlocks how to know what other businesses don’t know. You’ll learn how to gather and sort data, how to analyze it for vital conclusions you need and the tools for creating data visualizations that can get everyone on board with your findings.

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Product managers who know their stuff can keep a company afloat, and this 10-course package explains everything a quality PM needs to know. It’s all here, from how to communicate effectively to interpreting information and statistics to even developing a perfect memory. If you didn’t understand Scrum, PMP, CISSP and Six Sigma before, you will after this training.

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The alpha and omega of data organization has been Microsoft Excel for years. Across these eight courses featuring almost 50 hours of intensive training, novice to experienced Excel users can go deeper on this vital software than ever before, unlocking all the hidden abilities that make Excel the data processing powerhouse that outlasted all competitors. From basic operations to high end formulas and functions, this is the key to using data like a professional.

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AI may seem like it’s out of most businesses’ wheelhouse, but machine learning and thinking computers are impacting every industry these days. With nine courses covering 38 hours of content, even first-time users can get comfortable with using the Python coding language at the heart of most AI projects. These courses also show how this trailblazing new technology is helping to drive the world in exciting new directions.

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10. The Google Analytics Master Class Bundle

Google Analytics don’t just explain how many people visited your site and content. It can even show you why they came…if you know how to understand the data, of course. Over these five courses, everyone from a first-time user to a semi-regular can figure out how Google Analytics works, learning how to use all that information-filled data to make smarter, more profitable business decisions.

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Prices subject to change.

Read next: Spooky space: Blue ring nebula reveals the secrets of binary stars

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Covid 19

Periodic table: Scientists propose new way of ordering the elements

The periodic table of the elements, principally created by the Russian chemist, Dmitry Mendeleev (1834-1907), celebrated its 150th anniversary last year. It would be hard to overstate its importance as an organizing principle in chemistry – all budding chemists become familiar with it from the earliest stages of their education.

Given the table’s importance, one might be forgiven for thinking that the ordering of the elements was no longer subject to debate. However, two scientists in Moscow, Russia, have recently published a proposal for a new order.

Let’s first consider how the periodic table was developed. By the late 18th century, chemists were clear about the difference between an element and a compound: elements were chemically indivisible (examples are hydrogen, oxygen) whereas compounds consisted of two or more elements in combination, having properties quite distinct from their component elements. By the early 19th century, there was good circumstantial evidence for the existence of atoms. And by the 1860s, it was possible to list the known elements in order of their relative atomic mass – for example, hydrogen was 1 and oxygen 16.

Simple lists, of course, are one-dimensional in nature. But chemists were aware that certain elements had rather similar chemical properties: for example lithium, sodium and potassium or chlorine, bromine, and iodine. Something seemed to repeat and by placing chemically similar elements next to each other, a two-dimensional table could be constructed. The periodic table was born.

Importantly, Mendeleev’s periodic table had been derived empirically based on the observed chemical similarities of certain elements. It would not be until the early 20th century after the structure of the atom had been established and following the development of quantum theory, that a theoretical understanding of its structure would emerge.

[Read: Why this security engineer loves working in infosec]

Elements were now ordered by atomic number (the number of positively charged particles called protons in the atomic nucleus), rather than by atomic mass, but still also by chemical similarities. But the latter now followed from the arrangement of electrons repeating in so-called “shells” at regular intervals. By the 1940s, most textbooks featured a periodic table similar to the ones we see today, as shown in the figure below.

Today’s periodic table. Offnfopt/Wikipedia

It would be understandable to think that this would be the end of the matter. Not so, however. A simple search of the internet will reveal all sorts of versions of the periodic table. There are short versions, long versions, circular versions, spiral versions, and even three-dimensional versions. Many of these, to be sure, are simply different ways of conveying the same information but there continue to be disagreements about where some elements should be placed.

The precise placement of certain elements depends on which particular properties we wish to highlight. Thus, a periodic table that gives primacy to the electronic structure of atoms will differ from tables for which the principal criteria are certain chemical or physical properties.

These versions don’t differ by much, but there are certain elements – hydrogen for example – which one might place quite differently according to the particular property one wishes to highlight. Some tables place hydrogen in group 1 whereas in others it sits at the top of group 17; some tables even have it in a group on their own.

Rather more radically, however, we can also consider ordering the elements in a very different way, one which does not involve atomic number or reflect electronic structure – reverting to a one-dimensional list.

New proposal

The latest attempt to order elements in this manner was recently published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry by scientists Zahed Allahyari and Artem Oganov. Their approach, building on the earlier work of others, is to assign to each element what’s called a Mendeleev Number (MN). There are several ways to derive such numbers, but the latest study uses a combination of two fundamental quantities that can be measured directly: an element’s atomic radius and a property called electronegativity which describes how strongly an atom attracts electrons to itself.

If one orders the elements by their MN, nearest neighbors have, unsurprisingly, rather similar MNs. But of more use is to take this one step further and construct a two-dimensional grid based on the MN of the constituent elements in so-called “binary compounds.” These are compounds composed of two elements, such as sodium chloride, NaCl.

What is the benefit of this approach? Importantly, it can help to predict the properties of binary compounds that haven’t been made yet. This is useful in the search for new materials that are likely to be needed for both future and existing technologies. In time, no doubt, this will be extended to compounds with more than two elemental components.

A good example of the importance of the search for new materials can be appreciated by considering the periodic table shown in the figure below. This table illustrates not only the relative abundance of the elements (the larger the box for each element, the more of it there is) but also highlights potential supply issues relevant to technologies that have become ubiquitous and essential in our daily lives.

Image of the periodic table showing element abundance.
Period table showing the relative abundance of elements. European Chemical Society/wikipedia, CC BY-SA

Take mobile phones, for instance. All of the elements used in their manufacture are identified with the phone icon and you can see that several required elements are becoming scarce – their future supply is uncertain. If we are to develop replacement materials that avoid the use of certain elements, the insights gained from ordering elements by their MN may prove valuable in that search.

After 150 years, we can see that periodic tables are not just a vital educational tool, they remain useful for researchers in their quest for essential new materials. But we should not think of new versions as replacements for earlier depictions. Having many tables and lists only serves to deepen our understanding of how elements behave.The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation by Nick Norman, Professor of Chemistry, University of Bristol under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Read next: These extended Black Friday deals of work from home essentials can get 2021 off on the right foot

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Covid 19

The universe is getting hotter as it gets older — here’s why

The cosmic web — ribbons of gas and dust tying galaxies together — are the largest structures in the Universe, and a new study shows they are growing hotter over time.

Utilizing a phenomenon known as the Sunyaev-Zeldovich effect, astronomers find these ribbons are three times hotter than they were eight billion years ago.

“Combining the latest data with a state-of-the-art theoretical model, we were able to reveal how the temperature of the Universe evolved, and how it was linked to the formation of the large-scale structure of the Universe,” Ryu Makiya, a research fellow at the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (Kavli IPMU), explains.

[Read: Why this security engineer loves working in infosec]

Image for post
Ribbons of the cosmic web connect galaxies throughout the Cosmos. Image credit: IMPU

The cosmic web (sometimes called the cosmic net) began as material connected to the first galaxies in the known Universe. As clumping began, their gravitational influence became more pronounced, bringing in still more gas.

“As the Universe evolves, gravity pulls dark matter and gas in space together into galaxies and clusters of galaxies. The drag is violent — so violent that more and more gas is shocked and heated up,” said Yi-Kuan Chiang, research fellow at the Ohio State University Center for Cosmology and AstroParticle Physics.

Image for post
The cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation, as seen by the Planck observatory. Image credit: ESA/Planck Collaboration

By measuring the temperatures of these intergalactic ribbons, it is possible to determine the temperature of the Universe during different eras. This is accomplished through a process known as the Sunyaev-Zeldovich effect.

The “echo” of the Big Bang can be seen today as the cosmic microwave background radiation. Billions of years ago, as this electromagnetic radiation encountered hot electrons in the ribbons it gathered energy, and the gas became visible. The degree to which this effect occurs is dependent on the thermal pressure, which in turn is determined by the temperature of the electrons.

By determining the degree of the Sunyaev-Zeldovich effect, it is possible to determine the thermal pressure within the gas, from which astrophysicists determine the temperature of the electrons.

Details of the cosmic microwave background were provided by the ESA’s Planck satellite. Observations of galaxies came from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). By combining data from both sky surveys, astronomers were able to piece together details of this intergalactic heating.

Image for post
A look at how temperatures changed (top) as the cosmic web collapsed to its current form (bottom). Image credit: D. Nelson / Illustris Collaboration

“To do so, we cross-correlate eight sky intensity maps in the Planck and Infrared Astronomical Satellite missions with two million spectroscopic redshift references in the Sloan Digital Sky Surveys,” researchers detail in The Astrophysical Journal.

The team found the mean electron temperature within these ribbons rose from 700,000 Kelvin eight billion years ago to roughly two million Kelvin today.

This heating was also found to be the result of gas flowing into the ribbons, as it is shock heated in the collapsing structures.

“For 20 years, we have been studying how to measure this using the Sunyaev-Zeldovich effect. We now have finally measured the temperature of the Universe, not only thanks to the remarkable progress in observational data, but also due to the dedicated efforts of brilliant young scientists such as Yi-Kuan Chiang and Ryu Makiya. This is very satisfying,” Eiichiro Komatsu, director at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics, stated.

As time goes on, the ribbons of the cosmic web are starting to be the hot place to hang out!

This article was originally published on The Cosmic Companion by James Maynard, founder and publisher of The Cosmic Companion. He is a New England native turned desert rat in Tucson, where he lives with his lovely wife, Nicole, and Max the Cat. You can read this original piece here.

Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion is also available as a weekly podcast, carried on all major podcast providers. Tune in every Tuesday for updates on the latest astronomy news, and interviews with astronomers and other researchers working to uncover the nature of the Universe.

Categories
Covid 19

These extended Black Friday deals of work from home essentials can get 2021 off on the right foot

TLDR: Working from home is the new normal — and these 10 items at extended Black Friday prices can have you ready to take on 2021 and beyond right from the home office.

Remember back in March when you packed up stuff from your office and thought you’d be back in a few weeks? Many of us still haven’t seen the office since. And the reality is that for many, it could still be a while before the days of bustling, communal office space happens again. And in some cases, those days may be gone forever.

For many, home is your office now and for the foreseeable future. As you head into 2021, make the most of it with a few of these items available now at some extended Black Friday prices. In fact, you can even take an extra 20 percent off each of these items when you enter the promo code BFSAVE20 as you make your purchase.

EC1 Electric Height Adjustable Standing Desk

This 38×40-inch desktop has more than enough room to handle everything you need at arm’s reach. But with its electric single motor mechanism and programmable presets to lock in your favorite height levels, this premium height-adjustable desk has health benefits too, including enhanced focus and increased calorie burning. And with its control panel, you can cycle through all your height options in less than 10 seconds.

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CASA Hub O7 USB-C Multi-Function Hub with Wireless Charger

Here are a whole lot of connectivity options, all in one powerfully small, yet space-efficient hub. Featuring 4 USB ports, you can plug in almost anything, including 4K HDMI and VGA outlets that can each output video simultaneously. The USB-C ports support fast charging for your laptop while the USB-A ports enable 5Gbps high-speed data transfer. And as a capper, this hub has an integrated wireless charging pad, which is also detachable.

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Mount-It! Height Adjustable Sit-Stand Desk Converter

Here’s one of the more spacious desk converters you’ll even find, including a 35-inch-wide tabletop area large enough to accommodate dual monitors, your laptop, tablets and more. It’s hefty enough to hold up to 33 lbs., rises up over 2.5 feet, and it works with most desks in any office or cube.

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5-in-1 Air Purifier with HEPA Filter and Negative Ion Generator

With five independent air purifying technologies all working together, this purifier and ion generator ensures cleaner air 24 hours a day. From the pre-filter, to the HEPA filter, to the cold catalyst to the activated carbon filter, dust and allergens are removed with 99.97 percent efficiency. Meanwhile, the built-in Negative Ion Generator binds to and neutralizes airborne pollutants such as dust, pollen, viruses, and smoke for cleaner air.

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Selfie Station Phone Mount and Ring Light Kit

For live stream, vlogging or video conferencing, lighting is incredibly key. This Selfie Station solves the problem with a powerful LED right light that sits right on your phone mount so you look like you’re being professionally lit effortlessly. It’s all adjustable and it’s even made of highly-resistant carbon steel for durability.

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Mobile Pixels TRIO: Portable Dual Screen Laptop Monitor

You can turn your laptop into a true multimedia super hub with this complete portable screen array. You can plug in one or even two of these compact Trio Max screens to your laptop, slide them out and you’ve got a double or triple screen video workspace spread across multiple screens. If you want to boost your productivity, here’s your method.

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SOLUS⁺ Smart Infrared Heater

It might look like a flat screen TV, but the Solus is actually the sexiest radiator you’ve ever seen. The sleek, streamlined heating solution uses infrared heating and graphene-based heating technology to heat a room directly, making it 30 percent more cost effective than traditional heaters. Unlike central heating that wastes energy, this unit keeps efficiency and your costs squarely in mind.

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Google WiFi Router for Whole Home Coverage

There’s nothing worse than WiFi dead zones in your house — and this router from Google is a new type of connected system that replaces your normal router for seamless coverage throughout your home. Covering 1,500sq.ft, it’s a whole-home mesh system compatible with virtually all Wi-Fi-enabled devices. And TechRadar, CNET and The Verge all agree that it’s the simplest, most value-packed mesh system yet for blanketing your home in WiFi goodness.

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One Power Multi-Outlet/USB Surge Protector

With all those devices and all that power zipping around, this Wall Tap Surge Protector can make sure none of your valuable devices suffer a power surge. Equipped with 900-Joule protection and a clean power filter, it can absorb excess energy and remove harmful waves from electrical currents.  With 6 outlets and 2 USB ports, you can plug in almost everything and know it’s all going to be safe.

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Marshall Stanmore II Wireless Smart Speaker

It looks like an old school Marshall amp…because it practically is an old school Marshall amp — with a few important additions, of course. Emblazoned with the legendary Marshall name, this Bluetooth compatible speaker lives up to the lineage, with advanced components that produce clean and precise audio.  This speaker also works seamlessly with Amazon Alexa, so you can use it to play music, listen to a podcast, or even identify lyrics when you ask.

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Prices subject to change.

Categories
Covid 19

4 ways to respond to vaccine skeptics on social media

For most of the 20th century, more than 60,000 people died in the US from polio, diphtheria, and small pox each year. In 2016, the American death toll from these diseases was zero. Around the globe, two to three million deaths from these diseases and others, including measles, rubella, and tetanus, are prevented each year.

These remarkable statistics are a triumph of medicine and the single most effective public health measure in history: global vaccination programs.

COVID-19, after the most rapid and sustained vaccine development program in history, now looks set to be joining this list of fatal diseases that can be easily prevented with a jab or two. The disease that has killed an estimated 1.3 million people (and rising), may have had its day. Sadly, there’s a lot of misinformation surrounding vaccinations, threatening the success of inoculation programmes.

So what can you do to protect yourself against misinformation and challenge it in conversation with others?

1. Understand who you are talking to

Let’s not forget that the majority of people are happy to receive a COVID-19 vaccine (64%, according to a recent study). Only a small minority (9%) have no intention of getting vaccinated. If you enter into a debate about vaccination it may well be with someone who falls into this latter group. You are very unlikely to change the minds of these vaccine refusers, so the main audience for your arguments is actually the rest of any onlooking group – and particularly the 27% who are hesitant about vaccination.

[Read: Why this security engineer loves working in infosec]

The point of your discussion is to empower the members of the audience with knowledge and arguments. To do so, it’s important to find common ground and “bond” with whoever you are talking to, rather than just lecturing them.

2. Inoculate against misinformation

There are numerous examples of misinformation “sticking” in our individual and social memories, despite repeated attempts to dislodge it – such as the false “fact” that humans have just five senses. Rather than fighting false facts, the better option is to enable people to spot misinformation before it percolates through society and becomes “endemic” as accepted truth.

The Debunking Handbook 2020 advocates triggering a mental “immune response” to fake news. To do so we need pre-emptive exposure to weakened versions of the manipulative strategies used by peddlers of false facts. In so doing we can inoculate against, or “prebunk,” the misinformation.

For example, once you realize that some social media users, publications and other bodies can have hidden agendas and may therefore misrepresent studies and cherry-pick information, you are better placed to assess the facts for yourself. Indeed, the tobacco and oil industries rolled out “fake experts” to create doubt that smoking causes cancers and CO₂ emissions affect our climate, respectively.

In my opinion, the excellent BBC Radio 4 program “More or Less” is a particularly good mental vaccine against misinformation.

3. Debunk efficiently

In the midst of a debate it is probably too late to deploy any prebunking tactics. But be careful about launching into a myth-busting monologue. Simply repeating untruths risks making them stick in our memories, so instead focus your talking points on the positive outcomes of vaccinations (like the facts at the top of this article). Don’t be the first person to mention the myth.

Imagine of an international certificate of vaccination.
Measles is on the rise due to vaccine misinformation. Zerbor/Shutterstock

But if in the course of the conversation some misinformation does get a mention you will need to call it out. Let’s imagine you are in the midst of a debate about COVID-19 and someone makes the claim that the 5G network is the real cause of the disease. The key to getting this debunking right is limiting how often the lie gets a mention and making the truth more sticky than the myth. Here’s how to go about it.

a) Start by stating the truth in a clear, concise way. Don’t launch into a long explanation, instead imagine you are writing a headline.

COVID-19 is spread in droplets generated when people exhale, particularly when they cough, sneeze, or shout.

b) Point out the misinformation, and be clear that it is a myth.

The mobile network is basically a series of radio transmitters, and viruses can’t travel by radio waves.

c) Explain why the myth is wrong. You might point out some science that refutes the myth, and call out the flaws in the argument.

Besides, the COVID-19 virus has spread throughout countries, like Iran for example, that have no 5G network.

d) Restate the facts.

4. Think beyond facts

That said, facts alone will only go so far. The words we use are also important, they conjure up imagery that affect our response to the information we are being presented with. Consider “herds” and “communities”. Which of these would you like to be part of? Most people would say “communities.” So if you’re encouraging someone to get vaccinated, you may want to talk about their contribution to community immunity, rather than herd immunity.

Another important technique is storytelling, which can be much more effective than facts. Stories link cause and effect, making the conclusions that you want to present seem almost inevitable. For example, you may want to tell anti-vaxxers about a relative whose life was saved by a vaccine at a time when it wasn’t available to everyone.

Or you may, like the UK’s deputy chief medical officer, Jonathan Van Tam, want to stress that you have encouraged your own mother to take the vaccine, rather than just saying the elderly should take it.The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation by Mark Lorch, Professor of Science Communication and Chemistry, University of Hull under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Categories
Covid 19

The EU’s fastest growing EV market is — surprise! — Latvia!

According to Latvian national news agency, LETA, the Baltic nation has logged the fastest growing rise in electric car sales among EU member states.

Across the first three quarters of this year, Latvians have bought and registered 328% more electric vehicles than they did across the same period in 2019.

LETA reports that this is the fastest growth in EV sales in the EU.

[Read: Why this security engineer loves working in infosec]

Over the first three quarters, 287 electric vehicles were registered in the country. 229 of these were battery electric vehicles and 58 were plug-in hybrids.

While the overall volumes might not compare to bigger car buying nations like the UK or Germany, the growth in EV uptake should still be considered as a positive.

Last year, across the first nine months of the year, there were just 67 EVs registered.

Latvia isn’t alone in experiencing heady growth in EV sales. Slovakia, Czech Republic, and Estonia all saw three-figure growth in EV registrations, posting growth of 316.5%, 245.5%, and 208.5% respectively.

It seems that Baltic nations are quite receptive of new low-emission transport tech.

Earlier this year, Lithuania began paying citizens to trade in their old cars and exchange them for subsidy checks that can be used for public transport tickets, escooters, or ebikes.


SHIFT is brought to you by Polestar. It’s time to accelerate the shift to sustainable mobility. That is why Polestar combines electric driving with cutting-edge design and thrilling performance. Find out how.

Published November 27, 2020 — 09:23 UTC

Categories
Covid 19

Five VPN solutions you can score during this Black Friday sale

Scratch the surface on all of these Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals and what you’ll find underneath is…even more deals. For every discounted TV and cardigan and robot vacuum, there are a dozen discounts this week on items you wouldn’t naturally think of as holiday stocking stuffers.

Case in point — VPN protection. While this might not be the normal time you consider your internet security for the coming year, some of the current discounts prove it wouldn’t be a bad time either. Take a look at five of the current best deals happening on VPN services — and you can knock an extra 40 percent off these prices by entering the promo code BFSAVE40 (some exclusions apply) during checkout.

1. NordVPN: 2-Yr Subscription

They’ve been one of the elite VPN services for years and they’re holders of an extremely rare “outstanding” rating from PCMag. That’s because this bulletproof security solution features some of the staunchest security around with double data SSL-based 2048-bit encryption. With over 3,500 worldwide server locations in 61 countries, you’ll always find fast, reliable access points and, with zero logs recorded, you can surf safely knowing your information will never fall into the wrong hands.

Get the NordVPN: 2-Yr Subscription for $83.40 (Reg. $286) with promo code BFSAVE40.

2. Disconnect VPN Premium: Lifetime Subscription

Disconnect is a provider with a deep sense of conviction that privacy is a fundamental human right. That’s why Disconnect is chock full of features to assure their customers enjoy an unprecedented amount of privacy and control over device-wide tracking and encryption. In fact, by blocking all the trackers and malware that can slow down your devices, Disconnect users browse 44 percent faster, use 39 percent less bandwidth, and get better battery life than regular web users.

Get the Disconnect VPN Premium: Lifetime Subscription for $12 (Reg. $300) with promo code BFSAVE40.

3. KeepSolid VPN Unlimited: Lifetime Subscription

A PCMag Top VPN selection, an Editor’s Pick Award from Software Informer, and Laptop Review Pro’s Best VPN for Laptop distinction speak for themselves — KeepSolid is for real. With no speed or bandwidth limits, you’ll enjoy full browsing speeds, without the dangers of leaving your data exposed, as well as handy features like trusted networks, ping tests and favorite server settings.

Get the KeepSolid VPN Unlimited: Lifetime Subscription already price dropped to $19.97 (Reg. $199).

4. FastestVPN: Lifetime Subscription

There isn’t much point to a VPN network that’s down all the time, which is why FastestVPN’s standout reputation and 99.9 percent uptime rate should earn it some attention. Plus, it’s a company with fast in its name, ensuring that speed always remains a priority across their global web of more than 200 high-speed servers worldwide.

Get the FastestVPN: Lifetime Subscription already price dropped to $19.99 (Reg. $600).

5. VPNSecure: Lifetime Subscription

When assessing a VPN provider, job no. 1 should always be the same — protecting a user’s anonymity and privacy online. VPNSecure walks the walk as one of the handful of providers who keep no user logs so none of their users’ actions can ever be tracked. And, with the Smart DNS component, you can also bypass all those annoying geographical restrictions that block Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming services in different locations around the world.

Get the VPNSecure: Lifetime Subscription already price dropped to $19.99 (Reg. $450).

Prices subject to change.

Read next: Understand adversarial attacks by doing one yourself with this tool

Categories
Covid 19

Volvo thinks gaming tech can help make self-driving cars safer

Building self-driving cars is no easy matter. Underneath, self-driving cars are dedicated and specialist artificial intelligence systems, which need to be taught how to drive.

They can be taught in the real world, or in the virtual world using simulations. Companies like Tesla, Waymo, and Nuro use real-world testing to expose their AI systems to more driving scenarios.

The theory goes that the more scenarios an AI experiences, the better it will be at predicting the erratic nature of our roads and highways.

Testing in the real-world comes with a host of safety concerns about what happens if a self-driving car gets it wrong, the virtual though doesn’t come with the same concerns. While it might not be as accurate a representation of the real world, it’s undoubtedly safer.

Engineers at Volvo are taking this to heed and have developed a driving simulator designed to improve autonomous vehicle technologies.

[Read: Why this security engineer loves working in infosec]

Perhaps the most interesting part, is that Volvo is using the latest gaming tech to bring its simulator to life.

The simulator has a moving driving seat, steering wheel with haptic feedback, and a VR headset. Apparently, it’s hard to tell it apart from reality. It also uses an engine from Unity that’s usually used to design video games.

The software lets Volvo engineers simulate traffic scenarios using a real car on a real test track without putting anyone in undue danger.

Check out the video below to see engineers talk about how it all works.

It’s kind of neat though, that gaming and vehicle design have met at some kind of intersection. Many driving games have aimed to be as realistic as possible, and it seems the technology is now paying back the vehicles it emulates and could make them safer.

HT – Slashgear


SHIFT is brought to you by Polestar. It’s time to accelerate the shift to sustainable mobility. That is why Polestar combines electric driving with cutting-edge design and thrilling performance. Find out how.

Published November 27, 2020 — 15:17 UTC