It’s been a very busy week, and I imagine everyone has been reading a lot about Charleston, SCOTUS, the ISIS attacks, and Greece. This web roundup isn’t going to be about any of those things, per se, instead it’s an attempt to fill you in on this month’s interesting stories that you might have missed.
In one quick follow-up to the latest SCOTUS decision, I will start off with a neat piece The Atlantic did about how/whether Facebook will use the data on its users generated by the rainbow profile pictures. The Washington Post, too, has an article on the rainbow profile pictures, and whether they influence social change. Elsewhere in the land of data, Congressional reports have revealed that the US Office of Personnel Management (which suffered a massive data breach earlier this month), “failed utterly and totally” to follow even basic cybersecurity guidelines.
In honor of the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s general theory of relativity, read this abridged version of a talk by David Tong (theoretical physicist at the University of Cambridge).
The New York Times has an article on new tech startups companies that are moving away from the “Uber-model” of contracting and towards actually employing people, while The Atlantic did a very long piece on the future of work/no-work, mostly in America. It’s a fairly gloomy portrait of the possibilities, personal and cultural, if technology replaces a significant number of workers with mechanized processes.
The Pacific Standard has an interesting take on Google’s foray into urban planning, with the launch of their new company Sidewalk Labs. The author concludes, “With crumbling infrastructure and growing populations, cities do need innovation. But that doesn’t necessarily mean technology. The first point of disruption should probably be in the local tax code, to require companies like Google to pay more equitably into local coffers. Once they’ve invested, perhaps then they can begin to innovate.”
There’s a longish article in the New York Times Magazine about the increasingly promising but still uncertain science of the relationship between your microbiota and your mental state. Read an excerpt of a conversation between a human and a computer in which the computer becomes exasperated and sarcastic, part of the growing field of cognitive computing. The Guardian tested a new device by a company called Thync, which makes “mood-altering wearables.”
Apple finally remedied the fact that its HealthKit (which came out last spring, and provided personal tracking for all kinds of health data—exercise, body temperature, etc.) failed to include a way for women to track their menstrual cycles.
And, just today, the WHO announced that Cuba has become the first country to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis.
In water-related news, a team of scientists is set to release a group of floating robots that can dive to 2000 meters to collect data in the Indian Ocean next week and The Guardian has a roundup of seven water crises from around the world. At this year’s Aspen Ideas Festival, one of the ideas being floated (get it?) is that of turning the oceans, or parts of them, into national parks. “‘Fourteen percent of land—all around the world, all countries—is set aside in some kind of protected status,’ Lubchenco [one of the panelists] said. The equivalent for oceans? 3.4 percent, according to the World Database on Protected Areas. And of that, Lubchenco pointed out, only one percent is fully closed off from extractive activities such as fishing.”
14 brands of bottled water were recalled a couple of weeks ago due to possible contamination by e. coli. Further proof that, if you live in a country that regulates its household water supply, you probably shouldn’t buy bottled water.