New Study Shows Americans Are Using Their Mobile Internet More

Everything is changing, from the device in your pocket to your way we communicate with the whole world, we see something new come out every week. With Samsung hosting meetings for 5G connections, it’s only a matter of time before your phone is as good as any home line when it comes to the internet speed you get. A recent study shows that this may already be the case in America where the use of mobile internet may be replacing home lines.

The recent study by the US Census Bureau revealed that there are now a number of American households which have ditched the internet coming in on the home line in favour for the internet their mobile phones give them. The exact numbers show that the 82 percent of households used DSL, cable or fiber connections back in 2013, a number which now sits at just 75% while mobile internet usage has doubled from 10% to 20% in the same period.

What doe that mean? According to these figures, it means that one in five houses now relies on mobile internet. These figures may change how companies look at new projects and programs with the like of Facebook pushing for faster wireless internet speeds.

Resilience Project Reveals Genetic Superheroes

When people study and wonder about their genetics, they often think about their history. So what happens when science tells us about the history that could have become true? This is what’s happened with the resilience project revealing not just one but thirteen genetic superheroes.

The resilience project was designed as a way of studying over half a million genomes, identifying any genetic resistance that the applicants may have had. As it turns out the 13 genetic superheroes had childhood diseases that would have resulted in their untimely death, the only twist in this story was that they didn’t pass away, instead growing into strong adults.

So what about contacting people with these superhero genes? Imagine being able to take further samples and track down more about their genetic sequences and the resilience that has saved their lives. Sadly the forms involved with signing up didn’t pass on details such as names or contact information, meaning that while we know they exist, we don’t know who the superheroes are, and even they don’t know who is a genetic superhero.

With the ability to expand on the project, the resilience project is looking to recruit over a million additional people for the study, hopefully, this time with contact information so that results like this raise more than hope and curiosity.

How Many Idiots Will Plug Random USB Drives into Their Computer?

You’d have to be stupid to pick up a random USB drive off the ground and connect it into your PC, right? If the answer is yes (which it is), then there’s a whole lot of dunces out there wilfully putting their computer security at risk. A new study by researchers from the University of Illinois, the University of Michigan, and Google has revealed that at least half of people will pick up a foreign USD drive they find and use it.

As told in a paper titled “Users Really Do Plug in USB Drives They Find” [PDF], the researchers investigated “the anecdotal belief that end users will pick up and plug in USB flash drives they find by completing a controlled experiment in which we drop 297 flash drives on a large university campus.” The results found “that the attack is effective with an estimated success rate of 45–98% and expeditious with the first drive connected in less than six minutes.”

297 test USB drives were dropped at random locations around the University of Illinois’ Urbana Champaign campus. 98% of these drives were moved from their drop location, with 48% plugging them into their computers and opening the files stored on it.

“It’s easy to laugh at these attacks, but the scary thing is that they work—and that’s something that needs to be addressed,” lead researcher Matt Tischer told Vice Motherboard.

68% of those who used the USB drives admitted that they took no precautions when using the USB device when questioned afterwards.

“I trust my macbook to be a good defense against viruses,” said one of the USB users, while another confessed, “I sacrificed a university computer.”

Viruses should be the least people’s worries: last year, we reported on the Killer USBs, versions 1.0 and 2.0, a pair of flash drives designed to fry any computer into which it is plugged.

“There are no easy solutions to these problems, but they will certainly extend beyond simply the technical to include a deeper understanding of the social, behavioral, and economic factors that affect human behavior,” Tischer added. “There is a difference between warning users that a particular action is dangerous and convincing them to actually avoid it. We need to close that gap.”

SSD Reliability Study Shows SLC No Better than MLC

The first SSDs we had all used SLC or single level cell, holding 1 bit per cell. As SSDs grew more and more common and advanced,  different tech like MLC (multi-level cell) and TLC (triple-level cell) grew more common, with 2 and 3 bits per cell respectively. While consumers have mostly used MLC and TLC due to cost reasons, some, especially in the enterprise have stuck with SLC due to performance or reliability concerns. From a recent study though, it looks like the second factor really isn’t all that different between SLC and MLC.

According to the researchers from the University of Toronto and Google, over a 6 year period, SLC and MLC drives failed at about the same rate. This meant that despite a significantly lower durability to writes for MLC, it was still able to keep up with SLC. The biggest reason for failures was due to the age of the SSD and not the number of writes. This is somewhat expected as many SSD durability experiments have shown, that controller, firmware, NAND defect or other failures are more likely to take place before the NAND actually dies from too many writes.

The study also found that Uncorrectable Bit Error Rate specifications weren’t useful at all while Raw Bit Error Rate was, though the manufacturers were too conservative with their estimates. The biggest concern is that 30-80 percent of SSDs develop at least one bad block and 2-7 percent develop at least one bad chip in the first four years of deployment. This means while SSDs are unlikely to lose all their data at once like HDD failure does, they do tend to lose snippets of data here and there.

All this being said and done, most SSDs should be able to recover data from bad blocks and have enough spare that it doesn’t matter too much. The study was also done with enterprise drives which are used more often and hit harder. One big takeaway is that unless you want speed MLC is the way to go. The biggest takeaway is that instead of worrying about writes to your SSD, worry more about its age and keep a good backup plan going.

New Study Reveals Facebook Friends Are Unreliable

The advent of social media platforms like Facebook has made human beings adopt a more cavalier attitude towards friendships. When communicating online, people tend to see their friends list as an indication of their popularity and success among other individuals. As a result, it’s quite common for social media users to add old school friends, random people they encountered online and anyone else to increase the number of friends seen on a public profile. Don’t get me wrong, social media platforms are fantastic for keeping in contact with people across large distances, and some of my closest friends live in another country. However, there does seem to be this need to have thousands of online friends and show off. In extreme cases, some users even add individuals they never speak to which can only be down to an egotistical personality.

According to a new study by Robin Dunbar, human beings cannot rely on Facebook friends to exhibit a sympathetic response or act in a caring manner. Dunbar is already a renowned expert in this field with the paper, Dunbar’s number which argues people can only maintain 150 stable relationships. In this latest piece, Dunbar analysed a UK sample of 3,375 Facebook users between the ages of 18 and 65. On average, people had 150 Facebook friends but admitted they could only count on 4.1% of them during an emotional crisis. Furthermore, the data shows a mere 13.6% expressed sympathy. Here is a brief snippet of Dunbar’s findings and provides a great insight into his research:

“The sizes of the two inner friendship circles did not differ from those previously identified in offline samples,”

“Having a lot more than 150 followers doesn’t change things much, either. Heavy users of online social media do not have larger offline social networks than casual users, even though more of these may appear online for heavy users.”

While it’s important to reiterate that some online relationships are just as important as “real-life” ones, there’s a worrying trend of Facebook users only adding people on the basis of increasing the perception they are more popular. This really is a depressing notion and shows how narcissistic society has become.

How many friends do you have on Facebook?

Obama Orders Study Into Smart Gun Technology

Smart guns are nothing new, they are the concept of using technology to not enhance guns but to make them easier to track and ensure they are used by the correct people for the correct reason. It would seem though that President Barak Obama hopes that smart gun technology can be used to stem gun violence in the U.S.

In a memorandum, the departments of Defence, Justice and Homeland security were told to look into smart gun technology. Obama is rumoured to be using his authority to push forward extra gun control measures in his last year, within the statement he stated that “developing and promoting technology that would help prevent these tragedies is an urgent priority”.

Smart guns would allow guns to be outfitted with radio frequency trackers, or even fingerprint scanners, which would allow lost or stolen weapons to be traced more easily and then require authorisation to use the weapon in the way of a fingerprint scan respectively. Alternatives include having a small watch device on your wrist, with the gun only discharging when the watch and the weapon are within a certain range, thereby limiting the number of people that can pick up and use the weapons with ease.

With 90 days to report their findings on the study, the concept has already come under fire from the national rifle association with a spokeswoman Jennifer Baker saying that “there is nothing in this set of proposals that would improve public safety“.

With these requirements and the idea to licence anyone selling firearms, not just in store but also at events or online, the idea of limiting or tracking firearms more effectively seems to be at the core of the new proposals.

It will be interesting to see the results of the studies and the subsequent comments from the NRA and government authorities regarding Smart weapons as upgrading anything with technology is often seen with sceptical eyes from everyone.

Image courtesy of the Verge.

The Role Human Error Plays When Encrypted Communication Apps Are Compromised.

Encrypted communication tools and software have seen a steady rise since the many surveillance revelations that were exposed by whistleblowers, such as Edward Snowdon. The notion of encrypting your emails, web browsing history and even phone calls have led to a battle over security vs state monitoring, but, what are the weaknesses within these various encrypted apps? A new study has found that we humans often compromised our own anonymity.

The observation in question was discovered by researchers at the University of Alabama who performed a study that “Mimicked a cryptophone app”. These apps including Signal may ask both parties who are either texting or calling to “verbally compare a short string of words they see on their screens which is often referred to as a checksum or short authentication string”  This is with the aim of ensuring that a new communication session has not been intercepted by a third-party, if it has, the words will not match up and thus it is not secure.

Sounds secure, the study has found that the flaw lies in many cases with human error itself, let me explain. Researchers designed the aforementioned mimicking of a cryptophone app before asking participants within the control group to use a web browser to make a call to an online server. They were then asked to listen to a random two or four word sequence before determining if it matched the words they saw on the computer screen in front of them. The control group were also asked to determine if the voice they heard was the same as one they’d heard previously reading a short story.

Researchers found that the study control group would more often than not accept calls when hearing the wrong sequence of words and reject calls when the sequence was transmitted correctly. It was also found that a four word checksum decreased the overall level of security when it should in theory increase it. To put it into perspective, out of 128 participants, an incorrect two-word string was accepted 30% of the time, while the same level two-word string that was spoken correctly was rejected 22% of the time. Four word strings had even worse results with incorrect strings being accepted 40% of the time while rejecting ones that were in fact correct 25% of the time.

A possible cause could lie in the fact that these words are random and not easily placed in a sentence, therefore, we humans tend to zone out and therefore lose concentration, the result could be that we think we hear something which is in fact incorrect or vice versa.

It’s an interesting experiment which could lead to better development of apps that aim to keep conversations secure.

Research Finds In-Game Usernames Correlated With Anti-Social Behaviour

According to the latest research, it turns out the names we pick in game are a good predictor of how we behave in-game. By looking at the usernames of player in League of Legends, researchers were able to correlate anti-social tendencies in game with both age and the choice of username.

Rating names based on Anti-Social Naming Tendency (ANT) and Age as derived from the username, researchers correlated this data with Riot’s in-game reporting system. Not surprisingly, players with anti-social usernames tended to have more reports and complaints. It also found that younger players tended to have a much higher amount of reports sent and received, well in excess compared tot he amounts for older players.

Players with more neutral usernames tended to receive less reports and were more willing to give out “honor” or a positive report of other players. The same held true for older players who sent out honor 6% more often and received it 2% more frequently.

While we might think of older gamers are those in their late 20 and 30s and even beyond, it turns out that going up to 22-25 years of age was enough to see positive impacts. The researchers chalk up the age differences as due to cognitive development of the young male demographic. The anti-social naming is more self-explanatory, with real world personality being the driver. Interestingly enough, those with anti-social names tended to do very slightly better on average. With more research, it will be interesting to see the interaction between our real world and in-game personalities.

30% Car Owners Would Give up Their Vehicle Before Their Smartphone

The Frog 2015 survey of 1999 people across China, Denmark, Germany and the United States investigated modern attitudes towards car ownership. The data indicates that 53% of the sample use their own vehicle compared to 14% on public transport. Interestingly, 37% of car owners revealed they could easily give up their vehicle without it affecting their daily routine. Additionally, 30% admitted they would rather give up their car than their smartphone. At first, this seems unbelievable but it makes sense when you consider vital tasks like e-mail and web browsing are just a touch away.

On another note, travelling long distances to reach office spaces could theoretically become an outdated notion as people begin to work from home. Similarly, virtual presence devices might be accepted although that does seem like a long time off. In today’s market, it’s incredibly expensive to run a vehicle especially if you’re under the age of 30. Petrol prices and insurance costs are absolutely staggering.

Smartphones are now an integral part of daily life and becoming more influential as each passes. The advent of cheap, Android handsets have broadened the appeal and contributed to many people’s social media addiction. Clearly, many struggle to live without a smartphone, and this is shown quite clearly in the Frog study.

Netflix Knows The Moment a TV Show Hooks Your Attention

Television is additive to many consumers, from the vast entertainment collections which are now available within various streaming services, to the outstanding quality of notable award-winning shows which are served up by US and UK productions that quickly grab the attention of individuals. You may think a devotion to a particular series begins with a killer pilot episode which immediately embeds into the consciousness of watchers, but this is not the case as a new study commissioned by Netflix analysed the episode which first hooked people’s attention.

Traditional viewing restricted consumers to one episode per week; therefore if you missed the pilot then it may have been difficult to become interested in the plot of a series. The boom of streaming programs to your device has led to consumers dipping in and out of episodes as they see fit. Therefore, Netflix has “analysed its global streaming data across the inaugural seasons of some of today’s most popular shows”, which has included both Netflix original series and shows that premiered on other networks with the aim of gauging the signals that pointed to when viewers became hooked

It turns out that 70% of viewers who view the “hooked” episode went on to complete a whole season and therefore buy into the product. The episode at which a consumer becomes addicted is dependent on the series in question; Netflix have released data of 25 shows which have been analyzed for that hook moment and the results vary, from episode 2 of Breaking Bad to episode 8 of How I Met Your Mother and Arrow.

Netflix analysed viewing habits on its own service across 16 markets which included the US, Australia and Canada. An exemption within this research lies in the reality of the unavailability of certain shows in certain countries; therefore, the episode which Netflix names as the “hooked” episode is the global average. The study did find variations in viewing habits across countries including residents in Holland who tend to become captivated with a series the fastest.

This study is interesting considering the power consumers have within the platform of online viewing and the omission of endless commercial breaks. Viewing habits have rendered every episode within a season to be a pilot and a potential attraction for consumers, gone are the traditional means of waiting until next week before you found out the answer to a plot twist.

A side note to this lies in the notion of reducing dramatic build up within an episode and replacing it with all action set pieces, after all, production companies would need a hook device in every episode for a consumer base which switches between shows.

Thank you theverge and netflix for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of mashable

 

Analysing Your Brain Could Be 30 Times Faster Than A Supercomputer

The human brain, fascinating, exciting and full of possibilities, the notion to create, form an opinion and challenge the environment which we live in, is truly exceptional. We now might be able to find answers as to how powerful the human brain is after a project which is designed to compare a supercomputer with that of a brain.

An Artificial Intelligence project which has been devised by two PhD students from the University of California Berkeley and Carnegie Mellon University, will be the first of its kind to compare the human brain with the world’s best supercomputer. The AI Impacts project aims to determine how fast the human brain sends signals in its internal network compared to that of a supercomputer.

The scholars compared the power of our brains with that of IBM’s Sequola supercomputer which is in the top 3 of the most powerful supercomputers. “Sequola has a TEPS (Traversed Edges per Second) benchmark of 2.3 x 1013 TEPS”. The estimates suggest the “AI Impacts are that the human brain should be at least as powerful as Sequoia in the lower limits and for the upper estimates, therefore the human brain could surpass the IBM Sequoia speed by 30 times at 6.4 x 1014 TEPS”.

Which is both a lot to take in but also equally and potentially incredible, evolution has formed an instrument which is quite amazing, and it begs the question, what else will we find as research and tech advances with the aim of exploring us. It is also interesting to note if the wiring of for example a genius brain, think Stephen Hawking, is different to that of an average mind or the best sportsman evolved differently with more advanced genes, or if are we all capable. If we spent enough time learning a skill to be able to adapt to anything? Its compelling none the less.

Thank you aiimpacts for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of fossbytes

Scientists Claim the Internet Isn’t Rotting Kid’s Brains

Just like TV and video games, the internet does not “rot kid’s brains”, scientists have decided. Or, at least, there’s in no evidence that using the internet has any detrimental effect on the development of a child’s brain, according to a new editorial in the British Medical Journal.

The article, written by scientists from University College London and the University of Oxford, disputes claims by Susan Greenfield from Lincoln College Oxford that prolonged computer use can trigger “autistic-like traits” and aggression in youngsters. “Despite calls for her to publish these claims in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, where clinical researchers can check how well they are supported by evidence, this has not happened, and the claims have largely been aired in the media,” the editorial reads.

Greenfield, seemingly positioning herself as a 21st Century Mary Whitehouse, has a history of attacking internet use and social media. She holds the unsupported belief that social networks are a misnomer – much in the same way as a scientist making claims without evidence, one presumes – as they induce poor social skills, low empathy, and low personal identity in kids, while she thinks that video games cause autism, shorten attention spans, and encourage aggression.

The BMJ editorial rightly points out that Greenfield’s assertions are directly contradicted by a number of scientific studies in the field. It specifically cites research into social networking, which “has been found to enhance existing friendships and the quality of relationships, although some individuals benefit more than others.”

Science 1, unfounded personal bias 0.

Thank you The Verge for providing us with this information.

Can Depression be Detected by Analyzing Smartphone Data?

When I first stumbled upon this story I became interested for two reasons, firstly, sufferers all too often hide this illness from view, the “yes I’m fine” is a mantra which all too often covers a veil which is impossible to imagine. According to ball park stats, more than 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression worldwide; this is the leading cause of disability on the planet. According to Mental Health UK, 1 in 4 people will experience a form of mental health related issue each year.

Secondly, it does not matter what your social standing is, how many cars you have or the wealth you have accumulated, this form of mental illness can still be developed and is indiscriminate regardless of status. Awareness is crucial and according to researchers at Northwestern University, a Smartphone’s sensor data can potentially detect depression by tracking the amount of minutes a person uses their phone per day and also how often they change their geographical location.

This study which was published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research on Wednesday, involved analysing the GPS locations and phone usage of a study group of 28 people over two weeks. Their locations were tracked every five minutes. The findings showed that the average daily usage for depressed people is 68 minutes; this was compared to just 17 minutes for non-depressed individuals. It was also found that there might be a link between the amount of geographical locations and depression; the fewer places a person visits could be an indicator of depression.

To explain the correlation between phone usage and possible depression, when a person is developing or at a high risk of this illness, they tend to withdraw, the more someone uses their phone alone without talking to for example friends, this may be an indicator. Participants in the two-week study also took a standardized questionnaire measuring levels of depression which was called a PHQ-9 survey. This asks about symptoms used to diagnose depression for example sadness and loss of interest in hobbies etc. The results were that 14 people out of the controlled group did not have any signs of depression while 14 did exhibit these signs which ranged from mild to severe.

In order to gain a better understanding of the correlation between Smartphone usage and depression, a bigger study is needed. What this study does highlight is the imperceptible fine line between regular socializing and withdrawing.

I am not going to end this article to patronize or lecture, if anyone is reading this who feels as if they are feeling more miserable than normal, or has thoughts which might be extreme, I would say just find someone, whether it be a friend, relative or a trusted person or professional, and talk to them. Never think it’s just you or bottle up your feelings. If you know of a friend or relative whose mood has changed or is acting differently, then the best thing you can do is be there for them.

Thank You RT and Mental Health Foundation UK for providing us with this information

Kids Do a Lot Better When Schools Ban Smartphone usage

Tap, Tap, Tap. Smartphones are rapidly taking over children’s free time and social life, but is it affecting them at school?

A recent study undertaken by the London School of Economics showed some very interesting results. Students that were banned from carrying phones showed a clear improvement in their test scores.

“We found the impact of banning phones for these students equivalent to an additional hour a week in school, or to increasing the school year by five days,” researchers Richard Murphy and Louis-Philippe Beland said. That is quite a substantial figure, especially with the curriculum as vast as it currently is.

91 policies in regards to mobile phones have changed since 2001 and that data has been compared to exam results from national exams that students sat at the age of 16. In total, the study covered 130,000 pupils across the UK. It showed that after a ban was put in place, the students average test scores rose by 6.4%. It also showed that the impact on underachieving students was even more significant, a whopping 14% rise.

“There are, however, potential drawbacks to new technologies,” Murphy and Beland said, citing the temptation to text, play games or chat on social media.“Schools could significantly reduce the education achievement gap by prohibiting mobile phone use in schools, and so by allowing phones in schools, New York may unintentionally increase the inequalities of outcomes.”

Thank you to CNN for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of Aol

It’s Going Great for Independent UK Retailers According to New Study

It is going great for independent UK retailers according to a new study performed by ShopTalk, and there are also a couple of surprises in it. ShopTalk is a not-for-profit service operated by IT distributor Target Components to provide free impartial business advice to IT resellers.

The most surprising find was that independent retailers that have heavily discounted prices do not enjoy better sales than those charging the highest prices. The ones selling the most are the ones placed in the middle of the field, most likely as a result of people not wanting to pay too much but in return also don’t trust a product sold too cheap.

ShopTalk didn’t just compare the figures of independent shops, they also took in large chains into the comparison. The Study found that independent retailers are offering both lower pricing and a wider range of products and services than their larger rivals. Independent retailers offer prices that are 9% lower on average, that’s £9 of every £100 marker and that’s not insignificant. The only bigger company that beat the independent retailers on an average scale of products offered was PC World, they offered 50 of the 65 items surveyed. But over half of the independent retailers also offered more than the 50, and that’s a double-up from last year’s survey.

“Under-pricing for indies simply doesn’t work – our research shows it depresses sales and stifles profits – so it’s encouraging to see signs that support what we hear anecdotally, that indies are taking a more considered approach to pricing.” said Shoptalk’s John Coulter on the report

Despite a drop in the price margin over last year’s result, independent shops continue to improve their sales for a more sustained business model. The number of lines selling ‘ok’ or better have improved from 71% to 75% over the last year.

Largest Ever Email Study Reveals That We All Are Very Predictable

Researchers from Yahoo labs are said to have examined more than two million users exchanging about 16 billion messages in search of patterns. In order to conduct the study, they are said to have tracked the identities of senders and recipients, the time of day emails were sent, email length, the number of attachments, the type of device used, as well as demographic factors, including age and gender.

The study concluded that younger people tend to send shorter and faster replies compared to older people and that men send shorter and faster replies than women. This might not seem as something unfamiliar to us all, but the study has been performed on an extremely wide range of users and with actual proof, meaning it gives a lot more credibility to it.

Researchers also have proved that we respond more promptly during weekdays and working hours and that we respond to only a small fraction of messages, with short replies, when our inboxes get filled with new items.

The information gathered here is not only valuable to us as, but it is also valuable to computer algorithms. Developers can then use this data to create better email management applications to help and stop us from experiencing “overload”, a scientific term used when we would rather do anything else than open our inbox.

Thank you Gizmodo for providing us with this information

Startphones May Be Able to Predict When the next Earthquake Will Be

The common smartphone can do more than track movement, personal health or geographical position. The gadgets nowadays can also warn users of potential earthquakes thanks to advancements in GPS technology.

A team of researchers from the United States reveal how a crowdsourced early warning system can look like. They say that the smartphones are currently able to predict any earthquake with a magnitude of 7 of above. U.S. Geological Survey study leader in California, Sarah Minson, explained how the accelerometer data can be used along with GPS readings to give accurate real-time map activity.

“The GPS on a smartphone is shockingly good. If you take your phone and move it six inches to the right, it knows with surprising accuracy that it moved six inches to the right — and that is exactly what we want to know when studying earthquakes,” Minson stated.

While the idea is unique, it does have its limitations. Smartphones are not scientific instruments and can only act as warning systems, but even so, they may prove to even save lives one day. Minson stated that a special app is required to help record the data.

“The cost is essentially zero, especially since people buy new phones every two years or so to have the latest-and-greatest model,” Minson added.

The researchers have taken data from the 2011 earthquake in Tōhoku, Japan, to test the warning system out. Also, in order to avoid false alarms, the system is said to look for similar movement in different handsets at once.

The study was published in the Science Advances journal, but more research needs to be done before you can have your smartphones yelling at you in case they detect an earthquake.

Thank you Digital Trends for providing us with this information

Cheap Electric Vehicles May Arrive on the Market Sooner than Expected

A recent analysis states that electric cars may soon be competing or even surpass gas cars on cost. This means that electric cars won’t be just a luxurious accessory for the few.

Manufacturers tend to keep the cost of lithium-ion batteries found in electric cars a strict secret, but a recent peer-reviewed study of more than 80 estimates reported between 2007 and 2014 suggests that the costs of battery packs are lower than assumed by energy-policy analysts.

The study suggests that batteries found in EV manufacturer cars such as Tesla and Nissan cost around $300 per KW/h in 2014. This estimate is much lower than the most optimistic projections published this year and even below the average projections published for 2020. The study also tells that the batteries could even reach $230 per KW/h by 2018.

People are also said to be more interested in EVs if the battery costs between $125 and $300 per KW/h. Having the battery cost be a quarter or even half of an EVs price tag, cheaper batteries would make the vehicle itself more cheaper. Alternatively, car manufacturers can maintain the current EV price tag, but offer a battery with much longer ranges instead.

The range factor on an EV is also a crucial thing for buyers, because it would be cheaper to fill an EV with electricity than a car running on gas. It is said that charging an EV with a 300 mile range would cost less than $10. Also, the study states that if batteries fall as low as $150 per KW/h, this may lead to “a potential paradigm shift in vehicle technology”.

The analyst report that the cost of battery packs is falling around 8% each year, which they say is likely to continue at this rate in the following years as well. However, Luis Munuera, an energy analyst for the International Energy Agency, and Pierpaolo Cazzola, a transport policy analyst for the same agency, tend to be sceptical about the peer-reviewed in question, but they do seem to agree about “events moving quicker than expected in lithium-ion battery technology”.

Thank you MIT Technology Review for providing us with this information

Internet Access Makes You Think You Are Smarter than You Actually Are

Yale University has made a study regarding the psychological impact of searching for answers on the internet, having some interesting results regarding people and how well prepared they believe to be.

“The internet is such a powerful environment, where you can enter any question, and you basically have access to the world’s knowledge at your fingertip,” lead researcher Matthew Fisher told the Telegraph. “It becomes easier to confuse your own knowledge with this external source. When people are truly on their own, they may be wildly inaccurate about how much they know and how dependent they are on the internet.”

For the study, 1000 students were split into two groups and were asked how a zipper works, having the first group given the information on the internet and the second was given a printout of the same information. Both groups have then been asked to explain how cloudy nights are warmer, but none of the participants were given the answer this time around.

When asked about their confidence in knowing the answer, the group who previously researched the answer on the internet appeared to be more confident and more knowledgeable compared to the others. Researches said the study showed that the cognitive effects of using search engines are so powerful that people still feel smarter even when they haven’t had access to the internet.

“In cases where decisions have big consequences, it could be important for people to distinguish their own knowledge and not assume they know something when they actually don’t,” Fisher said.”The internet is an enormous benefit in countless ways, but there may be some trade-offs that aren’t immediately obvious and this may be one of them. Accurate personal knowledge is difficult to achieve, and the internet may be making that task even harder.”

People believe they are smarter if they research the answer on the internet and this proves to be a worrying fact that we depend more and more on a piece of technology for information instead of having the confidence of going out there and finding the answer for ourselves.

Thank you News.com.au for providing us with this information

Smartphones Are Giving Thumbs Superpowers

A recent study suggests that smartphone use has changed the way thumbs and brains operate together, with brain signals becoming supercharged when the thumbs and fingertips are engaged. A report in the Cell Press journal ‘Current Biology’ directly attributes this leap in brain signals when thumbs are used to the proliferation of smartphones over the last decade.

“I was really surprised by the scale of the changes introduced by the use of smartphones,” Dr. Arko Ghosh, neuroscientist at the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich in Switzerland, said. “I was also struck by how much of the inter-individual variations in the fingertip-associated brain signals could be simply explained by evaluating the smartphone logs.”

Dr. Ghosh explains, “I think first we must appreciate how common personal digital devices are and how densely people use them. What this means for us neuroscientists is that the digital history we carry in our pockets has an enormous amount of information on how we use our fingertips (and more).”

The research team hooked smartphone users up to EEG machines to monitor the brain activity of its volunteers. They found that electrical activity in the brain was heightened whenever the thumb, index, and middle fingertips were touched, and that cortex activity in the brain was directly proportional to level of phone activity. Thumb-to-brain responsivity became enhanced, and the more a volunteer engaged with a smartphone the more elevated the cortical activity.

The report does suggest that technology and how we engage with it is reshaping our brain, but this may not be a good thing, since Dr. Ghosh points out that there is a correlation between excessive phone use and motor dysfunction and pain.

Source: Science daily

Using a Tablet or e-Reader in Bed Can Disrupt Sleep

It seems the death of paper is causing the death of sleep. As reading habits have shifted from books and magazines to e-readers and tablets, our sleeping patterns have become impacted. Backlighting from the two devices has been demonstrated to disrupt the body’s clock, its circadian rhythm, that controls our sleep schedule.

According to the study by the Mayo Clinic, “Some research suggests that screen time or other media use before bedtime interferes with sleep.”

A dozen volunteers spent a fortnight at a sleep centre, with a strict 10pm bedtime. For one week, half the volunteers were given regular books to be read by dim light, and the rest used backlit e-readers. The roles were switched the following week.

Levels of melatonin, the hormone that controls the body’s day-night cycle, were 50% lower in e-reader volunteers, compared to their book-reading counterparts. The data suggested that the drop in melatonin pushed the subject’s circadian rhythm back by an hour-and-a-half, and resulted in 10 minutes less REM sleep than the book readers.

The study is just the latest in a series that points to backlit tech use before bed hampering healthy sleep.

Source: Ars Technica

Researchers Suggest Internet Porn Has Caused Drop in US Marriage Rates

Researchers from the Institute for the Study of Labor in Germany have discovered a correlation between the decline in marriage in America and the proliferation of free pornography online, and suggest that the former may be influencing the latter.

“The results in this paper suggest that such an association exists, and that it is potentially quite large,” the study reads.

Researchers looked at data from the General Social Study, analysing the internet use of 18-25-year-old men between 2000 and 2004, specifically time spent online, and what percentage of that time being spent looking at pornography.

One of the paper’s authors, Dr. Michael Malcolm, Professor at the University of West Chester, Pennsylvania, said, “We asked ourselves, what is helping determine whether people are married or not? One of those things, we thought, could be the use of pornography.”

Malcolm tested the hypothesis that a rise in pornography use may have impacted marriage rates, comparing other factors, such as age, income, education, and employment. Of all the factors, use of internet porn seemed to have the biggest relation to low marriage rates.

Although the correlation is far from definitive, it does suggest that men who use porn are less likely to get married, rather than the other way around.

Source: The Washington Post

OKCupid Admits to Manipulating Users in Experiments

With the Facebook emotion manipulation study drama fresh in our minds, OKCupid has joined the ranks in admitting they’ve been messing with our minds.

OKCupid has admitted to running tests which include analyzing the depth of conversations while users’ pictures were removed for seven hours as confirmed by Christian Rudder, the companies co-founder.

Rudder released a post titled “We Experiment on Human Beings!” with quite a few interesting statements including:

“We noticed recently that people didn’t like it when Facebook “experimented” with their news feed. Even the FTC is getting involved. But guess what, everybody: if you use the Internet, you’re the subject of hundreds of experiments at any given time, on every site. That’s how websites work.”

The unapologetic Rudder went on to explain some of the findings of these studies, claiming they were all for our own good.

They reported of their “Love is blind day” – where they turned off users profile images for 7 hours. Once the profile photos were switched back on, it seemed that looks did matter to their audience:

“When the photos were restored at 4PM, 2,200 people were in the middle of conversations that had started “blind”. Those conversations melted away. The goodness was gone, in fact worse than gone. It was like we’d turned on the bright lights at the bar at midnight.” OKCupid Blog

The previous Facebook studies brought on quite a lot of anger from users and eventually FTC involvement. Will we see similar repercussions for OKCupid? Can anything be enforced due to this controversial study, or is this another case of – company is too big to care?

You can see OKCupid’s full blog in detail here.

Image courtesy of Full Disclosure

Facebooks Emotion Study Now Linked to the Military

But wait, there’s more!

Recently we wrote about how Facebook users were outraged when they found out that 689,003 users news feeds were altered to display overly positive or negative content.

Since then, more information has surfaced showing that this emotion manipulation study also has possible ties to the military. As read on Mashable, an Army spokesman stated that in 2008 Cornell University sent a funding application to the military for a similar project, but was denied.

Controversy surrounding this 2012 research project pointed to the fact that the military had helped fund this possible unethical study, which Cornell has distanced itself from. The University originally issued a press release on June the 10th which confirmed military funding involvement in the emotion manipulation study from the Army Research Office. However as the military involvement became a common topic of discussion, Cornell chose to remove this acknowledgement.

On the first of July, SCG News reported that one of the studies authors, Jeffery Hancock, had previously received funding from the Department of Defense for other research projects including “Cornell: Modeling Discourse and Social Dynamics in Authoritarian Regimes” which included this visualization program that depicts the spread of beliefs and disease.

The simple solution to solving this issue seems to be going straight to the source, but unfortunately when asked most parties declined to comment

“When asked whether Cornell University had ever sought any external funding, and in particular from the Army Research Office, a University spokesman declined to comment. The study’s authors, Hancock and Jamie Guillory, as well as a Facebook spokesperson, did not answer Mashable’s requests for comment either.” Mashable

However, Army Spokesman Wayne Hall has stated that they did not provide any funding to Cornell University and has never asked for them to make amendments to their press release.

With this information in hand, why was the Army credited in the first place? NYU Journalism Professor Jay Rosen commented on this issue through a public Facebook post:

“Why do I call this strange? Any time my work has been featured in an NYU press release, the PR officers involved show me drafts and coordinate closely with me, for the simple reason that they don’t want to mischaracterize scholarly work. So now we have to believe that Cornell’s Professor of Communication and Information Science, Jeffrey Hancock, wasn’t shown or didn’t read the press release in which he is quoted about the study’s results (weird) or he did read it but somehow failed to notice that it said his study was funded by the Army when it actually wasn’t (weirder).
I think I would notice if my university was falsely telling the world that my research was partially funded by the Pentagon… but, hey, maybe there’s an innocent and boring explanation that I am overlooking.” Facebook

The last few lines of his quote ring the most truth about this whole ordeal.

Image courtesy of SCG news

Facebook’s Emotion Manipulation Study Angers Users

study was published recently showing that in January 2012, Facebook manipulated 689,003 members feeds to display a larger amount of positive or negative status updates. Running over a one week duration, this information was used to show that the moods of your friends on social media can affect your own mood positively or negatively on a day to day basis.

This manipulation has sparked outrage by some, claiming a lack of ethical practice – especially seeing as the ‘subjects’ were not notified of this study.

As far as legality is concerned, Facebook is in the clear as users agree to give up their data for analysis, testing and research upon sign up. However, the angered users aren’t claiming issues with the data collected, they’re upset that their feeds were manipulated without consultation.

Addressing the issue, a Facebook spokesman stated:

“This research was conducted for a single week in 2012 and none of the data used was associated with a specific person’s Facebook account. We do research to improve our services and to make the content people see on Facebook as relevant and engaging as possible. A big part of this is understanding how people respond to different types of content, whether it’s positive or negative in tone, news from friends, or information from pages they follow. We carefully consider what research we do and have a strong internal review process. There is no unnecessary collection of people’s data in connection with these research initiatives and all data is stored securely.” The Atlantic

Adam D.I Kramer (being one of the studies authors and a Facebook employee) gave his thoughts through a comment on a public Facebook status:

“And at the end of the day, the actual impact on people in the experiment was the minimal amount to statistically detect it,” he writes. “Having written and designed this experiment myself, I can tell you that our goal was never to upset anyone. […] In hindsight, the research benefits of the paper may not have justified all of this anxiety.” The Atlantic

So although Facebook users do agree to share their information, technically they aren’t in agreeance with the alteration of their data (in this case, news feeds).

Susan Fiske, a Princeton University psychology professor helped edit this study also shared some thoughts on the issue:

“It’s ethically okay from the regulations perspective, but ethics are kind of social decisions. There’s not an absolute answer. And so the level of outrage that appears to be happening suggests that maybe it shouldn’t have been done…I’m still thinking about it and I’m a little creeped out, too.” The Atlantic

Facebook has been rumored to partake in data manipulation studies like this more often than you may think. Should this access of data make you worried? Honestly the general population aren’t going to batt an eyelid, as long as they can access their fair share of recycled memes and baby photos.

Image courtesy of Post Grad Problems

Facebook Policy Agreement Allowed Emotional State Study on 600,000 Users

When signing up for a Facebook account, the majority of users do not read the Facebook Data Use Policy and consider that their private user data is secure. While this is true, this does not mean that Facebook itself can’t use the data you post. This is where Facebook has gathered some data from random account feeds in order to use it in a little social experiment.

Facebook apparently has tweaked the content seen by more than 600,000 users in order to determine whether or not it would affect their emotional state. The study paper has been published under the name of “Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks,” at The Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences. Users who like to view it would find how Facebook data scientists tampered the algorithm managing which posts appear on users’ news feeds, having it manage the number of negative and positive posts appearing on users’ news feed. Future posts from users ‘participating’ in the experiment were then analysed over the course of one week in order to determine if they would respond with increased positivity or negativity of their own and thus determining whether emotional states could be transmitted over a social network.

The result turned out to be positive, having users respond to the negativity or positivity of the content manipulated. The scientists have proved that the ‘mood’ can be changed over a social network and the overall point about modern psychology. Also, for concerned Facebook users, the paper states that the data gathered has been within the “internal operations, including troubleshooting, data analysis, testing, research and service improvement.” agreement which everyone had to agreed with before signing up for a Facebook account. In addition to the latter, all personal and private data gathered has been done using the policy’s liberal constraints, having a machine analyse and pick out positive and negative posts.

Adam Kramer is listed as being the lead author for the paper, having him state in an interview that the reason he had joined the social network is that “Facebook data constitutes the largest field study in the history of the world.”. The latter statement proves the sad truth that while users view Facebook as a fun and loving place to post pictures, quotes, places you have been to and personal experience, it is without question a huge ‘research lab’ for some higher-ups as well.

Thank you A.V. Club for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of A.V. Club

Freemium Apps Said to Generate 98% of Google Play’s Revenue in May

A study performed by App Annie is said to have revealed in a report that Google Play’s revenue in May was not made from paid applications. With over 1.5 million apps from the store platform, it appears that 98% of the revenue was generated from freemium applications.

The freemium applications, which are ‘free’ to download and play, but also provide ‘premium’ content which users can buy with real money, have proven to be the ‘gold mine’ for Google’s store platform. However, the reports also show that the majority of downloads from the store registered in May also indicated a decrease in freemium apps and an increase in free (no strings attached) applications.

App Annie apparently did not state the revenue spike from freemium apps in the given months, however downloads from previous months followed by content purchase later on might explain it since 90% of the revenue during the first quarter reportedly came from games.

The use of premium content inside games has been criticised for some time now, having gamers with more money be given an advantage over gamers who do not wish to invest in such applications. Nevertheless, data gathered by App Annie shows that while the jury decides whether or not freemium apps are unethical or not, the apps are currently deemed as commercially successful.

The study shows that the average application downloaded from Google Play earns roughly $1,150, while Apple’s App Store brings a figure of $4,000, followed by Microsoft’s Windows Phone Store bringing in only $625. Though there is a considerable gap between Apple and Google’s earnings, it is said that Google is quickly gaining some ground in markets from Asia, Russia, Mexico and Brazil.

Thank you Mashable for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of Mashable