Categories
Business TECH TECH_Social TECH_Technology

Facebook turns on WhatsApp monetization

WhatsApp on Wednesday detailed plans to sell advertisements and charge big companies that use its service to interact with customers, launching its first major revenue streams as growth at Facebook’s main app is starting to decelerate.

Four years after Facebook Inc. bought WhatsApp for $22 billion, it is formally starting the messaging app on a new mission, which involved the generation of revenue.

Facebook will now display ads of businesses that link out to WhatsApp., enabling businesses to purchase ads that lead people directly to an already loaded chat with the business on WhatsApp.

Businesses can respond to customers for free, with the contingency of answering within 24 hours. Additionally, Facebook will charge the business for any response after 24 hours.

The message function on WhatsApp appears identical to uts parent company’s messaging system, in which users are directed to a business’s page and have the ability to send messages. “Business communications on Messenger haven’t been super successful to begin with, and Facebook has had to roll out additional chat extensions to compensate,” notes The Verge. “The WhatsApp blog post indicates that it’s up to the business if it wants to offer real-time support, so there could be the additional wrinkle that you might not hear back for a while.”

WhatsApp opened up its platform to business users last September. Since then, it has kept the number of businesses using the app undisclosed. It said it tested the new messaging tools with about 90 businesses including Uber, Wish, and Singapore Airlines.

“Today’s announcement sounds like Facebook is making new tools to entice businesses to stay on the platform as it begins to monetize WhatsApp. As additional ways to boost stagnating profits, Facebook can monetize from Instagram’s ads in Stories, for instance, and also potentially from WhatsApp businesses that are taking out ads,” The Verge reported on Thursday.

Categories
PHYS Science

Columbia University astrophysicists warn of supermassive black hole collision

In early 2015, astronomers from the Columbia University discovered what appeared to be a pair of supermassive black holes circling each other within the Virgo constellation. Scientists warn that their orbits will eventually collide, sending a powerful burst of gravitational waves surging through the fabric of space-time.

The pair and their orbits were confirmed when a new study, published in the journal Nature, revealed that the rhythmic flashes of light coming from quasar PG 1302-102 were caused by a pair of closely orbiting black holes.

The flickering light is created by black holes as they burn through the surrounding gas and dust. Quasars normally brighten and dim at irregular rates–the regular intervals indicate two black holes on the verge of uniting.

Spiralling together 3.5 billion light-years away from the Earth, the pair is only a light-week away from each other. After calculating the caliber of each black hole’s mass and gravitational force, the scientists predict the collision will occur about 100,000 years from now.

“This is the closest we’ve come to observing two black holes on their way to a massive collision,” explains Zoltan Hainam, astronomer and senior study author, in a Columbia press release.

“Watching this process reach its culmination can tell us whether black holes and galaxies grow at the same rate, and ultimately test a fundamental property of spacetime: its ability to carry vibrations called gravitational waves, produced in the last, most violent stage of the merger.”

As black hole binary discoveries increase, astronomers are hopeful that a collision may be detected in the next decade.

Detecting gravitational waves allows scientists to test Einstein’s gravity theory–that gravity is not an ordinary force, but a property of space-time geometry–and the secrets of gravity “in the most extreme environment in our universe–black holes,” says lead author, Daniel D’orazio, a graduate student from Columbia.

“Getting there is the holy grail of our field.”

 

Categories
Brain Research TECH TECH_Technology

Autism researchers unlock social support with Google Glass

In a study published Thursday, researchers at Stanford University discovered that children with autism made more eye contact and were better able to relate to others after participating in an at-home therapy that used Google Glass.

The smart technology, Google Glass, essentially computerized eyeglasses equipped with a camera, small screen, and speaker, in conjunction with a custom smartphone app.

According to findings published in the journal Digital Medicine, one to three months of regular use produced substantial gains for the children with autism.

For the study, 14 children with autism ages 3 to 17 participated in the therapy dubbed “Superpower Glass” for at least 20 minutes three times per week for an average of 10 weeks.

The children wore Google Glass devices that were connected to an app that relied on machine learning to recognize eight emotions, including happiness, sadness, anger, disgust, surprise, fear, neutral and contempt.

The machine learning process was solely based on facial expressions.

During interactions with family, the children received visual or audio cues from the technology about the emotions of those around them. In addition, the kids could practice guessing what different facial expressions mean and were able to try eliciting different emotions from others.

Parents completed questionnaires and interviews before and after their children took part in the therapy. Overall, they indicated that the technology was useful and fun and a dozen of the families reported that their kids showed more eye contact after being involved in the study.

Moreover, researchers said that the average score of children in the study on the Social Responsiveness Scale, a measure of social impairment and autism severity, went down 7.38 points during the treatment and that six of the participants saw the severity of their diagnosis decline from “severe” to “moderate” or “moderate” to “mild” or “mild” to “normal.”

Researchers acknowledged that the study was small and lacked a control group, but indicated that the findings are promising especially in light of the long waits children typically experience before accessing autism treatment.

“We have too few autism practitioners,” said Dennis Wall, an associate professor of pediatrics and biomedical data science at the Stanford University School of Medicine and a senior author of the study. “The only way to break through the problem is to create reliable, home-based treatment systems. It’s a really important unmet need.”

Categories
PHYS Physics

Quantum mechanics and the many worlds interpretation

There are quite a number of physicists who believe in a theory called the Many Worlds Interpretation, which holds that there are an infinite number of parallel universes are home to an infinite number of versions of ourselves. Though not quite a fringe theory, it is a puzzling, unsettling concept, and one that Adam Elder at Mel Magazine explores with Professor Ken Intriligator from the University of California, San Diego.

According to Intriligator, the theory—part of the field of quantum mechanics—reveals that the Big Bang isn’t the beginning of time. “Just to give an analogy, if you’re boiling water, and there are lots of bubbles in the water, it’s kind of like when the universe was created,” he explains to Elder. “Our universe is like one of those bubbles. So we’re in one of those bubbles.” Quantum mechanics is the root of this concept because its rules  work on a subatomic scale, but not as comfortably on a human scale. Elder writes that it isn’t really about deciding whether to do this or do that, it’s about the position of each electron in the universe, meaning there are a lot of different universes where each electron plays out its possibilities.

In other words, the cloud of possibilities scientists observe for the position of each electron is on a subatomic scale, and measurable in a lab. But, although using these observations to theorize about multiple universes  to most physicists “sounds right,” Intriligator says, “if you follow it to its logical conclusion you have this really weird thing where everything is constantly branching into these different universes and different realities … For many people, that’s too far.”

Categories
HEALTH Science

Suicide rate doubled for adolescent girls between 2007-2015

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that suicide rates for adolescent boys and girls has been rising from 2007 to 2015.

The rate of suicides for girls age 15 to 19 doubled during that period and in 2015 reached its highest peak in 40 years. The suicide rate for boys in the same age group during the same time period rose by 30 percent.

“In 1975, in the United States, there were 1,289 suicides among males and 305 suicides among females aged 15 to 19 years,” wrote the authors, as reported by HuffPost. “In 2015, there were 1,537 suicides among males and 524 among females aged 15 to 19 years.”

The CDC issued a separate report last year finding that suicides in the U.S. as a whole increased by 24 percent over a 15-year period.

According to experts, young people are vulnerable to mental health issues due to family problems, bullying, financial worries, social media use, and exposure to violence. Studies also show that depression among teens is rising, but stigma and lack of access to mental health resources often prevent them from getting the help they need.

“People often think that teens can’t get depressed or anxious, but they can,” Dan Reidenberg, executive director of the Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, told HuffPost. “While the teen brain is still developing, teens do struggle with genuine mental illnesses and they need to be properly evaluated and treated,” he said, adding, “We need to change perceptions to help teens learn it is okay to ask for and get help.” Reidenberg was not involved in the CDC study.

Categories
SPORT SPORT_NFL

Cleveland Browns release LB Mychal Kendricks

The Cleveland Browns release linebacker Mychal Kendricks following charges of insider trading, the team announced Wednesday.

General manager John Dorsey released a statement on the team’s decision, noting “circumstances have changed” from when he signed with Cleveland in the offseason, via Daryl Ruiter of 92.3 The Fan.

“Prior to signing Mychal, we were informed that there was a financial situation that he had been involved within 2014. We were told Mychal had fully cooperated with investigators as a victim. From what was communicated at that time and based on the numerous questions we asked and further due diligence on our part, including checking with the league office, there was no information discovered that conveyed otherwise,” Dorsey said.

Kendrick allegedly made about $1.2 million “by trading ahead of four acquisition announcements” and has been charged with “conspiracy to commit securities fraud and committing securities fraud,” per Alicia Victoria Lozano of NBC Philadelphia.

He faces a maximum prison sentence of 25 years as well as a $5.25 million fine.

Kendricks admitted fault to his actions in a prepared statement Wednesday, per Darren Rovell of ESPN.

According to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, the Browns were aware the 27-year-old was part of an investigation when they signed him, but they did not know he was the focus.

He signed a one-year, $2.25 million deal in June.

Kendricks spent his first six seasons in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles, starting in the team’s Super Bowl win last February. He started 74 of the 85 games he has played in since the Eagles drafted him in 2012.

Joe Schobert and Christian Kirksey will remain key parts of Cleveland’s defense with Kendricks no longer on the team.

Categories
SPORT SPORT_NFL

Le’Veon Bell calls ETA report ‘fake news’

With the opening week of the NFL season approaching, Steelers LeVeon Bell has still not signed his franchise tag contract and joined his teammates in preparation for this season.

Bell has chosen to take the same route as last year, opting not to sign his 1-year deal until the very last moment. He once again has missed all of training camp and preseason due to a lack of an agreement.

Last season Bell chose to sign the week before the season opener. He got off to a slow start in the first few games before ultimately returning to form.

This year suggests a repeat of last year as Bell has clearly stated that he will preserve his body from the rigor of training and train on his own.

Many analysts and former players differ on how this will affect Bell’s performance. While teammates show no concern, others expand the lack of worry by releasing social media statements reflecting their respect for his decision and believe that he will be ready for the season.

Bell demonstrated a slow start last year, playing in 15 games and only sat out the last game as the Steelers had nothing to gain.

He finished 3rd in the league in rushing and secured another Pro Bowl berth.

Yesterday Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Gerry Dulac issued a statement that Bell had informed his teammates that he would be reporting to the team on Labor Day. Bell quickly refuted the claim.

“Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell informed some teammates he plans on rejoining the team on Labor Day,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac reported Tuesday. Bell has since denied the claim.

Categories
SPORT SPORT_NFL

Rodgers, Packers agree to record 4-year, $134M contract

The Green Bay Packers have agreed to a four-year contract extension with quarterback Aaron Rodgers worth $134 million, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

Rodgers is expected to receive $80 million by March 2019.

James Jones of NFL Network added that Rodgers will have over $100 million in guarantees.

Schefter first reported the new deal was close and was “expected to be the largest in NFL history.” Rodgers had two years remaining on his current contract.

The 34-year-old had a cap hit of about $20.6 million in 2018, which put him 14th among quarterbacks, per Spotrac.

As a significant bargain for a player who is arguably the best in the league at his position when healthy. Rodgers has earned six Pro Bowl selections, two appearances on the All-Pro First Team and two MVP awards in his career.

“The quarterback was clearly looking for a deal that put him among the highest-paid in the league. Matt Ryan signed an extension this offseason that averages $30 million per year, featuring $100 million in guaranteed money,” an NFL commentator stated.

Rodgers discussed the contract negotiations last week on 540 ESPN, via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com:

“I’m not trying to screw them, you know. This is a partnership. That’s the only way this is going to work, and the best way things work in this situation is that we’re in this thing together. And if they make that financial commitment, that’s what they’re saying, and also there’s an expectation that you’re going to play well. And then that’s my side of the bargain.”

Pressure remains on the quarterback to live up to his end of the deal, which could include staying on the field. He missed nine games with a shoulder injury last season and missed seven games in 2013.

Rodgers has shown how important he is to the Packers’ success, and it appears he will once again be compensated in return.

Categories
PHYS Physics

Large Hadron Collider restarts after two-year refit

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has started up again after a two-year rebuild. The particle smasher will be operating at higher power levels than before, and researchers are hoping that the increase in particle speeds will reveal more about the nature of our universe.

As reported by BBC News, particle beams have now whizzed around the LHC’s parallel pipes in both directions “at a whisker below the speed of light.”

Having experienced a brief glitch after the refit was complete, the LHC “is in great shape,” Frédérick Bordry of CERN said. “But the most important step is still to come when we increase the energy of the beams to new record levels.”

In the coming months, CERN scientists will ramp up the speed and begin particle collision experiments. The next round of particle collisions will occur with nearly twice the energy achieved during the LHC’s first run of experiments, and will create temperatures as high as existed right after the Big Bang.

The new energy level of 13 trillion electronvolts will allow for more in-depth particle collision results than previously possible. Researchers are hoping to make inroads into the realm of “new physics,” a level of understanding that reaches beyond the Standard Model of particle physics.

“Of course in every particle physics experiment we’ve ever done, we’ve been wanting to make a big, unknown discovery,” Tara Shears of the University of Liverpool said. “But now it’s become particularly pressing, because with Run One and the discovery of the Higgs, we’ve discovered everything that our existing theory predicts.”

The “Higgs” is the Higgs boson, the last of the 5 “force carrier” particles described by the Standard Model to be discovered. The LHC detected the Higgs boson in 2012, and it is hoped that this next round of tests may reveal more types of Higgs bosons.

The Standard Model explains how the building blocks of matter interact as affected by the fundamental forces. There are, however, properties of the universe that are not adequately explained by the Standard Model. Theoretical physicists have proposed explanations for these properties, but none of these have been substantiated by direct detection.

Among these proposals are the existence of dark energy, meant to explain why the universe is accelerating in its expansion, and dark matter, meant to account for how matter stays in place and why galaxies spin faster than the Standard Model would predict. The theory of supersymmetry is another proposal meant to explain the behavior of quantum particles, and an explanation for the nature of gravity is absent from the Standard Model.

Researchers hope that the newly refitted collider will shed new light on the unanswered questions in particle physics by revealing new particles or showing evidence of dark matter or even other dimensions.

Categories
NWT_Earth Research

Scientists estimate that a quadrillion diamonds are hidden within Earth

A new study in Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems reveals that the value of diamonds would be very different if humans had better access to subterranean rock, reports Sarah Sloat for Inverse. Roberta Rudnick, an earth science professor at the University of California is part of an international team that discovered there may be more than a quadrillion tons of diamonds scattered throughout Earth. The diamonds lie about 90 to 150 miles below the Earth’s surface within immovable rocks known as cratonic roots.

In 2016, a team of seismologists—who study sound waves—revealed evidence of an anomaly deep within the Earth. This team picked up on sound waves that were moving unusually quickly as they passed through cratons, Sloat explains. To understand the reasons behind the strange seismic data, the team built a three-dimensional model of the velocities of the seismic waves moving through the Earth’s major cratons. Of all the explanations, says Harvard University postdoctoral fellow and co-author of the study, Li Zeng, “the most fascinating one was the possibility of diamonds—that there exists a sweet spot in terms of pressure, temperature, and redox conditions for the growth and retainment of diamonds at that depth.”

To test this theory, MIT research scientist Ulrich Faul tells Inverse that he began “calculating sound speeds expected for continental cratons.” He compared the experimental results to measurements made on actual rocks, and through process of elimination, “ended up with diamonds as the only plausible and reasonable explanation as a solution to this puzzle.” Apparently, only one type of rock can produce the same velocity that the seismologists measured: one that is one to two percent diamond. This means that there is at least 1,000 times more diamond in the cratons than scientists had previously estimated. Still, getting to these diamonds will not be easily accessible—these diamonds are more than 10 times deeper than the deepest hole ever drilled.