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.

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.”


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.”

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.”

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.

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.

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.

NWT_Earth NWT_Environment

Ocean circulation is the weakest it’s been in 1,500 years

The Atlantic Meridional overturning circulation (AMOC)—a key conveyor belt for ocean water and air, creating the weather—is slowing down, according to a study published in the journal Nature. Seth Borenstein reports for AP on the slowdown in circulation, a crucial part of Earth’s climate. Warm water moves north from the tropics, off the U.S. East Coast and to the North Atlantic, where it cools then heads south.

“This overturning circulation redistributes heat on our planet,” said lead author Levke Caesar, a physicist at the Potsdam Institute. The slowdown could potentially culminate in a complete circulation shutdown. “We know somewhere out there is a tipping point where this current system is likely to break down,” said study co-author Stefan Rahmstorf, a climate scientist at the Potsdam Institute. However, the authors of the study aren’t sure when this collapse could occur. “This is uncharted territory,” said Rahmstorf.

The study found that since the middle of the 20th century, the speed at which the ocean moves water in the AMOC has dropped 15 percent. Scientists blame global warming, noting that warmer water lessens the amount of cooling and makes it harder for the water to sink and turn over. There is also more rain and snow in northern areas and more evaporation in southern areas, which alters the flow of the AMOC. Despite this study, other scientists in the field doubt its conclusion. Although conceivable, MIT’s Carl Wunsch believes that the study is “unsupported by any data.” Still, Caesar believes that we should expect changes. “It’s a slow change at the moment, but we’re changing it,” he said.

Business TECH_Technology

PayPal partners with some of the biggest companies

PayPal is undoubtedly one of the leading businesses in E-commerce. It uses an email address to make all the transaction, making it a revolutionary system of currency. In the beginning, many companies were highly skeptical of Elton Musk’s brainchild.

But ten years down the line and Wall Street has branded PayPal as one of the most profitable stocks to invest in the coming decade. And from the major moves they are making in the financial world, it is easy to see why.

PayPal has formed partnerships with both VISA and MasterCard over the past few weeks. Getting a deal with one of the credit companies would have been good, but they managed to get as deal with both. To show you the full perspective of this deal one must understand that VISA and Master Card were great competitors.

The introduction of PayPal as another mode of payment online gave the two heavyweights, even more, competition. So getting both the companies to sign deals with PayPal shows that the companies must have seen incredible and unparalleled potential in PayPal.

“PayPal has always had a mixed relationship with Visa and MasterCard,” said Andrés Cardenal, an investment researcher. “Credit card operators charge substantial processing fees on payment transactions, so PayPal used to encourage its customers to link their PayPal accounts directly to their bank accounts via ACH as opposed to credit cards, to avoid paying those fees.”

But Paypal’s latest move has seen them partner with Facebook. To some extent partnering with credit card moguls made sense, but too many investors not so much Facebook. This led to 2 percent drop in the stalks initially.

But the bigger picture is Facebook has an average of 1.57 billion users monthly. If PayPal can filter these users to become their own, then few companies would be able to compete with them.


Non-addictive painkiller is on the way

Addiction is very dangerous as can be seen with the current opioid epidemic. Partly in response, scientists are developing a painkiller that will not be addictive, according to Science Daily.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse and scientists from the Wake Forest School of Medicine have been deceloping a safe and non-addictive pain killer to help fight the current opioid crisis in this country.

They developed a drug called AT-121, the new chemical compound that has dual therapeutic action ant that has suppressed the addictive effects of opioids and produced morphine-like  effects in primates.

“In our study, we found AT-121 to be safe and non-addictive, as well as an effective pain medication,” said Mei-Chuan Ko, Ph.D., professor of physiology and pharmacology at the School of Medicine, part of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. “In addition, this compound also was effective at blocking abuse potential of prescription opioids, much like buprenorphine does for heroin, so we hope it could be used to treat pain and opioid abuse.”

The findings are published in Science Translational Medicine. „We developed AT-121 that combines both activities in an appropriate balance in one single molecule, which we think is a better pharmaceutical strategy than to have two drugs to be used in combination,” Ko said.

In their study, the researchers observed that AT-121 showed the same level of pain relief as an opioid, but at a 100-times lower dose than morphine. At that level, it also stunted the addictive effects of oxycodone, a commonly abused prescription drug.