It’s a multibillion dollar piggy bank for Big Tech, but app tracking remains something of a mystery to many mobile phone users. According to new research, people commonly think such tracking is needed for an app to work effectively. However the real aim is to gather information on the phone user for targeted advertisements to appear on-screen. Around 43% of phone users in a survey conducted by the University of Bath in the UK “were confused or unclear about what app tracking means,” with some thinking allowing it means getting “a better user experience.” A quarter of respondents mistakenly believed the tracking is needed to allow the location of the device to be shared with a vendor, making it therefore necessary for conveniences such as app-based food delivery or collection services.
Phone, house keys, wallet, glasses, car key, earbuds, small change: The jumble of items to be worn, taken off, left on a table, put in a pocket or fumbled from here to there in the course of a busy day can make it easy to misplace something now and then. Most of the time, the frustration-inducing missing item shows up, even if it is six months later under a cushion or behind a settee. But even a day without a wallet or phone can prove too long. And, for those who take that road, there is the inconvenience and expense that goes with replacing even a temporarily misplaced item. Engineers at the University of Waterloo think they have found a solution: Programming robots to locate items thought to have been lost around the house.
We’ve probably all been there: feeling those eyelids getting heavy in the middle of the day, despite getting to bed at a respectable hour the night before. But for some, this daytime grogginess is not just a now-and-then thing, but a draining and debilitating routine. The cause is often obstructive sleep apnea, which is due to throat muscles relaxing and temporarily blocking the airway, causing the person to briefly or partially wake up, sometimes as much as thirty times a night, and leaving the sufferer with scant recollection of waking. Some estimates suggest around 1 billion people are affected and suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness as a result.
Europe is seeing a rise in antimicrobial-resistant E. coli according to the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC), which warned the problem was “spreading rapidly.” Member states of the European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) are reporting “an increased number of Escherichia coli (E. coli) isolates carrying the blaNDM-5 gene that makes them resistant to carbapenems,” the ECDC announced in mid-May.
“Sorry I’m late boss, forgot about the time change”. “Where is everybody? This place was supposed to open 20 minutes ago”. Many of us can probably recall being caught out at least once by the biannual ritual of clocks going back or forward an hour. And perhaps most people would deem the worst of the two to the spring-time switch to daylight savings, which can mean an hour’s less sleep the night the dials are turned forward.
“You talk too much” is typically a rhetorical cudgel wielded by a taciturn curmudgeon. Or sometimes it’s an exasperated last resort when a chatterbox won’t pipe down. Either way, it’s usually no more than a subjective assessment whether someone talks too much or not. Or too little, for that matter. But a team of Chinese scientists appear to have found evidence that there could be such a thing as talking too much, linking chatting on a mobile phone for half an hour or more each week with “a 12% increased risk of high blood pressure”.
It’s called break-bone fever by some, and for good reason. Dengue Fever, for sure, is not something you want to catch. Perhaps worse again is Yellow Fever, which leaves an estimated 12% of sufferers with jaundice. Small percentages of those infected by either can develop severe hemorrhagic variants that can prove fatal. Both fevers are caused by viruses carried by the aedes egypti mosquito. And while there is a Yellow Fever vaccine, which is required for entry into many African and Latin American countries, there is no widely used equivalent for Dengue. But what if a thorough scrub with a well-known soap brand could put the mosquitoes off their lunch for long enough to prevent transmission? It could be possible, going by experiments by a team from Virginia Tech, who had their findings published in the journal iScience in May. Washing with some soaps attracts aedes aegypti mosquitoes, it seems, while other soaps drive the bloodthirsty flies away.
The alarm around so-called artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning has prompted the technology’s “godfather” Geoffrey Hinton to lament his life’s work. AI, the warnings go, could see widespread job losses or worse, should it “get smarter than people”, as Hinton put it when he quit his job at Google in early May. Hinton’s concerns followed tech business bosses putting their names to a letter calling for a six-month pause on AI advances, lest we “develop nonhuman minds that might eventually outnumber, outsmart, obsolete and replace us” and in turn “risk loss of control of our civilization.” A less hair-raising warning came on May 10, with the publication in Science Advances of research showing AI to be a harsher judge of social media posts than human counterparts.
The earliest hearing aid, by some accounts, dates to the 17th century, with French priest and mathematician Jean Leurechon’s documenting of an ear trumpet in his book Recreations Mathematique. Advances did not come until the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with Miller Rees Hutchinson’s invention of the first portable hearing aid using a carbon transmitter, followed by engineer Earl Hanson patenting a vacuum tube version that quickly became a commercial success. And while the technology since then “has made strides in terms of speech,” according to Emily Sandgren and Joshua Alexander of Purdue University, hearing aids remain “subpar” for music lovers.
For many, the incessant cleaning of surfaces, door handles and even shopping with disinfectants and wipes is an almost forgotten vestige of grimmer times. Although the World Health Organization only called an end to the Covid-19 emergency on May 5, more than a year after much of the world returned to something like pre-pandemic life, some lockdown-era habits are lingering, such as the “unnecessary” use of disinfectants. That’s according to more than two dozen scientists writing in the Environmental Science & Technology journal, who are warning against such over-use, which they said can worsen asthma, dermatitis, inflammation and antimicrobial resistance.