Study blames YouTube for spread of Flat Earth movement

Conspiracy theories shown on video-sharing site persuade people to doubt Earth is round
YouTube is being blamed for the sharp rise in the number of people who believe the Earth is flat.
Researchers from Texas Tech University attended the world’s largest gathering of Flat Earthers in 2017 and 2018. During the conferences, interviews were conducted with 30 attendees that revealed a pattern regarding their beliefs.
Of the 30 people interviewed, all but one said they had not considered the Earth to be flat two years ago but changed their views after watching videos supporting the idea on YouTube. The other person learned of the idea after his daughter and son-in-law – who had seen Flat Earth videos on YouTube – told him about it.
Lead researcher Asheley Landrum presented her findings at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C., this past weekend. Landrum said YouTube’s algorithms make it easy to “end up going down the rabbit hole by presenting information to people who are going to be more susceptible to it.”
YouTube in January said it was taking steps to reduce recommendations of “borderline” content that comes close to – but doesn’t quite violate – its community guidelines, like videos claiming the Earth is flat and those promoting miracle cures for grave illnesses.
Lead image courtesy Amanda Carden via Shutterstock

Android Q May Replace the back button with a Gesture Navigation

Android’s back button might be going away entirely, replaced with a quick swipe to the left from the home button. XDA Developers has been digging into a leaked, early set of code from the next version of Android, codenamed Q, and the latest discovery from those forays is this potential demise of the back button, as well as a quicker app-changing animation when you swipe to the right.
The way that gestures and buttons work in Android 9 Pie (the current iteration, at least if you’re lucky enough to own a phone that runs it) is a little bit split. Google’s Pixel has just a home “pill” and then a back button appears only when it’s needed. To multitask, you swipe up. Other phones running Android 9 have a more traditional three-button layout, while still others teach you custom gestures to get rid of the navigation bar altogether.
Recent iPhones have a slightly similar set of gestures, with a back gesture that works by sliding in from the left of the screen. Basically we all have a future where to learn how to use a new phone you’ll just have to slide your thumb around and hope something good happens. Here’s a quick video XDA made showing the gesture system Google is experimenting with in Android Q.
It is, as anybody could have predicted, a little messy. For something as core to a phone as “going home” or “going back,” the fact that different phones have different methods could be a problem.
If we’re perfectly honest, there’s also no way to know for sure that this new gesture system XDA has discovered will be implemented as is. As you can see in the video above, it seems like Google hasn’t really thought through how you’d be able to switch back and forth between recent apps using the gesture area. And even if Google does implement it on the Pixel, there’s no guarantee that the rest of the Android ecosystem (aka the vast, vast majority of phones out there) will follow suit.
Speaking of gesture areas, let’s talk about the lead image on this post. It’s a Palm Pre, a dead phone that never really had a chance. This whole “swipe to the left from the home button” and “swipe across the gesture area to switch apps” and even “the home button is just a small white dot or glowing line at the bottom of your screen” are all things Palm did with the Pre in 2009. I am on the record as being against rose-colored webOS nostalgia, but sometimes the similarities are just too much to bear.
Just copy it entirely, Google, rather than have all this confusion. It’ll be fine. Heck, that’s what the iPhone X (almost) did.

Huawei Founder Ren Zhengfei, Says There's No Stopping China's Tech Giant, Despite U.S. Pressure

Huawei Founder Ren Zhengfei, Says There's No Stopping China's Tech Giant, Despite U.S. Pressure
The founder of Huawei said there is “no way the U.S. can crush” the tech giant, calling the December arrest of his daughter — the company’s chief financial officer — “politically motivated.”
In an interview with the BBC, Ren Zhengfei spoke confidently about the company’s fate despite mounting pressure from Washington. The U.S. has accused the company of circumventing sanctions against Iran and stealing trade secrets.
The U.S. has leveled 23 charges against Huawei and Ren’s daughter and Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested at Washington’s request in Vancouver, where she is currently under house arrest awaiting possible extradition.
Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned countries not to use Huawei technology and said that doing so would make it harder for Washington to “partner alongside them.”
The U.S., Australia and New Zealand have already blocked Huawei from their 5G mobile broadband networks. Canada is considering following suit.
FILE PHOTO: Meng Wanzhou, Huawei Technologies Co Ltd's chief financial officer (CFO), is seen in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters December 6, 2018. Huawei/Handout via REUTERS
Nonetheless, Ren remains bullish.
“There’s no way the U.S. can crush us,” Ren told the BBC. “The world cannot leave us because we are more advanced. Even if they persuade more countries not to use us temporarily, we can always scale things down a bit.”
“If the lights go out in the West, the East will still shine. And if the North goes dark, there is still the South. America doesn’t represent the world. America only represents a portion of the world,” he added.

Russian Private ‘space yachts’ to fly tourists to near-Earth orbit in 5 years

Russian Private ‘space yachts’ to fly tourists to near-Earth orbit in 5 years
Russian ‘space yachts’ to fly tourists to near-Earth orbit in 5 years
Selena Space Yacht © NPO Aviation and Space Technologies
Private space tourism is taking off in Russia with plans to send tourists to near-Earth orbit in spacecraft capable of launching from ordinary airfields, chief designer of NPO Aviation and Space Technologies Aleksandr Begak said.
He told Sputnik news agency the first flights may start in five years and will cost about $200,000 to $300,000 per person.
According to Begak, a number of private companies are currently working on the unmanned spacecraft dubbed Selena Space Yacht. The works are conducted with the support of the National Technology Initiative’s (NTI) AeroNet and SpaceNet working groups.
“We have an opportunity to land on any airfield, the device lands like an airplane... We now calculate the optimal time for space travel, a comfortable flight path, because experience shows that people do not need to be in zero-gravity condition for as long as 10 minutes,” Begak said, adding that the development of the spacecraft began two years ago.
He explained that three “space yachts” will be produced, with six passenger seats and one pilot seat each. Though the spacecraft will be unmanned, a pilot will be present for the convenience of passengers, he said.
The vehicle will enter space at a maximum speed of 2,685 miles per hour to a height of 75 to 87 miles (120-140 kilometers).Earlier, the co-leader of the working group of the National AeroNet Technology Initiative, Sergey Zhukov, said that Russia could see the start of private space tourism in around five years. Participants will be flying for several minutes to a height of 100km before descending by parachute or engine-powered aircraft, he said.

Israel shoots for the moon with privately funded spacecraft

Israel shoots for the moon with privately funded spacecraft
Yariv Bash, right, Yonatan Winetraub, middle, and Kfir Damari, the founders of SpaceIL, inserting a time capsule into the Beresheet spacecraft, December 17, 2018 (Yoav Weiss)
Yariv Bash, right, Yonatan Winetraub, middle, and Kfir Damari, the founders of SpaceIL, inserting a time capsule into the Beresheet spacecraft, December 17, 2018 (Yoav Weiss)
Aiming to become the fourth country to make a soft landing on the moon, Israel's non-profit SpaceIL has announced it will launch a spacecraft from Florida's Cape Canaveral Thursday on board a Falcon 9 rocket.
The unmanned craft, weighing 1,300 pounds and standing approximately five feet tall, will then begin an about seven-week journey to the moon, from where it will send back images of the rocky surface and conduct experiments on the lunar magnetic field.
The spacecraft is called "Beresheet," a reference to the first words of the Bible in Hebrew: "In the beginning..."
    Perhaps it should have been called "Chutzpah."
    For decades, the moon was the exclusive domain of the superpowers. The Soviet Union landed Luna 2 on the Earth's nearest neighbor in 1959. Three years later, the United States landed Ranger 4 on the moon.
    These were "hard landings," meaning the craft crashed into the moon. The first "soft landings" for both countries came in 1966, when spacecraft made controlled descents to the lunar surface.
    It would take nearly another 50 years for a third country to perform a soft moon landing, when China's Chang'e 3 did it in 2013.
    If Israel's spacecraft venture proceeds as planned, it would become the fourth -- and by far the smallest -- country to do so. It would also become the first private enterprise to make a controlled landing on the moon, with the smallest spacecraft to do it, and by far the least expensive mission.

    The founders of SpaceIL and members of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) displaying the time capsule that was inserted into the Beresheet space craft scheduled to land on the moon in 2019; Dec. 17, 2018 (Yoav Weiss)
    The total cost of the program, raised from private donations, is $100 million, a small fraction of the billions of dollars invested in the US space program.
    "This mission that we were talking about was really a mission impossible," said entrepreneur Morris Kahn, who donated $40 million to the project. "The only thing is I didn't realize it was impossible, and the three engineers that started this project didn't think it was impossible, and the way Israel thinks, nothing is impossible... We are really making this dream come true."
    The spacecraft will orbit earth before entering the moon's orbit to land.
    SpaceIL was founded eight years ago to compete in the Google Lunar X Prize, an international competition to see whether a private enterprise could land a spacecraft on the moon, move 500 meters in any direction, and transmit live, high-definition video from the lunar surface.
    The competition was canceled in January 2018 when none of the five teams left in the competition was able to meet the March deadline for a launch.
    But some of the teams persisted, determined to land on the moon even without the incentive of $30 million in prize money.
      SpaceIL pressed on, signing with Elon Musk's SpaceX to launch their craft to the moon on board a Falcon 9 rocket, which is scheduled for launch on February 21.
      Beresheet will travel approximately 4 million miles on its journey, circling the earth multiple times to gain speed before it slingshots towards the moon. It is scheduled to land on April 11.

      Tech: Mozilla adds website breach notifications to Firefox

      Tech: Mozilla adds website breach notifications to Firefox
      A screen displays the logo of the open-s
      Mozilla is adding a new security feature to its Firefox Quantum web browser that will alert users when they visit a website that has recently reported a data breach.
      When a Firefox user lands on a website with a breach in its recent past they’ll see a pop up notification informing them of the barebones details of the breach and suggesting they check to see if their information was compromised.
      “We’re bringing this functionality to Firefox users in recognition of the growing interest in these types of privacy- and security-centric features,” Mozilla said today. “This new functionality will gradually roll out to Firefox users over the coming weeks.”
      Here’s an example of what the site breach notifications look like and the kind of detail they will provide:
      Mozilla’s website breach notification feature in Firefox
      Mozilla is tying the site breach notification feature to an email account breach notification service it launched earlier this year, called Firefox Monitor, which it also said today is now available in an additional 26 languages.
      Firefox users can click through to Monitor when they get a pop up about a site breach to check whether their own email was involved.
      As with Firefox Monitor, Mozilla is relying on a list of breached websites provided by its partner, Troy Hunt’s pioneering breach notification service, Have I Been Pwned.
      There can of course be a fine line between feeling informed and feeling spammed with too much information when you’re just trying to get on with browsing the web. But Mozilla looks to sensitive to that because it’s limiting breach notifications to one per breached site. It will also only raise a flag if the breach itself occurred in the past 12 months.
      Data breaches are an unfortunate staple of digital life, stepping up in recent years in frequency and size along with big data services. That in turn has cranked up awareness of the problem. And in Europe tighter laws were introduced this May to bring in a universal breach disclosure requirement and raise penalties for data protection failures.
      The GDPR framework also generally encourages data controllers and processors to improve their security systems given the risk of much heftier fines.
      Although it will likely take some time for any increases in security investments triggered by the regulation to filter down and translate into fewer breaches — if indeed the law ends up having that hoped for impact.
      But one early win for GDPR is it has greased the pipe for companies to promptly disclose breaches. This means it’s helping to generate more up-to-date security information which consumers can in turn use to inform the digital choices they make. So the regulation looks to be generating positive incentives.

      social Media: Facebook debuts Lasso, a TikTok-style video app aimed at teens

      social Media: Facebook debuts Lasso, a TikTok-style video app aimed at teens
      In an attempt to court the youths who have been fleeing from its flagship platform, Facebook has once again dipped into its bag of tricks and pulled out a TikTok clone. Lasso, a music-filled video sharing app that Facebook has reportedly been working on since October, is available now for iOS and Android.
      Facebook describes Lasso as an app that "makes it easy for anyone to create and share short videos with fun effects." The app will allow users to follow other creators, search for content using hashtags and create new, short videos using a suite of creative tools. Facebook makes sure to note that the app includes a "massive music library," which leverages it to take a shot at TikTok, an app that has gained popularity with lip sync videos.
      Facebook Lasso
      Because Lasso is owned by Facebook, it integrates into the company's ecosystem so you can sign in using an Instagram or Facebook account (or create one if you've managed to avoid the platform for this long). The app will need to access your profile page, photos and videos. When you make your own videos on Lasso, you'll be able to share them directly to your Facebook Story. A similar compatibility with Instagram stories is coming later this year, per The Verge.
      You can get Lasso, which Facebook rolled out very quietly, starting today. The app already is filled with content, suggesting the app may have been able to a small group of community members before its public release.

      Chengdu City of China Wants to Launch an 'Artificial Moon' to Replace Street Lights By 2020

      Chengdu City of China Wants to Launch an 'Artificial Moon' to Replace Street Lights By 2020
      The skyline in the city of Chengdu, China
      The skyline in the city of Chengdu, China ( iStock )
      The streets of Chengdu in western China could soon be lit up by an artificial satellite moon in the night-time, rather than the more conventional streetlights, if an ambitious plan by a private aerospace company gets the go-ahead.The thinking is to save a hefty sum in electricity costs, according to Wu Chunfeng, chairman of the Chengdu Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute Co., who is behind the scheme.
      Rather than using up energy here on Earth, the satellite would reflect the Sun's rays from the other side of the planet back on to Chengdu.
      Details are thin on the ground, but it sounds as though solar panel-like wings with a special reflective coating would be used to redirect sunbeams from space.
      The illumination on the ground would be about eight times what you would expect from the actual Moon, Chunfeng says.
      Speaking at an entrepreneur conference, Wu said the satellite will allow the light to be carefully controlled and kept to an area 10-80 kilometres (around 6-50 miles) in diameter. The light wouldn't be strong enough to interfere with nocturnal wildlife activities – or at least no more than streetlights, anyway – backers of the project say.
      And the "dusk-like glow" that the fake moon would create would also be something of a tourist attraction for the area, according to the developers. The satellite could be picked up on a telescope, Fortune reports, if you don't want to make the trip to Chengdu.
      Apparently the necessary technology has already been tested and the satellite itself could be ready to take to orbit as early as 2020.
      Based on a report from the People's Daily in China, inspiration came from an unnamed French artist who wanted to hang a necklace made of mirrors up above Earth to reflect sunshine on Paris at night.
      And the idea actually has some precedence, in a way: in the Norwegian town of Rjukan, which is so deep in a valley it gets no sunlight in the winter months, three computer-controlled mirrors sit on top of a nearby mountain to reflect the Sun's rays on to the town.
      Of course pulling off the same trick in space requires a lot more technical expertise and a lot more money – unless the plan proves to be suitably cost-effective, it's unlikely to ever get off the ground (quite literally).
      Previous attempts to harness the Sun's rays from space to reflect sunlight back to Earth have been hampered by mechanical and manufacturing difficulties. We'll have to wait and see whether Chunfeng and his team can actually pull this one off.
      And if the satellite does get the thumbs up from the authorities, and enough funding behind it, it'll have to get in line: we're seeing satellites arriving in orbit to do everything from find aliens to provide internet.
      So, we'll have to wait a couple of years to see whether this idea really does take off - but for now add it to the list of weird and wonderful space innovation ideas scientists are exploring.

      Paul Gardner Allen, Co-founder Of Microsoft, Is Dead

      Paul Gardner Allen, Co-founder Of Microsoft, Is Dead
      Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft, has passed on.
      He died on Monday at the age of 65, following complications arising from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. 
      On October 1, 2018, Allen had revealed via a tweet that his lymphoma had returned.
      The tweet read: "Some personal news: Recently, I learned the non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma I battled in 2009 has returned. I’ve begun treatment & my doctors are optimistic that I will see a good result. Appreciate the support I’ve received & count on it as I fight this challenge."
      He founded Microsoft with Bill Gates in 1975, years after the two met as student-colleagues at a private school.
      A statement on his passing by Microsoft Chief Executive Officer, Satya Nadella, read: "Paul Allen's contributions to our company our industry, and our community are indispensable. As co-founder of Microsoft, in his own quiet and persistent way, he created magical products, experiences,and institutions, and in doing so, he changed the world".

      Leon Lederman The Physicist Who Coined the 'God Particle' and Sold His Nobel Prize to Pay Medical Bills Dies at 96

      Leon Lederman The Physicist Who Coined the 'God Particle' and Sold His Nobel Prize to Pay Medical Bills Dies at 96
      a man wearing a suit and tie:  Leon Lederman speaks at the panel discussion ‘Pioneers in Science’ at the World Science Festival held at The Graduate Center, Proshansky Auditorium, CUNY on May 29, 2008 in New York
      © Photo:Getty Images Leon Lederman speaks at the panel discussion ‘Pioneers in Science’ at the World Science Festival held at The Graduate Center, Proshansky Auditorium, CUNY on May 29, 2008 in New York
      Leon Lederman, the former head of the Fermi National Accelerator Lab and winner of the Nobel Prize in physics in 1988, died at a nursing home in Idaho on October 3rd. He was 96.
      Lederman will perhaps best be remembered for coining the phrase “the God particle,” referring to the Higgs boson, which was theorized for decades before it was finally observed in 2012.
      Sadly, Lederman had to sell his Nobel Prize in 2015 to help pay for his medical care for dementia, a horrifying indictment of the American health care system. The United States is the only advanced wealthy nation in the world that doesn’t guarantee health care to all of its citizens. The Nobel Prize sold for $765,000 to an anonymous buyer online.
      “It’s terrible,” Leon’s wife Ellen Lederman told NBC News back in 2015 after they had to sell the Nobel Prize. “It’s really hard. I wish it could be different. But he’s happy. He likes where he lives with cats and dogs and horses. He doesn’t have any problems with anxiety, and that makes me glad that he’s so content.”
      From the Associated Press:
      Lederman was born July 15, 1922, in New York City, where his father operated a hand laundry. Lederman earned a degree in chemistry from City College of New York in 1943, served three years in the U.S. Army during World War II, and then went to Columbia University where he received a Ph.D. in particle physics in 1951.
      He began making discoveries involving subatomic particles, eventually becoming director of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.
      Some scientists take issue with the name “God particle” as sensationalistic, but it’s officially part of the international lexicon now, so there’s no changing it. Lederman had a knack for helping the public better understand science, and the complexity of the Higgs boson was no different.

      Social Media: Instagram back up after worldwide outage

      Social Media: Instagram back up after worldwide outage
      Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to a screen projection of Instagram logo in this picture illustrationFacebook Inc's photo-sharing social network Instagram is back up for some users on Wednesday, after suffering a worldwide outage days after it installed a new head of the app.
      According to a check by Reuters, the mobile app and the website, which were temporarily down, are back up and users could post pictures and videos on to their feed. Earlier, the app displayed an error message saying "couldn't refresh feed," while its website did not load for users.
      Users bombarded Twitter to complain about the outage, tweeting jokes and comments along with the #instagramdown hashtag. "How am I supposed to know who likes avocado on toast now #instagramdown," Connell@connell_mchugh tweeted.DownDetector's live outage map earlier showed that parts of North America, Europe, Australia, India, Singapore and other countries were facing issues with the service.
      Facebook and Instagram were not immediately available to comment.
      The global outage comes after Instagram announced on Monday that long-term insider Adam Mosseri will take over as the new head of the photo-sharing app, a week after its co-founders resigned.
      The app has more than one billion active monthly users and has grown by adding features such as messaging and short videos. Culled

      Space Science: University of Hong Kong boosts space research in mainland China with HK$10 million for new Hangzhou lab

      Space Science: University of Hong Kong boosts space research in mainland China with HK$10 million for new Hangzhou lab
      The University of Hong Kong is pumping HK$10 million (US$1.28 million) into building a new space research laboratory on the mainland as it seeks a greater role in Chinese projects, including a 50 million yuan (US$7.28 million) microsatellite it is working on with partners there.The new facility will be at the University of Hong Kong Zhejiang Institute of Research and Innovation (HKU-ZIRI) near Hangzhou in Zhejiang province.
      “This strategic investment is designed to help put space and planetary sciences and space-related activities squarely on the map at HKU,” said Professor Quentin Parker, associate dean (global) in the faculty of science and acting director of the HKU Laboratory for Space Research.
      Set to open in a few months, the lab will initially have about six members of staff. Next year it plans to launch the microsatellite, named HKU No 1, on a Chinese rocket from one of four mainland sites.

      The satellite hosts a 50kg X-ray telescope being built and tested by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation in Beijing. Inspired by a lobster’s vision – the crustacean’s pea-sized eyes give it wide-angle sight – the device is called the “lobster eye X-ray telescope”.
      Parker described the lab as a “game changer” that would open up opportunities for space research in Hong Kong and on the mainland.
      China has an ambitious space programme that aims to put a permanent space station into orbit by the early 2020s. This December the Chinese space agency will attempt to land a probe on the moon’s far side, and it also has plans for a moon base and mission to Mars.The country’s space budget was US$6.1 billion in 2013, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
      Parker said the HKU lab would fund the work of two postdoctoral fellows from top mainland institutions – the Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at Peking University and a space and astrophysics group at Nanjing University.
      “These shared positions will be hosted by the physics and earth sciences departments at HKU 50 per cent of the time. This will help turbo charge collaboration and opportunities for Hong Kong-based scientists with top mainland space and astrophysics groups,” he said.
      Parker’s next step would be to find donors to endow a chair professor in space science at HKU, he added, boosting the lab’s already strong line-up of staff, which includes astrophysicist Dr Meng Su and internationally known Mars expert Dr Joseph Michalski.
      “We are well placed to emerge over the coming years as a true force in space and planetary science – in Hong Kong, the mainland, and globally,” Parker said.