All in Science & Technology

Investigation Reveals 100+ Uber Drivers Accused of Sexual Misconduct

CNN exclusively revealed yesterday that an investigation into Uber drivers across the country found over 100 drivers accused of either sexual assault or abuse in the past four years. Charges include forcible touching, false imprisonment and rape, and drivers have either been arrested, are wanted by the police, or have been named in civil suits. CNN explained that while this information is not available to the public, they were able to find the trend by reviewing “police reports, federal court records and county court databases for 20 major U.S. cities.” CNN also found that in the past, Uber has advocated for a “safe ride home” and has created campaigns around designated drivers, urging users to avoid drinking and driving. The network’s investigation reported that many of the victims had been drinking at the time of the incidents.

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Amazon to Raise Price of Prime

Amazon announced that they will raise the annual cost of their Prime membership from $99 to $119 annually during a call with investors on Thursday.  The new price will go into effect on May 11 and will begin applying to Prime renewals on June 16.  Amazon cited the increase in value of Prime due to new services such as Prime Video as reason for the change.  Earlier in the month, Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, told shareholders that the company has increased Prime membership to over 100 million paying members. 

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Snapchat's Struggles Continue

As Snap continues to make adjustments within its Snapchat app, its stock continues to take a nosedive. Snap (SNAP) stock closed down 7% yesterday, putting it more than 15% below the price when it went public last year. These recent adjustments have drawn criticism from different celebrities as well, including Kylie Jenner and Rihanna. Investors have doubts that Snapchat will ever reach Instagram's user count, especially with Instagram continuing to roll out many similar features of Snapchat. However, Snapchat isn’t the only social media platform drawing skepticism from investors, as Twitter stock fell yesterday despite the company reporting revenue and profit that topped projections.

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New Ominous Earthquake Warning for Bay Area

Everyone knows about the famous San Andreas fault line spanning across California and the potential danger it poses, but according to geologists, northern Californians have another troublesome fault to worry about.  According to a report from the United States Geological Survey, scientists believe that the largest immediate threat of an earthquake lies in the Hayward Fault, due to the highly populated areas of Oakland and Berkeley being located directly above it.  Scientists believe a major earthquake from this fault would result in catastrophic damage and the loss of hundreds of lives.  On top of that, major faults usually produce earthquakes every 150 years or so, and the last one from this fault line came exactly 150 years ago, leading geologists to believe that this fault could be due for a major quake.

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NASA Launches Planet-Hunting Satellite TESS

NASA’s new planet-hunting satellite, TESS, was launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida Wednesday. During its two-year mission TESS, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, will search for exoplanets, planets that are outside our solar system and planets that could support life. TESS will spend its first 60 days orbiting Earth to test its systems and will go on to replace the Kepler Space Telescope, which launched in 2009. The satellite will also search an area 400 times larger than the Kepler. NASA Astrophysics Division Director Paul Hertz said, “Until 20 years ago, we didn’t know of any planets beyond our own solar system. We’ve expanded our understanding of our place in the universe, and TESS will help us keep expanding.”

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Night owls have an increased mortality rate

A new study in the United Kingdom has found night owls have an increased mortality rate. The study, published Thursday, states those who classify as “definite evening types” have a 10% increased mortality rate and increase in having diabetes, neurological disorders, gastrointestinal issues and psychological problems. The associate professor of neurology at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine, Kristen Knutson, says there is a mismatch between a night owl’s body clock and the external world. If their schedules are irregular, this can cause major health issues. The risk of death was not increased for morning people or those with a slight preference to the evening.

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ESPN Set to Launch Streaming Service

One week from today, ESPN will launch its first direct-to-consumer TV service, named ESPN+.  The app will offer access for fans to stream hundreds of different events from a variety of different sports including MLB, NHL, MLS, boxing, golf, tennis, and several college sports. This aggressive expansion in coverage comes during troubling times for the sports and entertainment giant over the years, having laid off hundreds of employees in the past year.  Another streaming service for Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm content is in the works, and is expected to launch in some time in 2019.

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Zuckerberg to Testify Before Congress

Multiple news sources are now reporting that Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg plans on complying with the request of many senators to testify before congress regarding the company’s handling of customer data.  His testimony will come before the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee in the coming weeks.  This comes following the revelation from whistleblowers that British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica acquired the personal data of over 50 million Facebook users.  Zuckerberg now faces the daunting task of restoring public trust in his company, and a public hearing in congress could help his cause. 

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Missiles Intercepted over Saudi Arabia

Iranian-backed Houthi rebels fired seven missiles at four targets in Saudi Arabia on Sunday.  All seven missiles were intercepted and destroyed by the Saudi Air Defense Forces before they were able to strike their intended targets.  One man was killed from the falling missile debris.  The attack was a product of the civil war in Yemen, in which the Houthi rebels are seeking to overthrow the Saudi and US-backed government.  After past missile attacks from the Houthis, Saudi Arabia has responded with airstrikes on the Yemeni city of Sanaa, which is under the control of the Houthis.  They are expected to respond similarly this time as well. 

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Facebook Data Improperly Used by Trump-Linked Firm

Facebook has admitted that Cambridge Analytica, a data analysis firm linked to President Trump’s campaign, improperly used user data in an attempt to influence American voters.  University of Cambridge professor Aleksandr Kogan received permission from Facebook to obtain data from users that downloaded his personality test app called “thisisyourdigitallife.”  He then provided data from more than 50 million profiles to Cambridge Analytica, a move which violated Facebook’s rules.  Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix was also caught stating, “we have a long history of working behind the scenes,” while being secretly filmed by a British reporter.

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Alexa's LOLing

A number of Amazon Alexa users have reported hearing an unprompted laugh from their  devices over the last couple of days. The laugh happens randomly, when the device is not in use or in response to a request to turn on or off lights.  This has startled many owners and led them to believe their devices are haunted.  Amazon however says these worried customers need not worry, as they are currently ironing out the issues.  As if the advanced artificial personalities of robots aren’t creepy enough…

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Apple's Glass Panes Cause Pain

Apple’s glass walls at their Apple Park campus have been causing a lot of pain for employees. Multiple employees have walked into the glass walls, causing head injuries. The San Francisco Chronicle obtained multiple transcripts of 911 calls revealing the injuries caused by the glass. Apple has tried to slow down the rate of collisions by placing stickers on the glass walls. California building officials warned Apple of the possible issue during construction, even as construction workers walked into the glass. Employees moved into their new office in January and 911 dispatch has been receiving calls since then.

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Could Mickey D's Cure Baldness?

Word has it that eating McDonald’s french fries can help cure baldness! Well not exactly, but Japanese scientists have made an interesting discovery experimenting with oxygen-permeable dimethylpolysiloxane, a chemical used in small doses on McDonald’s french fries to prevent foaming of the oil, which they also use to fry Chicken McNuggets and fish. In an experiment with mice, scientists found that the chemical helped the animals grow hair on their backs and scalps.  While it does not physically upstart the growth of hair, it has proven effective in creating cells that help grow hair follicles.

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Unregulated Internet?

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has released plans to get rid of the net neutrality regulation, which would allow internet providers to decide to block websites they don’t like and hike up prices for higher internet speeds. The regulation was passed in 2015 and is another policy in a long list that Obama passed, which the Trump administration is looking to roll back. The head of the FCC, Ajit Pai, believes the regulation stifles innovation and is part of government overreach. This plan has been praised by broadband and wireless companies, along with conservatives, but has been heavily criticized by Internet companies and many Democrats who supported the original regulation.

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Tesla Releases New Sports Car and Big-Rig

Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced his company’s plans to release a new version of it Roadster sports car and a new electric big-rig truck.  The new Roadster, which will cost $200,000 in addition to a $50,000 deposit, boasts a zero-to-60 acceleration in just 1.9 seconds, making it the world’s fastest production car of all time.  Tesla’s new semi-truck can go from zero to 60 in only five seconds with an empty trailer and in just 20 seconds with a full load.  Both of these figures are faster than any diesel powered truck.  The Tesla truck will also be able to travel up to 500 miles on one charge, which Musk claims is about twice the distance of most trucking routes. 

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Pipeline Leaks in South Dakota

The Keystone Pipeline started leaking 210,000 gallons of oil in rural South Dakota on Thursday. Essentially the spill covered a large grassy field, there are no structures within a mile of the spill and it didn’t affect any drinking water sources. This doesn’t mean that environmentalists aren’t concerned though, and emergency crews are at the sight trying to contain the crisis. Another pipeline, Keystone XL, is famous for the protests it sparked by Native American tribes and environmentalists. Approval to start construction on Keystone XL will be announced in the next week if it is granted. If so, it will extend a 2,687-mile oil transport system across the U.S. from Canada. We hope it doesn't spill.

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The Search for Earth 2.0

Astronomers announced a newly discovered exoplanet on Wednesday. Ross 128 b is unique for several reasons: it’s the 2nd closest planet to our solar system—only 11 light years away—and, it could support life. Yup, you heard me: Ross 128 b could be our post-apocalyptic Plan B. Our potential home away from home has conditions that are ideal as it is a similar size to earth and similar surface temperature. It orbits a red dwarf star every 9.9 days. The planet likely resides within the “habitable zone” of its star, meaning water has the potential to pool on the surface. It’s also a likely candidate for Earth 2.0 because its star doesn’t tend to shoot out flares and ultraviolet and X-ray radiation at the planet.

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Here’s Why Snapchat’s in Trouble

On Tuesday, Snapchat announced that it is “planning a total overhaul”. This is a big risk because there’s no telling how users will react to the new Snapchat, especially those loyal to the current design. Snapchat isn’t getting as many new users as was initially projected (only 178 million versus expected 180.5 million), and its shares have fallen 22%. Another odd thing about the app is their advertising strategy, which analysts have long been skeptical of. Their competition, namely Facebook and Instagram, have started to use Snapchat’s features, like Stories, and companies like Apple and Microsoft have started trying Augmented Reality, which Snapchat helped pioneer. Changes to Snapchat may include data analysis to personalize content.

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Fake Tweets Mislead Voters in Virginia Governor Race

The Twitter account, “MAGA Mike King”, falsely tweeted a graphic instructing Virginians on how they could vote by text message, in an attempt to suppress voter turnout in the Virginia Governor’s race.  Despite the attention drawn to how tech companies, like Twitter, handle the spread of misinformation on their platforms following the 2016 Presidential Election, the account stayed active for about three hours on Tuesday morning.  The graphic in the tweets included the logos of the Democratic Party and its candidate in the race, Ralph Northam.  A similar campaign that told Hillary Clinton voters to vote by text message went viral during the 2016 election. 

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Robot Citizen

Before you ask, no, this is not a story from The Onion. Last week, Saudi Arabia, a country with a less-than-amazing human rights record that has been criticized for years for its treatment of women, granted citizenship to a humanoid robot named Sophia, produced by Hanson Robotics, during a program at the Future Investment Initiative. The initiative is a conference that links wealthy Saudis with innovative engineers and scientists. The irony of this entire situation is staggering: the robot made her comments on stage alone, without a male guardian, and did not wear a headscarf, both of which are forbidden under Saudi law.

 

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