What if tech tried to be healing instead of just addictive? | Rohan Gunatillake Monday 26 June 2017 03.00 EDT

Woman taking selfie while lying on the floor
‘It is ridiculous that we blame young people for being addicted to their phones and apps when the simple truth is that they are designed to be addictive.’ Photograph: Pekic/Getty Images

Despite the growing research into the negative impact that screen-based technologies can have on wellbeing, the trick the tech sector people have somehow pulled off is that they have made it our problem, not theirs. We are told to try things such as digital detoxes to learn how to use our devices in more balanced ways. My own work includes helping people include their technology in how they understand and practice mindfulness. However, both these approaches still makes it our problem while ignoring the root cause.

It is ridiculous that we blame young people for being addicted to their phones and apps when the simple truth is that they are designed to be addictive. It is time to apportion responsibility where it is due.

Addiction is not an accident: it is a strategy. In the world of app economics, addiction is what brings in the money. Whether it’s by trapping your attention and then selling it to advertisers or by trapping your attention and manipulating you to make a one-off or subscription-based payment, the basic idea is the same: catch that attention and then monetise it.

As a maker of mindfulness meditation apps, I work in the space where technology and wellbeing meet. It is an exciting place to be, but I know that no matter how successful the biggest wellbeing apps in the world become, they’ll never even come close to being in the same league as Facebook, Snapchat or Clash of Clans. It was reflecting on this that I realised that for mindfulness to truly scale up, the solution may not be to make specialist products, but instead to stitch it into everything.

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Anbar’s Illusions – By Carter Malkasian June 24, 2017

MOHANNED FAISAL / REUTERS Sunnis in Fallujah wave Saddam-era flags at a protest against Nouri al-Maliki’s Shiite-dominated government, May 2013.

The Failure of Iraq’s Success Story

One of the United States’ greatest successes in the Iraq war was in Anbar, where U.S. military forces and a remarkable tribal uprising inflicted a stunning defeat upon al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), the forerunner of today’s Islamic State (or ISIS). From shortly after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 until 2006, Anbar, the country’s westernmost province and a Sunni stronghold, was the center of an entrenched insurgency, which by early 2006 was threatening Baghdad. Then in the fall of 2006, just as U.S. leaders were considering the prospect of defeat, Sunni tribes in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar, formed a movement to partner with the Americans against AQI. This movement came to be known as the Anbar Awakening. Over the course of seven months of heavy fighting, the tribes, together with U.S. forces, overcame AQI in Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar. The awakening spread to the rest of the province and then to elsewhere in Iraq. AQI was pushed back, violence dropped, and the country witnessed a period of uneasy stability.

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School Vouchers Get A New Report Card Cory Turner – June 26, 2017 3:00 AM ET

Kids parachuting into a private school with voucher money
Shout for NPR

It is the education debate of the Trump era. With the president and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos using policy and the bully pulpit to champion private school vouchers, supporters and critics have tangled over the question:

Do low-income, public school students perform better when they’re given a voucher to attend a private school?

For years, the answer from researchers has been a muddle, while a handful of recent studies have clearly shown voucher students backsliding academically. But no one has studied the largest, single statewide program in the nation …

Until now.

More than 34,000 students are enrolled in Indiana’s Choice Scholarship Program. That’s 3 percent of students statewide. In a recent investigation of the program, NPR found some private schools turning away children with disabilities and LGBTQ students, but it was impossible to say, at the time, whether those students who are using vouchers are any better off academically.

Researchers Mark Berends of the University of Notre Dame and R. Joseph Waddington of the University of Kentucky have spent years studying this question, and they’ve given NPR an early look at their findings.

The backslide

In their unpublished research, which is now being peer-reviewed, Waddington and Berends studied the standardized test scores of low-income, public school students (grades 3-8) who qualified for free or reduced-price lunch and who used a voucher to switch to a private school.

When comparing these students’ achievement after the switch to their test scores the previous year, the researchers found:

  • Voucher students experienced “modest annual achievement losses” in math, especially in the first two years after leaving public school.
  • In English/language arts, voucher students showed no benefits.
  • These results echo what other researchers have found: that voucher students often backslide academically after switching to private school.

When students stick around, they improve

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Airbus Conquers Physics With a Funky Super-Fast Helicopter – JACK STEWART 06.25.17 08:00 AM


Emergency workers and the obscenely rich love helicopters, and for good reason. Unlike airplanes, whirlybirds can take off and land almost anywhere, making them just the thing for tight spots and urban areas. The drawback, though, is speed. Choppers are slow.

While Gulfstream’s G650 private jet streaks along at north of 600 mph, conventional choppers like the police or your local traffic reporter might use maxes out around 160 mph. Quick, but not that quick when talking about flight. Airbus thinks it found a way of closing the speed gap without sacrificing a helicopter’s inherent advantages: add wings and props to create an aircraft that can take off and land vertically, hover, and cruise at a heady 250 mph. Airbus calls it the Racer, for Rapid and Cost-Effective Rotorcraft.

You just know it came up with the name first, then found the words to make it work.


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Planets come in different species – The Economist June 26, 2017

Why they do so is now emerging

THE starting-point of science is collecting: animals, plants, minerals, elements, even stars. Then, once a collection is large enough, patterns begin to emerge. Animals and plants fall into phylogenetic trees, minerals into crystal groups, elements into the periodic table, stars into the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram. Those patterns both require and suggest explanation. Thus, the theory of evolution, the science of crystallography, an understanding of the chemical bond and a description of how stars shine over their lifetimes have all emerged from the classification of collections. Now, it appears, something similar is happening to planets.

A quarter of a century ago only nine planets were known—those of the Solar System, a number subsequently reduced to eight by the demotion of Pluto. These nearby worlds have, however, now been joined by thousands more that orbit stars other than the sun. Many of those have been discovered or confirmed to exist by Kepler, an American space telescope launched in 2009 with the specific aim of finding small, potentially Earth-like bodies, as opposed to the plethora of big, heavy, Jupiter-like gas giants that formed the bulk of previous discoveries.

On June 19th Andrew Howard of the California Institute of Technology and his colleagues announced the latest batch of Kepler’s discoveries, 219 of them, including ten that are about the size of Earth and have similar surface temperatures, and might thus be capable of supporting life. They also announced the result of an analysis of all of Kepler’s haul, the thrust of which is that small planets seem to come in two distinct types. Which type a planet is depends on its exact size. But there is a marked discontinuity between the smaller and the larger type, which seems to reflect the way that mass and chemical composition interact in the swirling clouds of gas and dust that form planetary nurseries.

Mind the gap

One of Kepler’s early findings was that there is an abundance of objects intermediate in size between Earth, the fifth-largest planet in the Solar System, and Neptune, the fourth-largest (shown, to scale, above). Because Neptune’s diameter is four times Earth’s, however, that is a big gap to fill.

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