IELTS READING MATERIAL 2 – MISCELLANEOUS

  1. Gastrophysics: The New Science of Eating by Charles Spence review – beyond food

Charles Spence is not afraid of stirring things up. “The pleasures of the table reside in the mind, not the mouth,” he writes, no doubt triggering much gnashing of teeth from cookbook writers the world over.

 

In fact, while Gastrophysics is about cracking the conundrum of the perfect meal, it has almost nothing to do with the nuts and bolts of cuisine. Instead, this is the science of the “everything else”, a blending of gastronomy and psychophysics to probe the myriad, seemingly peripheral, ingredients that influence our perception of flavour, steer our culinary choices and make all the difference between a memorable meal and one to be forgotten.

 

As head of the Crossmodal Research Laboratory at the University of Oxford and a prolific author of gastrophysics research, Spence is ideally placed to unpick the burgeoning field, and does so with almost frenetic conviviality as he reveals how our senses combine, and even influence each other, to affect our perception of what we eat.

 

The result is a smörgåsbord of revelations, from the finding that coloring white wine red can trick experts into describing the aromas of vin rouge, to more recent discoveries – among them that heavier cutlery encourages diners to pay more, that ginger biscuits taste spicier when served from a rough plate, and that serving a strawberry mousse on a white dish increases its perceived sweetness by 10% compared with a black one.

 

Top chefs and food giants alike have been quick to grab a slice of the action. As Spence points out, restaurateurs have embraced multisensory trickery to boost the dining experience, spraying the scent of saffron over guests to enhance the flavour of lobster, or Googling their guests to tap into the powerful effect of personalization. More nefariously, supermarkets have labelled products with the names of bogus British-sounding farms, presumably to tap into consumers’ apparent willingness to pay more for an aura of authenticity.

 

But there are hints of societal gains too. Tint a drink pink, and manufacturers can cut the sugar content, relying on our subconscious association between colour and sweetness to make up the difference – although Spence advises a “health by stealth” approach to prevent customers claiming they can tell the difference. Meanwhile, Spence believes that our future cuisine could be shaped by his own Ig Nobel prize-winning finding that making the crunch of a crisp louder increases its apparent freshness. “Playing on the sound of crunch might offer one way in to the popularization of entomophagy,” he writes as he gamely considers how to make insects more appetizing.

 

Technology, too, is being embraced. Spence is among those exploring its potential, from the use of tablet computers as evocative plates to the creation of gadgets that release the smell of food to help those with Alzheimer’s eat regularly.

 

But while gastrophysics seems a very modern field, its roots reach far back. In the 16th century, musicians were already composing music to complement feasts, while the 1930s saw a lively band of Italian futurists cooking up ingenious dinner parties. They sprayed perfume in diners’ faces, served frog’s legs to the sound of croaking, and even, Spence reveals, suggested parties where guests should be instructed “to stroke their neighbours pyjamas, made of different materials, while dining”.

 

Spence knows his patter, cheerily whisking the reader on a journey through the senses like a magician – an impression backed up by his penchant for conjuring up imaginative dining experiences with top chefs and hosting multisensory cinema events. He flits from the importance of matching expectations to the taste of a dish to boost its appeal, to the perils of food porn, to the revelation that people tend to link blob-like shapes to sweet foods – explaining the furious accusations that Cadbury had changed the recipe of its Dairy Milk bars in 2013 when it had, in fact, only rounded off its corners.

 

But like so many illusions, once revealed, the tricks of the trade can seem screamingly obvious: call a Patagonian toothfish a Chilean sea bass, and it’s no surprise that sales will soar. And Gastrophysics lacks discussion around whether its revelations differ between cultures. Occasionally, too, Spence strikes an unsavoury note. Romping through ever more theatrical concepts dreamed up in the world’s most exclusive modernist restaurants, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that gastrophysics is often about titillating the tastebuds of those wealthy enough to be bored of dining well. “[Heston] Blumenthal conferred with magicians while experimenting with a flaming sorbet that would ignite at the click of the waiter’s fingers,” notes Spence in one of his many flattering references to the chef’s experiments.

But what begins in top kitchens eventually trickles down to the home, and Spence offers suggestions for an unforgettable dinner, from popping candy in the mashed potato to changing the music and lighting of a room to tweak the taste of wine. Gastrophysics serves up a mind-bending menu of fascinating insights. But whether atomisers, scented cutlery and culinary soundtracks become ubiquitous might be a matter of taste.

 

 

 

 

 

  1. A Man’s Guide to Dressing Sharp and Casual in His 30s

 

 

In a man’s 20s, he does a lot of creating and experimenting with his career, habits, and relationships, as well as his style.

 

In his 30s, he starts to build and solidify the things he launched in the previous decade of his life.

 

While modern 30-something men aren’t always as solidly settled into adulthood as those in times past, it’s still a decade where guys are at least trying to pivot and head in that direction. You should largely know who you are by now — what direction you want to head, and, how you like to dress.

 

So, this is a decade where you can start to build on the things you learned by experimenting with your personal style in your 20s. You’re going to improve the quality and fit of your favorite staples and cull your wardrobe into something befitting a man on the up and up.

 

Casual in Your 30s: Needs and Wants

 

As we discussed in the first installment of this series, a “casual” wardrobe isn’t necessarily short on formality — it’s simply what you wear outside of work for personal pleasure, whether that’s comfortable jeans or dapper suits.

What you wear when you’re just being “you” tells people a lot about you. It’s going to be one of the large determining factors in how your friends and peers perceive you.

So what should a man in his 30s be thinking about in regards to style, particularly when compared to men of other ages and generations?

 

  1. Fit

 

Unless you’re very lucky or very determined or both, your body has probably changed since you were 20. That’s not a bad thing, unless you’re fond of getting carded, but it is something you need to take into account when you dress.

 

The big three-oh is a good time to go through your closet and get rid of some old clothes. It’s a safe bet you’ve got some things in there that don’t actually fit, either because they’ve shrunk over time or you’ve grown, and you’ll want to remove the temptation to wear them out and about.

These are also the years when, if you haven’t before, you should be diving into the luxury that is custom-tailored clothing.

Depending on your means, you may not be able to afford a wardrobe made of bespoke suits and shirts, of course, and you can look great without. But you should at the very least establish a relationship with a tailor you like, and have him (or her) adjust your off-the-rack clothing to your specific measurements.

Your peers are increasingly going to be better dressers as you age, and a tailored fit in all your clothes — even the casual ones — helps you stay ahead of the curve. It also makes sure your body is looking its best at all times, no matter what shape it’s in.

 

  1. Identity

 

Your 20s were a good age for experimenting with looks. Your 30s certainly haven’t turned you stodgy, but it is time to have a little consistency in both your personality and its outward reflection. Dressing like a ripped-jeans grunge rocker one day and an ascot-wearing turn-of-the-century dandy the next just makes you look flaky.

You should have — or should work on developing — a look you’re comfortable with as your standard or “default” style. You don’t have to box yourself in, but you should probably know by now whether you prefer to wear jeans, chinos, or wool slacks as your off-hours trousers, and whether you prefer shirts with a traditional turndown collar (“dress” shirts) or something a little more relaxed.

This is also a good age to establish a few “favorites.” Own a couple beloved (and perhaps aging) garments that your friends know you for. Adjust and repair them as needed to keep them in your regular wardrobe for years. It’ll be a comforting touchstone for both you and everyone else.

Perhaps most importantly of all, this is an age where it’s crucial to have an identity — both an internal one and a wardrobe to represent it — that’s separate from your work life. Don’t be the guy who wears khakis and a blue shirt to the office, then puts on khakis and a blue shirt for a baseball game on Saturday as well.

It may sound like a minor concern, but having a “self” that’s separate from what you do for a living makes a big impact on your happiness and stress levels. Your clothes should be something enjoyable that you unwind in, not a reminder of your job (even if you love your work).

 

  1. Gravitas

 

We usually reserve the word “dignity” for older gentlemen (you’ll see it, for example, in our article on dressing for your 40s), but a man in his 30s wants his clothes to add a certain social weight as well.

There comes an age — and it almost always comes in the 30s at some point or another — where it’s no longer possible to be mistaken for a fun-loving 20-something out on the town. Rather than dressing even more relaxed and “funky” in an attempt to appear more youthful, accept that milestone with class, and even enthusiasm; exuding a bit of gravitas prompts people to take you more seriously and allows you to move into a more influential role.

This is an age where you should be comfortable wearing a jacket more often than not, wearing leather shoes instead of sneakers, and tying your own tie without thinking about it. You should have a haircut that can go before a board meeting or a judge with no more preparation than a quick combing. You should own a decent watch.

Little acknowledgments of adulthood like that are integral to looking like a man who’s comfortable being who he is, rather than a man who misses what he was.

 

3 Pedestrian Deaths Are Rising—and Walking Here Is the Most Dangerous Route

 

 

Walking is great for your health, and more and more Americans are picking it as their preferred method of transit. But there’s one important risk to watch out for when you’re walking: Pedestrian deaths are spiking, a new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) shows.

 

According to the report, the number of pedestrian fatalities in the U.S. increased by 25 percent from 2010 to 2016. Compare that to total traffic deaths, which rose by just 6 percent during that same time.

 

What’s more, the GHSA estimates that pedestrian fatalities rose 11 percent from 2015 to 2016, which is the largest one-year increase that they’ve seen in the 40 years they’ve been keeping national records. More sobering? The second-largest increase occurred in 2015, showing that we’re firmly planted in a dangerous trend.

The data also showed that the most dangerous areas were not intersections. In fact, only 18 percent of all pedestrian fatalities occurred there. On the other hand, non-intersection travel lanes, like midblocks or on the highway, accounted for the vast majority of pedestrian fatalities—nearly 3 out of every 4. Non-travel lanes, like shoulders and driveways, made up 10 percent of all pedestrian deaths.

What’s to blame for the rising risk? Things like cheaper gas prices, weather conditions, more miles traveled, and more people out walking may be partly to blame.

But one more recent contributing factor is probably smartphone distraction, the authors believe. The growing use of these kinds of devices likely diverts attention away from both pedestrians and drivers, leading to potentially deadly results. (Here’s why sane, non-suicidal grownups still continue to text and drive.)

 

So put the phone down—when you’re behind the wheel and when you’re taking a stroll. People who text while crossing the street are nearly 4 times more likely to display at least on unsafe behavior, like disobeying the lights or crossing mid-intersection, a University of Washington study found.

 

 

  1. 6 Things I Learned Trying a Boxer’s Workout

 

I can barely feel my lungs, and I swear, all I’ve really done is bounce around on the balls of my feet.

It’s Monday at Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn and Chris Algieri is kicking my ass. The former World Boxing Organization junior welterweight champ, who’s working with Mexican beer company Tecate to help fans get closer to the sport of boxing, is taking a handful of media through an introductory workout. And 15 minutes in, I’m gasping for air, not sure how many more impactful punches I can actually throw.

 

“And this,” Algieri says later, “isn’t close to how I train.”

 

But it’s enough to show why boxing training has seen a mini-resurgence among celebrities (Google Adriana Lima’s workout), why Gleason’s is filled with sweat-soaked youngsters, and why this is a perfect changeup to your typical cardio or HIIT routine. Algieri, fresh off serving as nutritionist for Danny Jacobs, is only teaching basics—but the basics will still burn oodles of calories and craft strong legs and a carved midsection.

 

Here are five things I learned from my first boxing workout:

 

1) Boxing kills your legs.

 

Just bouncing around in a boxer’s stance is a decent leg workout. And the stance is the starting point for everything that follows. To find your boxer’s stance, stand straight, and then take a step backwards with your right leg (if you’re right-handed), as far as you can, without turning your hips.

 

Now, turn that right foot outwards, and shift it a few inches to the right, then lift the heel of that foot off the ground. Center your weight and bend your knees. That’s your stance. You’ll maintain this position for much of any boxing workout. Any time you need to dodge, Algieri says, you’ll bend at the knees, just low enough to escape any imaginary punch.

 

By workout’s end, I’ve done at least 80 uneven squats, enough that my quads and hips are feeling it.

 

 

2) Boxing is all old school.

 

Basketball and football training have grown increasingly scientific, but you won’t find any trace of sports science at Gleason’s. Algieri, who has a master’s degree in clinical nutrition, pushes pomegranate juice and dons a heart-rate monitor when he trains alone, but he’s an outlier in a sport that still views its bell as “high-tech”.

“I think boxing is a little bit of an old-world mentality,” Algieri says. “It’s very antiquated from a sports science aspect.”

Ideas for loosening and priming soft tissues for workouts haven’t reached the boxing world just yet; there’s not a foam roller or Power Plate in sight. While football coaches are using GPS technology to track the velocity of players and NBA teams have begun vigorously charting player sleep habits, even at elite levels, boxing trainers don’t have such discussions, Algieri says.

 

3) It’s not easy to master the uppercut.

 

The power for each and every punch is generated by an aggressive and violent rotation through the hips and core. That movement is somewhat easy to learn for simple straight-ahead jabs, but the uppercut isn’t quite as natural. To generate power on an uppercut, you actually need to squat (there it is again!) slightly in a boxer’s stance, then rotate through your hips and drive your fist straight up and forward.

So nuanced is a perfect uppercut that it’s a key reason boxers often tear their biceps tendons and labrums, Algieri says. (Here’s what that horrific injury looks like.)

 

4) Boxing is a core killer.

 

After shadowboxing long enough to learn all four main punches (left and right jabs, left and right uppercuts), then doing some light work with a partner, Algieri takes us over to the heavy bag for six 30-second intervals of relentless jab-throwing, and it’s here that my core takes a serious pounding.

Delivering each punch with proper hip and core snap generates the power to get the bag moving, but it leaves my abs crying at the end of each interval.

And since we’re trying to build that core strength, Algieri pushes us to more core work afterwards, focusing on off-center planks and feet-elevated Russian twists. On their own, the two movements aren’t that hard, but after all that boxing, they’re shredding my midsection.

 

5) Boxing doesn’t include “rest periods.”

 

Crossfitters often scale workouts when fatigue sets in, bodybuilders fully rest between sets, and HIIT workouts leave brief rest periods, but there’s never supposed to be true rest here. Boxers often train with no real breather, conditioning themselves for boxing matches that offer just a minute between 3-minute rounds.

Algieri provides a 15-second breather between sets on the heavy bag, but that’s only a break from punching. During that period, we’re told to bounce back and forth in our boxer’s stance or do squats.

 

“There’s really no time to drop the intensity,” Algieri says. “You’re supposed to fight through.”

 

6) Boxing is best used as a changeup.

 

Algieri’s boxing workout burns plenty of calories and gets plenty of muscles firing, but even he admits that it shouldn’t carry a training regimen. Why? Because it allows for no balanced muscle recruitment unless you’re coordinated enough to switch between righty and southpaw stances. (Spoiler alert before you try: You’re not.)

“It’s not a symmetrical sport,” Algieri says. “It’s just not.”

That’s why Algieri supplements his own boxing work with classic weight room work, doing plenty of bench presses, deadlifts and front squats when he’s not prepping for a fight.

“In between,” he says, “I think it’s important to step back from the sport.”

 

  1. Liberating China’s Past: An Interview with Ke Yunlu

 

With the closing of this month’s National People’s Congress, China’s political season is upon us. It will culminate in the autumn with Xi Jinping’s almost certain reappointment to another five-year term. With Xi rapidly becoming the most important Chinese leader since Deng Xiaoping, I began thinking about some of his formative years, especially the Cultural Revolution of 1966-1976 when he grew up, the 1980s when he served in a rural county at the beginning of the reform era, and the 1990s, when he was an official during an explosion of religiosity known as “Qigong Fever.”

 

This, in turn, got me thinking about Ke Yunlu. The pen name of Bao Guolu, Ke Yunlu was one of the most popular authors in China in the 1980s and 1990s. Though none of his books have been translated, he is well-known in China for his politically prescient novels, including one that is widely seen as having predicted Xi’s rise, and others that sympathetically described Qigong, a kind of meditation and physical practice that Ke and others believe can cure illnesses or even result in supernatural powers.

 

Ke has also done extensive historical research on the Cultural Revolution, writing a series of non-fiction books in which he has highlighted sensitive topics. One is that—contrary to the Party line—abuses were committed by a wide swath of the population and not just a small clique that grabbed power and committed crimes in the Party’s name.

Born in 1946, Ke grew up in Beijing and attended the prestigious 101 Middle School, where he came into contact with the offspring of China’s ruling elite—some of whom run China today. During the Cultural Revolution, he was one of tens of millions of young city people whom Mao sent to remote parts of the country to labor before being allowed to return to Beijing in the late 1970s. These experiences made him a sharp critic of the Mao period, and also gave him a mystic belief that China’s traumas can only be resolved through spiritualism.

 

Ke currently lives in Beijing’s western suburbs with his wife, Luo Xueke. Since the crackdown on the Qigong movement in 1999, many of his most popular books have been banned and he has lived as a recluse, communicating with the outside world only sporadically through his blog, and refusing all interviews. For over a year, however, I conducted a formal interview with him by email, which Ke consented to have published.

 

  1. Tips from an Investor on What Not to Say to Investors

 

 

You want to know the best way to tell an investor that they should not, under any circumstances, invest in your startup? Here are the magic words: “We have no competition.”

 

There are many ways that sentence can backfire on you:

 

There are large competitors that you are unaware of

 

If this happens, shame on you. We see a lot of startups at Dream it, many of which are tiny and under the radar. So, I’m fine if an entrepreneur misses a small startup or two, but when they miss a major competitor, the founder has lost all credibility with me and probably has no business building a startup in this space.

 

You are defining the space far too narrowly

 

So you’re the only marketplace for left-handed stirring straws. Who cares? What’s wrong with using a right-handed stirring straw? You have just shown the investor that you don’t understand the customer. After all, when it comes to making a purchase, it’s the customer’s decision that matters, not what you have in mind.

You don’t understand the baseline

 

This one is subtler. There are, from time to time, concepts that are revolutionary enough that the startup truly doesn’t have any direct competitors, but that doesn’t mean that people aren’t somehow meeting the underlying need. Before Uber came along, people didn’t just sit outside their caves moaning, “Gee, I wish there were some way I could get to the mammoth hunt.” We drove, took taxis or buses, or just plain walked. We found a way.

 

Whatever unmet need you are addressing, people are somehow dealing with it right now. They might be using telephones, Excel, Post-it notes, walking down to the corner store—somehow, life goes on. As an investor, I want to know how they currently cope so I can assess whether your solution is a quantum leap forward or an incremental improvement—and I don’t invest in incremental improvements

 

And if you truly have a startup that has no direct competitors, no indirect competitors, and your potential customers do not have workarounds in place, then your startup is likely addressing a problem that is so trivial, no one cares.

 

  1. Believe It or Not: Online Trolling and Abuse Could Get Worse

 

Online abuse has been a problem ever since the Internet was created. But over the past few years, it seems to have escalated—despite the efforts of platforms like Twitter and Facebook to try and control it. /react-text

react-text: 219 And some experts believe it could get worse before it gets better.

A new report from the Pew Research Center asked more than 1,500 technologists and academics about this kind of online behavior. More than 80% of them replied that they expect public discourse online will either stay the same or get worse over the next decade. /react-text

react-text: 226 The question asked by the researchers: “In the next decade, will public discourse online become more or less shaped by bad actors, harassment, trolls, and an overall tone of griping, distrust, and disgust?” Over 40% replied they don’t expect this situation to change much, and another 39% said they could see it actually becoming more of a problem rather than less.

 

“Trolling will continue, while social platforms, security experts, ethicists, and others will wrangle over the best ways to balance security and privacy, freedom of speech, and user protections,” Susan Etlinger, a technology analyst at the Altimeter Group, told Pew researchers

 

Although certain online “safe spaces” may be developed that will be free of trolls and harassment, some of the experts surveyed said that these will be little more than Potemkin villages —that is, attractive facades that hide the true nature of the social web.

 

In some cases, the research report warns an attempt to control abuse and harassment could actually result in an infringement of personal freedoms, including freedom of speech, and could lead to the web becoming less open and more polarized.

 

“One of the biggest challenges will be finding an appropriate balance between protecting anonymity and enforcing consequences for the abusive behavior that has been allowed to characterize online discussions for far too long,” said Bailey Poland, author of the recent book /react-text Haters: Harassment, Abuse, and Violence Online.

 

This is a problem that Twitter in particular has struggled with for much of its life. The company’s senior executives often stressed that the service was “the free-speech wing of the free-speech party,” and that users should be free to say whatever they wished anonymously, and some believe that hampered its ability to address abuse on the platform.

 

Some of those who responded said that they expect better reputation-management systems and moderation tools may help to solve the problem, but others said they fear that these kinds of tools will remove anonymity and make surveillance (including government monitoring) easier.

 

There was a certain fatalism underlying many of the responses that expect the situation to remain unchanged, the Pew Center found.

“Social media will continue to generate increasingly contentious, angry, mob-like behavior said Paul Edwards, a professor of information and history at the University of Michigan. “The phenomenon that underlies this behavior has been consistently observed since the early days of email, so there is no reason to think that some new technique or technology will change that.

 

An anonymous respondent told the Pew researchers that “human nature has not much changed over the past 2,000 years; I don’t expect much change over the next 10

 

In a recent essay sociologist danah boyd (who spells her name using only lowercase said much the same thing about the problem of “fake news” or false information online.

 

Although many people wish that Facebook and Google could fix the problem, she explained, this is impossible because it is a social and cultural problem.

 

“No amount of ‘fixing’ Facebook or Google will address the underlying factors shaping the culture and information wars in which America is currently enmeshed,” boyd says.

 

A number of respondents to the Pew study also noted that there is an economic incentive for social platforms and websites to encourage polarizing content, including fake news, because it drives engagement and thereby boosts revenue, which is dependent on advertising. “Technology companies have little incentive to rein in uncivil discourse,” the report says.

 

Fake news and similar problems are also being fueled by the fact that governments and other political forces have found they can manipulate people’s behavior, argues Laurent Schüpbach, a neuropsychologist at University Hospital in Zurich.

 

“The reason it will probably get worse is that companies and governments are starting to realise that they can influence people’s opinions that way he told the Pew researchers. “And these entities sure know how to circumvent any protection in place. Russian troll armies are a good example of something that will become more and more common in the future.”

 

 

8.Depression Is Now the World’s Most Widespread Illness

 

Chances are, you or someone you know has grappled with depression. The global rate of disorder, which the World Health Organization defines as a “persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that people normally enjoy, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities for two weeks or more,” has risen by more than 18% since 2005, according to the agency.

 

In 2015, the WHO estimated 322 million people were living with depression, making it the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide. Worryingly, if unsurprisingly, the agency found that the majority of those with the condition aren’t receiving adequate care: in high income countries, it estimates 50% of those with the disorder don’t get treatment, while in low-income countries that number rises to 80% to 90%.

 

In part, this stems from a lack of funding — on average, only 3% of a government’s health budget is spent on mental health programs.

 

“These new figures are a wake-up call for all countries to re-think their approaches to mental health and to treat it with the urgency it deserves,” Margaret Chan, the WHO’s director-general, said in a statement.

 

Depression’s impact is financial, as well as psychological. Symptoms include lack of energy, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, substance abuse, anxiety, and thoughts of self-harm, which, while clearly not great for mental or physical health, also take a toll on economic productivity. (The WHO estimates that costs related to the condition add up to $1 trillion annually.)

 

In the U.S., an estimated 16.1 million adults, or nearly 7% of the population, has experienced at least one major depressive episode in the last year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health

 

While there’s still a stigma associated with the condition, more people are speaking out  240 about their own, individual experiences. Which is an encouraging sign, according to Chan:

 

“For someone living with depression, talking to a person they trust is often the first step towards treatment and recovery.”

 

  1. How Companies Will Use Artificial Intelligence to Sell to You

 

How did Donald Trump defy the swelled-head ­mediacracy to become President? From the fringe of the tech world a theory has emerged: It was artificial intelligence. No, not just regular AI, but rather a “weaponized” artificial intelligence, says Jonathan Albright, a data scientist and professor at Elon University in North Carolina.

 

The Trump campaign used an AI-powered system made by Cambridge Analytica, a U.K. outfit that reportedly gets funding from Robert Mercer, a billionaire Trump supporter, and that was whispered to have Trump strategist Steve Bannon as a board member. (A spokesperson for Cambridge Analytica would not comment on Mercer and would say only that “Steve Bannon is not a board member.”) In any case, the company hoovers up mountains of consumer and lifestyle data—including what you watch on TV—in order to build a “psychographic” profile of you, the individual voter. It claims to possess profiles of 230 million Americans—each based on 4,000 to 5,000 discrete data points

 

Armed with that insight, the company can fill your social feeds with ads and content designed to push your emotional buttons. The goal is to make you do something—such as vote.

 

While the notion of using hidden psychic levers to affect a person’s political behavior may sound skeevy and invasive to some, it’s really no different from what consumer goods marketers have done for years to sell soap. So, no surprise, that’s precisely where CA is headed now—­applying its AI sauce to “brand and commercial marketing” so that clients (which CA won’t name) can “identify new customers and persuade them to engage with their brands.”

 

And AI, it turns out, is the Dale Carnegie of the modern age: precise, personal, and a whole lot faster than a door-to-door salesman in closing the deal. Super-brains can crunch mountains of data in milliseconds, A/B testing thousands of messages to see which ones work best on which people, adapting and evolving on the fly. “It’s a level of social engineering I’ve never seen before,” says Albright, who is quick to point out that CA is hardly the only one doing this—or things like it.

 

AI-powered machines are also now creating content, he says. An AI platform called T, for instance, creates “news” videos on YouTube, many related to politics. Each video contains photos and text culled from blogs and websites and is “narrated” by a computer voice. Albright claims T was churning out a fresh video every three to four minutes. (The professor says he has found at least 80,000 videos but reckons “there might be hundreds of thousands or even millions of them.”)

 

For marketers this sounds like a dream come true. If a “weaponized” AI sales agent can push people to get off the couch and actually vote, then certainly it can persuade people to choose Samsung instead of / Apple or Chevy over Ford

 

Our poor manipulatable psyches don’t stand a chance.

 

 

  1. India’s Extraordinary New Maternity Leave Could Work Against Women

 

Earlier this month, /react-text India’s government passed a law doubling the maternity leave available to some working women in the country from three months to six.

new policy ranks among the world’s most generous maternity leave benefits. If India was an OECD country, alongside Israel and Poland, for longest paid leave. Only the U.K., Greece, Ireland, the Slovak Republic, and the Czech Republic offer new mothers more paid time off among that subset of nations.

 

India’s longer maternity leave was introduced, in part, to make the country’s working world more inviting to women. Only 27% of Indian women work, according to 2012 statistics (the latest available), and that deficit costs the country an estimated 2.5 percentage points of gross domestic product per year.

 

There was already some criticism of the policy. It only applies to new mothers—not fathers—and only to women who work in “organized labor,” meaning it’s not available to the 16 million women who are either self-employed or work from home. And now, new research indicates that the new policy could wind up having a detrimental effect on the women it’s supposed to aid. Local Circles, a citizen engagement social network, entrepreneurs, startups, and small and medium firms about the new law. The results aren’t pretty.

 

Thirty-five percent of respondents said the new policy will have a negative result on their business ecosystem in terms of cost and profitability, 10% said it would not prompt any changes at their company because they have no female employees, and 39% said the law will have a positive effect as it will lead to a happier workforce. The remaining 16% aren’t sure of the outcome.

 

The survey also asked respondents how the new law will alter their hiring practices. Forty percent said they will still hire women, but will consider whether the cost of a potential maternity leave is “worth the candidate.” Another 26% said they will prefer male candidates because of the new law, while 22% said they anticipate no change in their hiring approach (12% didn’t answer the question).

 

The results bear out the concerns that often accompany mothers-only maternity leave policies: that such benefits add to the cost of hiring women and therefore encourage companies to hire male candidates—who don’t have access to paid leave—instead.

 

That argument was leveled against U.S. President Donald Trump  when he introduced a maternity leave plan on the campaign trail in September that only covered new mothers. Since then, he’s used broader language when referring to paid leave which seems to signal that he will include all new parents in any official White House proposal. The survey figures out of India are one indication of what could happen if he doesn’t.

 

 

  1. Why Building Relationships with Your Employees Is Better Than Just Managing Them

 

The wealth created through authentic business relationships stimulates growth and innovation, advances commerce, and benefits all. Relationships sustain more than momentum—they create and sustain relevancy. But these high-level relationships take time to cultivate. By valuing relationships, maximizing the utilization of resources, investing in your people, and always looking for ways to improve strategic-resource sharing, your business sustains momentum. The key word? Relationships.

h1><div classhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7ceykbG3v4″ target=”_blank”>Try watching this video

To seize the opportunities great relationships, create, leaders must evolve from managing and live with an entrepreneurial spirit that values relationships and invests in people, including themselves. Then they must deploy two supporting characteristics: first, lead to leave a legacy, which holistically supports better relationships through reciprocity; and second, work with a generous purpose, which requires a commitment to collaboration, sharing, and giving to grow.

 

Hundreds of studies of Millennials and shift populations show your employees, partners, and customers want to have relationships with you, one another, your business, and your brand. Lessons from the longest study on happiness—the Harvard Study of Adult Development—which tracked annually the lives of 724 men of varying economic statuses show that “Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”

I can’t think of better foundational or fiscal reasons—happiness and health, not to mention growth and innovation—for building great relationships. So why aren’t you building them? Because you’re likely still stuck in the templates of business past. You lack the ability to see that building these relationships doesn’t start with others; it starts with you, which is why you must continuously invest in yourself to sustain your relevancy. This investment will require you to find the right people who can further guide you and teach you to invest in yourself. It requires you to answer a foundational question of living with an entrepreneurial spirit: How can I nurture and develop a relationship that invests in mutual success for the future rather than what I need now?

Only after answering this question can leaders truly value relationships in the broader workplace and marketplace and encourage entrepreneurial mindsets in others. But you can’t have leadership, let alone a successful business, without strong management of and thus accountability to processes and systems. Management is important for saving time and completing the most mundane tasks, as well as for knowing what steps to take when you need to put out fires. Managing people, however, isn’t the same and can’t be done by templates, accountability to job descriptions, and letting the business define the individual. Relationships must be mutually rewarding and beneficial. They value individuality, allowing that individuality to prosper, multiply, and add value to others. They’re about giving not getting and creating that mutual success. They’re about sharing and taking business to the next level so you can grow.

Of course, you can’t operationalize relationships without good management. When people can’t automatically provide me with information—numbers, data, materials—they need, that’s a management problem, because I haven’t provided the tools they need to manage it or manage the people the information comes from. I can help those people deal with this management issue through my relationship with them and by coaching them to have a better relationship with others. But the real solution is to have a management process in place that demands the information so no one needs to rely on a personal relationship to ensure that things are done properly. The management process should do that and then “Leadership à la Relationship” can take things to the next level.”

 

That next level is what it means to grow by creating a culture of reciprocity in relationships through leading to leave a legacy and working with a generous purpose of giving. First, ask the legacy questions:

 

  • What is the legacy that my promise has created for those around me?
  • Do my employees believe that their jobs aren’t just jobs—they’re opportunities to shape their legacies?
  • Do my customers, clients, and partners believe that I do?

 

Then, you ask the generous purpose questions:

 

  • How do I give back to my people?
  • How can I share my expertise beyond my everyday work?
  • Do my people, customers/clients, and external partners believe that my company promotes sharing among and giving back to my people and the communities and causes they and the company embrace?

 

Relationships should always be reciprocal. Unfortunately, they’ve become too much about getting without giving. Real relationships can’t be about something that exists for our own benefit or getting a return on an agreement to work together in any capacity, be it a mentorship or a contractual agreement. They’re about perpetuating the momentum that each person brings to the relationship.

 

The same must be true in leadership: It should never be one-sided, nor should the leader always be the one generating the ideas or making the decisions. Leadership means actively listening and advancing the ideas of others (and injecting recommendations along the way to further strengthen or add value to them). If you’re the type of leader who needs all the attention, you won’t seek to cultivate wisdom in others.

 

Reciprocity is key; cultivating wisdom requires being in touch with what matters most to your employees and giving them the room to express their opinions and put their ideas to the test. The more you can gauge and unleash the passionate pursuits of your employees, the more effective you’ll be in challenging them to stretch their thinking and expand their endless possibilities.

 

Relationships in the marketplace must also go beyond the transaction—to evolve beyond the sale. Because what influences the marketplace? The individual—much more than ever before. Because we’ve shifted to individuality in the marketplace, customers are looking well beyond a brand’s products and are measuring a brand by intimacy and relationships with them as they make their selections. Customers want to share how great and authentic the story is behind what they consume. If all you have is a transactional relationship, then as soon as another brand offers a better deal, they’re gone.

 

Why don’t we all do the things required to create great relationships? Probably because they require hard work to do and maintain. But if you can invest in your relationships, stay authentic, and not get stuck in the past, you will continue to stimulate growth and innovation, advance your business, and benefit everyone involved.

 

  1. Poland’s Crooked Forest, a Mystery with No Straight Answer

 

 

In Poland’s Krzywy Las, or Crooked Forest, the pine trees look like potbellied stick figures. On some 400 trees, the trunks buckle out 90 degrees, creating bark-covered bellies that drag just above the earth, oddly, all pointing in the same direction — north.

 

No one knows for certain what caused this unusual stand of trees in a protected forest, just outside the town of Gryfino, Poland. The town was mostly destroyed during World War II, and the truth of the forest was lost with it.

 

Strangely bent trees exist in other parts of the world, but not in such great numbers nor as neatly arranged as in Poland’s Crooked Forest. You can visit this little patch of land in northwest Poland any time, but the cusp of spring is the perfect chance to see the trees in winter’s bare-boned attire, without its bitter temperatures.

The pine trees, thought to have been planted in the early 1930s, bend at the trunks, and some extend outward around three to nine feet before zipping back up into the air. The trees — around 50 feet high at their tallest — were probably damaged at an early age, causing them to permanently grow this way. But how?

 

“As to an explanation, that is not so easy,” said William Remphrey, a retired plant scientist from the University of Manitoba, who discovered a genetic mutation causing a group of aspen trees in Canada to curve and droop consistently over development, resulting in gnarled, twirly, Cheeto-esque trees.

 

If the cause for Poland’s crooked forest were genetic, he said, he would expect the curves to continue beyond the base, as they do in the aspens he studied. But given their smoothness, something environmental most likely caused these sweeping curves.

It’s possible that a heavy snowfall covered the trees and continued to weigh them down through spring, when buds sprouted up and grew from the snow-covered trunk. But this wouldn’t explain the straight pines that surround this patch of bent ones.

 

The prevailing hypothesis is that farmers manipulated the trees in the 1930s to use their bent wood for furniture or ship building, but that the war prevented them from following through.

People do sculpt trees into furniture, knots or baskets, like the “circus trees” at Gilroy Gardens in California. And American Indians bent marker trees into symbols they used to navigate and communicate in the forest.

But those trees are often found solo, and not necessarily in Europe.

“Because there are so many crooked trees in this stand, I would proceed with caution concluding it being human-caused, even though that is a definite possibility” wrote Dr. Remphrey in an email. “What I found with the crooked aspen is that even after I was able to explain the crookedness with a scientific basis, many people did not want to believe it and held onto to their far-out theories.”

 

There’s no explanation for why the trees point north either, but Dr. Remphrey speculates it’s coincidental.

Believe what you want, but the best way to get there is to drive — you can take the autobahn from Berlin and arrive in just under two hours. Go in the morning when the sun shines through the trees for that extra mysterious feeling.

 

 

  1. Rising temperatures increased conflicts and deadly violence in the ancient Maya world

 

With temperatures set to rise in the coming decades, investigating the issue of whether climate change can exacerbate conflict is becoming more and more relevant. Looking at how past civilisations fared in the face of changing climatic conditions offers interesting insights.

 

In a research now published in Quaternary Science Reviews, scientists have looked at the case study of one of the most important Mesoamerican civilisations, the Mayan civilisation.

 

An increase in warfare during the Classic Maya Period (250CE to 900 CE) has often been associated with the downfall of this great culture.

Scholars have proposed a number of potential drivers for the deadly conflicts, including rivalry, captive taking and resource acquisition, but also climatic and environmental factors such as agricultural shortfalls and drought.

To date however, these hypotheses have failed to convinced the entire Maya scholar community – and many researchers reject the idea that climate change had anything to do with Classic Maya conflicts.

“Some experts have made the case that droughts were driving Maya conflicts and were instrumental to the civilisation’s collapse. However a substantial group of scientists believe that the situation is more complicated, and that many socio-political factors also have to be taken into account when we talk about Classic Maya warfare”, senior author Mark Collard of the Human Evolutionary Studies Program and Department of Archaeology at Simon Fraser University (Canada) told IBTimes UK.

“However, I believe these views are not incompatible, longer term pattern of climate change can drive socio-political patterns, and it’s interesting to study how this affects conflict”, he added.

In their new study, Collard and his colleagues have tried to settle the debate by carrying out a quantitative analysis of the paleoclimatic and conflict data available from the time of the Maya.

While scientists had previously focused on the impact of drought on conflict, they find that the connection is more robust between conflict and elevated temperatures.

 

A statistical approach

 

It is during the Classic Maya period that most of the civilisation’s iconic cities and pyramids were built, and important historical events were recorded on the stones of these monuments. For Maya scholars, this is a remarkable source of information regarding the conflicts that took place at the time, between different city-states.

In this study, the researchers compiled a list of 144 unique conflict events recorded on a range of Classic Maya monuments, which took place over 500 years, between 363 and 888 CE. They also accessed published temperature and rainfall records for the region at the time of these conflicts.

 

The scientists conducted a quantitative analysis of these data to establish the influence of climate change on conflict among the Maya. Most of the studies before that had not conducted a formal correlation analysis.

“The problem with many past studies is that their authors had looked at conflict and climate patterns but they had not necessarily done rigorous statistical analyses. It was great to have access to these resources to do our own research, but we wanted to see if we could find a better way to interpret the data”, Collard explain.

Their statistical model indicates that the increase of conflict during the Classic Maya period cannot be explained by a change in the amount of rainfall. However, this increase was strongly associated with an increase in summer temperatures.

 

How can high temperatures lead to conflict?

 

More research will be needed to understand why rising temperatures have pushed the Maya to engage in more fighting. A number of hypotheses are possible.

“A potential explanation comes from the field of psychology, where some studies have shown that people are more aggressive when it’s warmer. They are more likely to get angry. However, I remain unconvinced that this had a big contribution in the Maya context”, Collard said.

What is more likely is that high temperatures had a negative impact on crops such as maize, with important socio-political repercussions. Warm weather helps maize grow but beyond a certain temperature, it has a catastrophic impact and yields collapse.

 

The prestige of Maya leaders was based on their perceived influence on maize production and their ability to win conflicts. “They might not have been able to do anything about maize yields but they could engage in conflicts to boost their prestige at home”, Collard pointed out.

It’s not possible to say today whether such an increase in warfare will be seen in the future, as global warming continues, but the Maya case study can serve as a reminder that we need to be cautious about this issue and investigate it further in the future.

 

  1. Newly discovered in Montana, this Tyrannosaurus had a sensitive side – just look at its face

 

A newly discovered species of Tyrannosaurus, a relative of T. rex, has revealed a surprising feature that may have been shared among this group of Cretaceous carnivores: a remarkably sensitive face.

Standing at more than 2m (6ft) high and 9m (29ft) long, the carnivorous Daspletosaurus horneri – which means Horner’s frightful lizard – would have been a fearsome predator. Its sensitive facial scales may have added to its brutal efficiency at hunting and killing prey, reveals a study published in the journal Scientific Reports.

 

The fossil remains of several adults and juveniles of the species Daspletosaurus horneri were unearthed in Montana, US. It is thought to have lived there about 75 million years ago and was one of the last of its kind to have evolved in what is now the western US.

Examining the skulls and skeletons from several adults and juveniles of the species, researchers were able to start to piece together what the tyrannosaur would have looked like.

But looking at bones can only get you so far when reconstructing a dinosaur’s appearance. The specimens’ soft tissue was not preserved by fossilisation. The palaeontologists were able to team up with scientists studying the anatomy of modern-day dinosaur relatives to hone in on what these lost tissues were like.

Dissection of birds – sometimes called ”living dinosaurs” – and crocodilians helped to shed light on the facial structure of the tyrannosaur. The presence of many holes in the skull, called foramina, showed that the tyrannosaur had many nerves and blood vessels passing through to the soft tissues surrounding it.

A rich supply of blood and nerves to the tissues suggests that the dinosaur’s facial skin and scales were very sensitive, helping it to identify objects.

 

“In some ways, the facial components of the trigeminal nerve of these dinosaurs mirrors that of humans,” said study author Jayc Sedlmayr, an anatomist at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Centre.

“The human trigeminal nerve provides significant touch sensitivity to the face. It brings back sensation from our facial muscles, allowing us to fine tune and coordinate the emotional and social displays so important to human communication.”

Daspletosaurus horneri is also thought to have had large, flat scales covering its face, patches of armour-like skin, and no lips.

 

“It turns out that tyrannosaurs are identical to crocodilians in that the bones of their snouts and jaws are rough, except for a narrow band of smooth bone along the tooth row,” said study author Thomas Carr of Carthage College.

“In crocodilians, the rough texture occurs on deep to large flat scales; given the identical texture, tyrannosaurs had the same covering. We did not find any evidence for lips in tyrannosaurs, the rough texture covered by scales extends nearly to the tooth row, providing no space for lips.”

 

  1. SoCalGas and University of California Irvine Demonstrate Power-to-Gas Technology Can Dramatically Increase the Use of Renewable Energy

 

Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) today announced that new research on power-to-gas technology shows the technique holds the ability to dramatically increase the use of intermittent renewable energy. The finding came out of ongoing research conducted at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) and funded by SoCalGas.  Preliminary research findings, announced this week at UCI’s International Colloquium on Environmentally Preferred Advanced Generation (ICEPAG), demonstrated that the campus microgrid could increase the portion of renewable energy it uses from 3.5 percent to 35 percent by implementing a power-to-gas strategy.

“This research clearly shows that power-to-gas technology can increase the use of renewable energy and should be an important component in meeting California’s clean energy and greenhouse gas reduction goals,” said Jeff Reed, director of business strategy and advanced technology at SoCalGas.

 

“The ability to increase the mix of renewables on campus by tenfold is truly significant,” said Jack Brouwer, associate professor of mechanical & aerospace engineering and civil & environmental engineering at UCI and associate director of the Advanced Power & Energy Program (APEP). “With power-to-gas technology, you don’t need to stop renewable power generation when demand is low. Instead, the excess electricity can be used to make hydrogen that can be integrated into existing natural gas pipeline infrastructure and stored for later use.

 

The Southern California Gas Company system alone is made up of over 100,000 miles of pipeline. This study suggests that we could leverage that installed infrastructure for storage and significantly increase the amount of renewable power generation deployed in California.”

Power-to-gas technology takes excess renewable electricity which would otherwise go to waste and converts it to hydrogen, which can then be blended with natural gas and utilized in everything from home appliances to power plants. A five percent blend of hydrogen in SoCalGas’ natural gas system would provide storage capacity equivalent to $130 billion worth of battery systems if purchased at the U.S. Department of Energy future cost of $200 per kilowatt hour.  Renewable hydrogen can also be used in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles or converted to methane for use in a natural gas pipeline and storage system.

The conversion of renewable electricity to hydrogen enables long-term storage of large amounts of carbon-free power.  Scientists note this is a significant advantage over lithium ion batteries, which store energy for shorter time periods and will require extensive construction of battery systems and infrastructure.

 

The new finding comes from a pilot project begun with funding from SoCalGas and the participation of Proton OnSite, which manufactured the electrolyzer that produces hydrogen from electricity and water. UCI engineers and graduate students have been working to determine how beneficial the technology might be and its feasibility for statewide or regional power grids. Power-to-gas systems are currently in place in Germany and Canada.

 

The study used data from the UCI campus microgrid, which includes solar panels that produce about 4 megawatts of peak power. Simulations showed that by storing excess solar power on sunny days and using an electrolyzer to produce renewable hydrogen, the microgrid could support an additional 30 megawatts of solar panels. The increased solar deployment raised the fraction of renewable power used on campus from 3.5 percent to 35 percent.

 

 

 

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