Sci/Tech http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech.rss en Sat Mar 06 10:44:20 IST 2021 https://www.theweek.in/privacy-an-settlement.html digital-books-can-affect-learning-skills-of-young-children <a href="http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2021/03/10/digital-books-can-affect-learning-skills-of-young-children.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/news/biz-tech/images/2020/7/13/woman-ipad-e-book-reading-pexels.jpg" /> <p>Digital books harm young children's learning--unless the books have the right enhancements, says a&nbsp; comprehensive meta-analysis of prior research.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The study has found, overall, that children ages 1 to 8 were less likely to understand picture books when they read the digital, versus print, version. However, when digital picture books contain the right enhancements that reinforce the story content, they outperform their print counterparts.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Researchers came to this conclusion after analysing the results of 39 studies that included a total 1,812 children between the ages of 1 and 8. For their analysis, the authors compared children's story comprehension and vocabulary learning when they read a book on paper versus on screen, and assessed the effects of story-related enhancements in digital books, the presence of a dictionary, and the role of adult support. The bulk of the studies were carried out between 2010 and 2019, and for the greater the part, in the last four years of that time span.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Authors—Natalia Kucirkova at the University of Stavanger in Norway and The Open University in the United Kingdom, and May Irene Furenes and Adriana G. Bus at the University of Stavanger—published the results in Review of Educational Research.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"The wide availability of digital reading options and the rich tradition of children's print books beg the question of which reading format is better suited for young readers' learning," said Kucirkova, a professor of early childhood development. "We found that when the print and digital versions of a book are practically the same and differ only in the voice-over or highlighted print as additional features in the digital book, then print outperforms digital."</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The authors found that the digital device itself and sometimes digital enhancements that are not aligned with the story content--such as a dictionary--interfere with children's story comprehension.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When digital enhancements are designed to increase children's ability to make sense of the narrative--for instance, by prompting children's background knowledge to understand the story or providing additional explanations of story events--digital books not only outweigh the negative effects of the digital device but also outperform print books on children's story comprehension.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The study has also found that many digitised versions of picture books are inferior to the print version, but young children widely use them. "Our overall findings may reflect the rather low quality of enhancements in the digital books available for young children," said Kucirkova.&nbsp;</p> <p><br> <br> </p> <p>With a few exceptions, the commercially published digital books in the studies did not include storytelling techniques that adults provide during book sharing, for example attracting children's attention to the main story elements and focusing their attention on the chain of story events.</p> <p><br> <br> </p> <p>"If we want to support all children, we need to understand the impact of digital books and make them of higher quality," said Kucirkova. "Digital books are low-cost to access and thus more readily available to students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Furthermore, we can customise digital books to a child's level of learning by including interactive features responsive to the child."</p> <p><br> <br> </p> <p>"For reasons that need to be clarified by additional research, our meta-analysis shows that children from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds are more likely to be distracted from story content on digital books by their interactive features and by the reading devices themselves," said Bus, a professor at the University of Stavanger. "As a result, these children are experiencing the most difficulty comprehending digital picture books."</p> <p><br> <br> </p> <p>"Makers of children's digital books need to be careful about the enhancements they make, and educators and parents need to choose carefully which digital books young children read," said Kucirkova.&nbsp;</p> <p><br> <br> </p> <p>"Internationally, it is important to promote the production of exemplary prototypes including text in a range of languages and provide incentives to publishers, authors, designers, and illustrators to change the status quo."</p> <p><br> <br> </p> <p>The authors found that digital books may be more effective than print books for enhancing children's vocabulary if the digital books use a dictionary that defines infrequently used words and expressions. However, digital dictionary features hinder children's ability to understand the story they are reading, indicating that focusing attention on word meanings distracts children's attention from the story content.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2021/03/10/digital-books-can-affect-learning-skills-of-young-children.html http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2021/03/10/digital-books-can-affect-learning-skills-of-young-children.html Wed Mar 10 11:59:34 IST 2021 what-promts-people-to-take-decisions-dating-sites-apps <a href="http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2021/03/09/what-promts-people-to-take-decisions-dating-sites-apps.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/news/sci-tech/2019/October/woman-using-her-mobile-phone-dating-app-Tinder-smartphone-shut.jpg" /> <p>&nbsp;Online dating sites have become more popular during this Covid lockdown period. Though many people view dating apps and services as either somewhat or very negative, they got widespread adoption because people think they can conveniently meet and connect with like-minded people.</p> <p>According to the Pew Research Centre, 1 in 10 American adults have landed a long-term relationship from an online dating app, such as Tinder, OKCupid and Match.com. But what compels people to "swipe right" on certain profiles and reject others?</p> <p>New research finds that people's reason for swiping right is based primarily on attractiveness and the race of a potential partner, and that decisions are often made in less than a second.</p> <p>The study was done by William Chopik, an associate professor in the Michigan State University Department of Psychology, and Dr. David Johnson from the University of Maryland.</p> <p>The findings were published in the Journal of Research in Personality. "Despite online dating becoming an increasingly popular way for people to meet one another, there is little research on how people connect with each other on these platforms," said Chopik. "We wanted to understand what makes someone want to swipe left or swipe right, and the process behind how they make those decisions."</p> <p>Chopik's research,used two studies to measure how dating app users from different walks of life interacted with available profiles. The first study focused on college students, while the second focused on middle-aged adults, averaging 35 years old. Participants were given a choice to either view profiles of men or women, depending on their dating preferences.</p> <p>Male participants, on average, swiped right more often than women, and it was also found that individuals who perceive themselves to be more attractive swipe left more often overall, proving to be choosier when picking out potential partners.</p> <p>"It's extremely eye-opening that people are willing to make decisions about whether or not they would like to get to another human being, in less than a second and based almost solely on the other person's looks," said Chopik.</p> <p>"Also surprising was just how little everything beyond attractiveness and race mattered for swiping behaviour - your personality didn't seem to matter, how open you were to hook-ups didn't matter, or even your style for how you approach relationships or if you were looking short- or long-term didn't matter."</p> <p>While attractiveness played a major role in participants' decisions to swipe left or right, race was another leading factor. Users were significantly more likely to swipe on users within their same race, and profiles of users of color were rejected more often than those of white users.</p> <p>"The disparities were rather shocking," Chopik said. "Profiles of Black users were rejected more often than white users, highlighting another way people of colour face bias in everyday life."</p> <p>The data seems to show that people are significantly more likely to swipe right on a profile that liked them first, even if the user is less attractive or the profile in general is less appealing.</p> <p>"We like people who like us," he said. "It makes sense that we want to connect with others who have shown an interest in us, even if they weren't initially a top choice."</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2021/03/09/what-promts-people-to-take-decisions-dating-sites-apps.html http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2021/03/09/what-promts-people-to-take-decisions-dating-sites-apps.html Tue Mar 09 17:03:29 IST 2021 researchers-develop-insect-sized-aerial-drones-that-operate-in-cramped-spaces <a href="http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2021/03/09/researchers-develop-insect-sized-aerial-drones-that-operate-in-cramped-spaces.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/news/sci-tech/2019/May/Nanorobots-and-nanotechnology-bioengineering-and-advanced-medical-technology-concept-as-nanomedicine-robots-inside-a-human-artery-robot-blood-drug-shut.jpg" /> <p>Sometimes, bigger isn't better. Researchers have developed tiny aerial robots that are agile and resilient to collisions. Their insect-size drones with soft actuators—akin to muscles—can boost aerial robots' repertoire, allowing them to operate in cramped spaces and withstand collisions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Insects can be remarkably acrobatic and resilient in flight. Those traits help them navigate the aerial world, with all of its wind gusts, obstacles, and general uncertainty. Such traits are also hard to build into flying robots, but MIT Assistant Professor Kevin Yufeng Chen has built a system that approaches insects' agility.</p> <p><br> <br> </p> <p>Chen, a member of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the Research Laboratory of Electronics, has developed insect-sized drones with unprecedented dexterity and resilience.&nbsp;</p> <p><br> <br> </p> <p>The aerial robots are powered by a new class of soft actuator, which allows them to withstand the physical travails of real-world flight. Chen hopes the robots could one day aid humans by pollinating crops or performing machinery inspections in cramped spaces.</p> <p><br> <br> </p> <p>The study has been published in the journal IEEE Transactions on Robotics.</p> <p><br> <br> </p> <p>Typically, drones require wide open spaces because they're neither nimble enough to navigate confined spaces nor robust enough to withstand collisions in a crowd. "If we look at most drones today, they're usually quite big," says Chen. "Most of their applications involve flying outdoors. The question is: Can you create insect-scale robots that can move around in very complex, cluttered spaces?"</p> <p><br> <br> </p> <p>According to Chen, "The challenge of building small aerial robots is immense." Pint-sized drones require a fundamentally different construction from larger ones. Large drones are usually powered by motors, but motors lose efficiency as you shrink them. So, Chen says, for insect-like robots "you need to look for alternatives."</p> <p><br> <br> </p> <p>The principal alternative until now has been employing a small, rigid actuator built from piezoelectric ceramic materials. While piezoelectric ceramics allowed the first generation of tiny robots to take flight, they're quite fragile. And that's a problem when you're building a robot to mimic an insect -- foraging bumblebees endure a collision about once every second.</p> <p><br> <br> </p> <p>Chen designed a more resilient tiny drone using soft actuators instead of hard, fragile ones. The soft actuators are made of thin rubber cylinders coated in carbon nanotubes. When voltage is applied to the carbon nanotubes, they produce an electrostatic force that squeezes and elongates the rubber cylinder. Repeated elongation and contraction causes the drone's wings to beat fast.</p> <p><br> <br> </p> <p>Chen's actuators can flap nearly 500 times per second, giving the drone insect-like resilience. "You can hit it when it's flying, and it can recover," says Chen. "It can also do aggressive maneuvers like somersaults in the air." And it weighs in at just 0.6 grams, approximately the mass of a large bumble bee. The drone looks a bit like a tiny cassette tape with wings, though Chen is working on a new prototype shaped like a dragonfly.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Building insect-like robots can provide a window into the biology and physics of insect flight, a longstanding avenue of inquiry for researchers. Chen's work addresses these questions through a kind of reverse engineering. "If you want to learn how insects fly, it is very instructive to build a scale robot model," he says. "You can perturb a few things and see how it affects the kinematics or how the fluid forces change. That will help you understand how those things fly." But Chen aims to do more than add to entomology textbooks. His drones can also be useful in industry and agriculture.</p> <p><br> <br> </p> <p>Chen says his mini-aerialists could navigate complex machinery to ensure safety and functionality. "Think about the inspection of a turbine engine. You'd want a drone to move around [an enclosed space] with a small camera to check for cracks on the turbine plates." Other potential applications include artificial pollination of crops or completing search-and-rescue missions following a disaster.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2021/03/09/researchers-develop-insect-sized-aerial-drones-that-operate-in-cramped-spaces.html http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2021/03/09/researchers-develop-insect-sized-aerial-drones-that-operate-in-cramped-spaces.html Tue Mar 09 14:56:09 IST 2021 space-hurricane-spotted-above-earth-for-the-first-time <a href="http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2021/03/06/space-hurricane-spotted-above-earth-for-the-first-time.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/news/world/images/2019/9/1/hurricane-dorian-AFP.jpg" /> <p>Large, swirling storms called hurricanes hit frequently in the Earth's low atmosphere, but they were not known to occur in the upper atmosphere.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Scientists have for the first time observed a space hurricane in Earth's upper atmosphere.</p> <p>An international team of scientists led by Shandong University in China confirmed their existence that shed new light on the relationship between planets and space.</p> <p>Researchers analysed observations made by satellites in 2014 to reveal a long-lasting hurricane, resembling those in the lower atmosphere, in the polar ionosphere and magnetosphere with surprisingly large energy and momentum deposition despite otherwise extremely quiet geomagnetic conditions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The analysis allowed a 3D image to be created of the 1,000km-wide swirling mass of plasma several hundred kilometres above the North Pole, raining electrons instead of water.</p> <p>“These features also indicate that the space hurricane leads to large and rapid deposition of energy and flux into the polar ionosphere during an otherwise extremely quiet geomagnetic condition, suggesting that current geomagnetic activity indicators do not properly represent the dramatic activity within space hurricanes, which are located further poleward than geomagnetic index observatories," says Prof Qing-He Zhang, lead author of the research at Shandong University.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"Until now, it was uncertain that space plasma hurricanes even existed, so to prove this with such a striking observation is incredible," said Prof Mike Lockwood, a space scientist at the University of Reading.</p> <p>"Tropical storms are associated with huge amounts of energy, and these space hurricanes must be created by unusually large and rapid transfer of solar wind energy and charged particles into the Earth's upper atmosphere.</p> <p>"Plasma and magnetic fields in the atmosphere of planets exist throughout the universe, so the findings suggest space hurricanes should be a widespread phenomenon."<br> <br> Hurricanes often cause loss of life and property through high winds and flooding resulting from the coastal storm surge of the ocean and the torrential rains. They are characterised by a low-pressure centre (hurricane eye), strong winds and flow shears, and a spiral arrangement of towering clouds with heavy rains.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In space, astronomers have spotted hurricanes on Mars, and Saturn, and Jupiter, which are similar to terrestrial hurricanes in the low atmosphere. There are also solar gases swirling in monstrous formations deep within the sun's atmosphere, called solar tornadoes. However, hurricanes had not been reported in the upper atmosphere of the planets in our heliosphere.</p> <p>The space hurricane analysed by the team in Earth's ionosphere was spinning in an anticlockwise direction, had multiple spiral arms, and lasted almost eight hours before gradually breaking down.<br> </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The team of scientists from China, the USA, Norway and the UK used observations made by four DMSP (Defense Meteorological Satellite Program) satellites and a 3D magnetosphere modelling to produce the image. Their findings were published in Nature Communications.</p> <p>"This study suggests that there are still existing local intense geomagnetic disturbance and energy depositions which is comparable to that during superstorms,” said Prof Zhang.</p> <p>"The space hurricane will lead to important space weather effects like increased satellite drag, disturbances in High Frequency (HF) radio communications, and increased errors in over-the-horizon radar location, satellite navigation and communication systems."</p> http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2021/03/06/space-hurricane-spotted-above-earth-for-the-first-time.html http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2021/03/06/space-hurricane-spotted-above-earth-for-the-first-time.html Sat Mar 06 16:42:23 IST 2021 co2-emissions-cuts-must-increase-tenfold-to-tackle-climate-emerg <a href="http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2021/03/04/co2-emissions-cuts-must-increase-tenfold-to-tackle-climate-emerg.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/news/sci-tech/2019/June/co2-carbon-emission-nature-carbob-footprint-shut.jpg" /> <p>Sixty-four countries reduced their fossil carbon-dioxide emissions during the period between 2016 and 2019, but the rate of global reduction needs to increase tenfold to meet the Paris Agreement goals to fight climate change, according to a study.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA), UK, Stanford University in the US and the Global Carbon Project examined the progress in cutting fossil CO2 emissions since the Paris Agreement was adopted in 2015.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The findings, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, show the need for far greater ambition ahead of the important UN climate summit in Glasgow, UK, in November.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;Countries' efforts to cut CO2 emissions since the Paris Agreement are starting to pay off, but actions are not large-scale enough yet and emissions are still increasing in way too many countries,&quot; said Corinne Le Quere, Royal Society Professor at UEA.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;The drop in CO2 emissions from responses to COVID-19 highlights the scale of actions and of international adherence needed to tackle climate change,&quot; Le Quere, who led the study, said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The researchers noted that the annual cuts of 0.16 billion tonnes of CO2 are only 10 per cent of the 1-2 billion tonnes of CO2 cuts that are needed globally every year to tackle climate change.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They explained that emissions decreased in 64 countries during 2016-2019, they increased in 150 countries.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to the study, Global carbon emissions grew by 0.21 billion tonnes of CO2 per year during 2016-2019 compared to 2011-2015.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The researchers noted that in 2020, confinement measures to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic cut global emissions by 2.6 billion tonnes of CO2, about 7 per cent below 2019 levels.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They explained that 2020 is a 'pause button' that cannot realistically continue while the world overwhelmingly relies on fossil fuels.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Confinement policies are neither a sustainable nor desirable solution to the climate crisis, according to the researchers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They noted that annual cuts of 1-2 billion tonnes of CO2 are needed throughout the 2020s and beyond to avoid exceeding global warming within the range 1.5 degrees Celsius to well below 2 degrees Celsius, the ambition of the UN Paris Agreement.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The world has warmed by over 1 degrees Celsius since the Industrial Revolution because of emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities, the researchers said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According the study, of the 36 high-income countries, 25 saw their emissions decrease during 2016-2019 compared to 2011-2015, including the US, the European Union, and the UK.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The team noted that emissions decreased even when accounting for the carbon footprint of imported goods produced in other countries.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The research shows that 30 out of 99 upper-middle income countries also saw their emissions decrease during 2016-2019 compared to 2011-2015.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This suggests that actions to reduce emissions are now in motion in many countries worldwide, the researchers said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mexico is a notable example in that group, while China's emissions increased 0.4 per cent, much less than the 6.2 per cent annual growth of 2011-2015, they said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The growing number of climate change laws and policies appear to have played a key role in curbing the growth in emissions during 2016-2019, the researchers said, adding that there are now more than 2000 climate laws and policies worldwide.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They noted that a full bounce-back in 2021 to previous CO2 emission levels appears unlikely.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, the reserachers said unless the COVID-19 recovery directs investments in clean energy and the green economy, emissions will likely start increasing again within a few years.</p> http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2021/03/04/co2-emissions-cuts-must-increase-tenfold-to-tackle-climate-emerg.html http://www.theweek.in/news/sci-tech/2021/03/04/co2-emissions-cuts-must-increase-tenfold-to-tackle-climate-emerg.html Thu Mar 04 16:33:42 IST 2021