Godwyn Morris and
From Leonardo da Vinci’s pyramid design in the 15th century to the supersonic version that helped land the Perseverance rover safely on Mars, the parachute, a device that catches air to control an object’s speed, has played an essential role in land, air, water and space travel. For all of the technology and resources that go into launching a spacecraft out of Earth’s atmosphere, it is the simple parachute that is key to safely landing it. A parachute’s canopy creates drag or air resistance, which means that the air below is pushed up against the underside of the canopy and slows its rate of descent.
Now it’s your turn to make a parachute using newspaper and tape. Some tips: Be willing to make adjustments. Try varying the size of the canopy and the weight of the basket to see how those adjustments affect the rate at which the parachute falls. Let the basket hang freely so it can center itself. Open the canopy as much as possible before releasing, and use the lifting stick to get your parachute as high above your head as possible. Pull out the stick, stand back and watch the fundamental concept of drag at work.
1. Use a full double-spread sheet of newspaper and fold it in half and then in half again.
2. Fold the top left corner diagonally to meet the bottom fold.
3. Cut off the remaining strip and unfold all the pieces.
4. Fold and unfold the sheet so that all the creases are raised slightly.
5. Tape a strip to each bottom corner of your sheet, crisscrossing them, then tape to top corners.
6. Tape the strips together where they cross.
7. Finished canopy.
1. Use another full double-spread sheet of newspaper. Fold it into quarters and then unfold.
2. Cut out a quarter of the page along crease lines.
3. Fold quarter section in half short edge to short edge.
4. Place tape sticky side along short edge.
5. Roll loosely, secure with tape.
6. Flatten the base of cylinder; tape the layers together.
7. Finished basket.
1. Cut a strip approximately one inch wide along the short edge of the remaining sheet
2. Fold in half along the existing crease
3. Finished basket handle
1. Slip the basket handle under the crossed strips.
2. Place the basket upside down in the center.
3. Curve the handle strip up, and tape to the sides of the basket.
4. Assembled upside down parachute with basket.
1. Use another double-page sheet of newspaper. Fold in half.
2. Place strips of tape along the long open edge of newspaper.
3. Start at the folded edge, roll tightly to tape.
4. Close the tube with tape.
1. Open the canopy, place the lifting stick at center. Lift as high as you can.
2. Quickly, pull lifting stick backward, away from the canopy to release it.
Anker Soundcore Life Q35 review: budget headphones with good noise-cancelling
Long battery life, comfortable fit, Bluetooth 5 with decent sound and features for the money
Last modified on Mon 10 May 2021 02.20 EDT
The latest Bluetooth headphones from Anker offer very long battery life and surprisingly effective noise-cancelling on a budget.
The Soundcore Life Q35 cost £129.99 and replace the Life Q30 as the brand’s top headphones, significantly undercutting leading models from rivals that often cost in excess of £300.
They are fairly bulky compared with some of the best but don’t look ostentatious and are fairly light. The faux leather ear cups are spacious, with a good amount of padding, and don’t clamp your head too hard, while the headband stays well put on your dome. The headphones have enough adjustment to wear comfortably for extended listening periods, feel solidly made and fold up for travel, too.
The Chinese firm Anker, set up by a former Google engineer, originally made its name with high-quality, low-cost portable charging equipment. It has since expanded into other consumer electronics categories, including audio gear under the Soundcore brand, offering a similar level of bang for buck and winning fans by undercutting the competition while maintaining higher than expected quality and good customer service.
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0 with multipoint, 3.5mm, USB-C charging, NFC
Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC, LDAC
Battery life: 40 hours ANC on
The Q35 are Bluetooth 5 headphones supporting the universal SBC and AAC audio standards used by most devices. They also support the high-resolution LDAC format that can be used with most Android devices for higher-quality listening that is usually the reserve of significantly more expensive headphones. They can connect to two devices at once so that, for example, you can answer a call on your phone with them if you’re watching videos on a tablet without having to disconnect first. They also have a standard 3.5mm socket for cabled use.
Their Bluetooth range and stability was excellent with a variety of devices, including Android and Apple smartphones and tablets. Call quality of the microphone was good in quiet environments and did a reasonable job of blocking out background noise – but at the expense of picking up my own voice, meaning I had to speak quite loudly to be clearly heard.
The right ear cup has a pause/play button, which you hold to summon your phone’s voice assistant, and volume up and down buttons. Pressing and holding the volume buttons skip tracks, too, which is unusual for headphone controls but works fine. Take the headphones off and the music will pause; put them back on and it will start again.
The left ear cup has a button for toggling between noise-cancelling and transparency modes, a power button and a USB-C charging port.
The Soundcore app for Android or iPhone is very good, taking care of updates, adjusting settings, sound and noise-cancelling modes.
The noise-cancelling is surprisingly effective for the money, beating the majority of rivals at this price and even some models twice their cost. The noise of a boiler, dishwasher, cars, drills and other rumbling noises were much reduced, while speech was quietened significantly. They can’t quite match the very best in the business from Bose and Sony but otherwise do a very good job, particularly set to the “transport” mode with the Soundcore app.
They also have a transparency mode, which pipes the sounds around you into the headphones and can be triggered quickly for listening out for announcements. It doesn’t sound very natural but gets the job done. Hold your hand on the touch-sensitive surface of the right ear cup or by pressing the ANC button for one second to toggle it on or off.
The Q35 also sound good for the money, with reasonable detail and separation of tones, handling complex pieces better than most competitors, particularly when used with the highest-quality LDAC format and some hi-res audio files.
By default, they have an energised, bass-heavy sound, which will suit pop and electronic music but can override detail in more subtle tracks. There are lots of presets and a full equaliser in the Soundcore app for tweaking the sound to your liking.
However, as with many rivals at this price, the sound is significantly affected by the noise-cancelling. What sounds good and punchy with noise-cancelling active sounds totally overridden by baggy, uncontrolled bass when it is turned off and different again with the transparency mode activated. I recommend never turning the noise-cancelling off, although this will drain the battery quicker, or using the bass-reducer preset if you do.
The headphones have very long battery life lasting just shy of 40 hours between charges with noise-cancelling active, which is 10 more than even Sony’s excellent WH-1000XM4. Turn off noise-cancelling and they will last up to 60 hours.
Anker estimates that the battery will last in excess of 500 full charge cycles while maintaining at least 80% of its original capacity but it is not replaceable, ultimately making the headphones disposable.
They are generally repairable through Anker’s customer service or authorised repair centre in the UK. The company regularly operates trade-in schemes and recycles devices but does not publish impact assessments or sustainability reports.
The Anker Soundcore Life Q35 cost £129.99.
For comparison, the Soundcore Life Q30 have an RRP of £79.99, the Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro cost £129.99, the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 cost £289.95, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II cost £249.95, the B&W PX7 cost £349.99, the Sony WH-1000XM4 cost £350 and Apple’s AirPods Max cost £549.
The Soundcore Life Q35 are a comfortable set of very long-lasting Bluetooth headphones that offer surprisingly effective noise-cancelling and good sound for less than half the price of top rivals.
They won’t trouble models such as Sony’s WH-1000XM4 or B&W’s PX7 on sound but the Q35 still offer high-end features such as high-res LDAC audio support and simultaneous connection for two devices. Call quality was fairly average and the sound radically changes when you turn noise-cancelling on and off but these things can be overlooked at a cost of £130 or less.
The battery cannot be replaced, however, ultimately making them disposable and losing a star. And if you only use Apple gear, which do not support the hi-res LDAC audio format, then the predecessor Life Q30 are a better buy at only £80, offering similar features minus the LDAC support.
Pros: good value, good sound, good noise-cancelling, very long battery life, Bluetooth 5 with SBC, AAC and LDAC support, good app, full EQ and lots of presets, comfortable.
Cons: sound heavily affected by noise-cancelling, average microphone, battery cannot be replaced, relatively bulky, may be too bass-heavy for some.
Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro review: cut-price noise-cancelling earbuds
Sony WH-1000XM4 review: Bose-beating noise-cancelling headphones
Bowers & Wilkins PX7 review: Bose-beating noise-cancelling headphones
Apple AirPods Max review: stunning sound, painful price
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 review: less business, more modern design
Beats Solo Pro review: Apple’s on-ear noise-cancelling headphones
Microsoft Surface Headphones 2 review: longer-lasting Bluetooth noise cancellers
Marshall Monitor II ANC review: classic headphones gain noise-cancelling
When It Comes to Taxes, Being Tracked Can Be a Good Thing
With remote work more common now, tax apps that track your location have become relevant for professionals who want to work wherever they want to live.
This article is part of our new series, Currents, which examines how rapid advances in technology are transforming our lives.
Two months ago, Jeff Sheu, a private equity executive, moved from San Francisco, where he had lived for close to 20 years, to Summerlin, a Las Vegas suburb. During the stay-at-home period of the pandemic, he realized he no longer needed to be in a city where property was expensive, taxes were high, and his quality of life, now that he was married with a small child, had changed.
And with vaccinations available and business travel resuming, he could live somewhere he liked as long as he could get on a plane for work.
“I love California, but over time the cost of living got exorbitantly high,” said Mr. Sheu, who was born and raised in that state and went to the University of California, Berkeley. “I grew apart from California.”
Moving out of a city for more space in the suburbs is a pretty common goal. It often marks a maturation point for Americans with young children, who value well-regarded schools over a nightlife scene.
But given the state Mr. Sheu had left and the high compensation from his work, he was concerned that his departure would not go smoothly. As the managing director of a private equity firm, he is exactly the type of high earner California does not want to lose. When people in his tax bracket leave, the state is likely to audit them to make sure they really have left.
With the May 17 tax filing deadline approaching, people who have moved to another state or are working more remotely need to be extra vigilant with their tax documents. For Mr. Sheu, that involves an app on his smartphone that uses location services to track him all the time. What he is sacrificing in privacy, he is gaining in peace of mind, knowing he will be able to show exactly when and where he was in a particular state, should California’s tax authority come after him.
Tax-starved states are none too happy to see big taxpayers leave. Enter the need to track meticulously where you are all the time.
“As part of the move, there’s a checklist of things to do, like changing your voter registration,” Mr. Sheu said from Atlanta (having been in Tampa, Fla., and Philadelphia in the previous 36 hours, when he had been traveling for work). “Then there’s tracking your days. You can use Excel, but if I get an inquiry from the tax board, it’s just in Excel. They could argue I fat-fingered something. But I’m never apart from my phone. It feels to me like a pretty undebatable way to track where I am.”
Tax apps like TaxBird — which Mr. Sheu uses — and TaxDay and Monaeo were created years ago with a different purpose in mind: to help largely affluent retirees avoid a tax burden when they returned to their second home in a high-tax state. But since the pandemic sent people home, and in the process freed them from being in an office, these apps have become relevant for professionals who want to work wherever they want to live.
These apps operate on a subscription model and are modestly priced. TaxBird, for example, costs $34.99 a year. After a free 90-day trial, TaxDay charges users $9.99 a month. Monaeo is geared more toward high earners and offers more options for its service, charging $99 a month or $999 a year.
“We’ve seen a fourfold increase in our app without any advertising in the past year,” said Jonathan Mariner, founder and president of TaxDay, who was himself audited when he worked for Major League Baseball in New York but lived in Florida. “When people are concerned about privacy, I say you probably have a dozen apps on your phone that are tracking you, and you don’t even know it.”
While each tax app has different levels of precision and features to upload supporting documents, they all fulfill the basic need to prove your location to a tax authority. When it comes time to file taxes, users download reports detailing where they worked with varying degrees of specificity, from a simple day count to more detailed location information.
“Over the past year, it’s becoming a contentious issue between states,” said Chester Spatt, professor of finance at the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University. “The question is what does it mean to have your employment be in another state in the virtual world? In the physical office world, it was easy.”
With hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, states in need of revenue are not going to let the money go without a fight. “This has the potential to become as messy as you can envision it,” said Dustin Grizzle, a tax partner at MGO, an accounting firm. “States are going to say, ‘Hey you’re just using Covid to give you the ability to work remotely.’”
One thing is clear: the pandemic has, in fact, extended these types of tax debates to middle-income earners who would like to live somewhere else. At the center of the debate is a magic number: 183 days — half of the year, plus a day — which is the amount of time most states use to determine if a person has been somewhere else for tax purposes. (There are exceptions: Ohio requires residents to live outside of the state for only five months.)
Residency, though, is something you have to declare; it is not something you can establish by traveling. For many workers, the issue will be where their employer says their office is.
David R. Cohen, a lawyer who focuses on complicated litigation cases, had been traveling from his home in Ohio for decades. During the pandemic, he rented a place in Naples, Fla., with his wife and realized there was no reason to go back to Cleveland in the winter. After renting, he bought a house in Naples a few months ago.
“Covid proved everyone could work remotely,” said Mr. Cohen, who uses TaxBird. “It was at that point that I began to think about residency down here.”
His incentives went well beyond the weather: He reasoned that most of his cases involved multiple jurisdictions, so he was either traveling or working out of his home anyway.
That kind of shift has some states worried. There is currently a tax dispute between New Hampshire and Massachusetts that could end up in front of the Supreme Court. The central question: Where are people working for tax purposes when they are not allowed to go into an office in another state?
When the pandemic started, Massachusetts issued guidance, saying if you normally worked in an office in that state, you would have to continue paying income tax there, even if you were working from home. New Hampshire challenged this by filing a lawsuit.
“There’s a strong argument that the pandemic should change things,” said Eric Bronnenkant, head of tax at Betterment, the financial advising app. “But one of the things I’m concerned about is if the Supreme Court comes down on the side of Massachusetts, other states will say the Supreme Court gave their approval. That will make remote-worker taxation more complex.”
Trading up: one woman’s quest to swap a hairpin for a house
Demi Skipper would like a new house, but she’s not buying one. Instead she’s planning a daring strategy of trades – and millions are following her journey
Last modified on Wed 12 May 2021 09.20 EDT
While many of us were still finding novelty in group Zoom calls last May, Demi Skipper decided she was going to get a house. But not using money. Instead, she was going to trade items.
Now the owner of one of only a few Chipotle celebrity cards in the world, and hoping to reach a house by the end of summer, the 29-year-old’s journey started where many voyages do: in a YouTube hole.
Sitting in the living room of her rented house in San Francisco, she had just finished watching a Ted Talk by Kyle MacDonald, also known as the red paperclip guy, who traded up 14 times to get from a red paperclip to a house in 2006.
MacDonald was a 26-year-old jobless Canadian who traded from a red paperclip to a fish-shaped pen, to a handmade doorknob, before trading it for a camping stove, then a generator, then a keg of beer and a neon sign, followed by a snowmobile, a trip to Yahk in British Columbia, a box truck, a music recording contract, a year’s rent in Arizona, to one afternoon with the rock band Alice Cooper. His strangest trade was then for a Kiss-themed motorized snow globe, which he swapped with snow globe fanatic and actor Corbin Bernsen for a role in a Hollywood film, before trading the movie role for a two-storey farmhouse in Kipling, Saskatchewan, Canada.
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Skipper, a self-described “scrappy entrepreneurial type”, was up to the challenge.
“I can’t buy anything. I can’t use any money. And I can’t trade anyone I know,” she excitedly explains over a 7am video call. She’s used to early mornings as she’s been working 6am to 2.30pm as a product manager for BuzzFeed. “A lot of comments [about my project] are like, ‘You need to get a job’, and I’m like, Oh my gosh, if they knew I’m working like 12-hour days,” she gestures in disbelief.
Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist and Ebay are Skipper’s go-tos. She first posted an image of the bobby pin explaining her mission, and traded it for brand new earrings from a woman on Facebook who was excited to take part. People’s eagerness to get involved has been the most surprising thing. “I get probably 1,000 messages a day on Instagram. And a lot of them are like: I don’t have a trade but I live in this state and I’d be willing to drive your car from here to here, or I have a garage or a safe place where you could keep a trade.”
She left the earrings on the porch of a woman keen to get rid of four margarita glasses, which Skipper traded for a vacuum cleaner. Then she had to trade outside of her city to meet a couple who exchanged their kid’s old snowboard for a vacuum cleaner. The snowboard went for an Apple TV. It was the first branded item she received, which made it easier to trade. She then arranged to swap it for a pair of Bose headphones, before finding a man on the neighbourhood app Next Door to trade her for an old Apple MacBook.
A MacBook from a bobby pin: it was a landmark moment. Up until this point, her project, named Trade Me, wasn’t well-known. Now she had the eyes of thousands of people on her. “The next trade was really nerve-racking because it was the first one I had to ship. So I had to trust that the person I was trading with would send me the camera and lenses,” she explained.
The camera went for the first pair of collector sneakers she found. “I reached out and the guy really helped me understand how to tell if sneakers are real.” Skipper then went on to trade two more pairs of sneakers, which the first trader advised her on. Desperate to get out of the sneaker world, Skipper found a man who had been searching for those $1,000 trainers for a long time, and traded them for a brand new iPhone 11 Max.
A family of Trade Me fans offered her a red minivan for the iPhone. While it was the most surprising upgrade, Skipper remembers it as the most emotionally difficult. A couple were so inspired by the project, they drove the van 29 hours from Minnesota to San Francisco with their two kids.
The minivan broke down after its long journey, and Skipper posted this hiccup on her TikTok. What she didn’t foresee was the amount of hate the family soon got, including a lot of Islamophobia. “The worst parts of the internet came out,” she says.
With the minivan no longer working, and unable to spend money to fix it, she was forced to trade down for an electric skateboard which went for the latest MacBook. She swapped that for an electric bike food cart, followed by a Mini Cooper.
The next trade went downhill.
“Ah, the diamond necklace,” she says. She thought it was worth $20,000, but she was quickly told that although it was worth that amount when made, it would only be bought for $2,000. The necklace’s appraisal value was $20,000, but as she quickly learned, this is not the same as the resale value. “It was a soul-crushing moment. I’d just traded this really nice Mini Cooper that was probably worth like $8,000, and I pretty much cut that in a quarter.”
She again then traded down for a Peloton exercise bike. Next was an extremely run- down Mustang, followed by a Jeep, a tiny cabin, a Honda CRV and then three tractors.
Like Kyle Macdonald, Skipper has a large audience. Nearly 5 million people follow her on TikTok. Her most recent trade – the three tractors for a Chipotle celebrity card – was offered to her by the fast-food chain after she posted the video about the tractors. There are only about three in existence. (The owner of this celebrity card gets unlimited free Chipotle food for a year, plus a catered dinner for 50 people.)
Obviously they wouldn’t be so keen to get involved if it wasn’t for the millions of potential customers following Demi’s journey, but Skipper is adamant that anyone can do their own trading project. “There’s this 18-year-old guy in London who’s gotten really far, and he’s not even TikTok-famous, but he’s done it on his own, trading with people he knows,” she remembers.
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While Skipper doesn’t spend any money on trades, she decided early on to pay for shipping. “It doesn’t feel right when you’re trading with someone and then you’re like, ‘Oh, can you pay for my shipping too?’” She’s spent about $4,000 on shipping so far.
Today’s world revolves around money, but cash in and of itself has no actual value. As a society, we’ve agreed on a story of what money is worth. We spend the majority of our time earning it or spending it, but that’s only been the case for the last 5,000 years. Before that, we would directly trade goods and services: I’ll fix your roof if you give me a bag of potatoes. “[You can] say: this is worth this many dollars. But part of trading up is to find the person who finds a different type of value in it,” says Skipper.
Skipper hopes more and more people will trade in this way. “Trading evens the playing field more, because everyone has that bobby pin or paperclip.” Thousands of TikTokers are now tagging her project in their own pursuits for anything from cars to college tuition.
“Honestly, I love that it’s a bit of an F U to capitalism.”
Gaming in colour: uncovering video games’ black pioneers
Jerry Lawson led the invention of cartridges, Ed Smith made a hybrid console/PC, and designer Muriel Tramis won France’s highest honour for bringing history into play. How many more names are forgotten?
In the 1970s, in the fledgling days of the video games industry, an engineer named Gerald “Jerry” Lawson designed one of the earliest game consoles, the Channel F, and also led the team that invented the game cartridge, a defining innovation in how games were made and sold. His son, Andersen Lawson, recalls that he was often working on gaming projects in the garage of their family home in Santa Clara, California. “There have been conversations recently about the struggles he might have had that were related to his colour,” he says. “Was it difficult [for him]? Yes, I’m quite certain. But I never heard any grumblings from him. And I’m also certain that he earned his respect … My father was a person of colour and I think that would inspire young people today to jump in and help move the industry along.”
Black people, and especially black women, are still underrepresented in the video games industry. The Independent Game Developers’ Association records that only 2% of US game developers identify as black; in the UK, meanwhile, according to UKIE’s 2020 census of the entire industry, 10% of its workers are black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME). But black innovators such as Jerry Lawson have been present and influential since the earliest days of the video games industry – and there is not enough recognition for their achievements.
Lawson was featured in Netflix’s High Score documentary series on the history of video games last year. Born in New York in 1940, he developed a strong interest in electronics during his youth, when he often fixed his neighbours’ small appliances as a hobby. This influenced his decision to become an engineer, and after moving to California, he became a member of Silicon Valley’s Homebrew Computer Club, a hobbyist collective that included Apple co-founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak among its members. It was his work as an engineer at San Jose-based Fairchild Semiconductor, though, that was truly pioneering. As a side project, he created a coin-op arcade game called Demolition Derby, and as a result he was approached by his bosses to become the lead engineer in the company’s new gaming division. He died from complications of diabetes in 2011, aged 70.
After moving on from Fairchild in 1980, Lawson founded Video Soft, which created games for the Atari 2600. The games were never publicly released, however, and following the notorious North American video game crash of 1983, he shut up shop in 1984 and worked as a consulting engineer thereafter. “Another company had the idea for the console but it was Fairchild that commercialised it,” says Andersen Lawson. “My dad was the person responsible for putting the team together … and they were able to achieve something that has been long since forgotten.”
New York-born Ed Smith, meanwhile, is a retired engineer who helped develop APF Electronics’ Imagination Machine, a hybrid console and home computer system. Companies such as APF expanded into gaming in the 70s and early 80s, providing opportunities for talented engineers. “As a black person, it was more about having the opportunity to be gainfully employed, no matter what area of work I was doing,” Smith tells me. “I had a child at a young age and the biggest thing for me was to get a good job. Luckily, I got into the field of technology and that was the point from which everything else just flowed.”
As well as engineering, his work on the machine included developing schematic diagrams and game testing. Smith’s innovative work at APF was deeply influential to future generations, but the company itself did not withstand the video game crash. “I thought our game would be one of many in the marketplace for years to come… my expectations were that I would be in the industry for the long term; the reality was that after the market tanked, I had to go and work in other areas,” he says.
Eventually, Smith found long-term work in tech sales and retired about two years ago to focus on writing Imagine That!, a book about his life. It recounts his struggles as a young black man in 1960s America. “We had our share of things that caused us to go out and to protest at that time. And it was pretty much the same things that we’re dealing with today – which is unfortunate,” he adds.
A third black innovator from the early days of the video games industry is Muriel Tramis, who is considered to be the first black female video game designer. She lives in France but grew up on the Caribbean island of Martinique, in the Lesser Antilles, and began her career as an engineer, programming military drones. She first made her mark on video games while working at French developer Coktel Vision, which she joined in 1986.
Tramis says that this was her happiest time, professionally speaking. “I had found a way to combine IT and literary creativity,” she told the Guardian. “My editor entrusted me with the project management of his adventure games because my engineering training allowed me to understand the technical aspects of development, programming of interactions, and integration of images and sound. He was of Armenian origin and probably for this reason, was very open-minded to diversity.”
Méwilo, the 1987 Atari game that Tramis wrote and directed in collaboration with writer Patrick Chamoiseau, drew on Martinique’s rich history. She says: “When I wanted to create my first script, I wanted it to be in the style of a historical novel. It’s natural that I was inspired by the island’s history, because it was unknown, or poorly known, to the rest of the world and had all the ingredients to create intrigue, drama and mystery. The history of the Antilles is part of the history of France, but this region has known the pain of slavery and colonisation. This is the origin of many traumas which are visible in Creole society and mixed societies in general.”
Tramis left Coktel Vision in 2003, but thinks fondly of her time there. “I liked the period so much that after a detour through virtual reality applied to urban planning, I am about to create my own video game development studio,” she says. “About 30 years after my first game, I am working on a future story.” Her upcoming game features black heroes and shows how skin-colour prejudice is the origin of present-day discrimination.
She was awarded the Légion d’honneur in 2018 and says it was an honour not just for herself but for her friends, family, her country and the “sisters” across the world, whom she hopes to inspire. Tramis is keen to encourage more women into technology and science, given the skills shortage in Europe: if women represent 50% of digital users, “they must also be 50% of designers, engineers and technicians”.
Though names like Lawson, Smith and Tramis do sometimes show up in video game history books, the contributions of many other black people in the fledgling days of the industry have gone entirely uncredited. “It parallels what we know about black women’s participation in the space program,” says TreaAndrea Russworm, an associate professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, who discusses black women’s contribution to games in her article Replaying Video Game History as a Mixtape of Black Feminist Thought (co-written with fellow black female academic Samantha Blackmon). “The book and film Hidden Figures has made it very obvious to us now that black women were there, but they weren’t headliners: they weren’t the astronauts, but they were the human computers, the labour force that was essential to the program, and they worked for many years unrecognised.
“At the Strong Museum [the US National Museum of Play], where they have archives on Midway and Atari, you can flip through their company newsletters, and you’ll come across photos of black women … they sometimes have a title or a caption saying who they were. But a lot of times, they don’t.”
What to Do If Your Car is Recalled
Recalls are common, but receiving notice can still be unnerving. Here’s what to expect.
Millions of cars are recalled each year, and roughly eight million already have been in 2021, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Getting a notice from the automaker that your vehicle is among them and has a safety deficiency is not only alarming, it can also lead to a flood of questions.
What must I do next? How do I get this taken care of? Is this going to cost me anything?
Even more pressing is how urgent it is to get the problem remedied. The answer is that while minor maintenance can slide a bit without causing major trouble, the safety concerns addressed by a recall are not a footnote for the “maybe someday” section of your to-do list. Recalls vary in urgency, and sometimes repairs cannot be done by the dealer immediately because replacement parts are not available; it can take months until they are. But as a recent South Carolina case makes clear, procrastination can be deadly.
In January, the driver of a 2002 Honda Accord died as a result of a crash in which the car’s airbag deployed. As the 19th death in the United States caused by shrapnel from a ruptured Takata airbag inflater, it was hardly unprecedented. But this time there was a twist: Honda, which recalled the car in 2011, said it had tried more than 100 times to reach the car’s owner by mail, phone and by in-person visits. The faulty inflaters had never been replaced.
The Takata recall, the largest in history, involves 100 million inflaters, including 67 million in the United States. And these recalls are not all a decade old. As recently as March, Ford recalled 2.6 million cars, trucks and sport utility vehicles to replace Takata driver-side airbag components.
Action may be taken for safety threats that arise even when the vehicles are parked. In March, several Hyundai and Genesis models were recalled to correct electrical short circuits that caused a fire risk. In that case, the traffic safety agency advised owners to “park their cars outside and away from homes, other structures and other flammable materials” to prevent property loss.
Recalls are not about customer complaints like a balky air-conditioner or a rusty fender. They are specifically safety issues, even if the danger is sometimes not readily apparent. Correcting the problem should be done as quickly as possible, and, yes, the automaker will pay for it.
They are required to contact owners by mail, but if you’ve been living away from your normal home during the pandemic, there’s a chance you could have missed the notice. And if you bought a used car, the recall notice may not have caught up with you yet.
It’s easy for you to check whether a vehicle has been recalled by entering the 17-digit vehicle identification number (or VIN) on the safety agency’s web page — nhtsa.gov/recalls. The VIN can be found on the car’s registration and often on the insurance card. It’s also visible through the glass on the lower edge of the windshield on the driver’s side.
Checking for recalls is a must, especially if you are buying a used car. Using that search, you will learn if the vehicle was recalled in the past 15 calendar years and whether the issue has been addressed. The report covers major automakers, motorcycle manufacturers and some medium/heavy truck manufacturers.
If the vehicle has not been recalled or if it has but the defect has been repaired, you will get this message: 0 Unrepaired Recalls associated with this VIN. Recently announced recalls may not show up because it takes time for the VINs to be identified, so you may need to check back.
Recalls are carried out by the automaker but can be ordered by the safety agency. The process can start when a carmaker discovers a problem during regular quality checks, or defects emerge through the dealer service network. By law, when an automaker learns of a safety defect it must notify the safety agency promptly.
The process can also begin with consumer complaints filed on the agency database. Those complaints are reviewed, and if an analysis deems further action is needed, an investigation is opened. If that finds a problem, a recall is initiated. In practice, automakers typically begin recalls on their own, before the agency intervenes. The safety agency monitors the process to assure that customer notices are properly issued and that repairs are tracked.
The automaker can choose to repair the defect, replace the vehicle with one of identical or similar specifications, or refund the full purchase price (adjusted for depreciation). If you’ve already paid for repairs that would have been done under the recall, the automaker often must reimburse you.
Royal Marines test jet suit between moving ships – video
Jet suit developer Gravity Industries has joined forces with the Royal Marines to test its latest product for maritime boarding operations. The company said it spent three days with 42 Commando Royal Marines off the south coast of the UK. The suit was tested in exercises between two moving vessels as an alternative to boarding via helicopter fast-roping
Online Cheating Charges Upend Dartmouth Medical School
The university accused 17 students of cheating on remote exams, raising questions about data mining and sowing mistrust on campus.
Natasha Singer and
HANOVER, N.H. — Sirey Zhang, a first-year student at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine, was on spring break in March when he received an email from administrators accusing him of cheating.
Dartmouth had reviewed Mr. Zhang’s online activity on Canvas, its learning management system, during three remote exams, the email said. The data indicated that he had looked up course material related to one question during each test, honor code violations that could lead to expulsion, the email said.
Mr. Zhang, 22, said he had not cheated. But when the school’s student affairs office suggested he would have a better outcome if he expressed remorse and pleaded guilty, he said he felt he had little choice but to agree. Now he faces suspension and a misconduct mark on his academic record that could derail his dream of becoming a pediatrician.
“What has happened to me in the last month, despite not cheating, has resulted in one of the most terrifying, isolating experiences of my life,” said Mr. Zhang, who has filed an appeal.
He is one of 17 medical students whom Dartmouth recently accused of cheating on remote tests while in-person exams were shut down because of the coronavirus. The allegations have prompted an on-campus protest, letters of concern to school administrators from more than two dozen faculty members and complaints of unfair treatment from the student government, turning the pastoral Ivy League campus into a national battleground over escalating school surveillance during the pandemic.
At the heart of the accusations is Dartmouth’s use of the Canvas system to retroactively track student activity during remote exams without their knowledge. In the process, the medical school may have overstepped by using certain online activity data to try to pinpoint cheating, leading to some erroneous accusations, according to independent technology experts, a review of the software code and school documents obtained by The New York Times.
Dartmouth’s drive to root out cheating provides a sobering case study of how the coronavirus has accelerated colleges’ reliance on technology, normalizing student tracking in ways that are likely to endure after the pandemic.
While universities have long used anti-plagiarism software and other anti-cheating apps, the pandemic has pushed hundreds of schools that switched to remote learning to embrace more invasive tools. Over the last year, many have required students to download software that can take over their computers during remote exams or use webcams to monitor their eye movements for possibly suspicious activity, even as technology experts have warned that such tools can be invasive, insecure, unfair and inaccurate.
Some universities are now facing a backlash over the technology. A few, including the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, recently said they would cease using the exam-monitoring tools.
“These kinds of technical solutions to academic misconduct seem like a magic bullet,” said Shaanan Cohney, a cybersecurity lecturer at the University of Melbourne who researches remote learning software. But “universities which lack some of the structure or the expertise to understand these issues on a deeper level end up running into really significant trouble.”
At Dartmouth, the use of Canvas in the cheating investigation was unusual because the software was not designed as a forensic tool. Instead, professors post assignments on it and students submit their homework through it.
That has raised questions about Dartmouth’s methodology. While some students may have cheated, technology experts said, it would be difficult for a disciplinary committee to distinguish cheating from noncheating based on the data snapshots that Dartmouth provided to accused students. And in an analysis of the Canvas software code, The Times found instances in which the system automatically generated activity data even when no one was using a device.
“If other schools follow the precedent that Dartmouth is setting here, any student can be accused based on the flimsiest technical evidence,” said Cooper Quintin, senior staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights organization, who analyzed Dartmouth’s methodology.
Seven of the 17 accused students have had their cases dismissed. In at least one of those cases, administrators said, “automated Canvas processes are likely to have created the data that was seen rather than deliberate activity by the user,” according to a school email that students made public.
The 10 others have been expelled, suspended or received course failures and unprofessional-conduct marks on their records that could curtail their medical careers. Nine pleaded guilty, including Mr. Zhang, according to school documents; some have filed appeals.
Some accused students said Dartmouth had hamstrung their ability to defend themselves. They said they had less than 48 hours to respond to the charges, were not provided complete data logs for the exams, were advised to plead guilty though they denied cheating or were given just two minutes to make their case in online hearings, according to six of the students and a review of documents.
Five of the students declined to be named for fear of reprisals by Dartmouth.
Duane A. Compton, the dean of the Geisel School, said in an interview that its methods for identifying possible cheating cases were fair and valid. Administrators investigated carefully, he said, and provided accused students with all the data on which the cheating charges were based. He denied that the student affairs office had advised those who said they had not cheated to plead guilty.
Dr. Compton acknowledged that the investigation had caused distress on campus. But he said Geisel, founded in 1797 and one of the nation’s oldest medical schools, was obligated to hold its students accountable.
“We take academic integrity very seriously,” he said. “We wouldn’t want people to be able to be eligible for a medical license without really having the appropriate training.”
Instructure, the company that owns Canvas, did not return requests for comment.
In January, a faculty member reported possible cheating during remote exams, Dr. Compton said. Geisel opened an investigation.
To hinder online cheating, Geisel requires students to turn on ExamSoft — a separate tool that prevents them from looking up study materials during tests — on the laptop or tablet on which they take exams. The school also requires students to keep a backup device nearby. The faculty member’s report made administrators concerned that some students may have used their backup device to look at course material on Canvas while taking tests on their primary device.
Geisel’s Committee on Student Performance and Conduct, a faculty group with student members that investigates academic integrity cases, then asked the school’s technology staff to audit Canvas activity during 18 remote exams that all first- and second-year students had taken during the academic year. The review looked at more than 3,000 exams since last fall.
The tech staff then developed a system to recognize online activity patterns that might signal cheating, said Sean McNamara, Dartmouth’s senior director of information security. The pattern typically showed activity on a Canvas course home page — on, say, neurology — during an exam followed by activity on a Canvas study page, like a practice quiz, related to the test question.
“You see that pattern of essentially a human reading the content and selecting where they’re going on the page,” Mr. McNamara said. “The data is very clear in describing that behavior.”
The audit identified 38 potential cheating cases. But the committee quickly eliminated some of those because one professor had directed students to use Canvas, Dr. Compton said.
In emails sent in mid-March, the committee told the 17 accused students that an analysis showed they had been active on relevant Canvas pages during one or more exams. The emails contained spreadsheets with the exam’s name, the test question number, time stamps and the names of Canvas pages that showed online activity.
Almost immediately, questions emerged over whether the committee had mistaken automated activity on Canvas for human activity, based on a limited subset of exam data.
Geisel students said they often had dozens of course pages open on Canvas, which they rarely logged out of. Those pages can automatically generate activity data even when no one is looking at them, according to The Times’s analysis and technology experts.
School officials said that their analysis, which they hired a legal consulting firm to validate, discounted automated activity and that accused students had been given all necessary data in their cases.
But at least two students told the committee in March that the audit had misinterpreted automated Canvas activity as human cheating. The committee dismissed the charges against them.
In another case, a professor notified the committee that the Canvas pages used as evidence contained no information related to the exam questions his student was accused of cheating on, according to an analysis submitted to the committee. The student has appealed.
The committee has also not provided students with the wording of the exam questions they were accused of cheating on, complete Canvas activity logs for the exams, the amount of time spent on each Canvas page and data on whether the system flagged their page activity as automated or user-initiated, according to documents.
Dartmouth declined to comment on the data issues, citing the appeals.
Mr. Quintin of the Electronic Frontier Foundation compared Dartmouth’s methods to accusing someone of stealing a piece of fruit in a grocery store by presenting a snapshot of that person touching an orange, but not releasing video footage showing whether the person later put back the orange, bought it or pocketed it without paying.
Dr. Compton said the committee’s dismissal of cases over time validated its methodology.
“The fact that we had a large number of students and we were very deliberate about eliminating a large, large fraction or majority of those students from consideration,” he said, “I think actually makes the case well for us trying to be really careful about this.”
Tensions flared in early April when an anonymous student account on Instagram posted about the cheating charges. Soon after, Dartmouth issued a social media policy warning that students’ anonymous posts “may still be traced back” to them.
Around the same time, Geisel administrators held a virtual forum and were barraged with questions about the investigation. The conduct review committee then issued decisions in 10 of the cases, telling several students that they would be expelled, suspending others and requiring some to retake courses or repeat a year of school at a cost of nearly $70,000.
Many on campus were outraged. On April 21, dozens of students in white lab coats gathered in the rain in front of Dr. Compton’s office to protest. Some held signs that said “BELIEVE YOUR STUDENTS” and “DUE PROCESS FOR ALL” in indigo letters, which dissolved in the rain into blue splotches.
Several students said they were now so afraid of being unfairly targeted in a data-mining dragnet that they had pushed the medical school to offer in-person exams with human proctors. Others said they had advised prospective medical students against coming to Dartmouth.
“Some students have built their whole lives around medical school and now they’re being thrown out like they’re worthless,” said Meredith Ryan, a fourth-year medical student not connected to the investigation.
That same day, more than two dozen members of Dartmouth’s faculty wrote a letter to Dr. Compton saying that the cheating inquiry had created “deep mistrust” on campus and that the school should “make amends with the students falsely accused.”
In an email to students and faculty a week later, Dr. Compton apologized that Geisel’s handling of the cases had “added to the already high levels of stress and alienation” of the pandemic and said the school was working to improve its procedures.
The medical school has already made one change that could reduce the risk of false cheating allegations. For remote exams, new guidelines said, students are now “expected to log out of Canvas on all devices prior to testing.”
Mr. Zhang, the first-year student, said the investigation had shaken his faith in an institution he loves. He had decided to become a doctor, he said, to address disparities in health care access after he won a fellowship as a Dartmouth undergraduate to study medicine in Tanzania.
Mr. Zhang said he felt compelled to speak publicly to help reform a process he found traumatizing.
“I’m terrified,” he said. “But if me speaking up means that there’s at least one student in the future who doesn’t have to feel the way that I did, then it’s all worthwhile.”
Why a Shortage Has Made Computer Chips the New Toilet Paper
This article is part of the On Tech newsletter. You can sign up here to receive it weekdays.
Most people need toilet paper and computer chips every day, and yet we rarely think about either of them.
That changed during the coronavirus pandemic when first bathroom rolls and then chips became scarce. Computer chips aren’t so disposable, but they are equally essential as electronic brains for products like smartphones, cars, airplanes and most modern appliances. Chip shortages have stalled new car manufacturing, made rental cars harder to find and complicated business even for the dog washing industry.
I spoke to Don Clark, who has written about computer chips for years, about the importance of chips, why the U.S. government is obsessed with making more of them in America, and how a new chip mania is a revenge for the nerds.
Shira: What are computer chips used for?
Don: Computer chips are like tiny brains or memory receptacles. This makes them important for pretty much everything in modern life. The obvious places are electronics like computers, smartphones, video game consoles and voice-activated speakers.
But chips are also in products that are used to track milk production of dairy cows and to make sure produce in trucks stays at an appropriate temperature. A modern car can have several thousand chips, including for the ignition, brakes and entertainment system. This year, the production of $50,000 cars is being held up because of a lack of $1 computer chips.
Right, how did chips lead to a freeze in car manufacturing?
Last year, when the pandemic first hit, automakers estimated that many people wouldn’t want to buy cars, and they cut orders for computer chips. When it turned out that car sales increased, the companies tried to order more chips on the fly. But the chip manufacturers had already moved on. They had shifted production to fill orders for products like phones and game consoles.
Are chip shortages unusual?
No, but shortages are usually confined to one particular type of chip. What’s unusual about this year is there’s not enough of many different kinds of computer chips, because of a combination of some disruptions related to the pandemic and overwhelming demand for more and more chips for everything.
To give just one example, each new smartphone with a 5G internet connection has 100 little components in it called filters that connect to all the different frequencies. That’s 100 computer chips for just a single function.
When will the shortages improve?
Companies are trying to crank out more chips, but it’s difficult to react quickly. Chip companies are also trying to stop customers, including car companies, from ordering double the number of chips they really need just to be sure they get some. But shortages will probably last until 2022 and could get worse before they get better. That’s partly because many scarce chips come from older factories that are hard to upgrade.
Congress and President Biden seem very likely to back billions of taxpayer dollars to make more computer chips in the United States. Why?
Shortages of products like personal protective equipment made in China have gotten the public and policymakers to discuss the downsides of having essential products made outside the United States.
Many advanced computer chips are made in Taiwan, and that makes the Pentagon in particular nervous about not being able to get essential computer chips if relations between Taiwan and China get worse. And the U.S. government wants to be more self reliant in case of emergencies, like earthquakes, in Taiwan.
Another issue is global competitiveness. Countries including Ireland, Taiwan and Israel give boatloads of government incentives to factories that produce chips. Intel, the big American computer chip company, doesn’t really need U.S. taxpayers’ money. But it wants to ensure that the company isn’t doing vastly worse by making its chips in the United States.
Forgive me, but the computer chip industry is very nerdy. How do people in the industry feel about being such a hot topic?
Yes, this has been the boring old industry of tech, like steel making. That’s changing, partly because of the attention on chip shortages but that’s not the only reason.
I wrote an article on Friday about the amount of investments in new computer chip companies — about eight times the dollars invested in 2016. Young people who might have formed software start-ups a few years ago are now choosing to start chip companies. There is a lot of interest and excitement in chips now, and the people in the industry feel that it’s nice to be seen as really important.
Not a great look for internet service providers: An analysis by the New York attorney general found that internet providers including AT&T and Comcast funded an effort that yielded millions of fake comments opposing net neutrality rules, my colleague David McCabe wrote. And from February: An explanation of net neutrality and the long war over it.
Also not great: The Markup reported that pharmaceutical companies find potential patients on Facebook by using drug ads to target people based on their interests in topics like bourbon or oxygen or their involvement in a depression and bipolar support group.
Yes, better online safety for all! Google said that it would start requiring people to take an added security measure, such as responding to a smartphone notification, to sign in to Gmail and other accounts. It’s great that Google is making this the default; here’s why adding a verification to log in to our digital accounts is the most important thing we can do to protect our security.
The saga of red-tailed hawks named Billy and Lilly, and babies Alba and Eli, “is one of regeneration and joy, with a tinge of sadness and some dead rat carcasses.”
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