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Google's New 'Pixel Buds' Translate 40 Languages in Real Time
Other tech unveiled includes a (somewhat creepy) AI personal photographer, new VR gear, and a very affordable mini assistant.
Back on Sept. 12 Apple announced the release dates of a slew of new products including the iWatch Series 3, Apple TV 4K, the iPhone 8, and by far the most anticipated item, the iPhone X (ten). iPhone X contains the highest density computer ever built, according to Apple—the world’s largest tech company. The biggest innovation with the phone was Face ID. This is the ability to unlock it by merely looking at it, as it carries facial recognition software.
Not to be outdone, rumors of some heavy hitting Google products thought to rival Apple's, have turned out to be spot on. At the Google Pixel 2 event, a press conference held in San Francisco on Oct. 4, the company revealed a treasure trove of goodies to compete with its Silicon Valley rival. All of the new gadgets combine hardware, software, and AI to better integrate into users' lives. One highlighted feature, the newly improved Google Assistant is purposefully interweaved throughout the constellation.
Google Pixel Buds are the search engine’s answer to Apple’s AirPods. These are wireless earbuds that put Google Assistant right in your ears. You can play, pause, increase or decrease volume, or swipe forward or back just by voice command. It can even translate 40 languages in real time. Retail price $159. They’ll be available this November.
Credit: Getty Images.
This next one is a little creepy, at least to me. Google Clips is an AI controlled camera that you leave somewhere, say in your house, to take intimate candid photos all by itself. Say your baby takes its first steps or a loved one returns home after years overseas in the service. Google says it’s made to recognize and snap off goings on it finds “interesting.” Fortunately, you control the results. It’ll send photos, videos, even GIFs, to your phone via Wi-Fi.
Credit: Google Store.
Unlike the 2016 model, this one has a wider field of vision and fresh, new colors. It’s also $20 higher in price. The previous one only worked with about 25 apps, and could only be used with a Pixel. This model offers a better viewing experience, new content, and the 250 VR titles already offered by Google. It will even give you the ability to interact with an original, VR series on YouTube. The Daydream is available currently for pre-order at $99 and up.
The Google Home Mini
Credit: Getty Images.
The Google Home Mini is much like Google Home, a Hi-Fi speaker imbued with Google Assistant. It can turn the volume up or down, find your favorite song, tell you tomorrow’s weather, and even locate an inexpensive Mexican restaurant, just by speaking to it. The mini seems to do everything the larger model does. It has an LED underneath and comes in gray, orange, or black. While Google Home runs $129, the mini will be just $49, and available for purchase Oct. 19.
The Google Home Max
Credit: Google Blog.
Rather than a smaller tabletop speaker, Google Home Max is a larger version of the original Google Home. But it’s 20 times more powerful. It can stand as well as sit horizontally. Meant to compete with Apple’s Homepod, the speaker comes with smart sound and Google Assistant, and works with Bluetooth and Cast. You can make hands-free calls with a Google Home. Got a bunch of these speakers? Make announcements house-wide like, “We’re leaving in 15 minutes!” Google Home Max will be available in black or gray. You can purchase it this December for $399.
Credit: Google Blog.
The Pixelbook is a new Chromebook you can use as a laptop or a tablet. Simply swing the keyboard underneath the 12.3-inch screen. Weighing about the same as a Mac Book, the Pixelbook contain 16 GB of RAM and 512 GB of memory. It comes with a customizable Core i5 or Core i7 processor. The coolest feature, the screen swivels 360-degrees. It uses the same apps as your smartphone and comes equipped with Google Assistant. Another interesting feature, if Wi-Fi isn’t strong enough, it’ll automatically tether to your phone for better reception. The basic model will be $999 and is available on Oct. 31.
Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL
Credit: Getty Images.
Google announced the launch of the Pixel 2 and the Pixel 2 XL. The first has a 5-inch screen and the second a 6-inch one. As with Apple, the headphone jack has disappeared. Rather, it’ll use Bluetooth 5.0. Each model has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processors with 4GB RAM. You can select either the 64GB or 128GB version.
Both contain OLED screens with a better picture and have a squeeze option, which automatically brings up Google Assistant. But the best feature by far is the camera. It has a 12.2 megapixel system with autofocus via laser, optical and digital image stabilization, and dual-pixel phase detection. This is one of the highest rated smartphone cameras in the world. The Pixel 2 will begin at $649 and the 2 XL $849. You can pre-order but they won’t be available until Oct. 17.
Throughout the event, Google presenters seemed to take jabs at Apple. One Google executive announcing the new camera features on the Pixels said, "we don't set aside better features for the larger device.” But this wasn’t the only one.
A promo video had a woman eating an Apple, execs interweaved the phrase "one more thing,” into their presentations (a favorite phrase of Steve Jobs), and the Pixel 2 announcement had a picture in the background of just how easy it is to transfer all your data, even apps, from the iPhone to a Pixel 2.
Almost all of the new gizmos take on a certain Apple product. With this launch, it looks like Google plans to give Apple some serious competition now and on an ongoing basis in the near future. It’s an impressive lineup for a company that only started putting out hardware two years ago.
You can watch a summary of the event here:
Certain water beetles can escape from frogs after being consumed.
- A Japanese scientist shows that some beetles can wiggle out of frog's butts after being eaten whole.
- The research suggests the beetle can get out in as little as 7 minutes.
- Most of the beetles swallowed in the experiment survived with no complications after being excreted.
In what is perhaps one of the weirdest experiments ever that comes from the category of "why did anyone need to know this?" scientists have proven that the Regimbartia attenuata beetle can climb out of a frog's butt after being eaten.
The research was carried out by Kobe University ecologist Shinji Sugiura. His team found that the majority of beetles swallowed by black-spotted pond frogs (Pelophylax nigromaculatus) used in their experiment managed to escape about 6 hours after and were perfectly fine.
"Here, I report active escape of the aquatic beetle R. attenuata from the vents of five frog species via the digestive tract," writes Sugiura in a new paper, adding "although adult beetles were easily eaten by frogs, 90 percent of swallowed beetles were excreted within six hours after being eaten and, surprisingly, were still alive."
One bug even got out in as little as 7 minutes.
Sugiura also tried putting wax on the legs of some of the beetles, preventing them from moving. These ones were not able to make it out alive, taking from 38 to 150 hours to be digested.
Naturally, as anyone would upon encountering such a story, you're wondering where's the video. Thankfully, the scientists recorded the proceedings:
The Regimbartia attenuata beetle can be found in the tropics, especially as pests in fish hatcheries. It's not the only kind of creature that can survive being swallowed. A recent study showed that snake eels are able to burrow out of the stomachs of fish using their sharp tails, only to become stuck, die, and be mummified in the gut cavity. Scientists are calling the beetle's ability the first documented "active prey escape." Usually, such travelers through the digestive tract have particular adaptations that make it possible for them to withstand extreme pH and lack of oxygen. The researchers think the beetle's trick is in inducing the frog to open a so-called "vent" controlled by the sphincter muscle.
"Individuals were always excreted head first from the frog vent, suggesting that R. attenuata stimulates the hind gut, urging the frog to defecate," explains Sugiura.
For more information, check out the study published in Current Biology.
New research from the University of Granada found that stress could help determine sex.
Stress in the modern world is generally viewed as a hindrance to a healthy life.
Indeed, excess stress is associated with numerous problems, including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, insomnia, depression, obesity, and other conditions. While the physiological mechanisms associated with stress can be beneficial, as Kelly McGonigal points out in The Upside of Stress, the modern wellness industry is built on the foundation of stress relief.
The effects of stress on pregnant mothers is another longstanding area of research. For example, what potential negative effects do elevated levels of cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine have on fetal development?
A new study, published in the Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, investigated a very specific aspect of stress on fetuses: does it affect sex? Their findings reveal that women with elevated stress are twice as likely to give birth to a girl.
For this research, the University of Granada scientists recorded the stress levels of 108 women before, during, and after conception. By testing cortisol concentration in their hair and subjecting the women to a variety of psychological tests, the researchers discovered that stress indeed influences sex. Specifically, stress made women twice as likely to deliver a baby girl.
The team points out that their research is consistent with other research that used saliva to show that stress resulted in a decreased likelihood of delivering a boy.
Maria Isabel Peralta RamírezPhoto courtesy of University of Granada
Lead author María Isabel Peralta Ramírez, a researcher at the UGR's Department of Personality, Evaluation and Psychological Treatment, says that prior research focused on stress levels leading up to and after birth. She was interested in stress's impact leading up to conception. She says:
"Specifically, our research group has shown in numerous publications how psychological stress in the mother generates a greater number of psychopathological symptoms during pregnancy: postpartum depression, a greater likelihood of assisted delivery, an increase in the time taken for lactation to commence (lactogenesis), or inferior neurodevelopment of the baby six months after birth."
While no conclusive evidence has been rendered, the research team believes that activation of the mother's endogenous stress system during conception sets the concentration of sex hormones that will be carried throughout development. As the team writes, "there is evidence that testosterone functions as a mechanism when determining the baby's sex, since the greater the prenatal stress levels, the higher the levels of female testosterone." Levels of paternal stress were not factored into this research.
Previous studies show that sperm carrying an X chromosome are better equipped to reach the egg under adverse conditions than sperm carrying the Y chromosome. Y fetuses also mature slowly and are more likely to produce complications than X fetuses. Peralta also noted that there might be more aborted male fetuses during times of early maternal stress, which would favor more girls being born under such circumstances.
In the future, Peralta and her team say an investigation into aborted fetuses should be undertaken. Right now, the research was limited to a small sample size that did not factor in a number of elements. Still, the team concludes, "the research presented here is pioneering to the extent that it links prenatal stress to the sex of newborns."
Stay in touch with Derek on Twitter and Facebook. His most recent book is "Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."
The world's 10 most affected countries are spending up to 59% of their GDP on the effects of violence.
- Conflict and violence cost the world more than $14 trillion a year.
- That's the equivalent of $5 a day for every person on the planet.
- Research shows that peace brings prosperity, lower inflation and more jobs.
- Just a 2% reduction in conflict would free up as much money as the global aid budget.
- Report urges governments to improve peacefulness, especially amid COVID-19.
What is the price of peace?
Or put another way, how much better off would we all be in a world where armed conflict was avoided?
To give some context, 689 million people - more than 9% of the world's population - live on less than $1.90 a day, according to World Bank figures, underscoring the potential impact peace-building activities could have.
Just over 10% of global GDP is being spent on containing, preventing and dealing with the consequences of violence. As well as the 1.4 million violent deaths each year, conflict holds back economic development, causes instability, widens inequality and erodes human capital.
Putting a price tag on peace and violence helps us see the disproportionately high amounts spent on creating and containing violent acts compared to what is spent on building resilient, productive, and peaceful societies.
—Steve Killelea, founder and executive chairman, Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP)
The cost of violence
In a report titled "The Economic Value of Peace 2021", the IEP says that for every death from violent conflict, 40 times as many people are injured. The world's 10 most affected countries are spending up to 59% of their GDP on the effects of violence.
Grounds for hope
But the picture is not all bleak. The economic impact of violence fell for the second year in a row in 2019, as parts of the world became more peaceful.
The global cost dropped by $64 billion between 2018 and 2019, even though it was still $1.2 trillion higher than in 2012.
In five regions of the world the costs increased in 2019. The biggest jump was in Central America and the Caribbean, where a rising homicide rate pushed the cost up 8.3%.
Syria, with its ongoing civil war, suffered the greatest economic impact with almost 60% of its GDP lost to conflict in 2019. That was followed by Afghanistan (50%) and South Sudan (46%).
The report makes a direct link between peace and prosperity. It says that, since 2000, countries that have become more peaceful have averaged higher GDP growth than those which have become more violent.
"This differential is significant and represents a GDP per capita that is 30% larger when compounded over a 20-year period," the report says adding that peaceful countries also have substantially lower inflation and unemployment.
"Small improvements in peace can have substantial economic benefits," it adds. "For example, a 2% reduction in the global impact of violence is roughly equivalent to all overseas development aid in 2019."
Equally, the total value of foreign direct investment globally only offsets 10% of the economic impact of violence. Authoritarian regimes lost on average 11% of GDP to the costs of violence while in democracies the cost was just 4% of GDP.
And the gap has widened over time, with democracies reducing the cost of violence by almost 16% since 2007 while in authoritarian countries it has risen by 27% over the same period.
The report uses 18 economic indicators to evaluate the cost of violence. The top three are military spending (which was $5.9 trillion globally in 2019), the cost of internal security which makes up over a third of the total at $4.9 trillion and homicide.
Peace brings prosperity
The formula also contains a multiplier effect because as peace increases, money spent containing violence can instead be used on more productive activities which drive growth and generate higher monetary and social returns.
"Substantial economic improvements are linked to improvements in peace," says the report. "Therefore, government policies should be directed to improving peacefulness, especially in a COVID-19 environment where economic activity has been subdued."
The IEP says what it terms "positive peace" is even more beneficial than "negative peace" which is simply the absence of violence or the fear of violence. Positive peace involves fostering the attitudes, institutions & structures that create and sustain peaceful societies.
The foundations of a positively peaceful society, it says, are: a well functioning government, sound business environment, acceptance of the rights of others, good relations with neighbours, free flow of information, high levels of human capital, low levels of corruption and equitable distribution of resources.
The World Economic Forum's report Mobilizing the Private Sector in Peace and Reconciliation urged companies large and small to recognise their potential to work for peace quoting the former Goldman Sachs chair, the late Peter Sutherland, who said: "Business thrives where society thrives."
The lush biodiversity of South America's rainforests is rooted in one of the most cataclysmic events that ever struck Earth.