Staff picks for the week of March 14, 2016

Staff Picks GeneralSpace travel, e-waste, slang, and politics. An eclectic bunch of topics, but with one common thread – technology! Read on for your weekly dose of staff picks.

Why Jeff Bezos is finally ready to talk about taking people to space (Read by Camillia S.)

If the tools were in place and the price was right, would you travel to space? If the answer is yes, you may be in luck. Jeff Bezos of Blue Origin believes that his company will be ready to fly humans into space and back in 2018. While the actual space vehicle will fly autonomously, the test flights (set to start taking place next year!) will have test pilots for extra precaution and to make note of the overall passenger experience. While a price hasn’t been announced, don’t expect it to be cheap – at least not any time soon. Eventually, though, Bezos believes that space travel will be as common and easy to come by as a flight to Florida. I can only hope so because this is definitely going on my bucket list.

How can product designers help solve the world’s massive e-waste problem? (Read by Heidi B.)

By 2018, roughly 50 million metric tons of electronics will be thrown out each year. At SHI, we help customers responsibly dispose of hardware at the end of its lifecycle, but how can product designers help eliminate e-waste while they still have blueprints on their desk? This article explores those possibilities, such as designing devices that are simple to disassemble and recycle, and references an exhibit at The New School’s Parsons School of Design that shows the “very real” path electronics take from Western households to developing countries. It’s easy to get excited about the next version of a smartphone, but we should all take some time to consider where our old devices end up and what we can do about it.

Facebook has an idea for software that detects cool new slang before it goes mainstream (Read by Alexandria H.)

Facebook wants to know what slang words you’re using and what they mean. To remain in the know with its users, the social network giant has patented software that will search for new terms or phrases not yet commonly used and add them to its social glossary (now there’s a term you’ve probably never heard before). Once added, the terms’ meaning will be monitored for any changes in definition as well as how frequently they’re used. How Facebook plans to use this data remains to be seen, but check out this article for a peek at the patent filing.

Young voters, cell phones to blame for faulty Michigan polls (Read by Ed M.)

Early last week, pollsters’ data showed Hillary Clinton with a commanding 20-point lead over Bernie Sanders in the Michigan primaries, giving Sanders a 1 percent chance of winning. Naturally, Sanders won. Politics aside, how could the data have been so wrong? For starters, most Americans under 45 years old live in households without landlines. Privacy regulations require that pollsters hand-dial cell phone numbers, which is time consuming and cuts into the pollsters’ profits. Combine those factors with the belief that millennials will rarely answer an unsolicited call from an unrecognized number, and we can expect inaccuracies about the preferences of the “mostly mobile” population to continue. Just ask members of Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, who first noticed the problem while trailing Clinton in the polls nine years ago.

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