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1 ☆ 103,223 shares, 3,249 trendiness, 1196 words and 13 minutes reading time

YouTube Just Demonetized Anti-Vax Channels

After ad­ver­tis­ers com­plained about pro­gram­matic ad place­ments on anti-vax videos, YouTube re­moved ads on videos that ad­vo­cate against vac­ci­na­tion.

YouTube on Friday said it would pre­vent chan­nels that pro­mote anti-vax con­tent from run­ning ad­ver­tis­ing, say­ing ex­plic­itly that such videos fall un­der its pol­icy pro­hibit­ing the mon­e­ti­za­tion of videos with dangerous and harm­ful” con­tent. The move comes af­ter ad­ver­tis­ers on YouTube pulled their ads from these videos, fol­low­ing in­quiries from BuzzFeed News.“We have strict poli­cies that gov­ern what videos we al­low ads to ap­pear on, and videos that pro­mote anti-vac­ci­na­tion con­tent are a vi­o­la­tion of those poli­cies. We en­force these poli­cies vig­or­ously, and if we find a video that vi­o­lates them, we im­me­di­ately take ac­tion and re­move ads,” a YouTube spokesper­son said in an email state­ment to BuzzFeed News.

Earlier this week, BuzzFeed News found that while YouTube usu­ally re­turns a top search re­sult for queries like are vac­cines safe” from an au­tho­rized source such as a chil­dren’s hos­pi­tal, its Up Next al­go­rithm fre­quently sug­gested fol­low up rec­om­men­da­tions for anti-vac­ci­na­tion videos.

Seven dif­fer­ent ad­ver­tis­ers said they weren’t aware their ads were ap­pear­ing on videos like Mom Researches Vaccines, Discovers Vaccination Horrors and Goes Vaccine Free,” which ad­vo­cates against vac­ci­nat­ing chil­dren, and reached out to YouTube to pull the pro­gram­matic place­ments. Their ads ap­peared on videos from chan­nels in­clud­ing VAXXED TV, LarryCook333 (a pro­po­nent of StopMandatoryVaccinations.com), and iHealth­Tube, all of which YouTube has since de­mon­e­tized, or pre­vented from run­ning ads.

In ad­di­tion to de­mon­e­tiz­ing anti-vax con­tent, YouTube also in­tro­duced a new in­for­ma­tion panel per­tain­ing to vac­cines. Previously, in­for­ma­tion pan­els ap­peared on anti-vax videos that ex­plic­itly men­tioned the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vac­cine, and only de­scribed what the MMR vac­cine is for and linked to its Wikipedia page. Now, a con­sid­er­ably larger num­ber of anti-vax videos have an in­for­ma­tion panel that links to the Wikipedia page for vaccine hes­i­tancy”, where it is de­scribed as one of the top ten global health threats of 2019″ ac­cord­ing the World Health Organization.

Screenshots of the same YouTube video, the first taken on February 14, the sec­ond taken February 22:

: This screen­shot of a VAXXED TV video from Feb. 14 con­tains a pro­gram­matic ad. |

: This screen­shot of the same VAXXED TV taken Feb. 22 con­tains no ad, and now has an added in­for­ma­tion panel about vaccine hes­i­tancy.”

Nomad Health, a health tech com­pany, told BuzzFeed News that it does not sup­port the anti-vac­ci­na­tion move­ment,” was not aware of our ads run­ning along­side anti-vac­ci­na­tion videos,” and would take ac­tion to pre­vent it from hap­pen­ing in the fu­ture.”

A dis­count vi­t­a­min com­pany whose ads ap­peared on anti-vax videos, Vitacost, said it pulled its ads from YouTube al­to­gether on Tuesday af­ter a YouTube cre­ator re­vealed that ads were run­ning on sex­u­ally ex­ploita­tive videos of chil­dren.“We pulled all YouTube ad­ver­tis­ing on Tuesday morn­ing when we no­ticed con­tent is­sues. We had strict rules to pre­vent our ads from serv­ing on sen­si­tive con­tent and they were not ef­fec­tive as promised,” a spokesper­son for Vitacost told BuzzFeed News via email.“We will con­tinue to re­main off of the plat­form un­til those changes are made and are proven to be ef­fec­tive by other ad­ver­tis­ers,” the Vitacost spokesper­son said.The YouTube ad­ver­tis­ers con­tacted by BuzzFeed News about their ads on anti-vax con­tent said they were un­aware that their pro­gram­matic ads, which are con­trolled al­go­rith­mi­cally, were ap­pear­ing along­side such videos.“When we pur­chase pro­gram­matic me­dia, we spec­ify pa­ra­me­ters that re­strict the place­ment of our ads from as­so­ci­a­tion with cer­tain con­tent. Even so, how­ever, some­times ads get served in places that we don’t ap­prove of. This is one of those cases,” said a spokesper­son for Retail Me Not, a dis­count drug com­pany. We’re work­ing to ex­clude this place­ment now.”“Upon learn­ing of this, we im­me­di­ately con­tacted YouTube to pull our ads from ap­pear­ing not only on this chan­nel but also to en­sure re­lated con­tent that pro­mul­gates con­spir­acy the­o­ries is com­pletely ex­cluded,” said a spokesper­son for Grammarly, a writ­ing soft­ware com­pany. We have strin­gent ex­clu­sion fil­ters in place with YouTube that we be­lieved would ex­clude such chan­nels. We’ve asked YouTube to en­sure this does not hap­pen again.”Want us to re­port more on more tech’s most pow­er­ful com­pa­nies? Join us as a BuzzFeed News mem­ber.Ear­lier this week, Grammarly and other ad­ver­tis­ers also asked YouTube to pull its ads from videos of young chil­dren that were ap­par­ently be­ing viewed and com­mented on by a net­work of pe­dophiles. Nestle, AT&T, Hasbro, Kellogg, and Epic Games were among the brands that pulled their ads over the child pornog­ra­phy con­tro­versy.“Any con­tent — in­clud­ing com­ments — that en­dan­gers mi­nors is ab­hor­rent, and we have clear poli­cies pro­hibit­ing this on YouTube. We took im­me­di­ate ac­tion by delet­ing ac­counts and chan­nels, re­port­ing il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity to au­thor­i­ties, and dis­abling com­ments on tens of mil­lions of videos that in­clude mi­nors,” YouTube told USA Today on Thursday. There’s more to be done, and we con­tinue to work to im­prove and catch abuse more quickly.”Other com­pa­nies that asked YouTube to stop their ads from ap­pear­ing along­side anti-vax con­tent in­clude:Bril­liant Earth, a jew­elry com­pany, which said it has made in­ter­nal ad­just­ments to our ad set­tings and will also fol­low up with our ad­ver­tis­ing part­ners to pre­vent our ads from ap­pear­ing next to this con­tent.”CW­CB­Expo, a mar­i­juana trade show, which said it would be implementing strict guide­lines on con­tent place­ment and is elim­i­nat­ing hun­dreds of YouTube chan­nels/​videos and neg­a­tive key­words.”XTIVIA, which said it was reviewing the ad place­ment,” which was not [its] re­quested tar­get.”So­lar­Winds, a soft­ware com­pany, which said the place­ment was un­in­ten­tional and that it had adjusted [its] fil­ters to fur­ther re­fine the tar­get­ing of our ads on YouTube to bet­ter align with our tar­geted au­di­ence, MSPs and tech­nol­ogy pro­fes­sion­als.”Larry Cook, the anti-vax leader be­hind StopMandatoryVaccinations, said on Facebook that his entire chan­nel” was de­mon­e­tized, but that YouTube had­n’t con­tacted him about the change.“It is … un­for­tu­nate that YouTube does not see the value in ad­ver­tis­ers reach­ing a very large and thriv­ing de­mo­graphic who be­lieve in al­ter­na­tive med­i­cine, holis­tic health and nat­ural reme­dies,” Cook told BuzzFeed News via email. Shutting down mon­e­ti­za­tion on al­ter­na­tive health chan­nels just means that al­ter­na­tive health ad­ver­tis­ers will go else­where to reach their in­tended au­di­ence.”Fol­low­ing a measles out­break, US Rep. Adam Schiff de­manded last week that Facebook and Google, which owns YouTube, ad­dress the risks of the spread of med­ical mis­in­for­ma­tion about vac­cines on their plat­forms. Facebook re­sponded last week by say­ing it would take steps to re­duce the dis­tri­b­u­tion of health-re­lated mis­in­for­ma­tion on Facebook.”Prior to Schiff’s re­quest, YouTube said it was work­ing on al­go­rith­mic changes to re­duce the ap­pear­ance of con­spir­acy the­o­ries in its Up Next rec­om­men­da­tions, a cat­e­gory that con­tains some anti-vax videos, but not all. After BuzzFeed News’ re­port ear­lier this week, YouTube said, like many al­go­rith­mic changes,” the al­ter­ations to its Up Next rec­om­men­da­tion sys­tem will be grad­ual and will get more and more ac­cu­rate over time.”

Caroline O’Donovan is a se­nior tech­nol­ogy re­porter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco.

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2 ☆ 80,297 shares, 2,306 trendiness, 57 words and 1 minutes reading time

Man discovers 30 year old Apple computer still in working order




An Apple IIe. Sat in my par­ents’ at­tic for years. Decades.

And it works.

Put in an old game disk. Asks if I want to re­store a saved game.

And finds one!

It must be 30 years old.

I’m 10 years old again. pic.twit­ter.com/​zL7wWx­Oo36

— John Pfaff (@JohnFPfaff) February 17, 2019


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3 ☆ 77,180 shares, 2,588 trendiness, 487 words and 5 minutes reading time

Supreme Court says constitutional protection against excessive fines applies to state actions

The Supreme Court ruled unan­i­mously Wednesday that the Constitution’s pro­hi­bi­tion on ex­ces­sive fines ap­plies to state and lo­cal gov­ern­ments, lim­it­ing their abil­i­ties to im­pose fines and seize prop­erty.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, on just her sec­ond day back on the bench af­ter un­der­go­ing can­cer surgery in December, an­nounced the de­ci­sion for the court, say­ing that the Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause pro­tects against gov­ern­ment ret­ri­bu­tion.

For good rea­son, the pro­tec­tion against ex­ces­sive fines has been a con­stant shield through­out Anglo-American his­tory: Exorbitant tolls un­der­mine other con­sti­tu­tional lib­er­ties,” Ginsburg wrote. Excessive fines can be used, for ex­am­ple, to re­tal­i­ate against or chill the speech of po­lit­i­cal en­e­mies. . . . Even ab­sent a po­lit­i­cal mo­tive, fines may be em­ployed in a mea­sure out of ac­cord with the pe­nal goals of ret­ri­bu­tion and de­ter­rence.”

[He sold drugs and Indiana seized his car. Does the Constitution pro­tect him?]

The court ruled in fa­vor of Tyson Timbs of Marion, Ind., who had his $42,000 Land Rover seized af­ter he was ar­rested for sell­ing a cou­ple hun­dred dol­lars’ worth of heroin.

He drew wide sup­port from civil lib­er­ties or­ga­ni­za­tions who want to limit civil for­fei­tures, which they say em­power lo­cal­i­ties and law en­force­ment to seize prop­erty of some­one sus­pected of a crime as a rev­enue stream.

Some jus­tices, too, had be­come wor­ried about the state and lo­cal ef­forts.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in a re­cent opin­ion that civil for­fei­tures have become wide­spread and highly prof­itable.”

This sys­tem — where po­lice can seize prop­erty with lim­ited ju­di­cial over­sight and re­tain it for their own use — has led to egre­gious and well-chron­i­cled abuses,” Thomas wrote, re­fer­ring to re­port­ing by The Washington Post and the New Yorker.

[Aggressive po­lice take hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars from mo­torists not charged with crimes]

At oral ar­gu­ment, Timbs’s lawyer said the case was a sim­ple mat­ter of constitutional house­keep­ing.”

The Constitution’s Bill of Rights pro­tects against ac­tions of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. But the Supreme Court over time has ap­plied it to state and lo­cal gov­ern­ments un­der the due-process clause of the 14th Amendment. In 2010, for in­stance, the court held that the Second Amendment ap­plied to state and lo­cal gov­ern­ment laws on gun con­trol.

The Eighth Amendment states: Excessive bail shall not be re­quired, nor ex­ces­sive fines im­posed, nor cruel and un­usual pun­ish­ments in­flicted.” Two of those com­mands — re­gard­ing bail and cruel and un­usual pun­ish­ments — have been deemed to ap­ply to state and lo­cal gov­ern­ments. But un­til now, the ban on ex­ces­sive fines had not been.

And the Indiana Supreme Court noted that when over­turn­ing a lower court’s rul­ing that the ac­tions taken against Timbs were ex­ces­sive.

Ginsburg’s opin­ion makes clear that the clause ap­plies, and that it is incorporated” un­der the 14th Amendment’s due process Clause. Justices Thomas and Neil M. Gorsuch agreed with the out­come, but said they would have re­lied on a dif­fer­ent part of the 14th Amendment.


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4 63,066 shares, 6 trendiness, 837 words and 9 minutes reading time

Archive shows medieval nun faked her own death to escape convent

A team of me­dieval his­to­ri­ans work­ing in the archives at the University of York has found ev­i­dence that a nun in the 14th cen­tury faked her own death and crafted a dummy in the like­ness of her body” in or­der to es­cape her con­vent and pur­sue — in the words of the arch­bishop of the time — “the way of car­nal lust”.

A mar­ginal note writ­ten in Latin and buried deep within one of the 16 heavy reg­is­ters used by to record the busi­ness of the arch­bish­ops of York be­tween 1304 and 1405 first alerted archivists to the ad­ven­tures of the run­away nun. To warn Joan of Leeds, lately nun of the house of St Clement by York, that she should re­turn to her house,” runs the note writ­ten by arch­bishop William Melton and dated to 1318.

Melton, writ­ing to in­form the Dean of Beverley about the scandalous ru­mour” he had heard about the ar­rival of the Benedictine nun Joan, claimed that Joan had impudently cast aside the pro­pri­ety of re­li­gion and the mod­esty of her sex”, and out of a ma­li­cious mind sim­u­lat­ing a bod­ily ill­ness, she pre­tended to be dead, not dread­ing for the health of her soul, and with the help of nu­mer­ous of her ac­com­plices, evil­do­ers, with mal­ice afore­thought, crafted a dummy in the like­ness of her body in or­der to mis­lead the de­voted faith­ful and she had no shame in procur­ing its bur­ial in a sa­cred space amongst the re­li­gious of that place”.

After fak­ing her own death, he con­tin­ued, and, in a cun­ning, ne­far­i­ous man­ner … hav­ing turned her back on de­cency and the good of re­li­gion, se­duced by in­de­cency, she in­volved her­self ir­rev­er­ently and per­verted her path of life ar­ro­gantly to the way of car­nal lust and away from poverty and obe­di­ence, and, hav­ing bro­ken her vows and dis­carded the re­li­gious habit, she now wan­ders at large to the no­to­ri­ous peril to her soul and to the scan­dal of all of her or­der.”

Professor Sarah Rees Jones, prin­ci­pal in­ves­ti­ga­tor on the pro­ject, said the story of Joan’s es­cape, which she and her team dis­cov­ered last week, was extraordinary — like a Monty Python sketch”.

The scribes did not record whether Joan was re­turned to the con­vent or not. Unfortunately, and this is re­ally frus­trat­ing, we don’t know the out­come of the case,” said Rees Jones. There are quite a lot of cases of monks and nuns who left their re­li­gious house. We don’t al­ways get the full de­tail or know what the out­come was.”

A History of the County of York re­counts how in 1301 a nun at the pri­ory of St Clement named Cecily met certain men” at the pri­ory gate lead­ing a sad­dled horse, and, throw­ing off her nun’s habit, put on an­other robe and rode off with them to Darlington, where Gregory de Thornton was wait­ing for her, and with him she lived for three years or more”.

Often it is to do with not want­ing to be celi­bate and leav­ing the re­li­gious house — this ap­plies to men as well as women — in or­der to have a re­la­tion­ship and get mar­ried,” said Rees Jones. Many of the peo­ple would have been com­mit­ted to a re­li­gious house when they were in their teens, and then they did­n’t all take to the re­li­gious life.”

Although parts of some of the arch­bish­ops’ reg­is­ters have been pub­lished in the past, they were gen­er­ally un­trans­lated from Latin. Funding of al­most £1m from the Arts and Humanities Research Council means the Borthwick Institute for Archives at the University of York, in part­ner­ship with the National Archives, is now work­ing to trans­late the 16 books and make their con­tents avail­able on­line.

During the mid­dle ages, the parch­ment vol­umes were car­ried by the arch­bish­op’s of­fi­cials while he trav­elled. After the English civil war in the 17th cen­tury, they were stored in London and re­turned to York in the late 18th cen­tury. Covering what Rees Jones calls a fas­ci­nat­ing and ex­tremely tur­bu­lent pe­riod”, the vol­umes also span the Black Death, which rav­aged Europe be­tween 1347 and 1351.

Being a priest was one of the most dan­ger­ous jobs in Europe dur­ing that time as they vis­ited the sick and ad­min­is­tered last rites at deathbeds,” said Rees Jones. Because so many priests had died, there weren’t enough peo­ple trained in Latin, so de­liv­er­ing ser­mons in English had to be adopted as the new sta­tus quo. The reg­is­ters may shed new light on what it was like to live through this pe­riod and will per­haps give us a sense of how the church re­asserted its au­thor­ity af­ter such cat­a­strophic events.”

Using the books, Rees Jones and her team also hope to learn more about Melton, who as well as at­tempt­ing to re­call er­rant nuns would go on to lead an army of priests and cit­i­zens into bat­tle against the Scots in 1319; as well as more about arch­bishop Richard le Scrope, who was ex­e­cuted in 1405 for tak­ing part in the north­ern ris­ing against Henry IV.


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5 60,927 shares, 180 trendiness, 534 words and 5 minutes reading time

World's largest bee, missing for 38 years, found alive in Indonesia

As long as an adult thumb, with jaws like a stag bee­tle and four times larger than a hon­ey­bee, Wallace’s gi­ant bee is not ex­actly in­con­spic­u­ous.

But af­ter go­ing miss­ing, feared ex­tinct, for 38 years, the world’s largest bee has been re­dis­cov­ered alive on the Indonesian is­lands of the North Moluccas.

A search team of North American and Australian bi­ol­o­gists found a sin­gle fe­male Wallace’s gi­ant bee (Megachile pluto) liv­ing in­side a ter­mites’ nest in a tree, more than two me­tres off the ground.

It was ab­solutely breath­tak­ing to see this flying bull­dog’ of an in­sect that we weren’t sure ex­isted any more,” said Clay Bolt, a spe­cial­ist pho­tog­ra­pher who ob­tained the first im­ages of the species alive. To ac­tu­ally see how beau­ti­ful and big the species is in life, to hear the sound of its gi­ant wings thrum­ming as it flew past my head, was just in­cred­i­ble.”

The gi­ant bee — the fe­male can mea­sure nearly 4cm in length — first be­came known to sci­ence in 1858 when the British ex­plorer and nat­u­ral­ist Alfred Russel Wallace dis­cov­ered it on the trop­i­cal Indonesian is­land of Bacan. He de­scribed the fe­male bee as a large, black wasp-like in­sect, with im­mense jaws like a stag bee­tle”.

Despite its size, the bee re­mained elu­sive, with al­most noth­ing known about the fe­male’s se­cre­tive life cy­cle in­volv­ing mak­ing nests of tree resin in­side ac­tive ar­bo­real ter­mite mounds.

The bee was not seen again by sci­en­tists un­til 1981, when Adam Messer, an American en­to­mol­o­gist, re­dis­cov­ered it on three Indonesian is­lands. He ob­served how the bee used its gi­ant mandibles to gather resin and wood for its ter­mite-proof nests.

Last year it was dis­cov­ered that an en­to­mol­o­gist had col­lected a sin­gle fe­male in 1991 but his dis­cov­ery was never recorded in a sci­en­tific jour­nal. Also last year, a freshly col­lected dead spec­i­men was spot­ted on an on­line auc­tion site, but the re­dis­cov­ery of a live fe­male raises hopes that Indonesia’s forests still har­bour this species.

The bee’s habi­tat is threat­ened by mas­sive de­for­esta­tion for agri­cul­ture, and its size and rar­ity make it a tar­get for col­lec­tors. There is, at pre­sent, no le­gal pro­tec­tion con­cern­ing trad­ing of Wallace’s gi­ant bee.

Robin Moore, a con­ser­va­tion bi­ol­o­gist with Global Wildlife Conservation, which runs a pro­gramme called The Search for Lost Species, said: We know that putting the news out about this re­dis­cov­ery could seem like a big risk given the de­mand, but the re­al­ity is that un­scrupu­lous col­lec­tors al­ready know that the bee is out there.”

Moore said it was vi­tal that con­ser­va­tion­ists made the Indonesian gov­ern­ment aware of the bee and took steps to pro­tect the species and its habi­tat. By mak­ing the bee a world-fa­mous flag­ship for con­ser­va­tion we are con­fi­dent that the species has a brighter fu­ture than if we just let it qui­etly be col­lected into obliv­ion,” he said.

• This ar­ti­cle was amended on 22 February 2019 to clar­ify in the head­line and text that the Wallace gi­ant bee dis­cov­ered on the North Moluccas is­lands is be­lieved to be the first live spec­i­men recorded by sci­en­tists for 38 years. Detail of two dead spec­i­mens that emerged last year was also added.


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6 52,631 shares, 36 trendiness, 1477 words and 14 minutes reading time

The Famous Photo of Chernobyl's Most Dangerous Radioactive Material Was a Selfie

Artur Korneyev, Deputy Director of Shelter Object, view­ing the elephants foot” lava flow at Chernobyl, 1996. (Photo: US Department of Energy)

At first glance, it’s hard to know what’s hap­pen­ing in this pic­ture. A gi­ant mush­room seems to have sprouted in a fac­tory floor, where ghostly men in hard­hats seem to be work­ing.

But there’s some­thing un­de­ni­ably eerie about the scene, for good rea­son. You’re look­ing at the largest ag­glom­er­a­tion of one of the most toxic sub­stances ever cre­ated: corium.

In the days and weeks af­ter the Chernobyl nu­clear dis­as­ter in late April 1986, sim­ply be­ing in the same room as this par­tic­u­lar pile of ra­dioac­tive ma­te­r­ial—known as the Elephant’s Foot—would have killed you within a cou­ple of min­utes. Even a decade later, when this im­age was taken, the ra­di­a­tion prob­a­bly caused the film to de­velop strangely, cre­at­ing the pho­to’s grainy qual­ity. The man in this photo, Artur Korneyev, has likely vis­ited this area more than any­one else, and in do­ing so has been ex­posed to more ra­di­a­tion than al­most any­one in his­tory.

Remarkably, he’s prob­a­bly still alive. The story of how the United States got a hold of this sin­gu­lar photo of a hu­man in the pres­ence of this in­cred­i­bly toxic ma­te­r­ial is it­self fraught with mys­tery—al­most as much as why some­one would take what is es­sen­tially a selfie with a hunk of molten ra­di­ated lava.

This pic­ture first came to America in the late 1990s, af­ter the newly in­de­pen­dent Ukrainian gov­ern­ment took over the plant and set up the Chornobyl Center for Nuclear Safety, Radioactive Waste and Radioecology (spelling of­ten gets changed as words go from Russian to English). Soon af­ter, the cen­ter in­vited other gov­ern­ments to col­lab­o­rate on nu­clear safety pro­jects. The U. S. Department of Energy tapped the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories (PNNL)—a bustling sci­ence cen­ter up in Richland, Washington—to help.

At the time, Tim Ledbetter was a rel­a­tively new hire in PNNLs IT de­part­ment, and he was tasked with cre­at­ing a dig­i­tal photo li­brary that the DOEs International Nuclear Safety Project could use to show its work to the American pub­lic (or, at least, to the tiny sliver of the pop­u­la­tion that was on­line back then). He had pro­ject mem­bers take pho­tos while they were in Ukraine, hired a free­lance pho­tog­ra­pher to grab some other shots, and so­licited im­ages from Ukrainian col­leagues at the Chornobyl Center. Intermixed with hun­dreds of im­ages of awk­ward bu­reau­cratic hand­shakes and peo­ple in lab coats, though, are a dozen or so shots from the ru­ins in­side Unit 4, where 10 years be­fore, on April 26, 1986, a re­ac­tor had ex­ploded dur­ing a test of the plant tur­bine-gen­er­a­tor sys­tem.

As ra­dioac­tive plumes rose high above the plant, poi­son­ing the area, the rods liq­ue­fied be­low, melt­ing through the re­ac­tor ves­sel to form a sub­stance called corium, per­haps the most toxic stuff on Earth.

Corium flow­ing like lava through the re­ac­tor. The valve was made for steam to move through. (Photo: PNNL li­brary)

Corium has been cre­ated out­side of the lab at least five times, ac­cord­ing to Mitchell Farmer, a se­nior nu­clear en­gi­neer at Argonne National Laboratory, an­other Department of Energy cen­ter out­side of Chicago. Corium formed once at the Three Mile Island re­ac­tor in Pennsylvania in 1979, once in Chernobyl, and three sep­a­rate times dur­ing the Fukushima Daiichi melt­down in Japan in 2011. Farmer cre­ates mod­i­fied ver­sions of corium in the lab in or­der to bet­ter un­der­stand how to mit­i­gate ac­ci­dents in the fu­ture. Research on the sub­stance has found, for ex­am­ple, that dump­ing wa­ter on it af­ter it forms ac­tu­ally does stop some fis­sion prod­ucts from de­cay­ing and pro­duc­ing more dan­ger­ous iso­topes.

Of the five corium cre­ations, only Cherobyl’s has es­caped its con­tain­ment. With no wa­ter to cool the mass, the ra­dioac­tive sludge moved through the unit over the course a week fol­low­ing the melt­down, tak­ing on molten con­crete and sand to go along with the ura­nium (fuel) and zir­co­nium (cladding) mol­e­cules. This poi­so­nous lava flowed down­hill, even­tu­ally burn­ing through the floor of the build­ing. When nu­clear in­spec­tors fi­nally ac­cessed the area sev­eral months af­ter the ini­tial ex­plo­sion, they found that 11 tons of it had set­tled into a three me­ter wide grey mass at the cor­ner of a steam dis­tri­b­u­tion cor­ri­dor be­low. This, they dubbed the Elephant’s Foot. Over the years, the Elephant’s Foot cooled and cracked. Even to­day, though, it’s still es­ti­mated to be slightly above the am­bi­ent tem­per­a­ture as the ra­dioac­tive ma­te­r­ial de­com­poses.

Ledbetter’s not able to re­mem­ber ex­actly where he got these im­ages. He com­piled the li­brary al­most 20 years ago, and the web­site on which they were hosted is in rough shape; only thumb­nails of the im­ages are left. (Ledbetter, who still works at PNNL, was sur­prised to learn that any of the site was still pub­licly ac­ces­si­ble.) But he’s sure he did­n’t hire some­one to take pho­tos of the Elephant’s Foot, so they likely were sent in by a Ukrainian col­league.

In 2013, Kyle Hill stum­bled across the im­age, which had been shared sev­eral times on the in­ter­net in the en­su­ing years, while writ­ing a piece about the Elephant’s Foot for Nautilus mag­a­zine, and tracked it back to the old PNNL site. Following his lead, I went back there to look for more de­tails. After a lit­tle dig­ging through the site’s CSS cod­ing, I was able to lo­cate a long-lost cap­tion for the im­age: Artur Korneev, Deputy Director of Shelter Object, view­ing the elephants foot’ lava flow, Chornobyl NPP. Photographer: Unknown. Fall 1996.” Ledbetter con­firmed the cap­tion matched the photo.

Korneev turns out to be an al­ter­nate spelling for Korneyev. Artur Korneyev is a dark-hu­mored Kazakhstani nu­clear in­spec­tor who has been work­ing to ed­u­cate peo­ple about—and pro­tect peo­ple from—the Elephant’s Foot since it was first cre­ated by the ex­plo­sion at the Chernobyl nu­clear plant in 1986. The last time a re­porter spoke to him, as far as I can tell, was in 2014, when New York Times sci­ence re­porter Henry Fountain in­ter­viewed him in Slavutich, Ukraine, a city built es­pe­cially to house the evac­u­ated per­son­nel from Chernobyl.

I was­n’t able to lo­cate Korneyev for an in­ter­view, but it’s pos­si­ble to put to­gether clues em­bed­ded in the pho­tos to ex­plain the im­age. I looked through all the other cap­tions of pho­tos sim­i­lar pho­tos of the de­stroyed core, and they were all taken by Korneyev, so it’s likely this photo was an old-school timed selfie. The shut­ter speed was prob­a­bly a lit­tle slower than for the other pho­tos in or­der for him to get into po­si­tion, which ex­plains why he seems to be mov­ing and why the glow from his flash­light looks like a light­ning flash. The grain­i­ness of the photo, though, is likely due to the ra­di­a­tion.

For Korneyev, this par­tic­u­lar trip was only one of hun­dreds of dan­ger­ous mis­sions he’s taken to the core since he first ar­rived on site in the days fol­low­ing the ini­tial ex­plo­sion. His ini­tial job was to lo­cate the fuel de­posits and help de­ter­mine their ra­di­a­tion lev­els. (The Elephant’s Foot ini­tially gave off more than 10,000 roent­gens an hour, which would kill a per­son three feet from it in less than two min­utes.) Soon af­ter that, he be­gan lead­ing cleanup ef­forts, some­times even kick­ing pieces of solid fuel out of the way. More than 30 work­ers died from Acute Radiation Syndrome dur­ing the ex­plo­sion and en­sur­ing cleanup. Despite the in­cred­i­ble amount of ex­po­sure, Korneyev kept re­turn­ing in­side the hastily con­structed con­crete sar­coph­a­gus, of­ten with jour­nal­ists in tow to doc­u­ment the dan­gers.

In 2001, he brought a re­porter from the Associated Press back to the core, where the ra­di­a­tion still mea­sured 800 roent­gens an hour. In 2009, Marcel Theroux, the cel­e­brated nov­el­ist (and son of writer Paul Theroux and cousin of ac­tor Justin Theroux) wrote an ar­ti­cle for Travel + Leisure about his trip to the sar­coph­a­gus and the mad, mask­less guide who mocked Theroux’s anx­i­ety as purely psy­cho­log­i­cal.” While Theroux refers to him as Viktor Korneyev, it’s likely the man is Artur, as he made the same dark joke he would a few years later in a New York Times ar­ti­cle.

His cur­rent sta­tus is murky. When the Times caught up to Korneyev a year and a half ago, he was help­ing to plan con­struc­tion of a $1.5 bil­lion arch that, when fin­ished in 2017, will cap the de­cay­ing sar­coph­a­gus and pre­vent air­borne iso­topes from es­cap­ing. In his mid 60s, he was sickly, with cataracts, and had been barred from re-en­ter­ing the sar­coph­a­gus af­ter years of ir­ra­di­a­tion.

Korneyev’s sense of hu­mor re­mained in­tact, though. He seemed to have no re­grets about his life’s work. Soviet ra­di­a­tion,” he joked, is the best ra­di­a­tion in the world.”


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7 49,105 shares, 4 trendiness, 1676 words and 14 minutes reading time

Why you think you’re right, even when you’re wrong

Why you think you’re right, even when you’re wrong

Julia Galef

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Are you a sol­dier or a scout? Your an­swer to this ques­tion, says de­ci­sion-mak­ing ex­pert Julia Galef, could de­ter­mine how clearly you see the world.

Imagine for a mo­ment you’re a sol­dier in the heat of bat­tle — per­haps a Roman foot sol­dier, me­dieval archer or Zulu war­rior. Regardless of your time and place, some things are prob­a­bly con­stant. Your adren­a­line is el­e­vated, and your ac­tions stem from your deeply in­grained re­flexes, re­flexes that are rooted in a need to pro­tect your­self and your side and to de­feat the en­emy.

Now, try to imag­ine play­ing a very dif­fer­ent role: the scout. The scout’s job is not to at­tack or de­fend; it’s to un­der­stand. The scout is the one go­ing out, map­ping the ter­rain, iden­ti­fy­ing po­ten­tial ob­sta­cles. Above all, the scout wants to know what’s re­ally out there as ac­cu­rately as pos­si­ble. In an ac­tual army, both the sol­dier and the scout are es­sen­tial.

You can also think of the sol­dier and scout roles as mind­sets — metaphors for how all of us process in­for­ma­tion and ideas in our daily lives. Hav­ing good judg­ment and mak­ing good de­ci­sions, it turns out, de­pends largely about which mind­set you’re in. To il­lus­trate the two mind­sets in ac­tion, let’s look at a case from 19th-century France, where an in­nocu­ous-look­ing piece of torn-up pa­per launched one of the biggest po­lit­i­cal scan­dals in his­tory in 1894. Officers in the French gen­er­al’s staff found it in a wastepa­per bas­ket, and when they pieced it back to­gether, they dis­cov­ered that some­one in their ranks had been sell­ing mil­i­tary se­crets to Germany. They launched a big in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and their sus­pi­cions quickly con­verged on one man: Alfred Dreyfus. He had a ster­ling record, no past his­tory of wrong­do­ing, no mo­tive as far as they could tell.

However, Dreyfus was the only Jewish of­fi­cer at that rank in the army, and un­for­tu­nately, at the time the French Army was highly anti-Se­mitic. The other of­fi­cers com­pared Dreyfus’s hand­writ­ing to that on the pa­per and con­cluded it was a match, even though out­side pro­fes­sional hand­writ­ing ex­perts were much less con­fi­dent about the sim­i­lar­ity. They searched Dreyfus’ apart­ment and went through his files, look­ing for signs of es­pi­onage. They did­n’t find any­thing. This just con­vinced them that not only was Dreyfus was guilty, but he was also sneaky be­cause clearly he had hid­den all of the ev­i­dence. They looked through his per­sonal his­tory for in­crim­i­nat­ing de­tails. They talked to his for­mer teach­ers and learned he had stud­ied for­eign lan­guages in school, which demon­strated to them a de­sire to con­spire with for­eign gov­ern­ments later in life. His teach­ers also said that Dreyfus had had a good mem­ory, which was highly sus­pi­cious since a spy must re­mem­ber a lot of things.

The case went to trial, and Dreyfus was found guilty. Afterwards, of­fi­cials took him out into the pub­lic square; they rit­u­al­is­ti­cally tore his in­signia from his uni­form and broke his sword in two. This was called the Degradation of Dreyfus. He was sen­tenced to life im­pris­on­ment on the aptly named Devil’s Island, this bar­ren rock off the coast of South America. He spent his days there alone, writ­ing let­ter af­ter let­ter to the French gov­ern­ment beg­ging them to re­open his case so they could dis­cover his in­no­cence. While you might guess that Dreyfus had been set up or in­ten­tion­ally framed by his fel­low of­fi­cers, his­to­ri­ans to­day don’t think that was what hap­pened. As far as they can tell, the of­fi­cers gen­uinely be­lieved that the case against Dreyfus was strong.

Other pieces of in­for­ma­tion are the en­emy, and we want to shoot them down.

So the ques­tion arises: What does it say about the hu­man mind that we can find such pal­try ev­i­dence to be com­pelling enough to con­vict a man? This is a case of what sci­en­tists re­fer to as motivated rea­son­ing,” a phe­nom­e­non in which our un­con­scious mo­ti­va­tions, de­sires and fears shape the way we in­ter­pret in­for­ma­tion. Some pieces of in­for­ma­tion feel like our al­lies — we want them to win; we want to de­fend them. And other pieces of in­for­ma­tion are the en­emy, and we want to shoot them down. That’s why I call mo­ti­vated rea­son­ing soldier mind­set.”

While you’ve never per­se­cuted a French-Jewish of­fi­cer for high trea­son, you might fol­low sports or know some­one who does. When the ref­eree judges your team has com­mit­ted a foul, for ex­am­ple, you’re prob­a­bly highly mo­ti­vated to find rea­sons why he’s wrong. But if he judges that the other team com­mit­ted a foul — that’s a good call. Or, maybe you’ve read an ar­ti­cle or a study that ex­am­ined a con­tro­ver­sial pol­icy, like cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment. As re­searchers have demon­strated, if you sup­port cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment and the study shows it’s not ef­fec­tive, then you’re highly mo­ti­vated to point out all the rea­sons why the study was poorly de­signed. But if it shows that cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment works, it’s a good study. And vice versa: if you don’t sup­port cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment, same thing.

Our judg­ment is strongly in­flu­enced, un­con­sciously, by which side we want to win — and this is ubiq­ui­tous. This shapes how we think about our health, our re­la­tion­ships, how we de­cide how to vote, and what we con­sider fair or eth­i­cal. What’s most scary to me about mo­ti­vated rea­son­ing or sol­dier mind­set is just how un­con­scious it is. We can think we’re be­ing ob­jec­tive and fair-minded and still wind up ru­in­ing the life of an in­no­cent per­son like Dreyfus.

Fortunately, for Dreyfus, there was also a man named Colonel Picquart. He was an­other high-rank­ing of­fi­cer in the French Army, and like most peo­ple, he as­sumed Dreyfus was guilty. Also like most of his peers, he was some­what anti-Se­mitic. But at a cer­tain point, Picquart be­gan to sus­pect, What if we’re all wrong about Dreyfus?” Picquart dis­cov­ered ev­i­dence that the spy­ing for Germany had con­tin­ued, even af­ter Dreyfus was in prison. He also dis­cov­ered that an­other of­fi­cer in the army had hand­writ­ing that per­fectly matched the torn-up memo.

It took Picquart ten years to clear Dreyfus’s name, and for part of that time, he him­self was put in prison for the crime of dis­loy­alty to the army. Some peo­ple feel that Picquart should­n’t be re­garded as a hero, be­cause he was an anti-Semite. I agree that kind of bias is bad. But I be­lieve the fact that Picquart was anti-Se­mitic makes his ac­tions more ad­mirable, be­cause he had the same rea­sons to be bi­ased as his fel­low of­fi­cers but his mo­ti­va­tion to find and up­hold the truth trumped all of that.

To me, Picquart is a poster child for what I call scout mind­set,” the drive not to make one idea win or an­other lose, but to see what’s there as hon­estly and ac­cu­rately as you can even if it’s not pretty, con­ve­nient or pleas­ant. I’ve spent the last few years ex­am­in­ing scout mind­set and fig­ur­ing out why some peo­ple, at least some­times, seem able to cut through their own prej­u­dices, bi­ases and mo­ti­va­tions and at­tempt to see the facts and the ev­i­dence as ob­jec­tively as they can. The an­swer, I’ve found, is emo­tional.

Scout mind­set means see­ing what’s there as ac­cu­rately as you can, even if it’s not pleas­ant.

Just as sol­dier mind­set is rooted in emo­tional re­sponses, scout mind­set is, too — but it’s sim­ply rooted in dif­fer­ent emo­tions. For ex­am­ple, scouts are cu­ri­ous. They’re more likely to say they feel plea­sure when they learn new in­for­ma­tion or solve a puz­zle. They’re more likely to feel in­trigued when they en­counter some­thing that con­tra­dicts their ex­pec­ta­tions.

Scouts also have dif­fer­ent val­ues. They’re more likely to say they think it’s vir­tu­ous to test their own be­liefs, and they’re less likely to say that some­one who changes her mind seems weak. And, above all, scouts are grounded, which means their self-worth as a per­son is­n’t tied to how right or wrong they are about any par­tic­u­lar topic. For ex­am­ple, they can be­lieve that cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment works and if stud­ies come out that show it does­n’t, they can say, Looks like I might be wrong. Doesn’t mean I’m bad or stu­pid.” This clus­ter of traits is what re­searchers have found — and I’ve found anec­do­tally — pre­dicts good judg­ment.

The key take­away about the traits as­so­ci­ated with scout mind­set is they have lit­tle to do with how smart you are or how much you know. They don’t cor­re­late very closely to IQ at all; they’re about how you feel. I keep com­ing back to a par­tic­u­lar quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, au­thor of The Little Prince. If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up your men to col­lect wood and give or­ders and dis­trib­ute the work,” he said. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and end­less sea.”

In other words, if we re­ally want to im­prove our judg­ment as in­di­vid­u­als and as so­ci­eties, what we need most is not more in­struc­tion in logic, rhetoric, prob­a­bil­ity or eco­nom­ics, even though those things are all valu­able. What we most need to use those prin­ci­ples well is scout mind­set. We need to change the way we feel — to learn how to feel proud in­stead of ashamed when we no­tice we might have been wrong about some­thing, or to learn how to feel in­trigued in­stead of de­fen­sive when we en­counter some in­for­ma­tion that con­tra­dicts our be­liefs. So the ques­tion you need to con­sider is: What do you most yearn for — to de­fend your own be­liefs or to see the world as clearly as you pos­si­bly can?


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8 ☆ 47,026 shares, 1,774 trendiness, 611 words and 5 minutes reading time

Samsung’s foldable phone is the $1,980 Galaxy Fold

Samsung first teased its fold­able phone back in November, and at the com­pa­ny’s Galaxy Unpacked event to­day, it’s fur­ther de­tail­ing its fold­able plans. Samsung’s fold­able now has a name, the Samsung Galaxy Fold, and the com­pany is re­veal­ing more about what this unique smart­phone can do. Samsung is plan­ning to launch the Galaxy Fold on April 26th, start­ing at $1,980, through AT&T and T-Mobile in the US. There will be both an LTE and 5G ver­sion of the Galaxy Fold, and Samsung is even plan­ning on launch­ing the de­vice in Europe on May 3rd, start­ing at 2,000 eu­ros.

Samsung is us­ing a new 7.3-inch Infinity Flex Display that al­lows the phone it­self to have a tablet-sized screen that can be folded to fit into a pocket. The main dis­play is QXGA+ res­o­lu­tion (4.2:3), and when it’s folded, a smaller 4.6-inch HD+ (12:9) dis­play is used for the phone mode. Samsung is us­ing 512GB of Universal Flash Storage 3.0 (eUFS) for fast speeds, along­side a Qualcomm 7nm octa-core proces­sor and 12GB of RAM. Samsung has even built two bat­ter­ies for its Galaxy Fold, that are sep­a­rated by the fold but com­bined in the Android op­er­at­ing sys­tem to rep­re­sent a to­tal of 4,380 mAh.

Samsung has built a sturdy back­bone to the de­vice, with a hinge sys­tem that has mul­ti­ple in­ter­lock­ing gears. All of these gears are hid­den at the rear of the de­vice, and al­low the Galaxy Fold to trans­form from tablet to phone modes. At the rear of the de­vice there’s also a triple-cam­era sys­tem that will be used for both tablet and phone modes. There’s a 16-megapixel ul­tra-wide cam­era, along­side 12-megapixel wide-an­gle and tele­photo cam­eras at the rear, and a 10-megapixel cover cam­era for self­ies. Samsung is also cre­at­ing four dif­fer­ent col­ors for the Galaxy Fold, but it’s the main tablet dis­play that’s key here.

Samsung is al­low­ing the Galaxy Fold to run three apps at once on this Android de­vice, and it’s us­ing an app con­ti­nu­ity sys­tem to ad­just these apps when you move be­tween tablet and phone modes. Apps like WhatsApp, Microsoft Office, and YouTube have all been op­ti­mized for the new dis­play and modes, and Samsung has been work­ing with Google to en­sure Android 9 Pie fully sup­ports this dis­play.

Samsung demon­strated a va­ri­ety of apps run­ning in this mode, and the switch­ing from phone to tablet and vice versa. It looks rather smooth in the soft­ware right now, but it’s fair to say that the Galaxy Fold looks far bet­ter when it’s folded out than be­ing used as a tra­di­tional phone. The phone dis­play is clearly de­signed to be used with one hand, but it’s flanked by large bezels that aren’t found on the tablet mode. We’ll need to get a closer look at the Galaxy Fold to find out ex­actly how this im­pacts the de­vice us­abil­ity, though.

Samsung is­n’t the only smart­phone maker cre­at­ing a fold­able de­vice, but it’s cer­tainly one of the first to make it widely avail­able. Xiaomi teased its own fold­ing phone re­cently, that looked like the best con­cept we’ve seen so far. Huawei is also re­port­edly plan­ning to re­lease a fold­able hand­set this year, and Lenovo has started to tease its own pro­to­type. LG has also been de­vel­op­ing flex­i­ble OLED dis­plays and TVs that roll up into a box. If all these man­u­fac­tur­ers progress to­ward ship­ping a de­vice like Samsung, then ex­pect to see a lot of fold­able phones in 2019 and be­yond.


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9 ☆ 45,266 shares, 3,446 trendiness, 4275 words and 34 minutes reading time

The deadly truth about a world built for men – from stab vests to car crashes

hen broad­caster Sandi Toksvig was study­ing an­thro­pol­ogy at uni­ver­sity, one of her fe­male pro­fes­sors held up a pho­to­graph of an antler bone with 28 mark­ings on it. This,” said the pro­fes­sor, is al­leged to be man’s first at­tempt at a cal­en­dar.” Toksvig and her fel­low stu­dents looked at the bone in ad­mi­ra­tion. Tell me,” the pro­fes­sor con­tin­ued, what man needs to know when 28 days have passed? I sus­pect that this is wom­an’s first at­tempt at a cal­en­dar.”

Women have al­ways tracked their pe­ri­ods. We’ve had to. Since 2015, I’ve been re­liant on a pe­riod tracker app, which re­as­sures me that there’s a rea­son I’m welling up just think­ing about Andy Murray’s casual fem­i­nism”. And then there’s the is­sue of the pe­riod it­self: when you will be bleed­ing for up to seven days every month, it’s use­ful to know more or less when those seven days are go­ing to take place. Every woman knows this, and Toksvig’s ex­pe­ri­ence is a neat ex­am­ple of the dif­fer­ence a fe­male per­spec­tive can make, even to is­sues that seem en­tirely un­re­lated to gen­der.

For most of hu­man his­tory, though, that per­spec­tive has not been recorded. Going back to the the­ory of Man the Hunter, the lives of men have been taken to rep­re­sent those of hu­mans over­all. When it comes to the other half of hu­man­ity, there is of­ten noth­ing but si­lence. And these si­lences are every­where. Films, news, lit­er­a­ture, sci­ence, city plan­ning, eco­nom­ics, the sto­ries we tell our­selves about our past, pre­sent and fu­ture, are all marked — dis­fig­ured — by a fe­male-shaped absent pres­ence”. This is the gen­der data gap.

These si­lences, these gaps, have con­se­quences. They im­pact on wom­en’s lives, every day. The im­pact can be rel­a­tively mi­nor — strug­gling to reach a top shelf set at a male height norm, for ex­am­ple. Irritating, cer­tainly. But not life-threat­en­ing. Not like crash­ing in a car whose safety tests don’t ac­count for wom­en’s mea­sure­ments. Not like dy­ing from a stab wound be­cause your po­lice body ar­mour does­n’t fit you prop­erly. For these women, the con­se­quences of liv­ing in a world built around male data can be deadly.

The gen­der data gap is both a cause and a con­se­quence of the type of un­think­ing that con­ceives of hu­man­ity as al­most ex­clu­sively male. In the 1956 mu­si­cal My Fair Lady, pho­neti­cist Henry Higgins is baf­fled when, af­ter en­dur­ing months of his hec­tor­ing put-downs, his pro­tege-cum-vic­tim Eliza Doolittle fi­nally bites back. Why can’t a woman be more like a man?” he grum­bles.

The for­mula to de­ter­mine stan­dard of­fice tem­per­a­ture was de­vel­oped in the 1960s around the meta­bolic rest­ing rate of the av­er­age man. But a re­cent Dutch study found that the meta­bolic rate of young adult fe­males per­form­ing light of­fice work is sig­nif­i­cantly lower than the stan­dard val­ues for men do­ing the same ac­tiv­ity. In fact, the for­mula may over­es­ti­mate fe­male meta­bolic rate by as much as 35%, mean­ing that cur­rent of­fices are on av­er­age five de­grees too cold for women. This leads to the odd sight of fe­male of­fice work­ers wrapped in blan­kets in the sum­mer, while their male col­leagues wan­der around in shorts.

Not only is this sit­u­a­tion in­equitable, it is bad busi­ness sense: an un­com­fort­able work­force is an un­pro­duc­tive work­force. But work­place data gaps lead to a lot worse than sim­ple dis­com­fort and in­ef­fi­ciency. Over the past 100 years, work­places have, on the whole, got con­sid­er­ably safer. In the early 1900s, about 4,400 peo­ple in the UK died at work every year. By 2016, that fig­ure had fallen to 135. But while se­ri­ous in­juries at work have been de­creas­ing for men, there is ev­i­dence that they have been in­creas­ing among women. The gen­der data gap is again im­pli­cated, with oc­cu­pa­tional re­search tra­di­tion­ally fo­cused on male-dom­i­nated in­dus­tries.

Every year, 8,000 peo­ple in the UK die from work-re­lated can­cers. And al­though most re­search in this area has been done on men, it’s far from clear that men are the most af­fected. Over the past 50 years, breast can­cer rates in the in­dus­tri­alised world have risen sig­nif­i­cantly — but a fail­ure to re­search fe­male bod­ies, oc­cu­pa­tions and en­vi­ron­ments means that the data for ex­actly what is be­hind this rise is lack­ing. We know every­thing about dust dis­ease in min­ers,” Rory O’Neill, pro­fes­sor of oc­cu­pa­tional and en­vi­ron­men­tal pol­icy re­search at the University of Stirling, tells me. You can’t say the same for ex­po­sures, phys­i­cal or chem­i­cal, in women’s work’.”

Cancer is a long-la­tency dis­ease, O’Neill says, so even if we started the stud­ies now, it would take a work­ing gen­er­a­tion be­fore we had any us­able data. But we aren’t start­ing the stud­ies now. Instead, we con­tinue to rely on data from stud­ies done on men as if they ap­ply to women. Specifically, Caucasian men aged 25 to 30, who weigh 70kg. This is Reference Man” and his su­per­power is be­ing able to rep­re­sent hu­man­ity as a whole. Of course, he does not.

Men and women have dif­fer­ent im­mune sys­tems and hor­mones, which can play a role in how chem­i­cals are ab­sorbed. Women tend to be smaller than men and have thin­ner skin, both of which can lower the level of tox­ins they can be safely ex­posed to. This lower tol­er­ance thresh­old is com­pounded by wom­en’s higher per­cent­age of body fat, in which some chem­i­cals can ac­cu­mu­late. Chemicals are still usu­ally tested in iso­la­tion, and on the ba­sis of a sin­gle ex­po­sure. But this is not how women tend to en­counter them.

In nail sa­lons, where the work­force is al­most ex­clu­sively fe­male (and of­ten mi­grant), work­ers will be ex­posed on a daily ba­sis to a huge range of chem­i­cals that are routinely found in the pol­ishes, re­movers, gels, shel­lacs, dis­in­fec­tants and ad­he­sives that are sta­ples of their work”, ac­cord­ing to the Canadian re­searcher Anne Rochon Ford. Many of these chem­i­cals have been linked to can­cer, mis­car­riages and lung dis­eases. Some may al­ter the body’s nor­mal hor­monal func­tions. If these women then go home and be­gin a sec­ond un­paid shift clean­ing their home, they will be ex­posed to dif­fer­ent chem­i­cals that are ubiq­ui­tous in com­mon prod­ucts. The ef­fects of these mix­ing to­gether are largely un­known.

Most of the re­search on chem­i­cals has fo­cused on their ab­sorp­tion through the skin. But many of the ones used in nail sa­lons are ex­tremely volatile, which means that they evap­o­rate at room tem­per­a­ture and can be in­haled — along with the con­sid­er­able amounts of dust pro­duced when acrylic nails are filed. The re­search on how this may im­pact on work­ers is vir­tu­ally nonex­is­tent.

Part of the fail­ure to see the risks in tra­di­tion­ally fe­male-dom­i­nated in­dus­tries is be­cause of­ten these jobs are an ex­ten­sion of what women do in the home (although at a more oner­ous scale). But the data gap when it comes to women in the work­place does­n’t only arise in fe­male-dom­i­nated in­dus­tries.

Little data ex­ists on in­juries to women in con­struc­tion, but the New York Committee for Occupational Safety & Health (NYCOSH) points to a US study of union car­pen­ters that found women had higher rates of sprains, strains and nerve con­di­tions of the wrist and fore­arm than men. Given the lack of data, it’s hard to be sure ex­actly why this is, but it’s a safe bet to at­tribute at least some of the blame to standard” con­struc­tion site equip­ment be­ing de­signed around the male body.

Wendy Davis, ex-di­rec­tor of the Women’s Design Service in the UK, ques­tions the stan­dard size of a bag of ce­ment. It’s a com­fort­able weight for a man to lift — but it does­n’t ac­tu­ally have to be that size, she points out. If they were a bit smaller, then women could lift them.” Davis also takes is­sue with the stan­dard brick size. I’ve got pho­tographs of my [adult] daugh­ter hold­ing a brick. She can’t get her hand round it. But [her hus­band] Danny’s hand fits per­fectly com­fort­ably. Why does a brick have to be that size?” She also notes that the typ­i­cal A1 ar­chi­tec­t’s port­fo­lio fits nicely un­der most men’s arms while most wom­en’s arms don’t reach round it.

NYCOSH sim­i­larly notes that standard hand tools like wrenches tend to be too large for wom­en’s hands to grip tightly”.

In the UK, em­ploy­ers are legally re­quired to pro­vide well-main­tained per­sonal pro­tec­tive equip­ment (PPE) — any­thing from gog­gles to full body suits — to work­ers who need it, free of charge. But most PPE is based on the sizes and char­ac­ter­is­tics of male pop­u­la­tions from Europe and the US. The TUC found that em­ploy­ers of­ten think that when it comes to fe­male work­ers all they need to do to com­ply with this le­gal re­quire­ment is to buy smaller sizes.

Differences in chests, hips and thighs can af­fect the way the straps fit on safety har­nesses. The use of a standard” US male face shape for dust, haz­ard and eye masks means they don’t fit most women (as well as a lot of black and mi­nor­ity eth­nic men). A 2017 TUC re­port found that the prob­lem with ill-fit­ting PPE was worst in the emer­gency ser­vices, where only 5% of women said that their PPE never ham­pered their work, with body ar­mour, stab vests, hi-vis vests and jack­ets all high­lighted as un­suit­able.

When it comes to front­line work­ers, poorly fit­ting PPE can prove fa­tal. In 1997, a British fe­male po­lice of­fi­cer was stabbed and killed while us­ing a hy­draulic ram to en­ter a flat. She had re­moved her body ar­mour be­cause it was too dif­fi­cult to use the ram while wear­ing it. Two years later, a fe­male po­lice of­fi­cer re­vealed that she had had to have breast-re­duc­tion surgery be­cause of the health ef­fects of wear­ing her body ar­mour. After this case was re­ported, an­other 700 of­fi­cers in the same force came for­ward to com­plain about the stan­dard-is­sue pro­tec­tive vest.

But al­though the com­plaints have been com­ing reg­u­larly over the past 20 years, lit­tle seems to have been done. British fe­male po­lice of­fi­cers re­port be­ing bruised by their kit belts; a num­ber have had to have phys­io­ther­apy be­cause of the way stab vests sit on their body; many com­plain there is no space for their breasts. This is not only un­com­fort­able, it also re­sults in stab vests com­ing up too short, leav­ing women un­pro­tected.

In April 2017, the BBC jour­nal­ist Samira Ahmed wanted to use a toi­let. She was at a screen­ing of the James Baldwin doc­u­men­tary I Am Not Your Negro at London’s Barbican arts cen­tre, and it was the in­ter­val. Any woman who has ever been to the the­atre knows what that means. This evening, the queue was worse than usual. Far worse. Because in an al­most com­i­cally bla­tant dis­play of not hav­ing thought about women at all, the Barbican had turned both the male and fe­male toi­lets gen­der neu­tral sim­ply by re­plac­ing the men” and women” sig­nage with gender neu­tral with uri­nals” and gender neu­tral with cu­bi­cles”. The ob­vi­ous hap­pened. Only men were us­ing the sup­pos­edly gender neu­tral with uri­nals” and every­one was us­ing the gender neu­tral with cu­bi­cles”.

Rather than ren­der­ing the toi­lets gen­uinely gen­der neu­tral, they had sim­ply in­creased the pro­vi­sion for men. Ah the irony of hav­ing to ex­plain dis­crim­i­na­tion hav­ing just been to see I Am Not Your Negro IN YOUR CINEMA, Ahmed tweeted, sug­gest­ing that turn­ing the gents gen­der neu­tral would be suf­fi­cient: There’s NEVER such a queue there & you know it.”

On the face of it, it may seem fair and eq­ui­table to ac­cord male and fe­male pub­lic toi­lets the same amount of space — and his­tor­i­cally, this is the way it has been done: 50/50 di­vi­sion of floor space has even been for­malised in plumb­ing codes. However, if a male toi­let has both cu­bi­cles and uri­nals, the num­ber of peo­ple who can re­lieve them­selves at once is far higher per square foot of floor space in the male bath­room than in the fe­male bath­room. Suddenly equal floor space is­n’t so equal.

But even if male and fe­male toi­lets had an equal num­ber of stalls, the is­sue would­n’t be re­solved, be­cause women take up to 2.3 times as long as men to use the toi­let. Women make up the ma­jor­ity of the el­derly and dis­abled, two groups that will tend to need more time in the toi­let. Women are also more likely to be ac­com­pa­nied by chil­dren, as well as dis­abled and older peo­ple. Then there’s the 20–25% of women of child­bear­ing age who may be on their pe­riod at any one time, and there­fore need to change a tam­pon or a san­i­tary pad.

Women may also re­quire more trips to the bath­room: preg­nancy sig­nif­i­cantly re­duces blad­der ca­pac­ity, and women are eight times more likely to suf­fer from uri­nary-tract in­fec­tions. In the face of all these anatom­i­cal dif­fer­ences, it would surely take a for­mal equal­ity dog­ma­tist to con­tinue to ar­gue that equal floor space be­tween men and women is fair.

In 1998, a pi­anist called Christopher Donison wrote that one can di­vide the world into roughly two con­stituen­cies”: those with larger hands, and those with smaller hands. Donison was writ­ing as a male pi­anist who, due to his smaller than av­er­age hands, had strug­gled for years with tra­di­tional key­boards, but he could equally have been writ­ing as a woman. There is plenty of data show­ing that women have, on av­er­age, smaller hands, and yet we con­tinue to de­sign equip­ment around the av­er­age male hand as if one-size-fits-men is the same as one-size-fits-all.

The av­er­age smart­phone size is now 5.5 inches. While the av­er­age man can fairly com­fort­ably use his de­vice one-handed, the av­er­age wom­an’s hand is not much big­ger than the hand­set it­self. This is ob­vi­ously an­noy­ing — and fool­ish for a com­pany like Apple, given that re­search shows women are more likely to own an iPhone than men.

The tech jour­nal­ist and au­thor James Ball has a the­ory for why the big-screen fix­a­tion per­sists: be­cause the re­ceived wis­dom is that men drive high-end smart­phone pur­chases. But if women aren’t dri­ving high-end smart­phone pur­chases — at least for non-Ap­ple prod­ucts — is it be­cause women aren’t in­ter­ested in smart­phones? Or could it be be­cause smart­phones are de­signed with­out women in mind? On the bright side, Ball re­as­sured me that screens prob­a­bly would­n’t be get­ting any big­ger be­cause they’ve hit the limit of men’s hand size”.

Good news for men, then. But tough breaks for women like my friend Liz who owns a third-gen­er­a­tion Motorola Moto G. In re­sponse to one of my reg­u­lar rants about hand­set sizes she replied that she’d just been complaining to a friend about how dif­fi­cult it was to zoom on my phone cam­era. He said it was easy on his. Turns out we have the same phone. I won­dered if it was a hand-size thing.”

When Zeynep Tufekci, a re­searcher at the University of North Carolina, was try­ing to doc­u­ment tear gas use in the Gezi Park protests in Turkey in 2013, the size of her Google Nexus got in the way. It was the evening of 9 June. Gezi Park was crowded. Parents were there with their chil­dren. And then the can­is­ters were fired. Because of­fi­cials often claimed that tear gas was used only on van­dals and vi­o­lent pro­test­ers”, Tufekci wanted to doc­u­ment what was hap­pen­ing. So she pulled out her phone. And as my lungs, eyes and nose burned with the pain of the lachry­ma­tory agent re­leased from mul­ti­ple cap­sules that had fallen around me, I started curs­ing.” Her phone was too big. She could not take a pic­ture one-handed — “something I had seen count­less men with larger hands do all the time”. All Tufekci’s pho­tos from the event were un­us­able, she wrote, and for one sim­ple rea­son: good smart­phones are de­signed for male hands”.

Voice recog­ni­tion could be one so­lu­tion to a smart­phone that does­n’t fit your hands, but voice-recog­ni­tion soft­ware is of­ten hope­lessly male-bi­ased. In 2016, Rachael Tatman, a re­search fel­low in lin­guis­tics at the University of Washington, found that Google’s speech-recog­ni­tion soft­ware was 70% more likely to ac­cu­rately recog­nise male speech.

Clearly, it is un­fair for women to pay the same price as men for prod­ucts that de­liver an in­fe­rior ser­vice. But there can also be se­ri­ous safety im­pli­ca­tions. Voice-recognition soft­ware in cars, for ex­am­ple, is meant to de­crease dis­trac­tions and make dri­ving safer. But they can have the op­po­site ef­fect if they don’t work. An ar­ti­cle on car web­site Autoblog quoted a woman who had bought a 2012 Ford Focus, only to find that its voice-com­mand sys­tem only lis­tened to her hus­band, even though he was in the pas­sen­ger seat. Another woman called the man­u­fac­turer for help when her Buick’s voice-ac­ti­vated phone sys­tem would­n’t lis­ten to her: The guy told me point-blank it was­n’t ever go­ing to work for me. They told me to get a man to set it up.”

Immediately af­ter writ­ing this, I was with my mother in her Volvo Cross Country watch­ing her try and fail to get the voice-recog­ni­tion sys­tem to call her sis­ter. After five failed at­tempts I sug­gested she tried low­er­ing the pitch of her voice. It worked first time.

In the tech world, the im­plicit as­sump­tion that men are the de­fault hu­man re­mains king. When Apple launched its health-mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem with much fan­fare in 2014, it boasted a comprehensive” health tracker. It could track blood pres­sure; steps taken; blood al­co­hol level; even molyb­de­num and cop­per in­take. But as many women pointed out at the time, they for­got one cru­cial de­tail: a pe­riod tracker.

When Apple launched their AI, Siri, users in the US found that she (ironically) could find pros­ti­tutes and Viagra sup­pli­ers, but not abor­tion providers. Siri could help you if you’d had a heart at­tack, but if you told her you’d been raped, she replied I don’t know what you mean by I was raped.’”

From smart­watches that are too big for wom­en’s wrists, to map apps that fail to ac­count for women who may want to know the safest” in ad­di­tion to fastest” routes; to measure how good you are at sex” apps called iThrust” and iBang” the tech in­dus­try is rife with other ex­am­ples. While there are an in­creas­ing num­ber of fe­male-led tech firms that do cater to wom­en’s needs, they are seen as a niche” con­cern and of­ten strug­gle to get fund­ing.

One study of 12 of the most com­mon fit­ness mon­i­tors found that they un­der­es­ti­mated steps dur­ing house­work by up to 74% (that was the Omron, which was within 1% for nor­mal walk­ing or run­ning) and un­der­es­ti­mated calo­ries burned dur­ing house­work by as much as 34%. Meanwhile, Fitbit users have com­plained that the de­vice fails to ac­count for move­ment while do­ing the ex­tremely com­mon fe­male ac­tiv­ity of push­ing a pram (and, yes, men push prams, too; but not as of­ten as the women who do 75% of the world’s un­paid care).

Men are more likely than women to be in­volved in a car crash, which means they dom­i­nate the num­bers of those se­ri­ously in­jured in them. But when a woman is in­volved in a car crash, she is 47% more likely to be se­ri­ously in­jured, and 71% more likely to be mod­er­ately in­jured, even when re­searchers con­trol for fac­tors such as height, weight, seat­belt us­age, and crash in­ten­sity. She is also 17% more likely to die. And it’s all to do with how the car is de­signed — and for whom.

Women tend to sit fur­ther for­ward when dri­ving. This is be­cause we are on av­er­age shorter. Our legs need to be closer to reach the ped­als, and we need to sit more up­right to see clearly over the dash­board. This is not, how­ever, the standard seat­ing po­si­tion”, re­searchers have noted. Women are out of po­si­tion” dri­vers. And our wil­ful de­vi­a­tion from the norm means that we are at greater risk of in­ter­nal in­jury on frontal col­li­sions. The an­gle of our knees and hips as our shorter legs reach for the ped­als also makes our legs more vul­ner­a­ble. Essentially, we’re do­ing it all wrong.

Women are also at higher risk in rear-end col­li­sions. We have less mus­cle on our necks and up­per torso, which make us more vul­ner­a­ble to whiplash (by up to three times), and car de­sign has am­pli­fied this vul­ner­a­bil­ity. Swedish re­search has shown that mod­ern seats are too firm to pro­tect women against whiplash in­juries: the seats throw women for­ward faster than men be­cause the back of the seat does­n’t give way for wom­en’s on av­er­age lighter bod­ies. The rea­son this has been al­lowed to hap­pen is very sim­ple: cars have been de­signed us­ing car crash-test dum­mies based on the average” male.

Crash-test dum­mies were first in­tro­duced in the 1950s, and for decades they were based around the 50th-percentile male. The most com­monly used dummy is 1.77m tall and weighs 76kg (significantly taller and heav­ier than an av­er­age woman); the dummy also has male mus­cle-mass pro­por­tions and a male spinal col­umn. In the early 1980s, re­searchers based at Michigan University ar­gued for the in­clu­sion of a 50th-percentile fe­male in reg­u­la­tory tests, but this ad­vice was ig­nored by man­u­fac­tur­ers and reg­u­la­tors. It was­n’t un­til 2011 that the US started us­ing a fe­male crash-test dummy — al­though, as we’ll see, just how female” these dum­mies are is ques­tion­able.

In 2018, Astrid Linder, re­search di­rec­tor of traf­fic safety at the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute, pre­sented a pa­per at the Road Safety on Five Continents Conference in South Korea, in which she ran through EU reg­u­la­tory crash-test re­quire­ments. In no test is an an­thro­po­met­ri­cally cor­rect fe­male crash-test dummy re­quired. The seat­belt test, one of the frontal-col­li­sion tests, and both lat­eral-col­li­sion tests all spec­ify that a 50th-percentile male dummy should be used. There is one EU reg­u­la­tory test that re­quires what is called a 5th-percentile fe­male dummy, which is meant to rep­re­sent the fe­male pop­u­la­tion. Only 5% of women will be shorter than this dummy. But there are a num­ber of data gaps. For a start, this dummy is only tested in the pas­sen­ger seat, so we have no data at all for how a fe­male dri­ver would be af­fected — some­thing of an is­sue you would think, given wom­en’s out of po­si­tion” dri­ving style. And sec­ondly, this fe­male dummy is not re­ally fe­male. It is just a scaled-down male dummy.

Consumer tests can be slightly more strin­gent than reg­u­la­tory ones. The 2011 in­tro­duc­tion of fe­male crash-test dum­mies in the US sent cars’ star rat­ings plum­met­ing. When I spoke to EuroNCAP, a European or­gan­i­sa­tion that pro­vides car safety rat­ings for con­sumers, they said that since 2015 they have used male and fe­male dum­mies in both front-crash tests, and that they base their fe­male dum­mies on fe­male an­thro­po­met­ric data — with the caveat that this is where data is avail­able”. EuroNCAP ac­knowl­edged that sometimes” they do just use scaled-down male dum­mies. But women are not scaled-down men. We have dif­fer­ent mus­cle mass dis­tri­b­u­tion. We have lower bone den­sity. There are dif­fer­ences in ver­te­brae spac­ing. Even our body sway is dif­fer­ent. And these dif­fer­ences are all cru­cial when it comes to in­jury rates in car crashes.

The sit­u­a­tion is even worse for preg­nant women. Although a preg­nant crash-test dummy was cre­ated back in 1996, test­ing with it is still not gov­ern­ment-man­dated ei­ther in the US or in the EU. In fact, even though car crashes are the No 1 cause of foetal death re­lated to ma­ter­nal trauma, we haven’t yet de­vel­oped a seat­belt that works for preg­nant women. Research from 2004 sug­gests that preg­nant women should use the stan­dard seat­belt; but 62% of third-trimester preg­nant women don’t fit that de­sign.

Linder has been work­ing on what she says will be the first crash-test dummy to ac­cu­rately rep­re­sent fe­male bod­ies. Currently, it’s just a pro­to­type, but she is call­ing on the EU to make test­ing on such dum­mies a le­gal re­quire­ment. In fact, Linder ar­gues that this al­ready is a le­gal re­quire­ment, tech­ni­cally speak­ing. Article 8 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union reads, In all its ac­tiv­i­ties, the Union shall aim to elim­i­nate in­equal­i­ties, and to pro­mote equal­ity, be­tween men and women.” Clearly, women be­ing 47% more likely to be se­ri­ously in­jured in a car crash is one hell of an in­equal­ity to over­look.

Designers may be­lieve they are mak­ing prod­ucts for every­one, but in re­al­ity they are mainly mak­ing them for men. It’s time to start de­sign­ing women in.

• This is an edited ex­tract from Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez (Chatto & Windus, £16.99). To or­der a copy go to guardian­book­shop.com. Free UK p&p on all on­line or­ders over £15.

Commenting on this piece? If you would like your com­ment to be con­sid­ered for in­clu­sion on Weekend mag­a­zine’s let­ters page in print, please email week­end@the­guardian.com, in­clud­ing your name and ad­dress (not for pub­li­ca­tion).

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