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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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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
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.
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.
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.
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 PNNL’s IT department, and he was tasked with creating a digital photo library that the DOE’s 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.”
Why you think you’re right, even when you’re wrong
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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?
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.
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.
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