Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Do probiotics actually do anything?

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The tiny bugs are marketed as a quick fix, but the body of evidence is miniscule.

What does the best research have to say about probiotics? Read on.
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Google’s huge 4K touchscreen whiteboard is now on sale for $5K

 Google’s Jamboard is not a kitchen app for curating PB&J recipes – it’s a 55-inch digital whiteboard, with pen and touch input, companion iOS and Android apps, an Nvidia Jetson TX1 processor on board and 4K resolution. The behemoth is an enterprise-focused collaboration tool, that comes in three fun colors and has a stand that looks ripped from a Herman Miller catalog, and… Read More
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Rebuilding America’s Infrastructure

Boston Subway Line. Photo Credit: Pi.1415926535 CC BY-SA 3.0

President Trump promised a $1 trillion infrastructure plan during his campaign. Spending more money on infrastructure is something that has broad support among people of all political persuasions.

But as the case of Louisville’s $2.4 billion bridge debacle shows, not all infrastructure spending is good spending.

And as a judge’s ruling halting the Maryland Purple Line project to require more environmental study shows, many of our infrastructure problems have nothing to do with money.

I tackle these problems and more in a major essay on the rebuilding America’s infrastructure in the new issue of American Affairs. Some key themes include:

  • America’s infrastructure needs are overwhelmingly for maintenance, not expansion.
  • Infrastructure means much more than surface transport (highways, transit), but includes underfunded items like dams and sewers.
  • There is a mismatch between funding structures and infrastructure needs that must be fixed.
  • Politics and regulatory barriers are often a greater problem than money, and until we improve this, progress on fixing infrastructure will be limited.
  • Private capital alone will not solve the funding challenge and comes with big problems of its own. There’s no such thing as free money.
  • An initial sketch of what an infrastructure program should look like.

Here is an excerpt:

Yet there clearly are major infrastructure repair needs in America. We have not been properly maintaining the assets we have built. Levee failures notoriously caused much of the flooding in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, but America has yet to address the neglect of its dam and levee systems. For example, the recent possibility of an overflow or collapse at the Oroville Dam in California forced 180,000 people to be evacuated. Many dams, levees, and locks on our inland waterway system are in need of repair, often at significant cost. Examples include Locks 52 and 53 on the Ohio River. Built in 1929, their replacement cost is $2.9 billion. As the New York Times reported, this replacement has been botched, and it was originally supposed to cost only $775 million—still a lot of money.

Tens of billions of dollars are also needed simply to renovate America’s legacy transit infrastructure. The District of Columbia’s own Metro subway system has suffered several accidents that require emergency repairs to improve safety. It lost 14 percent of its riders last year, as they lost faith in the system. San Francisco’s BART rail system needs at least $10 billion in repairs. Boston’s transit system needs over $7 billion in repairs. New York’s subway signals still mostly rely on 1930s-era technology.

Similar maintenance backlogs affect other infrastructure types. America’s older urban regions need to spend vast sums of money on sewer system environmental retrofit—$2.7 billion in Cleveland and $4.7 billion in Saint Louis. The state of Rhode Island had to pay $163 million to replace its Sakonnet River Bridge because it had failed to perform routine maintenance on the old one. This is just a sampling of America’s infrastructure gaps.

But the poster child for American infrastructure problems is Flint, Michigan, where a water treatment error caused lead to leach into the water supply, rendering it unfit for human consumption. This caused then candidate Trump to say, “It used to be cars were made in Flint, and you couldn’t drink the water in Mexico. Now, the cars are made in Mexico and you can’t drink the water in Flint.” To be clear, Flint’s water crisis was caused by human error, but that was only possible because of the city’s old lead-pipe infrastructure. America’s water lines, in many cases, haven’t been touched since they were originally installed many decades ago. Some cities still have wooden water pipes in service. Syracuse mayor Stephanie Miner once said that if her city received the same $1 billion commitment from the state that Buffalo did, she would spend three quarters of it just to fix the city’s water lines.

While things are not uniformly dire, it is clear that there is a need to repair and upgrade America’s existing infrastructure. It is this rebuilding, not building—making America’s infrastructure great again—that the Trump administration should focus on.

Click through to read the whole thing.

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Warby Parker’s Prescription Check app lets you skip the eye doctor

 Warby Parker wants to get you the right prescription glasses without forcing you to get an in-person eye test. It’s now testing its new Prescription Check app that uses your phone and computer in tandem to administer a 20-minute series of eye tests, which are then reviewed by a doctor who makes the final call on your prescription. Read More
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IKEA's affordable smart lights will dim with your voice

ikea+smart+lighting.jpgLast month, IKEA launched its own line of low-cost smart lighting, called TRÅDFRI, and up until now, users have had to rely on a remote control or a proprietary app to use the product. But no longer. Today, the Swedish retailer announced that... http://ift.tt/2qTjsDw
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World's tallest spokeless Ferris wheel opens

A 145-meter spokeless Ferris wheel just opened in Weifang, China. Built on a bridge spanning the Bailaing River, it's about ten meters taller than the London Eye, a spoked Ferris wheel. (more…)

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Monday, May 22, 2017

How Anker is beating Apple and Samsung at their own accessory game

Steven Yang quit his job at Google in the summer of 2011 to build the products he felt the world needed: a line of reasonably priced accessories that would be better than the ones you could buy from Apple and other big-name brands. These accessories — batteries, cables, chargers — would solve our most persistent gadget problem by letting us stay powered on at all times. There were just a few problems: Yang knew nothing about starting a company, building consumer electronics, or selling products.

“I was a software engineer all my life at Google. I didn’t know anyone in the electronics manufacturing world,” Yang tells me over Skype from his office in Shenzhen, China. But he started the company regardless, thanks in no small part to his...

Continue reading…

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The $80 billion question: Why are Bitcoin and Ethereum growing so fast?

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A little over two months ago, Bitcoin achieved a symbolic milestone: After an intensive period of growth, the price of one Bitcoin surpassed the price of an ounce of gold

That seems like ancient history. The price of Bitcoin has nearly doubled since then and the cryptocurrency is currently trading at about $2,200. Bitcoin's cousin Ethereum is trading at about $180, its price increasing by a cool 1400% in the last three months. 

But is the rally over, or has it only just begun? And what has propelled the explosive growth in the first place? In the world of cryptocurrencies, answering these questions is anything but easy.  Read more...

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MIT used bacteria to create a self-ventilating workout shirt

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Next step: a garment that releases a nice aroma at the gym.

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have created a prototype of a wearable that vents itself automatically in response to sweat—and it does so…
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Astronauts to go on 'contingency' spacewalk to fix Space Station

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NASA astronauts Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer are preparing for a hastily-scheduled spacewalk to repair a faulty part on the International Space Station (ISS). 

The "contingency spacewalk," which will take place on Tuesday morning, is aimed at removing and replacing a part known as the Multiplexer-Demultiplexer (MDM), which failed on Saturday morning. The cause of the failure is not known, NASA said in a blog post on Sunday. 

While this is not an emergency situation — no lives are at risk on the Space Station as a result of the outage — but having backup systems is critical to the operation of the orbiting laboratory. The MDM is used to keep solar arrays, radiators, and other systems functioning properly.   Read more...

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