For the people in the back: Video games don’t cause violence

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Video games do not cause violent behavior. There is no scientific, consensus-backed research supporting the idea that playing video games — even bloody, realistic shooters — leads to real-life acts of brutality. However, this misguided theory prev…
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No, Violent Video Games Don’t Cause Mass Shootings

Last week, 17 people were killed at a Florida high school when a former student attacked them with a legally-purchased assault rifle. In the wake of this tragic event, like far too many before it, people have demanded changes in policies that could stop it from happening again. Instead, however, President Trump has blamed a popular scapegoat: video games.

“I’m hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts,” Trump said during a White House meeting on school safety on February 22, 2018. And you go the further step, and that’s the movies. You see these movies, and they’re so violent. And yet a kid is able to see the movie if sex isn’t involved, but killing is involved, and maybe they have to put a rating system for that.”

The president’s logic doesn’t echo what is found in the scientific literature. Studies conducted over the past few decades have not shown a decisive connection between violent video games and this kind of extreme behavior.

In 2005, California attempted to ban the sale of video games to minors; the law was struck down by the Supreme Court six years later. “California’s claim that ‘interactive’ video games present special problems, in that the player participates in the violent action on screen and determines its outcome, is unpersuasive,” the ruling read. The Supreme Court asserted that, like books, plays, and other forms of media, video games qualify for protection under the First Amendment.

The decision also noted that psychological studies did not prove that exposure to violent games caused aggressive actions.

A 2015 in-depth review study by the American Psychological Association (APA) concluded that violent video games do have an impact on aggression — but the APA noted that there was insufficient evidence to link this kind of exposure to criminal violence, delinquency, or physiological and neurological changes.

“All violence is aggression, but not all aggression is violence,” according to the APA report. “This distinction is important for understanding this research literature, for considering the implications of the research, and for interpreting popular press accounts of the research and its applicability to societal events.”

The consensus is that aggressive or violent behavior tends to result from the accumulation of various risk factors. Violent media can contribute to those risk factors, but to claim that they are the root cause of behaviors like mass shootings is a major oversimplification. And there is still no evidence that violent video games cause children to purchase AR-15 assault rifles and shoot up their former high schools like it’s “Call of Duty” brought to life.

The irony, of course, of reviving the “violent video games precipitate violent behavior” debate, is that Congress actually doesn’t allow the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from studying gun violence as a public health issue. Under what’s known as the “Dickey Amendment,” passed 22 years ago, the CDC can’t fund gun-related research or use money to “advocate or promote gun control.”

What that means: lawmakers — President Trump included — have little to no idea about what causes gun violence or how to stop it.

And politicians including Trump are hesitant to push for an intervention that actually works: curbing assault rifle sales. Trump and other politicians are unwilling to do this for fear of losing funding or support from the National Rifle Association (NRA), especially when his popularity numbers hover near an all-time low.

If our representatives can’t pass legislation to curb these shootings, at least they could get out of the way of well-meaning researchers trying to better understand it. Bringing up the subject of video games time and time again does little more than distract and misinform the public.

The post No, Violent Video Games Don’t Cause Mass Shootings appeared first on Futurism.


Researchers Want to Hunt Unknown Viruses Before They Cause the Next Pandemic

Searching For Viral Threats

Scientists believe there are more than 1.6 million viruses in birds and mammals that we haven’t discovered yet. Approximately half of those viruses could potentially infect and cause illnesses in humans.

All it would take is one to unleash the next global pandemic.

That’s why a global cooperative, led by researchers at the University of California, Davis, has set out to identify them. In a paper published on Friday, the researchers established their goals for the Global Virome Project, an initiative to identify the unknown viruses lurking on Earth.

Beyond finding these elusive zoonotic threats — meaning the viruses are found in animals but could potentially make the leap to humans — the cooperative also envisions putting a stop to them. By knowing what we’re up against, humanity could be far better prepared to handle deadly viruses outbreaks across large areas; this project might be the key to preventing the next pandemic.


The number of viruses known to infect people is less than 0.1 percent of the total that could potentially do so. Image Credit: D. CARROLL ET AL/SCIENCE 2018
The number of viruses known to infect people is less than 0.1 percent of the total that could potentially do so. Image Credit: D. Carroll et al./Science 2018.

“It is time to move from reactionary mode, chasing the last horrible virus, to a proactive one,” said Jonna Mazet, Executive Director of the One Health Institute at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine and the paper’s lead author in a press release. “We can and will finally be able to identify future threats and take the steps necessary to prevent the next pandemic.”

A Pound of Cure

Over the next decade, the $ 1.2 billion Global Virome Project will work to identify about 70 percent of those potential threats. The cooperative plans to build on previous work done by the United States Agency for International Development’s PREDICT program, once of the agency’s four Emerging Pandemic Threats projects. PREDICT has identified more than 1,000 previously unknown viruses… but that accomplishment falls far short of the Global Virome Project’s ambitious goal.

The are several key pieces of information researchers need to know about a virus in order to establish its “ecological profile”: where it originates, where it thrives, what — or who — it infects, and how it’s transmitted, to name a few.

The sooner the team establish these characteristics, the sooner medical professionals can target people who are at the highest risk of emerging diseases that we don’t even know exist yet.

The number of viruses known to infect people is less than 0.1 percent of the total that could potentially do so. Image Credit: D. CARROLL ET AL/SCIENCE 2018
Image Credit: The Global Virome Project.

With its significant funding, and the commitment of scientists around the world, the Global Virome Project has the potential to achieve far more than what’s been laid out in its initial scope. As stated on the project’s website, the team is excited about the potential for their work to “lead to unrelated and often unexpected advances in human and animal health and in science.”

The benefits of preventing outbreaks go far beyond global health, though: as the team points out, preventing an outbreak could cost less than reacting to one. Pandemics are costly to wrangle — not just in terms of lives lost, but their immediate and lasting impact on a nation’s financial circumstances. Prevention, then, is not only an investment in global health — but also in the global economy.

The post Researchers Want to Hunt Unknown Viruses Before They Cause the Next Pandemic appeared first on Futurism.


New macOS bug can cause serious data loss

A new flaw has been discovered in macOS High Sierra that can cause data to be lost when writing to disk images. It affects those formatted using the Apple File System (APFS) specifically, but it shouldn’t be a problem for your primary SSD. Apple’s latest software releases have been plagued by pesky bugs. The company has worked […]

(via Cult of Mac – Tech and culture through an Apple lens)

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APFS Bug in macOS High Sierra Can Cause Data Loss When Writing to Disk Images

Apple’s APFS file system included in macOS High Sierra suffers from a disk image vulnerability that in certain circumstances can lead to data loss, according to the creator of Carbon Copy Cloner.

In a blog post last Thursday, software developer Mike Bombich explained that he had uncovered the data writing flaw in the Apple File System, or APFS, through his regular work with “sparse” disk images.

For those who aren’t familiar with the term, a sparse disk image is basically a file that macOS mounts on the desktop and treats as if it was a physically attached drive with a classic disk volume structure. The flexibility of sparse disk images means they are commonly used in the course of performing backup and disk cloning operations, hence Bombich’s extensive experience with them.

Earlier this week I noticed that an APFS-formatted sparsebundle disk image volume showed ample free space, despite that the underlying disk was completely full. Curious, I copied a video file to the disk image volume to see what would happen. The whole file copied without error! I opened the file, verified that the video played back start to finish, checksummed the file – as far as I could tell, the file was intact and whole on the disk image. When I unmounted and remounted the disk image, however, the video was corrupted. If you’ve ever lost data, you know the kick-in-the-gut feeling that would have ensued. Thankfully, I was just running some tests and the file that disappeared was just test data.

Two related problems are identified by Bombich, above. The first is that the free space on the APFS-formatted sparse disk image doesn’t update as it should when the free space on the underlying physical host disk is reduced. The second problem is the lack of error reports when write requests fail to dynamically grow the disk image, resulting in data being “written” into a void. Bombich tracks both bugs back to macOS’s background “diskimages-helper” application service, which he has since reported to Apple.

Bombich’s video demonstrating the APFS bug

Every installation of High Sierra converts the existing file system to APFS, which is optimized for modern storage systems like solid-state drives. However, as Bombich notes, ordinary APFS volumes like SSD startup disks are not affected by the problem described above, so the vast majority of users won’t be affected by it – the flaw is most applicable when making backups to network volumes. Bombich says Carbon Copy Cloner will not support AFPS-formatted sparse disk images until Apple resolves the issue.

The APFS flaw follows the discovery of another bug in Apple’s operating systems that received extensive coverage last week. That bug is induced by sending a specific character in the Indian language Telugu, which causes certain apps on iPhones, iPads, and Macs to freeze up and become unresponsive. The Telugu character bug has already been fixed in Apple’s upcoming iOS 11.3 and macOS 10.13.4 software updates.

Related Roundup: macOS High Sierra

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Sonic weapons probably didn’t cause mysterious diplomat illnesses in Cuba, doctors say

After months of rumors, doctors have published the first detailed report describing the mysterious illness that struck US diplomats stationed in Cuba. While the source of the illness is still a mystery, the doctors say they’re “pretty certain” it wasn’t a sonic weapon.

Doctors examined 21 people associated with the US embassy in Cuba, and found that their symptoms resembled those caused by brain injuries — including headaches, sleep disturbances, and mood changes. But surprisingly, none of the diplomats showed any obvious signs of head trauma, according to a paper published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“This is really concussion without concussion,” says study co-author Douglas Smith, director of the…

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‘Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp’ Will Cause Nintendo to Increase Profitability of Mobile Gaming Business

Nintendo is looking to increase the profitability of its mobile games after the disappointing financial performance of Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp [Free] and lackluster standing compared to the Nintendo Switch and 3DS business. Mobile games brought in 29.1 billion yen in income in 2017, but this was compared to 170 billion yen for the 3DS and 595 billion yen from the Nintendo Switch. Japanese Nintendo translated an interview with Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima, where he says:

Nikkei: How are you looking at the profitability in the business for smartphones?

Kimishima: We’ve published Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp and more, but we still haven’t raised them profit-wise. From here on we want to work on various things like upgrading the insides of them.

Right now, Nintendo is learning the hard way that they might need to utilize traditional free-to-play models to a greater degree.

Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is a flop, only in the top 100 grossing presently in Japan, with the game in the mid-hundreds in the US grossing charts according to App Annie. Similarly, Miitomo [Free], the first Nintendo title, is officially shutting down soon.

What has been a success for Nintendo? Fire Emblem Heroes [Free]. That title continues to do well for Nintendo, making frequent spikes in the top-ten in the US, and performing similarly in the lucrative Japanese market. It uses a far more traditional mobile gaming business model, with more gacha elements and premium currencies. This is outperforming everything else Nintendo has released by far, including Super Mario Run [Free]. While that game still made a ton of money by many standards, it’s not hard to see the first big Nintendo title on mobile, an actual Mario game, as being a disappointment thanks to the business model and lack of continued updates to the game.

And don’t forget about Pokemon GO [Free], either. While this is not a true Nintendo title, and does some nontraditional things in the mobile gaming market, it does utilize consumable IAP and social features in order to keep players hooked and coming back to the game, and spending money. And it works, as the title is still one of the top ten grossing mobile games in the world. And it’s a Nintendo-connected title.

Or even, what does this all say for Nintendo’s future on mobile? When Nintendo first started dabbling in mobile titles, their fortunes were flagging: the Wii U was flopping about like a dead fish, and the Switch was still a collection of rumors. Now, the Switch is selling like hotcakes, first-party software is moving quickly, and Nintendo has strong evidence that if they want to succeed on mobile, it might be in a business model that runs counter to their philosophy. Consider how Splatoon 2 features elements of loot and grinding, but no microtransaction despite the obvious use case for them. If releasing on mobile is a risk, and the brand is doing exceptionally well, why not mitigate that risk? They might introduce deals with outside parties like Niantic to help bring titles to life in interesting ways at minimal risk to them.

This raises the question of just what Nintendo is going to do in the future with Mario Kart on mobile. Will it be as free-to-play as possible while remaining just enough Nintendo fairness? Or will Nintendo try some other unconventional business tactic? No matter what, Nintendo’s mobile experience is clear: they can’t just release a game on mobile and expect a major hit.


AirPods Are Brilliant, But Might Cause Headaches

Apple unveiled the much anticipated wireless AirPods wireless headphones in December 2016, and they’ve been a popular product among customers ever since. During Christmas, they actually went out of stock for a short period. Meanwhile, Ming-Chi Kuo, analyst firm KGI Securities believes that shipments will double in 2018, increasing from 26 million to 28 million.

These are the first pair of Bluetooth headphones that the American tech giant has ever put out, and Apple fans have been hugely impressed so far. Not only do they allow you to listen to music on your iPhone, iPad or Mac wirelessly, but you can also chuck them into a protective carry case for quick charging. On just one charge, they can provide up to 5 hours of listening time. But with the case, you get up achieve up to 24 hours of juice. It also only takes 15 minutes for them to charge up.

However, despite all of these cool features, the Airpods haven’t been without criticism. When they first came to market, some people slammed Apple for overpricing the headphones. And others criticised the firm over the fact that they can easily fall out of your ear. Plus, if you lose them, you’ll have to spend more money to get a new replacement. Reports also emerged alleging that the charging case would suddenly discharge, even when the headphones weren’t being used. Apple fixed this with an update, but the point is, the Airpods haven’t always been perfect..

Do AirPods Cause Headaches?

Now, users are taking to online forums to complain that the headphones are causing headaches. Last month, one user took to the Apple Communities page to warn other people about this problem. The Airpods owner wrote that shortly after buying and using the headphones, they began experiencing “strong pressure” around the ears and head. This is something they’ve only noticed with Apple’s headphones, rather than other brands.

“I don’t have this issue while using wired headphones, but I DO have this problem if I keep an iPhone next to my head while talking. Normally, I use wired headphones and keep the phone away from my head for this very reason. I had also experienced this type of pain/pressure/headache while using bluetooth headsets in the past, but never to the intense level caused by the airpods,” they wrote.

The commenter believes that the Bluetooth technology is to blame, although there’s no indication from Apple that this may be the case. “I can only speculate (I’m sure I’ll get skewered for using that word) that this has something to do with bluetooth signal, or in the case of the phone, cellular signal, which I’ve either become hypersensitive to from years of use, or worse,” they wrote.

Since the incident, they’ve returned the AirPods to Apple, adding: “There is no way I can consciously keep using them, not to mention that the headache becomes very strong after while to the point that it can’t be ignored. I’ll add that I hardly ever get headaches normally, this is an easily identifiable cause for me.”

In the same forum thread, a different user explained that they’re having similar issues. They described similar symptoms to the person in the first comment, writing: “I have been having back of head headaches and slight nausea since beginning to use the airpods.” Initially, they didn’t think that these symptoms could be related to the headphones.

Another forum poster, under the name “janels1”, also noticed pressure when they first started using the AirPods. This soon turned into headaches. They said:  “I was anticipating the AirPods but was concerned about them fitting my ears, as I couldn’t wear the wired earpods comfortably. My solution was to just sort of place them in my ears, without trying to make them fit deeply. I loved the feeling of freedom, loved the sound, and convenience. However, I began noticing a feeling of pressure, then a lot of headaches.  The headaches seemed to slowly go away when I removed the AirPods. Then I would insert them again, and the pressure and headaches began again.”

A few people have attempted to give a reason for the problem, with one commenting: “While you are out looking for people with headaches, be sure to search for blind tests of non-ionizing radiation, such as Bluetooth and WiFi. If you go for the simplest explanation of your issue it is the shape of your ear and the pressure of the phone upon it and the fit of the IEMs. The other explanation, sensitivity to BT and WiFi and cell signals even, has been extensively tested and rejected.”

Expert Opinion

Apple hasn’t really spoken about the claims, but experts have warned about potential side effects caused by the Airpods in the past. In September 2016, Dr Joel Moskowitz – who works at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health – claimed that the AirPods could cause harmful radiation. He warned that you’re essentially “putting a microwave-emitting device next to your brain”.

At the time, the professor asked:  “Although we don’t know the long-term risks from using Bluetooth devices, why would anyone insert microwave-emitting devices in their ears near their brain when there are safer ways to use a cell phone.” A spokesperson for the tech giant hit back by saying: “Apple products are always designed and tested to meet or exceed all safety requirements.”

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