HTC’s latest ad pulled due to exaggeration of water resistance

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The United Kingdom’s Advertising Standards Authority banned one of HTC’s ads that have been running on social media since mid-last year. The ad in question features Olympic diver, Tom Daley, diving into a pool, feet first (after a flip or two), holding the HTC U11 over his head, taking selfies on his decent into the pool, and after being seen exit the pool with the phone in hand. . Despite having a disclaimer at the bottom, it wasn’t enough for the ASA to deem the ad as misleading. It highlighted the fact that the product’s instructions explicitly warn users against intentionally…

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A Clever Smartphone Attachment Will Show if Water Is Contaminated

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Imagine looking onto a lake or river, perhaps at an overlook at the end of a hike, or simply driving past it. The water’s beautiful, the sun glimmers off its surface. Perhaps you see some fishermen nearby, or some birds paddling about, periodically dipping their beaks. Maybe you think about taking a sip of that water yourself. So you pull out your smartphone, and with a snap of a picture, you can tell that it’s contaminated.

Such a tool may soon be a reality, if astronomers from the University of Leiden in the Netherlands have their say. They are developing a simple smartphone attachment that makes it ridiculously, comically easy to measure the quality of water by pointing the tool at it, nothing more.

The tool’s primary purpose isn’t just so that you can whet your whistle in any lake, river, or creek you deem tasty-looking  quick and precise measurements of water pollution can be hugely beneficial for science. This kind of data can steer environmental policies on a national level. Citizens can tell if their drinking water is contaminated. Fishermen are able to determine the quality of their catch, and how pollution could affect local fish populations. Polluted water can even determine human migration patterns by forcing fishermen to move or give up their trade altogether.

Any joe shmoe can further these efforts, so long as they’re armed with a smartphone.

There’s a precedent that have researchers hopeful. In 2013, the same team of astronomers and toxicologists developed the iSPEX (Spectropolarimeter for Planetary EXploration) — a smartphone attachment that can measure air pollution. Dutch citizens, along with people in cities from Athens to London, took thousands of measurements of the particulates in the air. The result: a detailed map of dust particles over the Netherlands and beyond.

The technology behind the smartphone attachment actually is a spin-off of sophisticated astronomy technology that can tell if oxygen is present on planets around other stars. This also foregoes the need to take local samples and send them back to the lab — a relatively expensive process that can take a lot longer.

But water presents different challenges. The color of the water can be influenced by a variety of factors, including weather. Strong winds can stir up sediment, and clouds can block the sun, making the water appear darker. By having local residents take measurements on the ground, the measurements won’t have to cut through cloud cover and other weather patterns. Participants are also asked to take a picture of the sky above the water to calibrate the readings.

The technology is still in its early stages, and at least a couple of years away. The hope is to combine cutting-edge astronomy technology with environmental science to create a device that’s both easy to use, and is capable of measuring the quality of surface water accurately.

 

The project’s coordinators are still considering where to kick off the new water-pollution-measuring project based on where the data is needed the most. Some locations on the short-list so far: Baloton Lake in Hungary, Loch Leven in Scotland, and Lake Tanganyika in Tanzania.

“These places have been chosen because the citizens taking part—fishermen and residents who want to have good, clean drinking water—benefit from having a simple and fast way of making measurements,” says astronomer Frans Snik, project lead of the iSPEX program, in a press release.

A notable omission from that list: The Netherlands. The country may be in the second or third wave of places to receive the tool. “The Dutch love water and going for a bike ride on a Sunday afternoon. It would be great if they could make some photos of canals and streams along the way,” Snik said. Just, not yet.

Snik and his team are expecting the device to be ready for its initial deployment by late 2019, and will release 3D models, so anybody with a 3D printer can build one for themselves.

The post A Clever Smartphone Attachment Will Show if Water Is Contaminated appeared first on Futurism.

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Researchers develop device that extracts water from desert air

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Researchers at MIT and UC Berkeley have developed and now tested a device that can extract water out of the air even in the driest of climates. The team proposed the device in a Science article last year and now they've improved the design and tried…
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You’re Probably Drinking Microplastics With Your Bottled Water

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You already know how bad plastic bottles are for the planet. We go through a million of them per minute and are generally terrible at recycling. As a result, bottles join other plastic waste in clogging up waterways, harming wildlife and accumulating in delicate ecosystems.

Now we know this plastic use is probably not too good for us, either. In fact, taking a sip of bottled water might come with more than you bargained for.

The water sold in plastic bottles contains microplastics at levels that might endanger human health, according to a recent study. As a result, the World Health Organization plans to investigate the potential health risks of ingesting plastic, the BBC reports.

Microplastics are pieces of plastic that have broken down a size smaller than a fingernail. About 275,000 metric tons of the stuff enter our waterways each year, according to some estimates.

In the study, which has not been published in a scientific journal and was commissioned by journalistic outlet Orb Media, researchers at State University of New York at Fredonia tested water from 259 bottles produced by 11 different companies and purchased in nine countries. They dropped a red dye into the bottles because the dye sticks to the plastics, differentiating them from the water in which they float. The scientists counted an average of 10.4 plastic particles per liter. Some bottles had no plastic in them at all. In a liter of Nestle Pure Life, there were 10,000.

The findings suggest that a person who drinks a liter of bottled water a day — half of what the average person needs every day — might be consuming tens of thousands of microplastic particles each year, the Orb Media article notes.

We don’t yet know how microplastics affect our health, but there’s reason to think that their buildup in our systems wouldn’t be good for us. We already know that when microplastics build up in animals like fish, they affect their behavior and alter their hormones. Some chemicals in plastic are known to have similar effects on humans.

If you’re shocked that there’s plastic in your water, well, you haven’t been paying attention. A previous investigation by Orb Media found that 83 percent of tap water samples contained microplastics. The shocking thing about this study? The amount of microplastic found in plastic bottles was double what scientists found in tap water.

It’s difficult to imagine a solution that would take care of the problem completely. Municipalities and companies could better filter water before it flows into taps and plastic bottles. But even if we did that, we would still have discarded plastic bottles breaking down into microplastics in water everywhere — not to mention lots of other plastic products. Better filtration would just be a temporary solution to a much larger problem. People, along with the ecosystems in which they live and the animals that live there with them, would probably be better off if governments banned plastics altogether.

The post You’re Probably Drinking Microplastics With Your Bottled Water appeared first on Futurism.

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Gadget Ogling: Smart Phones, Simple Phones, and Sparkling Water on Tap

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Oh, look, it’s a new flagship smartphone duo from Samsung. Shockingly enough, they’re called the “Galaxy S9” and “Galaxy S9+.” They have a similar appearance to the previous year’s models, but there are also a few differences, such as a new camera and stereo speakers. There’s a 960-frames-per-second slow motion mode, and there’s the option to add music to clips or turn them into GIFs. An adjustable aperture accounts for how much light there is in the field of view and can be adjusted accordingly for sharper photos.
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A $320 Million Ice Wall Still Can’t Contain Radioactive Water Near Fukushima

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Last year, Japan’s central government completed a 35 billion yen (approximately $ 320 million) underground ice wall. Over 38 meters (100 feet) deep and nearly 1.6 kilometers (1 mile) long, the structure is meant to stop groundwater from mixing with the radioactive water leaking from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which was severely damaged in 2011 by an earthquake and tsunami.

While an idea seemingly plucked from a comic book, this wall of human-made permafrost was criticized for being too complex and potentially ineffective. Negative suspicions were confirmed when an investigation commissioned by the Japanese government found that while the wall is helping reduce the leakage of contaminated water, stronger measures are needed.

Seven years later, radioactive materials from Fukushima’s damaged reactor still contaminate groundwater and rainfall, undermining efforts to decommission the plant. The state of the reactor also made it extremely difficult to identify the position of the melted uranium trapped in the plant, which was captured on camera only last year.

Even robots sent to investigate and clean up the site have not been able to withstand the radiation, exacerbating the crisis as the plant continues to contaminate groundwater and rainfall.

According to the latest figures released by the plant’s operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the ice wall is reducing the amount of contaminated water inside the reactor’s buildings to 95 tons per day, while before the structure was built nearly 200 tons would collect inside the plant every day. Overall, the plant still contaminates about 500 tons of water daily, of which 300 are pumped out and stored away to be purified.

“We recognize that the ice wall has had an effect, but more work is needed to mitigate rainfall ahead of the typhoon season,” said Yuzo Onishi, panel chairman and Kansai University civil engineering professor, speaking to Phys.org.

The ice wall was expensive to build and costs about 1 billion yen ($ 9.5 million) a year to maintain and operate. But, while it is not a perfect solution, it has stabilized groundwater flows, and reduced the amount of water that needs to be pumped out to keep the situation stable.

As clunky as a massive ice wall may seem, the Japanese government still doesn’t have a more elegant solution to a problem that long after the disaster remains as urgent as ever. And while the project may be far from ideal, it is imperative that Fukushima holds as little contaminated water as possible.

The post A $ 320 Million Ice Wall Still Can’t Contain Radioactive Water Near Fukushima appeared first on Futurism.

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Cape Town Has More Time to Solve Its Water Crisis. How Will It Use It?

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Earlier this year, there was serious reason to believe that Cape Town, in South Africa, was going to become the first major city in the world to run out of water. Now, the ominous “Day Zero” deadline of the water crisis has shifted to August 27, back from earlier estimates that had it occurring in either March or April.

August 27 is well within the part of the year where the region usually experiences heavy rainfall. As such, city officials have said that it’s no longer appropriate to set a date without taking that precipitation into consideration, according to a report by Buzzfeed.

However, this isn’t to say that the threat is over. If there’s as little rainfall this year as there was in 2017, Day Zero will hit in early 2019.

Residents are being praised for their efforts to conserve water, which have helped push Day Zero back into next year. Buzzfeed reports that Cape Town typically uses around 1.2 billion liters of water per day, but as of late, daily consumption has fallen between 510 and 520 million liters.

Even so, the city requires a more long-term solution for its water needs. The current water crisis came from reduced rainfall leading to a three-year drought, which is only more likely to happen in a climate-changed future.

There have been a litany of suggestions to help Cape Town out of its current shortage, ranging from desalinating ocean water to dragging up a seven-ton iceberg from the Canary Islands (yes, really). As Quartz points out, Cape Town could also learn from cities like Melbourne, Australia, which has maintained more conservative water habits following a similar drought. In Melbourne, both mandatory and voluntary measures in water use — ranging from fines for daytime lawn watering, to rebates for buying more efficient washing machines — have cut water use almost in half since 1996.

The end goal is still the same, but the expanded time frame could offer up solutions that weren’t feasible when there were only weeks left until resources ran out. The amount of rain that comes over the next several months will be crucial, and authorities will have to take full advantage of the brief reprieve to come up with an action plan.

The post Cape Town Has More Time to Solve Its Water Crisis. How Will It Use It? appeared first on Futurism.

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A New Chemical Treatment Could Make Water Safe to Drink for Months

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Scientists at Lithuania’s Kaunas University of Technology have come up with a new method to purify water and keep it clean for months.

Currently, purifying water is fairly easy. Most tourists travelling to exotic destination will keep purifying tablets in their bag along with other ordinary supplies such as plasters or malaria pills. What we haven’t quite managed to achieve is a way to make sure that the water we clean up today is going to stay drinkable tomorrow, or next week. This is because new bacteria can get in touch with it and contaminate it again, something scientists call “secondary contamination”.

The Lithuanian team sought to address just that, and early tests suggest that their method is so effective it kills off microbes for over three months. The researchers, which chose not to share  their methodology’s details but explained their results, observed that microbes did not breed in drinking water stored in the open after the application of the purification technique, and found that the purified water did not taste or smell any different from standard drinking water from the tap.

Not only is their solution particularly successful, it also operates using a very low concentration of active ingredients, in this case silver.

Silver has been used to purify water as far back as Ancient Rome. However, there are lingering worries about its potential toxicity when consumed in high concentrations, as outlined in a 2014 literature review published by the World Health Organization. In particular, silver is known to be dangerous for the liver.

Some domestic water filtration systems do use silver, but the team wants to make their technology available in liquid and tablet form, so it can be utilized in difficult circumstances like military operations.  Since these methods are designed to be mixed in with water, the concentration of active ingredients is extremely important.

The technique has now been patented, with a prototype for industrial use ready for implementation. Although the treatment is still in its early stages, the researchers believe that their method has the potential to become so cost-effective that it could soon be scaled up and employed in the bottled water industry.

The post A New Chemical Treatment Could Make Water Safe to Drink for Months appeared first on Futurism.

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Guillermo del Toro wins Best Director and Best Picture Oscar for The Shape of Water

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Sunday night at the 90th annual Academy Awards, Guillermo del Toro’s swoony merman fantasy The Shape of Water took home the awards for Best Directing and Best Picture. Previously in the evening, the film also won for Original Score and Production Design. The film’s four wins came out of a slate of 13 overall nominations for the film.

In his Best Directing acceptance speech, the Mexico-born filmmaker followed the lead of many other winners, immediately pivoting to issues of diversity and inclusion. “I am an immigrant,” he said, name-checking Salma Hayek, Gael García Bernal, and several other Mexican artists who were present in the room. “And in the last 25 years, I’ve been living in a country all of our own. Part of it is here, part of it…

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