TIME Innovation

This New Watch Lets Blind People Read Realtime Smartphone Data in Braille

The Dot uses a moveable braille interface made of magnets and pins strapped to the wrist like a watch

Until now, visually impaired smartphone users have had to rely on Siri and other readers to find their way around the Internet and the world, but a new device in development in South Korea may change their experience completely by instantly turning text messages and other information into braille.

The Dot, a device that straps around the wrist like a watch, uses magnets and a grid of pins to create four braille characters at a time that change at adjustable speeds, allowing users to read text messages and use apps on any device via Bluetooth.

Eric Ju Yoon Kim, co-founder and CEO of start-up Dot, told Tech in Asia he hopes his company’s innovation will free blind people to interact with their devices on their own terms. “Until now, if you got a message on iOS from your girlfriend, for example, you had to listen to Siri read it to you in that voice, which is impersonal,” he said. “Wouldn’t you rather read it yourself and hear your girlfriend’s voice saying it in your head?”

That kind of technology is not groundbreaking, but transferring it to a mobile device certainly is — just like the price: computers using so-called “active Braille technology” can cost $3,000, while Kim says that when the watch arrives in the U.S. this December it will sell for less than $300.

“Ninety percent of blind people become blind after birth, and there’s nothing for them right now — they lose their access to information so suddenly,” Kim told Tech in Asia. “Dot can be their lifeline, so they can learn Braille and access everyday information through their fingers.”

[Tech in Asia]

TIME Congress

Watch Elizabeth Warren’s Speech in Defense of Planned Parenthood

She was speaking before Monday's vote on a defunding proposal

Senator Elizabeth Warren has criticized members of Congress who want to defund Planned Parenthood.

“Do you have any idea what year it is?” Warren asked, speaking before Monday’s Senate vote on the defunding bill. “Did you fall down, hit your head and think you woke up in the 1950s or the 1890s? Should we call for a doctor?”

Warren was speaking after covertly recorded videos released by the Center for Medical Progress showed Planned Parenthood officials discussing the costs associated with fetal-tissue extraction. That footage, roundly criticized by both parties, set off a political firestorm, with Republicans alleging that the conversations proved that staffers were selling baby body parts for profit.

Senator Joni Ernst introduced a bill involving the sweeping defunding of the organization, in a bid to hit back against what, in a recent TIME op-ed, Ernst and Senators Rand Paul and James Lankford called “callous actions that strike at the moral fabric of our society.”

In response, Planned Parenthood has maintained that the videos were taken out of context and alleges that they were edited.

The Senate later voted down the bill, but the issue is expected to resurface as Congress attempts to pass spending bills later in the year.

TIME Companies

Jessica Alba Replies to Claims Her ‘Honest’ Sunscreen Brand Is Faulty on Instagram

"We’ll do what it takes to make it right"

Jessica Alba has responded to complaints that her eco-friendly Honest Company’s sunscreen isn’t effective, saying they are “taking every precaution to ensure that your product experience will keep you healthy and happy.”

In an Instagram post Tuesday, the 34-year-old actress, businesswoman and mom of two said, “protecting our loved ones is the reason we founded [Honest.]”

Alba’s post links to Honest Company’s website and a message from the founders that reads: “As parents, it pains us to hear that anyone has had a negative experience with our Sunscreen … As with everything we do, we take sun protection seriously here at Honest.”

The statement from Alba and co-founder Christopher Gavigan went on to say the company was working to address instances where their sunscreen failed to protect against sunburn.

“For those who have expressed concerns about our Sunscreen Lotion, we want you to know that we hear you and we’re here for you. As always, we’ll do what it takes to make it right.”

Read the full statement here.

TIME vaccines

How to Change an Anti-Vaxxer’s Mind

TIME.com stock photos Health Syringe Needle
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Jeffrey Kluger is Editor at Large for TIME.

It's not easy, but a new study suggests one way to help persuade parents to vaccinate their children

Let’s take a moment and praise anti-vaccine parents. Really. They’re wrong on the science, wrong on the politics, and deeply, morally wrong to deny their own children a simple disease preventive that they themselves likely enjoyed growing up. But like all parents everywhere, they’re acting on a simple, powerful impulse: to keep their children healthy.

That’s a very noble goal, but it’s also one of the things that makes it so bloody hard to change their minds on the topic of vaccines. Public service campaigns don’t work; nor do one-on-one explanations of why the rumors about a vaccine-autism link are wrong. In some cases, there is even a backfire effect: the greater the effort expended to persuade the anti-vaxxers, the more convinced they become that they’re right.

So it’s extremely good news that researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign may at last have come up with a way to cut through the misinformation and get the truth across: Don’t just tell parents to vaccinate their children, show them what happens if they don’t.

In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team led by graduate student Zachary Horne recruited a sample group of 315 people—both parents and non-parents—and first conducted a simple survey designed to measure their pre-existing attitudes to vaccines. The subjects were asked to respond on a six-point scale, from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree,” to five statements that included, “The risks of side effects outweighs any potential benefits of vaccines” and “I plan to vaccinate my children.”

All of the subjects were then divided into three groups: One group was given material to read about the latest research showing that autism and vaccines are in no way related. The second group was given a paragraph to read written in the voice of a mother describing what it was like when her child contracted measles; three pictures of children with measles, mumps and rubella; and written warnings about the importance of vaccinating children. The third group, serving as a control, read material on an unrelated science topic.

When the three groups’ attitudes to vaccines were tested again, the results were striking. Both the control and the so-called “autism correction” group showed a slight uptick in their approval of vaccines, but in neither case were the numbers terribly significant. The group that had learned about the wages of vaccine denialism changed markedly, however, with increased approval rates five times larger than those in the autism correction group and six times larger than in the control group.

“Rather than attempting to dispel myths about the dangers of vaccinations,” the researchers wrote, “we recommend that the very real dangers posed by serious diseases like measles, mumps and rubella be emphasized.”

As TIME reported in the Oct. 6, 2014 issue, this is precisely the approach that worked during the mumps outbreak in Columbus, Ohio last year. College students were nonchalant about getting vaccinated, but when they learned that the disease can lead to sterility in both men and women, they were a lot more inclined to step up for their shots. “I was pretty freaked out,” one Ohio State University student said. “I didn’t know mumps could lead to any of that.”

The power of the show-don’t-tell approach is nothing new. It’s the reason behind the anti-tobacco shock ads showing people dying of lung cancer, as well as the surgery fund-raising ads showing photos of babies with cleft lips. The trick in all of these cases is getting people to act fast. If too much time elapses between image and potential action, the power of the message is lost.

For that reason, Horne and his co-authors suggest that future research should look at the effectiveness of including the kind of counseling that was used in their study during routine well-baby visits, when vaccinating the child on the spot is an option. After all, the effect of scaring a parent straight may be temporary, but the damage done to a child who contracts a vaccine-preventable disease can be for life.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Workplace

Science Explains Why Women Are Always Freezing at Work

Business woman air conditioning
Getty Images

Turns out workplace thermostats are kinda sexist

Women who are always freezing at work finally know who to blame: Men.

In a new report published Monday in Nature, researchers found that most office building temperatures are set using a decades-old formula for a “thermal comfort model” that takes into account factors like air temperature, air speed, and clothing insulation. That’s converted into a seven-point scale and compared to the Predicted Percentage Dissatisfied, which gauges how many people are likely to feel uncomfortably cool or warm.

The problem is that one variable in that formula is inherently sexist. Turns out that the resting metabolic rate, or the measure of how fast we generate heat, that’s used in the calculation is based on a 40-year-old man weighing about 154 pounds. But women, who make up half of today’s workforce, typically have slower metabolic rates because they’re on average smaller and have more body fat. Thus, the study says the current “thermal comfort model” may overestimate women’s resting heat production by up to 35%.

Women’s physiology and wardrobe selection are also factors. Joost van Hoof, a building physicist at Fontys University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands, was not involved in the study, but provided this memorable commentary to The New York Times:

“Many men, they wear suits and ties, and women tend to dress sometimes with cleavage. The cleavage is closer to the core of the body, so the temperature difference between the air temperature and the body temperature there is higher when it’s cold. I wouldn’t overestimate the effect of cleavage, but it’s there.”

What’s there to do about the problem? The study offers this solution: change the temperature setting formula. Accounting for women’s metabolic rates and body tissue insulation, female workers might prefer a 75 degree Fahrenheit office, the Times says. Typical office temperatures now hover around 70 degrees.

TIME human behavior

Are There Really Benefits to Writing Things By Hand?

Writing by hand on chalkboard
Jeffrey Coolidge / Getty Images Is writing by hand really psychologically beneficial?

A new Bic commercial claims four benefits to writing by hand.

Most office-working adults in America spend their days hunched over a computer, tapping at keys to form words on a screen. Very few use a notebook or spend time writing. Even those of us whose professional occupation is “writer” tend to spend far less time writing with a pen in hand than they do typing.

Of course, as with so many things that are perceived as old-timey, writing by hand has become if not a modern necessity, then a trend. Cursive lessons have become all the vogue in some circles and is credited with helping dyslexic students. J. K. Rowling famously wrote the Harry Potter series on napkins. Handwriting has been elevated to the highest levels of art, be it the digitally collected ecriture infinie or Brooklyn Museum’s exhibit on artist Jean-Michel Basquiat’s notebooks.

Jumping on the bandwagon too is Bic, the pen company, which has launched a campaign to get kids to write. Called “Fight for the Write,” the campaign boasts a video featuring a boy inspiring a classroom of kids through a series of “interesting facts” that show the benefits of writing: increased creativity, better critical thinking, boosted self confidence, and a correlated improvement in reading capability with writing prowess.

But are these benefits real? The short answer: Mostly not. “There’s lot of caveats in handwriting research,” says Karin James, a psychologist at Indiana University who studies early childhood brain development at Indiana University and has looked at how writing by hand affects pre-literate brains.

The creativity claim is most likely a stretch because measuring creativity is nearly impossible. “How are you defining creativity?” James says. “There’s all kinds of ways to: across individuals, ages, contexts—social, academic. It’s really hard to study, so that [claim] is a stretch.”

Intuitively, the idea that handwriting can improve critical thinking makes sense: Writing more would seem to entail thinking more thoroughly about topics and journaling, we know, has been shown to be excellent for introspection. But while writing by hand has been shown to be a good exercise for introspection, the evidence of writing out homework assignments remains very muddled.

As for self-confidence: writing and reading comprehension are neurally connected, and better readers often have more academic self-confidence. “If a kindergartner is reading at a first grade level, they do better academically, which means they have more confidence in their ability to perform,” James says. “The more children write, the easier it is for them to recognize a letter. Letter recognition is the highest predictor to reading later on.”

So there is merit in this claim. But on its own, writing probably does little to boost self-confidence. More likely, James says, is that increased creativity and self-confidence are secondary, correlated effects.

In 2012, James published a study along with her co-author, Laura Engelhardt, that began: “In an age of increasing technology, the possibility that typing on a keyboard will replace handwriting raises questions about the future usefulness of handwriting skills.”

James and Engelhardt found that writing is particularly instrumental in the cognitive development of pre-literate 5 year olds. The kids, who were learning the alphabet, wrote, traced, and typed letters. MRI scans found that the kids who had written letters were able to perceive the letters better, helping them to read at better rates compared to the typers and tracers.

Still, since control groups are impossible in reading and writing studies—you can’t decide to not teach some kids to read or write—“It’s tricky,” James says.

The parts of the brain activated when children learn to write—the left fusiform gyrus, the inferior frontal gyrus and the posterior parietal cortex—are the same that are active in older children and adults when they are reading. James wanted to know whether reading affected writing or the other way around. “That’s why we looked at [pre-literate] kids,” she said. “We didn’t know if reading came first and activated this network for handwriting of if it was vice versa. We found that reading networks are activated when reading happens, and writing uses that network.”

So while the idea of writing by hand and its memory-enhancing capabilities have been covered—and studied—ad nauseum, the effects of writing on other mental indicators are less understood. Research is correlational. “We don’t really have facts, we have evidence,” says James. “But it’s highly suggestive evidence.”

TIME Infectious Disease

Don’t Worry, There’s Probably No Bubonic Plague on NYC Subways

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Getty Images

The findings of a widely publicized study may have been overblown

If you gave up riding the New York City subway after a study suggested it might be hosting bubonic plague, then it’s time to buy yourself an MTA card — the study’s conclusion has been walked back by its authors.

The research, which was published in February in the journal Cell Systems, suggested that there were possible traces of bubonic plague and anthrax on New York City subways in addition to other microbes. In a correction added to the study on July 29, the researchers underline the very speculative nature of their findings.

In reference to the bubonic plague and anthrax findings, the researchers write, “there is minimal coverage to the backbone genome of these organisms, and there is no strong evidence to suggest these organisms are in fact present, and no evidence of pathogenicity.”

When the researchers’ findings were first published several months ago, medical experts at the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the New York City Department of Health took issue and publicly called them into question. In the wake of the study’s release, the researchers admitted they could not be completely certain the bacteria they found was indeed bubonic plague, but the findings were not updated until last Wednesday.

Despite the correction, the research has not been retracted.

TIME Exercise/Fitness

5 Running Mistakes Beginners Always Make

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Getty Images

Wearing the wrong shoes can cost you more than just a few blisters

Summertime is the perfect season to start a running program. With the sun shining, there’s simply no reason to not lace up your sneaks and hit the road. But before you get started, learn the five mistakes every beginning runner makes. And skip them!

Starting too fast

The most common mistake new runners make: going too hard, too fast. By not easing into it, you end up exhausted much sooner than expected, and the tail end of your run becomes a wind-sucking session. This can make running seem too hard, which can lead you to quit your program all together.

Solution: The key is pacing yourself; running is a sport in which progress is especially slow and gradual. If you’re running outside, downloading a pacing app like RunKeeper (free, iTunes and Google Play) can help you keep track of your speed. Start off at a moderate pace, and gradually increase throughout your run. This will make for not only a more enjoyable run, but it’s also the key to building endurance.

Wearing the wrong shoes

Maybe you’ve heard this one before, but it’s worth repeating. You may think because your feet feel okay, and you’re not getting blisters, you’re in the clear. But poor-fitting shoes can cause all sorts of unexpected problems: ankle pain, hip pain, even shoulder pain, and so on. This is why I think of the wrong shoes as the “silent killer” of running programs.

Solution: The best advice is to sidestep this from the get-go. Hit your local running store and have them fit you for the proper shoes. They will look at your gait and see what areas of your feet take on the most pressure while you walk and run. The right shoe will take your runs to a whole new level.

Setting unrealistic goals

It’s very easy to get caught up in what others are doing and try to match up with them, especially when it comes to running. But remember: the only person you should be competing against is yourself. If you’re a brand new runner, trying to run a 5k straight through right off the bat is likely going to leave you feeling discouraged. It’s okayeven recommendedto start with an even smaller goal, like running a mile. And then move forward from there.

Solution: Start with a realistic program that will help you build the strength and endurance to reach your running goal. For example, start with a run/walk program that allows you to take rests in between each set of running. Over time, you’ll build the endurance to run all the way through with no breaks.

Fueling improperly

A car can’t run without gas, right? It also probably won’t run very well if you fill it with water. This is exactly the way you should be thinking about fueling yourself for a run. New runners often find that one day, they feel like a million bucks on their run, but then the next, it feels like all progress has gone out the window. Often the difference is proper food and water.

Solution: Everybody is different, so you’ll have to experiment a bit to find out what works best for you, but there are some tried and true solutions that work for most.

If you have 1 hour or less before your run, eat a small mixture of protein, carbohydrates and fats. This could be a slice of whole wheat bread with peanut or almond butter spread on top.

If you have 2 hours, eat a meal that includes larger portions of protein, carbohydrates and fats. This could be eggs, bacon, and a slice of whole wheat toast.

If you’re going on a longer run, you can bring some energy gels (GU Energy Gels are a popular option) for the road, but I find it easier and healthier to just snag a pack of your kid’s fruit snacks. My kids and I love Fruigees since they’re a natural, organic option and made with only fruits and veggies. This is a super efficient snack that will give you that quick punch of natural sugar to help you keep going, without upsetting your stomach.

Heel Striking

You may have heard the term, but many people don’t know what this is or how to fix it. By overstriding (landing on your heel first), you are opening yourself up to injury, such as shin splints.
Solution: Aim to land mid-sole. Your stride may have to shorten up to achieve this, but you’ll be happy you did in the long run (pun intended)!

For more running tips like this, check out The Pros and Cons of Running On the Treadmill

This article originally appeared on Health.com

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TIME Infectious Disease

What to Know About Legionnaires’ Disease

Four people in New York City have died from Legionnaires’ disease. Here's everything to know about the outbreak:

How serious is this outbreak?
The latest numbers suggest there are now around 65 cases of the disease reported in the South Bronx area of New York City, and four fatalities.

What is Legionnaires disease and how does it spread?
Legionnaires’ disease is a bacterial ailment classified as a type of pneumonia. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Legionnaires’ can be contracted by breathing in water mist that contains the bacteria but does not spread person-to-person.

The New York City Department of Health says the disease is generally traced to plumbing systems like hot tubs, humidifiers, cooling towers and large air conditioning systems. In this case, authorities have determined the disease has spread via five local cooling towers.

How common is it?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 8,000 to 18,000 people in the U.S. are hospitalized with Legionnaires’ disease each year. Those most at risk of infection are men and women over age 50, smokers, people with chronic lung disease and those with weak immune systems, according to the NIH. The New York Times reports that cases of Legionnaires’ disease in the city increased to 225 in 2014 compared to 73 cases reported in 2004.

Can it be treated?
Yes. Most people recover with antibiotics, but the disease can be severe, and in some cases, fatal. The fatality rate for the disease can be as high as 30% depending on the outbreak, according to the CDC.

What’s it like to have Legionnaires’ disease?
Most people who are infected will not get sick, but those who do can experience respiratory issues like fever, cough and chills. Symptoms of the infection usually do not emerge until two to 10 days after exposure. The Health Department has warned New Yorkers who experience these symptoms to seek medical attention.

How can I protect myself?
Be wary of sources of water vapor. Hot tubs are one of the more common carriers of Legionnaires’ bacteria, and the CDC recommends hot tub owners be especially diligent about disinfecting their tub’s water. The Times reports many New Yorkers in the affected area are drinking bottled water, though the city has said tap water is safe.

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

Here’s Why You Should Take Your Child’s Picky Eating Seriously

Despite the fact that many doctors dismiss picky eating as just a phase, a new study shows it may be a sign of deeper issues

Rare is the child who will eat pretty much anything. Most toddlers develop specific favorite foods and, of more concern, absolute no-go foods.

To a certain extent, that’s normal. But when eating preferences make it difficult for the child to eat with others, that could be a sign of more serious sensitivities, say scientists in a report appearing in Pediatrics.

Nancy Zucker, director of the Duke University Center for Eating Disorders, and her colleagues looked into the implications of picky eating when she made a connection between more and more adults with eating-related issues who reported having been picky eaters as children. No studies had looked in depth at the longer term effects of selective eating during childhood, so Zucker studied 917 children two to nearly six years old who were enrolled in an anxiety study. The children’s parents recorded their eating habits, and the researchers conducted tests to determine how the children scored on measures of anxiety and symptoms of mood disorders.

About 20% of the children were picky eaters, meaning they either ate only a restricted number of foods or could not eat with others because of their limited range of food preferences. Only about 3% fell into the latter category of severe selective eaters. Those children were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression or social anxiety. Even children in the moderately picky eating group were more likely to show symptoms of depression, social anxiety or attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder compared to children who weren’t picky eaters.

Zucker says the findings shouldn’t alarm parents, but should help them and their doctors to start being more specific about when picky eating is normal and when it should be seen as a sign of possible anxiety issues. What may be happening, she says, is that selective eating may be a symptom of a broader hyper sensitivity. So for certain children who see, feel, hear and taste their world more intensely, being picky about which foods they eat may be a way of coping with an otherwise overwhelming influx of sensory information. “The restriction and narrowness in eating is a way of simplifying their rich, overwhelming world,” she says.

She stresses that it’s only a theory, but in her study, there was evidence that for the severe picky eaters, and for some of the moderately picky ones, their aversion to certain food tastes and textures wasn’t just ‘yuck’ but involved gagging.

While Zucker doesn’t want to turn picky eating into a “medical” condition, she does feel that parents need more guidance from pediatricians about what to do if their children become selective eaters. Parents are already confused by advice from pediatricians that includes urging them to feed their children a varied diet, including fruits and vegetables, to help their development, but at the same time telling them not to worry if their child refuses to eat certain foods.

Her advice? “Try to get meal times back,” she says. That means not trying to force children to eat foods they don’t like at meals, since they’ll start associating the table with unpleasant experiences. Instead, try introducing them to new or non-favorite foods at different times, as part of food adventures, to help them become more comfortable with and willing to try new things.

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