TIME Innovation

We Were Wrong About Fat

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. We were wrong about fat.

By Eliza Barclay at NPR

2. Want to boost graduation rates for poor students? End merit-based college scholarships.

By Meredith Kolodner at Hechinger Report

3. Here’s how the iPhone will help scientists study the unique health needs of LGBT Americans for the first time.

By Stephanie M. Lee in Buzzfeed

4. We can fight cholera by crowdsourcing better maps.

By Tom Gorman in Ozy

5. Does air pollution cause dementia?

By Aaron Reuben in Mother Jones

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

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 Innovation

Two Driverless Cars Almost Collide on the Road

Cars from Google and its competitor Delphi came close to an accident

Two driverless cars from competing companies came close to getting in a fender bender in Palo Alto.

Cars being tested by Delphi Automotive and its rival, Google, found themselves on the same road during recent test drives, Reuters reports. The Delphi car, an Audi, was planning to change lanes when the Google car, a Lexus, cut it off. A Delphi executive who was a passenger in the car said it reacted appropriately and abandoned its lane change. Google did not comment to Reuters.

While both company’s cars have been involved in minor fender benders with vehicles driven by humans, this is thought to be the first close call between two automated cars.

[Reuters]

 

TIME world affairs

Why Every American Should Adopt a Second Country

world-map-watercolor
Getty Images

Zocalo Public Square is a not-for-profit Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.

A modest proposal for changing the way we see the world—and ourselves

About 10 minutes into the soccer game, Sebastian’s cries of “here,” “behind you,” and “cross it” became cries of “aquí,” “atrás,” and “al centro.” I’d never heard so much Spanish voluntarily pour out of my 10-year-old. There is nothing like a hunger for the ball. And nothing like full immersion in a foreign language.

I brought Sebastian to the quaint colonial gem of San Miguel de Allende in central Mexico for a couple of weeks of Spanish and art classes. But mostly, I wanted him to soak up the atmosphere of his other country, the one where his dad was raised. The one his dad feels guilty his son doesn’t know better.

I grew up in Mexico, in a split household – American mother, Mexican father. Two languages, two passports, two sets of cultural mores; two favorite sports; two historical narratives; two kinds of humor; two culinary traditions. I grew up always synthesizing, comparing, navigating, blending mischievously. Toggling between two worlds is what experts in bilingualism call it. My parents did what I haven’t done adequately for my son – they forced me to speak the other language (in our case, English) at home to make us fully bilingual.

Only in retrospect do I appreciate how much effort that took on their part, and what a phenomenal gift it was. In real time, it was more of a pain – and a mortifying one, at that, when Mexican friends would come over and my mom would speak to them in English.

North of the Rio Grande, generations of immigrants have struggled with the challenge of keeping in touch with their other country, and handing down its language and culture to their children. It’s never been easy, especially because prevailing notions of American supremacy and exceptionalism create a disincentive to studying other languages or cultures. My own son generally goes about his fourth-grade, suburban Maryland existence fairly confident he lives in the center of the universe, with little need to learn from the rest of the world.

The dirty little secret is that the more Sebastian steps out of his comfort zone, and the more he learns about his other country and culture, the better he will also come to understand the United States and his American identity. People are constantly extolling the study of foreign languages and cultures because it helps us better understand the rest of the world, and because it turns out that being bilingual is good for the brain (thanks, ma!). But one of the corollary benefits of spending time immersed in a foreign culture – as important as any other benefit – is that you gain a better understanding of your own.

Imagine if you spent your entire life going out to only one restaurant. Would you really know its essence? Doesn’t your appreciation and understanding of a place require some comparative context?

I remember when growing up in Mexico, looking into the U.S. from the outside, being struck by the disconnect between the tenor of news in the two countries. Mexico, for all its wonders, was clearly the less democratic and less prosperous of my two countries. But you wouldn’t know that from comparing the press in both countries. The copies of Time that made their way to Chihuahua weeks late described a country that was falling apart, while the front pages of the local papers all extolled the achievements and virtues of Mexico’s revolution. I thus acquired a deeper appreciation for how freewheeling criticism is a hallmark of a society that is never complacent, always moving forward. But you can’t know what’s distinctive about one place until you’ve sampled others.

That’s why all Americans should adopt a second country, if they don’t already have one. Recent immigrants and their families shouldn’t be the only ones to benefit from toggling between cultures.

Here’s how it would work: Every American second grader would be assigned a second country. School districts would organize annual festivals around a lottery that matched kids with their second countries, with which they’d establish a long- term relationship. Thanks to the ubiquity of interactive learning software and video conferencing, hundreds of kids in a school could be learning dozens of languages during this “global hour” by connecting to their fellow Pashtun or German or Vietnamese students and teacher remotely. (Occasionally kids and guest speakers in the foreign country would join the conversation.) Now that distance learning is a reality, kids shouldn’t be limited to choosing only between French or Spanish, or whatever languages their schools manage to find instructors in.

Under my proposal, kids would study their second language and culture through high school, and be provided creative exchange and entertainment opportunities within their bi-national community. Students would belong to strong networks connecting them not only to their assigned country, but also to others across America assigned to the same country. The result would go beyond creating a far more cosmopolitan and informed citizenry. This would be the most ambitious public diplomacy ever deployed by a great power.

America’s economic competitiveness and security interests would also be served by having a deep bench of regional experts, of people invested in other cultures. As Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan noted in a 2010 speech on foreign language education, 95% of college students enrolled in a language course study European languages, but fewer than 1% study a language the Defense Department considers critical to national security. Even when language study is influenced by market-based reactions to what’s in the news – the post-Sputnik spike in Russian study, the post-9/11 spike in Arabic study – the results tend to be transitory and scattered.

By contrast, my second grade students-to-countries matching lottery would guarantee a more rational distribution of interest and knowledge. We need Americans who understand and appreciate Indonesia, Kenya, and even countries like the Netherlands, regardless of whether or not they happen to be in the news. These long-term relationships with their second countries would be among the most rewarding and fun educational experiences for American kids.

That’s my proposal, anyways. Back here in the real world, however, the trends are heading in the opposite direction. Less than one in five Americans speaks another language (compared to slightly more than half of all Europeans) and many of these Americans, in immigrant families, wouldn’t have picked up the language in school. Only a quarter of all elementary schools offered foreign language instruction in 2008, compared to about a third a decade earlier. In our schoolyards, it’s as if the rest of the world were shrinking in economic and strategic importance to us.

Meanwhile, I will continue trying to expand Sebastian’s horizons, and appreciation for his other country. A Father’s Day lunch in San Miguel was a modest score along the way. Sebastian blurted out, “They should do this in the States,” referring to the sliced limes routinely served at meals here. I smiled. The boy was thinking comparatively, assessing how restaurants, and countries, vary – and can learn from each other.

Provecho.

Andrés Martinez is the editorial director of Zócalo Public Square and a professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University.

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 Innovation

NASA Is Sending Microsoft’s Most Incredible New Tech Into Space

HoloLens is now literally out of this world

NASA will launch two Microsoft HoloLens augmented reality headsets into space, the agency revealed on Thursday. They’re headed to the final frontier in order to bolster communications between astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and technicians back on earth.

The devices are slated to launch on a June 28 SpaceX resupply mission to the ISS.

NASA is touting the HoloLens’ interactive 3D interface as an effective way to replace verbal instructions with holographic illustrations that can overlay directly onto an astronaut’s surroundings.

“HoloLens and other virtual and mixed reality devices are cutting edge technologies that could help drive future exploration and provide new capabilities to the men and women conducting critical science on the International Space Station,” said ISS Program Director Sam Scimemi in a statement.

NASA released footage of Microsoft’s HoloLens team, including lead designer Alex Kipman, giving the HoloLens a spin (literally) aboard NASA’s Weightless Wonder C9 jet. The space agency estimates that after an extended round of testing, astronauts will be able to use the HoloLens by the end of the year.

The partnership between NASA and Microsoft’s HoloLens team, dubbed Project Sidekick, will be extended to a second test under the water on July 21, when NASA astronauts and engineers will bring the HoloLens down to the world’s only undersea research station, Aquarius. The two week trial is meant to simulate an extended mission into deep space.

“Sidekick is a prime example of an application for which we envisioned HoloLens being used – unlocking new potential for astronauts and giving us all a new perspective on what is possible with holographic computing,” said HoloLens designer Kipman in a statement.

TIME Innovation

Creating Soldiers Who Lack Fear

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. The Pentagon wants to make soldiers literally fearless.

By Max Plenke in Mic

2. Could ‘see-through’ trucks make highways safer?

By Sarah Caspari in the Christian Science Monitor

3. Are workplace wellness programs becoming worker harassment?

By Julie Appleby in Kaiser Health News

4. Roses are red, condoms are blue…if you have syphilis.

By Danny Gallagher at CNet

5. A simple way to pull pure hydrogen out of water could give us unlimited, clean-burning fuel.

By Mark Shwartz in Stanford News

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

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 Innovation

Fight Prison Gangs by Breaking Up Big Prisons

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. America’s biggest prisons are factories exporting prison gangs. Break them up.

By David Skarbek and Courtney Michaluk in Politico

2. Find out why demographics and a charismatic leader still aren’t enough to make a majority party.

By Suzy Khimm in the New Republic

3. Denied a seat at the table of global power, the BRICS nations are building their own table.

By Shashi Tharoor in Project Syndicate

4. With an implanted treatment that blocks a narcotic high, one doctor wants to end addiction.

By Sujata Gupta in Mosaic Science

5. Your next insurance inspector could be a drone.

By Cameron Graham in Technology Advice

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

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 Innovation

Here’s How IBM Is Helping Towns Predict Disasters

Widespread Damage And Casualties After Tornadoes Rip Through South
Joe Raedle—Getty Images An ominous looking cloud hangs above the remains of a home that was destroyed by a tornado on April 29, 2014 in Tupelo, Mississippi.

IBM's new prediction tool marries live weather forecasts with a hyperlocal map, painting in yellow and red the damages to come

Every city has what emergency response crews call its “critical assets.” They’re roads, power stations, water pumps and pipes — the collective infrastructure that has the power to keep a city humming or bring life to a grinding halt. The question for city officials is when and if, exactly, these critical assets might fail. In severe weather, they typically find out the hard way.

Just this week, severe thunderstorms and twisters forced more than 15 fire departments and rescue teams to fan out across central Illinois. With crews already stretched thin, forecasters are predicting another round of severe weather to pummel the region. Help might arrive sooner if emergency crews had a map of which roads would become treacherous, which power stations would fail and which water mains would burst before the storm rolled into town.

That, in a nutshell, is the pitch for a new predictive tool IBM has unveiled in partnership with The Weather Company, parent company of The Weather Channel. Dubbed the “Intelligent Operations Center for Emergency Management,” the new platform marries live weather forecasts with a hyperlocal map of a city’s infrastructure, painting in yellow and red the predicted damage to come. With natural and man-made catastrophes taking 7,700 lives and upwards of $110 billion in damages in 2014, according to estimates by insurer Swiss Re, the market potential for a predictive tool is promising, to say the least.

The new software comes amid a surge of investment in big data solutions for public safety. Startup Mark43 is digitizing police records in an attempt to map out criminal networks. Motorola is embedding sensors into equipment used by police and fire crews to tap into a live feed of data from first responders. But IBM’s solution marks perhaps the most ambitious attempt to tease out the underlying order of chaotic events.

“I’m watching how those assets are affected to figure out, ‘Where do you begin?'” says Stephen Russo, director of emergency management solutions at IBM. “How do you get the biggest bang for your efforts?'”

Russo and his team used historic data from natural catastrophes to ascertain the breakpoint of certain assets — like when a power line might snap under high winds. The risk of failure is often as capricious as the wind itself. “It’s not a linear relationship,” says Russo. Power outages rise exponentially as wind speeds climbs from 20 mph to 40 mph, for instance. “When it goes from 40 to 50 mph, the amount of outages is much greater,” says Russo. And that’s the easy part of IBM’s catastrophic calculus.

Harder still is predicting which critical buildings — hospitals, schools and shelters — are most likely to suffer an outage. Throw in a few more assets, and no human statistician could ever hope to calculate the odds. IBM is betting machine learning algorithms can weigh the probabilities of failure in an instant and spit out ever-changing snapshots of disaster zones.

“Everybody sees the same picture of what’s going on,” says Mark Gildersleeve, president of The Weather Company’s professional division. “You’ve quantified the impact. Objectively, what are the areas most under stress?”

IBM envisions the map as a canvas for communication between emergency workers in command centers and various outposts. Top officials will have a bird’s eye view of relief efforts, while field workers can populate the map with reports from the ground. In its most ambitious form, the map could scale out to actors in the private sector. “The big ox carriers during a disaster, the Walmart’s and Costco’s, could position their resources more accurately and take more of the burden off of the public sector, so that they are not having to stock a warehouse full of water and generators.” Insurers might also use the maps to send pinpointed alerts to policyholders, warning them to cover their cars, for instance, before a hail storm bursts overhead.

But first, IBM will have to get all of those myriad actors on board its system. Fortunately for its sales team, the platform doubles as an ordinary emergency response system, recording routine traffic accidents as well as nature’s most brutal events. But the true test of the system will come at those unpredictable moments when the skies open up and the earth shakes beneath users’ feet. With severe thunderstorms threatening 50 million Americans this week, the solution can’t come soon enough.

TIME Innovation

Therapy Without the Therapist

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are the best ideas of the day.

1. The only thing missing from this surprisingly effective therapy is the therapist.

By Tina Rosenberg in the New York Times Fixes

2. America can’t beat ISIS until we convince Sunnis we care.

By Charles Lister in Markaz by the Brookings Institution

3. This is the best way to make nonprofits and foundations way more effective.

By Tate Williams in Inside Philanthropy

4. If everything has a price, here’s the cost of saving the planet.

By Anna Lieb in Nova Next

5. Here’s how ‘drug courts’ let judges practice medicine without a license.

By Maia Szalavitz in Pacific Standard

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

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 Innovation

The Military Is Building This Crazy Star Wars-Style Hoverbike

"There are a lot of advantages of the Hoverbike over a regular helicopter"

The U.S. Defense Department has taken the plunge on hoverbikes, striking a deal with a U.K.-based engineering firm to develop a functioning prototype vehicle that can conduct reconnaissance missions, deliver supplies or even ferry human passengers.

U.K.-based engineering firm Malloy Aeronautics grabbed the Defense Department’s attention with a functioning, small-scale model hoverbike. At three times the size, engineers say the bike could present a safer, cheaper and more portable alternative to the typical helicopter.

“Lots of them can be moved around and deployed in the places that you need them very easily and very quickly,” Malloy Marketing Sales Director Grant Stapleton told Reuters.

Malloy Aeronautics will set up a joint office with U.S.-based defense firm SURVICE Engineering Co. in Maryland, near the U.S. Army Research Laboratory. Still, there’s no guarantee the hoverbike could ever see active duty: a press release stresses the DoD deal is for research and development only at this point.

 

 

TIME Innovation

Building a Military of Hackers and Makers

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. The Pentagon needs a military full of makers and hackers. Here’s how to start.

By Patrick Tucker in Defense One

2. Want to close America’s digital divide? See how Globaloria teaches through games.

By Rebecca Reynolds and Ming Ming Chiu in Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology

3. Misdemeanors are the secret weapon of America’s structural racism.

By Evan Stewart in the Society Pages

4. The government agency that oversees industrial accidents is imploding.

By Dan Vergano in Buzzfeed

5. The “welfare queen” is a myth. Doctors are the true face of Medicare fraud.

By David A. Graham in the Atlantic

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

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.

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