TIME Innovation

How to Reduce Earthquake Deaths

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

These are today's best ideas

1. We know how to reduce earthquake deaths. So why aren’t we doing it?

By Brad Plumer in Vox

2. Your next bus might be an Uber.

By Lisa Nisensen in Strong Towns

3. Here’s why a woman is twice as likely to die during childbirth here than in Saudi Arabia.

By Danielle Paquette in the Washington Post

4. You don’t own your medical data, but getting a peek could save your life.

By Niam Yaraghi and Joshua Bleiberg at Brookings

5. DARPA’s magic bullets change course to hit moving targets.

By Rich McCormick in the Verge

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 Humor

9 Sounds That No One Can Explain

Have you heard these sounds before?

Everyone has a favorite Wikipedia rabbit hole. Mine is “List of Unexplained Sounds.” I can’t remember how I first made my way to the page, but its array of sonic mysteries has shown me that while space is incredible, our planet is its own frontier of intrigue and unexplainable phenomena.

  • 1. Upsweep

    Upsweep is an unidentified sound that’s existed at least since the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory began recording SOSUS—an underwater sound surveillance system with listening stations around the world—in 1991. The sound “consists of a long train of narrow-band upsweeping sounds of several seconds duration each.” The source location is difficult to identify, but it’s in the Pacific, around the halfway point between Australia and South America. Upsweep changes with the seasons, becoming loudest in spring and autumn, though it isn’t clear why. The leading theory is that it’s related to volcanic activity.

  • 2. The Whistle

    The Whistle was recorded on July 7, 1997, and only one hydrophone—the underwater microphones used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)—picked it up. The location is unknown and limited information has made it difficult to speculate on the source.

  • 3. Bloop

    Bloop is the big kahuna in unexplained sounds. In 1997 (a big year for auditory ocean mysteries), an extremely powerful, ultra-low-frequency sound was detected at various listening stations thousands of miles apart and traced to somewhere west of the southern tip of South America. The sound only lasted about a minute and and was heard repeatedly over the summer, but not since. Bloop is generally believed to be the sound of a massive icequake, but scientists haven’t totally ruled out the possibility that the sound originated from something “organic.”

    That’s where things get eerie. If an animal was the source of Bloop, it would have to be larger than a blue whale. The most fanciful of all theories stems from the fact that Bloop’s location is somewhat close to author H.P. Lovecraft’s fictional sunken city of R’lyeh, where the creature known as Cthulhu lies “dead but dreaming.” Cthulhu can best be described as part man, dragon, and octopus, which seems as likely a source as any for the ocean’s greatest aural anomaly.

  • 4. Julia

    Julia was recorded on March 1, 1999, lasted for roughly 15 seconds, and was loud enough to be heard by the entire Equatorial Pacific Ocean hydrophone array. An Antarctic iceberg run aground is the leading suspect for its source.

  • 5. Slow Down

    Slow Down was first recorded on May 19, 1997 and is also credited to an iceberg running aground, though some people insist it might be a giant squid. The sound, lasting about 7 minutes, gradually decreases in frequency, hence the name “slow down.” Like Upsweep, the sound has been heard periodically since it was initially detected.

  • 6. The Hum

    The Hum has been recorded on several occasions, mostly during the last 50 years or so. In these cases, there have been reports of a relentless and troubling low-frequency humming noise that can only heard by a certain portion of the population. It’s difficult to pinpoint when instances of the Hum began, but it’s been well-documented since the 1970s, and since then, cases have popped up all over the world—from Ontario, Canada to Taos, New Mexico to Bristol, England to Largs, Scotland and Auckland, New Zealand.

    In most instances, the affected group only makes up around two percent of the population, but for those individuals, the Hum is largely inescapable and impossible to track. Those affected report never having heard noises before, and say the Hum is generally heard indoors and becomes louder at night. It’s also most common in rural and suburban areas and among people between age 55 and 70.

    Scientists have long investigated the cause of the drone, occasionally tracing it to industrial equipment emitting particular frequencies. For the most part, though, the sound has left the world completely puzzled. The list of other possible culprits is long and wide-ranging—wireless communication devices, power or gas lines, electromagnetic radiation, radio waves, or earth tremors are all suspects. Because the Hum appears and disappears and because the cause may vary from case to case, the phenomenon still baffles researchers. At this point, a few things are clear: The Hum is real and likely a byproduct of 21st-century living.

  • 7. Skyquakes

    Skyquakes, or unexplained sonic booms, have been heard around the world for the last 200 years or so, usually near bodies of water. These headscratchers have been reported on the Ganges in India, the East Coast and inland Finger Lakes of the U.S., near the North Sea, as well as in Australia, Japan, and Italy. The sound—which has been described as mimicking massive thunder or cannon fire—has been chalked up to everything from meteors entering the atmosphere to gas escaping from vents in the Earth’s surface (or the gas exploding after being trapped underwater as a result of biological decay) to earthquakes, military aircraft, underwater caves collapsing, and even a possible byproduct of solar and/or earth magnetic activity.

  • 8. UVB-76

    UVB-76, also known as “The Buzzer,” has been showing up on shortwave radios for decades. It broadcasts at 4625 kHz and after repeated buzzing noises, a voice occasionally reads numbers and names in Russian. The source and purpose has never been determined.

  • 9. 52-Hertz Whale

    This animal, also known as the loneliest whale in the world, calls at a highly unusual 52-hertz, well above the normal frequency. Scientists have been listening to 52-Hertz for decades, and recently, filmmakers raised $400,000 on Kickstarter to seek the mammal out. It should be noted that the fundraiser reached its goal through the help of Leonardo DiCaprio, another mysterious beast.

    This article originally appeared on Mental Floss.

    More from Mental Floss:

TIME Innovation

Watch This Unnerving Video of Defense Department’s Self-Steering Bullets

Even a novice shooter scored a direct hit with the course-correcting bullet

The U.S. military has developed a self-steering bullet that can change direction midair to hit a moving target, and now you can see it in action.

The Department of Defense’s research agency, DARPA, released footage on Monday showing the bullet, after completing a prototype in February, as part of DARPA’s Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) program. Footage posted to DARPA’s official YouTube channel shows live-fire tests by an expert sniper and a first-time sniper. In both cases, the bullet course corrects in midair, speeding toward a target even if it’s not centered in the crosshairs. An optical guidance system enables the bullet to compensate for weather, wind and other factors that might push it off course.

DARPA hailed the results as the “most successful” live-fire test of the technology to date.

TIME Innovation

What Happens After Assad

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

These are today's best ideas

1. Assad might be on his way out. But things will get worse before they get better.

By Walter Russell Mead in the American Interest

2. You could rent a Tesla battery to power your house during a blackout.

By Benjamin Preston in the Guardian

3. It’s really going to happen: A Greek exit from the Euro is almost inevitable.

By the Economist

4. Inmates are having burner phones and marijuana delivered by drones.

By Michael S. Schmidt in the New York Times

5. Can we reinvent elite education at half the cost?

By Jeff Selingo at LinkedIn

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 Web

Now Google Can Tell You Whether Your Fashion Sense is Trending

The company's inaugural fashion report details what styles and garments are growing in popularity, based on search queries

Google really does know everything—including how fashionable your outfit is.

A new report by the search giant claims to reveal the fashion trend du jour by tracking how often different styles or garments are entered into search queries.

This year, for example, Tulle skirts have grown in popularity according to trending Google apparel searches by 34% from January 2014 to January 2015, and jogger pants are also apparently increasingly ubiquitous, according to the report.

Google distinguishes in the report between “sustained growth” and “seasonal growth” trends, like emoji shirts and kale sweatshirts. According to the report, peplum dresses and string bikinis are on their way out for good, while skinny jeans and corset dresses are just seasonally on the down-and-out. Jumpsuits and rompers are seeing a renaissance this spring.

Google’s insight into fashion trends has allowed it to begin consulting for major retailers including Calvin Klein, which use Google search data in fashion planning.

“We’re interested in being powerful digital consultants for our brands, not just somebody they can talk to about what ads they can buy online,” said Lisa Green, who heads Google’s fashion and luxury team, told the New York Times.

You can check out the report here.

TIME psychology

Atul Gawande: The Building Industry’s Strategy for Getting Things Right in Complexity

construction-site-checklist
Getty Images

Shane Parrish writes Farnam Street

Checklists establish a higher level of baseline performance

A useful reminder from Atul Gawande, in The Checklist Manifesto:

In a complex environment, experts are up against two main difficulties. The first is the fallibility of human memory and attention, especially when it comes to mundane, routine matters that are easily overlooked under the strain of more pressing events. (When you’ve got a patient throwing up and an upset family member asking you what’s going on, it can be easy to forget that you have not checked her pulse.) Faulty memory and distraction are a particular danger in what engineers call all-or-none processes: whether running to the store to buy ingredients for a cake, preparing an airplane for takeoff, or evaluating a sick person in the hospital, if you miss just one key thing, you might as well not have made the effort at all.

A further difficulty, just as insidious, is that people can lull themselves into skipping steps even when they remember them. In complex processes, after all, certain steps don’t always matter. … “This has never been a problem before,” people say. Until one day it is.

Checklists seem to provide protection against such failures. They remind us of the minimum necessary steps and make them explicit. They not only offer the possibility of verification but also instill a kind of discipline of higher performance.

***

How you employ the checklist is also important. In the face of complexity most organizations tend to centralize decisions, which reduces the risk for egregious error. The costs to this approach are high too. Most employees loathe feeling like they need a hall pass to use the washroom. That’s why these next comments were so inspiring.

There is a particularly tantalizing aspect to the building industry’s strategy for getting things right in complex situations: it’s that it gives people power. In response to risk, most authorities tend to centralize power and decision making. That’s usually what checklists are about—dictating instructions to the workers below to ensure they do things the way we want. Indeed, the first building checklist I saw, the construction schedule on the right-hand wall of O’Sullivan’s conference room, was exactly that. It spelled out to the tiniest detail every critical step the tradesmen were expected to follow and when—which is logical if you’re confronted with simple and routine problems; you want the forcing function.

But the list on O’Sullivan’s other wall revealed an entirely different philosophy about power and what should happen to it when you’re confronted with complex, nonroutine problems—such as what to do when a difficult, potentially dangerous, and unanticipated anomaly suddenly appears on the fourteenth floor of a thirty-two-story skyscraper under construction. The philosophy is that you push the power of decision making out to the periphery and away from the center. You give people the room to adapt, based on their experience and expertise. All you ask is that they talk to one another and take responsibility. That is what works.

The strategy is unexpectedly democratic, and it has become standard nowadays, O’Sullivan told me, even in building inspections. The inspectors do not recompute the wind-force calculations or decide whether the joints in a given building should be bolted or welded, he said. Determining whether a structure like Russia Wharf or my hospital’s new wing is built to code and fit for occupancy involves more knowledge and complexity than any one inspector could possibly have. So although inspectors do what they can to oversee a building’s construction, mostly they make certain the builders have the proper checks in place and then have them sign affidavits attesting that they themselves have ensured that the structure is up to code. Inspectors disperse the power and the responsibility.

“It makes sense,” O’Sullivan said. “The inspectors have more troubles with the safety of a two-room addition from a do-it-yourselfer than they do with projects like ours. So that’s where they focus their efforts.” Also, I suspect, at least some authorities have recognized that when they don’t let go of authority they fail.

This piece originally appeared on Farnam Street.

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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

This Is Why Fingerprints Are Forever

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

These are today's best ideas

1. You can change your password if someone steals it, but you’re stuck with your fingerprints forever.

By Aarti Shahani at NPR

2. Can teaching kids to be tough make up for income inequality?

By Rachel M. Cohen in the American Prospect

3. You don’t need a nuclear arsenal to feel safe.

By Erlan Idrissov in the Diplomat

4. America’s high school dropouts are quitting school to go to work.

By Molly M. Scott at the Urban Institute

5. Here’s how AI will help your doctor diagnose cancer better.

By Adam Conner-Simons at MIT 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

Are We Breaking Up With Saudi Arabia?

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

These are today's best ideas

1. Is the special Saudi-U.S. relationship on the rocks?

By Ray Takeyh at the Council on Foreign Relations

2. Two-year degrees can really pay off.

By Liz Weston at Reuters

3. A self-contained urban farm, delivered in a box, could slash water use by 90 percent.

By Danny Crichton in TechCrunch

4. How a lake full of methane could power Rwanda and DR Congo.

By Jonathan W. Rosen in MIT Technology Review

5. Nope, we’re not going to live on crickets in the near-future.

By Brooke Borel in Popular Science

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 Automobiles

Audi Wants to Deliver Amazon Packages to Your Car

Couriers would track your car with GPS and open the trunk with a one-time access code

Is it a car, or a mobile mailbox? One car manufacturer wants to make it both.

The German carmaker Audi said Wednesday it will begin testing a delivery system in Munich that will allow people to order products from Amazon and have them delivered to the trunk of their car.

The idea is to make it easy for people to receive packages when they’re not at home.

An Audi spokesman told the New York Times that the pilot project would be the first auto delivery system involving an online retailer. Volvo has already tested package delivery to cars and will roll out the service soon in Sweden.

The Audi service would involve the German package delivery company DHL, who would send a delivery worker to a GPS-tracked car and open the trunk using a one-time, temporary-use code and deposit a package. The technology would have to be installed in your car, and would come with all new vehicles.

[NYT]

TIME Innovation

Save the Planet With More Energy, Not Less

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

These are today's best ideas

1. What if to save the Earth, we need more energy and development, not less?

By Eric Holthaus in Slate

2. No big deal: Kids can now send their science experiments into space.

By Charley Locke in EdSurge

3. We basically know how to end — or at least stop the growth of — homelessness.

By Tim Henderson in Stateline

4. Soon, you could 3D-print your dinner.

By Heidi Ledford in Nature

5. Is this the technology that will finally give us flying cars?

By David Morris in Fortune

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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