Interesting Things You Need to Know

Interesting Things You Need to Know
Getting rid of the penny
March 3, 2018

Eliminating the penny from circulation would save everyone time and money, according to the Brookings Institute. As recently as the 1940s a penny had the purchasing power of about 66 cents of today’s money and allowed stores to price a lot of cheap goods at that denomination. Fast forward to the year 2018 and almost nothing can be bought for a penny.

They take up space in registers and pockets and create unnecessary wastes of time in the checkout line.

More egregious is that pennies currently cost about two cents to make at today’s costs, so the government and taxpayers are effectively losing money with every minted coin.

What’s your two cents?

Interesting Things You Need to Know
Do you know where this was in Front Royal?
February 15, 2018

Here’s a picture of the Morgan Duck Ranch which started operation in the late nineteenth century.

Do you have pictures of Front Royal/Warren County to share? Let us know.

Interesting Things You Need to Know
Virtual reality enters the critical safety training areas
February 6, 2018

Safety training is no game, but game technology is the future in safety.

Instead of watching a safety film, trainees will soon be part of the film, in Virtual Reality experiences.

These new VR technologies are now being applied in highly dangerous scenarios, such as nuclear and crime settings, where one mistake is catastrophic. VR technology is also being used in training for many safety-critical jobs.

The idea is to create a situation where trainees learn by doing, but where mistakes have no impact. Imagine how useful that would be to teach a trainee how to diffuse a bomb.

Google experimented with VR training by having two groups learn to make a cup of espresso. One group learned by VR. The second group learned by videos. According to CLO Media, neither group ended up making a great cup of coffee, but the VR group made fewer mistakes. That’s the sort of result one hopes for in bomb diffusing.

At the Northern Centre for Advanced Technology, VR experiences will help new miners with mining techniques, simulating the environment and the experience of cutting rock.

In construction, VR is already being employed at Gammon Construction Ltd and Bechtel, according to Iron workers, whose job entails working at tremendous heights, can first be immersed in a VR scene that gives them a chance to become accustomed to working on beams.

In August 2017, UPS began training student delivery drivers to spot and identify road hazards through VR headsets.
VR safety has the advantage over movies and presentations in that trainees are likely to be more engaged in the fun and novelty of the experience.

But, the key to adoption of VR training across the spectrum is software development cost, which is expected to drop as more applications are developed.

In the meantime, Augmented Reality, like the technology used in games such as Pokemon Go, will take up some slack. Trainees could use AR, a much less expensive virtual technology, to identify slip and fall scenarios, for example.
Current VR technology has limitations, of course. Among them are the safety considerations of VR itself. Since participants are immersed in the VR environment, they tend to forget the hazards around them. Even in gaming, special rooms are set up so that VR gamers can play without tripping over furniture and humans monitor their physical presence.

VR is even coming to medicine. The University of Nebraska Medical Center has invested $119 million on a VR training facility for students. It is expected to open in the fall of 2018.

Interesting Things You Need to Know
Golf’s problem with distance
January 31, 2018

Very few amateur golfers would welcome the idea of creating a golf ball that would reduce the distance of their drives, but according to the Wall Street Journal that might be what is coming to the professionals who play the game.

The issue, at its heart, is how good these professionals have become at driving the traditional golf ball. When Tiger Woods burst onto the scene in 1996, for instance, not a single player could claim a 300-yard drive. However, last year’s season featured 43 such players. This is causing issues for courses that have been around for a hundred years that were never designed with this level of play in mind.

To combat this issue, many clubs have turned to expanding their courses to help provide more challenge to the best players of the game. The downside to this solution is that the clubs have to pass the costs of expansion, land purchases, development, upkeep, etc. to the average player as they are the ones responsible for the majority of their income. While professionals’ wallets won’t be affected much, amateurs will feel the hurt, and this could endanger the love of the game among its fans.

One idea, proposed by the U.S. Golf Association and endorsed by Tiger Woods, is to create different balls for different levels of the game. Similar to how weight classes work in some sports, the ball would help level the playing field between amateurs and professionals. The game’s highest levels would be played with the most challenging balls, and it would bring drive distances back in line with traditional norms.

The governing bodies want to be able to include as many people as possible in their sport, and they are willing to think outside the box to accomplish that goal. In addition to golf balls with different weights, some people are even tossing around the idea of a bigger, lighter ball that could let children get the hang of the game without getting overly frustrated with the standard gear. To really hit the mainstream, however, a prominent club or tournament would need to embrace the idea.

Interesting Things You Need to Know
Bill Gates’ smart city
January 24, 2018

As innovation continues its march into the future, many wealthy individuals and professional investors are looking for ways to build a city from the ground up that can fully incorporate all that modern technology has to offer.

According to NBC News, Bill Gates is the most prominent name behind one of these ‘smart cities’ currently being planned in an open area of Arizona near Phoenix. Developers have promised that the new city, proposed to be named Belmont, will bring like-minded people together in an attempt to build an infrastructure based on cutting edge technology, data centers, high-speed networks, manufacturing methods, and autonomous vehicles and logistics hubs. Arizona has had a good track record with embracing new technology. Their openness has already lured such companies as Uber, Waymo, and Intel which all have testing sites in the state.

CNN highlights the fact that Cascade Investment, an investment firm owned by Gates, has put 80 million dollars into the project so far and they are envisioning the city to eventually rival the size of Tempe, Arizona which has a population of 182,000 people. Starting from scratch, they argue, will be much more cost-efficient and less complicated than trying to reinvent an existing town. This method allows the developers to decide where commercial, industrial, and residential space will be from the beginning, how they will connect, and work to improve the quality of life for the people who live and work there.

These types of projects have become more popular as of late and other big names, such as Google, have committed their own funds to projects in other parts of North America with a similar goal of recreating a city that takes full advantage of modern advancements in technology. Perhaps the most significant recent announcement, a 500 billion dollar pledge from Saudi Arabia for a metropolis spanning three countries, shows that many companies and nations are getting serious about creating their own technological utopias.

Interesting Things You Need to Know
Six mistakes to avoid for a super-special birthday party
January 20, 2018

Would you like to throw a memorable party for your child’s upcoming birthday? For a snag-free celebration, don’t make these common party planning mistakes:

1. Inviting the whole neighborhood: keep the guest list as short as possible to avoid ending up in charge of a flock of overexcited children, especially if you’re the sole supervisor.

2. Sending last-minute invitations: send out your invitations at least two weeks before the party to give yourself and other parents enough time to prepare.

3. Planning too many activities: don’t get carried away with a jam-packed schedule. Two or three fun activities—a magic show, a treasure hunt, an arts and crafts project—will be more than enough to keep everyone occupied.

4. Not considering allergies: better safe than sorry, as they say. Ask invitees’ parents if their children have any allergies or other dietary restrictions and plan your menu accordingly.

5. Letting the party drag on: so much excitement will have your pint-sized guests tuckered out faster than you might think. Three hours is a good length for a kids’ birthday party.

6. Having no plan B: if the party is set to take place mostly outdoors, make sure you have an alternative in case the weather doesn’t cooperate. Kid-approved options include a trip to a museum or to an indoor playground.

Interesting Things You Need to Know
Wasting the time of email scammers
January 20, 2018

The average person deals with an incredible amount of email throughout their workday and having to deal with email spam and scammers can add further frustration to the experience. According to Engadget, a company called Netsafe has created a service named ‘Re: scam’ that embraces the spirit of nagging emails by replying to scammers automatically to waste as much of their time as possible.

Driven by multiple bots that each have their own character persona, scammers will be treated to endless replies filled with seemingly benign questions and sometimes hilarious stories. Representatives from the company claim that they have handled up to 1,000 concurrent email exchanges at one point and their record sits at 20 replies.

Interesting Things You Need to Know
Where are the parrots?
January 17, 2018

The beautiful and endangered Puerto Rican parrot should begin nesting this month in tree cavities throughout the El Yunque National Forest.

Except the forest is bare.

After two devastating hurricanes, the El Yunque forest of Puerto Rico is denuded of its canopy and, most ominously, it is silent.

No bird calls echo through the forest and none of the characteristic shrieks of the native Puerto Rican parrot.
The parrot, called iguaca, is found only in Puerto Rico. Once a million strong, by 1973 only a dozen parrots remained. Captive breeding programs have brought the numbers up to 500, more than half in the wild. An elaborate hurricane protection program saved 230 captive birds. But the double punch of two hurricanes in 2017, have left researchers wondering about the fate of the wild population.

Did they go elsewhere? Were they killed? And if they lived, where will they nest?

Since the storm, researchers have identified about 80 parrots, foraging for royal palm fruits, the last remaining of the scarce vegetation.

Some evidence hints that wild birds may have traveled away from the storm. One parrot was spotted miles away from the forest.

A few individuals were found dead.

What survivors there are will have to make a living in a forest without cover, at risk of attack by hawks. Artificial tree cavities are largely gone and trees are knocked down all over the forest.

Researchers fear an entire generation of parrots may be lost to the storms.
New York Times.

Interesting Things You Need to Know
More precious than diamonds: The rarest blood in the world
January 14, 2018

Suppose in one room we gathered Duffy, Kidd, Diego, Lutheran, Langereis, Vel, and Junior.

This would constitute a most extraordinary meeting because these are the names of the rarest blood types ever identified. Only 550 people in the world have Lutheran blood, for example.

But if in that meeting we included a man named Thomas from Switzerland, you would have the rarest meeting in the history of the earth.

There’s no engaging name for Thomas’ blood, except insofar as some have called it ‘golden.’ His blood is RH-null and it is so extraordinary that, of the 7.5 billion people in the world, only 43 have ever been identified as having it and only nine are active blood donors today.

Most people know there are eight blood types: A, B, AB, and 0, positive or negative. But each of these blood types can be divided into distinct varieties depending on which antigens the blood contains or doesn’t contain. AB blood has A and B antigens. O blood doesn’t have either. Positive blood contains the Rh D antigen; negative blood lacks it. But there are hundreds of antigens coating the blood, making perhaps millions of combinations, according to Smithsonian.
It’s important to know the antigen profile of blood because, if the wrong antigen combination is transfused, a patient can die. Even so, doctors do millions of transfusions every day with few complications.

But golden blood is unique, and that is an understatement. Rh-null has no antigens. It can be accepted by anyone with a rare blood type in the RH system and that makes it infinitely precious. It is so precious that it is never used except under the most extreme circumstances.

The flip side is that a person with RH-null blood can only accept RH-null blood. That means Thomas of Switzerland should never find himself in the position of needing a blood transfusion. If he does, he should certainly not find himself in a remote part of the world. This rare blood can be provided if the tiny number of donors are available, but it requires an international mobilization of blood providers to do it. Much would depend on timing and Thomas’ location.

In 2014, Thomas told Mosaic Science that he drives carefully, never speeds, and doesn’t take vacations to exotic locales. But he does ski.

Interesting Things You Need to Know
How to spot an online hoax
January 13, 2018

The next time an acquaintance shares a shocking article on social media, prompting an almost instant flurry of scandalized comments and polarizing debates, step back for a moment to consider what you’re reading. Hoaxes, rumors and other fake news stories travel at the speed of light these days, so it’s important to think critically before you react.

The source
The first thing to do when you read an article with a sensationalized headline (i.e. “clickbait”) is to check if the information is corroborated by a credible source (a trusted news organization, for example). If no recognizable news outlet has covered the story, chances are it’s made up or, at the very least, somewhat embellished.

The format
Also pay attention to the way the information is presented. Written material that contains spelling and grammar mistakes, overuses capital letters or punctuation, or includes lots of superlatives should be taken with a grain of salt, as should shocking photos, incredible statistics or quotes from “experts” who may benefit personally from the propagation of the story.

Always remember that real journalists who work for credible media organizations are held to a high ethical standard. They must rigorously fact-check their sources and, most of all, remain objective in their coverage.

Why create hoaxes?
Hoaxes have been around forever, and are often created purely to mislead the public. They’re sometimes used to harm a particular person or organization, or to spread controversial ideologies. In the digital realm, some hoax creators do it to gain more clicks and views, driving up advertising revenue for their website.