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Technology can't make you fall asleep

Thu, 2015-01-22 02:00

If I learned anything from watching the Back to the Future movies, it is that prescience is dangerous. Someone who knows too much about their own future might try to reprogram it in their favor, and every small change has the potential to rewrite history.

In an early scene from Back to the Future Part II, Marty McFly and his girlfriend Jennifer Parker - played by Elisabeth Shue - travel from 1985 to 2015. The DeLorean is airborne and Doctor Emmett “Doc” Brown is wearing a funky visor.

But forget flying cars and fashion - Jennifer wants to know what happens to her in the future: “I’m gonna be able to see my wedding dress! I wonder where we live. I bet it’s a big a house with lots of kids!”

Worried about where her curiosity might lead her, Doc pulls out his sleep-inducing alpha rhythm generator - it looks like a pair of high-tech opera glasses - and knocks her out with a flash. Doc and Marty then hide Jennifer’s unconscious body in an alley to protect her from the shock of crossing paths with her future self.

"The future? Marty, what do you mean? How can we be in the future?"  

Doc Brown is a time travel expert and practiced meddler, so it is not surprising that he carries around a sleep-inducing alpha rhythm generator in case he needs one to cover his tracks. But does a sleep-inducing device exist in the real 2015? It does not - at least not in the way Back to the Future imagines.

That flash of light is the first clue that the technology is too good to be true. Researchers at Pennsylvania State University found that nighttime exposure to light - especially the kind emitted by electronic devices - makes it harder to fall asleep.

Aiming a little lower than instant-sleep-inducing technology, we find ourselves among a range of devices that won’t make you fall asleep, but might make you sleep better.

The U.S. military is very interested in efficient sleeping. In 2003, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) put $20 million toward its “Continuous Assisted Performance program,” research that looked for ways to keep soldiers awake for up to seven days “without suffering any deleterious mental or physical effects and without using any of the current generation of stimulants,” according to DARPA’s then-director Tony Tether.

In conjunction with DARPA, a company called Advanced Brain Monitoring is developing a sleep mask called the Somneo Sleep Trainer. It blocks light and noise, and heating elements around the eyes may help people reach a deeper stage of sleep faster.

Another technique to encourage better sleep is called transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS. TMS uses magnetic fields to create small electrical currents in parts of the brain, and researchers are trying to tune those currents to nudge a sleeping brain toward restorative, REM sleep.

Sarah Lisanby is Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University. “Sleep is a rhythm,” she says. “And you can actually use the different forms of stimulation - such as magnetic stimulation, or direct electrical stimulation, or sensory stimulation - at different frequencies to modulate those brain rhythms. The idea is to try to entrain the rhythmic activity of the brain in a way that would be comparable to sleep.”  

Which brings us back to Doc’s device. Alpha waves are a type of brain wave that occur during REM sleep. If an alpha rhythm generator did exist, maybe it would stimulate the brain rhythms associated with restorative sleep. But there is another flaw in its design.

Brain-stimulating technologies like TMS are better at suggesting behaviors than forcing them. So, short of a blow to the head or some other kind of trauma, there isn’t a reliable, non-invasive way to knock someone out. To put someone to sleep, they have to want it.

You can find more from our Back to Back to the Future Part II series at Gizmodo’s Paleofuture blog and on Soundcloud.

When the Government fakes out Facebook

Thu, 2015-01-22 01:30
2,400 jobs

Following a disappointing holiday season for sales, Ebay announced it would be cutting 2,400 jobs — roughly 7 percent of its workforce. The  e-commerce company will soon be dividing its PayPal and eBay marketplace businesses into two publicly traded companies.

25 minutes

That's how long President Barack Obama talked about the economy in his hour-long State of the Union address Tuesday, more than any other topic. That's according to the Washington Post, which broke down the speech by topic. Twitter's data scientists also annotated the speech, showing which topics were being tweeted about when both Obama and Iowa Senator Joni Ernst were addressing the nation.

22 years

We've heard of taking a break, but this is a bit ridiculous. A.K. Verma, an executive engineer at the Central Public Works Department in India, took a leave of absence ... back in 1990. In 1992, he was found guilty of  "willful absence," but it would take another 22 years before he was actually fired.

$85,000

That's how much ShipYourEnemiesGlitter.com sold for Wednesday, after the site became a sensation over the weekend, pulling in over 20,000 orders. Flipping these types of viral sites is common, Motherboard reported, usually when the owner hopes to cash in before a fad burns out.

$134,000

That's how much the U.S. Justice Department will have to pay Sondra Arquiett for using pictures of her to create a fake Facebook profile. Arquiett was arrested in 2010 for allegedly being involved in a drug ring. At the time, her phone was confiscated, at which point she gave permission for officers to access data to help with the investigation. She did not, however, anticipate that they would later use photos found on her phone to make a Facebook profile with the intent of trapping her boyfriend, also suspected of being involved in illicit activity. 

72 percent

The portion of Airbnb listings in New York that violate zoning or other laws, according to a report the states's attorney general released last fall. Now the city is using new data-driven tools to crack down on these listings, WNYC reported. One official called the practice "'Moneyball' for quality of life violations," and it means 30 percent more work without hiring anyone new.

Ruthless smuggling trade's new business: 'Ghost ships'

Wed, 2015-01-21 12:03

The wars in Syria and Iraq have triggered an unprecedented wave of refugees eagerly seeking – and prepared to pay for – a new life in Europe.

The United Nations reckons that last year 170,000 migrants, who are fleeing war, persecution or simply seeking a better standard of living, have arrived in Italy. Many have paid people traffickers to smuggle them in, making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean in small fishing boats and even rubber dinghies. More than 3,000 lives have been lost. 

But now the traffickers have developed another business model to cater to this burgeoning new trade: It’s been called “the Ghost Ship” route, and here’s how it works: You buy a battered old cargo ship, pack it with hundreds of migrants, sail it across the Mediterranean, aim the vessel at the coast of a European Union country, and then abandon the ship and hope that the migrants reach safety. 

The Ezadeen, a 50-year-old former livestock carrier, is one of these so-called “ghost”  ships. The Italian Coast Guard intercepted it at sea last month, on its way from Turkey to Italy, and found 359 migrants on board, most of them Syrians, but no actual ship crew.

“It was incredibly dangerous,” says Ewa Moncure of Frontex, a European Union border agency. “There were no lifeboats or life vests." The crew apparently abandoned the ship at full-speed at night in the Mediterranean, a danger to those on board and to others who are at sea, Moncure says.

Three of these ghost ships carrying a total of more than 1,000 migrants have arrived in European waters in recent weeks, an escalation by traffickers that does not entirely surprise experts on this grisly trade. Andrea Di Nicola, a criminologist at the University of Trento and co-author of “Confessions of a People Smuggler,” says traffickers are always quick to exploit a new business opportunity. “These are businessmen, opportunistic, criminal businessmen.” he says. "And this is a travel agency, the most ruthless travel agency on the planet. There’s a huge profit involved.”

Let’s look at the costs. “Ships at the end of their working life are worth little more than the scrap value they will yield if they are sailed to the breaking yards of Bangladesh or India.” says David Osler of Lloyd's List, a maritime newspaper. Italian police claim that one of the ghost ships, the Ezadeen, cost the smugglers only $110,000.

Now, consider what the smugglers are charging for the trip: up to $6,000 per passenger.

“We estimated that one of the ships should have grossed revenues of $3 million," says Joel Millman of the International Organization of Migration. "So if you do the math, you can see there are millions to be made.”

It looks like all of the passengers that have arrived on ghost ships so far are likely to be offered asylum. So far, none have perished at sea. The smugglers’ new business model is paying off, for the smugglers and their customers.

But the scale of the operation is putting many more people at risk. With another four ghost ships reportedly ready to sail, more migrant lives are likely to be lost in the Mediterranean this winter.

The true biography of 'Davos Man'

Wed, 2015-01-21 11:15

The origins of "Davos Man" are murky.  

As a name, it's often an epithet, spoken with venom. It refers both to the individual human beings who attend the World Economic Forum at a ski resort in Davos, Switzerland each year, and the global, capitalist power structure they are taken to represent.

Its first use is often credited to "The Clash of Civilizations" by Samuel Huntington, but, in fact, the words "Davos Man" never actually appear in the book. Instead, the earliest reference I could find was an editorial from 1997 in The Economist, "In Defense of Davos Man," that ostensibly reviews Huntington's book. It seeks not to bury, but to praise and defend "Davos Man" as a paragon of a global capitalism that could transcend culture and bring people of the world together. Here is the ending:  

Although 40 or so heads of state will troop to Davos this weekend, the event is paid for by companies, and run in their interests. They do not go to butter up the politicians; it is the other way around (see previous leader). Davos Man, finding it boring to shake the hand of an obscure prime minister, prefers to meet Microsoft's Bill Gates.

All this should cheer up Mr Huntington, not cast him down. Some people find Davos Man hard to take: there is something uncultured about all the money-grubbing and managerialism. But it is part of the beauty of Davos Man that, by and large, he does not give a fig for culture as the Huntingtons of the world define it. He will attend a piano recital, but does not mind whether an idea, a technique or a market is (in Mr Huntington's complex scheme) Sinic, Hindu, Islamic or Orthodox. If an idea works or a market arises, he will grab it. Like it or loathe it, that is an approach more likely to bring peoples together than to force them apart.

Matthew Bishop, an editor at the Economist who was in the meeting that debated this editorial in 1997, says elements of the argument are still valid.

But Seyla Benhabib, professor of political science and philosophy at Yale University, says the forces that Davos Man represents have also pulled people apart, exacerbating global inequality.

Felix Salmon, senior editor at Fusion, says Davos Man hasn't changed since he started attending. "Rich people don't change that much, I don't think," he says.

Fallout from S&P ban could last longer than a year

Wed, 2015-01-21 11:14

The Securities and Exchange Commission banned Standard & Poor's, the world's largest credit rater, from a large part of the mortgage market for one year. SEC says the time out is because of ratings S&P issued in 2011 that regulators claim were “misleading.”

The suspension will bar S&P from rating securities backed by bundles of loans tied to such structures as shopping malls and office buildings. The ban is significant because investors typically require these kinds of bonds to be graded by two of the three ratings agencies, and now that S&P has been benched, the math is easy.

"So, who do they go to? They have to now, sort of go to Moody's and Fitch," says Amiyatosh Purnanandam, a University of Michigan finance professor. The long-term impact of the ban may extend well beyond a year because so much sensitive information is shared with ratings agencies. "Once you as a potential rater have giving all of this Fitch, you would be reluctant to switch to S&P, even after a year when S&P comes back into the game," he says.

S&P can still issue ratings for corporate bonds. They can also service the residential and municipal bond markets. Moreover, some say the securities S&P is not allowed to rate were never really in its wheelhouse.

"It’s not like these companies are going to be doing more business now that S&P has dropped out," says Dick Larkin, director of credit analysis for H.J. Sims.

In a statement, S&P said that it does not admit or deny any of the charges filed against it. The company also agreed to pay $77 million to the SEC, New York and Massachusetts to settle charges tied to its ratings of mortgage-backed securities.

Tootsie Roll CEO, 95, leaves behind a sweet legacy

Wed, 2015-01-21 11:05

Melvin Gordon, 95, who was the serving chief executive of Tootsie Roll Industries, a company he had run for more than a half-century, died yesterday. He will be succeeded by his wife, Ellen Gordon, who had been its president and COO.

Traders think the transition will lead to a buyout, which led to a 7.1 percent increase in shares today, according to Bloomberg.

Which leads to the question ... Tootsie Rolls are part of a publicly traded company? Well, yes, since 1922 when it was first listed on the New York Stock Exchange as Sweets Company of America. The company changed its name to Tootsie Roll Industries Inc. in 1966.

This vintage animated commercial from the 1970s is a testament to just how little the brand has changed over the years: The same color scheme, font and signature wrapper have stood the test of time to the present day. "Whatever it is I think I see, becomes a Tootsie Roll to me," sings a young child as the commercial complements the lyrics by having everything the animated children touch turn into animated, chewy, chocolate candy. 

Tootsie Roll Industries is one of the largest candy companies in the United States. It also owns Blow Pop, Junior Mints and Dubble Bubble, to name a few. What is perhaps the brand's most famous ad campaign asked a question that has been haunting candy lovers for years: How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?

The owl's answer — three — proved to be unsatisfying, since more than one group of students has tried to come up with a more scientific answer. (The Venn diagram of engineers and candy eaters apparently has a significant overlap.) A group at Purdue University created a licking machine that took an average of 364 licks to get to the Tootsie Roll center, while a group at Michigan's licking machine averaged 411 licks. The cow, the fox, the turtle and the owl don't know the answer ... and neither does anyone else.

Europe considers quantitative easing

Wed, 2015-01-21 10:00

The European Central Bank is expected to announce a large bond buying program Thursday. Quantitative easing, as it’s called, could help boost the moribund eurozone economy by encouraging investment, but many are not on board. The Germans are the biggest critics, reminded of hyperinflation nearly a century ago, and worried that QE would let weaker European economies off the hook. 

 

Explaining 'middle-class economics'

Wed, 2015-01-21 09:55

Ask just about anybody, and they’ll tell you they’re part of the middle class.

“Certainly, it is the label of choice,” says Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of Gallup. More than half of the people in Gallup's last survey identified themselves as middle class, he says. But there’s more to it than just wealth, or income. “Middle class seems to be a very comfortable place for Americans to put themselves,” Newport says.

In Tuesday's State of the Union address, President Obama called middle-class economics "the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. "

But "middle class" has no formal economic definition, meaning many people define it themselves.

“And that often means working, not relying on government," says Melissa Kearney, director of the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution. "But it’s really a nebulous concept.”

Politicians love to talk about middle-class Americans, Kearney says, but it’s hard to tailor government programs to them, precisely because there’s no middle-class definition. As a result, Obama’s plan bleeds over to not-so-middle class Americans, she says.

“Some of these tax benefits would extend to folks – couples making $200,000,” she says, referring to beneficiaries of a proposed tax credit for two-income couples. 

Other parts of the president’s plan apply mainly to low-income Americans – things like increasing the minimum wage and instituting paid sick days. The president’s proposal would have to be more targeted to reach people truly in the middle of the pack.

Did he hit the target? 

“He threw a water balloon at it, and it splattered all over the place,” says Sharyn O’Halloran, a professor of political economy at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. “He saw a target – middle class – and just made a bunch of big sweeping proposals which he thought would be appealing to them.”

The proposals won’t necessarily be appealing to Congress.  Still, O’Halloran says, the president has set the stage for Democrats who want to make middle class economics part of the 2016 presidential race.

Marketplace's live coverage of the 2015 State of the Union address

Wed, 2015-01-21 09:41
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Pennsylvania installs prefab bridges

Wed, 2015-01-21 08:40

Building a bridge takes years. That’s a problem, because many states have crumbling infrastructures, and they’re looking for ways to shore it up with limited funds.

That's why the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is speeding things up. PennDOT is hiring a team of private contractors to quickly replace hundreds of state bridges.

"We expect that we're going to deliver 558 bridges in 3½ years, instead of what would have taken us eight to 12 years under our traditional method," says PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch.

Prefab bridges

The key is mass production. First, the engineers will put together a couple dozen standard, cookie-cutter designs. They’ll mix and match pieces of those designs based on each bridge site.

Manufacturers will then make some of the concrete bridge parts, perhaps 50-foot bridge surfaces, for example. Everything can't be made in a factory, but they’ll standardize whatever they can.

A construction crew usually has to wait weeks for each section of concrete on a bridge to harden and strengthen before they can move forward, says Andrew Swank, president of Swank Construction, who says his company will replace some bridges under the state's new program. That means means construction on a small bridge can take months, he says.

Building a bridge with factory-made parts only takes a couple of weeks because the pieces are hardened ahead of time and arrive ready to assemble, Swank says.

It's kind of like buying a bookshelf from IKEA. "The pieces will have slotted ends. This piece will fit into this piece and key into this piece," he says.

The construction team uses a crane to lift the pieces, slides them into place and has "a bridge in very short order," Swank says.

Engineers say factory-built bridge parts are actually stronger than poured concrete, because they’re made at the exact right temperature, away from rain, snow and weird weather.

Other states

Pennsylvania isn’t the first state to mass-produce its bridges. Missouri recently fixed and replaced more than 800 bridges in 3½ years.

Utah has also tried replacing some of its bridges with prefabricated parts, says Andy Herrmann, former president of the American Society of Civil Engineers. “Florida, New York, Washington and Virginia are also looking into it,” he says, “because they have so many deficient bridges they have to fix, and they’re trying to do it quickly.”

Pennsylvania is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on its program, which it says will still be 20 percent cheaper than traditional methods.

Quiz: Extracurricular coding

Wed, 2015-01-21 07:39

Computer programming contests have become so popular on college campuses that an international organization formed to host events.

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Seaweed: ‘Adventurous' and a $6.4 billion industry

Wed, 2015-01-21 07:09

If someone mentions "edible seaweed," the first thing that often comes to mind is the sushi nori that holds a California roll together. And in fact, East Asia is one of the world's largest consumers of seaweed.

Over time, seaweed's global presence expanded to other parts of the world, and it has become a $6.39 billion farming industry worldwide – a move that hardly surprises Paul Dobbins, president of Ocean Approved, the first commercial kelp farm in the U.S.

"We saw the level of consumption of seaweed globally and realized it was only a matter of time before it started to be reintroduced into our country," he says. "Seaweed was eaten by our indigenous population before the colonists came along. When my great-grandmother in Newfoundland was a little girl, they would eat seaweed in the winter as a way to get your green nutrition at a time when there weren't any green plants available."

Dobbins says he holds a significant share of the seaweed market in high schools and colleges, as demand for healthier dietary options continues to grow.

"It's an adventurous food. It's not something they were probably served when they were really young," he says.

As for Dobbins' favorite way to eat seaweed? Tossed in with scrambled eggs, shrimp, and cheese, not terribly unlike an omelet.

Seaweed: ‘Adventurous' food's a $6.4 billion industry

Wed, 2015-01-21 07:09

If someone mentions "edible seaweed," the first thing that often comes to mind is the sushi nori that holds a California roll together. And in fact, East Asia is one of the world's largest consumers of seaweed.

Over time, seaweed's global presence expanded to other parts of the world, and it has become a $6.39 billion farming industry worldwide – a move that hardly surprises Paul Dobbins, president of Ocean Approved, the first commercial kelp farm in the U.S.

"We saw the level of consumption of seaweed globally and realized it was only a matter of time before it started to be reintroduced into our country," he says. "Seaweed was eaten by our indigenous population before the colonists came along. When my great-grandmother in Newfoundland was a little girl, they would eat seaweed in the winter as a way to get your green nutrition at a time when there weren't any green plants available."

Dobbins says he holds a significant share of the seaweed market in high schools and colleges, as demand for healthier dietary options continues to grow.

"It's an adventurous food. It's not something they were probably served when they were really young," he says.

As for Dobbins' favorite way to eat seaweed? Tossed in with scrambled eggs, shrimp, and cheese, not terribly unlike an omelet.

From seaweed to shining seaweed

Wed, 2015-01-21 07:09

If someone mentions 'edible seaweed,' the first thing that often comes to mind is the sushi nori that holds the innards of a California roll together. And in fact, East Asia is one of the world's largest consumers of seaweed.

Over time, seaweed's global presence expanded to other parts of the world, and has become a $6.39 billion farming industry worldwide—a move that hardly surprises Paul Dobbins, the president of Ocean Approved, the first commercial kelp farm in the U.S.

"We saw the level of consumption of seaweed globally, and realized it was only a matter of time before it started to be reintroduced into our country," he said. "Seaweed was eaten by our indigenous population before the colonists came along; when my great-grandmother in Newfoundland was a little girl, they would eat seaweed in the winter as a way to get your green nutrition at a time when there weren't any green plants available."

Dobbins says he holds a significant share of the seaweed market in high schools and colleges, as demand for a healthier dietary options continues to rise.

"It's an adventurous food. It's not something they were probably served when they were really young," he said.

As for Dobbins's favorite way to eat seaweed? Tossed in with scrambled eggs, shrimp, and cheese, not terribly unlike an omelet.

PODCAST: VIP internet

Wed, 2015-01-21 03:00

What Wall Street won't like about what President Barack Obama called "middle-class economics." Plus, chief executives from cities across the country gather in the nation's capital this week, as the U-S conference of Mayors meets in Washington ... amid an economic recovery that is boosting some but not all city budgets. And internet providers say its their equipment, so why shouldn't they be able to offer VIP fast internet to favored business partners? Supporters of network neutrality say all online content should be treated equal. But how the internet works has changed a lot in recent years, and as we find out, regulators aren't sure yet how to handle it.

Cities booming, with some left behind

Wed, 2015-01-21 02:00

The U.S. Conference of Mayors meets this week in Washington to discuss the past and future of urban policy.

But while many urban centers are experiencing economic revitalization, hunger and poverty are also increasing in several major U.S. cities. 

Click the media player above to hear more.

The other Super Bowl halftime show ... on YouTube

Wed, 2015-01-21 02:00

For this year's Super Bowl halftime, while Katy Perry entertains a broadcast TV audience, YouTube will be, for the first time, live streaming its own halftime show starring its video celebrities.

Research shows YouTube stars are hugely influential among teens, and that is translating to billions in advertising revenues.

Click the media player above to hear more.

Is net neutrality the real issue?

Wed, 2015-01-21 02:00

It used to be, way back when — say, two years ago — that when you clicked on a Netflix video, it would take a winding journey from a server in one location, through wires owned by any number of companies, until finally it hit your internet service provider. These days, that journey is a whole lot shorter.   

“A few feet,” says Richard Bennett, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. 

More often than not, Netflix just connects a wire from its server to boxes owned by ISPs like Comcast, Verizon or Time Warner. They’re generally in the same building. 

This is called interconnection, and it’s how most of our internet traffic gets to us now. It’s more reliable and efficient. Think: less buffering. And, increasingly, content companies like Apple, Google, and, of course, Netflix are paying fees for this service.  

This is where things get controversial.

“In America, where these very few ISPs have so much market power that they can extract payments, it's just like the mob,” says Susan Crawford, who co-directs Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. "Just say, 'you’re not going to reach our subscribers unless you pay us.'” 

The Federal Communications Commission is getting more complaints about these deals. And, now, it has to decide what — if anything — to do about them. It’s not sure whether interconnection should be part of net neutrality regulations expected next month, tackled separately later on, or left alone completely.

That’s what many ISPs would like. 

“We all get the services we want,” says Matthew Brill, a partner at Latham & Watkins who represents many big ISPs. “There’s a real danger that if government gets in the middle of those relationships, it will distort things in a way that ends up very harmful for consumers.” 

But what if Netflix videos are basically unwatchable unless Netflix pays an ISP for a direct connection. Is that fair?

“Comcast could say, well, you’re using a third of our traffic, and we could say, well, we’re providing a third of the value your subscribers are getting, so you should pay us instead,” says Ken Florance, Netflix’s vice president of content delivery.  

What Netflix really wants is to pay nothing. It will be up to the FCC or Congress to decide whether they have a role in these disputes.

What can you make with cardboard and tape? A robot.

Wed, 2015-01-21 02:00

There’s a new DIY robotics toolkit in town, and you don’t need to know anything about electronics or programming to use it. HandiMate, developed by researchers from Purdue and Indiana universities, lets children (or anyone else) build robots with cardboard, velcro, and other cheap, easily available materials. They can even control it wirelessly through hand gestures while wearing a glove that acts as a controller. And, according to Kylie Peppler, one of the researchers and an assistant professor at Indiana University, it’s also “gender neutral.”

“It can be whatever color you want it to be,” says Peppler. The idea is to use the kit to teach children concepts in a way that's fun and engaging. The play — the process of building the robot — lasts about 90 minutes, and in that time students use engineering principles that are typically taught in college.  

Since the toolkit uses recyclable materials like cardboard, Peppler says it’s cost-effective and accessible for schools across the board.

She thinks the DIY approach is a great way to get kids to think on their own and innovate. During the research, for instance, they found that children often improvised with the kit to make their robots different — Like the 11-year-old who wanted to build one with legs, or the 14-year-old who wanted to mount his robot on a car.

“A more playful approach to learning gets us to redesign and rethink,” she says.

And on the seventh day, Amazon applied dynamic pricing

Wed, 2015-01-21 01:30
43.3 percent

Of the proposals delivered during previous State of the Union speeches, 43.3 percent, on average, actually are enacted during the following year, according to data collected from 1965 to 2002. But the actual legislative success varies from year to year. Check out the State of the Union, by the numbers, here.

40 percent

That's how much the largest overseas investor in U.S. shale, BHP Billiton Ltd., will cut its oil rigs in the states, going from 16 to 26 by July. As Bloomberg reports, the move comes amidst worries about lower iron ore earnings as petroleum prices drop. 

115.3 million viewers

That's how many people watched last year's Superbowl halftime show, featuring Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. That's the largest audience in the history of the game. But this year, viewership may be divided between the televised entertainment, and a YouTube halftime show featuring internet celebrities.

$1 billion

"Shh, I'm trying to Shazam this song," said your friend at every coffee shop ever. As reported by the New York Times, the smartphone app that can identify songs has raised $30 million in new funding, putting the company's valuation at $1 billion.

$8.49 to $16.99

And on the seventh day, Amazon applied dynamic pricing to the Bible. As reported by Quartz, the price of a standard King James version of the Holy Bible on Amazon has fluctuated quite a bit in the last couple years (100 times in five years, to be exact), ranging from $8.49 at its lowest to $16.99 at its highest. Most likely, its an automated algorithm responding to the ups and downs in consumer demand.

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