Learning the ins and outs of the latest technology is a lot like learning to swim or ride a bike: The younger you are, the more naturally it comes. This is troubling news for parents who already feel two steps behind their digitally savvy children.
While assisting with traditional school work poses enough challenges, parents now need to help their children build wikis and solve math problems on iPad apps. As schools shift toward online platforms and E-learning devices, tech-challenged parents may feel intimidated.
The good news is that keeping up with the digital pace is as simple as starting a conversation, says Monica Vila, founder and “chief technology mom” of The Online Mom, a website focused on helping parents embrace technology. “You’re never behind the curve as a parent completely if you’re involved,” Vila says.
Vila and other tech-savvy parents and educators offer some advice to keep up with your child’s technology, while also keeping your family safe from digital traps.
1. Show and tell: If your child is using a device, program, or website
Nothing lasts forever, not even electronics. “People assume electronic components will not age,” says Bianca Schroeder, a computer scientist at the University of Toronto. Without moving parts, electronics seem unlikely to wear out. Yet even a standard memory module comprising little more than a capacitor and a transistor can begin to dodder. “It’s kind of surprising, but most of the computer components I look at show signs of aging,” Schroeder says.
Still, system-reliability experts know relatively little about components’ life spans in the wild. “We don’t have much data,” Schroeder admits. “People usually don’t run their computers long enough to find out if they die.” Not to mention, manufacturers don’t like to publish failure rates from their in-house product tests, and according to Schroeder, “they have no knowledge of how these components behave in the field.” Lab testing environments rarely match the physical jostling, temperature swings, and dust accumulation of the real world.
A few facts are known. In 2014, software engineer Brian Beach put out reliability stats for Backblaze, a data-storage company that runs 35,000 disk drives at all times. He found that
Despite the fact that we use it every day, most of us don’t really know where the Internet comes from or how it works. Hint: it’s not magic, and it’s not exactly a ‘series of tubes’.
In a paper that was presented at the Sigcomm conference this summer, researchers have put together a fuller picture of the physical internet–the cell towers, routers, switches, and fiber-optic cables that make the World Wide Web work. They ended up creating the first detailed, public map of Internet infrastructure.
Sure, you could just go to Comcast’s website to see where its network coverage is, but the maps that have been available so far have been either far less detailed or decentralized.
The researchers combined data from companies like Comcast and Verizon with data from the Internet Atlas project, and then added in information found in public records to build a U.S. map of the long-haul fiber-optic wired Internet–which is the static underlying infrastructure that connects cities across the country. The amount of data combing and combining they did is impressive, to say the least.
Whales are awesome and important. But because they are so big and sensitive to sound, researchers have a hard time collecting all the data they need without freaking them out. Now, whale biologists from the nonprofit Ocean Alliance have teamed up with students from the Olin College of Engineering to create drones that can capture one of the most important biological materials–a whale’s snot–without disturbing the animals. They’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund their research.
Whale “blow” is the combination of mucus, or snot, water, and tissue that may sound very gross, but is essential for whale biologists–from it, they can tell if the whales are stressed or pregnant based on their hormones, check their snot to see if they are infected with any viruses, or gather tissue samples for DNA analysis.
Normally, the process to collect whale blow requires the researchers to travel next to the whales in boats and extend a 10 foot-long pole over the blowhole in the hope of capturing some of the ejected substance. This is very annoying and disruptive to the whales, as the researchers note in their Kickstarter video in which they harass Sir
Apple is aiming to profoundly change the way doctors and patients interact. Last week, the company demonstrated one of its newest medical apps, called AirStrip, which allows doctors to read a patient’s heart rate and other acute health statistics. The app can now be used on the Apple Watch, allowing doctors to view a patient’s health information on the go, from their watch, anytime.
While the Apple Watch app is still new and in its early stages, its implications for the healthcare industry could be vast. The founders of the AirStrip company believe it could help doctors better monitor patients with chronic illnesses–such as heart disease, diabetes, and even COPD–from home. It could also increase the line of communication between doctors and patients, without having the patients make a trip to the hospital.
Apple clearly wants to not only break into the healthcare industry but also become a leader in the technology that could mobilize healthcare. But they aren’t quite there yet. While their app, HealthKit, allows users to track simple things like the number of steps they take or their sleeping habits, that app’s usership is small compared to the amount of