Tuesday, March 9, 2021

World’s food waste mostly from households, UN report estimates

Instead of finishing your leftovers, you let them go bad and buy takeout. It’s a familiar routine for many and indicative of habits that contribute to a global food waste problem that a new United Nations report says needs to be better measured so that it can be effectively addressed. The U.N. report estimates 17% of the food produced globally each year is wasted. That amounts to 931 million metric tons (1.03 billion tons) of food. The waste is far more than previous reports had indicated, though direct comparisons are difficult because of differing methodologies and the lack of strong data from many countries. Most of the waste, or 61%, happens in households, while food service accounts for 26% and retailers account for 13%, the U.N. found. The U.N. is pushing to reduce food waste globally, and researchers are also working on an assessment of waste that includes the food lost before reaching consumers. Food waste has become a growing concern because of the environmental toll of production, including the land required to raise crops and animals and the greenhouse gas emissions produced along the way. Experts say improved waste tracking is key to finding ways to ease the problem, such as programs to divert inedible scraps to use as animal feed or fertilizer. The report found food waste in homes isn’t limited to higher income countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom. (United Nations)


4-day work weeks may not be far off

It’s been buzzed about here before, and with the pandemic forcing many in the business world to rethink how we do business, rumblings of a four-day work week are once again picking up steam. Companies from Germany to New Zealand, Spain to Japan, have given it a whirl, with positive results. Job postings advertising 4-day work weeks have tripled over the past three years while data from the U.K.’s University of Reading reveal roughly two-thirds of businesses with a four-day week report improved productivity. (Bloomberg)


Let’s not forget the small talk

Anyone missing their water cooler chats with colleagues? In today’s work landscape where so many of us are working from home, small talk has all but vanished from our daily routines. Some researchers reminds us that even though most of our face-to-face time with coworkers is on Zoom, we can still incorporate banter in these virtual meetings, and doing so has tangible benefits. Follow these simple steps to bring back the small talk:

  • Small talk should be part of your meeting agenda.
  • Beginning meetings with an icebreaker or check-in can ignite conversations.
  • Introduce agenda items designed around opinions and conjecture
  • By including “unstructured time” at the end of meetings, you open the door for colleagues to continue chatting.

(Harvard Business Review)


A silver lining for working parents

Over one million parents have quit their jobs during the pandemic as caretakers juggle work, parenting and for many, homeschooling full time. Now, companies are scrambling to revamp benefits to help parents and other caretakers return to work. Employees are asking for more flexibility and roughly 98% of employers plan to expand their benefits while 66% are adding flexibility to help parents and other caretakers. And 63% are adding child care benefits.according to a survey from multiple human resource departments. However, such changes have been concentrated in remote, white-collar roles with very few options for “America’s most vulnerable caretakers.”  (Axios)


Iowa man accused of breaking into homes, recording women sleeping

A man in Ames, Iowa is accused of breaking into homes and recording video of women as they slept, authorities said. According to the Ames Police Department, the 29-year-old man broke into college-age women’s apartments in the city. Investigators said he did not always steal anything from the apartments but instead recorded the women. Authorities said the man’s actions escalated in November 2020 when he attacked a woman in her apartment. He was arrested after police searched his apartment and allegedly found evidence on his electronic devices, which linked him to the crimes. The 29-year-old  was arrested and charged with robbery, three counts of burglary, assault with intent to commit sexual abuse, stalking, trespassing, harassment and theft, according to Story County Sheriff’s Office online booking records. (WOI)


Myanmar protesters string up women’s clothes for protection

Protesters in Myanmar have taken to stringing up women’s clothing on lines across the streets to slow down police and soldiers because walking beneath them is traditionally considered bad luck for men. The wraparound cloths, known as longyi, are hung on washing lines. Sometimes women’s underwear is used too. “The reason why we hang the longyis across the streets is that we have the traditional belief that if we pass underneath a longyi, we might lose our luck,” said one 20-year-old protester who declined to give his name for fear of reprisals. For more than one month, protesters have demonstrated across Myanmar against the military coup on February 1st and the arrest of elected leader along with hundreds of others. More than 50 protesters have been killed by security forces. The lines of clothing do not stop police using teargas, rubber bullets and stun grenades. Some protesters have also been killed by live bullets. The army has said it has responded to the protests with restraint. The army seized power alleging fraud in a November election won by Suu Kyi’s party. The electoral commission had dismissed its allegations. (Reuters)


Electric cars get a needed boost

For electric vehicles to truly take off, we’ll need massive investment in charging stations, especially along highways. Charging stops are cropping up in the Northeast and the West Coast of the U.S., but there are sizable charging deserts in the Southeast and Midwest. Utility companies have begun to step up to fill this gap. On March 2, a coalition of six power companies announced a commitment to develop a network of charging stations near highways across 16 Southeastern U.S. states. Such a network can offer a new source of revenue for these utilities, and it can offer an outlet to put excess power to use during off-peak hours. (Quartz)


Women still largest share of jobless

We’ve seen a lot of data this week involving women and the workforce. Friday’s Labor Report revealed 61.4% of working-age Americans have a job or are looking for one in February, down from 63.3% last year during this time, with women accounting for the biggest share of dropouts. In addition, around 10 million mothers were out of the workforce, compared to 8.6 million in February of 2020. Meanwhile, analysis of recent census data, more mothers returned to work in the past few months, which has brought them closer to the employment levels of fathers. (The New York Times)


Engineers demonstrate 3D printing of organs 10 times faster than industry standard

A hand, which would take six hours to create using conventional 3D printing methods, demonstrates what University at Buffalo engineers say is progress toward 3D-printed human tissue and organs, biotechnology that could eventually save countless lives lost due to the shortage of donor organs. Engineers use a 3D printing method called stereolithography and jelly-like materials known as hydrogels, which are used to create, among things, diapers, contact lenses and scaffolds in tissue engineering. It’s something the research team spent a major part of its effort optimizing to achieve its incredibly fast and accurate 3D printing technique. Researchers say the method is particularly suitable for printing cells with embedded blood vessel networks, a nascent technology expected to be a central part of the production of 3D-printed human tissue and organs. (University of Buffalo)


At least 30,000 US organizations reportedly hacked by a Chinese espionage group exploiting a flaw in Microsoft’s email servers

The attack includes a significant number of small businesses, towns, cities and local governments. The espionage group is exploiting four newly-discovered flaws in Microsoft Exchange Server email software, and has seeded hundreds of thousands of victim organizations worldwide with tools that give the attackers total, remote control over affected systems. On March 2, Microsoft released emergency security updates to plug four security holes in Exchange Server versions 2013 through 2019 that hackers were actively using to siphon email communications from Internet-facing systems running Exchange. Since that time, security experts say the same Chinese cyber espionage group has dramatically stepped up attacks on any vulnerable, unpatched Exchange servers worldwide. In each incident, the intruders have left behind a “web shell,” an easy-to-use, password-protected hacking tool that can be accessed over the Internet from any browser. The web shell gives the attackers administrative access to the victim’s computer servers. Microsoft said it is working closely with the U.S. Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), other government agencies, and security companies, to ensure it is providing the best possible guidance and mitigation for its customers. (Krebs On Security)


Apple is discontinuing the iMac Pro

Apple is no longer making the iMac Pro, once the most-powerful computer the company offered. For those looking to get their hands on the all-in-one-Mac, they can still do so for a limited time. The $4,999 standard model can still be purchased on Apple’s website, but only while supplies last. Once existing inventory runs out, the iMac Pro will no longer be available. Apple released the iMac Pro in 2017, in which it was deemed “the most powerful Mac ever.” The all-in-one computer aimed at creatives and professionals features advanced capabilities for graphics and 3D rendering. However, the machine hasn’t gotten any major updates in the past few years. In August, Apple debuted its 27-inch iMac, which is the go-to iMac option for most customers. (CNN)


We produce happy and angry expressions more rapidly than sad expressions

A recent study quantified the speed of changes in distance between key facial expressions. Conducted by the University of Birmingham, scientists found that people tend to produce happy and angry expressions more rapidly, while sad expressions are made more slowly. In the examination, people were asked to generate facial expressions directed at a camera. They used an open-source programming program called OpenFace to track their facial movement. They estimated the speed of movement in regions of the face known to be significant in producing expression, including around the eyebrows, the nose, and the mouth, just as across the face in general. During the first part of the experiment, scientists studied the average speed at which participants produced different expressions. They showed differences in speed across emotions depends on the region of the face and the ‘type’ of expression being considered. In a second phase of the study, the team investigated what would happen if they captured schematic versions of facial expressions produced and manipulated the speeds involved. In this experiment, the scientists found that people would get better at recognizing it as happy or angry as the expression was speeded up. In contrast, if it were slowed down, people would more accurately identify it as sad. Scientists believe that this study could pave the way towards diagnosing autism and Parkinson’s disease. It could also be useful in a range of artificial intelligence applications such as facial recognition software. (Tech Explorists)


Field Research Shows Icing Can Cost Wind Turbines Up to 80% of Power Production

Wind turbine blades spinning through cold, wet conditions can collect ice nearly a foot thick on the yard-wide tips of their blades. That disrupts blade aerodynamics. That disrupts the balance of the entire turbine. And that can disrupt energy production by up to 80 percent, according to a recently published field study from researchers at Iowa State University. Researchers wanted to quantify what happens on wind farms during winter weather and so several years ago began organizing a field study. Operators of a 34-turbine, 50-megawatt wind farm on a mountain ridgetop in eastern China agreed to a field study in January 2019. Most of the turbines generate 1.5 megawatts of electricity and are very similar to the utility-scale turbines that operate in the United States. Because the wind farm the researchers studied is not far from the East China Sea, the wind turbines there face icing conditions more like those in Texas than in Iowa. Iowa wind farms are exposed to colder, drier winter conditions; when winter cold drops to Texas, wind farms there are exposed to more moisture because of the nearby Gulf of Mexico. As part of their field work, the researchers used drones to take photos of 50-meter-long turbine blades after exposure to up to 30 hours of icy winter conditions, including freezing rain, freezing drizzle, wet snow, and freezing fog. The photographs allowed detailed measurement and analyses of how and where ice collected on the turbine blades. The photos also allowed researchers to compare natural icing to laboratory icing and largely validated their experimental findings, theories, and predictions. The photos showed ice accreted over entire blade spans, but more ice was found to accrete on outboard blades with the ice thickness reaching up to nearly 1 foot)near the blade tips. The researchers used the turbines’ built-in control and data-acquisition systems to compare operation status and power production with ice on the blades against more typical, ice-free conditions. Despite the high wind, iced wind turbines were found to rotate much slower and even shut down frequently during the icing event, with the icing-induced power loss being up to 80%, the researchers wrote. (Scitech Daily)


Tuesday Comes A Knockin’ On The Door With:

  • Barbie Day
  • Crabmeat Day
  • Get Over It Day
  • Joe Franklin Day
  • Meatball Day
  • Organize Your Home Office Day (2nd Tuesday)
  • Panic Day
  • Unique Names Day (Tuesday of First Full Week)
  • Urban Educator Day