Big Tech &
Amazon offered vendors ‘Amazon’s Choice’ labels in return for ad spending and lower prices (4 minute read)
Amazon has recently come under fire as it was discovered that it previously allowed vendors the ability to bid for an Amazon's Choice badge by lowering prices and spending more money on advertising. The Amazon's Choice label gives certain products and items priority and better visibility in search results. Vendors with the label would see an increase in sales. Amazon has denied that this bidding program existed. The company has since switched to using algorithms to determine who gets the Amazon's Choice badge. However, with the new algorithm, Amazon frequently recommends inferior and defective products, as well as products whose reviews have been manipulated by the seller. Two senators have asked Jeff Bezos to explain how products are chosen for Amazon's Choice, as if sellers can pay for the badge, it would limit competition in the marketplace.
Web security company Cloudflare files to go public (2 minute read)
Cloudflare filed for its initial public offering on Thursday. The company has 74,873 customers, 408 who contribute more than $100,000 each in annual bills. It reported a $36.8 million loss in the first half of 2019, with a revenue increase of 48 percent since the first half of 2018. Cloudflare helps companies distribute content and keep it available online, and it provides services to companies such as DigitalOcean, IBM, and Discord. Its competition includes Cisco, Akamai, Amazon, and Microsoft. In 2017, Cloudflare stopped providing services to clients with certain ideologies, which caused some losses with potential clients who elected not to subscribe to its services as a result.
Scientists Have Created a Vaccine for Cat Allergies, but You Can't Have It Yet (3 minute read)
Scientists have created a vaccine for cat allergies that trains the immune systems of cats, instead of desensitizing the immune system of people allergic to cats. Hypocat trains the cat's immune system to attack a protein called Fel d 1 by attaching a modified virus to the protein. Fel d 1 is the allergen that over 90 percent of people with cat allergies respond to. Cats who were administered with the vaccine showed a sustained response to the allergen, neutralizing Fel d 1 and causing less allergic reactions in humans. The vaccine appears to have no serious long-term side effects. While it doesn't completely eliminate the protein, the results are promising, and the vaccine is planned to be accessible by 2022.
The world's first solar road has turned out to be a colossal failure that's falling apart and doesn't generate enough energy, according to a report (3 minute read)
Normandy's solar road was the first in the world. It opened in 2016 and has since deteriorated to a state where it isn't worth repairing. Originally, it was to produce 790 kWh each day, but it only ended up producing around half of that amount. Weather and environmental factors contributed to the damage on the road, and cars were limited to a maximum of 70 km per hour due to how noisy it was. Another solar road in the US suffered a similar fate. Not all solar road projects have failed. A solar cycle lane in the Netherlands has exceeded expectations, producing more power per square meter per year than projected. Holland is planning to install more solar roads in the future.
Programming, Design & Data Science
DeOldify (GitHub Repo)
DeOldify uses NoGAN, a new type of GAN training which provides the benefits of GAN training while spending minimal time doing direct GAN training, to recreate old black and white images and video in color. There are many images and GIF examples in the repository, as well as details on NoGAN and how it works.
Homer (GitHub Repo)
Homer is a Python package to make text more clear, simple, and useful. It provides information on the overall text and individual sections, such as the average sentences per paragraph and the length of the sentence. It was designed to help improve writing for a non-native English speaker.
Screen time is higher for the elderly than younger people, new data reports (4 minute read)
A study into how much time people spend on their screens found that the elderly spend more time on average than younger people in front of screens. Americans aged 65 and over spend nearly 10 hours per day in front of screens, which is 33 percent more than people aged between 18 to 34. More than three-quarters of people over 65 now use the internet, but most of the screen time for the elderly is in front of the TV. 11 million elderly Americans live alone, and an increasing number of elderly people do not have adult children to rely on. The lack of human interaction has resulted in an increase in feelings of isolation. Watching TV may be a way to suppress feelings of isolation and replace social interaction.