Studio quality 🔊 Mind wandering 🤔 Foreign investment 🧧!

Technology News

Netflix delivers ‘studio-quality’ sound upgrade for Android viewers

Netflix has upgraded its Android app to stream audio in xHE-AAC, promising “studio-quality” sound that’s also more consistent – that is, you should enjoy it in more places. The new format offers a variable bitrate that can improve audio quality when your connection allows, and scale back when you’re on a flaky cellular link. Loudness management, meanwhile, prevents jarring volume changes (think of jumping from an action movie to a quiet drama) and compensates for noisy environments without the risk of clipping the loudest sounds. You could listen on your phone’s speakers without struggling to understand dialogue.

‘Smart Bandage’ detects, could prevent infections

The “smart bandage” will be monitored by a miniaturized wearable device, which will wirelessly (optically) detect the signal from the carbon nanotubes in the bandage. “Single-walled carbon nanotubes within the bandage will be able to identify an infection in the wound by detecting concentrations of hydrogen peroxide.” The signal can then be transmitted to a smartphone-type of device that then automatically alerts the patient or a health care provider. The next stage of the project will involve the verification that the bandages function properly in a petri dish with live cultured cells that would be found in wounds.

Science News

Where do our minds wander? Brain waves can point the way

Research has come up with a way to track the flow of our internal thought processes and signal whether our minds are focused, fixated or wandering. Researchers identified brain signals that reveal when the mind is not focused on the task at hand or aimlessly wandering. Increased alpha brain waves were detected in the prefrontal cortex when thoughts jumped from one topic to another, providing an electrophysiological signature for unconstrained, spontaneous thought. Weaker brain signals known as P3 were observed in the parietal cortex, further offering a neural marker for when people are not paying attention to the task at hand.

Could lab-grown plant tissue ease the environmental toll of logging and agriculture?

Researchers have proposed a way to grow certain plant tissues, such as wood and fiber, in a lab. The idea is akin in some ways to cultured meat – an opportunity to streamline the production of biomaterials. The team demonstrated the concept by growing structures made of wood-like cells from an initial sample of cells extracted from zinnia leaves. The work provides a possible starting point for novel approaches to biomaterials production that ease the environmental burden of forestry and agriculture. “The way we get these materials hasn’t changed in centuries and is very inefficient. This is a real chance to bypass all that inefficiency.”

Business News

China takes new foreign investment top spot from US

China has overtaken the US as the world’s top destination for new foreign direct investment, according to UN figures. New investments into America from overseas companies fell by almost half last year, leading to the loss of its number one status. In contrast, UN figures show direct investment into Chinese firms climbed 4%, putting it number one globally. China had $163bn in inflows last year, compared to $134bn attracted by the US. The top ranking shows China’s growing influence on the world economic stage. While China may be number one for new foreign investment, the US still dominates when it comes to total foreign investments.

Job losses from virus 4 times as bad as ’09 financial crisis

The International Labor Organization estimated that the restrictions on businesses and public life destroyed 8.8% of all work hours around the world last year. That is equivalent to 255 million full-time jobs – quadruple the impact of the financial crisis over a decade ago. Most people who lost work stopped looking for a job altogether, likely because of restrictions on businesses that hire in big numbers like restaurants, bars, stores, hotels and other services that depend on face-to-face interactions. The drop in work translates to a loss of $3.7 trillion in income globally with women and young people taking the biggest hits.

Miscellaneous News

English and Scottish get drunk most often, 25-nation survey finds

The Global Drugs Survey for 2020 suggests the UK’s problem with drink is far more dangerous than the use of any other drug. More than 5% of people under 25 in the UK who took part in the survey reported having sought hospital treatment after getting drunk, compared with a global average of 2%. People in Scotland and England said they had got drunk on average more than 33 times in the last year. This was more than twice the rate of several European countries. The global average was just over 20 times, with Colombians reporting the lowest at 6.5 times.

Kenyan extradited to US over wildlife trafficking charges

A Kenyan man was extradited to the United States to face charges he trafficked rhinoceros horns and elephant ivory. Mansur Mohamed Surur is accused of involvement in the illegal poaching of more than 35 rhinoceros and over 100 elephants. Surur is one of four men accused of conspiring to smuggle at least 10 tons of elephant ivory and least 190 kilograms (nearly 420 pounds) of rhinoceros horns valued at more than $7 million. They are accused of conspiring to smuggle the ivory and rhino horn from a variety of African countries to buyers in the US and Southeast Asia.

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