Popular Science https://www.popsci.com Awe-inspiring science reporting, technology news, and DIY projects. Skunks to space robots, primates to climates. That's Popular Science, 145 years strong. Sat, 26 Feb 2022 00:29:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.8.1 https://www.popsci.com/uploads/2021/04/28/cropped-PSC3.png?auto=webp&width=32&height=32 Popular Science https://www.popsci.com 32 32 The CDC is relaxing indoor mask guidelines and shaking up how it measures COVID risk https://www.popsci.com/health/cdc-indoor-mask-covid-risk/ https://www.popsci.com/health/cdc-indoor-mask-covid-risk/#respond Sat, 26 Feb 2022 00:29:01 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=427498
People wearing COVID surgical masks in a dark movie theater
Even as indoor mask guidelines relax in many places, some businesses might require masking for both vaccinated and non-vaccinated customers. Deposit Photos

Where do you fall on the risk map now?

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People wearing COVID surgical masks in a dark movie theater
Even as indoor mask guidelines relax in many places, some businesses might require masking for both vaccinated and non-vaccinated customers. Deposit Photos

Now that every US state minus Hawaii has set an end date for its indoor mask mandates, federal agencies are rejiggering their own recommendations. This afternoon, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its COVID mask guide so that fewer people need to consider wearing face coverings in public.

Most of the CDC’s changes are based on its community level tool, which measures COVID risks in every US and Puerto Rican county and helps individuals determine the amount of protection they should use depending on where they live, go to work or school, and travel. In light of increasing immunity to the virus and variants like Omicron, the agency overhauled its benchmarks for three community levels: “high” (orange), “medium” (yellow), and “low” (green). Under the new system, 70 percent of Americans are outside of orange zones and can, in theory, stop masking up indoors.

[Related: What to do with your old cloth masks]

The CDC’s guide now only recommends widespread mask use, regardless of vaccination status, in high-risk areas. Previously, this advice also applied to the “substantial” COVID community level, which fell between high and medium. Substantial is no longer marked as a level on the tool.

When the community level tool first launched in early 2021, the categories were defined by case numbers and transmission rates in counties and states. Now the metrics only draw from COVID hospitalizations and occupied inpatient beds in a locality.

“This new framework moves beyond just looking at cases and test positivity to evaluate factors that reflect the severity of disease, including hospitalizations and hospital capacity, and helps to determine whether the level of COVID-19 and severe disease are low, medium, or high in a community,” CDC director Rochelle Walensky said in telebriefing this afternoon. “The COVID-19 community levels we are releasing today will inform CDC measures like masking … This updated approach focuses on directing our prevention efforts toward protecting people at high risk of severe illness and preventing hospital and health care systems from being overwhelmed.”

The changes could also signal a shift in how the US government measures surges and distributes resources like rapid COVID tests and N95 and KN95 masks in the future. But some are saying that it will barely make a blip in most people’s day to day. “The new guidance may not have much of a practical impact for many Americans,” Axios’s Caitlin Owens wrote. “As vaccination and booster rates have risen, case counts have become an increasingly less meaningful measure of the severity of the pandemic. Many experts argue that hospitalizations and the amount of severe cases are much better indicators of how serious an outbreak is.”

Map of US and Puerto Rico marked in orange, yellow, and green
The CDC’s COVID Community Level map updated on February 24. Orange means high risk, yellow means medium, and green means low. CDC

There are still large pieces of the country labeled orange on the CDC’s community level map. But most of them, like northern Maine, southwestern Oregon, and eastern Kentucky, cover rural zip codes with sparse health care resources, which might explain why they fall under the updated high-risk benchmarks. West Virginia, however, is starkly orange due to a months-long surge in hospitalizations that the governor says is “looking better.”

But even with relaxed precautions, the CDC website states that people should take personal risk into account when deciding whether to mask up in public. For example, under the medium community level guidance, the agency says: “If you are immunocompromised or at high risk for severe illness, talk to your healthcare provider about additional precautions, such as wearing masks or respirators indoors in public.” However, it doesn’t identify extra masking protocols for adults and older kids who haven’t been vaccinated. To date, nearly 14 percent of the US population hasn’t gotten a single COVID shot. (The vaccines aren’t available for children under 5 yet.)

Despite the shifting guidelines from the CDC and states, masks are always an option for individuals looking to protect themselves and others from the virus. Different types of face coverings offer different amounts of security. And remember, businesses, school districts, transit authorities, and workplaces might have their own indoor masking requirements independent of state mandates that need to be followed.

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Protect all of your accounts with two-factor authentication https://www.popsci.com/use-two-factor-authentication/ https://www.popsci.com/use-two-factor-authentication/#respond Fri, 25 Feb 2022 22:00:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/uncategorized/use-two-factor-authentication/
person-workilooking at phone and typing on laptop
Your phone is a great 2FA ally. bruce mars / Unsplash

As with winter clothing, security is all about layers.

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person-workilooking at phone and typing on laptop
Your phone is a great 2FA ally. bruce mars / Unsplash

This post has been updated. It was first published on July 24, 2019.

Online security has never been more important, and if you think keeping all your accounts safe and secure is a big challenge, you’re definitely not alone.

But even if you feel comfortable with your passwords and you’ve managed to think of a different one for every account—an impressive feat to say the least—there are simple steps you can take to lay an extra layer of protection over your data. One of the most effective is enabling two-factor authentication (2FA) across all your apps and services.

How two-factor authentication works

The “two” is key in 2FA—it means that if someone wants to get into one of your accounts, they need not one, but two bits of information. A password counts as one, but it’s not enough. In addition to something you know—your password—two-factor authentication also requires “something you have.” This may be a code (sent to your phone via text message or from a code generator app) or a token you carry around with you, like a USB security key.

If you’re already dreading the idea and think this will make it too complicated to check your email every day, know that 2FA can be set to kick in only when you access your accounts from a new device. You can list your laptop and phone as “trusted devices” so they won’t prompt you to constantly look up codes or wait for texts when you log in from there. This can be comfortable but is also a great reason to protect your personal devices with strong PIN codes, passwords, and biometrics.

[Related: How to do two-factor authentication like a pro]

Two-factor authentication and two-step authentication are terms people often use interchangeably, and though they are very similar, they are not the same.

Two-step usually refers to two bits of similar information, like a passcode and a password, that you need to log into your account, and that you might get on the same device. Two-factor, meanwhile, typically requires two different devices or types of authentication, like a passcode and a fingerprint, making it much safer.

Google Authenticator
No, Google Authenticator won’t give you the winning Lotto numbers, but will help you protect any account. David Nield

You only need to look at the number of data breaches that regularly hit the headlines to know how easily your password and email address can leak into the public domain. You can always take mitigating steps if one of these events affects you but, as with everything, pre-emptive action is the best option.

With 2FA, anybody who tries to log into your accounts using your credentials will need to provide a second bit of information they don’t have, so they won’t be able to get in. If this happens, platforms usually notify you of an unsuccessful attempt to access your account, which could be useful if you ever wonder about whether you need to take further steps to protect your data.

Still, using two-factor authentication doesn’t mean your accounts are suddenly unhackable or that you can let your guard down. Text messages can be intercepted, phones can be stolen, and it’s important that you think of 2FA as one part of an effective security strategy rather than a failsafe lock.

Setting up this extra layer of security across all your accounts is easy and shouldn’t take you long at all. It’s definitely worth a few minutes for some extra peace of mind.

Activating two-factor authentication in all of your accounts

Two Factor Authentication on Facebook
If you have time to play FarmVille, you have time to enable two-factor authentication. David Nield

Just about every major digital platform out there has a two-factor authentication option now. In some cases, you might actually get prompts to turn it on when you log in.

Google

From your Google account on the web, click Security. Scroll down and under Signing in to Google, choose 2-Step Verification to start the setup process. You’ll be able to choose between receiving a code on your phone via SMS, getting a prompt on another of your devices, setting up an authenticator app, or a USB security key. The more methods you enable, the more chances you’ll have to recover your account in case you get locked out. Here you can also download a list of 10 single-use backup codes you can save in case you need to get into your account and all your other 2FA methods are unavailable.

Microsoft

If you have a Microsoft account, once you’ve logged in on the web, click Security and then Advanced security options—you can enable two-factor authentication from the next screen. Here, you’ll be able to choose from the same methods offered by Google, but you can also set up your account to send you a code over email to a secondary address of your choosing.

Microsoft accounts also let you go passwordless when using their authenticator app. Check out this guide where you can learn how to enable it.

Apple

For Apple accounts, there are a handful of ways you can turn on 2FA. If you’re on the web, you can sign into appleid.apple.com and click on Account Security. There, you’ll be able to add your phone number to receive a text or phone call with a code you’ll need in the future to access your account from a new device.

You can also enable two-factor authentication from your Apple devices. On your iPad or iPhone, open the Settings app, tap your name and then go to Password & Security. On macOS go to System Preferences, Apple ID, and then Password and Security. Once you get to that menu, tap or click on Turn on Two-Factor Authentication. You can also use your Apple devices using the same Apple ID to receive an automated code to help you with a new login.

Facebook

2FA is also available on most social media accounts. Log into Facebook on the web, click the drop-down menu on the top right corner of the toolbar and click Settings and Privacy, and then Settings. On the right sidebar, go to Security and login and scroll down—under Two-Factor Authentication, click Edit to enable it. Follow the instructions and choose one or all of the 2FA methods Facebook has to offer: text message, authenticator app, security key, or recovery codes.

Twitter

You can secure your Twitter account by enabling 2FA both on the web and on the app. On the web, click More on the left-hand sidebar and go to Settings and privacy. On the app, you can get to the same menu by tapping your avatar on the top left corner of the screen. Once you’re there, go to Security and account access, and then Security. Click or tap on Two-Factor Authentication to enable it and set up one or more methods.

When you access this menu from the web, Twitter also gives you the possibility to create temporary passwords, which will help you if you want to access your account on third-party apps but you don’t feel like revealing your credentials. To create one, just click on Temporary password, copy the code, and use it within one hour, after which, it will expire.

Instagram

For Instagram, open the app, go to your profile tab and tap the menu button (three horizontal lines, top right). There, go to Settings, then Security, and finally tap on Two-Factor Authentication. On this menu, you can set up authentication apps and verification codes sent via text message. You can also link your Instagram account to your WhatsApp account so you can receive your codes through there—ideal if you’re abroad and only running on WiFi. To enable this option, make sure you’ve already enabled 2FA via text messaging and that the phone number associated with your accounts is the same. After that, just turn on the toggle switch next to WhatsApp and you’re set.

Snapchat

In Snapchat, tap the cog icon from your profile tab and you’ll see the Two-Factor Authentication option. The platform only offers 2FA through text messaging and authenticator apps, so we’d recommend you enable both in case you need to access your account and have no phone reception.

TikTok

Open the TikTok app and on your profile tab, tap the menu button (three lines) on the top right corner of the screen, and go to Security and login. On the next screen, go to 2-Step Verification, and at the top, tap the Turn on button. TikTok has not elaborated a lot when it comes to the 2FA methods they currently offer their users, and at the moment of writing, you can only choose between getting a code sent to your email or to your phone via text message. Still, this is better than nothing, and hopefully, in the future, the platform will also add alternatives like prompts or authentication apps.

Two Factor Authentication on Snapchat
Tell your friends about securing their Snapchat account. And yes, you can use the doggy filter while you’re at it. David Nield

Dropbox

If you’re logged into the web platform, you can click your avatar, then Settings, Security, and Two-step verification. At first, you’ll only be able to choose between linking your account to an authenticator app or setting up codes via text messages. But once you pick one of the options, Dropbox automatically will show you a list of 10 backup codes to save, and give you the possibility to also set up a USB security key. You can also choose which will be your primary method for verification.

WhatsApp

For WhatsApp, open the app and go to the main menu (three dots, top right). There, go to Account and then Two-step verification. At the bottom of the screen, tap Enable and follow the instructions. Meta’s messaging platform doesn’t give you too many options—the only 2FA method they offer is a secondary 6-digit code the app will require if you want to set it up on another device. Once you provide and confirm your code, WhatsApp will also ask you for an email address you’ll be able to use to recover your account in case you forget your code.

[Related: How to keep all of your accounts safe in a world where people want your data]

As you can see, two-factor authentication is just about everywhere and you should find the option fairly prominently displayed under any platform’s security options.

Where you won’t find two-factor authentication—at least not yet—is on media streaming services such as Spotify and Netflix. While we can’t speak for those services, it’s likely that the extra convenience of quickly switching between devices to listen to music or watch movies outweighs the security concerns of someone being able to binge-watch Stranger Things or listen to the complete works of Coldplay without your knowledge.

Where 2FA is available, switch it on, and pay attention to whatever backup login options there are (like security questions or a text message). After all, your accounts are only as strong as their weakest points.

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Long COVID can manifest in dozens of ways. Here’s what we know so far. https://www.popsci.com/health/long-covid-symptoms-treatment/ https://www.popsci.com/health/long-covid-symptoms-treatment/#respond Fri, 25 Feb 2022 20:53:20 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=427335
A long COVID patient with short brown hair and a white sweatshirt wearing a respirator mask while sitting on the street
Long COVID symptoms such as chronic fatigue can be debilitating. Pixabay

With patients' help, doctors are trying to get a grasp on the virus's long-term impacts on the human body.

The post Long COVID can manifest in dozens of ways. Here’s what we know so far. appeared first on Popular Science.

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A long COVID patient with short brown hair and a white sweatshirt wearing a respirator mask while sitting on the street
Long COVID symptoms such as chronic fatigue can be debilitating. Pixabay

Among the nearly half a billion people who have contracted COVID around the world so far, an estimated 10 to 50 percent will experience long-term symptoms. For four weeks to years after the initial diagnosis, the aftereffects of the virus may linger, affecting how patients go about their daily lives. 

Medical experts are still trying to understand why long COVID grips some patients and not others. According to a study in the journal Cell, a patient may be more prone to long-term symptoms if they experience one or more of the following biological factors: high viral load during the initial infection, a flood of autoantibodies, reactivation of the Epstein-Barr virus, and a history of Type 2 diabetes. These drivers aren’t immediately visible in patients from the outset, making it challenging to predict who eventually is at higher risk for long COVID. Some studies suggest that vaccines halve the risk of adults ending up with long COVID—but other preliminary research suggests otherwise.

“Our knowledge of long COVID is definitely better today than it was a year ago,” says Ziyad Al-Aly, the Chief of Research and Education Service at Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System. “But certainly, there’s a lot more that needs to be done, especially in the area of treatments. We don’t know what we don’t know yet.” 

In the lungs, where the virus typically takes root, SARS-Cov-2 might cause tissue damage and scarring that hinder oxygen intake. But the pathogen “can affect nearly every organ system,” Al-Aly explains. “The heart, the brain, the kidneys.” He says scientists are still puzzled by how a respiratory virus can cause so many symptoms outside the lungs, and for so long. 

An early study, posted in February without peer-review, combed through nearly 500,000 COVID patients’ health records in the UK to identify more than 115 long hauler symptoms that persisted post-infection for at least 12 weeks. While not all symptoms manifest in every patient, the current challenge is to connect the ones that do to the disease, says Al-Aly. At the initial stage of the pandemic, the suite of afflictions in long haulers was so bizarre that patients’ concerns were often dismissed by physicians or mistakenly attributed to psychological ills. 

Now, armed with more experience from tackling the fallout of the infections, medical experts have started to recognize the common ailments among long haulers and are working toward improved treatment. 

Heart and blood circulation

As a Los Angeles-based cardiologist, Alice Perlowski always took heart health very seriously. She was an endurance athlete and had several marathons under belt. But ever since she fell victim to COVID in March 2020, her blood pressure has been over the place, she says. Her heart rate spikes when she stands abruptly—a mark of exertion for someone who used to be on her feet 12 hours plus a day at the hospital prior to the pandemic. In the first eight months after contracting COVID, she experienced chronic fatigue, which is thought to be a side effect of disrupted oxygen delivery from blood vessel damage and blood clots. 

“My job changed 180 degrees,” Perlowski says. “My entire life changed 180 degrees.” Her symptoms have improved to the point where she can now practice telemedicine from home.

Al-Aly and his team have conducted their own broad study on how COVID ravages the heart and blood vessels, but they admit that the mechanisms are still unclear. They’ve found that the virus scars and kills off heart cells, infects blood vessel linings, throws off hormonal regulation, and turns the immune system against itself. These wide-ranging reasons could partially explain why the disease devastates the body’s cardiovascular system and impairs how oxygen is distributed throughout the body for normal everyday function. 

The nervous system and brain

One of the most common symptoms of long COVID is what’s often called “brain fog”—a term Perlowski detests.  

“Brain fog sounds like you were kind of up on call all night, or with a screaming baby all night, and you are a little bit slower than normal,” she says. “But the kind of cognitive impairment that happens with this is to the point where some people have trouble reading, writing, carrying on conversations. It’s very similar to a traumatic brain injury.” 

A non-peer-reviewed study published in August of 2021 reported that MRI brain scans on 401 COVID patients found tissue damage and the loss of gray matter. Brain atrophy was another common issue: On average, individuals showed smaller brain sizes post-infection and increased presence of cerebrospinal fluid. The patients also performed worse on basic cognitive tests compared to non-COVID sufferers. 

[Related: ‘Preliminary research’ on COVID has been surprisingly solid]

Although COVID’s myriad effects on the brain are still unclear, leading hypotheses suggest that the virus might infiltrate the cerebrum through olfactory nerves, or trigger the immune cells to attack brain cells. 

Beyond COVID’s grip on a person’s central nervous system, another insidious outcome is its impact on the autonomic nervous system. This is the network of nerves lying outside the brain that regulates various body processes running in the background of human consciousness. It governs balance and automatically adjusts heart rate and blood pressure as a person switches between different activities.  

Like Perlowski, long COVID patient Sarah (who asked PopSci not to use her real name) still finds it physically daunting to stand up from a sitting position. Walking rounds in her apartment is a momentous feat. Taking a trip to the grocery store by herself is a far-fetched dream. Even simple cognitive tasks take a chunk out of Sarah’s energy reserve, so she saves up her daily strength for communicating with her medical care team and has no room for chatting with family and friends. 

Earlier this year, she tried knitting a sock. But after three rows, “I was breathing hard and so physically exhausted, I had to nap for a couple of hours,” she writes in email. She wants the public to know “just how all-encompassing this disability is.” From landing her dream job and leading an active, full life pre-pandemic, Sarah now struggles daily to make sure she’s simply clean and fed. 

Autoimmune reactions

Before the pandemic, Sarah never experienced allergies. But in the two years since she contracted COVID, she’s developed intolerances to food and medication, random hives, and vision problems. “I feel like I’m playing a macabre game of autoimmune/inflammatory bingo, every time a new set of symptoms pops up,” she writes.

“Long COVID symptoms can really be all over the place,” says Philip A. Chan, an infectious disease physician at Brown University. “This is the category that “I would call ‘other.'” 

“My job changed 180 degrees. My entire life changed 180 degrees.”

Alice Perlowski, cardiologist

These “other” symptoms can be as far ranging as insomnia, diarrhea, hair loss, dry skin, erectile dysfunction, voice damage, and body aches. The diverse and seemingly unconnected illnesses after the initial bout of COVID defy categorization—and highlight just how extensive the virus’s reach is throughout the body.

“We’re still reminded that COVID, in general, is still a relatively new virus,” says Chan. In the first two years of the pandemic, the focus of public health policies was on containing the pandemic. Now, after Omicron’s wave crested and broke, Chan says that it’s time to shift our attention to understanding and treating long COVID in the months and years to come. 

The long hauler treatment

There are no cures for long COVID yet; current treatments only address the symptoms rather than the underlying cause. “This is one of the reasons why we should do everything we can, of course, to prevent COVID,” says Chan. “This is again another big reason why people should consider being vaccinated if they haven’t.” He adds that anyone experiencing symptoms weeks after their first COVID infection should seek help from their primary care physician as soon as possible to prevent symptoms from worsening. 

As both a physician and a long COVID patient herself, Perlowski has a front-row seat as the disease terrorizes her and her patients. “There are people who are really suffering, who have no relief and no treatment,” she says. “It’s frightening to watch.” She hopes the public is more aware of what kind of risk they’re up against, and doesn’t relax its guard, even as daily cases and death rates improve

Government agencies need to step up more too. With more states dropping their COVID restrictions, long haulers like Sarah are worried that they’ll be left to fend for themselves. She thinks getting infected with COVID again would render her not just housebound, but also bedridden. She’s worried—and angry—that she will be even more excluded from society as mask mandates are eased

Al-Aly advises those who’ve fully recovered from the virus or evaded it so far to stay cautious, and not put further strain on the country’s limited health care resources. “At the end of the day, we have to deal with facts,” he says. “We cannot just wish it away.” Because at the end of the day, the nightmare of the pandemic isn’t over for the millions of long haulers trying to survive COVID’s marks

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A moon-watching robot can demystify what migrating birds do at night https://www.popsci.com/technology/moon-watching-robot-bird-migration/ https://www.popsci.com/technology/moon-watching-robot-bird-migration/#respond Fri, 25 Feb 2022 20:00:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=427396
birds flying across the moon at night
LunAero uses computer vision to make observations of birds flying in front of the moon. Pixabay

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, it’s the perfect time to watch for migrating birds.

The post A moon-watching robot can demystify what migrating birds do at night appeared first on Popular Science.

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birds flying across the moon at night
LunAero uses computer vision to make observations of birds flying in front of the moon. Pixabay

What do birds get up to at night? It was a simple question that puzzled scientists for hundreds of years. There were wild theories that birds went underwater, or immersed themselves in mud. In the 19th century, a German stork was found with an African spear through its neck, providing evidence that birds in fact migrated. And in 1881, one scientist observed these migrating birds flying at night while pointing a telescope up at the moon.  

Moon-watching for birds remained much of a niche science. It works like the transit method in astronomy, in which exoplanets are measured when their silhouettes pass in front of a star. Ornithologist George Lowery started quantifying this in the 1950s, organizing massive campaigns to collect nationwide data from these lunar observations. Between twilight and dawn, Lowery’s crew would look up at the full moon and mark the pathways and flight directions and number of birds they saw. Because technology was relatively crude at the time, they correlated the moon face with a circular clock face and marked the “time” (referring to location) that the bird entered and exited at. 

“What we’re trying to do is automate that with our little robot,” says Wesley Honeycutt, a research associate at the University of Oklahoma. “Because while Lowery’s technique is useful, it’s painful. I have stared at the moon so much in the past few years.”

[Related: While you sleep, scientists will use a space telescope to spy on migrating birds]

Honeycutt is referring to LunAero, which he and his team at University of Oklahoma created. The hardware components of LunAero involve a camera to record video, a small computer, a spotting scope, and a motorized mount. It uses simple computer vision techniques to keep the moon in focus and move along with it. It can pick up on birds that the passive observer might miss. The mount can accommodate a wide variety of telescopes, if birders or ornithologists wanted to bring their own. 

A moon-watching robot can demystify what migrating birds do at night
The LunAero device without the scope. Wesley Honeycutt

In addition to video recordings, the system also generates a log file with information on recording time, the frame counts, and the camera sensor settings. The team is working on developing software that can analyze the videos obtained from LunAero. But for now, after video is collected, humans have to manually extract the frames that contain birds and annotate their flight paths and patterns (such as whether they fly slow or fast). The initial tests were run in April and May 2018 and 2019, a peak time in bird migration. 

The researchers have already been able to glean a great deal of information from the data they have so far. “It depends on conditions and how high the birds are. There are certainly some birds that you can identify [their] genus, maybe [their] species if you make some assumptions about where you are and what birds you’re likely to see,” says Eli Bridge, an ornithologist and assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma. “There are some birds with really characteristic flight patterns that you can pick out—we can see nighthawks swoop up and down. In addition to just counting them, you can get really accurate flight directions for them. You can visualize wind drift.” 

A moon-watching robot can demystify what migrating birds do at night
A snippet of an annotated time-lapse video of nocturnal bird flights. Eli Bridge

The goal for the team is to use this technique as an accompaniment to other bird migration tracking tools such as radar aeroecology.

“Radar aeroecology is cool because you can see the migrants and how they fly out from a city or a roost and how they flow and the height, but you can’t tell what you’re looking at,” Honeycutt says. “You can see that there is a water-balloon [shaped mass of something] in that general area of the sky, but you can’t tell what kind of bird, if it’s 12 birds, three insects in a trench coat—we don’t really know until we have a way to look at it.” 

Anyone can build the LunAero unit with materials found around a workshop and motors off Amazon. The pattern for parts and the assembly instructions are available to the public. The cost for the LunAero components without a telescope is about $150. The most expensive component is the Raspberry Pi computer that powers the system. “One of the advantages of having these really cheap instruments is that you can deploy a lot of them all at once,” Honeycutt says. “And if you have all of these crummy sensors deployed next to each other, you eventually will hit a critical mass of sensors where you’re starting to produce data that are on par with high quality instrumentation.” 

[Related: Inside the simple counting software that makes biologists’ jobs a little easier]

After they published their tech in a 2020 paper in the journal HardwareX, Bridge and Honeycutt have continued to make hardware upgrades, sending them out to birders to try. 

“Ideally it would be a citizen science tool. I don’t know if we’re there yet. There’s been a few niggling things that have made it difficult,” Bridge says. If there are poor weather conditions or a cloud covers the moon, then it will be a long night of reconfiguring the device. The observations are tied to the lunar cycle, and data LunAero can collect plummets when the moon is less than half full. 

“There’s been the constant little tweaks, the incremental improvements of how do you hold the camera stable on a lot of different scopes,” Honeycutt notes. “And while it’s not a big jump in concept in the hardware, it’s the little things that are growing the potential user base.” 

The group is working up to one of their first data papers soon on social behavior that can be captured and quantified by LunAero. “You can tell whether birds are flying by themselves or in a cluster or sometimes a formation, sometimes just a loose group,” Bridge says. “I don’t think there’s any other way to see that at night unless you’ve got a spotlight or an infrared camera, or some other way of directly observing the birds.” 

[Related: Birders behold: Cornell’s Merlin app is now a one-stop shop for bird identification]

Data analysis is the big barrier to putting a widespread data paper out there. “It takes a bit longer to analyze the data than to collect it because you basically have to cycle through frame by frame,” Bridge says. “We don’t have the means to process lots of videos from lots of people right now.” 

And while it might seem like a tool such as machine learning could help out, unfortunately, that might not yet be possible. “If you look at the video, a lot of those birds are one pixel,” Honeycutt says. “Distinguishing one pixel that is an actual bird from 10,000 pixels of not-bird is a non-trivial problem that I don’t think machine learning techniques can handle yet. That’s why we’re doing more of a naive system which is more computationally intensive.” 

Right now, the group is working on proof-of-concept and early data papers for the instrument. But in five years, they imagine that it could become a unique add on to existing migration technology. 

“If you have tracking devices on [birds], or if you’re seeing them by radar, you can’t directly observe the birds. Being able to directly observe the birds, even if it’s while they fly across the moon, is a unique set of data,” says Jeff Kelly, a professor of biology at University of Oklahoma. “There’s always going to be value in integrating those data with tracking data where you’re getting information about where and when the bird flew but you can’t see it directly.”

There are still many mysteries that remain when it comes to understanding why and how birds migrate. Do birds fly together, do they fly separately, are they responding to the same wind conditions, are they all flying at the same heights? “It’s hard for us to concretely understand what these birds are dealing with,” says Kelly. “When we start talking about infrastructure that we build in the air, or bird collisions with buildings and problems with lights at night, this kind of data where people can concretely observe what’s going on will have a big impact on their ability to grasp the problem.”

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The safest ways to store gasoline https://www.popsci.com/diy/how-to-store-gasoline/ https://www.popsci.com/diy/how-to-store-gasoline/#respond Fri, 25 Feb 2022 19:00:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=427358
A red gasoline can in a garage or shed next to a large gas-powered leafblower.
Approved containers are the best way to store gasoline for a reason. Chris Bair / Unsplash

Please do not pump gasoline directly into a plastic bag, we're begging you.

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A red gasoline can in a garage or shed next to a large gas-powered leafblower.
Approved containers are the best way to store gasoline for a reason. Chris Bair / Unsplash

Although renewable energy is making significant advancements, many of us still rely on gasoline to fuel our cars and other machinery. In times of crisis, this need is even more pronounced: the backup generators that power our homes during storms and blackouts frequently run on gas. 

When you’re under stress, or even facing a potential survival situation, the urge to stockpile gasoline can be tempting. But doing so can quickly become dangerous. In fact, our friends over at The Drive argue that it’s never a good idea to buy way more gas than you need. Still, there are ways to store gasoline safely and sensibly—it’s all about moderation and proper conditions.

Use approved containers

Gasoline should only ever be stored in containers that have been approved for that purpose by the Department of Transportation. Look for the DOT name or logo on canisters before you buy them to ensure they are safe. Many gas containers are made of sturdy plastic and come in a variety of colors depending on the liquid they’re designed to hold. Here’s what the colors mean:

  • Red: Regular gasoline. This color is the most common and should hold only pure gasoline that hasn’t been mixed with any other substances.
  • Yellow: Diesel gasoline. This fuel is often used for trucks and other large machinery.
  • Blue: Kerosene. This flammable fuel can be used for cooking stoves and small lamps. It also powers many aircraft.
  • Green: Flammable mixed fuels. If you have lawn equipment that runs on a mixture of gasoline and oil, for example, that mixture should be stored in a green container.

As tempting as it might be in a time of crisis, do NOT store gasoline or other combustible substances in unorthodox containers. Milk jugs, canteens, and other everyday vessels are not built to handle gasoline and could easily spill or leak dangerous fumes. Gasoline also expands when it warms up, meaning you should always heed the maximum fill line on DOT-approved canisters to avoid an overflow.

Store the gasoline in a safe space

Proper containers are only a part of the puzzle: it’s also important to store gasoline and other combustible liquids in secure, well-ventilated areas away from any source of heat or electricity. A cool, dry corner of a locked building away from people is a great spot.

[Related: Choose and install the right dash cam for your car]

“Ideally, if you have a detached garage or shed, that is the best place to put it,” says David Bennett, an automotive repair expert at AAA. “Do not store it in the house itself—it could leak, you could have gas fumes if it’s not sealed properly, and it is a flammable liquid, so it’s dangerous, and you don’t want that in your house.”

If your garage is attached to your house, Bennett adds, that can be an acceptable place to store gasoline—as long as you keep it away from any source of electricity and out of the reach of children and pets. You can also store gasoline outdoors, but it’s best to keep it sheltered from the elements. Any small cracks or leaks in a gas canister can let water seep in, ruining the fuel inside. The gasoline can also leak out and damage the surrounding environment.

How to know if gas has gone bad

Just like those bananas you bought at the grocery store and promptly forgot about, gasoline deteriorates over time. Eventually, it “goes bad” and can’t be used to power machinery anymore, Bennett says. This happens because the complex structures that make up gasoline break down over time, causing it to become less combustible. Expired gasoline is still flammable and can still explode when exposed to a spark—it just isn’t powerful enough to fuel your car or generator.

Unlike the food in your pantry, there’s no standard guide to gasoline’s shelf life. One warning sign is smell: expired gasoline lets off a strong, pungent odor that Bennett says is different from the scent that wafts into your nostrils at the gas station. But for those who don’t want to rely on their nose alone, Bennett recommends using a conservative estimate of 30 days to gauge its expiration date.  

“If you know you’re going to store it and not use it for more than 30 days, you should put some kind of fuel additive in there in order to stabilize the fuel and allow it to last a little bit longer. But there is no definitive timeline,” he says. “Thirty days is probably the safe window. If you don’t use it within 30 days, go ahead and get rid of it.”

When you dump expired gasoline, make sure you discard it according to local guidelines. Every municipality has different rules and restrictions on hazardous waste, so your best bet is to research the disposal sites in your area. Usually, you’ll simply need to drop off your unused gas (in its approved container) and let the experts take it from there.

Keep only what you need

Bennett suggests only stocking up on gasoline that you know you’ll use in the next 30 days. That could mean 5 gallons, 2.5 gallons, or even less depending on your needs. Most people don’t need more than a single 5-gallon container of gas at any given time, unless a severe weather event is on the way. In that case, Bennett says it’s okay to stash a bigger supply—as long as you store it properly and in safe conditions. 

And if you don’t have access to the materials and conditions needed to safely store gas, consider making electric machinery and appliances a part of your life. A portable solar panel is an off-the-grid way to juice up your devices during blackouts, and buying an electric vehicle is a foolproof way to ensure gas shortages never leave you worrying about refilling your car.

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Best travel accessories of 2022 https://www.popsci.com/reviews/best-travel-accessories/ https://www.popsci.com/reviews/best-travel-accessories/#respond Fri, 25 Feb 2022 18:08:54 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=427319
Best travel accessories
Stan Horaczek

A prepared traveler is a happy traveler.

The post Best travel accessories of 2022 appeared first on Popular Science.

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Best travel accessories
Stan Horaczek
Best Travel Wallet Best Travel Accessories Pacsafe RFIDsafe V150 RFID-Blocking Compact Organizer
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The Pacsafe RFIDsafe V150 compact organizer lets you store money and documents securely.

Best Travel Suitcase Best Travel Accessories Osprey Sojourn 45L 22”
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The Osprey Sojourn 45L is an incredibly versatile and durable carry-on suitcase.

Best Neck Pillow Best Travel Accessories Cabeau Evolution S3
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The Cabeau Evolution S3 attaches to your seat, keeping you comfy and secure when you try to get a nap in on a flight or train ride.

As the world slowly starts to open back up and Covid-related travel restrictions ease, you may find yourself planning to travel for the first time in a good, long while. Maybe you’ve already booked the trip you’ve been dreaming about. Or maybe work has you back on the road. Whatever the reason, constantly changing pandemic rules and regulations can make traveling more stressful than it used to be. The best travel accessories (along with some patience) can help even things out, saving you time, space, and money. That way, you can enjoy the journey, no matter how near or far you’re headed.

How we selected the best travel accessories

As a frequent and intrepid traveler, I’ve spent a lot of time on long-haul flights to countries across the globe. I’ve pedaled my bicycle across Central Asia from Mongolia to Turkey, over the Karakoram and the Caucasus Mountains, and through most of Europe. My “day job” as a tailor and pattern maker for film and television also sometimes sends me out of town to work for up to eight months at a time. (I’ve spent an inordinate number of nights at Marriott Residence Inns across the United States—which are decorated exactly the same.)

After logging so many miles, I’ve had the opportunity to road-test a lot of traveling gear and gadgets over the years. And, like most regular globetrotters, I have a tried and true list of travel accessories I carry with me on any trip. My preferences skew towards things that can withstand being shoved into a bag on a bicycle and bounced over rocky terrain for days on end and still work perfectly. (Thank you, 2017 12-inch MacBook.)

Different kinds of travelers will gravitate toward different kinds of travel products (obviously). We combed through a variety of options to come up with the best travel accessories that will hopefully be useful to the highest number of people on the widest variety of trips.

Things to consider before buying travel accessories

The best travel accessories save you time, space, and money. There’s a lot of uncertainty and a decided lack of control involved when you’re traveling, especially by air. Being prepared with the means to make your trip easier and more comfortable can go a long way to alleviating the inherent stress of the journey. And while you may not be able to do anything about a flight that was just delayed for five hours for no apparent reason, at least you know you can keep your phone charged and watch your stories while you wait.

Design/usefulness

This may seem like a no-brainer, but the first thing to keep in mind when purchasing a piece of travel gear is how it will fit into your routine on the road. Does the thing you’re buying do what it claims effectively without unnecessary parts or features that you can’t figure out how to use. We looked for travel products that were intuitive, so you can think to yourself, “Gee, I wish this wallet had a place I could easily store and access my coin euros” and then you discover that it actually does have just that thing.

Versatility

The best travel aids offer solutions to many common issues on the road and are helpful on many kinds of trips. While you may love the idea of having a “Paris overcoat” or an “Aspen ski jacket,” we don’t necessarily think there are best travel accessories for Europe or any other specific place. The best travel items are those you take with you on every trip, no matter how where you’re going or how long you’ll be away. 

Durability

No one likes having things break, but travel gear that doesn’t stand up to the normal wear and tear of life on the road can be especially annoying and frustrating. Things like luggage wheels or handles breaking, zippers going off track, or a bicycle handlebar camera mount coming apart in the middle of a rocky downhill ride. These are not good things. Good travel gear survives baggage handlers across the world, getting tossed out of tuk-tuks, and bouncing along in the belly of a bus on an ill-maintained mountain road with amazing views.

Weight and volume

Packing is always a weight and volume game, especially since airlines charge you more for what they consider “overweight” luggage. Thus, the best travel accessories should be comparatively light and take up as little space as possible. My own general rule is that anything that weighs more than 16 ounces must serve a very important function. When packing for my multimonth Silk Road bicycle trip, the only item more than 1 pound was my “travel” laptop, which weighed in at 2.03 pounds.

Best travel accessories: Reviews & Recommendations

The travel accessories on this list perform a variety of functions, but they are all essential in their own ways. Once you’ve traveled with them once, you’ll probably wonder how you ever made do without them.

Best travel wallet: Pacsafe RFIDsafe V150 RFID-Blocking Compact Organizer

Pacsafe

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Why it made the cut: The Pacsafe RFIDsafe V150 features designated spaces for passport, credit cards and cash. Plus its strong all-around zipper closure prevents things from falling out.

Specs:

  • Weight: 5.3 ounces
  • Dimensions: 6.7 x 5 x .8 inches
  • Price: $59.95

Pros:

  • RIFDsafe blocking material
  • Outer zippered coin pocket (great for coin Euros)
  • Detachable strap
  • Passport sleeve can hold multiple passports

Cons:

  • Awkward to open when worn across the chest

While many are partial to Fjallraven passport wallets—we like them, too—the PacSafe travel wallet with RIFDsafe goes a step further, keeping credit cards, sensitive documents, and data protected from any electronic-scanning theft attempts.

The inside of the PacSafe V150 has a passport slot, multiple credit card slots, a small zippered pouch, and a large section for paper currency and other documents. On the outside is a zippered coin pocket so you can fish out change without opening the whole wallet. The heavy-duty exterior zipper that encloses the entire wallet is durable and holds up to repeated overstuffing.

The Pacsafe RFIDsafe V150’s larger size allows you to fit a smartphone inside (so long as it’s not bigger than 6.5 inches tall) by simply placing it in the middle, folding, and zipping. It’s great for when you’re just going out to eat and don’t want to carry a bigger bag, or you’re wearing something with a glaring lack of appropriately sized pockets.

That said, because of its size, the V150 forces you to live the “travel wallet lifestyle,” with your money strapped to your chest. Unzipping the outer zip and fishing out what you need while wearing the PacSafe can result in some awkward maneuvering and things unsecured inside falling out so be cautious when performing that trick.

Best travel accessory for long flights: Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless Noise-Canceling Over-Ear Headphones 

Why it made the cut: The Sony WH-1000XM4 noise-canceling headphones allow you to sleep, listen to music, or watch whatever you want in comfort and relative peace.

Specs:

  • Weight: 9 ounces
  • Dimensions: 7.27 x 3.03 x 9.04 inches
  • Price: $298.00 – $349.00

Pros:

  • Comfortable
  • Long, 30 hour battery life
  • Intuitive touch sensor controls
  • Multiple device pairing

Cons:

  • Earcup cover material wears over time 

Having spent the pandemic spring and summer of 2020 living in a New York City apartment next door to a building undergoing a gut renovation (the entire time), I can attest that Sony’s WH-1000XM4 noise-canceling wireless headphones not only effectively drown out annoying background noise, but are also comfortable enough to wear all day without becoming excessively warm.

A great Bluetooth headphone that multiple folks at PopSci cosign, the WH-1000XM4 comes with a case, wired headphone jack, and an adaptor so you can plug into the dual-pronged jack standard in most airplanes. The touch sensors on each ear cup allow you to skip tracks, adjust the volume, and answer phone calls. The Sony headphone companion app lets you personalize your settings and helps connect multiple devices.

If you have trouble sleeping in hotels with hallway or street noise, these headphones will successfully mask a lot, especially when coupled with a white noise app. The padded headband and ear cups even make it possible to sleep on your side with them on—though that does require positioning your pillow at just the right angle.

Best neck pillow: Cabeau Evolution S3 Neck Pillow

Cabeau

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Why it made the cut: Made with memory foam, this travel pillow has straps to secure it to the back of any seat as well as an adjustable clasp for chin support and raised sides that help prevent your head from bobbing and rolling.

Specs:

  • Weight: 11.6 ounces
  • Dimensions: 9.5 x 10 x 5 inches
  • Price: $39.99

Pros:

  • Has a washable cover
  • Has a flattened back that doesn’t push your head forward
  • Comes with a stuff sack that allows you to compress the pillow to half its size
  • Strap system to attach to any chair

Cons:

  • One-size-fits-all seat attachment strap may not work for shorter people

Along with a pair of noise-canceling headphones, a quality neck pillow is one of the best air travel accessories you can buy. Conveniently, if you arrive at the airport and discover you’ve forgotten yours—or if you don’t own one—neck pillows, including the Cabeau Evolution S3, are sold in shops in almost every airport terminal. I personally own three of them, all of which were purchased at an airport.

The memory foam in the Cabeau pillows provides the most comfort a person can achieve while sleeping sitting up. The flat back and raised sides ensure that your head won’t roll into some odd position that will result in annoying neck pain upon waking.

The strap that attaches to the seatback is a useful feature as it keeps your head from falling too far forward while you snooze. Shorter people may find the straps aren’t a sufficient length to reach their head and shoulders when looped around the seatback but we’ve found the Evolution to be quite comfortable and stable even without using this particular feature.

Best power bank: Anker PowerCore 26800 Portable Charger, 26800mAh

Why it made the cut: The 26800 mAh of power charges most phones six times, which is likely enough to get you through a full week without access to actual electricity.

Specs:

  • Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Dimensions: 7.09 x 3.21 x 0.87 inches
  • Price: $69.99

Pros:

  • Three USB ports to charge multiple devices at a time
  • Fast charging of devices
  • Quick recharging in six hours

Cons:

  • Wall charger not included

During a five-month bicycle odyssey from Beijing to Istanbul, which included seven-to-10 days at a time without electricity, the Anker PowerCore 26800 was my portable charger of choice. Those who didn’t show up for the trip with a power bank to keep their phones charged scoured the markets on the way until they found one. Many that brought one had to buy a second. Mine got me through the whole trip, successfully keeping my phone and bike GPS charged between hotel stops.

It’s especially helpful that this portable charger can recharge faster if you plug in with multiple cables at once. You can fully recharge this beefy power bank in about six hours, which is handy if you’re somewhere the outlet-to-human ratio is something like 1:12.

Best travel adapter: Epicka All-in-One Worldwide Wall Charger

Why it made the cut: In the digital age, every globetrotter needs a multifunctional travel adapter that can be converted to EU-, UK-, AU-, and US-type plugs.

Specs:

  • Weight: 5.5 ounces
  • Dimensions: 2.8 x 1.97 x 2.05 inches
  • Price: $22.99

Pros:

  • Four USB ports and 1 Type-C port
  • Internal spike and surge protector
  • Fits outlets in over 150 countries

Cons:

  • Doesn’t convert voltage
  • Doesn’t support Type D, H, or M (South Africa, India, Israel)

We like cleverly designed things that are useful in multiple places and environments. The Epicka worldwide wall charger is one of those things. With a series of buttons and slides, the Epicka transforms into various plug formations so you can use it in different countries. With four USB ports and one C-type port, you can charge your phone, Kindle, GPS device, noise-canceling headphones, and computer all at the same time from a single outlet.

Best travel accessory (for anywhere): CamelBak Podium Chill Insulated Water Bottle 21 oz.

CamelBak

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Why it made the cut: A reusable water bottle means you don’t have to purchase the high-priced bottles of water at the airport and an insulated bottle keeps your beverages cold (and hot) longer.

Specs:

  • Weight: 3.5 ounces
  • Dimensions: 2.9 x 9.4 inches
  • Price: $15.00 – $16.00

Pros:

  • Double-wall construction keeps beverages cold longer
  • Made with BPA-, BPS-, and BPF-free polypropylene so doesn’t taste like plastic
  • Self-sealing cap
  • Lock-out feature to prevent leaks

Cons:

  • Only comes in 21oz and 24oz sizes

Reusable water bottles are Earth-friendly, sustainable, and mean that you never have to pay $4 for a bottle of water in the airport again. Many airports these days have dedicated fountains to fill your bottle, usually right next to (or part of) the standard drinking fountains near the restrooms. 

Remember that you won’t be able to take a bottle with water in it through security. Once inside the airport, you’ll be able to fill it up and, in most instances, bring it on board. If you’re flying to the United States through a major international hub like Doha or Dubai, you’ll have to empty it before passing through security to the gate. There’s always a drinking fountain on the other side where you can fill back up, though.

This Camelbak water bottle doesn’t taste like plastic, even when brand new, and has a self-sealing jet valve. To drink, simply squeeze the bottle. The drinking valve swivels to a lock position so you can throw the bottle in your bag and shove it under the seat in front of you without worrying about leakage.

At your destination, the Camelbak Insulated water bottle is perfect for hiking, cycling (it fits into most bicycle water bottle cages), or exploring. While most places have drinkable tap water, remember that there are still some countries that do not.

Best travel organizer: Osprey Ultralight Zip Travel Organizer

Osprey

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Why it made the cut: With numerous zippered storage pockets and a hanging hook, the Osprey Ultralight Zip Travel Organizer is great for small toiletries, a first aid kit, and/or your backpacking kitchen set up.

Specs:

  • Weight: 4.2 ounces
  • Dimensions: 6 x 9 x 3 inches
  • Price: $35.00

Pros:

  • Made from a stretchy, light material so you can pack for a variety of trips
  • Durable enough to withstand the tendencies of a chronic over stuffer
  • Available in colors other than black or gray
  • Has a removable see-through pouch

Cons:

  • Doesn’t have an easy clip or its own strap

The Osprey Ultralight Zip Travel Organizer ticks all of the best travel product boxes: It can be used for your toiletries, a first aid/medicine kit, or a snack/utensil storage kit, so it’s versatile. Its strong zippers and stretch mesh fabric on one side allow for expanded capacity when needed without breaking or ripping, so it’s durable. At 4.2 ounces, it’s very lightweight. And its many zippered storage compartments plus a removable clear inner pouch are thoughtfully designed for travelers.

We also love that this travel organizer comes in orange (both an attractive and useful color), which makes it easy to locate when digging through a backpack or suitcase.

Best travel suitcase: Osprey Sojourn 45L 22”

Osprey

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Why it made the cut: The Osprey Sojourn 45L fits most airline carry-on specifications, features sturdy wheels, and can also be converted to a backpack when needed.

Specs:

  • Weight: 8 pounds
  • Dimensions: 22 x 14 x 9 inches
  • Price: $320.00

Pros:

  • Osprey Daylite pack can be attached for additional capacity
  • Padded air mesh hip belt and backpack mechanism are both quick deploying and removable
  • Internal compression straps
  • Chassis and wheels roll exceptionally well on cobbled roads and sidewalks

Cons:

  • Bag is on the heavy side on its own.

Like all things Osprey manufactures, the Sojourn 45L is an extremely durable bag with zippers that will withstand excessive over-stuffing—which, as far as I am concerned, is the true test of any backpack or suitcase.

The wheels and high chassis allow the Sojourn to happily thumpity-thump over cobbled roads and uneven terrain. If the path becomes particularly roll-adverse, you can easily transform the Sojourn into a fairly comfortable backpack. We wouldn’t recommend any kind of hiking with the Sojourn in backpack mode, but it is sufficiently doable for shorter distances—such as navigating through a place like the medina of Chefchaouen, Morocco, where there are too many stairs.

The hip belt and backpack mechanism take up space inside the bag but you can still fit enough gear and clothing for an extended trip if you are a light packer. You can also easily attach a Daylite backpack to the front via clips for added capacity if needed.

Best day bag: Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole Tote Pack 27L

Patagonia

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Why it made the cut: The Patagonia Black Hole works as a tote or a backpack, and is well-suited for sightseeing, shopping, or your daily commute.

Specs:

  • Weight: 13 ounces
  • Dimensions: 15.5 x 10 x 8 inches
  • Price: $89.00

Pros:

  • Lightweight.
  • Foldable and easy to store when empty
  • Surprisingly comfortable as a backpack
  • Versatile

Cons:

  • No cinch cords on the side mesh pockets

As a New Yorker and frequent traveler, I believe in having an extra bag on me at all times. You never know when you’re going to need to haul something somewhere. The Patagonia Black Hole tote makes an excellent shopping bag, which you may need in a city where stores don’t offer plastic bags. It also easily fits most laptops so if you’re on a business trip it’s a great way to carry your laptop to your meetings. It also converts to a backpack, which is comfortable enough for a day of sightseeing. In short, it’s an incredibly useful thing at home or abroad.

FAQs

Q: How do you make traveling easier?

You can make travel easier (and less stressful) by being prepared and organized, especially when it comes to packing and ensuring that you’ll be able to charge your devices when needed. While it’s true that people used to be able to somehow navigate the world before smartphones and GPS devices both of things make traveling so much easier—even if it’s just to make sure that the taxi you just got in is taking you to where you want to go. 

Q: How much do travel accessories cost?

There are a lot of different kinds of travel accessories, so the prices will vary a lot depending on what you’re looking for. Some things, like wall chargers and neck pillows, can cost $20 to $50. Larger items, like suitcases and bags, can get much more expensive because they’re manufactured with materials that will hold up through rough handling and environments. 

In general, we strongly advise avoiding the cheapest possible version of a travel accessory. I don’t want to buy something that breaks and needs to be replaced, especially mid-trip. In my experience, paying a little more for higher quality means I won’t have to purchase that same thing again when it inevitably breaks.

Q: What accessories do you need to travel?

Honestly, the only accessories you absolutely need to travel are a valid passport and a credit card with available credit. Everything else is gravy. But who doesn’t like gravy?

Q: Where can I buy travel accessories?

You can buy travel accessories online. Websites such as Amazon, REI, and Backcountry carry products from a variety of brands. You can also shop for last-minute or forgotten travel gadgets and products in airport shops—though they are almost always much more expensive there.

Final thoughts on the best travel accessories

Having the ability and the choice to travel to new places is a wonderful privilege. I feel infinitely lucky to have been able to see as much of the world as I have. Inventors and manufacturers are always thinking up new and interesting gadgets and gear to make travel easier. Hopefully, these tools and tips will help you get out there and have some amazing adventures too.

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The best OLED TVs in 2022 https://www.popsci.com/reviews/best-oled-tvs/ https://www.popsci.com/reviews/best-oled-tvs/#respond Fri, 25 Feb 2022 17:45:26 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=426218
The best OLED TVs
Stan Horaczek

Picking from the top of the television heap.

The post The best OLED TVs in 2022 appeared first on Popular Science.

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The best OLED TVs
Stan Horaczek
Best overall LG C1 is the best OLED TV. LG C1
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Everything you need at a reasonable price

Best Sony BRAVIA XR A90J is the best Sony OLED TV. BRAVIA XR A90J
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AI-powered processing upgrades picture quality

Best Vizio Vizio OLED TV Vizio OLED
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A solid value option in limited sizes

Step in front of the giant wall of TVs at your local big box store and the OLEDs will likely stand out. Their poppy color and abundant contrast give these high-end panels an edge over much of their competition. And while technologies like Mini LED and Micro LED may eventually challenge OLED’s image quality crown, it hasn’t happened yet. We’ve collected this list of the best OLED TVs across a range of brands and price points. 

While you shouldn’t expect to find a truly budget OLED TV, we have reached a point where there are strong options at affordable, if high-end prices. Sony debuted the first OLED TV back in 2007. It had an 11-inch screen with a 960 x 540 resolution for a tidy sum of $2,500. Spend that much now and you can get a massive OLED display with some of the best picture quality and color reproduction around. 

How we picked the best OLED TVs

I have been writing about consumer electronics and home theater technology for nearly two decades, including a stint as the digital editor for venerable A/V publication, Sound + Vision. This list is a result of a combination of research and real-world impressions, as well as data sourced from user and editorial reviews across the web.

In order to choose our picks, we focused on emphasizing a solid mix of performance and price. All but one of the entries here includes HDMI 2.1 ports, which we think will be important for some users now (particularly gamers) and others down the road. Obviously, LG is well-represented on the list as it’s the only company that physically manufactures OLED panels, which gives it an inherent edge that we can’t deny.

What is OLED and how does it work?

Before we get into our search for the best OLED TVs, it’s worth taking a step back to explain how these displays actually work and what makes them different from the rest of the TVs on the wall at the store. 

In an organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display, each pixel is an LED that emits its own light. When content requires dark or black areas on the screen, the display can simply turn those pixels off to create a “true” black that most other backlight technologies can’t match. The difference often becomes especially apparent in areas where bright objects butt up against darkness, which can cause light to spill where it shouldn’t go.

Typical LED backlit TVs rely on an array of LEDs sitting behind an LCD panel that controls how much light to let through. This is the same basic idea that has powered almost every flat-screen TV since the technology’s inception and it comes with a few drawbacks. The primary issue arises when the LCD panel can’t block all of the light coming from behind it: The excess light distorts black and even darker colors, making them look gray or washed out. Depending on the arrangement of the LEDs in the backlight, it can also result in a picture with unnatural banding or patchiness, especially around the edges. If you’ve ever noticed light leaking from the top, bottom or sides of your TV screen during a dark scene, OLED fixes that problem. 

While OLEDs are fantastic, they aren’t perfect. They’re still often pricier than their QLED competition at the same size. They also aren’t as bright and instead rely on their super-dark black levels to create a punchy, vibrant image. If you’re planning to watch TV in a super sunny room all day, then OLED probably isn’t your best bet. Otherwise, it’s hard to beat. 

Things to consider when buying an OLED TV

Before you take the plunge into OLED, here are some factors you should consider:

Size

Dig into the OLED offerings and you’ll find that most manufacturers hover around the 55- to 65-inch sweet spots for their most popular models. If you’re in the market for a small TV, OLED probably isn’t the right choice for you. In 2021, LG’s smallest OLED TV checks in at 48 inches. The company announced a new 42-inch model at CES 2022 but that isn’t available yet.

As with all big-screen TV, expect a noticeable price jump when you go above 65 inches. Manufacturers commonly offer 77-inch and even 88-inch displays, but they command a huge premium for all that real estate. 

Connectivity

Since you’re spending considerable cash on a new TV, you want it to last a while, which makes paying attention to the ports important for futureproofing. This is especially true if you’re planning to use your new panel with a fancy next-gen gaming console. 

Ideally, you’ll want a set with multiple HDMI 2.1 ports so you’re ready for anything you may hook up in the future. HDMI 2.1 represents the most recent iteration of the familiar connector. The extra bandwidth HDMI 2.1 provides allows compatible cables and devices to display high resolutions and fast frame rates, both of which will be increasingly important as streaming and gaming tech advance in the next few years. Right now, it’s only really relevant if you’re using a PS5 or Xbox Series X, but more devices will be able to take advantage down the road.

You’ll often find that TVs have a mixture of HDMI 2.1 and HDMI 2.0 ports, so just make sure you have enough high-performance connectivity to connect the devices you plan to use. 

Frame rate

High TV frame rates earned themselves a bad reputation early on when “motion smoothing” technology made our favorite movies look like cheesy soap operas. Many TVs still offer 60Hz refresh rates, which means the TV redraws the on-screen image 60 times each second. Higher-end TVs, however, support 120Hz refresh rates, which doubles the redraw frequency and creates smoother on-screen motion. While it’s still not going to drastically improve movies and TV shows, it can make sports and video games look noticeably better. 

Some TV manufacturers have also started to support variable refresh rate technologies like Nvidia’s G-Sync and AMD FreeSync. These gaming-focused features can reduce instances of stuttering and other weirdness that can ruin your experience. Check out our round-up of the best TVs for gaming for a more in-depth take on these features.

Resolution

If you’re buying a current-generation OLED TV, it’s almost certainly going to offer 4K resolution. This has been the standard for several years now and it’s where you want to be. Technically, 8K is an option, but it’s wildly impractical for most people. Right now, there’s a nearly complete dearth of 8K content to watch on those fancy TVs. Even newer game consoles like the Xbox Series X and PS5, which technically support 8K gaming, lack any native 8K games or content. Upgrade to 8K if you want the bragging rights. Otherwise, 4K is plenty for now. 

Smart TV features

While a TV’s software won’t impact your viewing experience as much as its technical specifications, it may affect how you interact with your new OLED display if you don’t use an external streaming device or game console. Most TV manufacturers have a single platform on which all of their TVs run. Since we’re talking about OLEDs, you’re very likely to end up using LG’s own WebOS platform since that brand shows up more than others. Sony often relies on Google TV software. While these services aren’t all created equal, none of them is so much better or worse than the others that they should affect your purchasing decision.

HDR

High-Dynamic Range is basically the whole sales pitch for OLED TVs. By making the dark areas and blacks basically devoid of illumination, it makes the brights seem even more brilliant. There are two HDR standards: the near-universal HDR10 and the less common Dolby Vision. Some critics suggest that Dolby Vision works better, but fewer places support the standard. Luckily there are very few TVs, if any, that support Dolby Vision, but not HDR10. Realistically, the important thing to know is that any OLED worth buying says “HDR” on the box.

The best OLED TVs: Reviews & Recommendations

Because OLEDs sit near the top of the TV heap, pretty much any model you choose will perform at least reasonably well. The differences, then, lie in the details. We’ve dug into those specs to find the displays that best fit your needs.

Best OLED TV overall: LG C1

Why it made the cut: Excellent picture quality and a solid feature-set make this one of the best OLED TVs around full-stop.

Specs 

  • Sizes: 48”, 55”, 65”, 77”, 88”
  • Resolution: 4K
  • Refresh rate: 120Hz
  • Ports: 4 HDMI 2.1, RF, 2 USB 2.0, ethernet, optical audio, headphone out
  • HDR: Dolby Vision, HDR10

Pros

  • Impeccable picture
  • Solid mix of features and price
  • Lots of size options
  • Excellent upscaling

Cons

  • Just OK brightness

Peruse other best TV lists and you’ll likely find LG’s C1 near the top pretty frequently. LG is by far the leading OLED manufacturer and the C1 represents a sweet spot for most people looking for a balance of price and performance. 

Across all of your content consumption, the C1 provides an excellent contrast ratio thanks to its super-deep black levels. For movie watching, LG offers filmmaker mode, which turns off motion smoothing and tones down the vibrance and brightness to make the picture look more like what you’d expect at the theater. 

The C1 supports all the most popular flavors of HDR, as well as the two dominant variable refresh rate technologies, G-Sync and FreeSync, which gamers will appreciate. In fact, the C1 has a lot to offer gamers. All four HDMI ports support HDMI 2.1, giving you enough to hook up a PS5 and Xbox Series X for 4K/120fps gameplay. Plus, it boasts a 1-millisecond response time in gaming mode, which cuts down potentially game-ruining lag. 

It’s not the brightest TV around, but that’s also one of the few drawbacks that come with OLED TVs across the board. Aside from that quibble, the C1 has just about anything anyone could ask for and it won’t require ill-gotten crypto funds to afford it.

Best budget TV: LG A1

Why it made the cut: Get the great picture quality you expect from an OLED and drop some features you may not miss. 

Specs 

  • Sizes: 48”, 55”, 65”, 77”
  • Resolution: 4K
  • Refresh rate: 60 Hz
  • Ports: 3 HDMI 2.0, RF, ethernet, minijack, optical audio
  • HDR: Dolby Vision, HDR10

Pros

  • Outstanding picture quality
  • Relatively large size range
  • Solid AI-powered upscaling

Cons

  • No HDMI 2.1
  • Only 60Hz refresh rate

If you’re just looking for a beautiful display on which you can watch TV and movies, you may not even notice the compromises that come with LG’s entry-level A1 OLED. 

The A1 goes all the way up to 77 inches at the high-end and promises basically the same punchy, vivid picture you’d expect from our top pick. It lacks some of the high-end bells and whistles, like HDMI 2.1 and a 120Hz refresh rate, but those specs are typically more relevant to gamers with current-gen consoles than people looking to stream movies and TV shows. The A1 does include LG’s game optimizer technology, which relies on software to try and create the smoothest possible gaming experience for this hardware. 

Despite the step down in price, LG has included some of its popular features, like Bluetooth for attaching satellite surround sound speakers and Filmmaker Mode, which optimizes the on-screen image for movies by removing the smoothing and adjusting the color to a natural level. 

The A7 processor inside powers LG’s AI-driven image processing algorithm, which automatically adjusts both picture and sound performance to match the content you’re currently watching. That processor also enables its 4K upscaling tech, which takes standard HD content (or even lower-res content like DVDs) and makes it look polished on the 4K  display. 

Best Sony TV: BRAVIA XR A90J

Why it made the cut: Sony’s powerful image and sound processing technology makes any content look and sound better with help from AI. 

Specs 

  • Sizes: 44”, 65”, and 83”
  • Refresh rate: 120Hz
  • Adaptive sync: VRR
  • Ports: 4 HDMI 2.1, Ethernet, Composite, RF, Headphone jack, 3 USB 2.0
  • HDR: HDR10

Pros

  • Excellent picture
  • Image processing automatically adapts to on-screen content
  • Built-in Chromecast and AirPlay
  • Clever screen-speaker technology

Cons

  • Expensive

The OLED panel inside Sony’s A90J comes from LG, but Sony gooses its performance with a healthy dose of AI optimization. The company’s XR image processor analyzes both the on-screen image and the audio in order to optimize its performance. Rather than simply looking at the colors and shapes on the screen, however, the XR cross-checks the picture against a database of content in order to try and identify exactly what kind of content you’re watching. It then identifies the area you’re most likely to look at and enhances that spot with augmented brightness and contrast. 

The XR employs a similar strategy when it comes to audio. By identifying what the most important audio element is in a scene, it can emphasize those specific sounds. So, the dialog doesn’t get buried and explosions sound extra … explodey. 

In addition to its basic performance, Sony has included a few nice touches that make the TV appealing. It runs on Google’s TV operating system, so it has built-in Chromecast functionality in addition to Apple AirPlay. The Google integration also grants baked-in access to the Google Assistant, which enables voice controls. 

The price is a bit higher than some of its direct competition, but it’s an excellent performer all around.

Best Vizio TV: Vizio OLED

Why it made the cut: Vizio only makes one OLED model in two sizes, but it’s a solid performer for the price.

Specs

  • Sizes: 55”, 65”
  • Resolution: 4K
  • Refresh rate: 120Hz
  • Ports: 4 HDMI 2.1, Ethernet, RF, 1 USB 2.0
  • HDR: Dolby Vision, HDR10+

Pros

  • Affordable for the performance
  • Four HDMI 2.1 ports
  • 120Hz refresh rate

Cons

  • No audio return channel
  • Only two size options

Vizio only dabbles in OLED TVs, but the one option the company does offer sets the bar relatively high for affordable options. Whether you choose the 55-inch or 65-inch options, both come with a quartet of HDMI 2.1 ports, one of which is on the side and the other three on the bottom. It has a 120Hz refresh rate to go with those high-bandwidth connections, which makes it appealing to gamers who spent too much of their cash on a PS5 from a reseller. 

It has built-in Bluetooth, supports all the popular HDR standards, and has its own AI-powered upscaling engine to make content from every level look as good as it can on the 4K display. It has a few slightly odd omissions—it doesn’t have an audio return channel, which some sound systems like the Sonos Beam prefer. That won’t matter for some users, though. 

 If you’re looking to expand your entire setup, this TV ties in nicely with Vizio’s impressive lineup of audio products like surround systems and soundbars. The seamless integration is nice if you don’t mind committing to one manufacturer.

Best LG TV: LG G1

Why it made the cut: If you have a little extra cash, the G1 offers a few small improvements over the excellent C1.

Specs

  • Sizes: 55”, 65”, 77”
  • Resolution: 4K
  • Refresh rate: 120Hz
  • Ports: 4 HDMI 2.1, eARC, 3 USB 2.0, RF, Ethernet, optical audio, headphone jack
  • HDR: Dolby Vision, HDR10

Pros

  • Super-flat design sits flush against the wall
  • LG’s latest panel adds extra brightness
  • Four HDMI 2.1 ports

Cons

  • Needs wall-mounting
  • Feet instead of a sturdy stand

Like any other consumer electronic, TVs degrade as you use them. OLEDs slowly deteriorate as electricity flows through them. In order to increase longevity, manufacturers limit the current going through the diodes, which has an impact on the overall brightness. In its new Evo panels (like the one found in the G1 TVs), LG has opted for deuterium-based blue OLEDs instead of hydrogen-based models in order to improve lifecycle. It also allows LG to pump more current through the diodes. At the same time, LG has also added an extra layer of diodes (they’re green) to provide extra backlight. Both of these improvements translate into a panel that can be up to 20 percent brighter than an older model without wearing down the TV faster than needed. 

Beyond the new Evo panel, the G1 TV is very similar to the excellent C1, at least when it comes to components. It offers four HDMI 2.1 ports, a 120Hz refresh rate, and 4K resolution. The extremely thin screen looks best mounted to a wall, but it does come with feet if you want to set it on a surface. 

If your budget can accommodate the upgrade, the brighter evo panel will make a noticeable difference, especially if you watch TV in a relatively bright location. 

FAQs

Q: What are the disadvantages of OLED TV?

The primary issue with OLEDs tends to pop up as a lack of overall brightness. If you frequently watch TV in bright areas, then you’re likely better off with something like a QLED or even a typical LED display, which can achieve higher levels of overall illumination.

OLEDs can sometimes suffer from a condition called “burn in,” in which objects that stay on the screen too long can leave a permanent impression in the picture. Modern OLEDs have come a long way in fixing this, though. 

Q: Which brand of OLED TV is best?

Sony and Vizio offer popular OLED TV sets, but LG dominates the OLED market because it’s the only company that can physically manufacture the panels. 

Q: Do OLED TVs degrade over time?

All TVs degrade over time, but OLEDs will typically do so a bit faster than the competition. You’ll notice the degradation as an overall loss in brightness and contrast. However, this process takes years with normal usage. If you’re planning to keep your TV on 24 hours a day for years at a time, you might want to opt for another style of TV.

OLEDs also once suffered from burn-in, a phenomenon in which on-screen objects that stayed in one place for too long would leave permanent imprints on the display. This has become much less of an issue in recent generations, though. 

A final word word about the best OLED TVs

If you’re in the market for the best possible picture quality in a TV, OLED is still the champ for the moment. With prices on the best OLED TVs coming down in recent years, this is actually a great time to take the leap into the OLED arena while competing technologies like Mini LED and Micro LED are still relatively early in their cycles. 

While you’re generally safe picking pretty much any LG OLED, make sure that you get the features that you need to support the style of content consumption you typically do. After all, that fancy new console isn’t all that fancy if you don’t have an HDMI 2.1 port to plug it into. 

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JBL Reflect Flow Pro active sport earbuds review: Workout-approved true wireless https://www.popsci.com/reviews/jbl-reflect-flow-pro-review/ https://www.popsci.com/reviews/jbl-reflect-flow-pro-review/#respond Fri, 25 Feb 2022 16:48:52 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=427182
JBL Reflect Flow Pro on a wooden floor
Quinn Gawronski

Use earbuds that are just as dynamic as your next workout.

The post JBL Reflect Flow Pro active sport earbuds review: Workout-approved true wireless appeared first on Popular Science.

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JBL Reflect Flow Pro on a wooden floor
Quinn Gawronski

If there’s a single occasion that can stand as a trial for Bluetooth audio gear, a grueling workout is surely it. I’ve tested five variations in the gym—from solar-powered over-ear designs to classic AirPods—and, so far, each type has had its own lapse in design or functionality. Wireless earbuds have flown out of my ears onto the treadmill or delivered less-than-impressive volume levels, allowing the grunts and groans of weightlifters into my rhythm. Finding ones with security, stability, and enough booming bass to get me through the last set sometimes feels nearly unachievable. 

And while the JBL Reflect Flow Pro true wireless active sports earbuds aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution to every woe plaguing TWS ‘buds, they come a lot closer to being an ideal design to wear during your next workout. Features including active noise cancellation, ambient noise mode, super-firm ear wings, and an IP68 waterproof rating deliver your favorite tracks during intense workouts—no major slippage while running or sweat damage included. 

Quinn Gawronski

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The JBL Reflect Flow Pro’s design

Despite their designation as a sport earbud, the JBL Reflect Flow Pro doesn’t have any awkward apparatuses that scream gym to the point you wouldn’t want to be seen wearing them anywhere else. The feature that differentiates this JBL pair from the rest is the stiff plastic wing, which securely tucks into the concha of the outer ear and will not budge, no matter what HIIT workout or new calisthenics exercise you’re doing. While these “POWERFINS” might not be highlighted on the product page as a key feature to their workout-ready design, they eliminated the need to constantly adjust and reinsert my earbuds mid-exercise. The JBLs also ship with three sizes of ear tips and fins (in small, medium, and large), which makes the fit exceptionally customizable and secure. 

For wireless connectivity, the JBL Reflects use Bluetooth 5.0 with AAC and SBC codec support for maximum iPhone and Android compatibility, though the higher-fidelity aptX is not an option. Just open the case and you’ll begin the sync process, and the Dual Connect feature lets you customize the functionality of each bud separately or use one independently if desired. Once paired, the JBL Reflects use touch controls that allow you to work out without grabbing your phone every time you want to switch playlists. The right earbud controls playback, skipping, calls, and can queue the voice assistant, while the left allows you to toggle between the different noise-canceling modes. 

When it comes time to charge the earbuds, the case can be plugged into a USB-C cord, which gives the JBLs bonus points in my book for added convenience. Rather than hunting down some proprietary charging cord, you can plug it into the same one you use to charge plenty of other devices. The case is also Qi-compatible for wireless charging. The LEDs on the outside of the case will indicate that the buds are charging and how much battery life they have—heads up that it’ll take them two hours to fully refuel. The flip-top charging case is somewhat clunky compared to other earbuds, weighing in at 1.6 ounces, though definitely still small enough to fit in any bag or purse. 

The battery life overall is more than adequate—with a maximum playtime of 10 hours with ANC turned off, eight hours with it on. Add in a fully charged case and you get a total of 30 hours of battery life. 

JBL Reflect Flow Pro active sport earbuds review: Workout-approved true wireless

The JBL Reflect Flow Pro’s key features

The JBL Reflects have what we now consider the standard essentials of modern wireless earbuds: features like Alexa voice controls, built-in microphones, Google Assistant, and hands-free calling. Aside from their workout-approved shape and design, the JBLs have a few other bonus components that differentiate them from your run-of-the-mill Bluetooth ‘buds (something you’d expect at the nearly $200 mark). 

ANC and Ambient Aware 

Whether you’re trying to get in the zone at the gym or want to tune out chatty customers at a cafe while you work, active noise cancellation, or ANC, is a welcome addition to these earbuds. The ANC is effective overall—upon turning it on I noticed muffling of noises for an overall quieter environment. That said, anything above a low-frequency tone won’t be cut out completely, so if you’re hoping to nullify construction sounds in your apartment or the loud ring of dumbbells in the gym, I wouldn’t hedge your bets on the JBL Reflect Flow Pro. While it might not be the best ANC out there, that dulling is still an improvement over no ANC at all and did help me tune out distractions in the gym.

And for those times where you want to be better tuned into your surroundings—like walking on a busy street, late at night, or while running outdoors—toggle to the Ambient Aware sound mode using the left earbud (or within the JBL Headphones App). Unlike the standard mode or ANC, Ambient Aware allows more sound in so that you can be more aware of your environment. 

IP68

One of the features making the JBL Reflect Flow Pro particularly suited to workouts is their IP68 waterproof rating—so you can have a sweaty workout and even rinse off the buds afterward with no concerns of water damage (just be sure to dry them off before returning them to the charging case, as that portion of the headphones is not water-resistant). While you probably shouldn’t swim laps in these headphones, you can submerge them in up to 1 meter underwater for as long as 30 minutes so they will survive any rainstorm, sweat-heavy cardio session, or accidental drops in the sink. And their dust resistance means you can take your workout outdoors—to the beach, for example—without worries.

The JBL Headphones App 

While the touch-controlled earbud interfaces allow you to easily toggle between the settings if you’re looking for a more in-depth way to fine-tune your earbuds, download the JBL Headphones app on any Android or iOS device. From within the app, you can change the default setting for on-ear controls to your liking, as well as set up Google Assistant or Alexa. But arguably the best setting on the app is the adjustable EQ, so you can boost or cut frequencies to your unique preferences. The app comes with preset modes for you to test out, or you can tinker with the settings to find your perfect audio balance. 

The JBL Reflect Flow Pro’s sound

These bonus features are great additions to the JBL Reflect Flow Pro, but the audio performance is the most integral part of the equation if you’re still deciding whether these wireless earbuds will deliver on all fronts. The JBLs have 6.8 mm drivers that deliver a frequency range of 20 Hz to 20 kHz, which effectively captures both booming bass and detailed highs—though the midrange comes across as a little scooped out in comparison. It’s a mildly U-shaped signature but, as someone who covets a somewhat bass-heavy headphone (especially while working out), this sound profile hits my marks. That said, on a song like James Blake’s “Say What You Will,” the bass came across a bit overbearing when listening on moderate to high volume levels. If you’re bass-averse, you might be safer off with a better balanced, more personalized sound profile, like that of the NuraTrue earbuds. 

If you want thunderous verb and thumping bass to power you through your workout, however, the JBL Reflects are a welcome addition to your essential gym equipment. Songs like “Floor Seats” by A$AP Ferg showcase impressive low-frequencies without overwhelming the vocals, for an overall intense but pleasurable listening experience. Even on tracks with little bass and a higher-frequency profile, like Sufjan Stevens’ “It’s Your Own Body And Mind,” the vocals, acoustics, and orchestral sounds rang through with detail and sculpted range. 

JBL Reflect Flow Pro active sport earbuds review: Workout-approved true wireless
The JBLs ready for action.

So, who should buy the JBL Reflect Flow Pro earbuds?

For fitness enthusiasts who want waterproof earbuds that won’t shift or short out in the middle of a sweaty workout, the JBL Reflect Flow Pro active sport earbuds are a great selection. If you’re more of an audiophile who appreciates a deeply customizable, office-oriented EQ and ANC system, these buds might not be as good a choice as, say, the Sony WF-1000XM4. For the gym, however, the JBL Reflect Flow Pro earbuds are now my go-to pair; with their POWERFINS, IP68 rating, and bass-forward sound, they are an ideal trifecta to take you from warm-ups to burnout sets.

The post JBL Reflect Flow Pro active sport earbuds review: Workout-approved true wireless appeared first on Popular Science.

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The best snow blowers of 2022 https://www.popsci.com/story/reviews/best-snow-blower/ https://www.popsci.com/story/reviews/best-snow-blower/#respond Fri, 25 Feb 2022 15:59:49 +0000 https://stg.popsci.com/story/uncategorized/best-snow-blower/

Snowed in? Dig in here so you can dig out in a hurry with the best snow blower to clear your driveway in no time.

The post The best snow blowers of 2022 appeared first on Popular Science.

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Best overall The PowerSmart Two Stage Snow Blower is the best two-stage PowerSmart PSSAM24 Snow Blower
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A reliable and heavy-duty pick to handle serious winter conditions.

Best electric Snow Joe SJ623E Electric Single Stage Snow Thrower Snow Joe 21-inch Single-Stage Electric Blower
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Skip the hassle of maintenance and choose sustainably with this electric, yet high-powered option.

Best budget The best snow blowers of 2022 Greenworks 13 Amp 20-inch Corded Snow Thrower
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Save your money while still clearing snow effectively.

There’s nothing more beautiful than the calm after a blizzard—until you remember that you’re responsible for cleaning it up. Thankfully, it’s easy to turn an impenetrable winter wonderland into something you can actually navigate with the best snow blower. While your small walkway or porch might only need a quick shovel (as long as you do it safely), in some places the task of hauling snow over your shoulder can be nothing short of back-breaking.

With the best snow blower, you can clear your driveway, street, or sidewalk in a matter of minutes without much more effort than pressing a button or pulling a cord. Whether you’re in a long-term relationship with blizzards that always seem to come back as soon as you thought they were over, or a more casual but chaotic once-in-a-blue-moon entanglement, our handy guide will help you find the best snow removal equipment for whatever your needs may be.

With so many snow blowers to choose from, picking the right one can feel a little overwhelming. Luckily, we’re here to take the guesswork out of snow removal. And while you’re outfitting yourself to tackle those drifts, check out our roundups of the best snow bootsheated socks, heated insolesheated vests, and winter hats to help you get the job done more comfortably (and when you get back inside, grab your heated slippers). 

OK, ready to clear a path through the snow? Check out the best snow blowers below:

How we selected the best snow blowers

When selecting the best snow blowers to make winter storms a whole lot more bearable, we reviewed each unit’s cost, power source, reviews, and displacement to select only the best products. We considered over 40 products and 10 brands to ultimately narrow it down to this list of the best six. Our final range includes blowers designed for different climates—as those who only need to clear a few inches won’t need the same kind of power as those who get hit with more serious snowfall. Whether you’re on a budget or want a high-end option with plenty of bells and whistles, we’ve included a product pick for you.

What to consider when shopping for the best snow blowers

They say that every snowflake is unique, and snow blowers are no different. Depending on your individual needs, you may want a fairly no-frills device or the latest technology. Check out these five things to consider before buying the best snow blower, and then let the snowfall where it may.

For long driveways and big clean-ups, power your snow blower with gas

Generally speaking, gas-powered snow blowers tend to be more powerful than even the best electric models. So, if you have to clean up a long driveway or city block, you’ll probably want your snow blower to run on gas.

Gas models do have their downsides: for example, you’ll need to change the oil from time to time and make sure that you’re using the right type of gasoline. Other upkeep will include changing or cleaning the filters as needed and occasionally replacing a burnt-out spark plug. However, when the inches start piling up, the maintenance a gas-powered snow blower requires will be more than worth it.

For convenience and ease of use, there’s no beating an electric snow blower

In addition to being more environmentally friendly than their gas-powered counterparts, electric snow blowers are easier to use and require less upkeep. Depending on the model, all you’ll need to do is plug them in (or charge the battery) and you’ll be ready to go.

Unfortunately, electric snow blowers tend to be less powerful than gas-powered ones, so if you have a huge amount of snow to clear, you might find yourself making multiple passes or cursing when the battery runs out. “Less powerful” doesn’t mean “not powerful,” though, and a well-made electric model might be exactly what you’re looking for provided the conditions you’ll be using it in aren’t terribly inclement.

A two-stage snow blower is the best choice for clearing large areas and really deep snow

If you live in an area that gets pummeled with snow, a one-stage snow blower just isn’t going to cut it. The difference between a one-stage and two-stage snow blower comes down to how much heavy lifting the “auger” (the part that sucks up the snow) is being asked to do—and in a one-stage model, it’s being asked to do everything.

Put simply, in a one-stage model, the auger sucks up the snow and spits it out, while in a two-stage model, the auger only has to suck it up while another part (the “impeller”) is responsible for blowing it somewhere else. If you’re looking to clear more than 8 inches of snow, a two-stage model is the only type that will get the job done. Electric models are all one-stage, so if you live in a place that gets lots of snow, a gas-powered, two stage model is a must.

Why you may want a snow blower with a few bells and whistles

Not all snow blowers are built equally and picking one with some extra features can save you a lot of time and frustration. For example, if you can’t wait for the sun to come out to clear a path to your car, you’ll definitely want to consider a snow blower with a built-in light. Want more control over where the snow you throw lands? Some models come equipped with remote chute control, so you don’t make another mess cleaning up the first one.

Best snow blowers: Reviews & Recommendations

Best overall: PowerSmart PSSAM24 Snow Blower

Why it made the cut: This powerful two-stage pick offers chute control, multiple speed settings, and a four-cycle engine to get through any storm.

Specs:

  • Power source: Gas
  • Engine displacement: 212 cubic centimeters
  • Throw distance: 40 feet

Pros

  • Steel auger cuts through snow
  • 8 total speeds
  • Non-slip treaded tires

Cons

  • Heavier design

So much for snow days. With over 1,200 rave reviews and recommendations, this snow blower is a reliable, durable, and powerful machine equipped to clear most snowfalls. The gas-powered, two-stage blower beats electric and one-stage models when it comes to forcing, and the steel auger slices through even heavy or icy snow buildup to provide a 24-inch wide, 20-inch deep clearing capacity. The PowerSmart has an energetic 212cc engine, 13-inch-height tires to dig deep into terrain, 180 degrees of chute control (with a 40-foot throw), and eight total speeds (six forward, two reverse), giving you a range of options to choose from when clearing your unique driveway, sidewalk, or street.

Best gas-powered snow blower: Ariens Deluxe 30-inch Two-Stage Snow Blower

Why it made the cut: This gas-powered pick can cut through even the most abominable snow buildup with snow blows of up to 50 feet.

Specs:

  • Power source: Gas
  • Engine displacement: 306 Cubic Centimeters
  • Throw distance: 50 feet

Pros

  • Dual belts for more power
  • Auto-turn steering
  • All steel frame for durability

Cons

  • If not maintained well the steel can rust

Save yourself the hassle of making pass after pass after pass with this powerful Ariens snow blower. Capable of clearing a 30-inch-wide path and cutting through 21 inches of piled-up snow, this two-stage snow blower will be your new best friend if you have a lot of ground to cover. Auto-turn steering also means no tricky levers or triggers to manipulate—just press the electric push button and start carving. The dual belt system also allows your engine to output more power where it matters, so clearing even heavy snowfall can be a breeze.

Best electric snow blower: Snow Joe 21-inch Single-Stage Electric Snow Blower

Amazon

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Why it made the cut: Simply charge up and get snow blowing with this eco-friendly-meets-affordable pick, which clears an impressive amount of snow despite its lightweight and compact design.

Specs:

  • Power source: Corded electric
  • Engine displacement: 800 lbs/min
  • Throw distance: 20 feet

Pros

  • Affordable option
  • Sustainable pick
  • Lightweight design

Cons

  • Not suited for large driveways

Powered with a rechargeable 100-volt, 5.0 Ah lithium-ion battery, this electric snow blower can clear a path that’s 21 inches wide and 12 inches high. This model comes with a battery and charger, but you can add an additional battery (sold separately) if thirty minutes of run time isn’t enough. And with dual 5-Watt LED lights, you’ll be able to see where you’re going even when the sun is down. Unlike gas models, the Snow Joe requires no maintenance, so your snow blower won’t malfunction if it goes untouched for months in the garage. Despite its more compact size, this pick can also move 800 pounds of snow per minute, making it a workhorse worthy of a try.

Best snow blower for large areas: Husqvarna ST 327 Snow Blower

Why it made the cut: For those who need to clear large areas with heavy snowfall, this pick is designed with a two-stage clearing process and a high-capacity belt to handle the toughest storms.

Specs:

  • Power source: Gas
  • Engine displacement: 291 Cubic Centimeters
  • Throw distance: 50 feet

Pros

  • Highest cubic centimeter clearing
  • Power steering
  • LED Headlights

Cons

  • Some belt slippage at times

If you’re looking for a high-powered machine to handle the toughest snowfalls, this pick from Husqvarna is your best bet. It can clear anywhere from 6 to 23 inches of snow, with features like a two-stage system, friction disc drive, power steering, high-capacity belt, and extra-large tires to make your job even easier. The heavy-duty components are designed with durability in mind—the cast iron auger gear box and cast iron impeller are built to last. And if you’re looking for added features, the loop handles, heated handle grips, LED lights, and electric starter make this a well-rounded option.

Best compact snow blower: Troy-Bilt Squall 21-inch Single-Stage Gas Snow Blower

Why it made the cut: Clear up to 13 inches of snow off your sidewalks in one go with this powerful gas-powered pick.

Specs:

  • Power source: Gas
  • Engine displacement: 208 cubic centimeters
  • Throw distance: 21 inches

Pros

  • Remote chute control
  • Space-saving design
  • Powerful gas engine

Cons

  • Less powerful than two-stage option

With a foldable ergonomic handle, this single-stage snow blower is a great option if you don’t have tons of extra storage space. As long as the snow hasn’t climbed above six inches, this Troy-Bilt snow blower will easily cut a 21-inch-wide path. While it’s slightly less powerful than a two-stage snow blower, the four-cycle gas engine with electric start still makes this machine formidable against snowfall. It’s also equipped with dual LED headlights and a 190-degree adjustable chute to make cleaning easier.

Best two-stage snow blower: Briggs & Stratton Dual-Stage Snow Blower

Why it made the cut: This high-quality option has a powerful motor and two-stage design to tackle the heaviest snowfalls.

Specs:

  • Power source: Gas
  • Engine displacement: 306 cubic centimeters
  • Throw distance: Up to 40 feet

Pros

  • Easy electric push start
  • Heated hand grips
  • Non-slip treaded tires

Cons

  • Heavier design

This powerful gas two-stage snow blower can easily tackle snowfalls that are up to 20 inches and move 306 cubic cm of snow, making it one of the best machines to clear areas hit with serious snowfall. While considerably more expensive than the other options in the article, this gas snow blower will cut through just about anything you put in its way and you give total control over where it ends up. The dual-trigger steering also allows you to cut tight turns and clear snow precisely, which ultimately makes for a faster process overall.

Best budget snow blower: Greenworks 13 Amp 20-inch Corded Snow Thrower

Amazon

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Why it made the cut: Snowblowers tend to be quite the investment, but you don’t have to spend a ton to save time clearing drifts—this Greenworks pick has quite the power, despite its more compact size and affordable pricing.

Specs:

  • Power source: Corded electric
  • Clearing depth: 10 inches
  • Throw distance: 20 feet

Pros

  • Affordable pick
  • Lightweight design
  • Easy electric start

Cons

  • Requires extension cord

If you live somewhere that only sees light, sporadic snowfall, there’s absolutely no reason to shell out big money on a snow blower with features you don’t need. This Greenworks electric snow blower will clear a path that’s 20 inches wide and 10 inches deep. Since it’s AC-powered, you’ll never run out of juice as long as you can reach an outlet. Convenient to store and easy to start, this is a great snow thrower if you don’t want to spend too much money.

FAQs

Q: Are snow blowers worth it?

Whether or not a snow blower is worth it depends on how often it snows where you live, how much snow falls when it does, and how much time and energy you want to spend cleaning it up. For some people, a simple shovel will do, for others, a powerful snow blower is a must-have.

Q: How much should I spend on a snow blower?

How much you should spend on a snow blower depends on how much snow you’re dealing with and how much area you’ll need to clean up. There’s no need for the most powerful snow blower if it only snows a little, but if you’re caught in a blizzard, a smaller device might not cut it.

Q: What should I look for when buying a snow blower?

When you’re buying a snow blower you should make sure that it can handle the conditions that you need to clean up. Make sure it will work on the type of surface you’ll be using it on and that it can cut through the amount of snow on the ground.

The final word on the best snow blowers

Snow blowers vary widely in price, power, and performance. Depending on your needs, features like LED lighting and remote chute control can be extremely helpful or totally superfluous. Bottom line: the best snow blower is the one that’s suited to your area’s weather conditions and the amount of area you’ll need to clear. Think gas-powered and two-stage models for blizzard-prone climates, and smaller electric units for more fairweather locales.

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‘Hate is addictive’: TikTok’s new policies might do little for LGBTQ users’ safety https://www.popsci.com/technology/tik-tok-updates-community-guidelines/ https://www.popsci.com/technology/tik-tok-updates-community-guidelines/#respond Fri, 25 Feb 2022 15:00:00 +0000 https://www.popsci.com/?p=427155
tiktok on web browser
TikTok has updated its community guidelines to ban deadnaming and other forms of harassment against LGBTQ users. Solen Feyissa / Unsplash

While LGBTQ advocates applaud the moves, they call for more impactful changes across social media platforms.

The post ‘Hate is addictive’: TikTok’s new policies might do little for LGBTQ users’ safety appeared first on Popular Science.

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TikTok has updated its community guidelines to ban deadnaming and other forms of harassment against LGBTQ users. Solen Feyissa / Unsplash

LGBTQ people are almost four times more likely to experience violent victimization, according to the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law. And even on social media—where many find affirming communities—they are still exposed to abuse. About 64 percent of members of the community have reportedly experienced online harassment in the past year, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

But on February 8, one major platform—TikTok—tried to make the space a little bit safer for LGBTQ users. It updated its community guidelines to explicitly ban deadnaming, misgendering, misogyny, and the promotion of so-called conversion therapy on its platform.

“Though these ideologies have long been prohibited on TikTok, we’ve heard from creators and civil society organizations that it’s important to be explicit in our Community Guidelines,” said Cormac Keenan, TikTok’s head of trust and safety, in a press release.  

Misgendering is the act of referring to a transgender person using the wrong gender, and deadnaming is referring to or revealing the former name of a transgender person without their consent. “Conversion therapy” is a scientifically discredited and harmful practice of trying to “convert” LGBTQ people to be heterosexual or cisgender. 

While LGBTQ users and advocacy groups applauded the updated community guidelines, it’s unclear how they will be enforced or how much safer they will make LGBTQ users on TikTok. The updated guidelines are also just one change out of many that LGBTQ advocates would like to see social media companies put in place.

Preventing real-world harm

Malicious misgendering and deadnaming can cause real-world harm, says Jenni Olson, the social media safety program director of GLAAD, an LGBTQ advocacy organization. For example, transgender and nonbinary youth who reported living with people who did not respect their pronouns attempted suicide at nearly double the rate of those who reported living with all people who respected their pronouns, according to a 2021 survey by the Trevor Project.  

The promotion of so-called conversion therapy can be just as dangerous. LGBTQ youth who were subjected to such practices were more than twice as likely to attempt suicide than those who were not, also according to the Trevor Project

Homophobia and transphobia, like other forms of bigotry, run rampant on social media in part because of how platforms are designed, says Jeffrey Marsh, a trans, nonbinary author and TikTok creator with more than 500,000 followers

“Hate is addictive,” Marsh says. If a platform cares most about engagement, they add, “hate is a very engaging activity.”

[Related: Tips for dealing with trolls on social media]

Marsh has had many of their videos go viral on the “wrong side of TikTok,” when their video appears more on the feeds of homophobic and transphobic users because they are fervently and viciously engaging with it. Marsh has even received death threats, but they believe sharing even the most vile comments is an opportunity to educate others. 

“It’s part of my mission to help others understand LGBTQ people even if they’re a hateful bigot,” Marsh says. “But if I was someone with a different mental health profile, it might be a very dangerous position to be in.”

LGBTQ users and advocates applaud the changes

The updated community guidelines came after GLAAD and more than 75 other groups signed an open letter in November tasking TikTok and other social media platforms with better protecting users from homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, and racism. 

In May, GLAAD published its inaugural Social Media Safety Index, which evaluates platforms based on how they protect, or fail to protect, LGBTQ users. It also makes recommendations for how they can improve. Olson says GLAAD meets regularly with all of the platforms to offer guidance. The explicit ban of deadnaming, misgendering, and the promotion of conversion therapy was one of the recommendations of the Index, but GLAAD points out that in 2018 Twitter explicitly banned misgendering and deadnaming, and Pinterest explicitly banned the promotion of conversion therapy and “denial of an individual’s gender identity or sexual orientation.”

[Related: How to use science to talk to kids about gender]

“It is really powerful for a company to make a statement to say, ‘These are the expectations that we have for people who are using our products,’” Olson says. 

Seeing the platform they love explicitly ban these behaviors could be very affirming to LGBTQ youth, Marsh says, given TikTok’s popularity. Marsh has been creating content for years across social media platforms, including Vine, one of the predecessors of TikTok, and feels that TikTok is the first platform to really center marginalized voices. 

“It’s great that they have seen the value in calling out this specific kind of hatred. To me, that is a form of respect,” Marsh says. “At the same time, I’m not sure if the day-to-day lives of LGBTQ creators will change that much.”

Enforcement is hit-or-miss

While TikTok stated that it uses a “combination of technology and people to identify and remove violations of our Community Guidelines,” the company did not offer many details on how it will enforce the specific updated guidelines. Both Olson and Marsh are dubious of how, or if, the platform will hold users accountable.

“There’s the policy and then there’s the enforcement,” Olson says. “And the enforcement of all these things is very uneven to say the least.”

According to TikTok, its algorithms review videos before they are uploaded and flag or remove videos that appear to violate community guidelines. This applies mostly to the categories in which the technology can be the most accurate such as the safety of minors, adult nudity and sexual activities, and violent and graphic content. 

For more nuanced categories, such as hateful behavior, harassment, and bullying, TikTok relies more on human moderators, Eric Han, TikTok’s head of US safety said in a July press release

Marsh thinks TikTok will rely mainly on user reports to enforce the updated community guidelines. 

Jamie Favazza, TikTok’s director of policy and safety communications, says via email: “We strive to proactively enforce our policies leveraging both technology and people, and we also value and review the reports we receive from our community.”

Transparency lacking specifics and accountability

TikTok publishes quarterly Community Guidelines Enforcement Reports that list the number of videos they have taken down, organized by general guidelines. From July to September 2021, TikTok removed more than 91 million videos, or about 1 percent of all videos uploaded to the platform, a little more than a third of which were removed automatically. Of all videos removed, about 1.5 percent were removed for “hateful behavior,” and about 5 percent were removed for “harassment and bullying.”

[Related: The early internet was a haven for trans youth]

But Olson points out that these numbers aren’t identified by specific forms of harassment, like homophobia and transphobia.

“They say how much they took down,” Olson says. “We have no idea how much they missed.” 

Though Olson applauds the updates to TikTok’s community guidelines and wishes other social media platforms would follow suit, she would like to see more regulatory oversight of platforms to ensure they are upholding their policies and keeping users safe. 

“Any other industry in America is regulated so that there are consequences for the public health and safety impact of their products,” Olson says. “We shouldn’t be having to absorb the public health and safety impact when there are things that can be done to mitigate that harm.” 

She specifically references the Social Media NUDGE Act, a bipartisan bill introduced to Congress earlier this month that aims to study and reduce harmful content on social media platforms. It plans to do this by adding levels of “friction,” such as Twitter’s policy of asking users if they’ve read an article before posting it. Olson also says that GLAAD is currently working on the 2022 Social Media Safety Index which will include scorecards for social media platforms.

Meanwhile, Marsh acknowledges that it is difficult for social media companies to fully eradicate homophobia and transphobia from their platforms because they reflect the homophobia and transphobia in society.

“LGBTQ hate was not invented by TikTok. It was not invented by the people who use TikTok. It is a systemic global problem,” Marsh says. “It’s not the easiest thing in the world to rid your platform of LGBTQ hate, because as a society, it is still a very addictive hatred.”

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