The investigators recognised an event that affects everyone’s sleep: when the clocks go forward for Daylight Saving Time. Prior evidence suggests we lose on average 40 minutes of sleep per night following the switch, as our body rhythms struggle to adjust.
This is a guest post by commercial airline pilot Patrick Smith, who writes about the hidden side of the airline industry. You can read his writing for Salon.com here.
Cockpit Confidential: The Autopilot Myth By Patrick Smith
One evening I was sitting in economy class when our jet came in for an unusually smooth landing. “Nice job, autopilot!” yelled some knucklehead sitting behind me. Several people laughed. I winced. It was amusing, maybe, but was also wrong. The touchdown had been a fully manual one, as the vast majority of touchdowns are.
I’ve been writing about commercial aviation for nine years – a job that entails a fair bit of myth-busting. Air travel is a mysterious realm, rife with conspiracy theories, urban legends, wives’ tales and other ridiculous notions. I’ve heard it all, from “chemtrails” to the 9/11 “truthers.” Nothing, however, gets under my skin more than myths and exaggerations about cockpit automation — this pervasive idea that modern aircraft are flown by computers, with pilots on hand as little more than a backup in case of trouble. And in some not-too-distant future, we’re repeatedly told, pilots will be engineered out of the picture entirely.
I recently switched banks, to Chase. So far, it’s been a pretty good experience. Indeed, the bank does a lot of very good things from a customer-service perspective.
While using an ATM, I wasn’t able to pull up a list of recent transactions. I was sure I just wasn’t finding the right menu. I could print out the recent transactions but I didn’t want to print it out; I just wanted to look at it on the computer screen. Having failed to figure it out after a few ATM visits, I wrote to the very helpful and smart Chase employee who helped me set up my accounts. He confirmed that I couldn’t get recent-transaction data via the ATM screen. Furthermore, he wrote:
Your only other options at this point are:
1) Enroll your mobile phone for Chase Mobile which will allow you to receive a text message of recent history
2) Download the Chase iPhone application which will allow you to access real-time transactions
3) Stop in and sit with a banker who can show you recent transactions/pending or posted
At this time, there is no alternate way to view recent history at a Chase ATM.
I apologize for the inconvenience.
Wha? “Sit with a banker” to see my recent transactions? Shall I bring my collection of buggy whips to pass the time while waiting?
Today marked another triple-digit move for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which closed up 272 points. Of the 45 trading days over the last two months, 28 of them (including today) have seen triple-digit moves, meaning the Dow has gone up or down by 100 points (or more) 62% of the time since July 25. The average daily move for the Dow during that time has been 188 points, or 1.6%.
Here’s a snapshot showing the performance of the Dow over the last two months:
Pretty choppy, right? I’m no stock market historian, but I’d imagine that you’d be pretty hard-pressed to find such a sustained period of volatility. Which brings up the question: what’s causing this? Obviously, there is a lot of uncertainty (and fear) in the market right now. From Europe’s sovereign debt problems, to America’s toxic political climate, to the sputtering global economy, there is a lot to be anxious about. Anxiety breeds indecision, which characterizes the bumpy market pretty well.
Thursday’s 423-point gain by the Dow marked the first time ever that the industrial average has posted four consecutive days of 400-point moves. Less than two weeks into August, there have already been six trading days that saw triple-digit swings this month. While the recent sell-off has been swift (the Dow is off more than 12% since July 21), it’s also been choppy. Volatility is back in a big way. The VIX Index, also known as the fear index, has shot up recently, nearly doubling over the last week. The VIX tracks the expected price of a range of protective S&P 500 options over the next 30 days.
While your average investor generally hates volatility, there are those who feed off it, namely high-frequency traders. These are the guys who use complex algorithms and super-fast computers to scour the markets for tiny price differentials, often executing trades in microseconds (one millionth of a second). The more volatile the market, the easier it is for them to make money jumping in and out of stocks across exchanges.
Now, it’s not quite fair to lump all high-frequency traders together. They don’t all necessarily do well in volatile markets. While some are killing it, there are certainly others who’ve been getting killed; it all depends on their strategy. But generally, traders need two things: 1) a price, and 2) movement. Recently, they’ve had plenty of both.
See ADDENDUM (8-3-11; 9:13am EDT) below
A study by AptiQuant Psychometric Consulting finds that people who use Internet Explorer as their web browser are, on average, less smart than those who use other browers. As PC Magreports:
Over a period of around four weeks, the company gave a Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) to users looking for free online IQ assessment tests, then recorded the results and browsers used for all participants above the age of 16.
Across the board, the average IQ scores presented for users of Internet Explorer versions 6 through 9 were all lower than the IQ scores recorded for Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Camino, and Opera users.
You don’t have to be all that sharp to see that there’s a lot of hacking going on lately. As I type, Rupert Murdoch and his allies are testifying before British Parliament over the mushrooming News of the World disaster. It seems like everyone on earth is getting hacked: consultants and cops, Sony and the Senate, the IMF and Citi, and firms ranging from Lockheed Martin (China suspected) to Google (ditto) to dowdy old PBS. But is there really more hacking than usual of late, or are we just more observant?
To answer this question, we put together a Freakonomics Quorum of cyber-security and I.T. experts (see past Quorums here) and asked them the following:
Why has there been such a spike in hacking recently? Or is it merely a function of us paying closer attention and of institutions being more open about reporting security breaches?
Did you smile? Now your computer can answer that question: MIT’s Media Lab is developing technology whereby your computer, with the help of a webcam, can read facial movements to analyze whether you’re smiling.
Watson may have triumphed at Jeopardy!, but Brian Christian examines computer intelligence more closely in the Atlantic. Christian recently participated in the Turing Test: “I will sit down at a computer and have a series of five-minute instant-message chats with several strangers. At the other end of these chats will be a psychologist, a linguist, a computer scientist, and the host of a popular British technology show. Together they form a judging panel, evaluating my ability to do one of the strangest things I’ve ever been asked to do. I must convince them that I’m human.”
The IBM supercomputer named Watson has beaten two Jeopardy! champions in a three-night marathon. The computer was awarded a $1 million prize, but the BBC reports that “the victory for Watson and IBM was about more than money. It was about ushering in a new era in computing where machines will increasingly be able to learn and understand what humans are really asking them for. Jeopardy is seen as a significant challenge for Watson because of the show’s rapid-fire format and clues that rely on subtle meanings, puns, and riddles; something humans excel at and computers do not.”
When given strong data to work with, computers can do a good job of beating humans in predicting what the masses will embrace. BusinessWeek has an interesting recap of successful machine-made future-gazing.
IBM researchers are hard at work creating a computer that will match wits against humans on the television show Jeopardy. Compared to checkers, chess, or backgammon, playing Jeopardy would seem to be a hard task for a computer because language is such a fundamental part of answering the questions correctly.
Take a look at the final vote tally in Time magazine’s online poll of the most influential people.
It doesn’t take long to come to the conclusion that things didn’t turn out quite as one would expect; I’d never even heard of a handful of the folks who ended up near the top of the list, including the winner, Moot, who both has way more votes than anyone else and a much higher average rating.
Since last Wednesday, the torrent of junk e-mail coursing through the internet has been slowed dramatically, with 40 percent or more of it cut off at the source. The source of all that spam? San Jose, California. That’s where a group of servers responsible for much of the world’s spam had been operating until they were severed from the internet . . .