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How Google Recognizes Traffic Jams in Maps



Berlin artist Simon Weckert recently “hacked” Google Maps by filling a red wagon with 99 iPhone running Google Maps and dragging around the city to fool the service into thinking there was a traffic jam when there wasn’t one.

It’s a clever trick, but it raises questions as to how Google Maps tracks and responds to the data it collects in normal traffic conditions. If it’s possible to fool Google Maps with a pile of old iPhones and a wagon, can you always be certain the app is accurate? Based on what we know about Google Map’s algorithm and the company’s responses to Weckert’s DIY traffic jam, the answer appears to be: yes, for the most part.

How traffic jams show up on Google Maps

Google Maps continually refreshes based on anonymously tracked user data, traffic sensors, and satellite data to make sure the app is displaying the most accurate traffic conditions possible.

If you’ve ever used Google Maps, you’ve likely seen streets colored green, orange, or red. Green roads mean traffic is moving normally, but orange and red represent slowdowns. Slowdowns show up when users in navigation mode are currently traveling at slower-than-usual speeds on that part of the road and are applied by Google automatically. However, once other divers using Google Maps are able to get through the area at normal speeds, Google will remove the slow down status for that area—even if other users are still driving slower.

It’s unclear how many slower-than-usual users are necessary for Google Maps to register it as slow traffic, but according to 9to5Google’s report on Weckert’s traffic jam experiment, it only took a single car driving past him at normals speeds to undo the traffic jam status caused by his wagon of iPhones. That said, it appears that Google Maps ignores when lots of users are at a standstill. Weckert’s wagon had to be moving in order for Google Maps to see the traffic jam—even though nearly 100 phones were in navigation mode and not moving. How long a vehicle must be idling before it’s ignored is unclear; obviously, Google Maps will notice if several users are stopped on a highway and report it as a slow down, but if a bunch of people are parked in a parking garage and just happen to have navigation mode on, then you probably won’t see any traffic jams listed in the area.

Interestingly, not all vehicles are treated equally. Google Maps can tell the difference between a car, motorcycle, and other vehicles (at least in certain countries and regions). So even though a cheeky scooter might be able to weave its way through a traffic jam, Google Maps could—in some cases—recognize that the smaller vehicle’s movement doesn’t necessarily mean that regular traffic conditions have resumed.

Accidents, construction, and other traffic incidents

Google Maps also updates traffic reports based on user input in addition to passive, anonymized location and movement tracking to help keep conditions updated.

Accidents, construction zones, speed traps, and other alerts can all be reported in Google Maps, and the more users that report an alert help it show up faster on the map for others and potentially help them avoid slowdowns and find better routes if necessary. We’ve previously covered how to do this on both Android and iOS, but here’s how to report traffic incidents and slowdowns in Google Maps if you’re unfamiliar:

  1. While in Google Maps’ navigation mode, tap the “+” icon (third icon down on the right-side menu).
  2. Tap the icon for the type of incident you wish to report. Follow the on-screen instructions to finalize the submission.
  3. The app will begin adding the report to the map, though you have a short countdown window to undo the report if you want to cancel.

Reroutes and ETA calculation

Google compares the speeds of its users with speed limit information to calculate estimated arrival times. Basically, it takes how fast you’re actually moving, how fast you should be moving based on speed limits, how fast other drivers are going and adjusts how, and how much further you have on your route to determine your ETA.

Google Maps will also cross-reference user-reported conditions and other traffic data is monitors with your route and current speeds, and will adjust your arrival times if it notices a slowdown or other incidents along your route. Once the app has determined the severity and length of the slowdown, it will alert users whose routes are affected and suggest alternative directions if it’s ultimately faster.

Google Maps’ reroute suggestions aren’t always perfect, however. The algorithm can only respond to the most recent data and make a guess—it certainly can’t tell the future, either—so rerouting won’t always be faster (or necessary). That said, you can be reasonably confident that the app is giving you the most up-to-date information it has.


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How Worried Should You Be About the Health Risks of 5G?




5G, the next generation of cellular technology for the next generation of smartphones, is imminent. And with it, there’s concern about the health risk of this new, more powerful network. How worried should you be about the coming 5G healthpocalypse?

By now, you may have seen articles on Facebook or alternative health websites. The gist: 5G is a dangerous escalation of traditional cellular technology, one packed with higher energy radiation that delivers potential damaging effects on human beings. Some 5G conspiracy theorists contend that the new network generates radiofrequency radiation that can damage DNA and lead to cancer; cause oxidative damage that can cause premature aging; disrupt cell metabolism; and potentially lead to other diseases through the generation of stress proteins. Some articles cite research studies and opinions by reputable organizations like the World Health Organization.

It sounds worrisome, but let’s take a look at the actual science.

What Is 5G?

5G has been hyped for a few years, but this is the year that carriers begin the process of rolling out the new wireless standard. AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint have all started to deploy their networks in the first half of the year, though widespread availability is still a year or more away. 5G will get a foothold in little more than a handful of cities this year.

Update: With the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, a number of viral social media conspiracy theories have speculated that 5G is the cause of the world’s current problems. Simply put, these claims are factually false. 5G does not cause Coronavirus.

That isn’t keeping device manufacturers and service providers from jumping onto the 5G bandwagon. Samsung’s new Galaxy S10 and Galaxy Fold (the phone that unfurls into a tablet), for example, are both 5G-ready, along with models from LG, Huawei, Motorola, ZTE, and more.

LG V50 ThinQ 5G
LG V50 ThinQ 5G’s is one of the first 5G phones available. LG

5G offers at least a tenfold improvement in network performance. The last major network upgrade was 4G, which debuted in 2009 (the year of the Colorado balloon boy hoax), with a peak speed of about 10 Mbps. In comparison, 5G is poised to deliver peak speeds between 10 and 20 Gbps. And network latency will drop from 30ms to about 1ms, ideal for video game streaming, online video, and the Internet of Things, which is anticipating 5G to connect sensors, computers, and other devices with ultra-low latency.

An Evolution of Concerns

Before we address 5G, it’s worth pointing out that the latest health fears about radiation aren’t happening in a vacuum (there’s some physics joke in there, no doubt). Concerns about 5G are the latest iteration of decades of headlines about the dangers of electromagnetic radiation. We’ve seen controversies about everything from the health risks of Wi-Fi to smart meters.

Electromagnetic hypersensitivity, for example, is a hypothetical disease in which certain people experience debilitating symptoms in the presence of radiation like cell phones and Wi-Fi—so yes, Michael McKean’s bizarre behavior on “Better Call Saul” is a real thing. But despite people claiming such sensitivities for at least 30 years, systematic scientific reviews have found that “blinded” victims can’t tell when they’re in the presence of an electromagnetic field, and the World Health Organization now recommends psychological evaluation for people so afflicted.

Likewise, decades of studies have found no link between cell phones and cancers like brain tumors, though that hasn’t kept municipalities like San Francisco from passing laws requiring stores to display the radiation emitted by handsets—which implies, in the minds of consumers, risk.

How Dangerous Is Radiofrequency Radiation?

5G cellular base station

At the root of all concerns about cell phone networks is radiofrequency radiation (RFR). RFR is anything emitted in the electromagnetic spectrum, from microwaves to x-rays to radio waves to light from your monitor or light from the sun. Clearly, RFR isn’t inherently dangerous, so the problem becomes discovering under what circumstances it might be.

Scientists say that the most important criterion about whether any particular RFR is dangerous is whether it falls into the category of ionizing or non-ionizing radiation. Simply put, any radiation that’s non-ionizing is too weak to break chemical bonds. That includes ultraviolet, visible light, infrared, and everything with a lower frequency, like radio waves. Everyday technologies like power lines, FM radio, and Wi-Fi also fall into this range. (Microwaves are the lone exception: non-ionizing but able to damage tissue, they’re precisely and intentionally tuned to resonate with water molecules.) Frequencies above UV, like x-rays and gamma rays, are ionizing.

Dr. Steve Novella, an assistant professor of neurology at Yale and the editor of Science-Based Medicine, understands that people generally get concerned about radiation. “Using the term radiation is misleading because people think of nuclear weapons—they think of ionizing radiation that absolutely can cause damage. It can kill cells. It can cause DNA mutations.” But since non-ionizing radiation doesn’t cause DNA damage or tissue damage, Novella says that most concern about cell phone RFR is misplaced. “There’s no known mechanism for most forms of non-ionizing radiation to even have a biological effect,” he says.

Or, in the less refined but more visceral words of author C. Stuart Hardwick, “radiation isn’t magic death cooties.”

Studies Aren’t Clearcut

Of course, just because there’s no known mechanism for non-ionizing radiation to have a biological effect, that doesn’t’ mean it’s safe or that no effect exists. Indeed, researchers continue to conduct studies. One recent study was released by the National Toxicology Program (NTP), an agency run by the Department of Health and Human Services. In this widely quoted study about cell phone radio frequency radiation, scientists found that high exposure to 3G RFR led to some cases of cancerous heart tumors, brain tumors, and tumors in the adrenal glands of male rats.

The study is a good object lesson in how hard it is to do science like this. As RealClearScience points out, the number of tumors detected were so small that they statistically could have occurred by chance (which may be more likely since they were only detected in male subjects). Moreover, the level and duration of the RFR exposure were well in excess of what any actual human would ever be exposed to, and in fact, the irradiated test rats lived longer than the unexposed control rats. Says Dr. Novella, “Experienced researchers look at a study like that and say that doesn’t really tell us anything.”

Sizing Up 5G’s Risks

Ongoing studies aside, 5G is coming, and as mentioned, there are concerns about this new technology.

A common complaint about 5G is that, due to the lower power of 5G transmitters, there will be more of them. The Environmental Health Trust contends that “5G will require the buildout of literally hundreds of thousands of new wireless antennas in neighborhoods, cities, and towns. A cellular small cell or another transmitter will be placed every two to ten homes according to estimates.”

Says Dr. Novella, “What they’re really saying is the dose is going to be higher. Theoretically, this is a reasonable question to ask.” But skeptics caution you shouldn’t conflate asking the question with merely asserting that there’s a risk. As Novella points out, “We’re still talking about power and frequency less than light. You go out in the sun, and you’re bathed in electromagnetic radiation that’s far greater than these 5G cell towers.”

It’s easy to find claims online that the greater frequency of 5G alone constitutes a risk. observes that “1G, 2G, 3G and 4G use between 1 to 5 gigahertz frequency. 5G uses between 24 to 90 gigahertz frequency,” and then asserts that “Within the RF Radiation portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, the higher the frequency, the more dangerous it is to living organisms.”

But asserting that the higher frequency is more dangerous is just that—an assertion, and there’s little real science to stand behind it. 5G remains non-ionizing in nature.

Devices emitting electromagnetic fields in the home

The FCC—responsible for licensing the spectrum for public use—weighs in as well. Says Neil Derek Grace, a communications officer at the FCC, “For 5G equipment, the signals from commercial wireless transmitters are typically far below the RF exposure limits at any location that is accessible to the public.” The FCC defers to the FDA for actual health risk assessments, which takes a direct, but low-key approach to addressing the risks: “The weight of scientific evidence has not linked cell phones with any health problems.”

In 2011, the World Health Organization weighed in, classifying RF Radiation as a Group 2B agent, which is defined as “Possibly carcinogenic to humans.” This, too, is nuanced. Says Novella, “you have to look at all the other things they classify as a possible carcinogen. They put it in the same class as things like caffeine. That is such a weak standard that it basically means nothing. It’s like saying ‘everything causes cancer.’”

Part of the problem with the WHO declaration is that it’s focused on hazard, not risk—a subtle distinction often lost on non-scientists, not unlike the rigorous distinction between “precision” and “accuracy.” (Precision refers to how tightly clustered your data is; accuracy refers to how close that data is to the real value. You might have a dozen miscalibrated thermometers that all tell you the wrong temperature with a very high degree of precision.) When the WHO classifies coffee or nickel or pickles as a possible carcinogen, it’s asserting hazard without regard for real-world risk. Explains Novella, “A loaded pistol is a hazard because theoretically, it can cause damage. But if you lock it in a safe, the risk is negligible.”

Scientists will continue to test new networks as technology evolves, to make sure the technology we use every day remains safe. As recently as February, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal critiqued the FCC and FDA for insufficient research into the potential risks of 5G. As the NTP study shows, research into radiation risks is difficult and often inconclusive, meaning it can take a long time to make real progress.

But for now, everything we know about 5G networks tells us that there’s no reason to be alarmed. After all, there are many technologies we use every day with a substantially higher measurable risk. And as Dr. Novella says, “With 5G the hazard is low—but non-zero—and the actual risk appears to be zero. We’ve picked up no signal in the real world.”


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Researchers take another step closer to mind-reading computer




A team of researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, has taken another step toward the development of a computer able to decipher speech in the human mind. In their paper published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, the group describes their approach to using AI systems to read and translate human thoughts. Gregory Cogan with Duke University has published a News & Views piece outlining the work by the team in California in the same journal issue.

Over the past century, people have wondered if it might be possible to create a machine that could read the human mind. Such ideas have most often been expressed in movies where scientists try to read the mind of a spy or terrorist. Recently, such systems have come to be seen as a possible way for people with speech disability to communicate. The advent of artificial intelligence, and more specifically neural networks, has brought the possibility ever closer, with machines able to read brain waves and translate some of them into words. In this new effort, the research team has taken the idea a step forward by developing a system able to decipher whole sentences.

The work by the team involved developing a more advanced AI system and recruiting the assistance of four women with epilepsy—each of whom had been fitted with brain-implanted electrodes to monitor their condition. The researchers used readings from the electrodes to capture brain signals in different parts of their brain as the women read sentences out loud. The data from the electrodes was sent to a neural network that processed the information linked certain brain signals to words as they were being processed and spoken by the volunteer. Each of the sentences was spoken twice by each of the volunteers, but only the first was used for training the neural network—the second was used for testing purposes. After processing the brain signal data, the first neural network sent the results to a second neural network that tried to form sentences from them.

The researchers found that their system had a best-case scenario error rate of just 3%. But they note that it was also working with a very limited vocabulary of just 250 words—far fewer than the hundreds of thousands that most humans are able to recognize. But they suggest it might be enough for someone who cannot speak any words at all.


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How will the iPhone 9 features and price be?




Responding to the expectation of users with a small screen smartphone with iPhone SE in March 2016, Apple had a short time to introduce the iPhone SE 2 or the iPhone 9 model, which is not used by many people. It will not be similar to the SE series, with iPhone 9 features delayed due to the Corona virus. In addition, with the price of iPhone 9, users will be able to establish a throne in their hearts.

If we start with the name clutter: Apple’s new phone with a small screen and affordable price was expected as the iPhone SE 2 in the first place. However, it is said that the device will be called iPhone 9 in all leaks recently.

iPhone 9 features
Even though users want a small screen phone, Apple used the iPhone 8 size as it does not make sense to turn to a size that is no longer preferred today like 4 inches. So the iPhone 9 will have a 4.7-inch screen.

While this screen is expected to be produced by LG, users will not feel any deficiency in performance. Because this affordable Apple model will be powered by the Apple A13 Bionic processor, which powers the iPhone 11 series.

Produced with a 7 nm + fabrication process, this six-core processor’s operating frequency can reach 2.65 GHz and includes a 4-core graphics unit. With this phone, which has 3 GB of RAM, Apple will return to the fingerprint reader after a long time. Because it will have almost the same design as the iPhone 8, Touch ID will be replaced by Face ID again.

Apple will come across with a single camera on the back to implement the affordable phone strategy. While this is expected to be the same as the camera we encounter on iPhone 8, we will say goodbye to the 3D Touch feature on the screen side.

While two storage options are expected, 64 GB and 128 GB, three different color options will appear. The dimensions of the device will be 138.55 mm x 67.4 mm x 7.8 mm. In this context, it will be 0.5 mm thick compared to iPhone 8.

How much will the iPhone 9 price be?
Expectations for the iPhone 9 price are $ 399. This means a very affordable price tag and very high sales figures in the US market compared to the iPhone 11 series. If we consider the taxes and the arrival price in our country, it seems inevitable to encounter a price tag of 4500 – 5000 TL.

In summary: For iPhone SE users, we are no longer able to see a 4-inch iPhone in the same design. When iPhone 9 launches shortly after, iPhone 6, 6s and 7 will retain almost the same design and dimensions, enabling users to switch to much more powerful hardware.


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