A woman in south Florida who had received one dose of coronavirus vaccine while pregnant recently gave birth to the first known baby born with Covid-19 antibodies “after maternal vaccination”, two pediatricians claimed.
The doctors presented their finding in a preprint article, meaning this claim has yet to be peer-reviewed.
Drs Paul Gilbert and Chad Rudnick said the mother, a frontline healthcare worker, received her first dose of the Moderna jab in January, at 36 weeks pregnant.
The woman gave birth to a “vigorous, healthy” girl three weeks later. Researchers analyzed blood from the baby’s umbilical cord and said antibodies “were detected … at time of delivery”, their paper said. “Thus, there is potential for protection and infection risk reduction from Sars-CoV-2 with maternal vaccination.”
“To our knowledge, this was the first in the world that was reported of a baby being born with antibodies after a vaccination,” Gilbert told the West Palm Beach ABC affiliate. “We tested the baby’s cord to see if the antibodies in the mother passed to the baby which is something, we see happen with other vaccines given during pregnancy.”
The paper makes clear, however, that further research is needed to determine whether infants are protected by these antibodies, writing: “We urge other investigators to create pregnancy and breastfeeding registries as well as conduct efficacy and safety studies of the Covid-19 vaccines in pregnant and breastfeeding woman and their offspring.”
“This is one small case in what will be thousands and thousands of babies born to mothers who have been vaccinated of the next several months,” Rudnick told the local ABC station. “Further studies have to determine how long will this protection last. They have to determine at what level of protection or how many antibodies does a baby need to have circulating in order to give them protection.”
Gilbert and Rudnick told the affiliate that their article had been accepted for publication, and that they were waiting for it to be posted officially on the journal’s site.
The Microsoft Exchange attacks could be a lot worse than initially thought, as reports suggest ‘hundreds of thousands’ servers have now been hacked globally. Here’s how to find out if yours is one of them.
Earlier this week, the Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center, Microsoft 365 Defender Threat Intelligence Team and Microsoft 365 Security issued a joint advisory warning that on-premises Exchange servers were being attacked. The nature of that attack, using no less than four zero-day exploits (for previously unreported vulnerabilities) meant that an out-of-band emergency patch had been released. Microsoft, along with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, advised everyone to update immediately. The DHS even went as far as to issue an emergency directive requiring federal civilian branch agencies to do so in short order.
Initially, Microsoft stated that the attack, attributed to Chinese nation-state threat actors known as HAFNIUM, was “limited and targeted”, but now reports are emerging that hundreds of thousands of servers have been compromised, with talk of an exploit rate in the region of 1,000 servers every hour. This attack has expanded way beyond the reach of those original nation-state players, it would seem, and it is now open season on Microsoft Exchange for cybercriminals.
Investigative cybersecurity journalist, Brian Krebs, has reported that, according to experts who have briefed U.S. national security advisors, hundreds of thousands of servers have been successfully hacked globally. In the U.S. alone, this number is said to be more than 30,000 compromised servers.
Given that the attacks are thought to have started on January 6, this might come as no great surprise. However, it would appear that the threat itself has changed gear this week, and there are now multiple campaigns compromising unpatched servers at a rate of knots.
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Writing at Wired, Andy Greenberg quotes a security researcher “with knowledge of the investigation,” saying that there are “thousands of servers compromised per hour” globally. This doesn’t mean that all of those organizations have been targeted by HAFNIUM, but rather these are likely the result of automated scans looking for unpatched machines.
Indeed, Microsoft has confirmed that it “continues to see increased use of these vulnerabilities in attacks targeting unpatched systems by multiple malicious actors beyond HAFNIUM.”
Obviously, the previously stated advice to update those on-premises Exchange servers now remains the best mitigation option. Even White House press secretary Jen Psaki warned, on March 5, that this should be done immediately. Microsoft has published interim mitigations for those unable to patch their Exchange servers here.
But what if your server has already been got at? Indeed, how can you tell?
Microsoft has released a Nmap script for checking your Exchange server for indicators of compromise of these exploits, and you can find it on GitHub. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has also published a list of tactics, techniques and procedures. Meanwhile, FireEye Mandiant researchers have a list of investigation tips, including indicators of compromise, here.
Amidst the Covid-19 crisis, nonprofit organizations have faced onerous financial burdens. There has been a high demand for their services, which taxes their resources, yet their ability to bring in volunteers and host in-person fundraising events has been limited.
Nonprofits rely on donations in order to survive, and during the pandemic, fundraising has become even more challenging. As a case in point, The Salvation Army reported in December that fundraising was down 18% compared to prior years.
However, thanks to the power of social media, there are strategies nonprofits can use to achieve their fundraising and marketing goals. As people become more comfortable with their digital devices during the pandemic, they provide nonprofits with a captive audience for engagement.
If you run a nonprofit, here is how to take advantage of the unique opportunities offered by social media to increase the success of your organization.
Benefits of social media marketing for nonprofit organizations
Social media is an effective marketing tool for a nonprofit organization. Some of the key benefits include:
Social media significantly increases an organization’s reach (billions of people use social media).
Social media spreads the word about an organization’s mission.
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Social media postings are free.
Social media attracts new donors and keeps existing donors engaged.
Social media assists in growing a network of volunteers.
Each social media posting can include a link to the organization’s donor page.
Interactive content posted to social media allows the audience to participate and feel more engaged.
Many well-known nonprofit organizations, have employed social media tactics in successful marketing campaigns:
World Wide Fund for Nature: The World Wide Fund for Nature created a successful interactive content campaign called Earth Hour. The annual Earth Hour campaign requests that people turn off their lights for one hour and uses the #EarthHour hashtag (among others) to invigorate followers. In 2020, 90 countries and territories took part in the event and it generated over 4.7 billion global social media impressions.
Make-A-Wish Foundation: The Make-A-Wish Foundation has granted wishes to a myriad of children since 1980. Reportedly, the Foundation’s efforts fulfill a child’s desire every 40 minutes in the United States. Make-A-Wish shares all its video wishes on its YouTube channel. Videos of the children receiving their wishes are also published on the foundation’s website as well as its Facebook and Twitter accounts. This strategy has increased Make-A-Wish’s interaction. You can view the success of their efforts here.
Save the Children: The goal of Save the Children is to improve the lives of children around the world. Notably, the organization targets children living in war zones. Save the Children created a video where a Western child was shown in a situation that a child living in a war zone would face. The footage helped donors better understand and empathize with these children and was responsible for a multitude of donations and video shares:
Amnesty International: Amnesty International uses Twitter to raise awareness of ongoing campaigns and current social issues. Its Twitter profile has 4.2 million followers and has posted nearly 33,000 tweets.
Wings of Rescue: Pet rescue organization Wings of Rescue transports at-risk shelter pets from disaster areas and overcrowded shelters to shelters with empty kennel space. The organization has done a great job posting videos on YouTube, images on Instagram, and posts on Facebook to bring in donations.
Most popular social media platforms for nonprofits
While there are many social media platforms out there, here are the most popular ones used by nonprofits:
With over 2.8 billion monthly active users, Facebook continues to be the most popular social media channel.
Facebook success strategies:
Most successful posts on Facebook are short because people generally do not like to read lengthy paragraphs. If you write a long post and the action link is at the end, there is a chance the viewer may never see the donation link. Ideally put the donation link at the beginning of your posts, followed by brief copy.
Including hashtags on Facebook posts helps popularize your nonprofit’s content and helps you gain more followers. If you utilize the hashtags that potential donors typically use, this will improve the page’s visibility and hopefully generate more donations.
Another way to gain more followers on a Facebook page or Facebook group is to run ads on Facebook. The Facebook Lookalike Audience tool helps you target people similar to your supporters and donors to increase engagement.
Share live events on Facebook. Live events allow supporters to see real-time updates of a fundraising event and inspires them to donate within the moment.
Consider generating a Facebook survey to boost engagement and followers.
Ask followers to share their connection to your organization by posting on their status section with a tag to your nonprofit.
With over 2 billion monthly active users, the online video-sharing platform owned by Google is extremely popular. Many businesses, nonprofits, and influencers use YouTube to market their products and services.
Video content is more expensive and time-consuming to create than articles or images, but this type of content has the biggest engagement among audiences. With your nonprofit, you can set simple, yet stylized ways to shoot content, even from your office (or home office).
YouTube success strategies:
A YouTube channel is an essential component of a social media marketing program. Your nonprofit should have an established, central channel that is search engine optimized. You might even make money from your YouTube channel if it becomes popular.
Educational videos and content create awareness of the issues of importance to your nonprofit and are good ways to make your brand visible on YouTube.
Sign up for a free Google for Nonprofits account at google.com/nonprofits and click on the “Get Started” button. To create a channel and find an ID, click here. With a Google for Nonprofits account, you can raise money via YouTube without requiring donors to go to outside sources. YouTube has also implemented various features to help nonprofits raise money, such as:
Fundraisers, which resemble Facebook fundraisers. They display a donate button next to the video or livestream.
Community Fundraisers are when multiple YouTubers target the same cause to raise money on various channels.
Campaign matching is when other businesses or YouTubers show their matching pledges during fundraisers or community fundraisers.
Super Chat allows users to pay to have their messages emphasized during a live chat with numerous participants. Super chats are popular forms of advertising during fundraisers and community fundraisers.
Additionally, Google covers all of the starter fees, so that nonprofits will receive the maximum funds raised.
With over one billion monthly active users, Instagram is a video and photo-sharing app owned by Facebook. It is popular among 18 to 34-year-olds.
Instagram success strategies:
Hashtags are vital on Instagram and use them liberally when publishing content. Hashtags help build a following because people search for content and accounts by searching hashtags related to their interests.
Instagram offers the option to host a live event. Nonprofits can specifically use Instagram live events to share fundraising events, allowing followers to participate actively in donating.
Gain more followers by hosting interactive question and answer sessions through your Instagram stories.
Stories, in general, are viewed more than regular Instagram posts. People are more likely to look at stories rather than scroll through an entire Instagram feed. Highlighting your best stories will increase followers and inspire donations.
You can easily add donation stickers to your Instagram stories to inspire others to donate. In addition, by sharing your Instagram stories on Facebook, you allow Facebook followers to take advantage of the donation sticker too.
In your stories and posts, you can increase engagement and visibility by tagging other organizations or individuals whom you work with. Also when you create a story or post, Instagram has a feature that allows you to post your location, which gives your content a broader reach and further establishes your credibility. There are also ways to apply these same features to Facebook stories and posts, and you can publish the same content shared on Instagram to linked social media channels, such as Facebook and Twitter.
Reach out to influencers who may be interested in supporting your nonprofit, asking if they would be kind enough to include a mention of your organization in their content.
With over 330 million monthly active users, Twitter is a site where users post and interact with other users via mini-messages called “tweets.” Many businesses have used Twitter to increase their visibility and engagement with consumers.
Twitter success strategies:
It is vital that your message/bio in the “About” section of your Twitter profile contains a cohesive and clear message for people learning about you for the first time. Donors need to understand and care about your organization if they are going to donate.
A simple way to gain more followers on Twitter is to advertise your Twitter account on other social media channels. Connecting other channels in some form draws more followers and helps grow an account.
Always be concise in your wording, and if possible, support your tweets with images or videos.
Post often or daily to Twitter. Frequent posting with hashtags offers a greater opportunity for people to discover your organization’s content and account and provides more opportunities for engagement.
Increase your number of followers by engaging with other Twitter accounts. Social media is primarily about instantaneous communication. Vital social media thrives on reciprocity and interacting in the moment; engaging with related accounts inspires reciprocal engagement. When you interact with other users on Twitter, there’s a chance that those accounts will share your nonprofit’s account and content with their followers, which can lead to even more followers for you.
Live tweeting allows supporters to watch real-time updates of a fundraising event, increasing followers and donations. Similar to Facebook Live events, this could inspire people to donate instantly.
The Twitter Poll is an excellent tool to use. It allows you to create your own poll and immediately see the results. A poll inspires more engagement because it requires more effort than reading text or watching a video. Also, if people enjoy voting, there is a high likelihood they will share the poll amongst their followers, hopefully helping your charity gain more followers and boost engagement.
With over 469 million active monthly users, Pinterest is a platform for promoting, saving, and finding information via visual content, and has evolved as a way to showcase a brand, a business, or a nonprofit. It provides an optimal outlet to showcase strong visual content and can serve as an additional engagement tool to drive traffic to a nonprofit’s website.
According to Lisa Sherman, president and CEO of the Ad Council, “Pinterest is a place where people get inspired and then take action. Leveraging the platform gives nonprofits a unique, impactful way to share their causes and encourage people to support them.”
Pinterest success strategies:
Infographics perform well on Pinterest. Posting infographics that share relevant and vital data about your organization eliminates the need for users to click on your website.
Pinterest is effective for collecting donations and even selling goods. You can use Pinterest to sell items related to your work, even if you already have a store on your website. Link your donation page to Pinterest images.
Archive donation landing pages from previous fundraisers. “Pin captions” can showcase past fundraising events. If a user is impressed with a pin that advertises the cause’s past success, the Pin could refer them to future, pertinent fundraising occasions.
Utilize Pinterest for networking purposes by following related accounts who may be interested in donating or following your organization. You can also connect with influencers who are passionate about your cause; influencers can promote the charity on their personal Pinterest accounts.
Promoting pins, especially donation-focused ones, is also crucial. Boosting such pins around important gift-giving-oriented holidays when people are more cheerful and generous is wise, especially since people browse Pinterest for gift inspiration.
With over 310 million active monthly users and 740+ million registered professionals, LinkedIn is the leading employment networking platform.
Nonprofits can use LinkedIn to contact professionals involved in social responsibility or philanthropy. Large corporations have senior employees coordinating donations and partnerships with nonprofits, and these employees all have a presence on LinkedIn. You can use the platform to network with these individuals and develop advocates for your cause.
LinkedIn success strategies:
Business professionals use LinkedIn for networking; thus, connecting with a donor, especially during the pandemic, is the best virtual alternative to an in-person meeting.
Many nonprofits have had success using LinkedIn to acquire talent. LinkedIn can help you discover new team members, board members, and volunteers.
LinkedIn also has a “status” feature. Use the status update line to push relevant facts and ask supporters for donations.
Take advantage of the “groups” feature to join several groups closely related to your mission. Try to frequently post in these groups to create more visibility and gain more connections.
Post articles to LinkedIn.
With over 1.1 billion active monthly users, TikTok is a video-sharing social platform for short-form videos. It has become enormously popular with Generation Z.
With TikTok, you can create videos tied to emotional music, and intertwine the video with a trending hashtag. Inputting emotion and having a trending hashtag has helped TikTok videos go viral and garner more followers.
TikTok success strategies:
When the Oregon Zoo posted a video of an adorable elephant swimming to a heartwarming song and affiliated it with an Earth Day hashtag, the video received 4.7 million views, 861,000 likes, and 2,561 comments.
Oregon Zoo TikTok campaign video
Dance challenges are popular on TikTok and a great way to inspire donations. The American Heart Association conducted a “Keep the Beat Challenge.” Supporters created videos of themselves dancing to “Keep their Beat.” The challenge promoted the American Heart Association while raising money and awareness for American Heart Month.
American Heart Association TikTok campaign video
Use TikTok to inspire involvement and donating through storytelling. The Save the Music Foundation shared videos of young, ambitious musicians playing their music, and used text overlays in the video to tell viewers their inspiring life stories as the video played. This allowed viewers to listen to each musician perform while being able to read how Save the Music impacted the person’s life.
Save the Music Foundation TikTok campaign video
Charities can take advantage of informative content as a means to spread awareness. For their National Walking Day Campaign, United Way produced a short video of two people walking while highlighting the health statistics of walking frequently and the safety measures to consider during Covid-19.
National Walking Day TikTok campaign video
More social media tips for nonprofits
Here are some general tips to keep in mind no matter what platform you use:
Postings should be regular and continuous. Organizations that are successful with social media will post once a day or more. An occasional posting does not successfully build an engaged audience.
Optimize your organization’s profile on each social media site with a clear mission statement, bio, and image.
Use relevant hashtags, such as #dogrescue or #cancercure. People on social media use hashtags to find content and accounts pertaining to their interests. Be careful not to overuse hashtags because this makes the content of the post less relevant or visible than the hashtags themselves.
Consider scheduling regular postings with software tools such as Hootsuite or Buffer.
Monitoring the analytics of your postings is important to enhance your marketing strategy. For example, you can monitor the number of follows, likes, comments, and the traffic to your website from your social media postings.
Use interesting visual content.
Ensure that each post links to your organization’s website and particularly to the donor page.
Use call-to-action words in postings, such as “please help,” “please like,” “please retweet,” and other such phrasing.
Invest in videos—videos can result in 12 times more “shares” than text and images.
Make sure that your website promotes social media icons on every page.
Use humor and funny images when appropriate.
Tread lightly on controversial subjects.
Be prompt when engaging with your audience, answering questions, replying to comments, and responding to messages.
Additional marketing strategies for nonprofits
Consider the following marketing strategies to supplement your social media program:
Crowdfunding. Your nonprofit can fundraise virtually via crowdfunding. Crowdfunding is an excellent way to attract a large group of people to donate small quantities in unison, and there are many ways to share crowdfunding goals on social media channels.
For example, GoFundMe.com reported that a five-year-old boy wanted to help less fortunate children during the holidays. He led a 20-minute meditation session and then asked his attendees to donate to the Coalition for the Homeless in his name; he raised $30,000.
Email newsletters. Consider emailing a weekly newsletter to subscribers. This is a great way to keep your nonprofit at the forefront of people’s minds. Newsletters can include news updates, new images, new videos, references to the nonprofit on social media, links to donation pages, information about upcoming events, and much more.
You can then build up your newsletter subscriber list, which becomes a valuable asset to maintain engagement with clients or donors.
Content marketing. Employ content marketing strategies by creating articles for your website and other business sites. Stories should have links back to your website and especially to your donation page. These posts can help drive traffic and Google ranking. Nonprofits should employ content marketing strategies by creating articles for their website and other sites such as Medium.com or AllBusiness.com.
Social media—a cost-effective strategy
A nonprofit organization can use social media to increase donations and improve its visibility by successfully employing a comprehensive social media marketing strategy. Starting and implementing a coherent strategy may take a lot of time and effort, but it has been shown to be an extremely cost-effective marketing method for many organizations.
RELATED: 7 Rules for More Effective Social Media Marketing
About the Author
Jacqueline Tabas is a content marketer and social media manager based in San Francisco. Jacqueline has extensive experience in content marketing, content development, blogging, copywriting, posting, and conducting analytics for Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and other social media sites. She has been an advisor on social media marketing to many organizations, including nonprofits, technology companies, retail companies, and fashion brands. Connect with Jacqueline on LinkedIn.
It’s no secret Apple has its sights set on a foldable iPhone. The company has been registering patents for foldable mechanisms and devices for almost a decade now with no launch date in sight. The question is whether any of them will ever see the light of day, and if so, when?
Read more: iPhone 13’s juiciest rumors: Smaller notch, lidar and more leaks
Now playing:Watch this: Apple’s foldable may be coming later than expected
Launch date is a moving target
Early rumors pointed to 2021 as a potential target date, but a recent report from long-time Apple analyst Ming Chi Kuo (via MacRumors) suggests 2023 might be more realistic, if it ever happens. According to Kuo, Apple still needs to figure out technology and mass production issues before bringing a device like this to market, hence the two-year wait.
This is a far cry from Samsung’s first-to-market approach, the Korean company having already launched three foldable devices within the last two years: the Galaxy Fold, Z Fold 2 and Galaxy Z Flip. Other manufacturers like Microsoft, Motorola and Huawei have also thrown their hats in the ring with their own foldable devices.
What will the foldable iPhone look like?
The 2023 timeline would match up with a report from Bloomberg earlier this year that indicated Apple already has a working prototype of a foldable iPhone display. While it’s not yet a working model, it’s a step up from a patent which, until now, was all we had.
Apple seems to have taken out every patent under the sun when it comes to foldable displays, including an origami-style folding display, a flip-up display and even a wrap-around display. And while we don’t know which one will make the final cut, both Kuo and Bloomberg seem to agree that the current prototype is more of a traditional fold-out design that would open up to a 7.5- or 8-inch main display. Unlike Microsoft’s Surface Duo, which has the hinges on the exterior, Apple’s would have one continuous display with a hidden hinge mechanism like the Galaxy Fold.
What still stands in the way?
While Samsung and others have been testing the waters, Apple has been learning from the pain points of their foldable devices and figuring out whether there’s a real use case for it.
One of these pain points: the crease. A lot of the current cover materials, including the glass and plastic mix that Samsung uses for the Z Fold and Z Flip, show a visible crease when folded out to full screen. To avoid it, Apple would likely have to wait for Corning, Apple’s glass provider, to create some kind of bendable version of its Ceramic Shield screen. The company is already working on a bendable glass, but hasn’t announced a launch date for it.
The fold doesn’t come cheap
Price is another major problem for these types of devices. At $2,000 the Fold 2 is over twice the price of Samsung’s other flagship phones and a foldable iPhone wouldn’t be any cheaper. Apple’s foldable needs to be in line with current foldable and nonfoldable models to be able to compete against other brands and entice iPhone users to ditch their single-screen devices and pay more for a foldable.
Read more: iPhone 13 release date: We have a good idea of when Apple will unveil its next phones
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On Earth, the heat generated from the radioactive decay of elements in Earth’s mantle drives convection currents, pushing and dragging large plates of Earth’s crust around. When the plates collide, mountains form, and parts of Earth’s crust are recycled into the mantle. When the plates are pushed apart, the partially molten mantle rises upward to fill the gap. Plate tectonics is an essential part of the cycle that brings material from the planet’s interior to the surface and the atmosphere, and then transports it back beneath the Earth’s crust. Tectonics thus has a vital influence on the energy and matter transfer that ultimately makes Earth habitable.
Until now, researchers have found no evidence of global tectonic activity on planets outside our solar system. A team of researchers led by Tobias Meier from the Center for Space and Habitability (CSH) at the University of Bern and with the participation of ETH Zurich, the University of Oxford, and the National Center of Competence in Research NCCR PlanetS has now found evidence of the flow patterns inside a planet, located 45 light-years from Earth: LHS 3844b. Their results were published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
LHS 3844b is an exoplanet orbiting the red dwarf star LHS 3844, discovered using the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. It orbits its parent star once every 11 hours, and its radius is 1.32 times that of Earth. It has a low albedo, indicating that its surface may resemble that of the Moon or Mercury.
“Observing signs of tectonic activity is very difficult, because they are usually hidden beneath an atmosphere”, Meier explains. However, recent results suggested that LHS 3844b probably does not have an atmosphere. Slightly larger than Earth and likely similarly rocky, it orbits around its star so closely that one side of the planet is gravitationally locked towards its sun. One hemisphere of the planet is in constant daylight and the other in permanent night. With no atmosphere shielding it from the intense radiation, the surface gets blisteringly hot: it can reach up to 800 degrees Celsius on the dayside. Common rocks, like granite and basalt, melt at temperatures of 900 to 1,200 degrees Celsius. The night side, on the other hand, is freezing. Temperatures there might fall below minus 250 degrees Celsius. “We thought that this severe temperature contrast might affect material flow in the planet’s interior”, Meier recalls.
Cool rocks are brittle and tend to break, becoming much more liquid-like as they heat up. The team ran computer simulations with different strengths of material and internal heating sources, such as heat from the planet’s core and the decay of radioactive elements. The simulations also included the large temperature contrast on the surface imposed by the host star.
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“Most simulations showed that there was only upwards flow on one side of the planet and downwards flow on the other. Material therefore flowed from one hemisphere to the other”, Meier reports. Surprisingly, the direction was not always the same. “Based on what we are used to from Earth, you would expect the material on the hot dayside to be lighter and therefore flow upwards and vice versa”, co-author Dan Bower at the University of Bern and the NCCR PlanetS explains. Yet, some of the teams’ simulations also showed the opposite flow direction. “This initially counter-intuitive result is due to the change in viscosity with temperature: cold material is stiffer and therefore doesn’t want to bend, break or subduct into the interior. Warm material, however, is less viscous – so even solid rock becomes more mobile when heated – and can readily flow towards the planet’s interior”, Bower elaborates. Either way, these results show how a planetary surface and interior can exchange material under conditions very different from those on Earth.
As a result, the researchers suggest that LHS 3844b could have one entire hemisphere covered in volcanoes comparable to terrestrial volcanism as found in Hawaii and Iceland. Here mantle-plumes form very hot lava with low viscosity.
“Our simulations show how such patterns could manifest, but it would require more detailed observations to verify,” says Meier.
“For example, with a higher-resolution map of surface temperature that could point to enhanced outgassing from volcanism, or detection of volcanic gases. This is something we hope future research will help us to understand.”
The popular digital card game Hearthstone’s upcoming expansion, Forged in the Barrens, will launch the game’s three-expansion Year of the Gryphon; update everything from Battlegrounds to the new player experience; and launch Mercenaries, a new game mode.
The release date for the new expansion hasn’t been set yet. Traditionally the first Hearthstone expansion of each year is in April, but the team had barely begun development on Barrens before being sent home for the COVID pandemic.
We caught up with Hearthstone game designers Liv Breeden and Joe Killion to chat about how Blizzard Entertainment came up with the ideas for the expansion, its mechanics and its cards. And, as always, we talk about what was just too awful to make the cut and was mercifully removed.
Heather Newman: What led you to the core theme of this expansion?
Joe Killion: When we first started working on this set, we started discussing the concept of another year-long narrative, kind of like we did with Descent of Dragons. Something that everyone was excited about was going back to that classic Warcraft experience of experiencing the world as a newbie, who knows nothing about it and is super low level, and then becoming this great hero.
The Barrens was a super iconic starting zone, especially for Horde players. So it was something that we could tap into for a lot of that nostalgia that players, and us on the development team, had.
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Liv Breeden: So whose story are we going to tell, right? We have these 10 characters, there’s one legendary in each class, these 10 mercenaries. These are the iconic characters that you’ve probably like played, or at least seen played, in World of Warcraft.
So there’s the Orc warrior, there’s the Troll and there’s the Tauren druid; there’s the Human paladin and the Forsaken warlock. We’ve got such a huge cast of characters, but they’re ones you probably identify with. For me one of the big things is getting excited about telling this year long narrative of these 10 characters as they level up from zero to hero.
Newman: How much does that theme drive the original mechanics of the new expansion?
Breeden: Early on in exploration, when we said we wanted to do a year-long narrative, we asked do we also want to do a year-long a mechanic as well? In the Year of the Dragon we had Lackeys. Every expansion we added a new Lackey, so the interactions that you dealt with were a little bit different every time.
We explored a couple of different directions, but we didn’t find any that resonated with us, that really felt like we could build upon over the course of the whole year. So we focused more on the narrative side.
Newman: How did that play out in the mechanic you chose for the Barrens expansion?
Breeden: If you look at the characters themselves, they’ll be seen throughout all of the expansions. But what their mechanics are will change as the year goes on. There’s also the, “Hey, I’m a new shaman hanging out in the Barrens. I just went from Chain Lightening I to Chain Lightning II. I just ranked that spell up.” We wanted to make sure we captured those things.
So there’s Chain Lightning, rank one. When you reach five mana, it goes to rank two, and it deals one more damage. When you reach 10 mana, it deals four damage at rank three. It’s kind of a, a cool, fun story for people who have played World of Warcraft.
Newman:What didn’t make the cut?
Breeden: We tried something, we’ll call it “champion.” There’s a second hero next to you, and your opponent would choose to attack you or attack the hero. They had a hero power. It was kind of cool — there’s a lot of like interesting decisions there. But it was really complex, and suddenly, I didn’t know how to play Hearthstone anymore.
I’m sure we’ll revisit some iteration of that. But it was a lot of extra complexity and the gameplay that came out of it was pretty bad-feeling, because if you’re behind, you fall further behind, because now they have this thing that you can’t destroy.
Killion: Another thing we explored was introducing a new minion type. But with our minion types, like elementals or Murlocs, we really want them to have a distinct feeling in the game.
As we iterated on that, spell schools was something that we landed on. We’re tagging a lot of spells throughout the game with seven iconic spell schools in Warcraft.
Newman: How does that spell school tag play out in game?
Killion: One of the best examples is Bru’kan, the Legendary shaman mercenary. His power is Nature spell damage +3. It works really well with Chain Lightning, because that’s a Nature smell.
Newman: How did you decide which spells got which tags? What those spells were like in WoW? Other factors?
Breeden: I think it’s about leaning into the class fantasy, what they do best.
Killion: We spent a lot of time talking about the different schools that we wanted and what we would name them. We had a few extra schools that we didn’t put in just because they didn’t really fit with the theme.
Once we landed on these seven, we started looking at the cards. We spent a lot of time looking at the art. Does it have like lots of fire in it, or does it make sense visually, and also in the name? Sometimes it is exactly what the mechanics are doing.
Breeden: There are some that are like, well, it was a Shadow spell [in Warcraft], but in our game it looks like a Fel spell. There are some that are on the fence, that we decided to go with what’s best for Hearthstone. It’s harder going backward and typing stuff in the past than going forward.
Newman: So what were some of the spell types that didn’t make it through?
Killion: The big one that we didn’t add in was a Physical spell type. Rogue and Warrior don’t tend to do a lot of stuff with spells that are in like a specific school. So we had explored a Physical spell school that could focus more on weapons and armor. But as we played with it, we found that it wasn’t the most exciting; and it also added an extra layer of complexity to those classes that we didn’t feel was necessary.
It makes their game play a little bit more diverse than the other classes, which I think is a good thing.
Newman: Are there any card interactions you feel are especially exciting to play?
Breeden: I think Blademaster Samuro is a really interesting one because some classes don’t have access to a lot of like board clears. [Blademaster is a 1/6 neutral card with Rush and Frenzy, which does his attack power in damage to all enemy minions if he takes damage and survives.]
But those classes do have access to Samuro, and then they also have buffs. He works pretty well if you buff him up and then run him in.
Killion: A card that’s pretty interesting to me is Druid of the Plains. It’s a Druid card with Rush. It’s a 7/6 that has a Frenzy transform into a 6/7 with Taunt. So you have this card that gets on the board, maybe you have some ways to buff it up, but then when it gets that Frenzy, it flips over to a taunt minion.
You get this really good benefit of lots of damage and then a pretty big protective minion for you.
Newman: How has development changed on Hearthstone over the years?
Breeden: Hearthstone is unique for game development because we put out three expansions every year. We ship 135 [cards in an expansion], but we probably make closer to 500 that don’t make it. A lot of those might be really bad, a lot of them are pretty decent, and some are really good, and we keep those. People gain a lot of skills very quickly.
By having a lot of different projects that they can work on, they don’t feel quite as restricted. If they’re excited about something, we have a lot of room to move around. Maybe an initial designer goes to the final design team for a little bit. Maybe they go to the Tavern Brawl team. We have a lot of outlets.
The robots are coming. Not to kill you with lasers, or beat you in chess, or even to ferry you around town in a driverless Uber.
These robots are here to merge purchase orders into columns J and K of next quarter’s revenue forecast, and transfer customer data from the invoicing software to the Oracle database. They are unassuming software programs with names like “Auxiliobits — DataTable To Json String,” and they are becoming the star employees at many American companies.
Some of these tools are simple apps, downloaded from online stores and installed by corporate I.T. departments, that do the dull-but-critical tasks that someone named Phil in Accounting used to do: reconciling bank statements, approving expense reports, reviewing tax forms. Others are expensive, custom-built software packages, armed with more sophisticated types of artificial intelligence, that are capable of doing the kinds of cognitive work that once required teams of highly-paid humans.
White-collar workers, armed with college degrees and specialized training, once felt relatively safe from automation. But recent advances in A.I. and machine learning have created algorithms capable of outperforming doctors, lawyers and bankers at certain parts of their jobs. And as bots learn to do higher-value tasks, they are climbing the corporate ladder.
quietly building for years, but accelerating to warp speed since the pandemic — goes by the sleepy moniker “robotic process automation.” And it is transforming workplaces at a pace that few outsiders appreciate. Nearly 8 in 10 corporate executives surveyed by Deloitte last year said they had implemented some form of R.P.A. Another 16 percent said they planned to do so within three years.
Most of this automation is being done by companies you’ve probably never heard of. UiPath, the largest stand-alone automation firm, is valued at $35 billion — roughly the size of eBay — and is slated to go public later this year. Other companies like Automation Anywhere and Blue Prism, which have Fortune 500 companies like Coca-Cola and Walgreens Boots Alliance as clients, are also enjoying breakneck growth, and tech giants like Microsoft have recently introduced their own automation products to get in on the action.
Executives generally spin these bots as being good for everyone, “streamlining operations” while “liberating workers” from mundane and repetitive tasks. But they are also liberating plenty of people from their jobs. Independent experts say that major corporate R.P.A. initiatives have been followed by rounds of layoffs, and that cutting costs, not improving workplace conditions, is usually the driving factor behind the decision to automate.
Craig Le Clair, an analyst with Forrester Research who studies the corporate automation market, said that for executives, much of the appeal of R.P.A. bots is that they are cheap, easy to use and compatible with their existing back-end systems. He said that companies often rely on them to juice short-term profits, rather than embarking on more expensive tech upgrades that might take years to pay for themselves.
“It’s not a moonshot project like a lot of A.I., so companies are doing it like crazy,” Mr. Le Clair said. “With R.P.A., you can build a bot that costs $10,000 a year and take out two to four humans.”
led some companies to turn to automation to deal with growing demand, closed offices, or budget constraints. But for other companies, the pandemic has provided cover for executives to implement ambitious automation plans they dreamed up long ago.
“Automation is more politically acceptable now,” said Raul Vega, the chief executive of Auxis, a firm that helps companies automate their operations.
Before the pandemic, Mr. Vega said, some executives turned down offers to automate their call centers, or shrink their finance departments, because they worried about scaring their remaining workers or provoking a backlash like the one that followed the outsourcing boom of the 1990s, when C.E.O.s became villains for sending jobs to Bangalore and Shenzhen.
But those concerns matter less now, with millions of people already out of work and many businesses struggling to stay afloat.
Now, Mr. Vega said, “they don’t really care, they’re just going to do what’s right for their business,” Mr. Vega said.
Sales of automation software are expected to rise by 20 percent this year, after increasing by 12 percent last year, according to the research firm Gartner. And the consulting firm McKinsey, which predicted before the pandemic that 37 million U.S. workers would be displaced by automation by 2030, recently increased its projection to 45 million.
Recent studies by researchers at Stanford University and the Brookings Institution compared the text of job listings with the wording of A.I.-related patents, looking for phrases like “make prediction” and “generate recommendation” that appeared in both. They found that the groups with the highest exposure to A.I. were better-paid, better-educated workers in technical and supervisory roles, with men, white and Asian-American workers, and midcareer professionals being some of the most endangered. Workers with bachelor’s or graduate degrees were nearly four times as exposed to A.I. risk as those with just a high school degree, the researchers found, and residents of high-tech cities like Seattle and Salt Lake City were more vulnerable than workers in smaller, more rural communities.
“A lot of professional work combines some element of routine information processing with an element of judgment and discretion,” said David Autor, an economist at M.I.T. who studies the labor effects of automation. “That’s where software has always fallen short. But with A.I., that type of work is much more in the kill path.”
Many of those vulnerable workers don’t see this coming, in part because the effects of white-collar automation are often couched in jargon and euphemism. On their websites, R.P.A. firms promote glowing testimonials from their customers, often glossing over the parts that involve actual humans.
“Sprint Automates 50 Business Processes In Just Six Months.” (Possible translation: Sprint replaced 300 people in the billing department.)
found that for most of the 20th century, the optimistic take on automation prevailed — on average, in industries that implemented automation, new tasks were created faster than old ones were destroyed.
rejected calls to fund federal worker retraining programs for years, and while some of the money in the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill Democrats hope to pass this week will go to laid-off and furloughed workers, none of it is specifically earmarked for job training programs that could help displaced workers get back on their feet.
Another key difference is that in the past, automation arrived gradually, factory machine by factory machine. But today’s white-collar automation is so sudden — and often, so deliberately obscured by management — that few workers have time to prepare.
“Futureproof: 9 Rules for Humans in the Age of Automation,” from which this essay is adapted.
If you’ve ever felt utterly drained after a workday, even though your most strenuous physical activity involved smiling through seemingly endless video calls, Stanford researchers now have a name for that feeling: “Zoom fatigue.” Although the scientists behind a new study, published Feb. 23 in the journal of Technology, Mind and Behavior, are quick to point out it can happen on any video calling platform, they now say they have a better idea why Zoom fatigue happens.
Researchers say Zoom fatigue has four main culprits: excessive and intense eye contact, constantly watching video of yourself, the limited mobility of being stuck at your desk, and more energy spent identifying social cues you’d otherwise pick up on intuitively in person.
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The research also suggests strategies to counterbalance the negative physical effects of video calls: Make the onscreen window smaller to minimize participants’ face size, get some distance from your webcam to increase your “personal space bubble,” hide your self-view video feed, and periodically turn off your camera then physically turn away from the screen so you’re not watching others.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.
Growing up in Ibadan, Nigeria, Yewande Akinola spent her time building models of her ideal home with whatever materials she could find. But it wasn’t until her mother, an artist, made a suggestion about her university studies that she considered pursuing a career in engineering over one in architecture. Also crucial in her decision was finding an engineering degree at Warwick University in the U.K. that focused on developing countries—using little resources and lots of creativity. The rest, as they say, is herstory.
Fast-forward three decades, and the 36-year-old Akinola has built skyscrapers in China and researched the involvement of women engineers in the construction of London’s Waterloo Bridge for the BBC. She has received the Member of the Order of the British Empire honor from the Queen for her services to engineering innovation and to diversity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics—the fields collectively known as STEM—and she was recently appointed the U.K. ambassador for clean growth and infrastructure under the country’s innovation agency, Innovate UK.
Akinola’s success story remains an exception rather than the rule in the world of engineering. In the U.K., only 12% of engineers are women. In Sub-Saharan Africa, a focus of Akinola’s diversity-in-STEM efforts as a member of the steering committee of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s GCRF Africa Catalyst program, the figure is estimated to be less than 10%.
With World Engineering Day (March 4) and International Women’s Day (March 8) just a few days apart, this is as good a time as any to inspire women to enter the male-dominated field of engineering and make an impact on their countries’ progress toward the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Starting On The Engineering Path
Engineering is a vast field with many specialities, and the choice can be overwhelming for students. For those interested in sustainability, Akinola has no doubt that the best focus is in energy engineering because it’s the basis for all other sustainability activities, whether in construction or agriculture.
Geography can also shape an engineer’s focus. Sub-Saharan Africa, for instance, has a diversity not just of languages, landscapes and cultures but also of energy needs and opportunities. Countries like Akinola’s native Nigeria, where oil has determined the fortunes of many, have yet to show a full commitment to a post-oil future. Elsewhere, the picture is different. “Where there isn’t that much oil, you can see solar panel farms popping up, wind turbine farms, and there’s that accelerated renewable response because of a lack of a natural resource,” Akinola points out.
To those who doubt engineering would suit them, Akinola suggests looking beyond its reputation as a difficult, math-heavy subject. “The artist’s impression is what we always start off with,” she says; the rest is just “using maths and physics as a tool for creating that creative stroke.”
Another issue that deters prospective engineers is visibility. “I’ve seen young people say, ‘Actually, I don’t think I can do this because I don’t see many people like myself,’” Akinola says. But she has seen the impact that grants—like those managed by the GCRF Africa Catalyst program, which has awarded $4.8 million across 37 projects in 14 countries since 2016—can have. The Higher Education Partnerships in Sub-Saharan Africa Programme, working with Institution of Engineers Rwanda, helped to increase the proportion of female internship applicants from 5% in 2018 to 25% in 2019.
Akinola says you can see the growing confidence of those who receive that support and think, “If I’m receiving this amount in grants, it’s because somebody believes in me—somebody thinks that I have a role to play in ensuring that engineering can become the tool for that economic development in my country.”
Believe In Yourself
Embarking on a career path where women, and especially women of color, are still a rarity comes with its own challenges. Akinola has developed a useful mantra to deal with those who doubt her skills because of their own biases.
“Early on in my career, I had to be comfortable with who I was, as a person,” she says, “and through that journey, I’ve met people who recognize a level of authenticity.” She acknowledges that it takes conscious effort to remember to appreciate those experiences that make you unique, but they will pay off in the end, she says.
“It’s not easy,” she says, “and I have to remind myself all the time, but at least it’s my fallback.”
On the flip side of the visibility issue in male- and white-dominated environments is the issue of tokenism—feeling like you’ve been hired or offered an opportunity just to tick a diversity box. That, too, is something that Akinola is familiar with.
“Sometimes you leave some of those sessions or events or panels a bit upset because you figure out that they just wanted you to be a face there,” she says. Akinola is nonetheless motivated by the thought that her time and words can cause a ripple effect and make someone else feel empowered.
“Of course, sometimes you have to give yourself a bit of a break,” she says, “because a lot of women, as we always do, we take on the responsibility of fixing the world. And it’s not quite 100% our responsibility. We need our allies, and sometimes it gets tiring, so it’s a balance. We have to take care of ourselves and step back and know that actually we’re doing it on our own terms.”
Jack Dorsey is putting his first tweet up for sale as an NFT, a nonfungible token. The Twitter CEO’s tweet — which read “just setting up my twttr” — will be 15 years old later this month.
Dorsey announced the sale by linking to it in a tweet Friday at around 4 p.m. PT. A little over an hour an half later, the highest bid on the NFT was $110,000.
An NFT is a cryptographic token that is enjoying popularity with artists and musicians. The digital assets are stored on the blockchain. The Kings of Leon is selling its latest album as an NFT, and Christie’s is in the midst of its first NFT auction.
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