Current Event June 19, 2017
Recently, Uber announced plans to use new technology to create flying cars which will be ready for demonstration by 2020. Rather than picturing a car from a science fiction story, imagine a vehicle that looks more like a helicopter. In fact, Uber is calling them “vertical takeoff and landing aircraft”. Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas were selected as the company’s first United States partner cities. Listen to an aviation engineer from Uber explain this new technology.
Current Event June 9, 2017
A new technology has been developed that could help law enforcement detect if a person has been texting while driving. Typically, in cases of auto accidents, law enforcement has to get an order from a court to look through a person’s phone records to see if they were texting at the wheel. This is a lengthy and difficult process that many believe slows the course of justice. However, the “textalyzer”, if used, would allow police to plug into a driver’s phone and quickly see their last 90 seconds of phone activity to determine if they were texting and driving. Listen to learn more about texting-while-driving bans and debate the benefits and challenges of using the textalyzer to improve safety.
Current Event May 22, 2017
A recent unprecedented global cyberattack was responsible for 75,000 different infections in more than 70 countries. The ransomware, which is a type of software that locks files and demands money to unlock them, took advantage of a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows. The worst of the attack is over, since a security researcher was able to effectively trigger a kill switch to stop the infection from spreading and Microsoft issued an emergency patch for its operating system. Listen to hear more about this cyberattack and what was learned.
Current Event May 12, 2017
The Federal Communications Commission, or FCC, is in the process of trying to repeal regulations on internet service providers, known as net neutrality rules. The basic principle of net neutrality is that internet service providers should not be allowed to block or slow access to any websites, apps or other services. And service providers such as Comcast and Verizon should not be able to charge companies for faster access. Currently, internet providers are required to treat every website equally. Listen to learn more about net neutrality and the FCC’s plans to roll back internet regulations and then debate: Should all websites be treated equally on the internet?
Current Event March 16, 2017
Studies show that teen girls are more vulnerable to depression. In fact, girls are three times more likely than boys to become depressed, due in part to social pressures such as the overemphasis on physical appearance and the prevalence of social media. Not only are girls more likely to use social media, they also appear to be more vulnerable to the emotionally damaging effects of a constant, virtual connection. Listen to learn more about trends in teenage depression and the role of social media.
Current Event March 10, 2017
It is easier today for whistleblowers to leak confidential information to the press as a result of several new high-tech tools for leaking. Using encrypted messaging apps and email services, ordinary people are now able to give anonymous tips to news outlets. The Washington Post, New York Times and ProPublica have published guides that outline different options for sending in anonymous tips. At the same time, technology is also allowing the government and law enforcement to seize the personal information and communication history of whistleblowers and journalists. Listen to learn more about these new tools and then debate: Do you believe leaks are criminal or is leaking information acceptable in some cases?
Current Event March 7, 2017
Indian Information Technology companies are concerned about changes in the United States’ H-1B visa program. The visas allow a limited number of skilled workers into the U.S. each year. President Donald Trump’s “America First” initiative is reported to include limitations on visas for foreign skilled workers because some believe they take jobs from Americans. Indian IT companies argue that Indian tech workers are only filling a void left by the lack of skilled workers in technology, engineering and mathematics in the United States. Listen to learn more about how Indian IT companies collaborate with U.S. companies and potential plans to limit H-1B visas.
Current Event February 17, 2017
Charities are beginning to use virtual reality as a way to make donors feel more empathetic to a cause and potentially increase the amount they might donate. Several charities have created virtual reality experiences designed to put ordinary people in the place of others who are suffering. The hope is that virtual reality will make these unfamiliar experiences more concrete, and therefore, make people feel more empathetic. Listen to learn more about the virtual reality experiences being developed and then debate whether you think virtual reality can make you more empathetic.
Current Event February 9, 2017
A new app is available allowing people to send anonymous compliments to one another. A twenty-five year old developer came up with the idea of creating a virtual compliment box able to impact people around the world. On the app, people can leave each other anonymous compliments, see photos of positive reactions and can choose to reveal their identity later. Listen to learn more about the origins of the app, and how the founder hopes to use it to create a kinder, more empathetic culture.
Current Event January 27, 2017
A recent study tested over 7,800 teenagers on their ability to differentiate fake from real news and sponsored ads from news articles. The results showed that 80-90 percent of high school students had a difficult time judging the credibility of news. This skill is necessary to make choices about what to believe and what to share. Listen to this story to hear more about this study and what can be done to educate people about fake news and then debate with your students, how can students become prepared to spot fake news?
Current Event January 9, 2017
This week, the Obama administration announced sanctions against Russia after saying it was confident the Russian government interfered in last year's presidential election. The purpose is to deter Russia from cyberspace hacking in the future. The United States also expelled 35 undercover intelligence agents to deter Russia from harassing U.S. diplomats in Russia. Listen to hear more about possible retaliation and what actions are legal when the U.S. is not at war.
Current Event January 4, 2017
Five centuries ago, a German monk named Martin Luther protested the practice of indulgences. Christians who hoped to go to heaven and escape purgatory could make a cash offering to buy an “indulgence” certificate. The money often supported corrupt church officials and politics. Martin Luther presented 95 “theses” against the sale of indulgences, and sparked the Protestant Reformation. These ideas were circulated widely due to the recent invention of the printing press. Listen to hear more about how this technology changed religious ideas.
Current Event December 9, 2016
Law enforcement’s use of facial recognition databases is expanding, but the technology is not as accurate as it could be. Nearly half of all American adults, more than 117 million people, have been entered into a database for use by police and FBI. In large databases, it is more likely to find people who look similar. This technology also does not work well with darker skin. Listen to hear more about this technology and debate whether law enforcement should rely on facial recognition.
Current Event November 23, 2016
Since Donald Trump's election victory, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has come out twice to address the issue of fake news. A spokesperson said Facebook is not doing business with fake news apps. These are sites that promote false and inaccurate information which then goes viral. Facebook sells ad space inside its news feed and says these outside parties are not allowed to use the ad network. However, stories make money for Facebook when they are clicked, if they happen to get posted. Google, another tech giant, said it's working on a policy to keep its ads off fake news sites. Listen to hear more about this social media controversy.
Current Event November 3, 2016
Self-driving cars have been getting a lot of attention lately, with companies such as Uber, Tesla and Google trying out their autonomous vehicles on city streets. However, the big shift towards self-driving vehicles may not be with fancy electric cars, but with long-haul trucks. Trucks are well-suited for self-driving technology and will make the job of driving less dangerous. Listen to hear why people are predicting that trucks will undergo the shift earlier than cars.
Current Event September 16, 2016
Social media has an interesting effect on teenagers and the way they think. This study used social media and tested how teens responded to various photos online. Teens were shown an image that was deemed to have lots of "likes." The teens tended to like the image also. They found that teens responded strongly to the more popular pictures, regardless of which ones they were. Seeing popular pictures also produced greater activation in the reward centers of the brain. Listen to hear more about the effect of social media on the way teens think.
Current Event August 24, 2016
For the first time in history, two pilots flew the Solar Impulse 2, a solar powered plane, around the world without using any fuel. This technology will have to be developed more before the public will be able to fly in them. Nevertheless, this flight symbolized the innovative progress made by aviators and energy conservationists. Listen to the story to hear more about the flight from pilot, Bertrand Piccard.
Current Event July 7, 2016
Volkswagen, the largest car maker in Europe, is known for making cars that are good for the environment. Last year Volkswagen admitted to knowingly cheating the emissions tests of their diesel cars. They have now agreed to pay more than $15 billion to compensate customers and to fix damage done to the environment. This is the biggest judgment ever made against an automaker.
Current Event May 13, 2016
Uber is a ride-sharing company that allows users to request rides, and allows drivers to use their own cars to provide rides. When demand for Uber rides is greater than the supply, Uber uses “surge” pricing. During surge pricing, the rides cost 2, 3, or 4 times more than they do normally. The drivers like surge pricing since it accounts for a large part of their income. But the riders don’t like surge pricing because they pay more for the same ride. Uber is planning to end surge pricing. Listen to this story and debate the rights of both the workers and the consumers. Have students think about whether consumer rights are more important than worker’s rights.