Current Event October 19, 2020
The actions of armed anti-government groups, often calling themselves “militias,” are gaining attention in the U.S. One such group was recently accused of plotting to kidnap the governor of Michigan. Militant groups sometimes claim the Second Amendment to the Constitution, which calls for “a well-regulated militia,” protects their right to exist. But are private militias really legal? Listen to learn whether armed anti-government groups can operate legally in the U.S. and how social media platforms help them thrive.
Current Event October 13, 2020
Russia is trying to meddle in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, just as it did in 2016, through disinformation campaigns on social media. This year, experts say it is easier because foreign actors need only repeat falsehoods being circulated by Americans, including the current administration, which has questioned the integrity of the U.S. election process without supporting evidence. This has the effect of eroding voter confidence in democratic institutions and processes and encouraging actual interference with those processes. Listen to learn which tactics foreign adversaries are using to influence the 2020 election and how American national security experts and technology companies are trying to combat them.
Current Event October 9, 2020
A judge recently blocked President Trump’s order to ban all U.S. downloads of the video sharing app TikTok, which is currently owned by a Chinese company. Trump views the app as a national security threat, saying that the data it collects from American users may be accessible to the Chinese government. Defenders of the app say no evidence exists that the Chinese government could access American TikTok data, which is housed in the U.S. Listen to learn more about the controversy surrounding TikTok and then debate: Should TikTok be banned in the U.S.?
Current Event September 18, 2020
Text messaging is changing the way people are using punctuation to express themselves. Some feel that periods at the end of texts can indicate seriousness or even anger. Others believe that writing sentences without periods is an insult to their teachers. Not everyone uses punctuation in the same way, and a period at the end of a text can easily be misinterpreted. Listen to hear a variety of reactions to texts ending with periods then debate: Should texts include punctuation?
What is artificial intelligence? How does it differ from other computer programs? Currently, artificial intelligence is being used to help people in many ways, such as detecting when and where earthquakes will occur before they happen, determining how to slow down the spread of disease, and outlining the best way to get relief to people after a disaster. However, artificial intelligence is a developing field with ever-expanding applications. Listen to hear more about what artificial intelligence is, how it has developed over time, and how it can be used to help people.
Current Event May 13, 2020
A recent discovery indicates that our prehistoric relatives may have been smarter than previously thought. A team of paleo-anthropologists, scientists who study the origins of early humans and their relatives, found a bit of string on a prehistoric tool. This artifact offers evidence that Neanderthals had developed an important technology for survival. Listen to learn how Neanderthals made string and why the find is changing views of their intelligence.
Current Event May 8, 2020
Governments around the world are using surveillance technology to help keep citizens safe from the spread of the coronavirus. Collecting cell phone location data can help officials implement some of the most effective tools for containing the virus, including contact tracing. In some countries, however, the government’s use of personal data to track people’s movements is raising privacy concerns. Listen to learn how three different countries are tracking personal data to fight the pandemic and then debate: Should surveillance technology be used for contact tracing?
This audio story was recorded in late April. The news about COVID-19 is changing rapidly and parts of this story may be dated.
Current Event April 15, 2020
An experiment to improve people’s memory while they sleep has shown promising results. Researchers asked participants to learn a new video game, then tested whether their memories improved after electrical signals were sent to their brains while they slept. Scientists say the technique could someday help people boost their ability to learn. Listen to hear a reporter describe the brain cap she wore for the study and learn about potential concerns raised by the research.
Current Event April 9, 2020
With schools around the country closed due to COVID-19, teachers are using technology to help educate kids remotely. However, some students lack access to a computer, making online learning impossible. One school district in California is leveling the playing field by distributing laptops to children from low-income families. Listen to hear a principal describe the joy of seeing students in the computer line, and learn how a high school student has been spending her time at home.
Current Event April 3, 2020
Online discussions document history as it is lived, functioning as digital primary source artifacts. As Verizon prepared to delete archives of Yahoo Groups, among the earliest online discussions on the internet, some people were upset. They argued that these online discussions offered a valuable record of life in the early 2000s that should be preserved. Verizon said that maintaining the archives required resources that they wanted to use for other priorities. Listen to hear more about the dispute over Yahoo Groups and then debate: Should online discussions be preserved as historical records?
Update: Verizon deleted all content from Yahoo Groups on January 31st 2020, allowing users to archive their data before that date.
Current Event April 1, 2020
The group in charge of emojis is issuing some new designs, and scientists are buzzing. Researchers studying mushrooms, rocks, microbes, and insects enjoy using emojis to represent their work. They are happy to have appropriate images to share on social media, even if the emojis do not represent every scientific detail correctly. Listen to learn which group of animals have the most emojis, which groups are not well represented, and what happened when marine scientists complained about the accuracy of the squid emoji.
Current Event March 31, 2020
A chunk of chewed birch resin has revealed surprisingly detailed information about a woman who lived 5,700 years ago. Scientists investigated a brownish blob discovered at an archaeological site and were able to extract and analyze a complete strand of DNA that revealed details about the diet, health, and appearance of the Stone Age woman who had chewed it. Listen to learn why ancient people chewed birch pitch and how this very old piece of gum could inspire archaeologists to look in new places for clues to the past.