Twitter trembles, lab coats, and more: THE WEEKLY RECAP (2022#45)

Quick update this week, as I am on my way back to Spain for a short visit where I plan to eat as many of the dishes I miss as possible. Let’s start!

Extreme close-ups and the depths of the Indian Ocean

Those are just a couple of the incredible stories behind Nature’s best science images of October. Add to that the cutest bonobo mother I have ever seen and some insights on how plants react after being hurt. Amazing.

Glowing gecko and Hurricane Ian — October’s best science images, on Nature

The elephant in the room

I did not know where to start with this one, honestly. Twitter is the only social network I have been continuously using during the past decade (actually, my account turned 12 a few weeks ago). I love its unique functioning (the fact that is centered around short pieces of text), and over the years I have built a feed with an amazing mix of science, music, video games, technology, global news, and shitposting/memeposting. I can discover scientific advances not only in my field but in many other topics, I can take a look at the news around the globe (and in my local town, which I left years ago). I can also read about video games from both journalists and friends who always have a cool point of view. And then I can also laugh with memes, with people who do not know what the platform is («I cannot believe this website is free» is a full subgenre of jokes on that specific situation), and with some of the most creative people on the internet, who post their creations for everyone to watch. All in the same place.

But it hurts me to see all of this in danger. Elon Musk, the man with the biggest superiority complex on the planet, has been throwing stupid ideas to the wall for the past two weeks, to see if something sticks in his pursue of making Twitter as profitable as possible, as fast as possible. The list of dumb shit proposed by this ego maniac is endless (you can take a read on the links below), and threatens to end all the cool stuff I loved about the platform. Establishing a paywall, verifying anyone who pays 8 bucks a month, firing half of the people working on the company on the US through an email (or +90% of the people working overseas, for example in Spain or India) just to try to re-sign them a couple days afterwards (his genius intellect did not seem to think that you need many experts to keep stuff working), banning everyone making fun of him after declaring that «humor is now legal on Twitter»…

With his actions, advertisers started fleeing the website, which endangers its mid/longterm viability. Hate speech grew fast with the idea that, under Musk’s umbrella, minorities could be bullied using the pretence of free speech. At the same time, communities started losing users. Many scientists I know moved to Mastodon (I will probably write about that one in the future), or at least created accounts there, just in case. Moreover, when advertisers flee, people tends to follow (and vice versa). In the end, Twitter is Twitter not because who owns it, but because the people who use it. And the only thing the ideas proposed by Ellon have achieved is to disturb the community. Honestly, I hope he finds the way to make a profit because I really want Twitter to survive. However, right now that seems like a daunting task (he even said that bankruptcy is on the table), and the times ahead look pretty pretty dark.

Two Weeks of Chaos: Inside Elon Musk’s Takeover of Twitter, on The New York Times
Elon Musk’s Twitter faces its ‘Titanic’ moment as executives and advertisers flee while trolls run rampant, on CNN

Trending near you

It always amazes me how some clothing trends can evolve extremely fast in the streets, but at the same time, others remain unperturbed forever. Suits have been more or less the same since… well, since they exist, and we keep using the same materials we have relied upon for the past several centuries.

An interesting twist to this lies in the case of working clothes. While safety-related gear has improved a lot in the past decades, some other areas are still lacking. This is the case of lab coats, which have not significantly changed since their introduction ~200 years ago. Furthermore, the variety among those is so low that basically you use the same design whether you work on a wet lab, inside an examination office or providing drugs at a pharmacy. On top of that, sizing tends to be terrible and there are very few options to match your body shape, which might help you realize why many people are craving for someone to design a XXI century version of the lab coat. Better fitting and well-thought pockets are some of the elements the people at Genius Lab Gear have considered in their proposal to modernize the iconic lab coat. I foresee that, even if their version ends up not being the standard, that many will follow in designing better apparel for the day-to-day work in the labs. Let’s hope we do not have to wait another 200 years for that to happen.

Better-fitting coats will not only make people more likely to actually wear this crucial piece of protective equipment, Miller says, it also may make working in the lab slightly more enjoyable. ‘It’s not that one lab coat that’s uncomfortable is going to kick someone out of science altogether. But there’s so many of these little frustrations, these little friction points that happen along the way, I think it can be that the straw that breaks the camel’s back.’

9 out of 10 scientists hate their lab coat, on Chemistry World

~privacy. That’s iPhone

Periodic reminder that big tech only cares about big tech profits, and that companies will screw around with every bit of personal information they can get from you, no matter what they say in their cool advertising campaigns. This week we have seen how Apple collects everything you do in real time while using your apps even if you select the option to opt out of tracking. Apparently, it is not spying if is the fruit company who does it.

The iPhone Analytics setting makes an explicit promise. Turn it off, and Apple says that it will “disable the sharing of Device Analytics altogether.” However, Tommy Mysk and Talal Haj Bakry, two app developers and security researchers at the software company Mysk, took a look at the data collected by a number of Apple iPhone apps—the App Store, Apple Music, Apple TV, Books, and Stocks. They found the analytics control and other privacy settings had no obvious effect on Apple’s data collection—the tracking remained the same whether iPhone Analytics was switched on or off.

Thomas Germain

We also saw how building your phones in China and making a big chunk of your global earnings in the country makes you patch features that cause trouble for the government, even if they are against freedom of speech and access to information. Before, people could use AirDrop to share information, which was a very interesting way to receive news without using the internet (which is heavily surveilled and censored). Since iOS 16.2, this has been capped and you can only use the feature with anyone for 10 minutes, and only with your contacts afterwards.

Apple to restrict ‘Everyone’ option in AirDrop to 10 minutes in China with iOS 16.1.1 [U], on 9to5mac
Apple Limits iPhone File-Sharing Tool Used for Protests in China, on Bloomberg
Anti-Xi Jinping Posters Are Spreading in China via AirDrop, on Vice
Apple Is Tracking You Even When Its Own Privacy Settings Say It’s Not, New Research Says, on Gizmodo
Analytics in Apple Apps, on Michael Tsai blog

And that’s it for the week. Stay safe!
Featured image: Nekton Maldives Mission
Now listening: Bay of Fires – Strawberry Girls

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