News about Kansas environmental issues

Virtual reality makes food taste better

In another example of VR bleeding into real life, Cornell University food scientists found […]

read more
Post

‘No major concerns’ for Thames whale

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionWhale spotted in Thames again

A beluga whale seen in the Thames for a second day is “swimming strongly and feeding normally”, the RSPCA has said.

The animal welfare charity said the whale, nicknamed Benny, had moved towards the estuary, and there were no major concerns for its welfare.

It was first spotted around barges in the Thames on Tuesday near Gravesend.

Rescue teams have been on standby in case the animal, which is normally found thousands of miles away in the Arctic, gets into danger.

RSPCA spokeswoman Clare Dew said: “It appears to be feeding normally – it is not attempting to come anywhere near the banks and it is staying in the deep channel in the middle of the river.”

Conservationists said they hoped its instincts would soon kick in, and it would head out of the estuary and back north.

Image caption The beluga whale was pictured swimming in the Thames off Coalhouse Fort in Essex on Tuesday

Ships in the river were being urged to keep clear, and the public has been asked not to take to the water to watch it.

Beluga whales can grow up to 20ft in length and are usually at home in the icy waters around Greenland, Svalbard or the Barents Sea.

‘Lost its way’

A spokeswoman for the British Divers Marine Life Rescue said it was sending a team to Gravesend to assess the whale’s condition.

Julia Cable, national co-ordinator for the conservation charity, said: “It’s possible that it lost its way after a navigational error, that it has taken a wrong turn. We haven’t got an idea about the health of the animal.”

Lucy Babey, head of science and conservation at Orca, a marine conservation charity, said: “This is the most southerly recording of a beluga in the UK.

“These animals can navigate in shallow coastal water so hopefully it will swim away.”

She said any noise in the water could impair its sophisticated sonar navigation system.

Tanya Ferry, environment manager at the Port of London Authority which is monitoring the whale, said the number of plastic bags in the River Thames could become an issue for the whale.

“We’re hoping if we give it enough space and keep an eye on it, it will find its own way out of the Thames to an environment that’s more appropriate for it.

“We certainly don’t want people trying to rescue it.”

Can you beluga it? Your reaction to whale in Thames

Beluga whales were last spotted in the UK three years ago off the coast of Northumberland and Northern Ireland, but sightings were “extremely rare”, the British Divers Marine Life Rescue said.

In 2006, an 18ft (5m) northern bottle-nosed whale died after becoming stranded in the Thames.

The RSPCA said: “We are working with other agencies to monitor the situation and ready to provide appropriate assistance if requested.”

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Crowds gathered to look from the river bank after the whale was spotted in the River Thames near Gravesend, east of London

What is a beluga whale?

Image copyright RIA NOVOSTI/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Belugas, also known as white whales, are “one of the most familiar and easily distinguishable” of all whales, according to National Geographic.

They range from 13ft (3.9m) to 20ft (6.1m) in length and have distinctive rounded foreheads.

Belugas are commonly found in coastal waters of the Arctic Ocean, but are also at home in large rivers. They can move between salt and fresh water.

They are common to Alaska, Russia, Canada, and Greenland.

The whales were nicknamed “canaries of the sea” by early whalers due to their squeaks and squawks.

Beluga calls variously resemble a cork being prized from a bottle or a creaking door, along with sounds described as clicks, squeaks, chirps, bleats, moans, groans, and whistles.

Related Topics

Read more: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-45649502

Post

Instagram is supposed to be friendly. So why is it making people so miserable?

For a growing number of users and mental health experts, the positivity of Instagram is precisely the problem, with its relentless emphasis on promoting perfect lifestyles. Should everyone just stop scrolling?

When 24-year-old fashion blogger Scarlett Dixon posted a picture of herself having breakfast, the internet turned nasty. The best of days start with a smile and positive thoughts. And pancakes. And strawberries. And bottomless tea, Dixon wrote on her scarlettlondon Instagram feed, under an image of her looking flawless on a freshly made bed flanked by heart-shaped helium balloons.

The sponsored post for Listerine mouthwash, a bottle of which is visible on the side of the shot was swiftly reposted on Twitter. Fuck off this is anybodys normal morning, wrote Nathan from Cardiff. Instagram is a ridiculous lie factory made to make us all feel inadequate. His post, which has garnered more than 111,000 likes (22 times as many as Dixons original) and almost 25,000 retweets, prompted a wave of criticism, with the more printable comments ranging from Fakelife! and Bunny-boiler to Lets pop her balloons and Who keeps Listerine on their bedside table? Serial killers, thats who.

That hostility feels par for the course on Twitter. The social network is a notorious hotbed of abusive strangers hurling abuse at other abusive strangers, who then all occasionally come together to bully a celebrity off the internet over some minor failing, such as being a woman in a Star Wars film. Instagram, by contrast, looks like the friendliest social network imaginable. Its a visually led community where the primary method of interaction is double-tapping an image to like it, where posts that go viral tend to do so because of positivity rather than outrage and where many of the biggest accounts are famous dogs and cats. Whats not to like?

But, for a growing number of users and mental health experts the very positivity of Instagram is precisely the problem. The site encourages its users to present an upbeat, attractive image that others may find at best misleading and at worse harmful. If Facebook demonstrates that everyone is boring and Twitter proves that everyone is awful, Instagram makes you worry that everyone is perfect except you.

In the days following her initial Instagram post, Dixon pointed out the irony that this fear that the unreality of social media is harming people was itself being used to justify the thousands attacking her.

Each time I refresh my page, hundreds of new nasty messages pour on to my Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, some of which have contained malicious death threats, she wrote in a follow-up Instagram post, accompanying a picture of her in Venice with an ice-cream. There are now hundreds of thousands of tweets circling the internet, shaming me.

My feed isnt a place of reality, Dixon added. I mean who spends their time in such a beautiful city, perched on a ledge, ice-cream in hand and smile permanently affixed to her face? Its staged, guys.

Dixons
Dixons follow-up Venice post. Photograph: Scarlett London

I personally dont think my content is harmful to young girls, but I do agree Instagram can present a false expectation for people to live up to.

But whether or not Dixons feed is harmful, there is growing support for the idea that Instagram isnt great for its users mental health.

In 2017, the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), an independent charity that seeks to improve peoples wellbeing, conducted a UK-wide survey of 14- to 24-year-olds, asking them about the big five social media platforms: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram. Users ranked how their use of the platforms affected everything from the quality of their sleep to their Fomo the fear of missing out on what others are enjoying.

Instagram came last, scoring particularly badly for its effects on sleep, body image and Fomo. Only Snapchat came close in its overall negativity, saved by a more positive effect on real-world relationships, while YouTube scored positively on almost every metric except its effect on sleep, for which it was the worst of all the platforms.

On the face of it, Instagram can look very friendly, says the RSPHs Niamh McDade. But that endless scrolling without much interaction doesnt really lead to much of a positive impact on mental health and wellbeing. You also dont really have control over what youre seeing. And you quite often see images that claim to be showing you reality, yet arent. Thats especially damaging to young men and women.

The risk of developing an unhealthy body image is often highlighted, but McDade emphasises that this is just one aspect. Some people may be looking at feeds full of cars, and its giving them anxiety and depression as they cant afford them.

For Stephen, a 24-year-old from London, the unreality led him to develop unhealthy behaviours online. I was going through a bit of heartbreak at the time, he says, and any experience of seeing my exs name on Instagram killed me. I was pretty down and found myself predominantly using Instagram to either punish myself by looking at my ex, or using the browse feature to distract me. I found myself looking at attractive women a lot when theyd come up in the browse feature, which would then cause more to be shown.

I was getting to a point where I was feeding an unhealthy habit [of forming a warped view of women] and making myself feel worse. Stephen then took a year-long break from the app, during which he wrote a dissertation on its harmful effects on wellbeing and body satisfaction.

The problem with Instagram is that you, almost exclusively, share content that is meant to reflect positively on yourself, he says. On Twitter or Facebook, you see much more content that isnt, Hey, look at my great life.

Almost every user adds fuel to the flames. Even as were being made miserable by the unreal lives that we follow, we share an unreal version of our own lives. I have been on Instagram since 2013 and in the beginning I enjoyed it, says Adnan, a 25-year-old Syrian who lives in Cape Town. But, as the years passed, it changed from being a friendly environment, where most people posted food pictures, into a competitive social platform where everyone filters out their lives to represent a life that does not exist. Nobody looks good all the time, nobody is always happy. When things get tough, I get really upset when I see other people having the perfect life. And yet, Adnan says, I am also guilty of trying to show the best side of my life to people.

But Instagram has always been about looking flawless. What has changed to spark such a backlash? Among users I spoke to, one event was cited time and again: the introduction, in mid-2016, of Instagrams algorithmic timeline. It was one of the largest changes to the platform since it was bought by Facebook in 2012. Rather than presenting users with a cross-section of what the people they were following were up to at any given moment, Instagram began populating feeds with the most noteworthy posts from those accounts, often reaching back days or even weeks to pull in particularly compelling content. In effect, the service began promoting a curated, unrealistic version of an already curated, unrealistic feed.

You
You often see images that claim to be showing you reality, yet arent. Photograph: Getty Images

Talya Stone, a parenting blogger at Motherhood: The Real Deal, went cool on Instagram shortly afterwards. For a long time, Instagram was one of the only places where the interaction felt real, she says. Then the algorithm came along and blew that out of the water. The whole point of these social platforms is that they are supposed to enhance social connectivity yet, bizarrely, they are based on an algorithm that seems to be working against this very notion.

Victoria Hui, who runs the lifestyle blog the Lust Listt, says there is another issue affecting pro Instagram users those who make a living (or hope to) from advertising and sponsorship. The new algorithm creates a popularity contest between creators, so that they resort to unethical business decisions in order to keep themselves at the top of the food chain.

Unscrupulous creators started buying followers, likes and comments in an attempt to fool the algorithm; as Instagram clamped down on that, Hui says, those users formed secret comment pods conspiring to share each and every post with each other in order to generate authentic and immediate engagement.

While influencers such as Dixon often get the lions share of the blame for the epidemic of unreality on Instagram, its just as prevalent at the grassroots as it is among the Insta-celebrities.

I stopped using the app earlier this year, when I realised that I reliably felt worse after opening it than I did before I started. But my Instagram a locked account, with just a couple of hundred followers and posts is almost exclusively for keeping in touch with people I got to know in other ways. The closest I get to following influencers is the pop star Carly Rae Jepsen and an Instagram-famous husky.

Still, every time I open the app, Im presented with an endless feed of my friends and family doing incredible things, having a wonderful time, without me.

Theres the friend whose wedding I wasnt invited to; I found out about it through the app. Theres the friend who is looking fantastic after every workout and lets us all know. And theres the friend who lives in New York, apparently over in London for the weekend without telling me.

Meanwhile, Im doing nothing of note except sitting on Instagram. At least I dont suffer the same from the adverts. Because of a glitch in my privacy settings, Instagram believes I am a Bangkok teenager and serves me nothing but adverts written in Thai for acne cures and KFC. This is not a joke.

When I tell friends about my dissatisfaction with the app, their responses are mixed. Some cite conventional wisdom, telling me to unfollow the influencers with a commercial imperative to sell me a perfect life and devote the app to keeping up with the friends I care about. Rob, for instance, follows fewer than 100 people, all family and friends.

But I dont follow any influencers, and the friends I care about most are the ones most likely to create that familiar pang of Fomo.

Every
Every time I open the app, Im presented with an endless feed of my friends and family doing incredible things Photograph: Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

Others offer exactly the opposite advice, arguing that my problem is not following enough influencers. I should focus less on using Instagram to find out what people I care about are doing and more on using it as a source of information and inspiration. One friend, Lynsey, cites Present and Correct, which sells exquisitely designed office supplies, as her go-to happy place. Another, Marie, recommends her personal mix of roughly one-third friends, one-third MPs and one-third drag queens.

Its true that there is a whole world of information best communicated in a visual medium. While some fitness-focused Instagrams leave you feeling like a fat blob of plasticine, others are sources of useful advice, laser-targeted at people in your situation.

But Ive tried that version of Instagram, too, and I worry that it provides only a veneer of engagement, while forever hovering on the precipice of impossibly perfect breakfasts eaten by impossibly perfect people. Even Facebook, Instagrams owner, warns against using its products in this way. In general, the company wrote on its corporate blog last year, when people spend a lot of time passively consuming information reading but not interacting with people they report feeling worse afterward.

Of course, Facebooks answer was that everyone should post more. But it would say that, wouldnt it? Another option is to follow the guidance of the RSPH. As part of scroll-free September the charity is encouraging users to aim for anything between complete cold turkey and simply stopping at certain times, such as in the bedroom or during meals.

There is one final possibility, proposed by a few others when I shared my own Insta-woes: dont give up on Instagram, just give up on people.

There are enough dogs, cats, birds, otters and ferrets to fill a social network of their own from Jiro the otter to Gotcha the cockatoo and its very hard to scroll through pet Instagram and feel bad about yourself.

Though you may start wishing for a more photogenic labradoodle.

For more information and advice on issues with social media, go to the RSPH: rsph.org.uk

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/sep/17/instagram-is-supposed-to-be-friendly-so-why-is-it-making-people-so-miserable