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“We’ve found there is a healthy amount of frustration that’s productive; there is a satisfaction after having struggled with it,” says Roberta Schorr , associate professor in Rutgers University at Newark’s Urban Education Department. Her group has also found that, though conventional wisdom says certain abilities are innate, a lot of kids’ talents and capabilities go unnoticed unless they are effectively challenged; the key is to do it in a nurturing environment.
While working with minority and low-income students at low-performing schools in Newark for the past seven years, researchers at Rutgers University have found that allowing students to struggle with challenging math problems can lead to dramatically improved achievement and test scores.
New Jersey teachers have found a surprising way to keep students engaged and successful: They let underachieving youngsters get frustrated by math.
“Most of the literature describes student engagement and motivation as having to do with their attitudes about math — whether they like it or not,” Schorr says. “That’s different from the engagement we’ve found. When students are working on conceptually complex problems in a supportive environment, they do better. They report feeling frustrated, but also satisfaction, pride and a willingness to work harder next time.”
Former Newark middle school math teacher Debra Joseph-Charles says the Rutgers training taught her to see her role as that of a guide. In her classes, she assigned rich word problems, then gave students a few minutes to work individually in a way that emphasized their strengths.
“If you are good at computations and you want to do it that way, you can,” says Joseph-Charles, now a math coach in the school district. “If you are a visual learner and you want to draw, you can. Or if you want to use manipulatives, you can. You hear this rhetoric about there being this and that type of learner, but no one really gives students the opportunity to learn in different ways in the math classroom.”
Using the Rutgers method of group learning, Joseph-Charles’s students organized themselves into groups so that each student could explain how she arrived at an answer. The other students in the group gave constructive criticism about the pros and cons of each approach. Each group then decided which method was best and presented it to the class.
“Children who were failing are now quite successful,” Joseph-Charles says of her former math students. “They’re solving problems in ways we didn’t see as a possibility but which were valid.”
Naga Madhuri Philkhana, another former teacher turned math coach in Newark, says the Rutgers approach gave her students a sense of accomplishment. “You bring out their confidence by letting them have their own way of looking at problems and sharing it in the classroom,” she says.
After teachers like Joseph-Charles and Philkhana began applying the Rutgers techniques in the classroom, students showed more interest in math, and the math test scores at what were among the lowest-performing schools in the state began to soar. (In comparison, the language arts scores often remained the same or decreased.) Schorr was delighted but admits she was also surprised at the rising scores and how they have continued to improve year after year.
Since 2003, the average standardized math test scores among fourth graders in Newark schools have risen from 45 percent to 79 percent. As a result of its success, math teachers across New Jersey are now receiving professional development in the Rutgers method through a federally funded series of webinars called MathNext.
Schorr and her colleagues at Rutgers, with the help of MetroMath researchers in New York City, have begun identifying how and when students appear to be most engaged in math so they can train teachers to create and sustain that engagement. A number of their academic-journal articles on the subject have been published, and more are forthcoming.
“Motivation is a key aspect of achievement that we often ignore in math; it’s the missing link,” Schorr says. “We need to provide kids with conceptually challenging math problems in an emotionally safe environment, and the teacher plays a critical role in that. Kids can view frustration as an opportunity for success instead of an indication of failure, but that won’t happen without teachers letting the students experience productive struggles.”Bernice Yeung is a contributing editor for Edutopia.
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“Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.”
Those were the words that Richard Nixon read on television in 1969 while breaking the terrible news to the nation that the Apollo 11 mission had failed and astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had perished while attempting the first lunar landing.
But only in an alternate reality. Nixon never had to utter those lines because Apollo 11 was a historic success, and Armstrong, Aldrin, and their pilot Michael Collins made it safely back to Earth. But a speech was prepared for then-President Nixon in case they did not. The short film In Event of Moon Disaster shows us how that scenario would have unfolded with an incredibly convincing deepfake of Nixon delivering the disastrous news.
[Related: 7 easy ways you can tell for yourself that the moon landing really happened]
A deepfake is a combination of “deep,” meaning deep learning, and “fake,” as in fabricated. Together it’s a label for an audio or video clip that uses artificial intelligence to portray a scenario that never really happened. Usually, that consists of a person saying or doing something they never did, often without the consent of those portrayed, says Halsey Burgund, one of the directors of In Event of Moon Disaster.
While deepfakes are a recent development, they build upon a long and established line of distorted media that still exists as low-tech, impactful misinformation today. Although deepfake technology is evolving quickly, there are efforts to slow its dissemination. And while there are many malicious uses of deepfakes, there are some beneficial applications in areas like human rights and accessibility. An ongoing exhibit at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York City, Deepfake: Unstable Evidence on Screen, explores these themes with In Event of Moon Disaster as its centerpiece.
In Event of Moon Disaster is a deepfake of Richard Nixon telling the nation that Apollo 11 failed.The difference between deepfakes and other misinformation
To make a deepfake of a person, creators have to train a computer by giving it lots of video, audio, or images of the “target,” the person whose image and voice you are trying to manipulate, and the “source,” the actor who is modeling the words or action you want the target to appear to say or do. To ace this, the computer uses a form of artificial neural networks, which are meant to function like a human brain trying to solve a problem by looking at evidence, finding patterns, and then applying that pattern to new information. Neural networks were first conceptualized in 1943, and can be used to do everything from writing a recipe to translating convoluted journal articles. Deep learning and deepfake creation involve many layers of neural networks, so much so that the computer can train and correct itself.
While deepfake technology might seem harmful in itself, it’s aided by how quickly social media users spread the information, often without pausing to question its source.
“Deepfakes as a production technology presents a lot of concern,” Barbara Miller, co-curator of the exhibit and deputy director for curatorial affairs at the Museum of the Moving Image, says. “I think it’s impossible to think about that concern without looking at the lightning speed that information circulates.”
But the effective spread of misinformation predates deepfakes and even social media. The exhibit showcases deepfakes in the context of the long history of “unstable nonfiction media,” Miller adds, so visitors aren’t left with the assumption that the rise of AI-driven manipulation is the source of all distrust in media.
“These are techniques that have always existed for as long as the media itself has existed,” Burgund says.
Using basic video editing skills, almost anyone can slice and dice footage to change the meaning or tone.
In the 1890s, the Edison Manufacturing Company was eager to flex the capabilities of motion pictures by capturing the Spanish-American War on camera. However, cameras in the 19th century were a whole lot clunkier than those today, making it difficult to film combat close up. So, the company scattered staged footage of American soldiers swiftly defeating enemy regiments among the real footage of marching soldiers and weaponry. The cuts stoked patriotism among American viewers, who weren’t told the difference between the real and fake scenes.
Even today, you do not need AI to create effective and impactful disinformation. “The tried and true methods of manipulation that have been used forever are still effective,” Burgund says. Even putting the wrong caption on a photo, without even editing the image, can create misinformation, he explains.
Take the 2023 presidential election, for example. In the months leading up to it, Miller says there was worry that deepfakes could throw a wrench in the democratic process. However, the technology didn’t really make a big splash during the election, at least when compared to cruder forms of manipulation that were able to spread misinformation successfully.
Using basic video editing skills, almost anyone can slice and dice footage to change the meaning or tone. These are called “cheapfakes” or “shallowfakes” (the spliced Spanish-American war videos were one of the earliest instances). The intro to In Event of Moon Disaster uses these techniques on archival footage to make it seem like Apollo 11 crashed. The directors interspersed footage of the lunar lander returning between quick cuts of the astronauts and set it to the soundtrack of accelerating beeping and static noises to create the anxiety-inducing illusion that the mission went awry. Because these techniques require minimal expertise and little more than a laptop, they are much more pervasive than deepfakes.
In fact, some of the most well-known videos that have been debated to be deepfakes are actually cheapfakes. In 2023 Rudolph Giuliani, then-President Donald Trump’s lawyer, tweeted a video of Nancy Pelosi in which she appeared to slur her words, leading some of her critics to assert that she was drunk. The video was found to have been edited and slowed down but did not use any deepfake technology.
Burgund and his co-director, Francesca Panetta, think that confirmation bias is really what aids the dissemination of deepfakes or cheapfakes, even when they’re clearly poorly made. “If the deepfake is portraying something that you want to believe, then it hardly has to look real at all,” Burgund says.Slowing the spread of deepfakes
While it currently requires some technical know-how to create a deepfake like Burgund and Panetta’s, Matthew Wright, the director of research for Rochester Institute of Technology’s Global Cybersecurity Institute and a professor of computing security, says the technology is quickly spreading to the masses, and there are already many deepfake apps and software.
“This is democratizing a potentially dangerous technology,” Wright says.
There are efforts to slow or counteract the spread of deepfakes, however. While the usual impulse among tech researchers is to share methods and tools with the public, Wright says some of the experts developing new deepfake technologies have vowed to keep their results more private. Additionally, there are projects such as the Content Authenticity Initiative, which is a consortium of companies and organizations like Adobe, Twitter, and the New York Times that aims to track the origins of media by watermarking them even if they are edited. This is not a perfect solution, Wright says, because there are ways to bypass those checks. Still, if every video coming out of the White House, say, was digitally watermarked, then it could slow or prevent their manipulation.
Wright is working on creating deepfake detection tools that could be used by journalists and regular internet users. (Microsoft launched a similar product in 2023.) Wright says he and his colleagues are very careful about not sharing all of the source code because it’s possible someone could create a deepfake to deceive these detectors if they had access to it. But if there’s a diversity of authenticators, there’s less of a chance of that happening.
“As long as multiple detection tools are actually being used against these videos, then I think overall our chances of catching [deepfakes] are pretty good,” Wright says.
The 2023 documentary Welcome to Chechnya used deepfake technology to mask the faces of its vulnerable subjects.The values of deepfake technology
You may have encountered the benefits of deepfakes in entertainment, like in the most recent Star Wars films, or in satire, like this Star Trek throwback with Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk’s faces subbed in. However, the technology also has utility in human rights and disability accessibility.
The Museum of the Moving Image exhibit features clips from Welcome to Chechnya, an award-winning documentary by David France that uses deepfake technology to conceal the true faces of LGBTQ activists facing persecution in the Russian republic. This allows the viewer to see the emotion of the subjects while still protecting their identities.
The technology has also been used to improve accessibility for those who have lost their voice due to an illness, injury, or disability, such as Lou Gehrig’s disease, Burgund says. VocaliD, for instance, uses AI to recreate the user’s voice from old recordings for text-to-speech technology, or help them pick a voice that best fits their personality from a bank of options.
[Related: Deepfakes could help us relive history—or rewrite it]
While Panetta and Burgund want the viewers of their deepfake to interrogate the origins of the media they encounter, they don’t want the audience to be alarmed to the point of creating a zero-trust society.
“This is not about trying to scare people into not believing anything they see,” Panetta says, “because that is as problematic as the misinformation itself.”
Just like trust in media can be weaponized, distrust in media can be weaponized, too.
As the exhibit points out, even the theoretical existence of deepfakes results in a “liar’s dividend,” where one can insinuate a real video is a deepfake to sow seeds of doubt.
In 2023, Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba gave a New Year’s address after suffering a stroke and being out of the public eye as a result. His political rivals said that he looked unnatural and pushed the idea that the video was a deepfake. While experts agreed the video seemed off, no one could say for sure it was a deepfake or not, with some attributing the peculiarity of Bongo’s appearance to his poor health. A week later, citing the oddness of the video, his opponents attempted a coup but were unsuccessful.
Wright says that he and his colleagues have started to see more of these cry-wolf situations in the political sphere than actual deepfakes circulating and causing damage. “There can be deepfakes, but they’re not that commonly used,” he says. “What you need to do is understand the source.”
For anyone who’s inundated with information while scrolling through social media and the news, it’s important to pause and question, “how did this information reach me? Who is disseminating this? And can I trust this source?” Doing that can determine whether a deepfake (or cheapfake) becomes potent misinformation or just another video on the internet.
Deepfake: Unstable Evidence on Screen will be on display at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, New York through May 15, 2023.
The Chinese firm says the phone will cost from €1,299 for the silver or black version, or €1,399 for an eye-catching orange version with a vegan leather back.
Strangely, this orange model will also have a hardier glass on its 120Hz 6.7in OLED display than the cheaper versions and will be submersible to 6m rather than 2m. That might be worth €100 to some people, but an already expensive phone without Google apps or services could be a tough sell, hardier glass or not.
In renders the glass looks to have a crosshatch pattern that will surely not be visible to the naked eye. To further sell the extra spend, the orange version has 512GB storage to go with its 8GB RAM, rather than the 8GB/256GB configuration of the cheaper models.
Huawei head of product Andreas Zimmer told media in a briefing that the European version of the Mate 50 Pro is practically identical to the version announced in China earlier in September, except that it won’t have the latter model’s satellite communications abilities.
Just like in China, the European version uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chipset, but with only 4G capabilities – no 5G here thanks to the ongoing US sanctions that have cut Huawei adrift from Google services.
Also, in Europe the phone will run EMUI 13 that’s based Android open source. In China, the phone runs HarmonyOS, a similar but differently branded version of Huawei’s mobile software.
It seems that the regular Mate 50 along with the Mate 50 RS Porsche design edition won’t be making their way West. The whole series is set to go on sale in China on 28 September.
The Mate 50 Pro’s headline feature is its 10-stage adjustable physical aperture main camera that can move between f/1.4 and f/4.0 to capture varying depth of field in photo and video. Huawei said at f/1.4 it is the “industry’s largest aperture”.
The orange model has more hardened glass on the display
It uses a six-blade design to physically alter the aperture of the main 50Mp lens rather than using software to create artificial blur.
Variable aperture cameras are quite rare on phones. Samsung used a two-stage mechanism in 2023’s Galaxy S9 but abandoned it after that. It’s good to see Huawei bringing it back.
I’m excited to test it out. Since Huawei is no longer partnering with Leica on its cameras (fellow Chinese rivals Xiaomi and Vivo now do instead) it has dreamt up XMAGE, its new photography branding for its phones. The Mate 50 Pro is the first with it, and along with the crazy aperture abilities also claims to take photos with true-life colour – a move away from the saturation or beauty modes and smoothing of images on by default in many Android phones’ software.
The phone also returns to a notch design despite 2023’s last Mate, the Mate 40 Pro, opting for a pill-shaped cut out for the selfie camera.
Zimmer said the phone will have an emergency battery mode where the phone will be able to survive on 1% in standby for three hours, or for a 12-minute phone call, which seems like a good peace-of-mind feature.
He also outlined EMUI 13’s privacy features, though these seem very similar to the granular permission controls found on Android 12 and 13.
The silver and black versions
The phone also packs in IP68 water and dust resistance, 3D face unlock, a 13Mp ultrawide and 64Mp telephoto lens to go with its 50Mp main camera, and a 4,700mAh battery with 66W wired and 50W wireless charging, as well as 7.5W reverse wireless charging.
My colleague Dom recently reviewed Huawei’s impressive Mate Xs 2 folding phone but told me he struggled to keep his SIM card in it due to software quirks. It’s not just the no-Google thing; apps you download using Petal Search (sideloaded apps that aren’t hosted Huawei’s official app store AppGallery) don’t auto-update. Instead, you have to re-download new versions of them.
Perhaps we are too intertwined with Google services on these shores, but it’s little barriers to smooth phone-running like this that have me worried. But I will reserve judgement until my SIM is lodged in the Mate 50 Pro, which should be soon.
That said, there’s no UK price or official release confirmed as of today, and at the moment the Mate 50 Pro is only getting two years of software support – far from acceptable on a phone this expensive. But the pricy Pro is coming to Europe at least, and Huawei seems ever committed to its global smartphone strategy despite the lack of Google services that has had Western buyers leave the brand in droves.
The goal of quantum supremacy is to complete the most difficult task faster than the most powerful supercomputer
Back in 2023, Google boldly said that they had attained the proof that the esoteric approach could surpass conventional ones—something quantum computing specialists had been looking for for years. However, scientists are disputing this instance of “quantum supremacy,” asserting that they outperformed Google on a pretty ordinary supercomputer. No one is accusing Google of lying or misrepresenting its work, and the meticulous and innovative research that resulted in the quantum supremacy declaration in 2023 is still of utmost significance. The rivalry between classical and quantum computing, however, is still anyone’s game if this latest report is accurate. Although it may seem like a cop-out, the goal of quantum supremacy is to demonstrate the method’s viability by identifying even one extremely specialized and peculiar work that it can complete faster than the most powerful supercomputer. Since that opens the door for the quantum to add more tasks to its task library. Perhaps, in the long run, all jobs will be performed more quickly in quantum, but for Google’s needs in 2023, only one was, and they thoroughly explained how and why. Currently, a group from the Chinese Academy of Sciences directed by Pan Zhang has released an article outlining a novel method for simulating a quantum computer that seems to take a minuscule fraction of the time predicted for classical computation in 2023. To depict the 20 cycles that the Sycamore gates went through throughout the simulation, they represented the issue as a sizable 3D network of tensors, with the 53 quantum bits in Sycamore being defined by a grid of nodes that had been extruded out of 20 times. A network of 512 GPUs was then used to calculate the mathematical relation between these tensors. Although it should be noted that this was Google’s estimate for 54 quantum bits performing 25 cycles; 53 qubits undertaking 20 cycles is significantly less complex but would still require on the order of a couple of years by their estimation method. The original Google paper estimated that running this scale of modeling on the most robust supercomputer at the time would take approximately 10,000 years. According to Zhang’s team, it only took them 15 hours. And if they had access to a powerful supercomputer like Summit, they could complete the task more quickly than Sycamore, in a matter of seconds. There is no reason to believe that these results are a mistake or a scam, but they have not yet been thoroughly examined and verified by persons with relevant information. As it is extremely difficult to construct and program quantum computers, while conventional ones and their software are continually being upgraded, Google even acknowledged that the baton may be transferred back and forward a few times before supremacy is permanently established.
Back in 2023, Google boldly said that they had attained the proof that the esoteric approach could surpass conventional ones—something quantum computing specialists had been looking for for years. However, scientists are disputing this instance of “quantum supremacy,” asserting that they outperformed Google on a pretty ordinary supercomputer. No one is accusing Google of lying or misrepresenting its work, and the meticulous and innovative research that resulted in the quantum supremacy declaration in 2023 is still of utmost significance. The rivalry between classical and quantum computing, however, is still anyone’s game if this latest report is accurate. Although it may seem like a cop-out, the goal of quantum supremacy is to demonstrate the method’s viability by identifying even one extremely specialized and peculiar work that it can complete faster than the most powerful supercomputer. Since that opens the door for the quantum to add more tasks to its task library. Perhaps, in the long run, all jobs will be performed more quickly in quantum, but for Google’s needs in 2023, only one was, and they thoroughly explained how and why. Currently, a group from the Chinese Academy of Sciences directed by Pan Zhang has released an article outlining a novel method for simulating a quantum computer that seems to take a minuscule fraction of the time predicted for classical computation in 2023. To depict the 20 cycles that the Sycamore gates went through throughout the simulation, they represented the issue as a sizable 3D network of tensors, with the 53 quantum bits in Sycamore being defined by a grid of nodes that had been extruded out of 20 times. A network of 512 GPUs was then used to calculate the mathematical relation between these tensors. Although it should be noted that this was Google’s estimate for 54 quantum bits performing 25 cycles; 53 qubits undertaking 20 cycles is significantly less complex but would still require on the order of a couple of years by their estimation method. The original Google paper estimated that running this scale of modeling on the most robust supercomputer at the time would take approximately 10,000 years. According to Zhang’s team, it only took them 15 hours. And if they had access to a powerful supercomputer like Summit, they could complete the task more quickly than Sycamore, in a matter of seconds. There is no reason to believe that these results are a mistake or a scam, but they have not yet been thoroughly examined and verified by persons with relevant information. As it is extremely difficult to construct and program quantum computers, while conventional ones and their software are continually being upgraded, Google even acknowledged that the baton may be transferred back and forward a few times before supremacy is permanently established. Google hasn’t been sitting still either, so it very well could respond with fresh assertions of its own. However, the fact that it is even competitive is a positive thing for everybody involved because this is a fascinating field of computing and research like Zhang’s and Google’s keeps everyone’s standards higher.
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When you think NASA, you think of space, rockets, and maybe budget overruns. But NASA stands for more than just Space. That first A in the acronym is often ignored, but NASA devotes a considerable amount of time and money into the Aeronautics of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. They do plenty of work within the Earth’s atmosphere, including sending up scientific balloons into the atmosphere. Balloons are easier to launch than satellites, and can gather valuable scientific data in relatively short spans of time.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t always go well.
Scientists working on the COSI project hope to recover the instrument, and launch again whenever they can. As Nature noted the COSI team hasn’t fared too well with their ballooning endeavors, one crashed in Australia in 2010 and in 2013, the government shutdown shelved launch plans.
But it isn’t all doom-and-gloom for NASA’s scientific balloons. Another mission, ANITA-III (Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna-III) launched successfully on December 17. ANITA-III, all 4,601 pounds of her, was carried aloft by a zero-pressure balloon. COSI, on the other hand, was carried up towards the sky in a super pressure balloon. Unlike other scientific balloons, the super pressure balloon was specially designed to stay afloat for months at a time at a more or less consistent altitude. Standard balloons, like the zero-pressure ballon, tend to rise or sink as the gas in them heats up during the day or cools down at night.
“Super pressure balloons are going to be a real game-changer for conducting scientific investigations in the near-space environment,” Debbie Fairbrother, Chief of NASA’s Balloon Program Office said in a statement after ANITA-III launched earlier this month. The super pressure balloon was supposed to stay aloft with COSI for 100 days, smashing through the record for a scientific balloon flight (55 days for a normal balloon, 54 for a super pressure balloon.)
Even if the latest setback means that the game hasn’t changed quite yet, that doesn’t mean that people aren’t working on it. The Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility is NASA’s balloon-base, and it launches scientific balloons all over the world, including the ones that just launched in Antarctica. Just like it’s spacecraft endeavors, NASA is contracting out balloon work to private companies. Back in November, NASA awarded a contract worth up to $186,293,071 million to Orbital Sciences. In exchange, Orbital Sciences will operate the facilities at CBF, and help design and launch scientific balloons at a bunch of NASA locations.
But NASA’s ballooning ambitions aren’t just limited to high-tech balloons–they’re also exploring the idea of developing airships. Airships are large craft that are like balloons or zeppelins, and would be capable of either hovering over a single spot for long periods of time, or it could be moved to follow weather events like a hurricane from above. Unlike balloons, airships have power, which means they can be steered–a valuable feature for any floating object.
Airships remain a distant dream–in classic bureaucratic form, the submission period for discussing a possible airship-designing challenge ended on December 1. We’ll check back in if they decide to actually have the challenge, but in the meantime, we’ll keep our fingers crossed that the next balloon launch goes off without a hitch.
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