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Yes, You Do Walk Weird When You're Texting, Scientists Confirm

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Texting while walking changes more than just your chances of running into a pole or another pedestrian. It alters your gait, according to a new study spotted by CNET.

In a recent study published in PLOS One, scientists from Anglia Ruskin University in the UK recruited 21 young people to text and walk under observation. The participants promenaded along an 18-foot-long walkway that contained a fiberboard a few inches high and a step-up box (like you'd find at a gym) designed to trip them up. They navigated the walkway 12 times each: without their phone, while talking on their phone, while reading a text, and while writing and sending a text.

When people whipped out their phones, they took a lot longer to traverse the walking path, which is no doubt a good thing. Compared to not having a phone at all, people took 118 percent longer to complete the task while writing a text. Navigating the walkway while reading a text took 67 percent longer than when there was no phone present, and talking on the phone took 83 percent longer.

The decreased visibility and attention clearly made people more cautious, and that changed their gaits significantly. "We found that using a phone means we look less frequently, and for less time, at the ground, but we adapt our visual search behavior and our style of walking so we're able to negotiate static obstacles in a safe manner," study co-author Matthew Timmis said in a university press release. "This results in phone users adopting a slow and exaggerated stepping action."

None of the participants tripped, and if anything, this study shows that distracted walkers are a little more careful than we give them credit for. They were able to successfully navigate the obstacles while not looking directly at them, a win for peripheral vision. Texting lanes have popped up in a few cities around the world (though mostly as a joke), and in one German city, there are ground-level traffic lights designed to keep texters safe in crosswalks.

Whether or not you think texting while walking is a problem, though, depends on who's doing it. A 2015 survey found that 74 percent of respondents believed "other people" had a problem with distracted walking, but only 29 admitted to doing it themselves. Meanwhile, reports of texting-while-walking accidents may be overblown, since there aren't official statistics on cell-phone-involved pedestrian crashes. The fact of the matter is, it's dangerous to be a pedestrian in the U.S., phone or no phone, largely due to road design rather than iPhone availability. (Sweden, where people also use cell phones, saw its lowest annual road deaths since World War II in 2016, and for the past three years in a row, fewer than 270 people have died on Swedish roads per year.)

Putting your phone down while you're walking down the street might have value beyond personal safety, though. As part of its digital detox program, the technology podcast Note to Self challenges people to put away their phone whenever they're in motion. It's supposed to help wean you off your dependency on your phone, but it could have the added benefit of making you look much more suave when sauntering down the street.

[h/t CNET]

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Animals
Watch an Antarctic Minke Whale Feed in a First-of-Its-Kind Video
WWF
WWF

New research from the World Wildlife Fund is giving us a rare glimpse into the world of the mysterious minke whale. The WWF worked with Australian Antarctic researchers to tag minke whales with cameras for the first time, watching where and how the animals feed.

The camera attaches to the whale's body with suction cups. In the case of the video below, the camera accidentally slid down the side of the minke whale's body, providing an unexpected look at the way its throat moves as it feeds.

Minke whales are one of the smallest baleen whales, but they're still pretty substantial animals, growing 30 to 35 feet long and weighing up to 20,000 pounds. Unlike other baleen whales, though, they're small enough to maneuver in tight spaces like within sea ice, a helpful adaptation for living in Antarctic waters. They feed by lunging through the sea, gulping huge amounts of water along with krill and small fish, and then filtering the mix through their baleen.

The WWF video shows just how quickly the minke can process this treat-laden water. The whale could lunge, process, and lunge again every 10 seconds. "He was like a Pac-Man continuously feeding," Ari Friedlaender, the lead scientist on the project, described in a press statement.

The video research, conducted under the International Whaling Commission's Southern Ocean Research Partnership, is part of WWF's efforts to protect critical feeding areas for whales in the region.

If that's not enough whale for you, you can also watch the full 13-minute research video below:

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AI Could Help Scientists Detect Earthquakes More Effectively
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iStock

Thanks in part to the rise of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, earthquakes are becoming more frequent in the U.S. Even though it doesn't fall on a fault line, Oklahoma, where gas and oil drilling activity doubled between 2010 and 2013, is now a major earthquake hot spot. As our landscape shifts (literally), our earthquake-detecting technology must evolve to keep up with it. Now, a team of researchers is changing the game with a new system that uses AI to identify seismic activity, Futurism reports.

The team, led by deep learning researcher Thibaut Perol, published the study detailing their new neural network in the journal Science Advances. Dubbed ConvNetQuake, it uses an algorithm to analyze the measurements of ground movements, a.k.a. seismograms, and determines which are small earthquakes and which are just noise. Seismic noise describes the vibrations that are almost constantly running through the ground, either due to wind, traffic, or other activity at surface level. It's sometimes hard to tell the difference between noise and legitimate quakes, which is why most detection methods focus on medium and large earthquakes instead of smaller ones.

But better understanding natural and manmade earthquakes means studying them at every level. With ConvNetQuake, that could soon become a reality. After testing the system in Oklahoma, the team reports it detected 17 times more earthquakes than what was recorded by the Oklahoma Geological Survey earthquake catalog.

That level of performance is more than just good news for seismologists studying quakes caused by humans. The technology could be built into current earthquake detection methods set up to alert the public to dangerous disasters. California alone is home to 400 seismic stations waiting for "The Big One." On a smaller scale, there's an app that uses a smartphone's accelerometers to detect tremors and alert the user directly. If earthquake detection methods could sense big earthquakes right as they were beginning using AI, that could afford people more potentially life-saving moments to prepare.

[h/t Futurism]

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