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Study Shows that Wearing Heels Can Weaken Your Ankles

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High heels may boost a woman's confidence or make her feel more attractive or powerful, but they definitely don't have any positive long term effects on her body, according to a new study published in The International Journal of Clinical Practice.

Researchers at the Hanseo University in South Korea chose 10 women from each year of the flight attendant program at a Korean university to participate in the study. Because the women are required to wear 10 centimeter (almost 4 inches) high heels to class at least three times a week for all four years of the program—which helps them prepare for shoes they're required to wear as flight attendants—the researchers could compare the balance and ankle strength of the participants from each stage of the program. 

To see the effects of wearing heels, the researchers asked all 40 women to balance on a wobbly board and test their muscle strength through a computerized exercise machine. Rather than showing a steady decrease or increase in strength and balance from year one to year four, the sophomores and juniors actually had more powerful muscles around their ankles than their freshmen and senior peers. In fact, seniors had the weakest muscles and sophomores, juniors, and seniors had worse balance than freshmen.

According to the leader of the study, Dr. Jee Yong-Seok, “wearing high heeled shoes may at first lead to adaptation and increased strength,” making the muscles on the sides of the ankles grow stronger. But over time, they become disproportionate in strength to the front and back muscles, leading to an overall decrease in strength.

Even sitting in heels is bad for you: They "can alter the resting length of the muscles and tendons around the ankle," Dr. Neil Cronin, a biology professor from the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland, told The New York Times

There are a number of other studies about the effects of high heels—both on how they affect women's bodies and how they impact behavior. A study published in May from the University of Alabama at Birmingham showed that the rate of high-heel related injuries has doubled between 2002 and 2012. Another found that women who frequently wear heels have shortened calf muscles and a thicker Achilles tendon. However, unfortunately, a 2014 study showed that men are more helpful to women in heels than women in flats. 

[h/t The New York Times]

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Google's AI Can Make Its Own AI Now
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Artificial intelligence is advanced enough to do some pretty complicated things: read lips, mimic sounds, analyze photographs of food, and even design beer. Unfortunately, even people who have plenty of coding knowledge might not know how to create the kind of algorithm that can perform these tasks. Google wants to bring the ability to harness artificial intelligence to more people, though, and according to WIRED, it's doing that by teaching machine-learning software to make more machine-learning software.

The project is called AutoML, and it's designed to come up with better machine-learning software than humans can. As algorithms become more important in scientific research, healthcare, and other fields outside the direct scope of robotics and math, the number of people who could benefit from using AI has outstripped the number of people who actually know how to set up a useful machine-learning program. Though computers can do a lot, according to Google, human experts are still needed to do things like preprocess the data, set parameters, and analyze the results. These are tasks that even developers may not have experience in.

The idea behind AutoML is that people who aren't hyper-specialists in the machine-learning field will be able to use AutoML to create their own machine-learning algorithms, without having to do as much legwork. It can also limit the amount of menial labor developers have to do, since the software can do the work of training the resulting neural networks, which often involves a lot of trial and error, as WIRED writes.

Aside from giving robots the ability to turn around and make new robots—somewhere, a novelist is plotting out a dystopian sci-fi story around that idea—it could make machine learning more accessible for people who don't work at Google, too. Companies and academic researchers are already trying to deploy AI to calculate calories based on food photos, find the best way to teach kids, and identify health risks in medical patients. Making it easier to create sophisticated machine-learning programs could lead to even more uses.

[h/t WIRED]

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European Space Agency Releases First High-Res Land Cover Map of Africa
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Land Cover CCI, ESA

This isn’t just any image of Africa. It represents the first of its kind: a high-resolution map of the different types of land cover that are found on the continent, released by The European Space Agency, as Travel + Leisure reports.

Land cover maps depict the different physical materials that cover the Earth, whether that material is vegetation, wetlands, concrete, or sand. They can be used to track the growth of cities, assess flooding, keep tabs on environmental issues like deforestation or desertification, and more.

The newly released land cover map of Africa shows the continent at an extremely detailed resolution. Each pixel represents just 65.6 feet (20 meters) on the ground. It’s designed to help researchers model the extent of climate change across Africa, study biodiversity and natural resources, and see how land use is changing, among other applications.

Developed as part of the Climate Change Initiative (CCI) Land Cover project, the space agency gathered a full year’s worth of data from its Sentinel-2A satellite to create the map. In total, the image is made from 90 terabytes of data—180,000 images—taken between December 2015 and December 2016.

The map is so large and detailed that the space agency created its own online viewer for it. You can dive further into the image here.

And keep watch: A better map might be close at hand. In March, the ESA launched the Sentinal-2B satellite, which it says will make a global map at a 32.8 feet-per-pixel (10 meters) resolution possible.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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