Science & Technology
French hoverboard inventor flies over the English Channel
Franky Zapata, a 40-year-old inventor, takes to the
air in Sangatte, Northern France, at the start of his successful attempt
to cross the channel from France to England, aboard his flyboard, Sunday
Aug. 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)
Thomas Adamson and Jason Parkinson
St. Margaret’s Bay, England (AP)
- Is it a bird? A plane? No, it’s a French
inventor flying over the English Channel on his hoverboard.
Looking like a superhero, Franky
Zapata successfully completed the famed 35-kilometer (22-mile) journey
in just 22 minutes earlier this month, reaching speeds of up to 177
kilometers per hour (110 mph) on the flyboard that has made him a French
Propelled by a power pack full of
kerosene, Zapata set off from Sangatte in France’s Pas de Calais region
on Sunday, August 4 and landed in St. Margaret’s Bay, beyond the white
cliffs of Dover, in southeast England. He stopped only once, on the
British side, to refuel his futuristic invention from a boat in the
“I’m feeling happy ... It’s just an
amazing moment in my life,” he said in English following his touchdown
in Britain. “The last 10% (of the flight) was easier ... because I had
the time to look at the cliffs.”
It was, of course, the record for
such a trip: No one else has tried to cross the channel in this way.
It was also a personal record — the
furthest distance that the 40-year-old, who drew nationwide attention
after whizzing above European leaders in Paris at Bastille Day
celebrations, had ever traveled atop his hoverboard.
The wind in the Channel, especially
gusts, presented a major challenge, he said, adding that he bends into
gusts but is destabilized if the wind quickly dies. It was, he
acknowledged, no easy feat — especially given the physical endurance it
requires. He said his leg muscles were “burning” during the flight.
“Your body resists the wind, and
because the board is attached to my feet, all my body has to resist to
the wind,” he told reporters. “I tried to enjoy it and not think about
Witness Mark Kerr, a 60-year-old
hospital librarian from Dover, said it was quite an unusual sight.
“Spectacular and amazing. Not every
day you see a man standing up, flying across the Channel, being chased
by three helicopters,” he said.
Rosie Day, a 17-year-old at the
British landing site, was impressed by Zapata’s flying skills.
“I was surprised by how quick he
was. It was really impressive how fast he came in and the agility of his
movements,” she said. “He was very smooth.”
This was the inventor’s second
attempt at crossing the Channel. His first — 10 days previous — ended
when he collided with a refueling boat several minutes into his flight.
That destroyed his transportation, a version of the flyboard that his
company sells commercially.
Zapata told reporters this time he
was “scared to touch down” at the refueling station on the sea but knew
“whatever happened,” his team “wouldn’t let me fall into the water.”
He said he and his team worked
around the clock to pull off the feat.
“All week, we worked 16 hours a day
... we worked like crazy,” he said.
French maritime authorities said
the refueling operation was dangerous, even though Zapata nixed his
initial plan to refuel his power pack from a flying platform.
Instagram expands hiding 'likes' to make you happier
Instagram is expanding a test to hide how many “likes” people’s posts
receive on its photo-sharing app. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
San Francisco (AP) — Instagram is expanding
a test to hide how many "likes" people's posts receive as it tries to
combat criticism that such counts hurt mental health and make people
feel bad when comparing themselves to others.
The Facebook-owned photo-sharing service has been
running the test in Canada since May. Now, Facebook said the test has
been expanded to Ireland, Italy, Japan, Australia, Brazil and New
Facebook typically tests new Facebook and Instagram
features in smaller markets before bringing them to the U.S., if it ever
does. The company would not comment on what it's learned from the Canada
test or if it has plans to expand it to the U.S. any time soon.
One group that may be affected is Instagram
"influencers," the major, minor or micro celebrities who use social
media to market products and otherwise influence their hordes of
followers. After all, if you post a photo and no one likes it, did you
really post it?
People can still see how many people liked their
own photos, but won't see counts for other people's posts. Rather, they
could tap to see a list of all the accounts that liked the other posts,
but would have to count the total manually. It's a task few people would
bother with. Likewise, though Instagram isn't hiding the number of
followers on an account, it still requires an extra tap or two to find
"It makes it hard to find who the influencers are,"
said Ryan Hilton, a 27-year old Canadian who works in social media and
has been part of the no-likes test for months. "It's hard to know who to
follow because everyone looks the same."
Hilton, who has a personal account as well as one
for his dog, the latter with more than 3,200 followers, added that he
understands why Instagram is doing this. Hilton said his younger sister,
who is in high school, is "obsessed" with likes.
"It's mostly for the younger generation, people in
high school and stuff," he said. "There is a lot of pressure. If someone
has 1,000 likes and someone has two likes, that probably makes them feel
not very nice."
While Hilton said the change will probably slow
down the influencer world a little bit, he pointed out that a lot of
young influencers now are using live videos, not static photos, to build
their following. Here, likes are still visible.
Oyster seeding: A 'tangible, physical' way to help the water
Christine Thompson, an assistant professor at Stockton University, looks
through bags of young oysters growing on whelk shells as part of an
oyster restoration program being done by the American Littoral Society
in Ocean Gate, N.J. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)
Ocean Gate, N.J. (AP) — Restoring oyster
beds and helping keep the water clean isn't just for scientists and
environmental groups anymore.
Students, younger children and those with no
particular scientific background like the idea that something they do
this morning can be helping the earth by this afternoon.
Kenna Allocco, 12, of Beachwood, New Jersey,
recently helped remove bags of whelk shells with baby oysters attached
to them from a bubbling tank in preparation for their journey to a
Barnegat Bay reef, in between asking a dozen or so incisive questions of
"I'm interested in how all the animal species
interact with each other, and in biodiversity," she said. "We're
learning about this in school. I made a speech about the problem of
plastic pollution in the ocean, and I scared my entire class. None of
them uses plastic straws anymore."
The efforts are part of a worldwide effort by
scientists and volunteer environmentalists to dump millions of baby
oysters into waterways where they once thrived before overharvesting and
pollution virtually wiped out the shellfish.
In addition to helping improve water quality and
stabilize shorelines against strong storms, many people involved in the
oyster seeding projects say one of their best benefits is providing an
immediate, easy way for people to get involved and help the environment.
"It's a very real, tangible, physical thing you can
do and see that it is helpful to the environment," said Zack Royle, a
habitat restoration coordinator with the American Littoral Society, a
New Jersey coastal environmental group. "You place the seed oysters in
the tank, you watch them grow and you put them into action when you dump
The New York/New Jersey Baykeeper group is adding
to an artificial reef it has built for oysters along the shoreline of
the Earle Naval Weapons Station in Middletown, where the shoreline was
ripped up by Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
Meredith Comi, restoration director for Baykeeper,
said the baby oysters attach themselves to the rows of concrete castles
the group dumped a few hundred feet from shore. As the shells grow, they
expand the mass and shape of the reef, providing "speed bumps against
wave action during storms," she said.
A Baykeeper project in mid-July placed a million
young oysters near the heavily guarded Navy pier. Over the past 10
years, they've set out 4 million of them in various spots.
Since it built the base of an oyster reef using
empty whelk shells in Ocean Gate, New Jersey, in 2015, the Littoral
Society has placed 6.3 million oysters on those shells, estimating that
about 207,000 remain alive and growing.
At least 70 million more could be planted in the
next few years, said Capt. Al Modjeski, an official with the Littoral
Once they reach the water, the oysters have about a
10 percent survival rate, scientists say.
Oyster restoration projects are underway or have
recently been completed in San Francisco Bay; Puget Sound near Seattle;
in coastal salt ponds in Rhode Island and the state's Narragansett Bay;
in the Carolinas; in Florida and the other Gulf Coast states; in New
Hampshire; and particularly in Chesapeake Bay in Maryland and Virginia,
where some of the nation's biggest oyster restoration programs have been
underway for years.
Since launching in 2014, an effort to restore
oysters in New York Harbor called the Billion Oyster Project has planted
over 28 million oysters, with the goal of reaching a billion by 2035.
In Europe, oyster restoration projects are being
done in England, Scotland, Ireland, France, the Netherlands, Germany and
The work usually involves scientific groups setting
up tanks in which to cultivate baby oysters. Then they turn to
volunteers to help put them into waterways.
"A really important part of this work is connecting
people back to the environment," said Tim Dillingham, executive director
of the Littoral Society. "This gives them an opportunity to become
citizen-scientists and actually participate in oyster restoration.”
Richard Branson inspired by Apollo, his own space shot soon
Branson is presented with a space-themed cake during a luncheon attended
by 100 Virgin Galactic ticket holders, to mark his 69th birthday and in
recognition of the Apollo 11 moon landing anniversary at the Kennedy
Space Center Visitor Complex, Thursday, July 18, 2019, in Cape
Canaveral, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Cape Canaveral, Fla. (AP) — Virgin
Galactic's Richard Branson said his spaceship has just a few more test
flights before he jumps on board for the first tourist trip.
The British billionaire celebrated his 69th
birthday at NASA's Kennedy Space Center during 50th anniversary
festivities for humanity's first moon landing. His guests were 100 other
aspiring astronauts who have put down deposits to launch into space with
Virgin Galactic. Like Branson, many in the crowd were inspired to fly
into space by Apollo 11, which he called "the most audacious journey of
Branson said three or four test flights will be
conducted from New Mexico, beginning this fall, before engineers allow
him to fly. The two suborbital test flights to date — conducted in
December and February over California's Mojave Desert — provided several
minutes of weightlessness.
Branson declined to say when his flight might
"My track record for giving dates has been so
abysmal that I'm not giving dates anymore. But I think months, not
years," he told The Associated Press.
The company is in the process of moving from
Southern California to Spaceport America in the New Mexico desert near
Truth or Consequences, which has set everything back four months,
according to Branson. The test pilots need to practice landing there, he
said, before passengers tag along.
"I certainly won't go into space before brave test
pilots feel 100% comfortable that we've checked every box," Branson
In 2014, the company's experimental space plane
broke apart during a California test flight, killing the co-pilot.
The winged spaceship is dropped in flight from a
custom-designed airplane; once free, it fires its rocket motor to hurtle
toward space before gliding back to Earth like NASA's old space
shuttles. The latest test flight by VSS Unity reached an altitude of 56
miles (90 kilometers) while traveling at three times the speed of sound.
About 600 people, ranging from their teens to early
90s, have reserved a seat, according to a company spokeswoman. Tickets
When asked if she'll be afraid, Houston violinist
Debbie Moran, 62, said she's trying to do everything she's ever wanted
to do in life before her spaceflight in another few years.
"We all know it's not the safest thing in the
world," she said. "I still have not told my mother."
Myths and risks in app that gives you peek into older self
displayed on an iPhone Wednesday, July 17, 2019, in New York.
(AP Photo/Jenny Kane)
San Francisco (AP) — Is a peek into the future
worth your privacy in the present? That concern was pushed to the spotlight
recently with the resurgence of a smartphone app that uses artificial
intelligence to transform your current face into your younger and older
People raised fears on Twitter and other social media
sites that on iPhones, FaceApp would be able to see and upload all your
photos, including screenshots with sensitive financial or health information
or photos of kids with the names of their schools in the background.
That's not actually true, but the scuttle serves as a
good reminder to think twice before downloading new apps.
Even large, mainstream apps routinely collect user
data. But many trendy-at-the-moment apps are guilty of mining user data as a
primary purpose. Some personality quizzes on Facebook and similar services
collect user information as a business, opening people up to breaches such
as in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
FaceApp app grabs a photo only if you specifically
select it to see your face change, security researcher and Guardian Firewall
CEO Will Strafach said. The confusion comes from an iPhone feature that
shows your photo library within the app. It is an Apple feature that lets
you select a specific photo, but doesn't give the app full access to the
library, even though it may appear that way.
You have the option of granting access to your entire
photo library, but even then, there is no evidence the app is uploading
anything other than the photo selected.
"I'm always looking for privacy concerns," said
Strafach, who used a network analyzer tool to track what was happening.
"When it's not happening, it's not happening."
There's a version of FaceApp for Android, but those
phones don't tap photo libraries the same way.
That's not to say the app isn't free of problems,
Among other things, photos get sent to the cloud for
processing in both the iPhone and Android versions, exposing them to hacking
and other problems. FaceApp does not explicitly tell users that the photos
are being sent to the cloud. Some apps try to limit exposure by doing the
processing on the devices themselves, not in the cloud.
from the app to serve targeted ads and to develop new products and features.
It says it does not sell data to third party apps, but lists many exceptions
including one that allows it to share data after removing information that
FaceApp, which is developed in Russia by Wireless Lab,
has had surges of viral popularity before. The app also allows people to
swap their genders or add facial hair or makeup.
Wireless Lab told technology news site TechCrunch that
it may store users' photos in the cloud, but "most" are deleted after 48
hours. It said no user data is transferred to Russia.
Even with those admissions, Strafach urged people to
resist the pull of the app. He said the app should have been upfront and
told users it was processing photos in the cloud rather than on phones.
"Bottom line is they were handling sensitive data and
they handled it cavalierly and that's just not cool," he said.