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5 Social Networks to Use in 2019 Instead of Facebook



Social Networks Instead Facebook
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In recent years, the tide of public opinion has slowly but surely turned against the intrusive actions of Big Tech companies. People are tired of corporations mining their personal information and censoring or manipulating their content online and, as a result, the biggest social networks, like Facebook and YouTube, are beginning to see a noticeable exodus of users.

Until recently, fleeing users had nowhere else to go. But the advent of decentralized, encrypted technologies has ushered in a new generation of social platforms that prioritize privacy, transparency, and free speech, allowing users more control over their posts and content. There are now dozens of social applications operating on peer-to-peer or blockchain-based networks.

Here are five good starting points in your journey away from Facebook:

Minds – Minds is the oldest network on this list and has slowly cultivated an impassioned legion of users who consider it the heir apparent to Facebook. But Minds is vastly different than Facebook: it is open source, meaning that anyone can help improve the site’s design; it is decentralized and encrypted, which means that corporate data miners can’t poach user data and governments can’t monitor the site’s messaging app; and the site allows its users to earn money through their posts.

Founder Bill Ottman, who launched Minds in 2011 with an innovative model of “hybrid” investing that tapped both tokens and VCs, described the site’s origins: “We started Minds in my basement after being disillusioned by user abuse on Facebook and other big tech services. We saw spying, data mining, algorithm manipulation, and no revenue sharing,” he said. “To us, it’s inevitable that an open source social network becomes dominant, as was the case with Wikipedia and proprietary encyclopedias.”

Minds now has millions of active users. The mission for “Internet freedom” has only grown, underscored in 2018 when hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese users joined the site after their country passed a draconian cybersecurity law that restricted free speech.

Steemit – Steemit is up there with Minds when it comes to popularity and, like Minds, it has a devoted core of users. Steemit’s design and architecture can best be compared to Reddit; however, unlike Reddit, Steemit users earn money when their posts are upvoted. And unlike Minds, Steemit uses a blockchain technology, which supports the site’s cryptocurrency, Steem. There are many ways to earn Steem—posting, voting, curating, purchasing, interest, etc.—and though there’s a bit of a learning curve when it comes to the language of the mechanics, the result is a thriving community in which some users make a living through their site activities.

Like Minds, Steemit is the playground of a robust diversity of ideas—some of them controversial—and attracts a good share of anarchists and counter-economic activists. Though it has close to half a million active users, Steemit devotees still dream of bringing this blockchain-based social network to the mainstream.

LBRY – LBRY is a mix between a social network and digital marketplace for content creators. According to its creators, it is the first digital marketplace to be wholly community-run and controlled by its participants instead of a corporation or third party. Unlike Apple, Amazon, or YouTube, for example, LBRY is a peer-to-peer, decentralized, and distributed network; it is both protocol and service.

In 2018 the alternative news website Anti-Media—which had recently been deplatformed by Facebook during a widespread purge of anti-establishment pages—migrated its articles onto LBRYto build a decentralized content delivery system for [their] website and an uncensorable hub.” This is the perfect example of how a blockchain-based network, which is impervious to censorship, can play a crucial role in the future of liberated media and content delivery. You can support and follow Anti-Media by signing up!

Nexus Social – Nexus is another decentralized social media application fueled by blockchain and a passionate advocacy for anonymity. Nexus is a bit different than the others on this list because it is largely an ecommerce and ad platform community. Imagine a mix between eBay, Amazon, and Google AdSense except without a centralized server (plans call for a combo of Storj and BigchainDB blockchains instead). The Nexus platform, powered by the native cryptocurrency Social (SCL), facilitates a marketplace where users can “make deals or exchange value through cryptographically-signed and executed contracts.”

Founder Jade Mulholland says the goal is to “eliminate all invasion of privacy that large corporations are currently performing.” Mulholland adds that “Social, our cryptocurrency, can be used to do many things on the social network, such as buying and selling in the marketplace, purchasing ad space, and donating to crowdfunding campaigns.”

Obsidian – Obsidian is a good option for people who don’t necessarily post on Facebook a lot but use its Messenger app. Obsidian’s Secure Messaging app is based on the Stratis blockchain, a proof-of-stake system that protects user data from “cookies” and outside surveillance. Obsidian is probably the youngest entry on the list and is still in its public alpha phase. As an open source application, Obsidian keeps a publicly available repository of its code on GitHub.

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Awesome New Infrared Goggles Could Help Blind People ‘See’ Surroundings



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People who are blind or deal with low vision face a unique number of challenges in their daily lives, ranging from accessing published material to holding a job or living on one’s own.

However, emerging infrared technology under research could help the blind and visually impaired navigate the world around them using a pair of innovative goggles.

In new research recently published and yet to be peer-reviewed, Manuel Zahn and Armaghan Ahmad Khan at Germany’s Technical University of Munich explored how their 3D camera and haptic feedback armband can assist people with low vision.

“Even in the present era, visually impaired people face a constant challenge of navigation,” the pair wrote. “The most common tool available to them is the cane. Although the cane allows good detection of objects in the user’s immediate vicinity, it lacks the ability to detect obstacles further away.”

The two students’ design deploys two infrared cameras placed in a 3D-printed goggles prototype to get a stereoscopic view that is transformed by a small computer into a map of the user’s surroundings. The infrared gear also works in the dark. The armband then uses 25 actuators arranged in a grid that vibrates when users come close to objects while also assisting them in their orientation. As users walk near obstacles, the vibration intensity of the actuators increases.

In tests, subjects enjoyed roughly 98 percent accuracy while getting through obstacle pathways, with all five participants completing the course in their first run. After two additional runs, the volunteers were able to navigate the obstacles more rapidly.

Zahn and Khan frequently cited Microsoft’s Kinect motion detection system for the Xbox in their study, but the pair are confident that their own setup will be far smaller, cheaper and less conspicuous than the gaming device.

The new headset could offer an interesting opportunity for blind and partially sighted people to clear the myriad obstacles they face when performing regular tasks or navigating the world around them.

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NASA Finds “Unusual” Signs of Life on Mars



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New research unveiled on Sunday by NASA could point to the existence of life on the Red Planet, as well as a range of other exciting possibilities.

On Sunday, the space agency generated buzz with a statement about the latest find by its Curiosity rover: rocks that contain organic carbon, which may indicate the existence of ancient bacteria or any other diverse examples of “complex organic molecules formed by life.”

While analyzing rocks and other sediment collected by the rover across the Red Planet, researchers found an ancient carbon cycle that could have a “biological basis” and resembles the types of fossilized remains of microbial life discovered in parts of our own planet that date back some 2.7 billion years.

A tell-tale sign could be found in the two stable isotopes – 12 and 13 – that were found in the Martian carbon.

While the find offers tantalizing hope that life may have existed on Mars, the researchers are holding out hope that they can find other indicators of what caused these carbon signatures.

“On Earth, processes that would produce the carbon signal we’re detecting on Mars are biological,” said Prof. Christopher House at Penn State University, the lead author of the study. “We have to understand whether the same explanation works for Mars, or if there are other explanations, because Mars is very different.”

Indeed, a complex range of different factors may make biological processes radically different on Mars than on Earth. The Red Planet, for example, is far smaller, colder, and has weaker gravity as well as different gases in its atmosphere. Likewise, Martian carbon could be circulating in the absence of any life, unlike here on Earth.

“There’s a huge chunk of the carbon cycle on Earth that involves life, and because of life, there is a chunk of the carbon cycle on Earth we can’t understand, because everywhere we look there is life,” noted Curiosity researcher Andrew Steele from the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C.

Researchers are looking into the widespread existence of the simple organic molecule methane as a potential telltale sign of microbial life, with the focus of exploration lying near the Gale Crater – a deep lake that is 3.5 billion years old and is said to store complex organic molecules and many of the key ingredients for the existence of ife.

“Defining the carbon cycle on Mars is absolutely key to trying to understand how life could fit into that cycle,” Steele noted. “We have done that really successfully on Earth, but we are just beginning to define that cycle for Mars.”  

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