June 19, 2024

Airport Facial Scanning, Breaking Up Big Tech, and More—This Week in the News

Author: The Great Courses
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In a fast-moving, ever-shifting world, news is continuously breaking. The Great Courses is here to help you understand the full story behind the soundbites. Here are a handful of stories for the week of March 11, 2019, and their accompanying lectures on The Great Courses Plus.

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Man Informed by Robot Doctor He Didn’t Have Long to Live
Ernest Quintana, suffering from lung cancer, was devastated when a robot machine rolled into his room and a doctor delivered the news by video call that he would only have days to live. Discover how medical professionals are using robots like HelpMate™ and da Vinci in patient wards, surgical theaters, and other settings, and whether robotic help is an effective tool in medical care. 

Top 20 Airports Will Start Facial Scanning Practices
An executive order stipulates facial recognition identification for “100 percent of all international passengers,” including American citizens, to be implemented in the top 20 U.S. airports by 2021. Biometric identification is becoming commonplace. Examine the different forms of biometric screening and consider the darker side of how this data might be used.

Can You Take Pi to the Next Level?
Last Thursday was Pi day, and to celebrate, Emma Haruka Iwao—with the help of Google—calculated the value of the number pi to a new world-record length of 31 trillion digits. Previously, the record was 22 trillion. Although 31 trillion is quite a feat, you can easily learn how to recite the first 24 digits of pi with a fun, phonetic memorization trick.

Fake Bruegel Masterpiece Switched in Police Sting
The Italian police were ahead of the game in an attempted art theft of a valuable painting by Pieter Brueghel the Younger. Having heard rumors of the heist, they replaced the original painting with a copy before the robbery. The Bruegels, father and son, were two of the most significant artists of their time—with Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s masterpieces now worth millions, also. Study the diverse and marvelous paintings of this Dutch and Flemish Renaissance master.

How Walking Your Pup Can Be Hazardous to Your Health
The number of fractures associated with dog walking for Americans over the age of 65 has more than doubled in the last 15 years. Dog walking is important for both you and your dog, but make sure you’re taking precautions with the type of leash you use and train your dog to let you lead. Learn how to teach your dogs to cool their jets with sit-stay, down-stay, leave it, wait, and loose leash walking.

Should We Break Up Big Tech?
Presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren has not been shy about her plans to break up “big tech,” including Amazon, Google, and Facebook. Warren compared the dominance of tech companies to railroad companies, which also faced antitrust scrutiny over a century ago. Witness how the Progressive movement took shape in the late 19th century, fueled by alarm over the unbridled power of large corporations, and examine actions taken under Presidents Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson to dismantle railroad, meatpacking, and oil trusts.

U.S. Joins Other Nations in Grounding Boeing Plane
New satellite data suggesting similarities between the Ethiopian Airlines crash on Sunday and a crash in Indonesia in October led the Federal Aviation Administration to ground all Boeing 737 Max 8 and Max 9 models. Follow the evolution of airframes from wood to metal to today’s composite materials. Also look at tragic accidents that revealed the limits of certain materials, which led to safer planes.

Using Quantum Computers, Physicists Reverse Time
Researchers from the United States, Switzerland, and the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology teamed up and returned the state of a quantum computer a fraction of a second into the past. Time travel was an idea that Einstein found interesting but impossible. Delve into why he dismissed time travel.

Cheating in Chess
With the intent of purposely lowering player ratings, a nationally recognized chess team from Texas intentionally lost more than two dozen games and now faces multiple disciplinary actions. By lowering the ratings, players were able to play in “under” sections in the Championship and the team was awarded first place. Discover the basics of the game and the mathematical notation that allows players to record games, learn from mistakes, and improve—or not, if that’s the intent.

We will be diligently monitoring current events and sharing updates on a regular basis, linking the latest headlines to our courses, so you can get the context, history, background, deeper meaning, and—especially—the facts. Our goal is to help our lifelong learners apply the knowledge they gain from our courses to the real world and become better-informed citizen about the present-day issues that concern us all.

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