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March 2 2017 7:06 AM

Which New Areas of Virtual Reality Will Use Eye-Tracking?

Answer by Kynan Eng, research group leader, neuroscience of VR and applications to rehabilitation:

I think that most of the first uses of augmented reality and virtual reality eye-tracking will be to improve general AR/VR headset comfort and usability. Why? As a direct input device, eye-tracking is actually fairly frustrating and useless. However, as a general contextual signal indicating possible user intent or attentional focus, it is quite useful. Many use cases for eye tracking will work in the background, and will probably include the following:

March 1 2017 7:07 AM

What Is the Memory of Ants Like?

Answer by Ted Pavlic, research scientist in social-insect lab:

Although olfaction (sense of smell) is certainly important to ants, the memory story involves much more than just chemosensory recall and recognition. Different species of ants have different memory capabilities for smell, vision, and even things like the distance and direction of their home nest based on feedback from their step count.

Feb. 28 2017 7:04 AM

What’s an Example of an Authentic Portrayal of a Trans Character in Film or TV?

This question originally appeared on Quora, the knowledge-sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.

Answer by Jae Alexis Lee, transgender woman:

When I think about transgender characters in media, one of the things that we discuss so often is that the overwhelming majority of trans characters are portrayed negatively, heaped in negative stereotype or sunk deep into transition stories that serve as little more than a lens for the cisgender audience to view a portion of what trans people experience on their journeys. Even then, positive depictions of trans characters are often forced into narrow roles where the whole of their story is about transition or the character is intended to build audience attachment just before killing the character for dramatic effect.

We have a shortage of authentic portrayals of trans characters in media which makes it hard for many of us, as trans people, to find characters we can connect to. But sometimes, you get something special, something that can resonate with the trans audience in a way that the endless parade of stock tropes and stereotypes never will. Something that makes you cry in both happy and sad ways because it’s so genuine.

Nomi Marks in Sense8 made me cry because the character hit so close to home. Because there were so many parts of her experience that I could relate to in a visceral way and it really blew me away because I have never related to a character that strongly before.

Some of the things they did in setting up Nomi’s character were a little blatant and cliché, but they’re also things that happen. Watching her stuck in a hospital where she’s referred to by her dead name (the name a trans person was known by before transitioning) by doctors and staff because her mother refuses to accept her gender identity (and also constantly dead-names her). I think lots of us have family that refuse to accept our identity. That’s part of why this really struck home for me. Seeing her family bar her girlfriend from visiting is another pain that LGB people have known for far too long.

Beyond that, what I love about Nomi is that the fact that she’s a trans woman that is neither erased or made to be a significant plot point. We’re not seeing a coming out story. We’re not seeing a desperately trying to transition story. We’re seeing a trans woman living her life. For lots of us, life after transition doesn’t mean you stop being trans. The fact that you’re trans can show up in odd ways but, just like trans people’s lives are about a lot more than just transitioning, Nomi’s character is fully realized as more than just a cardboard cutout of a trans woman.

There’s this scene that I love when they introduce the character Bug who knew Nomi before she transitioned. When the conversation starts, Bug looks around and says: “Where’s Mike?” to which she responds “It’s me. I’m … Mike.”

I’ve had that moment. Sometimes I run into old students that I haven’t seen since years before I transitioned. When I say hi I get this moment of “Um, who are you?” That sort of thing doesn’t stop happening; it’s just a part of life, and it’s a part of life I can relate to. Later in this conversation (not in the clip), Bug says, “I got a serious hard-on when this showed up,” and Nomi’s response: “I know what you mean” completely throws him off for a moment. I about died laughing because, yes, this happens so much.

What I love most about Nomi though is that, while the fact that she’s trans remains part of the story, it is rarely center stage which lets her get on with being the truly badass hacker and team coordinator that she is. She isn’t a lens for the cisgender audience to look at trans issues through, she’s a trans woman that we, as trans women, can relate to.

The fact that the actress who plays her (Jamie Clayton) is actually trans and that the Wachowskis, who are two of the writers/producers of the show, are also trans lends a lot of legitimacy to how the character is handled. I, for one, love it, and I hope we get to see a lot more of things like this.

Jan. 25 2017 7:04 AM

What Are Some Etiquette Rules for Sushi Chefs?

Answer by Kaz Matsune, founder, business owner, speaker, author, sushi program designer at Breakthrough:

Here are some restaurant etiquette rules in sushi and Japanese kitchens.

Say “good morning” at the beginning of the shift. No matter what time of the day your shift starts, you always greet by saying “ohayo gozai masu,” good morning in Japanese. This is common practice at restaurants in Japan, as well as in the entertainment industry. In the beginning, I felt weird saying “good morning” at 3 p.m., and after a while, I got used to it, and it just became natural. Why and when this rule started is unclear, though, some say the word “ohayo” signifies the beginning.

Jan. 24 2017 7:02 AM

How Do I Have Better Conversations?

Answer by Matthew Manning:

Here is how to become more intelligent and have better conversation:

Do all of the obvious things that people are going to suggest and that you could probably figure out yourself. Chief among these is, of course, is reading more. Read all the time, even when you are waiting in line at the DMV, even when you are in the bathroom.

Nov. 1 2016 7:04 AM

What Don’t Most People Know About Air Force One?

Answer by Ron Wagner, USAF pilot in presidential wing at Andrews Air Force Base:

When I received my special air missions certification as a pilot at Andrews Air Force Base, I got a guided tour of the secret places on base, like the SAM command post, which would soon provide me with mission support, and the SAM warehouse, which would provide me with logistical support. Here are some things I saw that took my by surprise:

Oct. 31 2016 7:03 AM

Is Civility Possible in a Dungeons and Dragons game?

Answer by David Durham, dungeon master:

I have the luxury of running games with a group of very seasoned players. The game takes place every Monday evening in Atlanta, and has for more than 30 years, from 8 p.m. until midnight. Most of the participants have logged at least 10 years in the game. Five of us have been there from the beginning. Currently, there are around 12 who regularly attend, and there’s a sizable waiting list to get into it. I don’t know how unique this situation is. We may be setting records in the annuls of D&D gaming, for all I know. The campaigns are based on the game’s second edition, but we have adapted anything we like from subsequent editions and absorbed them into the mechanics of our games.

Oct. 27 2016 7:02 AM

Is It Possible to Open an Airplane Door Mid-Flight?

This question originally appeared on Quora, the knowledge-sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.

Answer by Ron Wagner, airline pilot and former USAF aviator:

Sure, no problem at all, if you’re strong enough to pull sideways with 3 to 4 tons of force.

Every once in a while back in my airline days, a young flight attendant would breathlessly race into the cockpit to warn us that a guy in an emergency exit row was trying to open the door. She’d ordered him to stop, but he just kept trying. Now she needed one of us to come back and stop him. We just laughed and told her to ignore him. Because it is funny.

At cruise altitude, the average exit hatch has about 3 to 4 tons of pressure holding it in place. Even on the ground, once the pressurization is turned on, there’s maybe 400 to 800 pounds of pressure. Yes, airliners pressurize a bit on the ground, which prevents pressure bumps that would pop your eardrums during takeoff. It’s less than 1 psi, but multiply that by hundreds of square inches and you’ll see that even if we went back to try to stop the guy, even on the ground, if he was strong enough to pull it out, we weren’t going to stop him.

Now, escape hatches are different from the main doors and are pretty easy to design because since they’re removed from the inside, they’re simple plugs, and pressurization makes them essentially impossible to remove. The main doors do indeed open outward. Why don’t they blow out?

Airliner doors are ingeniously designed. Few people realize it, but it’s some really excellent engineering. Next time you’re boarding a Boeing, take a good look at the mechanism. Upon closing, the door swings inside the cabin and then nestles outward into a frame where the door becomes a plug. They’re called plug doors. In aviation, you always want physics to work in your favor, so cabin doors use physics to remain in place rather than fighting physics with some massive locking mechanism.

Without this design, eventually with daily use on tens of thousands of planes, over decades, one of these locking mechanisms would eventually break and a door would open in flight. I’ve never heard of a plug-type cabin door opening in flight.

Unfortunately, designers have not always used that principle on all aircraft doors. The doors on the lower baggage bins on a DC-10 are a tragic example. They used a locking mechanism, something akin to a bank vault. Very strong, but something that must not deteriorate with thousands of uses by baggage handlers. Sadly, a couple of them failed.

One such example was the crash of Turkish Airlines Flight 981. The rear cargo door blew out with such force that the entire aircraft frame buckled. (MD never built planes as strong as Boeing.) The buckled floors left the control cables under the floor hanging slack. The pilots' yokes in the cockpit were just loose and floppy. All they could do was let everyone pray while they watched the plane slowly go out of control and crash.

This crash resulted in a complete redesign of the locking mechanism, and no more DC-10 nor MD-11 cargo doors have blown out. But those accidents, combined with others caused by sloppy design, eventually caused the DC-10s to cease passenger operations. They now only carry freight.

Can an airplane's exit door be opened in mid-flight? originally appeared on Quora. More questions on Quora:

Oct. 26 2016 7:05 AM

Is Newton’s Principia Still Relevant?

Answer by Paul Mainwood, degrees in physics and philosophy:

I would love to know how many people in the world today have actually read Isaac Newton’s Principia. They don’t have to have read it in the original Latin, just a decent translation into English or their own native languages. But they do have to have read it all the way through.

Oct. 25 2016 7:03 AM

Do Fighter Pilots Know What Their Bombs Are Hitting?

Answer by John Chesire, former naval aviator and combat fighter pilot:

When I was a fighter pilot, I never dropped any bombs without knowing exactly what my target was. I also prided myself on being extremely accurate. The only exceptions were “sky spots” in free-fire combat zones in South Vietnam when flying off an Air Force lead aircraft with better navigation than ours.

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