In the immediate aftermath of the Paris attacks on Friday, many with loved ones living in the city received a new type of notification from Facebook. The social network activated a relatively new tool called Safety Check for the attacks, letting people in Paris easily tell their friends and that they were safe.
While the feature has been helpful for many, some pointed to its use in Paris but not for other recent attacks — like a twin suicide bombing that killed over 40 in Beiruit on Thursday — as yet another example of western bias that apparently values certain lives more than others.
On Saturday, Facebook saw fit to respond to those accusations in a blog post written by the company’s vice president of growth, Alex Schultz. In it, Schultz notes that this is the first time the company has enabled Safety Check for anything other than a natural disaster, events which the tool was originally designed for when it was released last year.
Like a natural disaster, he notes, during the attacks “Facebook became a place where people were sharing information and looking to understand the condition of their loved ones.” After discussing with Facebook employees on the ground, the company decided it was a good idea to turn on Safety Check. “There has to be a first time for trying something new, even in complex and sensitive times, and for us that was Paris.”
Now that Facebook has set a precedent for using Safety Check for terrorism and other violent events, it will need to figure out when and where to use the feature. From Schultz’s comments, it’s not clear if the team would have enabled it for Beruit. He includes the Lebanese city among “other parts of the world, where violence is more common and terrible things happen with distressing frequency. ” And he notes that “During an ongoing crisis, like war or epidemic, Safety Check in its current form is not that useful for people: because there isn’t a clear start or end point and, unfortunately, it’s impossible to know when someone is truly ‘safe.'”
That said, Schultz writes that “We want this tool to be available whenever and wherever it can help,” adding, “We will learn a lot from feedback on this launch.”
When it comes to Halloween costumes in 2015, the typical vampire or clown costume just won’t do.
Superheroes, who dominate movies and TV, remain popular, but a villain is the most sought-out costume of all, according to Google Trends’ Frightgeist.
The top costume search is “Suicide Squad” character Harley Quinn, according to the site, which measures Google queries locally and nationally.
The character, played by Margot Robbie in the upcoming film, has been popular for decades at fan conventions (her first appearance was on “Batman: The Animated Series” in 1992, before breaking into comics).
Robbie’s memorable performance in the trailer for the movie seems to have made Harley — the on-and-off girlfriend of The Joker — surge to the top.
The Joker also ranks in the top 10 costumes, along with his foe Batman, Wonder Woman and the generic term “superhero.”
As much as people are anticipating “Suicide Squad,” the excitement around “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is off the charts. It’s no wonder that “Star Wars” is the No. 2 search, hot on Harley’s heels.
The minions from “Despicable Me” are big with kids, and the old standbys pirates and witches also made the top 10.
Top Google Trends’ Frightgeist national searches:
1. Harley Quinn (Shown Above in case you never heard of her)
Liquid water exists on the surface of Mars during the planet’s warmer seasons, according to new research published in Nature Geosciences. This revelation comes from new spectral data gathered by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), a spacecraft that studies the planet from orbit. The orbiter analyzed the chemistry of weird dark streaks that have been known to appear and disappear seasonally on the Martian surface. The analysis confirms that these streaks are formed by briny — or salty — water flowing downhill on Mars.
NASA has advertised these findings as the solution to a major Mars mystery: does the Red Planet truly have liquid water on its surface? Researchers have known that water exists in ice form on Mars, but it’s never been confirmed if water can remain in a liquid state. The space agency is claiming that we now have that answer.
This isn’t the first study to suggest liquid water is present in some form on Mars. Scientists have theorized for years that Mars was once home to a large ocean more than 4 billion years ago. And recent findings from the Mars Curiosity rover suggest that liquid water exists just underneath the Martian surface. The discovery of water on Mars has almost become a joke among planetary scientists. Alfred McEwen, a planetary geologist at Planetary Image Research Laboratory who also worked on this research, wrote in Scientific American that the studies have become extremely commonplace: “Congratulations — you’ve discovered water on Mars for the 1,000th time!” he joked.
Today’s findings seem to offer more direct evidence of liquid water than most, though the study only confirms what NASA has long suspected — that flowing liquid water forms the strange, dark streaks that have been observed on Mars. These streaks — called recurring slope lineae — were first observed by the MRO spacecraft in 2010. The lines are blackish and narrow at less than 16 feet across. During the warmer seasons, the streaks grow thicker and longer; they then fade and shrink at times when Mars is colder.