News & Updates

Nazi soldiers invade Warsaw.

If you’ve ever taken a personality test, it was probably in a lifestyle magazine (“What kind of adventurer are you? Take this quiz to find out!”) or maybe at the behest of a friend who’s a Meyers-Briggs believer. But these fluffy diversions have a serious, often dark history. In fact, one of the earliest personality tests was developed during World War II to determine who might become an authoritarian and join the Nazi movement.

In 1943, three psychology professors at the University of California at Berkeley were struggling to understand the most horrific European genocide in a generation. As the war raged overseas, Daniel Levinson, Nevitt Sanford, and Else Frenkel-Brunswik decided to use the greatest power at their disposal—scientific rationality—to stop fascism from ever rising again. They did it by inventing a personality test eventually named the F-scale, which they believed could identify potential authoritarians. This wasn’t some plot to weed out bad guys. The researchers wanted to understand why some people are seduced by political figures like Adolf Hitler, and they had a very idealistic plan to improve education so that young people would become more skeptical of Hitler’s us-or-them politics.

The rise of personality testing

As they cooked up a research plan, the Berkeley group borrowed ideas from a somewhat checkered tradition in psychology that held that personalities could be broken down into discrete character traits. In the late nineteenth century, pseudoscientists like Francis Galton, best known for popularizing the idea of eugenics, believed that human “character” could be measured the same way “the temper of a dog can be tested.” This idea gained traction, and the first personality tests were developed by the US Army during World War I so millions of soldiers could be tested for vulnerability to “shell shock,” an early term for post-traumatic stress.

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How much a Windows zero-day exploit that affects all versions of Windows operating system costs on the black market?

It’s $95,000, at least, for the one recently spotted by security researchers.

Researchers from Trustwave’s SpiderLabs team have uncovered a zero-day exploit on Russian underground malware forum, affecting all versions of Microsoft Windows OS from Windows 2000 all


Facebook is set to introduce end-to-end encryption for its Messenger app, allowing more than its 900 Million users to send and receive messages that can not be read or intercepted by law enforcement or even the social network itself.

However, it’s not the kind of end-to-end encrypted chat feature provided by Apple or WhatsApp in which all your conversation are entirely encrypted by default.


Heels on male Sims? Short hair and suits on females? Maxis says you can finally go to fashion town on your virtual denizens. (credit: Maxis)

The Sims game series has typically offered a ridiculous number of options for how its virtual denizens live, work, play, and love—and it has never shied away from political blowback in the “love” category. The only major exception at this point has been a delineation between the series’ three types of Sims—men, women, and children—in terms of 3D character rendering.

That changed on Thursday with an official unlocking of The Sims 4‘s customization options to all grown-up Sims. Voices, walking styles, clothing, accessories, and physiques can now be applied to men and women however users see fit.

The Sims is made by a diverse team for a diverse audience, and it’s really important to us that players are able to be creative and express themselves through our games,” Maxis said in its announcement post. The company also made a statement to the Associated Press that was mindful of popular, real-life fashion choices: “Female Sims can [now] wear sharp men’s suits like Ellen [DeGeneres], and male Sims can wear heels like Prince.”

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(credit: Uber)

SAN FRANCISCO—New lawyers for dozens of Uber drivers who feel that the previous lead attorney did not represent their interests in a proposed class action settlement forcefully argued on Thursday for the deal to be halted.

Several weeks ago, the two sides came to a proposed agreement of $100 million and other benefits, which would end the class-action lawsuit known as O’Connor v. Uber. The lawsuit covers 385,000 current and former drivers in California and Massachusetts. The settlement requires sign-off by the judge to take effect.

However, some Uber drivers, including lead plaintiff Douglas O’Connor, feel the settlement was grossly insufficient and that the underlying issue—whether drivers should be treated as employees rather than contractors—remains unresolved.

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On Wednesday, the state media of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) broadcast video of leader Kim Jong Un watching what appears to have been a successful launch of a submarine-launched ballistic missile. However, the launch actually took place in April. The footage was broadcast now, according to analysts, likely as an attempt to demonstrate North Korea’s nuclear threat as a senior DPRK official meets with China this week. The broadcast may also be an attempt to draw attention away from a string of failed launches of North Korea’s Musudan intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM).

The video was broadcast just after analyst reports said North Korea had made a fourth failed attempt in two months to test-launch the Musudan—a missile designed to strike at targets as distant as Guam and the Philippines. The missile exploded on launch. Earlier on April 15, North Korea’s military attempted a launch from a mobile launching system, but it exploded shortly after liftoff. Just two weeks later, as North Korea was preparing for the congress of the Worker’s Party, there was an attempt at a dual launch—with both missiles crashing into the sea.

The Musudan, also known as the BM-25, was introduced in 2003. It is derived from the Soviet-era R-27 (NATO designation SS-N-6) and is essentially an improved solid-fuel “Scud” missile. North Korea has allegedly sold kits of the Musudan to Iran. The missile is believed to have a range between 2.500 and 4,000 kilometers (1,500 to 2,500 miles). But since its initial appearance, there had been no known test launches of the Musudan—only ground tests of the engine.

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You can see a small map of your running route on the display, thanks to the GPS. (credit: Valentina Palladino)

NEW YORK—Samsung came out with the original Gear Fit activity tracker in 2014, but the company has remained mostly quiet about this device line until now. At an event today, the company announced an upgrade to its fitness tracker offerings with a new model, the Gear Fit 2. It’ll cost $179 (the first Gear Fit came out priced at $200).

The new wearable matches the leaks we’ve witnessed within the past few weeks. While it looks very similar to the original Gear Fit, the Fit 2 is more curved to better hug the wrist. Its 1.5-inch super AMOLED display takes up most of the module that sits on the top of your wrist, and its band is nicely flexible. The curvier design should make the Gear Fit 2 easier to wear since there’s much less distinction between the module and the surrounding band.

To upgrade the fitness specs, Samsung added a GPS to the Gear Fit 2. Both the original Gear Fit and this new device have heart rate monitors, but as wrist-bound HRMs become increasingly common, GPS has become more of a differentiator. This feature also tends to increase the size of a device (since it’s a separate chip) and usually the price, too. Surprisingly, the Gear Fit 2 has been slimmed down from the original design in spite of the addition. Samsung also emphasized the ability to track a workout using the GPS and share it to Facebook instantly.

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(credit: Leonid Mamchenkov)

On Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration released a draft voluntary guidance for the food industry aimed at phasing out excess salt in processed and commercially prepared food over a span of 10 years. The move, which health experts say could save thousands of lives, has drawn mixed reactions from the food industry.

Leading food companies, such as Mars, Nestlé, PepsiCo, and Unilever, joined the American Heart Association, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, American Public Health Association, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in support of the FDA’s efforts to reduce sodium intake, while the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association (GMA) and the Salt Institute, a trade association, balked at the new guidance.

The GMA hinted at future squabbles with the FDA over nutrition data. In a statement, the association wrote that it would “look forward to working with the agency to ensure the best and most recent science is taken into account when determining sodium intake levels for optimal health for all Americans.”

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Sam Machkovech tests VR sniping game The Nest; video edited by Jennifer Hahn. (video link)

The HTC Vive’s “room-scale,” out-of-the-chair approach to virtual reality has unlocked some very interesting gun-gaming ideas, and, as a result, most of its current shooters encourage a lot of movement. As such, launch highlights Hover Junkers and Space Pirate Trainer offer significant gameplay benefits for anyone who can duck, dodge, and hop around their play space while faking like a laser cowboy.

Some VR gamers may prefer an experience that splits the difference: a shooting game that employs motion-tracked controllers but doesn’t require serious physical effort. Those players will finally get their wish with the impending launch of this month’s The Nest, whose early access beta version stakes its entire claim on a single weapon: the sniper rifle.

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