National Transportation Noise Map

National Transportation Noise Map

The noise map facilitates the tracking of trends in transportation-related noise, by mode, and collectively for multiple transportation modes. The data allow viewing the national picture of potential exposure to aviation and highway noise. The data also allow viewing of the potential exposure at the state or county level.

The National Transportation Noise Map is an addition to the National Transportation Atlas Database (NTAD), a set of nationwide geographic databases of transportation facilities, networks, and associated infrastructure available from the BTS Geospatial Data Catalog. The layers will be updated on an annual basis, and future versions of the National Transportation Noise Map are envisioned to include additional transportation noise sources, such as rail and maritime.

The BTS map contains aircraft and road noise inventory data provided as web map services (WMS) for use with Geographic Information Systems (GIS), computer programs that can store, analyze, and present spatial or geographic data.

The geospatial data provides a basis for understanding what-if scenarios and helping policy makers to prioritize noise-related transportation investments. Using the National Transportation Noise Map data, BTS highlighted the percentage of total U.S. resident population that had the potential to be exposed to the following A-weighted 24-hour equivalent sound levels (LAEQ) (a-weighted, average sound level for the day) from aviation and Interstate road noise in the year 2014.

This Over-Engineered Dartboard Gives You a Bullseye Every Time


This Over-Engineered Dartboard Gives You a Bullseye Every Time

A dartboard that moves to wherever you throw for a bullseye every time: it sounds like something one might find in a magical tavern in a Harry Potter novel. But it’s real, because what is better than magic? That’s right, engineering.

Mark Rober, former NASA engineer turned YouTube mad scientist explains his creation:

With six infrared cameras, the dartboard tracks the specially-built darts while canceling out the noise of the outside environment. Then, using parabolic arcs and “good ol’ y = mx +b,”—straight lines, that is—the brains of the board can calculate where the dart will hit, both vertically and horizontally.

For an engine, Rober used six separate motors powered by an Arduino to get things moving. Spools of fishing wire are pulling and tugging at the board itself from the engines, which make their moves based on trigonometry gained from data from the infrared cameras.

While Rober’s setup might be a bit expensive for your basement bar (and time-consuming, considering it took him three years to build), the alternate use of the device—a dartboard guaranteed to move out of the way of any dart—is such a perfect prank that it might be worth it.

Tail or tunnel? Mouse-handling methods could influence experiments

Tail or tunnel? Mouse-handling methods could influence experiments

As you might remember from high school chemistry class, it’s important to take every component into account when designing scientific experiments. But it turns out that researchers may have been overlooking something when working with mice: the way in which the rodents are handled prior to the start of an experiment. A new study shows an advantage to a particular method of getting mice into a testing arena that could remove a stumbling block to accurate research.

It turns out that mice don’t really like being picked up by their tails. That’s the conclusion previously reached by University of Liverpool researchers Kelly Gouveia and Jane Hurst, who determined that the practice induces anxiety. Instead, the researchers found, coaxing mice into a clear tube and then transporting them inside that tube seems to reduce the rodents’ stress levels.

In the most recent research, the duo was interested in finding out whether the way in which mice are handled would have an impact on experiments. So they designed an experiment of their own.

In it, female mouse urine was spread in regions of a testing field and then male mice were set loose to explore. Some of the mice were brought to the test by their tails, while others were either carried in cupped hands or transported in the clear tube.

In the cases of the tail-toted mice, exploration was extremely low. In fact, so many of the mice carried this way failed to sniff the urine or explore at all, that it was a challenge for researchers to assemble enough data to reach statistical significance for their study.

The mice that were brought to the experiment inside the tube, however, were extremely active and investigated the urine-soaked areas vigorously.

What’s more, the experiment was carried out three times on both sets of mice. In the case of the more active tube-handled mice, by the third time, their interest in the scent diminished because of familiarity. However, when the scent was swapped out for different urine on a fourth try, the mice explored with renewed gusto. The tail-carried mice didn’t show much interest in any of the tests and did not become more active when the new scent was introduced in the fourth pass.

The mice that were scooped into the hand exhibited too broad a range of reactions for the researchers to draw a conclusion about its efficacy as a transportation method.

The researchers say that discovering the ways in which a simple change in handling methods influenced the behaviors of the rodents could be key in eliminating an important element of variability in scientific research that relies on mice.

“The method used to pick up laboratory mice has a surprisingly strong influence on their anxiety, and our study shows that this has a major impact on the reliability of their behavioral response to test stimuli,” said Hurst. “A simple change to picking up mice up in a tunnel rather than by the tail could have a really positive impact on the wide range of research that relies on behavioral testing, as well as improving the wellbeing of test animals.”

Hurst has developed a mouse-handing tutorial for researchers that has been posed on the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement & Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) website. The organization, which advocates for the wellbeing of lab animals, funded the work and has also declared 2017 the “Year of Laboratory Rodent Welfare.”

Here are the ages you peak at everything throughout life

Here are the ages you peak at everything throughout life

Aging can seem like a scary prospect, but a wealth of scientific studies have found that youth isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. There are plenty of cases in which human beings peak well into middle and old age.

Teenagers, for instance, may have vitality on their side, but older people are generally more psychologically stable. And so it goes with several phenomena people experience as they age.


Many of the points mark the middle of an age range that scientists have identified, which means they are all determined by averages. Some are also surveys, not controlled trials, so there is a possibility the self-reports don’t capture the most accurate picture.

But in many cases, the numbers keep cropping up for a reason, which is that life isn’t a downhill slide from youth.

Here’s what you have to look forward to.

Learning a second language is easiest when you’re about 7 or 8.

Linguists and psychologists are still arguing about this one, but it’s commonly accepted that learning a second language is easier for most people when they’re younger, generally before puberty.

Brain processing power peaks at 18.

One of the key ways cognitive scientists test your brain’s processing power is through what’s called a digit symbol coding test — they equate a number with a certain symbol, then give you a string of numbers and ask you to convert them to the correct symbols.

On average, 18-year-olds fare best on the task, according to a study published in 2016.

The ability to remember unfamiliar names peaks at about 22.

We’ve all been there: You just met someone new, and their name went in one ear and out the other. It turns out that’s least likely to happen when you’re 22 or so, according to a 2010 study.

Women are most attractive to men at about 23. And men’s attractiveness to women seems to get better with age.

The cofounder of the online-dating site OKCupid wrote a book called “Dataclysm” that used data from his dating site to answer questions about love, dating, and relationships.

According to the book’s analysis of the data, men find women in their early 20s most attractive. Even as the men got older, their preference for 20-something women seemed to stay the same. Women in their 20s on the site, on the other hand, tended to like slightly older men (a year or two older than they were) and women in their 30s tended to like men a few years younger than them.

A disclaimer: OKCupid’s data pool, which is based on its users, isn’t a representative sample of the population.

Life satisfaction first peaks at 23.

A survey of 23,000 people in Germany found that 23-year-olds were particularly satisfied with their lives, “all things considered.”

Strength peaks at age 25.

Your muscles are at their strongest when you’re 25, although for the next 10 or 15 years they stay almost as hefty — and this is one of the traits that can be most easily improved, thanks to resistance exercise.

The peak age to settle down is 26.

The 37% Rule of statistics says that at age 26 you’ll have met enough people to have some solid options without waiting so long that they start pairing off without you.

And according to one recent study, divorce rates are lowest for couples who married between the ages of 28 and 32.

The average elite marathoner is 28.

According to one 50-year analysis of marathons, the average age to complete the race in just over two hours was 28.

Bone mass peaks at about 30.

Your bones are at their strongest and densest when you’re 30 years old. Again, you can keep your calcium and vitamin D intake high to keep your bones healthier longer, but eventually, they will start to weaken.

Chess players peak at about 31.

Scientists wanted to know whether physical and intellectual skills worked differently as people got older — so they studied chess grand masters. By taking the scores of 96 grand masters over the course of their careers, the scientists were able to determine that on average, competitors do best at 31.

You’re best at learning new faces when you’re about 32.

People’s ability to quickly and accurately recognize faces of strangers being shown to them a second time in a lab test peaked at about 32. But nine years after your peak ability to remember names, you may need to ask them to reintroduce themselves anyway.

Nobel Prize winners make their big discovery at 40, on average.

According to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the average age when Nobel Prize-winning research is done is 40.

If you don’t think you’re in line to win a Nobel, the study authors say the concept still holds for other great achievements — people tend to do their most outstanding work in middle age.

Women’s salaries peak at about 39, and men’s at about 48.

Sure, your salary will hopefully keep rising to account for inflation, but will you actually be able to buy more with it as you age?

According to an analysis by Payscale, women earn the most when they’re 39, at a median of $60,000. That’s in part because women’s salaries start growing more slowly at about 30. Men’s salaries peak when they’re about 48 or 49, at a median closer to $95,000.

Your understanding of other people’s emotions peaks in your 40s and 50s.

Scientists gathered about 10,000 people, showed them pictures cropped tightly around the subject’s eyes, and asked them to describe what emotion the person pictured was feeling. They found a long plateau in people’s 40s and 50s when the ability to correctly identify emotions based only on the eyes was strongest.

Arithmetic skills peak at 50.

Sure, you learned your times tables in elementary school — but it turns out 50-year-olds are best at answering arithmetic questions on the fly.

Life satisfaction peaks again at 69.

Remember that study in Germany that found 23-year-olds were particularly satisfied with their lives? After a dip in middle age, life satisfaction peaked again at about 69 years old. Even more intriguing, people over 60 had better life satisfaction than people 55 and up predicted they would feel five years down the line.

Vocabulary peaks in your late 60s or early 70s.

It turns out people’s scores on multiple-choice vocabulary tests keep climbing into their late 60s and early 70s. And you don’t need to sit around reading the dictionary all day to make it happen — although it can’t hurt.

Men and women feel best about their bodies after 70.

In a Gallup survey, two-thirds of Americans over 65 said they always like the way they look. Men’s self-perception appears to peak in their early 80s, when about 75% agree with the statement “You always feel good about your physical appearance.” Women’s rates of agreeing with that statement is a little below 70% when they hit about 74 years old.

People really do get wiser as they get older.

It turns out life really is the best classroom. A team of psychologists asked people to read about a conflict, then asked them questions about it. The scientists analyzed the responses for characteristics like being able to see from someone else’s point of view, anticipating change, considering multiple possible turnouts, acknowledging uncertainty, and searching for compromise.

They found that the oldest group they studied — people who were between 60 and 90 — did better than other ages on almost every count.

Psychological well-being peaks at about 82.

In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, scientists asked people to picture a 10-step ladder, with the best possible life on the top rung and the worst possible life on the bottom rung.

The oldest group they studied (82- to 85-year-olds) gave the highest average rung number, about 7.

People are most likely to make big decisions when their age ends in a 9.

There really is something daunting about approaching a round-numbered birthday. Researchers looking at people who were 29, 39, 49, or 59 found that they were more likely to make a big life change — good or bad.

They found that these “9-enders” were overrepresented in groups of people seeking to have an affair, people killing themselves, and people running a marathon for the first time.

H&R Block and Intuit Are Still Lobbying to Make Filing Taxes Harder

H&R Block and Intuit Are Still Lobbying to Make Filing Taxes Harder

Here’s how preparing your taxes could work: You sit down, review a pre-filled filing from the government. If it’s accurate, you sign it. If it’s not, you fix it or ignore it altogether and prepare your return yourself. It’s your choice. You might not have to pay for an accountant, or fiddle for hours with complex software. It could all be over in minutes.

It’s already like that in parts of Europe. And it would not be particularly difficult to give United States taxpayers the same option. After all, the government already gets earnings information from employers.

But as ProPublica has detailed again and again, Intuit — the makers of TurboTax — and H&R Block have lobbied for years to derail any move toward such a system. And they continued in 2016.

Intuit spent more than $2 million lobbying last year, much of it spent on legislation that would permanently bar the government from offering taxpayers pre-filled returns. H&R Block spent $3 million, also directing some of their efforts toward the bill. Among the 60 co-sponsors of the bipartisan bill: then-congressman and now Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.

The bill, called the Free File Act of 2016, looks, on the surface, to be consumer-friendly. It makes permanent a public-private partnership in which 13 private tax preparation companies — called the “Free File Alliance” — have offered free online tax filings to lower- and middle-income families. The Free File Alliance include both Intuit and H&R Block.

But the legislation would also permanently bar the Internal Revenue Service from offering its own free alternative.

Intuit has repeatedly warned investors about the prospect of government-prepared returns. “We anticipate that governmental encroachment at both the federal and state levels may present a continued competitive threat to our business for the foreseeable future,” Intuit said in its latest corporate filings.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) offered a bill last year that would have actually allowed the government to start offering pre-fill tax returns. While Intuit did not lobby against Warren’s bill — presumably because the legislation had little chance of success — tax giant H&R Block did. (H&R Block did not respond to a request for comment.)

Neither Warren’s bill nor the Free File Act made it out of committee.

Very few of those eligible for the industry’s no-charge filing program actually use it, perhaps because the system is confusing and pushes people toward paid products.

While the Free File Alliance says 70 percent of U.S. taxpayers can use the service, less than 2 percent of all individual tax returns were filed through the program in last year, according to a National Taxpayer Advocate’s report to Congress.

“Let’s call the so-called Free File Alliance what it really is — a front for tax prep companies who use it as a gateway to sell expensive products no one would even need if we’d just made it easier for people to pay their taxes,” said Warren in a statement to ProPublica. Warren’s office put out a report on the issue last year that repeatedly cited our coverage.

In an emailed statement the Free File Alliance’s executive director, Tim Hugo, said that the alliance does not automatically push paid products to those that use the Free File program but the taxpayer does “have the option of ‘opting in’ to receive additional information and offers from the tax preparation company they have selected.”

He said that the lack of awareness of the program is “unfortunate,” and placed blame on the IRS. While the tax agency previously had a large budget to advertise the Free File program, “today that budget is $0, making it difficult to reach the general public,” he said.

In response to Warren’s bill, the Free File Alliance warned in a press release that allowing the IRS to prep returns would create “a tremendous and potentially harmful conflict of interest for the American people by enshrining the roles of tax preparer, tax collector, tax auditor and tax enforcer in one entity.”

Hugo is also a state legislator in Virginia, which canceled its own cost-free system of tax filing in 2010 and replaced it with a “Free File” bill connecting taxpayers to private companies. Hugo serves on the committee that green-lighted the legislation. Hugo said he saw no conflict of interest here, as the Free File program he represents is federal, not state, and he recused himself from voting in the committee and on the floor.

Joseph Bankman, a law professor in tax law at Stanford Law School said arguments about government overreach are false. Participation is voluntary and actually gives taxpayers the upper hand, forcing the government to “show its hand.”

“Now you know what the government knows,” Bankman said, who added that there are multiple ways taxpayers could benefit. “If there’s a mistake that goes in your favor, maybe you don’t call attention to it.” Also, everyone would receive the returns — including the millions of Americans who are due tax refunds but don’t get them because they don’t file. In 2012 alone, the IRS said more than 1 million Americans did not receive their refunds — amounting to $950 million — because they did not file.

The authors of the federal Free File bill have repeatedly voiced fears of big-government interference.

In an opinion piece for The Daily Caller and on his site, Representative Peter Roskam (R-Illinois) said “making the tax collector also the tax preparer creates an inherent conflict of interest while forcing citizens to relinquish control of their taxes to the government.”

Since the 2008 election cycle, Roskam has taken in more than $32,000 in donations from Intuit’s political action committee and Intuit employees. He received a far smaller amount, $2,500, from H&R Block — all for the 2016 election cycle. Roskam’s office did not return a request for comment.

HHS Secretary Price received only modest donations from Intuit, $3,500 since 2008 — $2,500 of which came six days after the Free File Act of 2016 was announced. He received $2,000 total from H&R Block. (Price’s office did not respond to a request for comment.)

The bill’s Democrat co-author, Ron Kind, from Wisconsin, has taken in more than $29,000 from Intuit and its employees since 2008. He received $3,000 from H&R Block.

In a statement, Kind said he is “open to working with anyone” to find ways for “hardworking Wisconsin families” to file their taxes with ease. “At the same time, I want to make sure that Wisconsinites can access programs, like Free File, that they have come to depend on.”

When asked for details on how many Wisconsinites actually rely on the program, given that few of those who qualify for it actually use it, a spokesperson for Kind did not respond.

‘Who shared it?’ How Americans decide what news to trust on social media

‘Who shared it?’ How Americans decide what news to trust on social media


When Americans encounter news on social media, how much they trust the content is determined less by who creates the news than by who shares it, according to a new experimental study from the Media Insight Project, a collaboration between the American Press Institute and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Whether readers trust the sharer, indeed, matters more than who produces the article —or even whether the article is produced by a real news organization or a fictional one, the study finds.

As social platforms such as Facebook or Twitter become major thoroughfares for news, the news organization that does the original reporting still matters. But the study demonstrates that who shares an article on a social media site like Facebook has an even bigger influence on whether people trust what they see.

The experimental results show that people who see an article from a trusted sharer, but one written by an unknown media source, have much more trust in the information than people who see the same article that appears to come from a reputable media source shared by a person they do not trust.

The identity of the sharer even has an impact on consumers’ impressions of the news brand. The study demonstrates that when people see a post from a trusted person rather than an untrusted person, they feel more likely to recommend the news source to friends, follow the source on social media, and sign up for news alerts from the source.

All of this suggests that a news organization’s credibility both as a brand and for individual stories is significantly affected by what kinds of people are sharing it on social media sites such as Facebook. The sharers act as unofficial ambassadors for the brand, and the sharers’ credibility can influence readers’ opinions about the reporting source.

This new research by the Media Insight Project is part of an effort to study the elements of trust in news at a time of turbulence in the media. The results offer important new insights to publishers whose digital content increasingly is reaching people outside the domain of their own websites and apps. Indeed, the findings suggest that publishers increasingly need to think of their consumers as ambassadors for their brand. The findings also carry implications for people concerned about so-called fake news and for advocates of “news literacy,” the spread of consumer critical thinking skills. The findings also have implications for social networks that might be able to alter the presentation of content to give consumers more information about the source of the news.

The new findings come from an experiment in which 1,489 Americans were presented with a news feed item closely resembling Facebook. Everyone saw the same content, but the person who shared it and the original reporting source varied. After reading the post and short story, respondents answered questions about the story and their trust in the content, providing evidence about which variables had the greatest effect on attitudes.

Using an experimental design to explore trust in news on social media

In an earlier era, the platform by which people got their news and the news brand were the same thing. As a consumer, you watched the evening news from a particular network or read a particular newspaper. Trust was simply determined by the news outlet’s own credibility.

Today, as people increasingly get news on social platforms, news often comes via other people.

In a 2016 Media Insight Project national survey about trust and news, people reported that in social media the news organization brand that originally reported the story influenced whether they trusted the content, more so than who shared it. For example, 66 percent of Americans who received news from Facebook said their trust in the original news source had a lot of effect on their trust in the content, while only 48 percent said the same when it comes to the effect of trusting the person sharing the news.

We wanted to test whether that was really true, or whether people just believed that was the case.

To do so, we designed an online survey experiment. We created a simulated Facebook post about health news and presented it to an online sample of 1,489 U.S. adults who are part of AmeriSpeak, NORC’s nationally representative survey panel.

Each person saw a health news post from one of eight public figures who often share information about health, a list that ranged from Oprah and Dr. Oz to the Surgeon General of the United States. Half the people were randomly assigned a sharer they had earlier identified as a person they trusted. The other half were randomly shown a sharer they had earlier said they didn’t trust.

After viewing the post, everyone saw the accompanying health article headlined: “Don’t let the scale fool you: Why you could still be at risk for diabetes.” This article was originally a piece written by a professor that appeared on The Associated Press (AP) website through an AP partnership. For half the sample, the article was labeled as coming from The AP. For the other half, the article was labeled as coming from a fictional source, something called the

This experimental design tests how different factors affect people’s perceptions of news in social media and is an alternative to simply asking people in a survey about what impacts their views.

Who shared the article has a major impact on various trust indicators

The experiment shows that who shares the article has a major impact on what people think of it.

When people see news from a person they trust, they are more likely to think it got the facts right, contains diverse points of view, and is well reported than if the same article is shared by someone they are skeptical of.

This experimental design tests how different factors affect people’s perceptions of news in social media and is an alternative to simply asking people in a survey about what impacts their views.

Who shared the article has a major impact on various trust indicators

The experiment shows that who shares the article has a major impact on what people think of it.

When people see news from a person they trust, they are more likely to think it got the facts right, contains diverse points of view, and is well reported than if the same article is shared by someone they are skeptical of.

Trust sharer Not trust sharer
Got the facts right 50% 34%
Diverse points of view 31% 22%
Entertaining 30% 19%
Easy to find important information 54% 40%
Information well reported/trustworthy 51% 34%

For instance, 51 percent of people say the health article on diabetes is well reported when it is shared by a public figure they trust. Just a third (34 percent) feel that way when the same article is shared by someone they don’t trust.

The numbers are nearly identical for whether the story got the facts right. Fifty percent of readers think the health article got the facts right when the person who shared it happens to be someone they trust. Just 34 percent say the same when they are skeptical of the sharer.

The sharer even influences whether people think the article, which presents two perspectives, contains diverse points of view. More people are likely to say an article contains multiple points of view when it comes from a trusted source (31 percent) than when it comes from a less-trusted public figure (22 percent).

Who shared the article also influences, but to a lesser extent, whether people are likely to pass on the article to their own friends. If the article was shared by a trusted source, 38 percent of people say they are likely to share it. If shared by a public figure they don’t trust, 24 percent of people still say they are likely to re-share the content anyway.

The sharer tends to have a greater significance on attitudes than the news organization that reported the article in the first place. The reporting source still matters, according to the experiment, just not as much as who shared the article.

For instance, when the story is passed on by a trusted figure and the article is attributed to The AP, 52 percent of people think the article got the facts right. When the article is still attributed to The AP but the person passing it on is less trusted, only 32 percent say the facts were right.

Indeed, more people think the story is accurate if the sharer is trusted but the article is attributed to a fictional news source (49 percent), than do if it is attributed to AP but they are skeptical of the sharer (32 percent).

Trust in the person who posts a story on social media also impacts engagement with the news source. When people see a post from a trusted figure, they are more likely to say they would share the article and follow the person who shared the article. They are also more likely when they see a post from a trusted person to report they would engage with the news source of the article, saying they would recommend the source to friends, follow the source on social media, and sign up for news alerts from the source.

About half of the people in our experiment could recall who had shared the post, but only about 2 in 10 could remember the source of the article. The fact that people are fundamentally more aware of who shared the article than who wrote it may be a significant foundation for this effect.

Although people say they place more importance on the original reporting source, the experiment shows they are more influenced by the sharer

About half of Americans (51 percent) say they get news from social media, according to our 2016 Media Insight study. Among those who get news on social media, Facebook is by far the most used platform, and other popular platforms for news include YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram.

Despite the popularity of Facebook, few say they trust the news they get there. Just 12 percent say they trust what they see on Facebook a great deal or a lot, while 48 percent say they trust it somewhat and 20 percent trust it very little or not at all. The public has similar skepticism in news on other social media platforms.

When evaluating news on Facebook, 66 percent said in the survey that whether they trust the original reporting source highly affects whether they trust a piece of news or reporting. Nearly half (48 percent) say whether they trust the person who posted the article influences whether they trust that piece of information. Sixteen percent say whether or not a lot of people have liked it or shared it affects them a lot. The trends are similar for Twitter and YouTube.

But our new experiment tells a different story. These results show that, in fact, a highly trusted or distrusted sharer has a greater effect on reader trust. The discrepancy suggests that people are often not aware of how much they are influenced by the identity of the sharer.

As detailed earlier, the experiment shows that when people see a post from a trusted person rather than a distrusted person, they are more likely to say it was easy to find important information, the information was well reported and trustworthy, and it got the facts right. Trust in the sharer also makes it more likely that people will believe the article provided diverse points of view and was entertaining.

The results from the experiment are consistent with the beliefs of several participants who took part in focus groups that were conducted in 2016 during the first phase of the research into trust in news. When discussing news on Facebook, one participant said that who shares the post is critical. “I look who shared it. If I have a friend that’s a creep I might not believe it. If a friend is in a certain field, then I might believe what they post.”

Likewise, people acknowledge the importance of who shares the article when asked directly about it during the survey experiments. Of those who saw news from a trusted person, 51 percent said they are more likely to trust the information because of who shared it.

The identity of the media outlet can impact how people evaluate a story on social media if they have a negative opinion of the source

The identity of the media outlet reporting a story can impact how people view the article if people have an explicit mistrust of that media outlet. The results of the experiment indicate that people’s assessment of an article does not change much when they see the content branded as a known and trusted media outlet such as The AP or when they see if from an unknown, made-up news organization. However, when someone holds a particularly negative view of the reporting source, it has a similar effect to seeing the article shared by a distrusted person.

There is little difference in overall attitudes toward an article branded to be from The AP (one of the largest media organizations in the world) and the same article from (a made-up and unknown site). However, the survey experiment included an earlier question asking about trust in The AP, and people’s views about The AP are related to their beliefs about the article.

People who report trusting The AP and who saw the story branded to be from that source have similar assessments of the article as do those who saw the article from the unknown news source. However, people who report not trusting The AP have significantly more negative beliefs about the article when it was presented as from The AP than do either those who saw the article from the unknown news source or those who trust The AP.

As you would expect, people who do not trust The AP are also much less likely to say they would follow the source on social media or recommend the source to friends.

During the earlier focus groups, some participants talked about how the news source affected their perception of stories on social media. “When it comes to putting something on my Facebook page, I will only post things that come from a source I trust,” said one participant.

But these experimental results indicate something slightly different: that people will have reservations about an article when they decidedly know and distrust the source, but not when they just don’t know about the source.

The bottom line: A trusted sharer has more significant effects on beliefs about news than a reputable media source

While both the person posting a story and the media outlet can impact how people perceive news on social media, the experiments show that the person posting the article has the greatest effect on opinions toward the article.

In the experiment, there are four possible sharer and news source combinations: 1) trusted sharer and reputable source, 2) trusted sharer and unknown source, 3) untrusted sharer and reputable source, and 4) untrusted sharer and unknown source.

As you would expect, a trusted person sharing an article from a reputable news source leads to the most positive beliefs about an article. And an untrusted person sharing something from an unknown news source leads to generally low credibility.

But in the more complicated combinations, you can see whether the person posting the article or the original reporting source most affects attitudes toward an article.

The results illustrate that people who saw the article from a trusted sharer and unknown media source have much more positive opinions of the article than those who saw the story from a distrusted sharer and reputable news source.

When looking at how respondents might engage with the news outlet, the sharer has even more positive effects than the news outlet itself. Those who trusted the sharer but saw the unknown outlet were more likely than those who did not trust the sharer and saw the reputable outlet to share the article, follow the sharer, sign up for news alerts from the source, and recommend the source to friends.


These findings shed new light on how journalists and news organizations should think about credibility, and how news is perceived on social networks. Among the interesting implications and inferences we offer are these:

To publishers and journalists: Your readers and followers are not just consumers to monetize, instead they may be social ambassadors whose own credibility with their friends affects your brand’s reputation. It is the sharer’s credibility, more than your own, which determines other people’s willingness to believe you and engage with you. This underscores the importance of news organizations creating strong communities of followers who evangelize the organization to others.

To news-literacy advocates: In light of growing concerns about “fake news” spreading on social media, this experiment confirms that people make little distinction between known and unknown (even made-up) sources when it comes to trusting and sharing news. Even 19 percent of people who saw our fictional news source would have been willing to recommend it to a friend.

To Facebook and other social networks: Facebook and other social networks could do more to emphasize and provide information about the original sources for news articles. The fact that only 2 in 10 people in our experiment could recall the news reporting source accurately after seeing a Facebook-style post suggests that basic brand awareness has a long way to go. We found that sharers affect perceptions more than the original news reporting source—but might that change if Facebook made the reporting source label more prominent?
About the study

Experiment methodology

This survey experiment was conducted by the Media Insight Project, an initiative of the American Press Institute (API) and The Associated Press‑NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The survey was conducted from November 9 through December 6, 2016. The survey was funded by API. Staff from API, NORC at the University of Chicago, and AP collaborated on all aspects of the study.

Data were collected using the AmeriSpeak Panel, which is NORC’s probability‑based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. household population. During the initial recruitment phase of the panel, randomly selected U.S. households were sampled with a known, nonzero probability of selection from the NORC National Sample Frame and then contacted by U.S. mail, email, telephone, and field interviewers (face‑to‑face).

Interviews for this survey were conducted, with adults age 18 and over representing the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Panel members were randomly drawn from the AmeriSpeak Panel, and 1,489 completed the survey, all via the web. The final stage completion rate is 34.8 percent, the weighted household panel response rate is 32.4 percent, and the weighted household panel retention rate is 95.5 percent, for a cumulative response rate of 10.8 percent.

The overall margin of sampling error is +/‑ 3.5 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level, including the design effect. The margin of sampling error may be higher for subgroups.

Respondents were offered a small monetary incentive for completing the survey ($2 or $4 depending on their initial panel recruitment). All interviews were conducted in English by professional interviewers who were carefully trained on the specific survey for this study.

Once the sample was selected and fielded, and all the study data had been collected and made final, a poststratification process was used to adjust for any survey nonresponse as well as any noncoverage or under‑and over‑ sampling resulting from the study‑specific sample design. Poststratification variables included age, gender, Census region, race/ethnicity, and education. The weighted data, which reflect the U.S. population of adults age 18 and over, were used for all analyses.

All analyses were conducted using STATA (version 14), which allows for adjustment of standard errors for complex sample designs. All differences reported between subgroups of the U.S. population are at the 95 percent level of statistical significance, meaning that there is only a 5 percent (or less) probability that the observed differences could be attributed to chance variation in sampling. Additionally, bivariate differences between subgroups are only reported when they also remain robust in a multivariate model controlling for other demographic, political, and socioeconomic covariates. A comprehensive listing of all study questions, complete with tabulations of top‑level results for each question, is available on the Media Insight Project’s website:

Why American Farmers Are Hacking Their Tractors With Ukrainian Firmware – Motherboard

Why American Farmers Are Hacking Their Tractors With Ukrainian Firmware – Motherboard

A dive into the thriving black market of John Deere tractor hacking.

To avoid the draconian locks that John Deere puts on the tractors they buy, farmers throughout America’s heartland have started hacking their equipment with firmware that’s cracked in Eastern Europe and traded on invite-only, paid online forums.

Tractor hacking is growing increasingly popular because John Deere and other manufacturers have made it impossible to perform “unauthorized” repair on farm equipment, which farmers see as an attack on their sovereignty and quite possibly an existential threat to their livelihood if their tractor breaks at an inopportune time.

“When crunch time comes and we break down, chances are we don’t have time to wait for a dealership employee to show up and fix it,” Danny Kluthe, a hog farmer in Nebraska, told his state legislature earlier this month. “Most all the new equipment [requires] a download [to fix].”

The nightmare scenario, and a fear I heard expressed over and over again in talking with farmers, is that John Deere could remotely shut down a tractor and there wouldn’t be anything a farmer could do about it.

A license agreement John Deere required farmers to sign in October forbids nearly all repair and modification to farming equipment, and prevents farmers from suing for “crop loss, lost profits, loss of goodwill, loss of use of equipment … arising from the performance or non-performance of any aspect of the software.” The agreement applies to anyone who turns the key or otherwise uses a John Deere tractor with embedded software. It means that only John Deere dealerships and “authorized” repair shops can work on newer tractors.

“If a farmer bought the tractor, he should be able to do whatever he wants with it,” Kevin Kenney, a farmer and right-to-repair advocate in Nebraska, told me. “You want to replace a transmission and you take it to an independent mechanic—he can put in the new transmission but the tractor can’t drive out of the shop. Deere charges $230, plus $130 an hour for a technician to drive out and plug a connector into their USB port to authorize the part.”

“What you’ve got is technicians running around here with cracked Ukrainian John Deere software that they bought off the black market,” he added.

Kenney and Kluthe have been pushing for right-to-repair legislation in Nebraska that would invalidate John Deere’s license agreement (seven other states are considering similar bills). In the meantime, farmers have started hacking their machines because even simple repairs are made impossible by the embedded software within the tractor. John Deere is one of the staunchest opponents of this legislation.

“There’s software out there a guy can get his hands on if he looks for it,” one farmer and repair mechanic in Nebraska who uses cracked John Deere software told me. “I’m not a big business or anything, but let’s say you’ve got a guy here who has a tractor and something goes wrong with it—the nearest dealership is 40 miles away, but you’ve got me or a diesel shop a mile away. The only way we can fix things is illegally, which is what’s holding back free enterprise more than anything and hampers a farmer’s ability to get stuff done, too.”

I went searching for one of the forums where pirated John Deere firmware is sold. After I found it, I couldn’t do much of anything without joining. I was sent an email with instructions, which required me to buy a $25 dummy diagnostic part from a third-party website. Instead of the part, I was sent a code to join the forum.

Once I was on it, I found dozens of threads from farmers desperate to fix and modify their own tractors. According to people on the forums and the farmers who use it, much of the software is cracked in Eastern European countries such as Poland and Ukraine and then sold back to farmers in the United States.

Among the programs I saw being traded:

John Deere Service Advisor: A diagnostic program used by John Deere technicians that recalibrate tractors and can diagnose broken parts. “It can program payloads into different controllers. It can calibrate injectors, turbo, engine hours and all kinds of fun stuff,” someone familiar with the software told me.

John Deere Payload files: These are files that specifically program certain parts of the vehicle. There are files that can customize and fine-tune the performance of the chassis, engine, and cab, for instance.

John Deere Electronic Data Link drivers: This is software that allows a computer to talk to the tractor. “The EDL is the required interface which allows the Service Advisor laptop to actually communicate with the tractor controllers,” the source told me.

A reverse engineer who goes by Decryptor Tuning, who I met on a forum, told me they distribute programs that are “usually OEM software that is freely available but must be licensed.”

“If things could get better, [companies like John Deere] should be forced to freely distribute the same software dealers have,” they said. “And stop locking down [Engine Control Module] reading functionality. They do this to force you to use their services, which they have a 100 percent monopoly on.”

Also for sale (or free download) on the forums are license key generators, speed-limit modifiers, and reverse-engineered cables that allow you to connect a tractor to a computer. These programs are also for sale on several sketchy-looking websites that are hosted in Europe, and on YouTube there are demos of the software in operation.

On its face, pirating such software would seem to be illegal. But in 2015, the Librarian of Congress approved an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act for land vehicles, which includes tractors. The exemption allows modification of “computer programs that are contained in and control the functioning of a motorized land vehicle such as a personal automobile, commercial motor vehicle or mechanized agricultural vehicle … when circumvention is a necessary step undertaken by the authorized owner of the vehicle to allow the diagnosis, repair, or lawful modification of a vehicle function.”

This means modification of embedded software is legal long as it can still meet emission requirements. Whether the exemption allows for the downloading of cracked software is an unanswered question.

It’s no surprise, then, that John Deere started requiring farmers to sign licensing agreements around the time the exemption went into effect. Violation of the agreement would be considered a breach of contract rather than a federal copyright violation, meaning John Deere would have to sue its own customers if it wants the contract to be enforced. I asked John Deere specifically about the fact that a software black market has cropped up for its tractors, but the company instead said that there are no repair problems for John Deere customers.

“When a customer buys John Deere equipment, he or she owns the equipment,” the company said. “As the owner, he or she has the ability to maintain and repair the equipment. The customer also has the ability through operator and service manuals and other resources to enable operational, maintenance, service and diagnostics activities to repair and maintain equipment.”

“Software modifications increase the risk that equipment will not function as designed,” the company continued. “As a result, allowing unqualified individuals to modify equipment software can endanger machine performance, in addition to Deere customers, dealers and others, resulting in equipment that no longer complies with industry and safety/environmental regulations.”

Gay Gordon-Byrne, executive director of, a trade organization fighting for right-to-repair legislation, told me that John Deere’s statement is “total crap,” and noted that “some of our members have repeatedly attempted to buy the diagnostics that are referenced [from John Deere] and been rebuffed.”

“They require buyers to accept an End User License Agreement that disallows all of the activities they say are allowed in their statement,” she said. “Deere is a monopolist and has systematically taken over the role of equipment owner, despite having been paid fairly and fully for equipment. Their claims to control equipment post-purchase are inconsistent with all aspects of ownership including accounting, taxation, and transfer of products into the secondary market.”

It’s quite simple, really. John Deere sold farmers their tractors, but has used software to maintain control of every aspect of its use after the sale. Kluthe, for example, uses pig manure to power his tractor, which requires engine modifications that would likely violate John Deere’s terms of service on newer machines.

“I take the hog waste and run it through an anaerobic digester and I’ve learned to compress the methane,” he said. “I run an 80 percent methane in my Chevy Diesel Pickup and I run 90 percent methane in my tractor. And they both purr. I take a lot of pride in working on my equipment.”

Farmers worry what will happen if John Deere is bought by another company, or what will happen if the company decides to stop servicing its tractors. And so they have taken matters into their own hands by taking control of the software themselves.

“What happens in 20 years when there’s a new tractor out and John Deere doesn’t want to fix these anymore?” the farmer using Ukrainian software told me. “Are we supposed to throw the tractor in the garbage, or what?”

Man Charged After Slashing Gainsborough Painting at the National Gallery | Smart News | Smithsonian

Man Charged After Slashing Gainsborough Painting at the National Gallery | Smart News | Smithsonian

A brief scene of chaos broke out at London’s National Gallery Saturday, after a man slashed an 18th-century portrait by Thomas Gainsborough.

As Alice Ross reports at the Guardian, the man used a screwdriver to attack “Mr. and Mrs. William Hallett,” better known as “The Morning Walk,” which depicts a young couple strolling through the woodland. The perpetrator was detained by gallery attendants and visitors, and subsequently arrested. The wing where the attack occurred was shut down for about two hours.

On Sunday, police announced that they had charged 63-year-old Keith Gregory, who reportedly does not have a fixed address, with causing criminal damage. On Monday, he appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court. After he refused legal representation, the case was adjourned to Thursday. He will remain in custody until then, the BBC reports.

Fortunately, the painting appears to be in relatively good shape. “The damage was limited to two long scratches which penetrated the paint surface and the canvas support, but did not break through the canvas lining,” the National Galley says in a statement. “The process of consolidating the pigment layers in the areas affected by the scratches began immediately. The preliminary reports suggest that the damage can be repaired relatively easily and the picture should be back on the wall shortly.”

Gainsborough was at the height of his career when he made the 1785 painting. A few years earlier, he had secured commissions to paint portraits of George III and his wife, and he had become one of the favorite portraitists of the royal family, according to Biography.

“The Morning Walk” captures William Hallett and Elizabeth Stephen, a young couple soon to be married, walking through a natural landscape with a dog by their side. Gainsborough’s signature “feathery brushwork” is on full display, as the Natural Gallery notes, with William’s hair and Elizabeth’s delicate shawl almost melding into the painting’s background.

Mark Bills, director of the Gainsborough’s House museum in Suffolk, tells Ross at the Guardian that he was rather befuddled by the attack on “The Morning Walk.” “It’s a picture that I can’t imagine anybody finding offensive,” he says. “[W]hat an odd thing to want to do.”

“The Morning Walk” is hardly the first painting to fall victim to human aggression. The National Gallery was the site of another attack in 1914, when suffragette Mary Richardson took a meat cleaver to the “Rokeby Venus” by Diego Velázquez, in protest over the arrest of Emmeline Pankhurst, the leader of the British suffragette movement. More recently, a Rothko was vandalized at the Tate Modern and French performance artist Pierre Pinoncelli attacked Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain” with an axe at the Pompidou Center in Paris. In 2009, a Russian woman even hurled a mug at the “Mona Lisa.”

In the case of the “Mona Lisa,” authorities have speculated that the woman might have suffered from a rare psychological condition known as Stendhal Syndrome, which describes a temporary loss of sanity brought on by works of intense beauty.