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Los Angeles Times


Why some high school students aren't ready to go back to school, despite the isolation

Los Angeles Times

High school senior Isabell Diaz has a routine. She rolls out of bed half an hour before her 9 a.m. On breaks, she steps away from the screen to eat breakfast or complete chores. She has learned how to navigate online assignments and virtual club meetings. So when she learned that her school would open in late April, she had mixed emotions.


Rural California schools have been open for months. It's taken a learning curve

Los Angeles Times

Tabatha Plew quit her good-paying construction job in August, pulled her kids out of a Central Valley school they loved and moved seven hours north to this tiny town in Trinity County. Like a lot of rural communities, Weaverville in recent years has seen more people leaving than arriving, but it had a golden commodity Plew couldn't find at home in Fresno County for her three children: open classrooms that promised a desk in front of a teacher. "I packed them up, and I told my husband, 'We love you. See you on the weekends,'" said Plew, who moved into her in-laws' home in Weaverville. "This was the highest-paying job I've ever had, and, you know, the money didn't mean anything when my kids were struggling."


Can artificial intelligence combat wildfires? Sonoma County tests new technology

Los Angeles Times

Sonoma County is adding artificial intelligence to its wildfire-fighting arsenal. The county has entered into an agreement with the South Korean firm Alchera to outfit its network of fire-spotting cameras with software that detects wildfire activity and then alerts authorities. But emergency workers will first have to "teach" the system to differentiate between images that show fire smoke, and others that might show clouds, fog, or vapor from geothermal geysers. The software will use feedback from humans to refine its algorithm and will eventually be able to detect fires on its own -- or at least that's what county officials hope. "It's kind of like learning how to read," Godley said.


Deep-sea 'Roombas' will comb ocean floor for DDT waste barrels near Catalina

Los Angeles Times

When Californians learned in October that the waters off Santa Catalina Island once served as a dumping ground for thousands of barrels of DDT waste, the ocean science community jumped into action. A crew was swiftly assembled, shipping lanes cleared, the gears set in motion for a deep-sea expedition aboard the Sally Ride, one of the most technologically advanced research vessels in the country. By Wednesday, the ship was ready to leave San Diego and head for the San Pedro Basin, where 31 scientists and crew members will spend the next two weeks surveying almost 50,000 acres of the seafloor -- a much-needed first step in solving this toxic mystery that the ocean had buried for decades. "We want to provide a common base map of what's on the seabed at a high enough resolution," said Eric Terrill of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, who is leading an effort made possible by the many scientists and federal officials who helped fast-track this expedition. "There were a lot of heroics pulled by quite a few people ... to make this happen."


Artificial intelligence meets real friendship: College students are bonding with robots

Los Angeles Times

The text message from Billy arrived on students' phones the week of final exams. "It took a lot of hard work, perseverance, and strength to get here, but you've finally made it to the other side -- the end of the semester! I wanted to take a minute and say that I am so proud of you ..." Three emoji hearts concluded the message. "Love you Billy thank you." Heart heart heart. "Thanks Billy, we did it together."


Tiger Woods doesn't remember the crash that hospitalized him, but the SUV does

Los Angeles Times

Tiger Woods has told authorities he doesn't remember the rollover crash that landed him in a hospital with metal rods and pins in his leg. But the SUV he was driving does. Like other modern cars and trucks, the Genesis GV80 that Woods was driving when he crashed was equipped with an electronic data recorder and other computer hardware meant to serve as a digital witness of sorts -- filled with information investigators can use to piece together the seconds before and during the accident. The devices are part of a broader array of safety technology built into many newer vehicles. Vehicles in the Genesis line -- Hyundai's luxury brand -- for example, also feature artificial intelligence software that keeps a watchful eye, sending alerts if it detects the driver is distracted or closes his or her eyes while driving.


Column: Have half of L.A. County residents had COVID-19? It depends whose estimate you trust

Los Angeles Times

I've grown accustomed to conflicting views when it comes to the pandemic. We can gather in the library, but our kids can't go to school. I can finally get my hair done, but a facial is not allowed. You shouldn't wear a mask, you have to wear a mask, you really should be wearing two masks. This virus is so new that all of us -- from CDC scientists to supermarket cashiers -- are still trying to navigate a steep learning curve. And I like to think that nothing surprises me anymore.


A 'new social compact': California commission calls for higher wages, better jobs

Los Angeles Times

California's high poverty rate, low wages and frayed public safety net require a new "social compact" between workers, business and government, according to a report by a blue-ribbon commission that highlights the state's widening inequality. In a report released Monday, the Future of Work Commission, a 21-member body appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in August 2019, laid out a grim picture of the challenges facing the world's fifth-largest economy, even as it acknowledged the Golden State's technology leadership, its ethnically and culturally diverse workforce and world-class universities. "Too many Californians have not fully participated in or enjoyed the benefits of the state's broader economic success and the extraordinary wealth generated here, especially workers of color who are disproportionately represented in low-wage industries," the report says. California has the highest poverty rate in the country when accounting for the cost of living, 17.2%, according to the report. Since 2012, wages in the state grew by 14% while home prices increased by 68%.


Four reasons why Zoom is so exhausting and what you can do about it

Los Angeles Times

One week into shelter-in-place last year, Jeremy Bailenson was talking to a BBC reporter and had an epiphany. There's no need for us to be on Zoom," he thought. A phone call would have sufficed. This kernel of realization became an op-ed article that Bailenson penned in the Wall Street Journal titled, "Why Zoom Meetings Can Exhaust Us." Bailenson, a professor of communications and founder of the Virtual Human Interaction Lab at Stanford University, wanted to dig deeper. So he wrote an academic paper, published Tuesday in Technology, Mind, and Behavior, that boils down four underlying causes of videoconferencing fatigue.


Why a California scientist hosted superspreader event amid a deadly COVID-19 surge

Los Angeles Times

As Southern California last month reeled from a COVID-19 surge that overwhelmed hospitals, bottlenecked ambulance systems and killed thousands, a physician hosted a conference in Culver City. Peter Diamandis, who is also an engineer, executive and scientist, believed he could create an "immunity bubble" and safely host a scaled-down version of his pricey annual tech conference. Instead, the conference became a superspreader event that infected 24 people, including Diamandis, with the novel coronavirus. "I thought creating a COVID'immunity bubble' for a small group in a TV studio setting was possible," Diamandis, 59, wrote in a blog post last week. In a statement to The Times, Diamandis said none of the cases, including his, were serious, and "virtually all have fully recovered."