For girls across the country, learning to code is as magical as Mary Poppins

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When a group of 40 girls descended on a movie theater in Council Bluffs, Iowa, the excitement was palpable—and not just because they were about to see Mary Poppins Returns. In fact, the girls didn’t know they were going to see sneak peek of the new Disney movie. They were simply excited to code.

The students from Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln High School and Kirn Middle School were arriving for a day of computer science education, and received some serious STEM inspiration.

Made With Code's Mary Poppins event

According to our research, girls often don’t connect coding with their own interests, don’t see other girls coding and don’t think they would be good at coding,. Made with Code is focused on bringing role models within the science, technology, engineering, and math industries and creating experiences for girls to try their hand at coding. The program is devoted to changing girls’ perception of computer science, and to ensuring coding—and associated economic opportunity created by computer science education—is available for everyone.

The event also took place at theaters in Boulder, Colorado, San Jose, California, and Douglasville, Georgia, and included a combination of guest speakers and hands-on coding for 180 teen girls. The Mary Poppins-themed coding activity, one created especially for the partnership, is a snowflake designer that allows girls to flex their creative muscle while learning computer science basics. The girls knew about the day’s coding component, but got an extra surprise when they were done: an early viewing of Disney’s Mary Poppins Returnsto round out their day.

Made With Code's Mary Poppins event

Some girls said the event made them reconsider their career goals. “I’d like to create my own cartoon, to be an animator, create a show that shows other girls all of the things they can do and learn about,” Jonnae, a student in Douglasville, said.  

“My favorite part was being able to use my creativity to code the project,” Hannah, a student from Council Bluffs, said at the event. “I didn’t know that coding could be creative, I thought it was boring, but it’s not!"

If you’d like to try the girls’ Mary Poppins coding exercise, which is practically perfect in every way, head to Made with Code’s website.

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Gift Guide: 6 rugged gifts for outdoorsy friends and family

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Shopping for someone who prefers hiking and camping to the great indoors can be tricky. Not only are outdoor enthusiasts usually less impressed by traditional gifts (clothes, games, etc.) but their preferred realm of technical gear is vast and confusing. If you’d rather not go deep on the research yourself, we’ve got some solid touchpoints for expert outdoor gear gifting.

1. Party tent

Okay, hear me out. As a pack weight-conscious backpacker the idea of a light-up tent sounded ridiculous at first, but Big Agnes is onto something with their line of mtnGLO tents. I’ve been camping with the 2-person Big Agnes mtnGLO Copper Spur tent for more than a season now and these things are really cool. The company has embedded thin strips of LED lighting into the tent itself, illuminating the inside more evenly than you can pull of with a headlamp alone without overpowering your hard-earned nature vibes.

Photo via Big Agnes

A small detachable battery pack powers the lights and you can jettison that bit if you’re really looking to shed ounces. If not, enjoy tent-bound activities like reading and looking for your prescription medication with the newfound freedom of ample light. If your special giftee prefers car camping then even better: insta-party tent. Or you know, they can fish last night’s socks out of the bottom of their sleeping bag in record time.

If this is too gimmicky (I’m telling you, it’s not!) but you’re looking to gift a tent, check out REI’s in-house brand. They make super solid tents that are generally priced well below the competition and even offer a backpacking bundle and a camping bundle that make the perfect starter set of gear for someone new to losing themselves in the great outdoors.

2. Solar Charger

goal zero solar charger

If you’re shopping for a car camper or a day hiker, battery life isn’t much of a concern, but if your special someone likes to get lost in the wilderness overnight, they’ve probably stressed about battery life. Many people rely on their smartphone as their primary camera in the outdoors, so keeping it charged deep into a hike, climb or backpack is key. In most of these circumstances, a traditional portable battery back would be too heavy and wouldn’t be rechargeable in the field, but solar chargers can solve those problems.

Some people swear by solar panels by Suntactics and the Suntactics sCharger-5 Solar Charger is a reasonably sized option. Goal Zero is another prominent brand in the solar gadget market and the Goal Zero Nomad 7 Plus Solar Panel could make a good personal panel option. For car camping, #vanlife or something else epic yet experienced by car, check out the Goal Zero Yeti 400 Lithium Portable Power Station, a compact beast of a charger that’s priced accordingly ($599.95).

Note: Of course, solar chargers don’t work where sunlight is limited, so if you’re in the Pacific Northwest maybe skip this section.

Garmin Fenix 53. GPS watch

Why not an Apple Watch? Well, a lot of reasons. For anyone who does much extensive hiking, climbing and camping in the backcountry, Apple’s smartwatch is far too puny and fragile. Sure, it’s fine for running, but you need something with battery life worth writing home about and GPS features that help keep you safe — and on route — outdoors.

Garmin makes a lot of solid options here at different price points, including the Garmin Fenix 5 ($449.99) which happily comes in three sizes to accommodate small wrists. Garmin claims up to to 2 weeks of battery life in smartwatch mode on the Fenix 5, up to 24 hours in its GPS mode and up to 60 hours in battery saver mode. The Fenix 5 is configurable depending on your activity of choice, with profiles tuned to hiking, snowboarding and mountain biking.

Compass-maker Suunto also offers a few well-liked watches in the space, including the Suunto Ambit 3 Peak which boasts “route altitude profile navigation and extremely long battery life” i.e. the stuff you really need.

4. Compact camera gear

We covered camera gifting more extensively in out dedicated photography gift guide, but we’ll toss in a few ideas here just for fun. For anyone into the extreme outdoors (backcountry skiing, mountaineering, climbing etc.) a GoPro is a no-brainer. The company’s latest offering, the GoPro Hero7 Black, is top of the line for $399.99, but other GoPro models are available for significantly less.

GoPro Hero 7 Black

If you’re looking for something more geared toward photography rather than video, Sony’s RX100 line offers a killer compact camera that won’t take up much space in your pack. The new Sony RX100 V ($899) and RX 100 VI ($1,199) offer a higher end tiny pro camera, but the still-excellent older models of the Sony RX 100 can be had for a fraction of the price.

5. Satellite messaging

Garmin InReach Mini
This one might sound a little morbid, but if your loved one gets into a sticky situation miles from civilization they won’t be complaining. A handful of different devices can allow you to send an emergency signal when your phone can’t and many of them also allow for non-emergency satellite messaging — handy for coordinating meet-up points or checking in from the backcountry. Among these, the new Garmin InReach Mini ($349.99) is well regarded for its diminutive size and well-rounded feature set, though the Garmin inReach Explorer and Spot X are also solid options.

6. Small Stuff

Okay, so you need a gift for someone outdoorsy but you want to find something a little more low key. Maybe a stocking stuffer or a casual friend gift. We can do that. A lot of people have touchscreen-friendly gloves but do they have technical touchscreen-friendly gloves? Snag a pair of the North Face’s ETip gloves which are both cute and functional or pick up a set of Mountain Hardware’s Power Stretch Stimulus Gloves, which make a nice grippy glove liner.Gaia GPS apps

And we’d be remiss if we didn’t recommend the Gaia GPS app, available for both iPhone and Android at $19.99. For navigating outdoors with topographical maps and even fairly complex routefinding, Gaia can’t be beat. Of course, we’d also be remiss if we didn’t remind you to bring a paper map — just in case.

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‘Farout’ is the farthest Solar System object known to date

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Roberto Molar Candanosa/Carnegie Institution for Science

The reach of the Solar System extends well beyond the full-size planets, and that’s becoming clearer than ever with a new discovery. Astronomers have detected 2018 VG18 “Farout,” which is the most distant Solar System object known to date at 120AU from the Sun (about 11.15 billion miles) — the previous record-setter, the dwarf planet Eris, is ‘just’ 96AU away. That makes it over three and a half times farther from the Sun than Pluto (34AU), and over 100 times farther than Earth. But what is it, exactly?

That’s hard to say at this early stage (the image you see above is an artist’s concept), but there are a few clues. At just under 311 miles in diameter, Farout is likely to be a dwarf planet. Its pinkish tint, meanwhile, suggests that it’s rich in ice. And based on where it is in the sky, astronomers suspect it has an extremely long orbit (likely over 1,000 years) similar to those of other extremely distant Solar System objects. That could support theories of a giant “Planet X” influencing these smaller celestial bodies.

It could take a long time before you learn much more. It will take a few years to fully understand Fallout’s orbit due to its distance and slow movement, and a closer observation isn’t really in the cards when there are no probes headed its way any time soon. Moreover, it probably won’t hold that crown forever. The dwarf planet Sedna is currently 90AU away from the Sun, but its orbit will take it more than 900AU away before it comes back. Think of this more as an illustration of the Solar System’s scope — there’s plenty of activity beyond the known planets, even if a lot of it remains elusive.

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Cool “AudioPhotography” Project Combines Film Camera and Digital Sound Recorder

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“AudioPhotography” is certainly one of the most creative and experimental photography projects we’ve come across this year.

Over the years, we’ve seen a lot of talented photographers and impressive projects that were truly inspiring and creative. Many of them tackled eye-opening topics, and some of them challenged the boundaries and norms of genres and approaches. However, this work of Italian film photographer Mario Cipriano certainly tops our list of favorites. If you’re in need of some bright ideas to fuel your own drive for creativity and out of the box photography projects, you’ll surely get a big helping with this!

For his project Titled Light Sounds Light, Cipriano connected a microphone and a digital sound recorder to his Leica M6 to record the sound of the scene before him five seconds before the actual shot. Then, he continues to record five more seconds of audio after the shot. He then has a total of 10 seconds of audio to accompany each photo. A black screen goes with the first five seconds of audio before the photo is revealed by the shutter sound. He calls this experimental technique “audiofotografia” or “audiophotography”.

Check out the first ten audiophotography pieces from his first roll:

If you’re curious about his gear setup for this project, you can check it out here.

According to Cipriano, there are three possible outcomes (or experiences even) that comes with each audiophotography:

A. The sound prepares your mind to a specific image, and that exact image comes out.

B. The sound prepares your mind to a specific image, then an out of context image appears.

C. The sound is so ambiguous that your mind is totally free to imagine and can’t wait to discover what the image will be.

This body of work is effective and interesting because it engages two of our senses. First, the sound implants an idea that encourages us to make a guess of what the photo will be. When the photo is finally revealed, we either take satisfaction in getting it right, or delight in the discovery — or surprise — of what the image turns out to be (and how the sound fits or complements it). Looks and sounds good so far, right?

 

Screenshot image from the video by Mario Cipriano

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As adult content ban arrives, Tumblr clarifies and refines rules

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Let’s talk about the grown-up stuff — the adult content that Tumblr says it’s banning starting today. The wording of the company’s initial plans was admittedly confusing, upsetting both artists and sex workers who have begun to rely on the platform as a kind of safe place for self-expression.

The site issued a blog post today clarifying what had initially appeared to be a scorched earth approach to the explicit content as Tumblr frantically attempted to work its way back into Apple’s good graces. The note is a bit of a retread of earlier statements, while offering a much clearer vision of what things will look like on Tumblr’s end.

Of course, for some, this clarification might be coming too late. Many have already abandoned Tumblr for greener — or at least less family-friendly pastures. That’s due in no small part to the fact that it went on a kind of banning spree, following the reports of child pornography that caused it to be pulled from Apple’s App Store.

Tumblr relied on a machine algorithm that flagged posts at a rapid clip, resulting in frustrating and sometimes hilarious misfires. “[T]his is a complex problem,” the company writes, “and over the coming weeks we will gradually, and carefully, flag more adult content. (Yes, we will still make mistakes, but hopefully fewer and fewer.)”

The service also clarifies its appeals process, wherein users can protest posts they believe were incorrectly flagged. Content that is flagged will be hidden from view, but not deleted, according to the company.

Tumblr also correctly notes the important role the LGBTQ+ community has played in buoying the service over the past several years. Communities like this have found a home on the service and many now feel threatened by what appears on the face of it to be a bit of a Draconian new ruling.

Per Tumblr:

LGBTQ+ conversations, exploration of sexuality and gender, efforts to document the lives and challenges of those in the sex worker industry, and posts with pictures, videos, and GIFs of gender-confirmation surgery are all examples of content that is not only permitted on Tumblr but actively encouraged.

And just to drive the point home, it offers a few examples of images that ought not be flagged by the service, ranging from life drawings to medical procedures to topless protesting. Of course, under its current algorithm, many of these have already been flagged.

It’s a nice gesture, but more to the point, it’s a site finally acknowledging a core audience that feels betrayed by the new rules. Tumblr’s own approach to them now feels fluid because it has to be. The company is toeing a difficult line between the openness users have come to expect and regulations put in place to please walled content gardens from the likes of Apple and the strict structures of its (and, for that matter, TechCrunch’s) corporate owner, Verizon.

It’s going to be a hard line to walk, but the future of Tumblr might very well depend on it.

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