Social Studies

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How Could 3D Printed Guns Affect Gun Laws? | Above the Noise

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In the United States, the gun debate has been raging for decades. Gun rights advocates think there are enough -- or maybe too many -- laws restricting their second amendment right to bear arms. Those wanting more gun control believe that to protect people’s safety, we need the government to regulate who can have a gun. But what happens when technology is one step ahead of the laws? That’s the case with 3-D printed guns. It’s always been legal for adults to make their own guns at home, but traditionally, that required specialized tools and a lot of skill. 3-D printing, however, is changing that, making it significantly easier to make a gun from scratch. This has sparked both interest from gun enthusiasts and concerns about public safety. Host Shirin Ghaffary explores how 3-D printed guns are affecting the gun debate in the United States.

Can Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes Help Fight Disease? | Above the Noise

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In the last couple of years, the mosquito species Aedes aegypti has garnered perhaps the most attention, at least in parts of the U.S. where it resides. It’s the one that can transmit a generous selection of very nasty diseases including Zika, yellow fever, dengue and chikungunya. In an effort to control these mosquito populations and reduce the spread of mosquito-borne diseases, some scientists at the British company OXITEC have turned to genetic engineering. Host Myles Bess dives into the science and policy surrounding the use of genetically engineered mosquitoes to combat mosquito-borne diseases.

How Do Algorithms Predict Criminal Behavior? | Above the Noise

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It’s no big secret that the United States has a prison problem. We lock up people at higher rates than any other nation, and there are huge racial disparities in who we lock up. According to a study from The Sentencing Project, in state prisons, African Americans are incarcerated 5 times more than whites. There are lots of reasons for why we may see these racial disparities, including law enforcement practices, crime rates, and punitive sentencing policies. Keeping so many people in prison is really expensive-- it costs about $80 billion dollars a year-- and it contributes to racial inequalities in America. As a result, there’s a big push among both Democrats and Republicans to reform our prison system. And one popular strategy many people advocate for as part of this reform effort are risk assessment tools. The tools use data to predict whether a person will commit a future crime. This video explores how these tools work and some of the controversy surrounding their use.

How Is Tech Changing the Way We Read? | Above the Noise

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Reading has been an important part of the human experience for thousands of years, but believe it or not, that’s not a long time on the evolutionary time scale. Before the internet, it made sense to read long texts in a linear fashion, but that’s now changing as people are adapting to skimming shorter texts on their computers or phones. With the rise of social media and smartphone use, we are all reading fewer books than we once did. Some people are worried about what this means for the future of literature and, well, our brains. But is it true that we are really reading less? Find out in the latest Above the Noise episode. And join the discussion about your favorite books with other students on KQED Learn by going to Activity in Support Materials. (Log in required.)