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.)

Are Energy Drinks Really that Bad? | Above the Noise

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Above the Noise host Shirin Ghaffary weighs the potential health risks of drinking energy drinks, and compares them to other sugary, caffeinated beverages. Energy drinks are a billion dollar industry and their popularity keeps growing despite health concerns. We are warned they are particularly dangerous for children and teens -- and there have even been reports of deaths linked to energy drink consumption. In this video we take a closer look at the science to see if energy drinks are really as bad as the hype, and what it is about them that has doctors concerned.

How Widespread Is Student Homelessness? | Above the Noise

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Student homelessness in the US is a tricky thing to quantify. HUD -- the federal government's Department of Housing and Urban Development -- controls most of the money used to help the homeless. But, that agency misses about 4 in 5 homeless students. Why? It’s all about how you define the term “homeless”. According to HUD, you’re only considered homeless if you’re living in a shelter or living on the streets. But according to the Department of Education, about 80% of the 1.3 million homeless students living in the US are couch surfing, living in motels, or doubling up with family or friends. These students aren’t eligible for HUD money, so increasingly, it’s up to schools to provide help. Host Myles Bess explores how homeless students get the help they need when different federal agencies use competing definitions to define who’s homeless.

Should Sexting Be a Crime? | Above the Noise

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Numerous research surveys and school scandals indicate that teens are engaging in sexting, and as technology and trends rapidly change, it’s hard for parents, schools and the law to create rules around this behavior. Watch the latest Above the Noise video to help students discuss the tricky issue of sexting.

Is Your Social Status Making You Sick? | Above the Noise

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Financial inequality has been in the news a lot recently. It was the rallying cry for the Occupy Wall Street movement that began back in 2011, and it was at the center of Bernie Sanders’ campaign when he ran for president. This inequality creates what is typically called a social status ladder, with rich people at the top and poorer people toward the bottom. Research shows that your position on the ladder is actually one of the most powerful predictors of health. But it’s so much more than just how much money you have or how fancy your education is. It’s how you feel you compare to other people -- your subjective social status. We’ve scoured the research, looking at human and animal studies, to find out how your subjective social status actually affects your health.

Is Marijuana Actually Medicinal? | Above the Noise

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With the results of the 2016 election, use of medical marijuana is now approved in 28 states, plus Washington, D.C., but the plant itself is not approved as medicine by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It still remains federally illegal. Under the Controlled Substances Act, the federal government classifies marijuana as a schedule I drug-- which is a category reserved for the most dangerous drugs, drugs that do not show any medical benefit. This classification makes it difficult for researchers to study, because drugs in this category are very tightly regulated. Host Myles Bess explores the research surrounding medical marijuana and discusses some of the challenges researchers face in studying it.

Adam Savage of Myth Busters on Why Science Matters | Above the Noise

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In a special episode of Above the Noise, host Shirin Ghaffary asked the host of the popular TV show MythBusters, Adam Savage, about why he participated in the March for Science in San Francisco on April 22. Savage is a passionate advocate for science. He says that much of the current opposition to science in this country comes from the belief that it’s an “elitist, provocative way of looking at the world. When in fact, it’s just an attempt to look at the world clearly.” In addition to supporting scientists, Savage says it’s also crucial to teach media literacy so that young people learn how to separate fact from fiction in the media.

Gerrymandering: Is Geometry Silencing Your Vote? | Above the Noise

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Fair elections are at the heart of American democracy, but many people argue that politicians have been undermining this American ideal through the practice of what is called gerrymandering. Gerrymandering has been described as the process of politicians picking their voters instead of the voters picking their politicians. In order to really understand this concept, you need to know how voting districts work. In this episode of Above the Noise, host Myles Bess breaks down gerrymandering, and how politicians on both sides of the aisle use sophisticated software to rig the voting system in their party’s favor.

Why Can't Anyone Agree on the Crime Rate? | Above the Noise

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The news media is chock-full of contradictory stories about crime in the United States. Are murders on the rise, or at remarkable lows? A skim of the headlines might not give you a clear answer. So why is there room for disagreement about what should be a very basic statistic? The answer isn’t really about the data itself, but how we slice and dice that data. It’s about how we determine trends, what we’re comparing, and sometimes, what answer we want to find. In this Above the Noise video, host Shirin Ghaffary looks into why the crime rate in America can be such a confusing, and often misleading, topic to read and write about.

Top 4 Tips To Spot Bad Science Reporting | Above the Noise

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In an era of sensationalized news and “alternative facts” it can be hard to figure out what to believe or not. And this is especially true when it comes to science and health news. Crazy claims and sketchy science reporting dilutes the public’s understanding of science, which can have some big consequences, especially when it comes to our health and environment. How can we make solid decisions--like how to vote, what to buy or what can make us sick, if our science news is hyped? Host Myles Bess helps you get above the noise by sharing tips on how to spot bad science reporting. This resource is part of the News and Media Literacy Collection

Voices from the March for Science | Above the Noise

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The March For Science attracted participants from all over the world who voiced their support of evidence-based policy and the impact of scientific research on everyday life. Thousands of people of all ages participated in marches for science across the country on April 22. But some scientists feel that marches like these are a mistake and risk politicizing science. In this special report, host Shirin Ghaffary speaks with young participants at the San Francisco march.

2017 According to Above the Noise | Above the Noise

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2017 was a big year. Not just for America and the world, but also for Above the Noise -- a new YouTube series that empowers teens with the facts behind real-world issues that affect their lives. Join host Myles Bess by a cozy fireplace as he reflects back on this year.