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The Race to Find the Nord Stream Saboteurs

The Race to Find the Nord Stream Saboteurs

Investigators across Europe, including intelligence agencies, will now be trying to piece together exactly who and what caused the apparent explosions. This is likely to involve multiple steps, such as examining what data is held about the area, including seismic data and other sensors, checking whether any communications around the incident have been intercepted, and examining the pipelines to see if there are any signs of intentional destruction.

Neither of the pipes is operational—Nord Stream 1 was paused for repairs in August and Nord Stream 2 has not officially opened after Germany pulled support for it ahead of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in late February—but both pipes are holding gas. All three leaks happened relatively close to each other, near the Danish island of Bornholm, in the Baltic sea. The island is surrounded by Denmark to the west, Sweden to the north, and both Germany and Poland to the south. The leaks are in international waters, but also sit in both Denmark and Sweden’s exclusive economic zones. “It’s quite shallow, around 50 meters on average in this region,” says Julian Pawlak, a research associate at the Helmut Schmidt University and the German Institute for Defence and Strategic Studies.

Security sources have speculated if the attacks were deliberate, they could have been conducted by unmanned underwater drones, involve mines being dropped or planted by boats, been carried out by divers, or even from within the pipes themselves. “We still don’t know what the origin is of those explosions or where they came from—if they originated from the outside or if they originated from the inside of the pipelines,” Pawlak says. In a process called “pigging,” cleaning and inspection machines can be sent down the pipes from Russia in the direction of Germany. It’s possible pigging was repurposed to carry out an attack.

Back in 2007, before the first Nord Stream pipeline was constructed, a review of the project by the Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI) warned about potential explosions around the pipe, in the context of terrorism. “Despite its concrete coating, a pipeline is rather vulnerable, and one diver would be enough to set an explosive device,” its report said. “However, the impact of such an assault would probably be rather modest and most likely a minor incident of this type would not result in a large explosion.”

“They [Russia] have the capability for subsea warfare, with the divers, but also with mini-submarines and drones,” Hansen says. However, confirming any responsibility isn’t necessarily straightforward. The relatively shallow depth of the area around the Nord Stream pipes means it is unlikely that any large submarines would have been operating nearby, as they would be easy to detect.

Pawlak says any vessels in the area could potentially detect others that may have caused the damage. Undersea sensors could equally spot something in the area moving, but it is unclear where any of these systems are. “It’s still not the case that all of the Baltic Sea is filled up with sensors and that NATO knows every movement,” Pawlak says. “On the surface, but especially on the seabed, it’s still not possible to know, at every time, at every place, what’s moving, what’s going on.”

Tech Companies Are Reconsidering an Old Enemy

Tech Companies Are Reconsidering an Old Enemy

As the midterm election season kicks into high gear, platforms across the web will begin rolling out enhanced protections to guard against digital threats to the democratic process. While every platform has different policies and approaches—from warnings and educational reminders at the top of news feeds to limitations on replies and reposts—a common strategy lies at the heart of many of the features being rolled out across the web: they’re all prompting users to slow down a bit. These efforts are reversing a long-held course, and they reflect a wider reconsideration of what was once the industry’s enemy number one: friction.

In the technology industry, we consider “friction” to be anything that stands between an individual and their goals. And completely eliminating it was once a common goal. Teams worked for years to shave milliseconds off page load times and system responses, and companies invested millions in developing and testing designs and user flows, all to ensure that every interaction would be as fast and effortless as possible.

The emphasis on speed and ease of use makes sense—technology has always served to complete complex tasks faster and more easily. But as our tools have become more refined, and the information environment more complex, the speed at which information can reach us at times outpaces the rate at which we can fully process it.

This point was driven home for me by the results of a study conducted by scholars from MIT several years ago, published in Nature last year. In a survey of American adults, individuals claimed that it was far more important to them that what they shared online was accurate than that it was surprising, funny, aligned with their political views, or even just interesting. What’s more, respondents were extremely good at identifying accurate and inaccurate headlines, even when those headlines ran counter to their political beliefs. Despite this, when presented with a set of both truthful and misleading headlines and asked which they’d consider sharing online, the accuracy of the headline had virtually no impact on what participants said they’d consider sharing.

A simple design change, however, can substantially alter people’s likelihood of sharing information they believe to be false. Serving individuals “accuracy prompts,” which ask them to evaluate the accuracy of an unrelated headline before they share, can shift their attention from a knee-jerk reaction to their underlying values, including their own commitments to accuracy.

A meta-analysis of 20 experiments that primed individuals to think of accuracy found that these types of interventions can reduce sharing of misleading information by 10 percent. Subsequent research produced by our team at Jigsaw, in partnership with academics from MIT, Macquarie University, and the Universities of Regina and Nottingham, further found that these prompts are effective across 16 countries and all 6 inhabited continents.

Prompts can also encourage individuals to engage more deeply with information in other ways. A feature rolled out by Twitter prompting users to read an article before retweeting if they hadn’t previously visited the site led to a 40 percent increase in individuals clicking through to the piece before sharing it with their networks.

Once you start looking, you’ll notice these small instances of friction everywhere, and there’s strong evidence they work. In 2020, Twitter began experimenting with a feature that prompted individuals replying to others with rude or abusive language to reconsider their tweet before posting it. According to Twitter, 34 percent of those who received these prompts either edited their original reply or decided not to reply at all. What’s more, users who received the prompt were 11 percent less likely to post harsh replies again in the future. While these numbers may not seem earth-shattering, with over 500 million tweets sent every day, they add up to a substantially healthier online environment.

This 15-Inch Portable OLED Monitor Is on Sale Right Now

This 15-Inch Portable OLED Monitor Is on Sale Right Now

My home workstation has a 32-inch ultrawide monitor paired with a 28-inch monitor mounted vertically alongside it, which is why I feel cramped whenever I’m away from home and have to use my laptop’s cramped 13-inch screen. (I know, I know. First-world problems.) It’s just not enough space! A second monitor can improve your productivity, but that’s not really an option if you’re traveling frequently, working out of a coffee shop, or have a hybrid work role where you have to go into the office a few times a week. The answer, my friends, is a portable monitor. One of our favorites is on sale just today at Amazon.

Don’t ask me how to pronounce Innocn, but the company has discounted a few of its products just for today, one of which is the Innocn 15K1F 15.6-inch OLED portable monitor for $200 ($150 off). This monitor frequently dips to $250, but this is the lowest price we’ve ever tracked, and the deal expires today at 11:59 pm PT (2:59 am ET on September 28). I’ve been testing it for a few months and it’s pretty great. It has two USB-C ports and a Mini HDMI—if you have a laptop with a USB-C port, all you need to do is plug in a single cable to power this second monitor. Read our Work From Home Gear guide for more portable monitor picks.

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Why We Like Innocn’s Portable Monitor

monitor on infographic

Illustration: Innocn

There are a few caveats you should know about before snagging this portable monitor. First, you can use it perfectly fine with just one single USB-C cable connected from the monitor to your laptop. However, this will drain your laptop’s battery faster, and the Innocn will be restricted to around 30 percent brightness. The default brightness has been fine for me, but if you’re going to be working outside, then you can unlock additional brightness by plugging in a power source to the portable screen via the USB-C port. This will juice up your laptop at the same time, and you can max out the monitor’s brightness. 

Second, the Innocn 15K1F comes with a kickstand case, but it’s … not great. The kickstand is a bit flimsy and takes up more space than needed. I recommend pairing it with a portable stand like this one from Satechi. Third, there are built-in speakers, but they don’t sound great; you should just stick with the ones from your laptop. Finally, this is a 15.6-inch screen—it’s pretty slim, but you’ll want to make sure your laptop bag has a sleeve big enough to fit it (and your laptop). 

If these don’t sound like issues to you, then you’ll be quite happy with the 15K1F. It’s an OLED 60-Hz panel, so blacks are pretty deep and the colors are punchy, though I did do some fine-tuning in the picture settings. The panel has a 1,920 x 1,080-pixel resolution, which does look a little pixelated up close, but not enough to put me off. I like using it because I can fit a whole browser window and a few other apps on the massive screen, giving me a good amount of space for multitasking. I’ve also used it with my Nintendo Switch to play Super Smash Bros. while on the go. 

It helps me be more productive when I’m working off a laptop. At this discounted price, that makes it a no-brainer. 


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The Unlikely Cure for Burnout? A Second Job

The Unlikely Cure for Burnout? A Second Job

Like Murphy, many overemployed individuals are achieving financial milestones that once seemed out of reach—from buying a home to building up sizable savings. In one Discord conversation, a member relishes the feeling of getting two paychecks on the same day while others react with emojis in delighted unison. In another channel, called “2x-success-stories,” members discuss wins ranging from paying off the credit card debt of loved ones to giving themselves raises of 130 percent or 200 percent by acquiring a second job.

But many of the wins aren’t material. Counterintuitively, proponents say the idea of working more—and the obligation to, in theory, work 80 or more hours per week—is not just financially freeing, but emotionally and professionally liberating as well. Discussions on Discord warn members of “red flag” behavior from companies—from startups with heavy meeting expectations to cultures of needless urgency. These conversations point to growing disenchantment with the idea that the workplace bears any resemblance to a family, with members often citing their real families—spouses, toddlers, parents—as the people they’re opting to prioritize above corporate loyalty. There’s a pervasive belief that many jobs are nothing more than an exchange of services for pay, until it’s no longer advantageous.

The overemployed are rarely seeking self-actualization and meaning-making at work. Many eschew career ambitions, adding additional jobs that are relatively junior and allow them to complete their work without the obligations that come with more senior roles. Those seeking fulfillment from their 9 to 5 are dissuaded across threads in Discord and Reddit, told to look elsewhere and resist the encroachment of businesses on their lives, and encouraged to find meaning outside the constraints of employment.

While stories about people with half a dozen jobs exist, most in the community simply work two, avoiding lifestyle inflation and expense creep and saving for their individual or family goals. Many are satisfied to coast at work, not necessarily because they’re eager to take advantage of corporations, but because they’ve already experienced the burnout that arose from overworking at a single job—receiving little in return for their efforts. In one thread, where someone considers resigning from one of their three roles, another poster responds matter-of-factly: “Don’t resign, just resign your mind.”

With multiple jobs, the posters say they never quite get attached to any. It’s a rejection of work as identity and an embrace of jobs as a means to an end. And most have an exit strategy, the financial goal or number that will see them pack it all in. Overemployment provides a sense of newfound confidence and positivity amid uncertain times, a feeling of taking back power.

Murphy has no moral qualms about overemployment, suggesting it’s both ethical and common. “My mom worked two jobs all the time growing up, but we don’t really think of that as weird because it’s a working-class situation,” she says. “But if you’re a knowledge worker and you’re working multiple jobs, there’s a sentiment that it’s unethical. It’s not, if you’re getting your work done.”

Still, Murphy was afraid of being found out and potentially losing both roles in the midst of the pandemic. Her anxieties reached a head when a meeting from human resources at her first job materialized on her work calendar. She was terrified her secret had been exposed. She imagined the HR coordinators at both companies somehow communicating and blowing up her life, with only herself to blame for trying to get ahead and save faster. In reality, the call was quite different: The company was in the midst of layoffs and she was being let go after several years. “I had saved up plenty of cash,” said Murphy. “I ended up being incredibly grateful that I had the secret second job.”

Hurricane Ian Blows Back NASA’s Artemis Launch

Hurricane Ian Blows Back NASA’s Artemis Launch

NASA’s team leading the Artemis program of lunar missions really wants to get on with their inaugural spaceflight—which was slated for tomorrow morning. But with a strengthening Hurricane Ian barreling toward the Florida launchpad, it’s time to move the massive Space Launch System rocket to safety.

The space agency will roll the rocket back to the Vehicle Assembly Building to wait for another launch opportunity—but that might mean a delay of several weeks. The team has not yet committed to a date for a new attempt, although a backup window once planned for October 2 now looks all but doomed. “A determination on the return to the pad for launch will be made once the storm has passed and teams conduct post-storm inspections,” Tiffany Fairley, a NASA spokesperson at Kennedy Space Center, wrote in an email to WIRED.

After a series of delays this summer, the Artemis team hoped to finally launch the uncrewed moon rocket from Kennedy in eastern Florida. But worries arose about wind damage to the spacecraft and risks to personnel at the space center. Heading into the weekend, NASA’s weather officers mapped the trajectory of Ian, which at that point was a tropical cyclone that appeared to be gaining strength and heading for landfall in Florida on launch day. The rocket can only tolerate sustained winds up to 74 knots when it’s on the launchpad, said Mike Folger, Exploration Ground Systems program manager at Kennedy, during a press conference on September 23. If those weather forecasts were right, the storm would soon become a hurricane, and winds exceeding that speed would hit Florida’s Space Coast.

NASA had to take into account the weather criteria not only for launching the rocket, but also for getting it moved to shelter, according to a post on NASA’s Artemis blog. Since the trip takes up to 12 hours, and the rocket can only take winds up to 40 knots while on the crawler that ferries it to and from the assembly building, the Artemis team had to make the call Monday morning to get the SLS under cover by Tuesday evening.

This would have been NASA’s third launch attempt. A first try on August 29 was scrubbed due to a liquid hydrogen leak discovered with the third RS-25 engine. (The rocket weathered a smaller storm then, with lightning striking towers nearby, but not the rocket itself.) A second shot on September 3 was also called off due to a hydrogen leak—this time it was larger. (Similar issues were also spotted in April and in June when the team ran “wet dress rehearsal” tests of the fueling and countdown procedures.)

The SLS uses liquid hydrogen supercooled down to -423 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s a light, efficient, and powerful rocket propellant, but it comes with its own challenges. “Cryogenics is a very difficult kind of propellant to handle,” said Brad McCain, vice president of Jacobs Space Operations Group, prime contractor for NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems, at the press conference on September 23. He noted that liquid hydrogen leaks frequently popped up during the 135 space shuttle launches. With the SLS, he said, a “kinder, gentler loading approach,” using less pressure to push the propellant through the lines to the core-stage rocket, worked during a tanking test on September 21.

Why Therapy Is Broken

Why Therapy Is Broken

Even for people who have the time and money to choose, it’s hard to know what to look for. In the absence of a referral or personal recommendation, many people turn to “Find a Therapist” databases from their insurance, ZocDoc, or Psychology Today. But current systems are, understandably, designed to prioritize things like cost, proximity, and availability of services—not expertise in a particular problem or a good fit between patient and provider.

Consider a person who is seeking help for time-consuming rituals. They are likely to end up talking to the next-available therapist about more obvious issues, like the depression or anxiety their rituals cause. Even if this person has a hunch that a label like OCD might apply, and searches for the condition by “issue” for OCD on the Psychology Today site, they will receive dozens of results for therapists who have tagged OCD on their provider pages but don’t actually employ the gold-standard treatment, exposure response prevention. To find a provider with expertise in ERP, the client would have to know what condition they have and what intervention they require, then deliberately search for providers by “type” of therapy offered instead. Even then, they may find that the therapist they’re paired with has all the right training but is untrustworthy, unprofessional, or unlikable.

When time is segmented into 50-minute billable increments, clients can’t afford to waste a second. But building an alliance with a therapist—or failing to do so—is often slow going. Some individuals seem supremely skilled at this work: In a 2003 study, psychologist John Okiishi found that, in a sample of 91 therapists, the top performers enabled their clients to improve 10 times faster than everyone else. But even a supershrink would, inevitably, struggle to help certain people.

When a client isn’t making progress, the therapist should be the one to point out the problems and offer a back-up plan. In situations where the alliance cannot be repaired (or never formed in the first place), a therapist will typically refer their client out to a colleague who might be a better fit. But in the US, financial incentives can get in the way. Kottler says therapists may be loath to let a source of revenue walk out the door; after all, their malpractice insurance, rent, and other payments are due. “There have been times in my life, honestly, when my income stream has gone down, and I really need to keep clients and I’m not getting many new referrals,” Kottler says. “And I won’t easily let a client go.”

Often, that leaves clients in the position of calling the whole thing off. Some end up ghosting. Others tell their therapist that they’re doing better even when they aren’t. Rare is the client who’s able to speak the truth: “You just aren’t helping me.”

Eliminating bad therapy entirely, whether in person or online, is a quixotic goal. But improvement starts with freeing both clients and therapists from getting trapped in the current “first come, first serve” model.