March 23, 2014

Did you hear?

The price of breakfast foods going up; In social media, some ‘news’ isn’t to be believed ...

Food and beverage

Breakfast staples serving up sticker shock

Breakfast is now being served with a side of sticker shock.

The price of bacon is surging and the cost of other morning staples, like coffee and orange juice, is set to rise because of global supply problems, from drought in Brazil to disease on U.S. pig farms.

And it’s not just the first meal of the day that’s being affected. The cost of meats, fish and eggs led the biggest increase in U.S. food prices in nearly 21/2 years last month, according to government data. An index that tracks those foods rose 1.2 percent in February and has climbed 4 percent over the last 12 months.

While overall inflation remains low, the increases in food prices are forcing shoppers to search out deals and cut back.

Social media

Why do people believe this stuff?

It’s a common experience. You log on to Facebook for your lunchtime fix of friends’ baby photos and links to fascinating online content when you come across an intriguing headline such as “Stephen Hawking’s Blunder on Black Holes Shows Danger of Listening to Scientists, Says Bachmann” or “Sochi Hotel Guests Complain About Topless Portraits of Putin in Rooms.”

These stories aren’t real. They’re the work of the New Yorker’s online satirist Andy Borowitz, but many people, not just your gullible Facebook friends, invariably believe them. Sometimes the official state news agencies of global superpowers believe them.

Most of us – though unfortunately not all of us – are now aware that Onion articles aren’t real, but the proliferation of online parody and fake news has created an environment where many people are simply accepting fake news as fact.

So why do people believe this stuff? A recently published paper by physicist Delia Mocanu and four colleagues at Northeastern University’s Laboratory for the Modeling of Biological and Socio-Technical Systems looks at the phenomenon of “Collective Attention in the Age of (Mis)information,” concluding that Facebook users’ willingness to believe false information is rooted in mistrust of mainstream media sources.

They found that regular consumers of “alternative” news are far more likely to share false content.


Wearable devices will change your life

Will your clothes and accessories change how you live your daily life?

Wearable devices like smart watches, glasses and activity monitors were a big topic of conversation at South By Southwest Interactive this week – specifically their potential in the future.

Imagine if, when you woke up, the lights in your room turned on and the coffee maker started up, said Brian Friedman, CEO of Loopd, a wearable device company. Or a room that immediately customized to your presence – from its lighting to the music.

“I think this is the very beginning and inception of things like this,” Friedman said.

Other possibilities include a wristband that can tell if you need to sleep more – or if you’re in the early stages of depression. That’s not far away, experts say, especially considering devices like pacemakers that can control a person’s heartbeat are already in use.

However, there are drawbacks to the technology, namely that it makes users easier to track or monitor. And in this age of trepidation over government spying, that could be a concern for many.

The Associated Press, Slate and Austin American-Statesman contributed.

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