Good morning, Quartz readers!
Apple delivered the new iPhone on Sept. 7 to a raucous crowd in a packed auditorium in San Francisco. Every September, Apple has a big event designed to whip up interest in its purportedly latest and greatest products ahead of the holiday season. But for anyone who’s been paying attention, this year’s event was underwhelming.
The company unveiled the iPhone 7 and the next version of the Apple Watch, both of which look pretty much exactly like the versions that preceded them. The new iPhone is more powerful, for sure, but it won’t look or act markedly different from the previous two models. Except for the fact that it has no headphone jack, but don’t worry, Apple has a solution for that: $159 wireless earbuds that you’ll probably lose in a week, or wired headphones that force you to choose between charging your phone and listening to music.
For the last few years, Apple has been living off the goodwill and the failures of its competitors. But sales of iPhones—which make up the bulk of Apple’s revenue—are falling for the first time in a decade. The Apple Watch, the company’s first entirely new product released under CEO Tim Cook, hasn’t generated the kind of numbers the iPhone has. And the new version—the same size, with the same battery life and screen resolution as its predecessor—probably won’t help Apple overtake FitBit as the leading producer of wearables. It iswaterproof now, though.
Many predict next September’s event will be a real blowout, with completely redesigned Apple products across the board. Then again, with stagnating sales and so many underwhelming product launches, how many people will wait with bated breath in 2017 to hearwhat magic Apple wants to sell them then?—Mike Murphy
FIVE THINGS ON QUARTZ WE ESPECIALLY LIKED
Teachers need to try harder when calling the roll. For many minority and immigrant students, names hold ancestral and historical significance. So when white teachers mispronounce those names—or, worse, give up and force students to adopt an Americanized version—it can make children feel as though their families and cultures lack value. And that, Claire McLaughlin argues, undermines minority students’ ability to learn.
Dying in pursuit of the Silicon Valley ideal. Aimee Groth tells the gripping story of Dan Fredinburg, co-founder of Google Adventures. The mission: capture imagery of the highest mountains on each of the world’s seven continents for Google Street View. Then tragedy struck in April 2015, when a 7.8 magnitude earthquake shook Nepal and sent a deadly avalanche down Mt. Everest.
We’re overpumped on protein. For the past decade, sales of protein drinks, shakes, and bars have been skyrocketing. In the supermarket, you are bound to see protein-enhanced versions of pretty much everything. As Katherine Ellen Foley points out, most of us already get more protein than we need. So who’s profiting from this marketing coup?
The center of gravity of experimental physics is shifting. Indian-born scientists have played integral roles in many of the most important experimental physics projects of the last 50 years. But they’ve always had to do their work on foreign soil. Sonali Prasad talked to some of India’s top physicists to learn about their ambitious plan to build an advanced gravitational wave observatory in their home country.
The risk of a child being abducted by a stranger is 0.00007%.And yet parents today live in constant fear of leaving their children alone in the park, even for a few minutes. Jenny Anderson reportsreports that this might because they feel like other parents are judging their parenting skills—and not due to any real concern for danger. The biggest losers here are the kids growing up without the freedom to dream and play.
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FIVE THINGS ELSEWHERE THAT MADE US SMARTER
Corporate America’s relationship with Washington is broken.Big business used to be a “moderating influence” in Washington. Now, political gridlock and partisanship, toxic relationships with both the Republican and Democratic parties, and the waning influence of the “business statesman,” means companies no longer have a say on broad issues impacting the economy, writes Steven Pearlstein for The Washington Post. Worse, they’re beginning not to care.
Teaching machines to think helps us understand how humans learn. To give robots true artificial intelligence, we need to program them to see the world as subtly as we do—and that’s not through a mass of quantitative data. Instead, as Alan S. Brown writes for Nautilus, we need to work on approximating the complex relationship between teacher and student. The better we understand the “teacher-student code,” the smarter our machines will be. In the process, we might get smarter ourselves.
Offices are designed to control us. The “luxury minimalism” of the contemporary office aims to strips employees of their identifying quirks and clutter, the better to transform them into indistinguishable worker bees. But as The New Republic’s Miya Tokumitsu and Joeri Mol write, work is inherently messy—especially the creative, political kind.
It’s last call for Chomsky-ites. Noam Chomsky’s theories on the universality of language have dominated linguistics—and influenced fields ranging from evolutionary psychology to computer science. New research on how children learn to understand and speak native tongues appears to be undermining Chomsky’s “universal grammar” theory. Writing in Scientific American, Paul Ibbotson and Michael Tomasello investigate this sea change in the social sciences.
New voices are moving fashion forward. As a student, the New York City-based fashion designer Shayne Oliver styled himself in clothes “butch enough for Bed-Stuy, smart enough for school, glam enough for the club,” writes the The New Yorker’s Christopher Glazer. Glazer chronicles how Oliver’s cutting-edge fashion collective, Hood by Air, remixes influences from hip-hop and queer culture—and revises traditional identities in the process.
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