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Moissanite vs Diamond: Which Engagement Ring is Best?



Moissanite rings are a great alternative to traditional diamonds because they are cheaper and brighter. However, while moissanite stones create sparkle, some feel it is too much for everyday wear, especially when compared to natural diamonds. (Remember the link to the disco ball?)

In addition, moissanite and other lab-created gemstones may be more sustainable than some diamonds, including those known as “blood diamonds”. These gemstones are mined with slave labor, deadly working conditions and unregulated trading practices, while moissanite stones, on the other hand, are produced in laboratories.

Of course, some consumers will always prefer natural diamonds to imitations like cubic zirconia and moissonite because diamonds retain their value and remain a traditional symbol of unwavering loyalty and love in a relationship.

In any case, any decision you make in a moissanite vs. diamond dispute will be personal. You must choose an engagement ring that suits your style, budget and personal preference.

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How global warming and a wet winter could affect US wildfire season



Wildfire season in most parts of the western United States could be delayed this summer as heavy snow covers many mountain ranges, national forecasters said. However, the risk of damage from wildfires continues to rise as the climate warms, and this is one of the factors that makes it difficult to predict how the season will play out.

Forecasters and fire ecology experts say changes in fire behavior make it difficult to predict conditions in late summer and early fall. The fire season is getting longer. Higher temperatures deplete the fuel from their moisture faster. And more people are living close to wildlife — and potentially at risk.

Jim Wallmann, meteorologist at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, said “the chances of getting something big early in the year are greatly reduced.”

NIFC is forecasting above-normal fire activity in parts of the Pacific Northwest, including eastern Oregon and central Washington, in July and August. Elsewhere in the West, forecasters are predicting normal or below-average fire activity these months.

“With these really wet winters, you think the fire season is going to be quieter, and they tend to start slower,” Wollmann said. “After all, your fuel still dries out faster than before.”

Even if the season starts slowly, the most important thing will be the finish.

Many factors determine the dynamics of the fire season. While it may seem like a wet winter will play a dramatic role, experts say its impact can easily be overestimated.

“There is no strong correlation between winter precipitation and next season’s fire forecast,” said Craig Clements, director of the Interdisciplinary Wildfire Research Center at San Jose State University.

Fuel moisture — how wet sticks, logs, and grass lie on the landscape — is the best indicator of wildfire risk.

This year, with many areas of California and the Great Basin receiving twice as much snow as usual, researchers expect the melting snowpack to prevent the fuel from drying out quickly. The snow cover will also reduce access to mountain wilderness for humans, the most common source of wildfires in the US. Both of these factors should delay the fire season.

“What happens after that? It all depends on how quickly the temperature rises in the summer, how long it stays hot, and how hot it gets,” said Erica Fleischman, professor at Oregon State University and director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute. “Vegetation can still dry out very quickly.”

In some areas, wet winters can increase the intensity of wildfires. For some plants, including non-native grasses such as cheatgrass, abnormal amounts of winter moisture can encourage additional growth, creating more fuel and fire potential in late summer.

“Chitgrass responds well to winter rainfall,” Fleishman said. “This could lead to a greater likelihood of wildfires and larger wildfires.”

While most Western states have had rainy years, parts of the Pacific Northwest have not. Nearly half of Oregon is suffering from drought, according to the US Drought Monitor.

“Most of the Pacific Northwest had high snow cover but no total rainfall,” Fleischman said. “The deep snow cover reflected low temperatures rather than high rainfall.”

Seasonal forecasts suggest high temperatures and fire weather in central Washington and eastern Oregon.

“We expect temperatures across the state to be slightly above average between June and August and slightly drier than usual,” said Von Cork, a fuel analyst with the Washington Department of Natural Resources. “It looks like June will be relatively mild. And then when our grass in the Columbia River Basin starts to dry out, we’ll see some big grassland fires, and once they start hitting the foothills, timber will be available.”

An unseasonable heat wave this month triggered an early thaw and allowed grasses to start growing early.

“That’s what we’re looking at,” Wollmann said.

While a wet winter may slow wildfires in early summer, climate change is shifting baseline wildfire levels in the West.

A Climate Central analysis released on Wednesday found a sharp increase in the number of fire days in the western states.

The analysis, which measured temperature, relative humidity and wind speed, found that parts of Southern California and New Mexico are seeing fires two months more each year than they did a century ago. Analysis shows that parts of California, Oregon and Washington are twice as likely to experience wildfire weather.

“If there is a fire, it will most likely be extreme,” said Caitlin Trudeau, a researcher at Climate Central. “This is an increase in the chances that this fire will grow into a much larger beast than if it weren’t so hot, dry and windy.”

The area affected by wildfires doubled from 1984 to 2015, according to the study. cited in the National Climate Assessmenthowever, climate change plays a large role in fuel drying.

Other factors, such as an increase in the number of people in the wilderness and fuel accumulation from past fire suppression, also contribute to the increase in acres burned.

According to Brian Harvey, a forest scientist and assistant professor at the University of Washington, what is considered normal, or considered a year of quiet fire safety in the US, is being re-examined.

The federal fire departments began tracking the number of acres burned nationwide in 1983. Harvey noted that over 6 million acres were burned in just one fire season from 1983 to 2000.

“We have seen 13 years since 2000 when we saw 6 million acres burned,” he said. “It’s a qualitatively different way of thinking about what a normal fire year is like compared to decades ago.”

But historical records contain evidence of large wildfires and large seasons of smoke. Ecosystems benefit from forest fires. They are adapted to it.

“It’s easy for us to understand that any fire will be bad,” Harvey said. “From an environmental point of view, fire is a critical factor in the sustainability of our ecosystems.”

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Humans, not Google’s algorithm, are creating their own guerrilla “bubbles” on the Internet



From Thanksgiving dinner conversations to pop culture rants, it’s easy to feel like people with different political ideologies occupy vastly different worlds, especially online. People often blame algorithms—the invisible sets of rules that shape online landscapes from social media to search engines—of limiting the use of digital “filter bubbles” by feeding us content that reinforces our pre-existing worldview.

Algorithms are always biased: studies have shown that Facebook ads target specific racial and gender demographics. Dating apps choose matches based on the history of the user’s previous activities. And search engines prioritize links based on what they think is most relevant. But not every algorithm causes political polarization, according to a new study.

A study published today in Nature found that Google search engine does not return disproportionately biased results. Instead, politically polarized Google users tend to isolate themselves by clicking on links to partisan news sites. These results show that, at least when it comes to Google searches, it may be easier for people to avoid online echo chambers than previously thought, but only if they choose to do so.

Algorithms permeate almost every aspect of our online existence and have the power to shape how we view the world around us. “They have some influence on how we consume information and therefore how we form opinions,” says Katherine Ognyanova, a communication researcher at Rutgers University and co-author of the new study.

But it can sometimes be difficult to quantify how much these programs contribute to political polarization. The algorithm can take into account “who you are, where you are, what device you are searching from, geography, language,” says Ognyanova. “But we don’t know exactly how the algorithm works. It’s a black box.”

Most of the research analyzing the political polarization caused by algorithms has focused on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook rather than search engines. This is because, until recently, it was easier for researchers to get useful data from social networking sites with their public APIs. “There is no such tool for search engines,” says Daniel Trielli, a new assistant professor of media and democracy at the University of Maryland who was not involved in the study.

But Ognyanova and her co-authors found a way around this problem. Instead of relying on anonymous public data, they sent volunteers a browser extension that logged all of their Google searches and the links they clicked from those pages for months. The extension acted like backyard camera traps that take pictures of animals—in this case, it provided snapshots of everything that populates each participant’s online landscape.

The researchers collected data from hundreds of Google users three months before the 2018 US midterm elections and nine months before the 2020 US presidential election. They then analyzed what they gathered based on participants’ age and their stated political orientation, ranked on a scale of one to seven, from strong Democrat to strong Republican. Yotam Shmargad, a sociologist at the University of Arizona who was not a member of the research team, calls “innovative” the approach to presenting real behavioral data about participants’ search activity with survey information about their political affiliations.

This type of field data is also extremely valuable from a policy-making standpoint, says University of Pennsylvania cybersecurity researcher Homa Hosseinmardi, who was also not involved in the study. To ensure that search engine giants such as Google, which handle more than 8.5 billion queries daily, are working with people in mind, it is not enough to know how the algorithm works. “You need to see how people use the algorithm,” says Hosseinmardi.

While many lawmakers are currently pushing for major tech companies to publicly release their anonymous user data, some researchers fear that this will encourage platforms to post misleading, distorted or incomplete information. One notable case was when Meta hired a group of scholars explored the platform’s relationship to democracy and political polarization, but then failed. give the data he promised to share helped. “I think it makes more sense to go directly to the user,” says Ronald Robertson, a network scientist at Stanford University and lead author of the new study.

Ultimately, the team found that a quick Google search did not provide users with a selection of news stories based on their political views. “In general, Google doesn’t personalize that much,” says Robertson. “And if the personalization is low, then maybe the algorithm doesn’t change the page that much.” Instead, users with strong biases were more likely to click on biased links that matched their pre-existing worldview.

This does not mean that Google’s algorithm is flawless. The researchers noticed that unreliable or outright misleading news sources still show up in the results, regardless of whether users have interacted with them. “There are other contexts where Google has done some pretty problematic things,” says Robertson, including the dramatic underrepresentation of women of color in image search results.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the new study.

Shmargad notes that these studies are not completely unbiased when broken down to a more detailed level. “There doesn’t seem to be that much algorithmic bias between party lines,” he says, “but there may be some algorithmic bias in different age groups.”

Users aged 65 and over were exposed to more right-hand links in Google search results than other age groups, regardless of their political affiliation. However, because the effect was small, and the oldest age group only accounted for about one-fifth of the total participants, the larger impact of exposure on overall study results disappeared in the macro analysis.

However, the findings reflect a growing body of research that suggests that the role of algorithms in creating policy bubbles may be overstated. “I don’t mind blaming the platforms,” Trielli says. “But it’s a bit confusing that it’s not just about making sure the platforms behave well. Our personal motivations to filter what we read to fit our political biases remain strong.”

“We also want to be separate,” Trielli adds.

On the positive side, according to Ognyanov, “this study shows that it’s not that hard for people to avoid [ideological] bubble.” That might be the case. But first they have to want to.

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Fast-growing chickens: Judge dismisses Frankencourt farmers’ welfare case



A Supreme Court judge dismissed a legal challenge about the welfare of fast-growing chickens on farms.

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