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The emotion of fear demands a target, so when some scary phenomenon is too big or abstract for us to grasp, it’s a big help psychologically for us to condense it into something that helps us explain why bad things are happening.

This isn’t new – people have been making up bogeymen since long before the Internet (hello, Dungeons & Dragons) – but rumors are now able to fly across continents in seconds, and the Internet itself is a massive ocean of abstract unknowns and possible dangers, which makes it even more fertile ground for fears. Mix natural parental concern with the Internet and our tendency to simplify our generalized fears, and you have yourself a real 21st-century moral panic – or even a whole series of them, all playing on the same themes.

How scared should you really be, though?

Blue Whale

The size of the animal this Internet mythos was named after is roughly proportional to the complexity of this story. Here’s the basic breakdown:

Several girls in Russia committed suicide over the span of a few months in 2024. This in itself was not actually that uncommon, as Russia has a fairly high teen suicide rate, but a few patterns started to emerge. The parents of some of the girls found that they had been members of the same online groups that were discussing suicide, and also, for some reason, blue whales (we’re still not sure why).

A Russian investigative journalist started connecting the dots in 2024, and her article in the Novaya Gazeta set off a firestorm across first Russia, then the world. She claimed she had uncovered evidence of twisted games spreading across these online groups, with “curators” setting fifty tasks for participants to complete over fifty days. They could start small, like having them wake up early, listen to a certain type of music, or watch scary videos, but would progress to acts of self-harm, ending with suicide. She further claimed that at least 130 children had died because of this game.

How true was all this? That’s very much an unknown, but the game likely never existed at anything like the suggested scale. Indeed, the resulting media coverage may have been more damaging than the actual phenomenon, since this gave the Blue Whale idea international recognition. Further investigation revealed that most of the online groups discussing the game were run by 12- to 14-year-olds who were themselves waiting for the game to start. There may have been some suicides attributable to the story, but none have been linked to following the fifty-step game.

There were apparently several arrests, with several men admitting involvement in the game. However, the vast majority of stories on these arrests were run in tabloids, not reliable news sources, and the primary suspect was quite possibly pretending to be involved to get publicity for his music.

Essentially, Blue Whale was a transcontinental Internet moral panic that remains unconfirmed. Scary, yes, and quite possibly containing grains of truth, but most likely a case of a few isolated incidents being woven together into a narrative that may have inspired copycats and created the very phenomenon it claimed to be uncovering.

Slenderman

The Slenderman character spawned stories, images, wikis, blogs, and even video games, and the wealth of serious-toned information that became available about him on the Internet could probably convince a casual reader that Slenderman was indeed a real urban legend, despite his origins being explicitly known. That’s what happened in 2014 when two girls in Wisconsin took one of their classmates to the woods and stabbed her repeatedly, claiming it was because of Slenderman.

You might be able to guess the pattern of the events that followed: the story spread like wildfire across the media and a moral panic ensued across most of the U.S, with social media playing a big role in the quick spread of parental concern. Probably thanks to the media coverage, copycat actions began to spring up, and a few other reports of children doing violent things under the influence of Slenderman popped up.

This is probably the most justified Internet panic since there was an igniting incident that can be directly attributed to web-based content. The idea that Slenderman could cause an otherwise mentally healthy child to do something violent, though, was simply a scare tactic that worked to get the story out. While exposure to this type of content could be an issue for someone with a condition, the dark hypnosis that people tend to fear in this type of scenario is not a concern at all.

The Momo Challenge

In some ways, Blue Whale, Slenderman, and Momo can be thought of as a sort of a trilogy, since they were all Internet-generated panics centered around children being influenced towards violence. Much like Slenderman, the disturbing image of Momo was actually created by someone – a Japanese special effects artist.

Like the Blue Whale incident, the Momo Challenge was supposed to lead to children killing themselves. And, much like both of its predecessors, the actual damage attributable to Momo is likely minimal – the panic over it likely inspired much more than any real scheme could have.

So what was/is Momo? According to popular myth, you could text a Whatsapp account called Momo, which used the birdlike, wide-mouthed monster as an avatar. You would then receive back a series of messages with an ever-escalating set of challenges. You probably know how it ends: you kill yourself. That’s not all, either: apparently, clips of Momo were also being embedded in kids programming on YouTube and circulated around the Internet, telling kids to do violent things.

The picture itself is enough to creep you out, so when you couple it with an unsettling story and bring kids into it, it’s pretty much a made-for-social-media viral hit. Even Kim Kardashian tweeted about it. Fortunately for everyone, this is probably the least-real panic of the trilogy, since there is almost no confirmed harm linked to Momo. Some have claimed that suicides have been linked, but no confirmed evidence has been found. The worst thing that might possibly be connected with Momo or Momo-themed accounts is hacking attempts aimed at trying to get people to give up personal information, but even this is a fairly vague claim.

The Game of 72

Though the biggest panics tend to involve violence, it seems like there’s always a new smaller one coming up in circulation. The Game of 72 (or 48, 24, 12, etc.) started when a girl in France disappeared for three days, then came back and claimed she had been playing a game.

Despite the story being picked up internationally and sparking fears that kids were playing a “pretend you’re missing to get social media attention” game, there were actually no other confirmed cases of any children doing anything similar at all, despite the rumor resurfacing several times and sparking a new frenzy of tabloid coverage and concerned social media shares. If anything, you’d think that all the media attention would have inspired a few attempts, but nope, nothing yet.

So when should we panic?

How about when people start eating Tide Pods? That seems like a good time. Ironically, one of the funniest Internet challenges also turned out to be one of the most dangerous, since people had actually been getting poisoned from Tide Pods before the meme ever began, and once the Internet had its way with it, Tide Pod poisoning cases did indeed go up.

They just look a lot like candy, and very young and very old people were already accidentally taking bites. Possibly because nobody thought it could really be that bad – it’s just soap, right? – some people actually tried it, both on and off social media. This did not go well, as concentrated laundry chemicals are actually pretty dangerous when ingested.

Given that most Internet panics are hoaxes, or at least blown out of proportion, you’re right to be skeptical when you see a repost claiming that teenagers are doing some crazy thing. But the Internet can be a genuinely dangerous place, with things like cyberbullying, blackmail, and exploitation running rampant over some dark corners.

It’s not wrong to be careful, but it is arguably wrong to perpetuate a potentially damaging myth since you might end up helping create something that started out as imaginary. “Google before you share” is a mantra that would certainly make the Internet a more boring place, but it could also help prevent actual harm.

Image credits: Slendermdl70

Andrew Braun

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You're reading Momo, Slender Man, 72 Hours, And The Stories Behind Other Internet Panics

The Psychology Behind Link Giving

The citation method of ranking indexed content is flawed. It is based on human aid, and any technology based on the work of humans is always going to have flaws. Links are the product of what elicits an emotion from website owners, and the link builder that can tap these emotions is going to be able to manipulate the most important element in search rankings.

Emotion Self-Regulation

The concept of emotional self-regulation is defined as:

being able to properly regulate one’s emotions. It is a complex process that involves the initiating, inhibiting, or modulating the following aspects of functioning

The concept is based on being able to understand the following:

4. emotion-related behavior (e.g actions or facial expressions related to emotion).

Broken down; many of our actions are guided by emotions that originally fueled by thoughts brought on by stimuli around us. These actions in turn have results, that often fuel future thoughts, and thus the cycle continues.

When looking at this concept it is important to also understand the gamut of emotions the human mind deals with. Robert Plutchik defined emotions and their polar opposites through the creation of the following wheel:

Understanding these concepts can unlock a marketers understanding of many actions of a consumer, and the same can be said for the link builder. Linking is an action, and that action can be elicited by many emotions. The most basic of these is the initiation point of the link buy. The thought of someone confronted with an offer to sell a link is “I can monetize this site I have built” and the following emotion is contentment in the material concept of payment, the action is the link. The psychology of someone giving a link can be broken down by this cycle, and by creating quality initiation points that cause Thoughts that cause desired emotions, a link builder can skillfully achieve links for any website.

The Psychology of Link Bait Joy: A Case Study

Interest: A Case Study

SEOmoz’s Search Ranking Factors is a huge link sponge in our industry. It is an impressive piece of content that evolves. This is often called “resource” based content by link baiters, and resources like any other content bring forth action based on emotion. Search marketers want to know the most important factors to focus on in their campaigns, SEOmoz initiates the thought through this content, the marketer wonders if the factors are the key they are looking for, this elicits interest, and in response they read the factors and share them on social media sites and their blogs.

Admiration/Contempt: The Double Edged Case Study

Barney Frank Confronts Woman

This piece of content is very interesting. That is because depending on political stance your opinion will change, and thus your emotion. Supporters of the healthcare plan in question felt admiration for Barney Frank for standing up to insane comparisons of Obama to Hitler. On the other hand people that did not care for the healthcare legislation felt their contempt for the concept fueled by the woman’s questions. Looking through the backlinks you will see a mixture of supporters and detractors linking.

Beyond Link Bait

This concept is why link bait captures links, but it can work for all link building. All that a builder must do is work backwards. The desired result is always a link, the builder must decide what emotion is going to achieve this action from their target, create a targeted thought process that will elicit this emotion, and a piece of content that will bring this thought into the targets mind.

A great current example of this is Invesp’s 100 Most Influential Internet Marketers campaign. Their goal is to get links from the top internet marketers in the industry. In order to get that action they want to elicit an emotion of pride. The thought that brings for this feeling is the marketer realizing “I am regarded as one of the top practitioners at what I do.” The initiation point for this is the campaign itself, and the badge that is given to winners to display their pride in the achievement.

This is obviously a much lower converting tactic as it is hard to get web owners to think your puckering up is anything more than disingenuous.

What Gartner And Other Industry

As noted by Gartner, IT teams, in reality, are dealing with increasing amounts of data and a variety of tools to monitor that data, which can mean significant delays in identifying and solving issues. Padraig Byrne, Senior Director Analyst at Gartner said, “IT operations are challenged by the rapid growth in data volumes generated by IT infrastructure and applications that must be captured, analyzed and acted on. Coupled with the reality that IT operations teams often work in disconnected silos, this makes it challenging to ensure that the most urgent incident at any given time is being addressed.” Such urgent incidents include high-severity outages and other IT operations problems that are needed to be quickly prevented. For this, businesses are moving towards artificial intelligence (AI) for IT operations (AIOps). It is an application of ML and data science to IT operations problems. AIOps-enabled platforms amalgamate big data and ML features to enhance or partially replace IT operations functions which may include availability and performance monitoring, event correlation and analysis, and IT service management and automation. Dennis Drogseth, vice president of consultancy Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) said, “AIOps will evolve from a pure-play category to more of a tech-enabling category, with platforms that look different and have different purposes. Also, some vendors are focused on the application performance management space, while others will concentrate on security, cloud, DevOps, and ITMS.” He further added that “it’s still early days to know for sure how the platforms will evolve but it’s clear that AIOps is an enabler for helping with ‘what’s turning out to be a variety of platforms with different levels of complexity.’” Thomas Eurick who serves as the supervisor of service delivery operations, manages operations teams that oversee and monitor all of Zebra’s tech platforms throughout their lifecycle noted that dealing with system complexity was the goal at Zebra Technologies, which manufactures printers and ruggedized mobile devices. He said, “a lot of the platforms are cloud- and container-based and new to the company, but they also run on on-premises systems as well.” Zebra deployed an AIOps platform on the public cloud and enabled it to correlate some events. According to Eurick, “we are in the applied mode for certain groups of resources and observe mode for others. IT hasn’t done anything “aggressive” with AIOps yet, but he plans to more deeply tune and leverage the system heading into 2023.” Eurick says that Zebra’s AIOps platform “has squashed some alerts floods, so rather than getting 50 alerts, it has correlated them into one. When I have something broad going on in multiple services, it reduces the noise.”  

Dennis Drogseth Take on Where AIOps Will Shine

As per Drogseth’s affirmation, AIOps is ideal for use cases where IT wants to look for anomalies within a lot of data. He said, IT vendors will have many different approaches for doing this including some will focus on microservices and containers; some on the cloud; and some platforms will support mainframes where others won’t. He predicts that in the future, automation will be key and in 2023, users can expect to see more platforms that integrate automation with AIOps as well as with their existing investments in ITSM platforms and other IT processes.

Best N95 And Other High

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Written By Rebecca Sohn

Published Mar 22, 2023 9:28 AM

Two years (and counting) into the COVID-19 pandemic, most of us have gotten used to wearing a face mask. Since the disease’s earliest days, cloth masks offered a convenient and stylish way to don the essential accessory, but most common textiles aren’t great at filtering out the tiniest droplets, called aerosols, that might carry the SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. As the highly contagious Omicron variant dominated virus cases in the US and around the world, the CDC leaned on recommendations for switching to a high-filtration mask (also called a respirator). These masks—which bare standards like N95, KN95, and KF94—will provide you with the highest level of protection from COVID-19. In January 2023, the US government started a program giving out free N95s at pharmacies. Anyone can also supplement the freebies with readily available and relatively inexpensive options, as well. But how do you know which of these masks will provide the best protection? Here’s what you need to know to pick the right one.

How we chose the best high-filtration masks

Based on our expert source’s experiences with masks and filtration data, we selected eight adult masks and four children’s masks to try out ourselves. We also tested four ways to make a surgical mask more effective. We evaluated the options based on their fit and comfort, while also making sure the masks didn’t leave any gap that allowed exhalations to escape—and that they were easy to put on and to wear for long periods of time.   

Things to consider before buying a high-filtration mask Filtration

N95, KN95, and KF94 masks all have high filtration efficiency, meaning the materials they are made of, which usually consist of several layers, are extremely effective at filtering out tiny particles. These materials, such as polypropylene, are usually non-woven and sometimes carry an electrostatic charge, which attracts these particles and traps them in the filter. N95 masks are approved by the United States government agency the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH). NIOSH greenlights these masks’ use for people in workplaces who are exposed to any kind of hazardous small particles, from viruses to smoke to remnants from construction or industrial processes. The “95” means that the mask is designed to filter out 95 percent of particles that are 0.3 microns across. (For comparison, a single human hair is usually between 50 and 90 microns wide.) Because of the way these filters work, smaller or larger particles would be filtered out more effectively. N95 masks attach to your face using headbands, creating a tight seal.

KN95 is a similar designation for masks in terms of filtration, but these masks meet standards set by the Chinese government. It’s more common for non-healthcare workers in the US to wear these than N95s. These masks also often have ear loops, making them easier to put on and more comfortable to wear than N95s, though there are some headband-style versions. This standard has, however, proven problematic: The CDC warns that many KN95s in The States are counterfeit, so if you choose this route buying from a reputable seller is key—and we prioritized varieties that have mechanisms for verifying their authenticity. 

KF94 masks are usually made in South Korea—the “KF” stands for “Korean filter,” while the “94” denotes 94 percent filtration of the same type of tiny particle. Like KN95s, the masks are used mostly by the general public and have ear loops. Though KF94s technically filter out 1 percent less particles than KN95s, they’re “really pretty close to a KN95,” says Nina Shapiro, a pediatric ear, nose, and throat doctor at UCLA Health. A very small August 2023 study also found that KF94s and KN95s provided similar protection.

Fit

Although there are small differences between these types of masks, no product will be effective unless it fits your face. A small January 2023 study found that even slight facial differences had a significant impact on how well any mask, even a NIOSH-approved N95, fits and therefore functions effectively.

“Everyone’s faces are different,” says Thomas Russo, professor and chief of infectious disease at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Bioscience at the University of Buffalo. “And masks are designed differently as well.” From cup-shaped and “duckbill” N95s, to KN95s that fold down the middle, to the boat shape of many KF94s, there are a lot of options to fit different face shapes and sizes.

If you’re trying to figure out if your mask fits well, “the best way to do that is that is to look around the seal itself to assure there are no gaps,” says David Marcozzi, chief clinical officer at the University of Maryland Medical Center and professor of emergency medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. This means the mask forms a firm seal around your nose, mouth, and chin that conforms as closely as possible to the contours of your face.

You might be able to feel on your face if air is coming out of any gaps. “When you exhale, you can feel the jets of air coming out” if the mask doesn’t fit well, says Scott Sanders, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. You can also try holding up your hands to the edges of your mask while you exhale to see if you can feel the air that way. If you wear glasses, fogging them up might be a sign you don’t have a good seal; though “mask nerd” Aaron Collins points out in a video that minor fogging isn’t necessarily an issue, since a well-fitting mask can trap the warm, humid air of your breath as you exhale, causing it to flow upward and condense on your glasses.

Healthcare workers and others using N95 masks undergo a formal fit test. This includes using a spray with a scent, like banana oil, around a person’s head, and if the person can smell the spray with the mask on, the process gets repeated with a different mask until one passes the test. Obviously, the average person won’t go through this, but Marcozzi says you can try holding a lit match or lighter about six inches from your face with the mask on and blowing on it: If the flame wavers or goes out, your mask might not be working well. You can also smell perfume with the mask on and off to see if you can tell the difference.

Comfort

“If it’s an uncomfortable mask, it doesn’t matter how good it is if you’re not going to wear it,” says Shapiro. This is especially true for children, she says, who might just take their mask off if they think it’s uncomfortable. To be functional, a mask should also be breathable, easy to put on and take off, and wearable for long periods of time. Like fit, many of these things depend on your face shape and personal preference.

“For one person, they might find the elastic strap [around the head] something that is too tight, it’s uncomfortable, they don’t like dealing with it. And another person, it makes them feel more secure,” says Russo. “There’s a certain amount of individualization here in terms of what works best for you.”

The best masks: Reviews & recommendations Best N95 mask: 3M Aura N95 

Why it made the cut: A favorite for its comfort and adjustable fit, this mask offers one of the best seals. 

Specs: 

Fit: Headband 

Nose piece: Foam padding and wire

NIOSH Certification: Yes

Pros: 

Excellent, adjustable fit

Tight seal

Very breathable, and no fogging

Great for smaller faces and head sizes

Cons:

Fit can be too tight

3M masks in general are one of the standards for industrial and medical uses. These have foam padding around the nose, making them more comfortable as well as better-fitting than many other N95s. Sanders calls the Aura mask “pretty forgiving” as far as the fit goes. “As long as you wear it,” he said, “you get a good seal.” Like many N95s, they are on the tighter side, but I found that once I got used to it, this mask was not uncomfortable—especially if, like me, you have a relatively small head and face. The mask is also very breathable and easily passed the glasses-fogging test, due to its foam and very flexible nose wire. The tri-fold “boat” shape, more common in KF94s, means the mask conforms more closely to the face than many masks, including the Powecom KN95.

Why it made the cut: Compared to other face-squeezing N95 options, this funny-looking respirator gains great points for its comfort. 

Specs:

Fit: Headband

Nose piece: Bendable wire

NIOSH Certification: Yes

Pros: 

Extremely comfortable

Excellent breathability

Fits most adult faces

Cons: 

Funny looking

Looser seal than some other N95s

Though these masks aren’t intended for healthcare workers, they’re true N95s. Plus: you’ll probably not find an N95 as comfortable, wearable, and easy to adjust as these bill-like offerings. With headband straps made of comfortable, stretchy fabric and broad, extremely bendable nose wire, they can adjust to fit snugly over almost any face, though not quite as snugly as the Aura masks. They are also super breathable. Their main downside is that they look a bit strange, which is why you likely won’t see as many in public places. Some people might also prefer tighter N95 masks if they feel that it gives them a more secure seal. But with a NIOSH certification, these masks will still protect you extremely well. If you want great protection and don’t care what you look like, these might be perfect.

Why it made the cut: In a sea of potentially counterfeit masks, this comfortable, affordable option offers a way to verify its authenticity. 

Specs:

Fit: Ear loops

Nose piece: Adjustable wire

NIOSH Certification: No

Pros: 

Anti-counterfeit QR code

Fits well on small faces

Very breathable and no fog on glasses

Cons: 

Prone to copycats

Not US certified

Though these were my go-to mask before researching this guide, several sources also recommended these Chinese-made KN95 masks. They have a common bi-fold style and ear loops (though they’re also available with headbands), with a wire across the top to create a better seal around the nose. The masks are comfortable to wear even for long periods of time, take almost no time to put on, and fit even smaller faces like mine snugly and securely. 

They are also extremely breathable; I found mine to be far more breathable than a cloth mask. The nose wire also bends well to fit the shape of the nose with minimal adjustment, and did not fog up my glasses after I molded it in place. (Note: I do not typically wear glasses and tested each mask using clear blue light glasses and sunglasses.)

Powecom masks also come with an anti-counterfeit code that you can enter on their website to make sure the product isn’t a knock-off. The numbers are at the bottom of a small QR code on the bottom of the packaging, and you scratch off a protective coating in order to reveal them.

Best KF94 mask: Bluna Facefit KF94

Why it made the cut: Adjustable straps make this South Korean mask variety ideal for finding a fit that’s both comfy and snug. 

Specs:

Fit: Ear loops

Nose piece: Adjustable wire

NIOSH Certification: No

Pros: 

Adjustable ear loops

No glasses fogging

Somewhat stylish

Good for larger faces

Cons:

Can dig into noses

Not a great fit on smaller faces

This mask is unobtrusive, stylish, and conforms to the profile of the face without sticking out. The straps are adjustable, and I got the mask to conform well enough to my nose and cheeks to not fog up my glasses by substantially pinching the nose wire and pulling it away from my face. The mask forms a secure seal that, as the name suggests, fit my face, extending from the bridge of the nose to the very bottom of the chin (another KF94 mask I tested, the BOTN mask, only covered a portion of my jaw and chin, which felt far less secure).

While this mask is effective and convenient, it dug into the bridge of my nose, making it increasingly uncomfortable to wear over time. Because the mask was very large on me without adjusting the straps, I had to tweak them significantly to get a good seal around my chin—all of which possibly contributed to the mask’s tightness on the upper half of my face. This mask might work well for you if you have a wide chin and jaw, and a broad, less prominent nose.

Best mask to make a statement: MaskLab KF-style

Why it made the cut: Held to the same standard as other high-filtration offerings, this facewear offers a variety of colors and patterns that add a little extra flair. 

Specs:

Fit: Ear loops

Nose piece: Adjustable wire

NIOSH Certification: No

Pros: 

Available in a variety of colors

TIght seal

Good for larger faces

Cons:

Some glasses fogging

Not ideal for smaller faces

Nose wire doesn’t always hold its shape

Because these masks are made in Hong Kong, they are technically not true KF94s, but still conform to rigorous safety standards for high-filtration masks. This mask did not have adjustable ear loops, though it is easy to knot and/or twist the straps to adjust the mask (you can even make a slip knot for easier adjustability). The design of KF94s means this will not create any gaps or otherwise negatively impact the fit.

Besides the non-adjustable ear loops, this mask felt very similar to other KN94s. It formed a secure seal that went all the way down to cover my chin, but also dug into the bridge of my nose. The nose wire did not conform to my shape quite as easily as the one on the Bluna mask. Though I managed to bend it enough to avoid fogging up my glasses all but very slightly, the nose wire did not hold its shape as well as the one on the other mask. This mask might work well for you if you have a generally larger face and head, as well as the broad chin and less prominent nose described above.

Best mask for kids: BOTN Child Fit KF94

Why it made the cut: Of the four masks we tried, our pint-sized tester’s parents preferred this one due to its comfort and adjustability. 

Specs: 

FIt: Ear loops

Nose piece: Adjustable wire

NIOSH Certification: No

Pros: 

Adjustable ear loops

Tight seal

Comfortable

Cons: 

Flat black color may not entice kiddos 

This mask fit our tester, age 5, the best and most securely out of the four tried—largely because of the adjustable ear loops. As with adults, a high-quality mask is only as good as its fit, and because children have such variable face sizes, an adjustable mask like this one may be especially helpful. Our tester also preferred earloop masks over headband-style ones because they were easy to put on and didn’t mess up her hair.  

“Mask hacks” and alternatives

If you have a bunch of surgical masks and really don’t want to or can’t afford to invest in these high-filtration masks, there are a few ways that you can try to make your surgical mask more effective. Most surgical options are made of high-filtration material but do not conform well to the face. To give yourself a better seal, you can double-mask. One study published in American Journal of Infection Control found that wearing a cloth mask over a surgical one made protection about 85-91 percent effective at filtering out aerosols. You can also try this mask-knotting trick to make your face covering tighter-fitting.

Another option is using a mask brace, which gives you a tight seal by holding a surgical mask closely against the face. The same study found that an elastic mask brace can make your surgical mask up to 95-99 percent effective, similar to an N95. I tried three mask braces: the University of Wisconsin, Madison’s Badger Seal, Fix the Mask’s Essential Mask Brace, and a brace made from a Fix the Mask template that you can make yourself. 

At around 8 dollars for a pre-made brace, the Badger Seal was the most affordable as well as the easiest to put on. This brace isn’t made of purely elastic materials, but Aaron Collins found that it performed basically the same as Fix the Mask’s brace; when worn over a surgical mask, both made it so that the mask filtered out about 97 percent of the particles in his test. But here’s the bad news: I found these braces to be uncomfortable. They press down very firmly on the face, particularly the bridge of the nose. In fact, they are as tight as many N95s, but are harder to put on. Most people would prefer a KN95 or KF94 mask for comfort and convenience.  

FAQs

High-filtration masks like N95s, KN95s, and KF94s provide the best protection against COVID-19. For the best possible filtration, wear a mask that is a good fit for your individual face shape. These masks can be comfortable, breathable, and affordable, and in some cases, may be available for free. No matter how prevalent the virus is in your area, these masks can help protect you, your community, and the people you love from COVID-19.

The Truth Behind The Recent Southwest Flight Cancellations

More than 2,000 Southwest flights have been canceled over the past few days, frustrating customers and sparking theories on social media. The problems began last Friday, with the airline attributing the mass changes to severe weather and air traffic control issues, which the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) later confirmed in part. 

Further, the FAA tweeted that “military training, limited staffing in one area of the Jacksonville en route center” may also be factors that are contributing to Friday’s delays and cancellations, and “some airlines continue to experience scheduling challenges due to aircraft and crews being out of place.”

But while the FAA insists complications on its end were cleared up before the weekend, Southwest continued to struggle, canceling more than 1,800 flights across Saturday and Sunday. According to the New York Times, that amounted to more than 28 percent of its planned schedule. The Associated Press reported that hundreds more were canceled Monday and nearly 40 percent of those that remained on the schedule were delayed.

ATC issues and disruptive weather have resulted in a high volume of cancellations throughout the weekend while we work to recover our operation. We appreciate your patience as we accommodate affected Customers, and Customer Service wait times are longer than usual. (1/2) chúng tôi Southwest Airlines (@SouthwestAir) October 9, 2023

This is the second time in less than four months that Southwest has found itself grounding a significant sect of its planes—in June, the airline experienced two system-wide computer outages that disrupted more than 1,700 flights. The Times said Southwest’s incoming chief executive, Robert Jordan, also pointed to the loss of “thousands of employees” throughout the pandemic as another of the contributing factors for those cancellations. The labor shortage in this sector of the transportation industry has been escalating since the start of summer, as Americans started traveling again, and many airports across the country as well as several major airlines have all felt the squeeze, Vox reported in June.

The timing of this latest string of cancellations attracted significant attention on social media, as they began after the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) asked a federal court to block the airline’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate. 

[Related: The pandemic could shrink the global aviation fleet by nearly 10 percent]

“We want to be perfectly clear: SWAPA is not anti-vaccination, but we do believe that, under all circumstances, it is our role to represent the health and safety of our Pilots and bring their concerns to the Company,” the pilot’s union said in a statement announcing their intentions. It also described these legal actions as part of an ongoing federal lawsuit SWAPA filed against Southwest in August for allegedly violating labor laws by failing to bargain with the union before making changes that impact worker operations and benefits. 

The court appearance coupled with the cancellations led many to speculate that the two might be connected, and an unsubstantiated theory about a coordinated pilot “sick-out” gained traction after being amplified by Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) on Twitter. However, the FAA, SWAPA, and Southwest have all pushed back on this idea. 

“To be clear: None of the information from Southwest, its pilots union, or the FAA indicates that this weekend’s cancellations were related to vaccine mandates,” the FAA tweeted Monday.

[Related: COVID-19 continues to make flying a risky proposition]

SWAPA President Casey Murray redirected the blame back at Southwest, calling the back-to-back days of cancellations an “operational meltdown” and saying that the airline’s operations have become “brittle and subject to massive failures under the slightest pressure.” 

[Related: United fliers can soon use PayPal’s new QR codes to buy chips and booze in the sky]

“There are false claims of job actions by Southwest Pilots currently gaining traction on social media and making their way into mainstream news. I can say with certainty that there are no work slowdowns or sickouts either related to the recent mandatory vaccine mandate or otherwise,” Murray said in a statement, noting that the union is not authorized to take such actions. 

On Monday, Southwest tweeted that it was working to “stabilize” operations and expected to “resume normal service” this week. However, a tweet Tuesday from reporter Jason Dinant told a different story, showing a long line outside of Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport for Southwest customers. 

Wow. The line for @SouthwestAir at @LASairport right now. Are you flying today from #Vegas? Share a photo. chúng tôi Jason Dinant 🇺🇸🏳️‍🌈 (@JasonDinant) October 12, 2023

In the replies, Southwest apologized for the long lines and inconvenience. While the airline’s website warns of long hold times for customer service assistance calls, the airline has been helping individual customers who tagged them on Twitter with rebooking or refunding their flights.

Behind The Wheel Of The Thunderous Lamborghini Aventador

We’ve entered the twilight of combustion-engine vehicles, but Lamborghini is going all in on the gas-burning tech in the form of its Aventador supercar, the LP 780-4 Ultimae, with its naturally aspirated, non-electric-assisted V12 engine. 

Decoded, the name “LP 780-4 Ultimae” means “Longitudinale Posteriore,” which indicates that the engine is situated longways and mounted behind the driver. The “780” is the car’s metric horsepower rating, and the “-4” represents its all-wheel drive. “Ultimae” is self-evident as “final,” even to those of us who didn’t spend much time in Latin class, indicating that this Aventador is the last in the line.

The Aventador is the flagship Lamborghini V12 mid-engine missile, descended from the sultry 1966 Miura, through the menacing 1974 Countach, the oft-overlooked 1990 Diablo, and the stupendous 2001 Murcielago. The template for this model gained flip-up scissor doors with the Countach, and the engine has gotten progressively larger over the decades, nearly doubling in size from the Miura’s 3.9 liters and 430 horsepower to 6.5 liters and 770 hp.

Lamborghini’s V12 model gained all-wheel drive with the Diablo VT in 1993 to help put the V12’s power to the road. The 2023 Aventador S debuted four-wheel steering to aid the agility of the car, which has gotten bigger and heavier over the years.

For the Ultimae edition, the Aventador’s 6.5-liter V12 gains 10 horsepower, bringing the car’s final peak output to 770 naturally aspirated, non-electrically assisted horsepower. At full throttle, the engine’s song is nothing less than appropriately thunderous. This is the theater that buyers are paying for when they purchase such an overt machine, and the Aventador delivers.

However, when driven gently, the engine can relax and step into the background a bit, letting the driver burble around town on its 531 lb.-ft. of torque. In combination with the power steering and four-wheel steering (which aids the ability to maneuver through traffic) the Aventador Ultimae is surprisingly docile when driven like an ordinary car.

Shifting gears

This vehicle features a traditional single-clutch Graziano 7-speed transmission that the car shifts automatically. It also operates the clutch, so the Aventador has no clutch pedal. However, single-clutch transmissions require the engine’s power to be interrupted for gear changes. With a traditional manual transmission, drivers become proficient at easing off the accelerator before a shift and easing back into it, to smooth the shift process rather than lurching the vehicle’s occupants.

Driving the Aventador like a regular automatic transmission car, holding the accelerator pedal steady during acceleration as you’d normally do, produces noticeable driver’s-ed lurches as the computer disengages the clutch, changes gears, and re-engages it. 

This seems to be most pronounced in casual driving using the car’s Strada (Street) mode, until the driver masters the art of participating in gear changes as they would while driving a manual transmission car (because this actually is one) and eases off the gas before the automatic shift and eases back into it after. Sport mode driving is similar.

I’ve noticed when driving Aventadors on the track in Corsa (“Race”) mode that the problem mostly disappears because the shifts happen mostly at full throttle and are blazing fast at 50 millisecond. For street driving, the Aventador requests some involvement for best results.

On a racetrack, the Ultimae rips to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds and then keeps on going all the way to a top speed of 220 mph. At elevated speeds, the rear-wheel steering system provides enhanced stability rather than agility by reversing its function and steering the rear wheels in parallel with the fronts. 

Carbon fiber is strong and light, but can be a challenging material with which to work. Lamborghini

Working with carbon fiber

The Aventador’s lightweight carbon fiber chassis helps the vehicle achieve its maximum performance, and its strength should help keep occupants safe at the car’s terminal velocity. 

Lamborghini let me participate in a hands-on carbon fiber workshop so I can appreciate just how difficult the labor-intensive process of creating carbon fiber parts really is. Verdict: very!

The first step is to don protective equipment. That means cut-resistant Kevlar gloves and a Kevlar sleeve on your non-dominant arm (because the knife will be in your other hand), and some rubber gloves topping the Kevlar gloves for protection from the resin in the carbon fiber.

Lamborghini technicians lay out molds on a table for us to make various parts. I work on a simple tray and a more complex vent. Each part is made of pre-cut sections of carbon fiber fabric that is pre-impregnated with resin and kept refrigerated. These sections are cut to the right shape by a computer-controlled fabric cutter that works sort of like a plotter, but rather than drawing a defined pattern on the material, it cuts the material into that shape.

After peeling the backing paper off, I press the carbon fiber pattern pieces one at a time into their correct positions in the mold using a white plastic tool. Their resin adheres them in place, and I trim away any excess with a razor knife. After I think I’m finished, a technician attempts to correct my most egregious mistakes to get the fabric into the best possible position.

Then, I wrap the whole project in blue release plastic that serves as a layer between the carbon fiber and the white batting fabric that goes on top next. This is called “breather” because it facilitates the removal of air around the carbon fiber.

I slide this entire assembly into a vacuum bag, bleeding trapped air out through the vent valve. When I’m done, I connect a vacuum pump to the valve, and after about 20 minutes the sloppy mess has contracted down to a smart-looking object about the shape of the intended final product. This is what will go into the autoclave for curing at high temperature and pressure to produce the final part.

The light weight of the carbon fiber parts contributes to the Aventador’s shocking speed. The rest comes from the ability of the V12 to extract power from exploded gasoline without the aid of turbocharging or electric motors.

Hybrids are the next step for hypercars, as Lamborghini seeks to preserve the traditional character of its cars until we finally convert entirely to power by electrons rather than hydrocarbons. It may be a necessary change, but we’ll have the Ultimae to remind us of the combustion-engine theatrics that came before. 

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