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The Great Lightbulb Conspiracy

The Phoebus cartel engineered a shorter-lived lightbulb and gave birth to planned obsolescence

12 min read
Illustration of light bulb
Photo-illustration: Gluekit

article opening artPhoto-illustration: Gluekit; Lightbulb: Fin Stewart

On 23 December 1924, a group of leading international businessmen gathered in Geneva for a meeting that would alter the world for decades to come. Present were top representatives from all the major lightbulb manufacturers, including Germany’s Osram, the Netherlands’ Philips, France’s Compagnie des Lampes, and the United States’ General Electric. As revelers hung Christmas lights elsewhere in the city, the group founded the Phoebus cartel, a supervisory body that would carve up the worldwide incandescent lightbulb market, with each national and regional zone assigned its own manufacturers and production quotas. It was the first cartel in history to enjoy a truly global reach.

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When Gamers Get Nasty

Researchers grapple with subjectivity as they develop aIgorithms to detect toxicity in online gaming

2 min read
A man wearing a headset is seen in a dark room playing video games
Getty Images

Online gaming is a chance for players to come together, socialize and enjoy some friendly competition. Unfortunately, this enjoyable activity can be hindered by abusive language and toxicity, negatively impacting the gaming experience and causing psychological harm. Gendered and racial toxicity, in particular, are all too common in online gaming.

To combat this issue, various groups of researchers have been developing AI models that can detect toxic behavior in real-time as people play. One group recently developed a new model, which is described in a study published May 23 in IEEE Transactions on Games. While the model can detect toxicity with a fair amount of accuracy, its development demonstrates just how challenging it can be to determine what is considered toxic—a subjective matter.

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Quantum Computing for Dummies

New guide helps beginners run quantum algorithms on IBM's quantum computers over the cloud

3 min read
An image of the inside of an IBM quantum computer.
IBM

Quantum computers may one day rapidly find solutions to problems no regular computer might ever hope to solve, but there are vanishingly few quantum programmers when compared with the number of conventional programmers in the world. Now a new beginner's guide aims to walk would-be quantum programmers through the implementation of quantum algorithms over the cloud on IBM's publicly available quantum computers.

Whereas classical computers switch transistors either on or off to symbolize data as ones or zeroes, quantum computers use quantum bits, or "qubits," which because of the peculiar nature of quantum physics can exist in a state called superposition where they are both 1 and 0 at the same time. This essentially lets each qubit perform two calculations at once. The more qubits are quantum-mechanically linked, or entangled (see our explainer), within a quantum computer, the greater its computational power can grow, in an exponential fashion.

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