May 2020 - UI39

Archive Monthly Archives: May 2020

Study: Volcanoes on Mars were to blame for massive mud flows, not lava

Mud volcanoes on Mars could be the cause of distinctive features that most researchers had thought were left over from ancient lava flows. Tens of thousands of channels spread out over the Martian surface. Hundreds of kilometers long, and tens of miles wide, these ribbon canyons reach far across the ruddy landscape of Mars.

Planetary science suggests these features were carved out as massive floods, comparable in size to the largest ever seen on Earth, tore across the surface of Mars long ago. As the water settled into the Martian crust, it (naturally) formed mud. Rapid freezing could have led to eruptions of mud in the regions, the study concludes.

This mud volcano in Azerbaijan may be similar to features seen on Mars, and other small, frozen worlds around the Solar System. Image credit: Petr Brož Czech Academy of Sciences

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“The rapid burial of water-rich sediments after such flooding could have led to sedimentary volcanism, in which mixtures of sediment and water (mud) erupt to the surface. Tens of thousands of volcano-like landforms populate the northern lowlands and other local [high sediment regions] on Mars,” researchers explained in an article published in Nature Geoscience.

Cold, thin, and always being photographed. Yep, it’s a model

Using the Mars Chamber at the Open University, researchers developed simulations of mud moving across the surface of the Red Planet. These models simulated frigid temperatures, as well as low pressures, like those seen today on Mars.

A pahoehoe flow from the Kilauea Volcano encounters a road in Hawaii. Image credit: USGS

The team poured thin mud over a cold, sandy surface inside the Mars Chamber, as multiple cameras recorded the behavior of the materials within the chamber.

At the end of the experiment, the team found that flows created in the chamber were similar to those seen on Earth — specifically, pahoehoe flows found in Iceland and Hawaii.

This study suggests that the wet sediment, exposed to the low pressures and frigid temperatures of Mars, could have created regions replete with volcanoes of mud.

“Most people assume hot magmatic volcanic activity created all the features we see on Mars, but it looks like some of them may in fact be due to mud volcanism — meaning a potentially different geological history for Mars in terms of assumed volcanic activity,” Dr. Manish Patel, Senior Lecturer in Planetary Sciences at The Open University, states.

Sometimes, you can be too thin…

The atmosphere of Mars is exceedingly thin — less than one percent as dense as that found at sea level on Earth. In these conditions, water turns unstable, and quickly boils away, evaporating into the atmosphere. This process removes heat from the mud, resulting in a quick freeze of the muddy surface.

Channels and cracks like these could be the result of volcanoes of mud which erupt and quickly freeze around the Martian landscape. Image credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)

The study showed that liquid mud could erupt from under the frozen surface of these regions. Soon after erupting from the frozen crust, the liquid quickly freezes, forming a new flow lobe.

However, the mud flows formed under Martian conditions formed differently than similar experiments done under Earth like conditions. The unusual shapes formed under these conditions are similar to those seen in the mighty channels of Mars. The video below shows a look inside the experiment, as researchers model the flow of mud on the surface of Mars.

Mud volcanoes can be found on Earth, but they are far different than their counterparts on Mars. Recent research has revealed that water-rich volcanoes exist on many moons around the Solar System — possibly even the asteroid Ceres.

“We performed experiments in a vacuum chamber to simulate the release of mud on Mars. This is of interest because we see many flow-like features on Mars in spacecraft images, but they have not yet been visited by any of the roving vehicles on the surface and there is some ambiguity about whether they are flows of lava or mud,” explained Lionel Wilson, professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Lancaster University.

Ceres, the largest asteroid in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, is thought to possess a vast muddy ocean under its frozen crust. If so, this study could help explain geological processes happening within the diminutive planetoid and other small, icy bodies throughout the Solar System.

This article was originally published on The Cosmic Companion by James Maynard, founder and publisher of The Cosmic Companion. He is a New England native turned desert rat in Tucson, where he lives with his lovely wife, Nicole, and Max the Cat. You can read this original piece here.

Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion is also available as a weekly podcast, carried on all major podcast providers. Tune in every Tuesday for updates on the latest astronomy news, and interviews with astronomers and other researchers working to uncover the nature of the Universe.

Read next: Report: Podcasts have grown 129,000% (yes, percent) in the last decade

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This German town replicated itself in VR to keep its tourism alive

This article was originally published by Sarah Wray on Cities Today, the leading news platform on urban mobility and innovation, reaching an international audience of city leaders. For the latest updates follow Cities Today on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube, or sign up for Cities Today News.

Tourists may soon be able to explore the picturesque cross-timbered houses and historic churches of Herrenberg via virtual reality (VR), thanks to a digital twin developed with the High-Performance Computing Center Stuttgart (HLRS).

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Nicolai Reith, Head of the Control and Communication department and advisor to the Mayor of Herrenberg, told Cities Today: “You don’t have to make a decision and then see [what happens]; you can see before you make the decision what the effect will be via the digital twin. This makes it easier to make the right decision for our city council, politicians, and citizens.”Herrenberg is already using the digital twin, which incorporates super-computing and technologies typically deployed in advanced aerospace, to visualize city data and citizens’ emotional responses to inform better decision-making.

There are now plans to develop the emerging area of virtual tourism for the town, which has a population of around 31,000.

“We have a very beautiful city center so tourists can explore it in a digital way with VR glasses before they come to Herrenberg, which is an interesting benefit for the future,” Reith said.

[Read: UK cities trial ‘red carpet’ crosswalks to reduce pedestrian accidents]

Building a digital twin

HLRS developed Herrenberg’s digital twin together with the Fraunhofer Institute, the University of Stuttgart, and Kommunikationsbüro Ulmer, starting with a concept called ‘space syntax’.

Dr. Fabian Dembski of HLRS said: “Just as the human skeleton provides a scaffolding for all of the other systems and functions of the human body, space syntax produces a 2D outline of physical grids in a city, offering a framework for performing spatial analysis, such as predicting the likely paths that car or pedestrian traffic might take to move from one point to another.”

The team then added in geographic information system (GIS) data and traffic control systems data to incorporate topography, road geometry , and detailed traffic flows. Using the open-source fluid dynamics code OpenFOAM — which is typically used for modeling fuel injector sprays or airplane aerodynamics —they also created realistic models of the movement of wind and emissions through the city.

In addition, the HLRS team developed an app inviting Herrenberg residents to share feedback on whether certain locations in the town feel comfortable, unsafe, or ugly, for example.

Dembski said: “Emotions like joy and fear, the aesthetic experience of green space and architecture, and other emotion-driven factors play a major role in the success of urban design but are very difficult to represent in architectural models or simulations. Our approach is an early attempt to gather and incorporate these complicated datasets.”

The town’s leaders have used the digital twin’s interactive and immersive visualizations to consult with citizens more widely on projects such as a local shopping center.

Citizens could see the area in a digital way, even before it was finished, and that brings a higher [level of] acceptance. This is a really interesting thing for us,” Reith said.

Responses submitted by Herrenberg residents about how they experience their city was integrated with other data in a 3D visualization. (Image: HLRS)

Dembski’s team also plans to explore how artificial intelligence (AI) applications could be used to better represent the wide range of factors that affect how residents emotionally experience their city or town.

“We would like to start including larger-scale, more dynamic phenomena in our model,” he said. “This could include factors like regional migration, the effects of gentrification, and the growth, shrinkage, settlement patterns, and overall social and economic resilience of cities. Considering the complex data sets needed to quantify such activities, we will need even more computational support, and we think that artificial intelligence applications could also help.”

Just the beginning for city digital twins

Dembski told Cities Today the use of digital twins by cities is “only at the beginning” but is progressing quickly, especially in Asia.

We shouldn’t overestimate the technology, though, he noted. “Cities are not machines,” he commented. “A digital twin can be a great help in reducing complexity for cities, assessing measures at an early stage, and explaining interrelationships. But there are many aspects that are deeply human and cannot be reproduced in digital copies, such as culture, interpersonal relationships, joy, and happiness. A digital twin is a tool, not a solution.”

He added: “I also think it is important for cities to retain control over data and models,” urging co-operation between science, city administrations, businesses, and citizens.

Read next: Study: Volcanoes on Mars were to blame for massive mud flows, not lava

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Bouncebacks could be killing your email marketing. TrueMail makes sure it never happens again

TLDR: With TrueMail’s bulk email verifier, you can check the validity of every email address on your marketing list before your emails go out.

Sure, social media is young and flashy and sexy with some unquestionable advantages. But if you ask companies about the tactics that truly make an impact on their bottom line, they’ll tell you that email marketing remains the king.

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For small to midsize businesses, over 80 percent of those companies still look to email marketing as their primary source for finding new customers and retaining their old ones.

Of course, email campaigns are only as effective as the list of email addresses you’re canvassing. Bounced emails are a fact of marketing life, but if your company is experiencing bounce rates over 2 percent, you’re doing more than wasting resources. A high bounce rate actually hurts your reputation with the service providers receiving your emails, who can in turn downgrade your deliverability for future mailings.

TrueMail.io can make sure that never happens. Trusted by over 5,000 companies, including Amazon, Google, Oracle and Salesforce, you can lock in a lifetime of their crucial email verification services at hundreds off the regular price right now, only $49 from TNW Deals.

With TrueMail, you don’t just fire off emails and hope they land in a customer’s inbox. TrueMail get inside your email list with a fine-tooth comb, validating each and every email on your list to drive your deliverability rate up to 99 percent immediately.

Once you turn TrueMail loose on your email list, it weeds out invalid addresses that can damage your reputation. Their multi-step verification process happens in real time without ever using historical data, so you’ll always know your list is 100 percent real and active before emails ever go out. TrueMail also deletes any duplicate addresses or any with bad syntax automatic, assuring your list is rock solid.

TrueMail natively integrates with all over 2,000 apps and all the biggest mass email outlets, including Mailchimp, Hubspot, Active Campaign and more. Meanwhile, all your data remains fully encrypted and only available with the right login credentials.

Valued at over $1,000, you can get a lifetime of email protection with this Truemail.io Bulk Email Verifier subscription, now only $49.

Prices are subject to change.

Read next: This German town replicated itself in VR to keep its tourism alive

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7 strategies to design landing pages that convert in 2020

Did you know we have an online conference about product design coming up? SPRINT will cover how designers and product owners can stay ahead of the curve in these unprecedented times.

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

While getting people to visit a website is important, what businesses actually want is a conversion. In other words, grab fickle visitors who may be interested enough in the company’s unique value proposition to sign up, subscribe, stay updated, share with friends, and become loyal customers.

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That being the case, a landing page designer’s primary goal is to create a high-converting landing page by making a strong first impression, and they have less than 7 seconds to do it.

When developing the visitor experience for landing pages that convert, landing page designers typically take different approaches based on a set of considerations. They must carefully factor in the industry and market vertical, the audience, and the minimum information needed to seal the conversion.

The following are some innovative and successful strategies to improve landing page conversion rates.

Snipcart follows landing page conversion best practices by keeping it uncluttered and to the point.

1. State your case

Sell a better life

Companies persuade people to visit their website through various marketing efforts. Firstly, they explain how their unique product or service can benefit a potential user. The first few lines of the pitch need to strike an emotional chord that elicits a possible solution to the visitor’s problem, and it needs to happen in less than 7 seconds.

[Read: How to avoid stereotypes when designing for global markets]

For example, rather than talking about the size of their customer base or how many contractors they have, the personal help and hospitality service Alfred tells visitors in just a few words how the service can help them get their free time back. The right language inspires prospects to envision how the offering can improve their lives. It’s a great sell.

Landing pages that convert

Investment startup Betterment has a landing page that presents a convincing case to prospects. Harmonious colors, a smiling person, compelling copy, a unique value proposition, and a clear call-to-action (CTA) all help people immediately understand what Betterment has to offer.

High-converting landing page

Provide proof

Another way to convert users is to highlight testimonials.

As Neil Patel explains, “It’s impossible to write copy as good as your customer. Why? Because good copy depends on the source, not just the style and substance. Testimonials are compelling because they show the customer what she will experience if she uses your product or service.”

Testimonials help sell the experience and visitors can easily internalize the possibilities.

Landing page conversion best practices

Speak the visitor’s language

Striking the right mood for the right audience is also vital.

It’s important to match the language and visual design of the pitch to the emotion that is to be communicated to site visitors, whether it’s a sense of trust or flirting with danger, formality, or friendliness, stoic seriousness or cheek.

Tailor the message to customers. Here is a comparison of the language and imagery of two private jet services.

Landing page conversion tips

NetJets targets business people interested in luxury and exclusivity—feelings commonly associated with the idea of private air travel. On the other hand, VistaJet focuses on well-heeled families, making it sound like a completely natural fit for their life. The company’s offering is attempting to attract a core customer that fits a specific persona; hence, the landing page’s design conveys a mood and style that speaks to that target market’s sensibility, particular needs, and values.

VistaJet is using landing page conversion best practices

2. Lead with action

Solve people’s problems straightaway

Designers need to ask themselves why people are visiting the site. To drive commitment from visitors is to focus on the primary action of the offering.

Airbnb’s landing page immediately communicates what it’s about—both with its headliner pitch and the form below it.

Airbnb high-converting landing page

Designers sharpened the focus on the essentials of Airbnb’s service so that people can immediately start taking actions that escalate their commitment.

Once they’ve started planning their trip and exploring their options, they have invested time and emotion. It’s important to note that only after people decide to book or save a listing to their wishlist are they asked to sign up for an account.

This design simultaneously helps people complete their desired action (if they are committed to book) or can stimulate the desire to “save their work” (if they were exploring their options).

TaskRabbit does the same. Instead of the primary CTA asking visitors to “Sign Up,” they get to the heart of what people are after, which is “help around the home.”

TaskRabbit has some of the best landing page conversion rates

First, TaskRabbit strikes an emotional chord with the messaging and then presents an entry field asking people what they need help with. Merely reading the question prompts people to consider how they’d like to be helped and invites them to explore by stating their specific needs. This is immediate engagement.

3. Make them an offer they can’t refuse

Offer a discount

What the landing page offers may be a boon to visitors—the problem is, millions of other companies are already vying for the customer’s attention.

Sharing their email address can be a sensitive issue for some people, so landing page designers need to make it worth their while. It’s the reason why many companies offer shoppers an enticing deal just for handing over their email address.

Offering a discount, a free trial, free shipping, or any other compelling freebie incentivizes signups.

Take Brooklinen, for example. It offers its visitors free shipping on their first purchase. To continue to the site without a signup, people have to choose a button that says, “No thanks, I want to pay for shipping.” And who wants to pay for shipping?

Best landing page conversion rates

Inform and educate visitors in a meaningful way

Another way to collect email addresses is to offer free content, such as an eBook, in exchange for an email address.

UXPin is known for its informative eBooks on a variety of topics. They give them away in exchange for the customer’s email address and a few nuggets of information. Visitors want valuable information, so they don’t mind providing their email address to get it.

Subsequently, UXPin can send emails to new subscribers to follow up with other enticing offers.

Another high-converting landing page using a free eBook download incentive

4. Reduce friction

Keep web forms simple

Many considerations can make or break a signup form; avoiding friction is one of them.

Friction is anything that stops people in their tracks, creates confusion, and requires too much cognitive work. The design may also be error-prone. The best forms contain helpful messages and clear labels, and they make it easy for people to digest information quickly.

People regularly make formatting errors with inline validation; it’s the designer’s job to make the process as simple as possible. Is it vital for people to confirm their email and password with additional entry fields? It would be better to give people the option to see a masked password.

Instapaper’s signup form is minimal and clean but doesn’t remind visitors why they’d want to create an account. The form also lacks inline validation, so people have to submit the form before finding out they didn’t enter a valid email address. This kind of friction may seem trivial but it can cost signups.

Landing page conversion tips

Quite the opposite, Pocket’s signup form is clean and inviting, and keeps the value proposition visible. The form is clear, and inline validation lets people know if they have made a mistake before submitting the form. People would rather see errors as they move through the process.

Pocket has some of the best landing page conversion rates
Inline validation on forms helps landing page conversion rates.

5. Mobile first

We’ve heard it a million times: mobile first. In 2016, mobile and tablet internet usage exceeded desktop for the first time.

Google search results favor mobile-friendly websites, which means it’s likely that first-time visitors are viewing a website on their mobiles. If the landing page and the signup form are not displaying correctly on mobile, the site will likely lose many potential conversions.

It seems apparent, but even today, there are still way too many websites that are not mobile-friendly. Sometimes, a website will look good on a mobile device but the signup forms fall short. Other times, the fields and buttons are too tiny or the designer has chosen input methods that are cumbersome to use on mobile.

Creating a high-converting landing page on mobile
Mobile landing page signup forms (Pocket, EE, Hubspot)

On the above mobile landing page signup forms, there is minimal noise and the clearly labeled fields are large and easily tappable. Buttons are clear and full-width. On most of these mobile form designs, the password field gives the user the option to show their password, which is excellent for mobile devices where typos and misfires are a fact of life.

6. Avoid too much information

Only ask for the bare minimum

Something all landing page designers need to consider: What is the bare minimum of information that businesses need to get people started?

If the first impression feels like an interrogation, potential conversions are likely to be scared off fast. Even if some fields are marked optional, asking for too much information will give visitors the impression that their privacy is not respected.

Macy’s, for example, asks too many questions to sign up.

Bad landing page conversion design

Why do they need to know a visitor’s birthdate? They probably want to know people’s age so they can segment them by demographic. It feels like an invasion of people’s privacy, so visitors would more than likely abandon the signup resulting in a lost opportunity. Information about age is something that can be entered later in account preferences.

And while TaskRabbit’s landing page is visually appealing, their signup form is also a bit too much.

Bad form design will not lead to a high-converting landing page

The postal code makes sense since service providers are local, but why do they need people’s first and last name to sign up for the service? Every extra field counts, and this is throwing roadblocks into a visitor’s path.

Landing page conversion best practices recommend that designers only ask for the bare minimum to get people started: an email and a password. Asking for first and last names and postal codes should be reserved for later during the onboarding process.

In contrast, Blue Apron’s meal kit service only asks people to create an account with an email address and password. Simple and quick. They don’t ask for a name or even a postal code—even though the service is not available everywhere—which means people are much less likely to abandon the form.

Landing pages that convert provide easy signups

7. Start a conversation

Traditional landing page UIs with buttons, links, and forms are gradually disappearing behind one of the most intuitive and natural interaction patterns—the conversation.

The popularity of chatbots and conversational UIs is exploding. According to Gartner, chatbots will power 85% of all customer service interactions by 2020. In many cases, chatbots reduce landing page cost-per-leads (CPLs) by 48% and potentially double lead conversion rates by driving customer engagement.

Landbot employs—what else—a bot to engage visitors on their landing page.

Conventional landing pages typically engage visitors with eye-catching visuals, animations, prominent value propositions, and carefully placed CTAs that are usually followed by a form. Chatbots, on the other hand, engage visitors immediately, can provide a more personalized service, and improve conversions many times over because they can generate and qualify leads.

If done right, conversational landing page UIs feel fun, friendly, and helpful and might work well for businesses hoping to foster a connection with their potential clients. This strategy might make sense for service industries, such as travel and insurance providers. By asking a series of questions, an AI-powered landing page chatbot can tailor its responses, and since speed is essential, quickly point the user in the right direction.

However, even very sophisticated machines still think like machines. If poorly executed, a chatbot can feel cold, and in the worst case, people might walk away feeling uncomfortable. It’s best to keep in mind that visitors are human beings who may have questions that run outside of pre-programmed responses, or that they may frame them in syntax the chatbot doesn’t immediately recognize.

While not right for every industry, conversational landing pages have the potential to engage visitors on a more human level. Since conversation is the bedrock of meaningful relationships, a chatbot must be capable of holding an intelligent, two-way conversation. The startups that take the leap and do conversational landing pages right will be true trailblazers.

Kontor, an office space finder chatbot, only asks a few questions to create a list of suggestions.

How to design high-converting landing pages

There are millions of sites out there vying for people’s attention, and as discussed, designers only have a few seconds to convince a visitor to sign up for a product or service. Landing page designers need to think strategically about how and when to invite users to sign up, as well as what information to ask for, and at what stage.

People become interested in a product or service through exploration and engagement that drives their eventual commitment. To design landing pages that convert, it’s best to make the website appealing and effortless, and the signup process frictionless and pleasant. By following landing page conversion best practices, designers can develop high-converting landing pages that will bring in more customers.

The Toptal Design Blog is a hub for advanced design studies by professional designers in the Toptal network on all facets of digital design, ranging from detailed design tutorials to in-depth coverage of new design trends, tools, and techniques. You can read the original piece written by Bree Chapin here. Follow the Toptal Design Blog on Twitter, Dribbble, Behance, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram.

Read next: Bouncebacks could be killing your email marketing. TrueMail makes sure it never happens again

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SpaceX successfully launches astronauts into space for the first time

SpaceX created history today as it successfully launched astronauts in the space for the first time. The space agency became the first commercial agency to carry out a crewed space flight.

NASA Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are making a trip to the International Space Station (ISS), and will stay there from 6 to 16 weeks. The liftoff was successful in the second attempt after the first attempt on May 27 had to be called off due to the bad weather.

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Earlier today, NASA said that there was a 50% chance the launch would be canceled again because of bad weather. However, the team went ahead with the launch with liftoff taking place at 3.22 PM ET.

Hurley and Behnken will now spend 19 hours in space before docking to the ISS. Meanwhile, SpaceX reported that the booster used to launch the astronauts in space has safely returned to the earth.

The @SpaceX #CrewDragon launched at 3:22pm EST today with @Astro_Doug & @AstroBehnken onboard. It will dock to the space station Sunday about 2:27pm. #LaunchAmerica https://t.co/pfTdcoVqiN pic.twitter.com/eQjpDUjeXQ

— Intl. Space Station (@Space_Station) May 30, 2020

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine congratulated the team on the successful liftoff.

For the first time in 9 years, we have now launched American astronauts on American rockets from American soil. I'm so proud of the @NASA and @SpaceX team for making this moment possible. #LaunchAmerica https://t.co/XiqPAj6Saa

— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) May 30, 2020

This was also a historical launch for NASA, as it was the first time US astronauts were making a trip to space since the space shuttle program shut down in 2011. In 2014, the space agency awarded contracts Boeing and SpaceX to fly six missions to ISS each. Eventually, after several delays, Elon Musk’s SpaceX was able to deliver the first launch today.

While both companies will observe how this mission goes forward, they’re already planning their next crew launch scheduled for August 30. This mission will carry four astronauts: NASA’s Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, and Shannon Walker, and Japan’s Soichi Noguchi.

Read next: 7 strategies to design landing pages that convert in 2020

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How accurate is your commercial fitness tracker?


In a 2019 study, 18 senior citizens took a stroll on some treadmills while armed to the hilt with fitness trackers. They had devices strapped to their wrists and ankles, fastened to their belts, and wrapped around their chests. But even with all these trackers, the seniors couldn’t get an accurate step count because their movements were too slow to trigger the sensors in the devices. Commercial fitness trackers are being used for all kinds of things other than tracking steps. They measure heart rate, track sleep patterns, and calculate basal metabolic rate and calories burned. They’re used in clinical…
This story continues at The Next Web

Social media isn’t a one-size-fits-all marketplace. This training explains it all

TLDR: The courses in The 2020 Social Media Marketing Bootcamp Certification Bundle explain how to launch effective digital campaigns to drive sales on all the top social media platforms.

There’s more to being a social media expert than logging into Facebook every day or making sure you’re keeping a close eye on your Twitter mentions. True social media experts need to fully understand their target audience, where they congregate and how to connect with them effectively. And with dozens of venues and approaches to choose from, that’s no simple task.

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With training like The 2020 Social Media Marketing Bootcamp Certification Bundle ($29.99, over 90 percent off from TNW Deals), those looking to harness the power of social media behind their brand have an easy-to-follow blueprint for raising awareness, engaging potential customers, and converting sales, all via the world’s biggest social platforms.

The collection includes seven courses featuring more than 34 hours of instruction for assembling the best marketing strategies possible for deployment on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and more.

The training starts with the Digital Marketing Foundations 101 course, which launches even first-timers toward all the steps in building a digital marketing plan. This immersive training looks at all the basics, from email marketing, building a website, SEO, digital advertising, measurement, and analytics.

Next, Social Media Foundations 101 and Social Media Strategy are a pair of introductory courses that get beyond theory into actual digital marketing practice. This training offers solid plans for creating a stellar business presence on social media, defining marketing goals, target audiences, and content strategies, and understanding how each social media platform fits into your business strategy.

The remaining courses dig into tactics for learning the strengths and weaknesses of the best platforms for finding and developing a social media following for your brand. Facebook Marketing, Instagram Marketing, and LinkedIn Marketing may seem like similar areas of study, but once you get inside the mechanics of each outlet, you’ll start to understand the differences in each audience.

Finally, Facebook Advertising goes inside paid advertising on the powerful platform, explaining how to master ad targeting and buying options to get the most reach for your money.

Each course in the bundle is a $299 value, but by picking up the entire collection right now, you cut your final price down to just $29.99.

Prices are subject to change.

Read next: How accurate is your commercial fitness tracker?

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These ‘self-driving’ shared scooters will automatically return to base after each use

This article was originally published by Sarah Wray on Cities Today, the leading news platform on urban mobility and innovation, reaching an international audience of city leaders. For the latest updates follow Cities Today on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube, or sign up for Cities Today News.

A fleet of 100 remote-controlled scooters is being piloted at the city-owned Curiosity Lab technology testing ground in Peachtree Corners, Georgia. It is understood to be the first trial of its type on public roads.

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Citizens will be able to hail a scooter via an app and the vehicle will be automatically returned to a base when the ride is over. Go X created the scooter and ride-hailing app, while Tortoise developed the remote repositioning system.

During the initial pilot, which will run for six months, the scooters will use geo-fencing to ensure they stay within the designated 500-acre Curiosity Lab technology park, where 7,500 people work and more than 1,000 people live. The City of Peachtree Corners passed an ordinance mandating that all shared micromobility devices deployed are capable of automated repositioning to increase the accessibility of shared e-scooters while avoiding the sidewalk clutter and public safety challenges that many other cities have experienced.

[Read: How Lisbon is reshaping its mobility landscape with e-scooters]

The 100 scooters will be operated remotely by humans but the trial could pave the way for autonomy.

Betsy Plattenburg, Executive Director, Curiosity Lab, told Cities Today: “What we have learned at Curiosity Lab is that there are a lot of micromobility solutions that hope to be autonomous, but what they need right now is experience and data for the artificial intelligence. One of the ways they’re going to get that in the short term is to use tele-operation as an interim step.”

The trial was originally scheduled for January but was moved back because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Go X has now implemented COVID-19 safety measures. Each vehicle is manually disinfected upon being remotely repositioned to a home base and gets a sticker to prove this has taken place. Every Go X Apollo employee is also required to pass a daily COVID-19 health check.

Curiosity Lab, which is funded by the City of Peachtree Corners, offers free 5G access, infrastructure and intellectual property protection to provide a real-world test environment for mobility and smart city technology.

Plattenburg said: “What I can tell you from the other companies that have tested at Curiosity Lab is that a lot of the things they learn are not the things that they set out to learn. You learn by experience and it’s that unknown which is really why they’re here.”

Read next: Social media isn’t a one-size-fits-all marketplace. This training explains it all

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With a single click, Word Pigeon turns a Google Doc into WordPress website content

TLDR: Word Pigeon cleans up content creation by turning a Google Doc into a WordPress website post with just one mouse click.

WordPress is usually a godsend for most people looking to build and maintain their own website. Its drag-and-drop simplicity and truckloads of customization options make it easy for almost anyone to get a site up and running, even if they’ve got no programming experience.

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But creating content in WordPress? That can often be a different story. Copying and pasting a post you wrote in Microsoft Word or a Google Doc into WordPress often creates a whole batch of formatting problems, broken links and more. Images don’t display right, fonts get wonky and before you know it, you’ve spent more time fixing the problems than if you’d written the whole thing in WordPress in the first place.

Fortunately, Word Pigeon has created a workaround that lets you export a Google Doc straight into your WordPress website in seconds without all that reformatting hassle. Right now, a lifetime subscription to the Word Pigeon WordPress Plugin is hundreds off the regular price, only $96.99 from TNW Deals.

With your Word Pigeon Phoenix Plan account, making a new blog post is incredibly simple. Just create your post in Google Docs just the way you want it. You can add images and tables, H1, H2 or H3 headings, links, or basically anything that might require some special formatting in your doc.

Once it’s saved, you’ll see that same Google Doc now displayed in your Word Pigeon account. From there, just decide if you want the doc to be a page or a post, or whether you want the piece published now or saved as a draft. From there, Word Pigeon feeds the post right into your WordPress site, with all the formatting, images and other potentially tricky additions displaying just the way you created it.

Your finished post won’t mess up your WordPress theme and it won’t incorporate funky code that could break your page, all with no coding required. With Word Pigeon, there’s no more Google Doc sharing or hours spent adjusting text by solo bloggers, content teams, editors and more.

With a single click, content flows right from your Google Doc to a finished page on your WordPress site, an invaluable time-saver for anyone tasked with creating website content. The Word Pigeon Phoenix Plan covers up to five different sites and up to 10 users. A $2,279 value, you can get a lifetime of Word Pigeon access now for only $96.99.

Prices are subject to change.

Read next: These 'self-driving' shared scooters will automatically return to base after each use

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How cosmic rays may have sparked life on Earth — and what this could mean for life on other planets

Long before animals roamed the Earth, before the first bacteria, and even before the development of DNA, tiny molecules found they could make simple copies of themselves.

Cosmic rays pouring down from space constantly bombarded those molecules as they replicated, and developed over time. These particles, raining down from distant stars and galaxies, could have played a significant role in the what would become the chemistry of life.

Energetic reactions in molecules at the dawn of life could have altered the laws of biology forever. Image credit: Original video by Motionstock/Pixabay, .gif creation by The Cosmic Companion.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall…

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Molecules can take on various shapes as they form during reactions. Some of these molecules can be mirror images of molecules having the same number and types of molecules, but bound together in different shapes.

Some of these shapes can be mirror images of each other, similar to the way hands are opposite images of each other. They line up if faced palm-to-palm or back-to-back, but they cannot be placed evenly upon one another with both hands up or down.

When chemicals take on similar mirror shapes, they are known as chiral molecules. This chirality of molecules is sometimes known as handedness, due to its relation to human hands. This property of chiral molecules can have significant effects on reactions within living structures.

Chiral molecules are mirror images of each other, similar to human hands. Image credit: NASA

Inorganic reactions are oblivious to the handedness of chemicals. However, reactions involving every single important biomolecule — DNA, RNA, and amino acids — life uses just one form of molecules. Attempting to use the mirror twin can often result in unexpected — often tragic — results. A single wrong-handed molecule in DNA can destroy its spiral structure.

“The ribonucleic and deoxyribonucleic acids (RNA and DNA), responsible for the replication and storage of genetic information, are made up of linear sequences of building blocks with the same handedness, called nucleotides, whose arrangement is neither periodic nor random and contains the genetic information needed to sustain life,” researchers explain in an article detailing their findings, published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

You can call me ‘ray’

The chiral nature of some chemicals was first discovered in 1848, by famed chemist Louis Pasteur. This led to wild speculations, attempting to understand why biological reactions are so uniquely fussy about the handedness of chemicals. Pasteur’s early guess, more than a century-and-a-half ago, was that a basic, underlying asymmetry in nature was responsible for differences in left- and right-handed molecules in biological systems.

This new study suggests the biased way nature handles chemicals for life may be the result of cosmic rays coming from space long ago.

“We propose that the biological handedness we witness now on Earth is due to evolution amidst magnetically polarized radiation, where a tiny difference in the mutation rate may have promoted the evolution of DNA-based life, rather than its mirror image,” said Noémie Globus of the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC).

Cosmic rays are high-energy radiation, created by energetic processes around the Cosmos, bombarding Earth from all directions at enormous speeds.

“About 90 percent of them are protons, with the remainder consisting of electrons and atomic nuclei. In their journey across the galaxy, the electrically charged particles are deflected by magnetic fields. This scrambles their paths and makes it impossible to trace their origins directly,” NASA describes.

This energy strikes the atmosphere of Earth, where it breaks apart into fundamental sub-atomic particles. By the time they reach the ground, most of this energy is in the form of muons, a type of particle unlike normal matter.

An overview of the process by which polarized particles could have help drive the formation of life on Earth. Image credit: Simons Foundation

Muons are exceptionally unstable, existing for just two millionths of a second. However, they travel close to the speed of light, meaning they can cover plenty of distance during that time — being detected as deep as 700 meters (2,300 feet) underground.

These particles are also magnetically polarized — meaning they all share the same magnetic polarization. When they decay, these particles release an electron (the familiar negatively-charged particle found in the outer clouds of atoms). These electrons created each share the same magnetic polarization.

Researchers believe these polarized muons, able to penetrate nearly any barrier, combined with the similarly-polarized electrons, may have worked to together, influencing chiral reactions as life first began to form on Earth.

How polarized electrons could have affected the rise of a chiral bias in life, as the first proto-biological molecules formed. Image credit: Simons Foundation

Over time, the constant bombardment by polarized muons and electrons would have preferentially affected each type of molecule, altering mutation rates between left- and right-handed protobiological molecules.

Just a small advantage of one state over the other would, over time, result in a long-term advantage, similar to a house edge in gambling casinos. Right-handed molecules eventually won the struggle, becoming the basis of all biology. The video below shows a look at how life on Earth may have started.

Such effects may also apply to worlds beyond the Earth, as well, researchers speculate. Conditions like these likely extend far into the Cosmos.

“We are irradiated all the time by cosmic rays. Their effects are small but constant in every place on the planet where life could evolve, and the magnetic polarization of the muons and electrons is always the same. And even on other planets, cosmic rays would have the same effects,” Globus explained.

Bacteria could be at the center of new studies examining how the microbes react to bombardment by radiation over a range of magnetic polarizations. Samples taken from comets and asteroids could also be examined, looking for a chiral bias in their internal structures.

By studying how cosmic rays affected chemistry during the dawn of life, we may learn more about life on worlds surrounding distant stars.

This article was originally published on The Cosmic Companion by James Maynard, founder and publisher of The Cosmic Companion. He is a New England native turned desert rat in Tucson, where he lives with his lovely wife, Nicole, and Max the Cat. You can read this original piece here.

Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion is also available as a weekly podcast, carried on all major podcast providers. Tune in every Tuesday for updates on the latest astronomy news, and interviews with astronomers and other researchers working to uncover the nature of the Universe.

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