Outdoors + Tech newsletter – March 17, 2020

Outdoors + Tech news articles, blog posts and research papers for March 17, 2020



How early GPS gadget maker Garmin mapped out success against the likes of Apple and Google

Fortune, Danielle Abril from

For all the time, effort, and money companies plow into the endless hunt for innovation, many of their best ideas come from within. A Procter & Gamble chemist in the 19th century figured a bar of soap that floated in the tub would enliven the bathing experience, and Ivory Soap was born. In the 1970s, a 3M employee, craving a better way to mark pages in his hymnal, modified an uncommercialized adhesive invented a few years earlier by a colleague; Post-it Notes became an iconic 3M success story. And at Garmin, a suburban Kansas City maker of navigational devices for boats, planes, and cars, a group of running-obsessed employees applied their know-how to their hobby—a move that revitalized the company when it badly needed a win.

It was the early 2000s, and Garmin had grown from its niche of making consumer devices utilizing the government’s global positioning system, or GPS, technology. Together with rival TomTom, Garmin dominated the market for in-car navigational devices, game-changing gadgets that marked the beginning of the end for foldable maps. GPS for personal fitness wasn’t popular before the Garmin jogging klatch began noodling. “They said, ‘We do all these GPS things. Why don’t we have a GPS product for runners?’ ” recalls Cliff Pemble, Garmin’s CEO and a 31-year company veteran.


Podcast No. 64: How the New WHOOP Journal Works

WHOOP, Podcasat, Will Ahmed from

We’ve just launched an exciting new feature in the WHOOP app: The WHOOP Journal.

It’s a customizable component that allows you to log specific things that may impact your performance on a daily basis. There are more than 40 behaviors you can track across lifestyle, nutrition, supplements, medication, sleep, recovery and more. Women can also now follow how pregnancy and menstruation are affecting them. [audio, 45:44]



Not all young people are ‘digital natives’ – inequality hugely limits experiences of technology

The Conversation, Simeon Yates from

Our project has highlighted three key areas of data literacy. These are data thinking, data doing, and data participation.

“Data thinking” covers critical skills – being able to assess and check data in the online environment. For example, this includes being able to understand how social media companies might use information about us, and thinking about the reliability of information we find online.

“Data doing” focuses on practical skills involving data handling and data management. For example, it might cover social media users being able to identify and highlight the source of the information they share with others. Or it might involve identifying reliable data from the internet that will help you in your everyday life.

“Data participation” covers our shared experience of digital society. Examples might include a person who actively contributes to online forums, or helps others to engage with digital systems.

We have found that social and media users have much lower levels of data thinking, doing and participating than all other groups bar limited users. Limited users are much older – post retirement – and are likely to have very few if any school qualifications.


Think your smartwatch is good for warning of a heart attack? Turns out it’s surprisingly easy to fool its AI

The Register, Katyanna Quach from

Like all deep learning models, ECG ones are susceptible to adversarial attacks: miscreants can force algorithms to misclassify the data by manipulating it with noise.

A group of researchers led by New York University demonstrated this by tampering with a deep convolutional neural network (CNN). First, they obtained a dataset containing 8,528 ECG recordings labelled into four groups: Normal, atrial fibrillation – the most common type of an irregular heartbeat – other, or noise.



The Real Role of Robotics in Retail

Cloudera Blog, David LeGrand from

Automation and robotics in retail is rapidly changing the retail landscape – so much so that there are clearly winners and losers. I’m not talking about the war between brick and mortar stores and digital marketplaces, but rather I’m talking about the retail digital revolution where the winners are delivering greater than 4.5% comparable store/ channel sales growth compared to their brothers that have not embraced automation and robotics. Clearly automation and the deployment of robots is changing the retail landscape through the customer experience, how shoppers buy and the effect on the entire retail value chain. The gap between those who have embraced robotics and automation and those that have not is widening.


Wahoo Fitness Kickr Smart Bike Review: For the Competitive

WIRED, Gear, Adrienne So from

Good for small spaces. Infinitely customizable. Incredibly quiet. Works with a huge array of apps, equipment, and services, like the massively popular Zwift. … Hugely expensive. Doesn’t come with a built-in fan or screen. Will use default settings without an up-to-date phone, tablet, or computer.


New mHealth Wearable Sensor Boosts Flexibility, Durability

mHealth Intelligence, Samantha McGrail from

Engineers at the University of Waterloo recently developed a durable, flexible sensor for mHealth wearable devices to monitor everything from vital signs to athletic performance.

Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of British Columbia, utilized 3D printing and nanotechnology to combine silicone rubber with layers of graphene, a material for making wristbands or shoe insoles, to create a wearable that fits comfortably to different body shapes of users.

“Silicone gives us the flexibility and durability required for biomonitoring applications, and the added, embedded graphene makes it an effective sensor,” said Ehsan Toyserkani, research director at the Multi-Scale Additive Manufacturing (MSAM) Lab at Waterloo. “It’s all together in a single part.”



Microstructures Self-Assemble into New Materials

Caltech, News from

A new process developed at Caltech makes it possible for the first time to manufacture large quantities of materials whose structure is designed at a nanometer scale—the size of DNA’s double helix.

Pioneered by Caltech materials scientist Julia R. Greer, “nanoarchitected materials” exhibit unusual, often surprising properties—for example, exceptionally lightweight ceramics that spring back to their original shape, like a sponge, after being compressed. These properties could be desirable for applications ranging from ultrasensitive tactile sensors to advanced batteries, but so far, engineers have only been able to create them in very limited amounts. To create a material whose structure is designed at such a small scale, they often have to be assembled nano-layer by nano-layer in a 3-D printing process that uses a high-precision laser and custom-synthesized chemicals. That painstaking process limits the overall amount of material that can be built.


Innovative jacket adjusts as weather fluctuates

Innovations in Textiles blog from

Skyscrape Inc., a Portland-based textile start-up, has developed a temperature responsive fabric with the power to disrupt the apparel industry’s approach to clothing insulation as we know it.

Skyscrape’s fabric physically expands in thickness when exposed to cooler temperatures, creating additional insulation between the wearer’s body and the outside environment. The fabric thickness decreases when exposed to warmer temperatures, eliminating the need to wear additional layers, only to have to remove them when entering temperature-controlled environments such as buildings and vehicles.


Light-emitting fabric offers wearable luminous clothing

Optics.org from

A new approach to the design of light-emitting fabric could lead to the development of softer and more wearable luminous clothing, according to a project at the University of Windsor in Ontario.

The fabrication of wearable e-textiles and smart clothing has until now been hindered by a number of factors, including the porous structures and non-planar surfaces of the textiles themselves. The Windsor project tackled the problem by using the textile structure as an integral part of wearable device design.



Exercise and the brain: why moving your body matters

BBC Science Focus Magazine, Daniel Levitin from

We humans were not made to be sedentary. We evolved in a world that required us to explore the environment, to move, and without that stimulation the brain ceases to function at its full potential. When we no longer use our brains to organise physical action, could it be that it slows down, atrophies, and becomes disorganised?

At the most fundamental level, the brain is a giant problem-solving device. Most of its problem-solving capabilities evolved to allow us to adapt to a wide range of environments, and continued exploration of these environments is one way we can age well.

Our brains were built to move our bodies toward food and mates, and away from predators. Exercise is important for two reasons. The obvious one is that it oxygenates the blood. The brain runs on oxygenated glucose, carried by haemoglobin in the blood, and a fresh supply of oxygen is good.


What’s the Best Running Cadence? How to Know Your Ideal Step Rate

Jason Fitzgerald, Strength Running blog from

… In this article, I want to focus on your running cadence – because this was focused on heavily in Born to Run and is a major aspect of good form.

In fact, I remember a quote from Caballo Blanco (a major character from the book) very clearly about cadence:

When deciding whether to take one or two steps between rocks, take three.

He meant that taking more steps would help runners navigate technical, rocky terrain. Longer, bounding steps are less efficient, require more energy, and aren’t as economical at covering most gnarly trails in the mountains.


How to Train and Eat to Boost Your Immunity from Coronavirus

PodiumRunner, Amby Burfoot from

Early in his career as an exercise physiologist, David Nieman taught a “marathon” course at Pacific Union College. He was a marathoner himself, eventually accumulating 58 marathon finishes, and his students entered a marathon at the end of the semester. Like others at the time, Nieman thought marathon running was just about the best thing anyone could do for their health.

So he was confused and concerned when a number of his students came down with colds after their marathon. He says he “felt sorry for them,” because it was also time for their final-exams. Who wants to be sick when they’re cramming for finals?

Nieman has spent the last 40 years studying links between exercise and immunity. It’s not a new field.



2020 Gravel Bike Field Test: 12 bikes, four riders, and endless dirt

CyclingTips, James Huang from

… CyclingTips recently brought 12 of the latest-and-greatest gravel bikes, four test riders, a giant box of control tires to eliminate one key variable, and a support mechanic to the red-dirt paradise of Sedona, Arizona. We divided those bikes into three categories — racing-focused bikes, MTB-inspired bikes, and budget bikes — and rode the wheels off of them on a wide range of terrain until we had decided on winners, losers, what we liked, and what we didn’t like among all of them.


Coronavirus has caused a bicycling boom in New York City

Grist, L.V. Anderson from

If there’s a silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic — and let’s be real: we could all really use a win right now — it’s that there’s probably never been a better time to ride a bike in the Big Apple.

On Sunday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a new set of guidelines for citizens hoping to help contain the burgeoning outbreak. They included working from home, if possible, avoiding subways during rush hour (a breeding ground for respiratory viruses), and walking or biking to work if possible to avoid crowding on public transportation.


This 58-Year-Old Is Still a Mountain-Bike King

Outside Online, Graham Averill from

Tinker Juarez probably wouldn’t be a very good accountant. Or salesman. Or really any kind of desk jockey. And he knows that. The 58-year-old mountain-biking legend has been riding since he was 13, and while he doesn’t regret his life choices, occasionally he thinks about other avenues when he’s on his bike, passing people commuting to work. “I don’t know what I’d be doing if I wasn’t riding,” he says. “I can’t see myself sitting in any kind of building all day. Maybe I’d be a gardener and mow lawns. I know I’d work hard at it though.”

It’s Juarez’s dedication that has helped him become an icon in the mountain-bike world. Born David Juarez (his family gave him the nickname Tinker), the Angeleno started his career as a BMX racer, becoming one of the early superstars of the sport in the 1970s. After 15 years racing BMX and riding freestyle, he switched to mountain biking in 1986 and began to rack up a long list of accomplishments, including multiple national championships, two appearances at the Olympics, and countless single-race wins. Now, after more than three decades as a professional mountain biker, he’s still salaried with Cannondale, his bike sponsor since 1994, and racing at the elite pro level most weekends of the season. “My job is riding my bike, and I still have to go to work for eight hours every day, just like you,” Juarez says. “Every year when my contract is up, I don’t know if I’m gonna get another one. I try to train hard every year and try to keep the racing lively and stay busy.”



Map of all the trees and forests

FlowingData, Nathan Yau from

EarthArtAustralia mapped all of the trees and forests in the United States, based on data from researchers Hansen et al. at the University of Maryland.

We’ve seen minimalist maps like this before, but the introduction of 90m digital elevation data provides another dimension.


Study Finds Athletes Who Play Indoor Sports at Risk of Vitamin D Deficiency

George Mason University, College of Health and Human Services from

College athletes participating in indoor sports, especially African-Americans, might be vitamin D deficient and put themselves at risk of injury or poor performance according to a study recently published in the journal Nutrients.

George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia and the Mayo Clinic Health System Sports Medicine Research in Onalaska, Wisconsin conducted this collaborative study. They assessed vitamin D status among basketball players from the George Mason Patriots men’s and women’s teams. During the 2018-2019 season, players were either allocated a high dose, low dose or no vitamin D, depending on their circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels at the start of the study with the objective to identify the dosage of vitamin D3 supplementation required for optimal status.

According to MayoClinic.org, vitamin D is necessary for building and maintaining healthy bones. Without it, bones can become soft, thin and brittle and can lead to other medical issues down the road including osteoporosis as well as some types of cancer.


VO2 Max Factors

reddit.com/r/Garmin from

… VO2max is ml (of oxygen) / kg (your weight) / minute.

The two variables that change are you weight and the amount of oxygen you are able to utilize. If you lose weight your VO2max will increase. If your body can utilize more oxygen your VO2max will increase.


public lands

State group privately debates High Peaks crowd solutions that could affect this summer’s visitors

Adirondack Explorer, Gwendolyn Craig from

Twenty–two people hand-picked by the state have been meeting behind closed doors to propose short- and long-term solutions to manage crowds in the Adirondack High Peaks.

Members of this High Peaks Strategic Planning Advisory Group meet about twice a month at the New York Department of Environmental Conservation’s Warrensburg office and spend hours talking over the conundrum and reviewing public feedback submitted through email. They are slated to deliver proposals to the state by June.

The group’s formation is a positive step for many who see it as the state’s acknowledgement of a problem ignored for too long. But with the No. 1 stakeholder—the public—not at the table, others are left to wonder and wait.

While members of the group say there is tension about whether the meetings should be open or closed, none have left the table over it and nearly all think the conversations have been productive. Most are not convinced they’ll have a long-term solution by June, but they do believe they’ll have short-term recommendations that could be implemented as soon as this summer.


How to Protect 1 Million Acres of Public Lands

Patagonia, Stories, Jocelyn Torres from

… Whenever I join any land-planning meeting around southern Nevada, it’s easy to notice there aren’t a lot of people who reflect the local demographics. Land-planning meetings are public gatherings put together by a government agency to hear comments from the public about what they hope to see stay the same, or what they hope changes in a particular area (think: adding more bathrooms in a heavily visited place). The meetings are also an opportunity for the public to provide feedback about proposed decisions on how land will be enjoyed or used. This is why including participants who reflect the Las Vegas Valley in these meetings is crucial to ensuring the final decision works for the community and doesn’t cause unintended harm—like the time when an agave-roasting pit was damaged due to the addition of a direct hiking trail to a cultural site.

The reason people who reflect the community aren’t at these meetings can usually be attributed to cultural barriers, and the assumption that communities of color aren’t visiting the places in question. But while Latinos or Asian Americans might be fewer in numbers than our white neighbors, it doesn’t mean that these communities aren’t there. According to the 2019 Outdoor Participation Report by the Outdoor Industry Association, Hispanics went on the most annual outings (nationally), an average of 62.7 trips per participant, and Asians had the highest outdoor participation rates at 66.9 percent.


Can Sweden’s cherished ‘right to roam’ survive in 2020?

The Local (Sweden), Tim Marringa from

Freedom to discover Swedish nature and to be able to enjoy being outdoors. That’s at the core of ‘allemansrätten’, a unique right which grants everyone equal rights to Swedish nature. But how sustainable can it be in the face of changes in tourism, outdoor recreation, and lifestyle?



Sodium Could Replace Lithium in Battery Designs

Design News, Elizabeth Montalbano from

… researchers at the University of Southern Denmark recently developed as a potential alternative to lithium-ion batteries.

A team led by Dorthe Bomholdt Ravnsbæk, a professor in the university’s Department of Physics, Chemistry and Pharmacy, created a new sodium-ion battery that leverages an unusual electrode material that might one day give the device the performance and longevity on-par with current lithium-ion designs.


Samsung Presents Groundbreaking All-Solid-State Battery Technology to ‘Nature Energy’

Samsung, Newsroom from

… Compared to widely used lithium-ion batteries, which utilize liquid electrolytes, all-solid-state batteries support greater energy density, which opens the door for larger capacities, and utilize solid electrolytes, which are demonstrably safer. However, the lithium metal anodes that are frequently used in all-solid-state batteries, are prone to trigger the growth of dendrites1 which can produce undesirable side effects that reduce a battery’s lifespan and safety.

To overcome those effects, Samsung’s researchers proposed utilizing, for the first time, a silver-carbon (Ag-C) composite layer as the anode. The team found that incorporating an Ag-C layer into a prototype pouch cell enabled the battery to support a larger capacity, a longer cycle life, and enhanced its overall safety. Measuring just 5µm (micrometers) thick, the ultrathin Ag-C nanocomposite layer allowed the team to reduce anode thickness and increase energy density up to 900Wh/L. It also enabled them to make their prototype approximately 50 percent smaller by volume than a conventional lithium-ion battery.


Tips for extending the lifetime of lithium-ion batteries

University of Michigan, Michigan News from


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