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New technique developed to predict menstrual cycle of female athletes

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The research drew on data from more than 2,000 female athletes who recorded their cycle length and their experience of bodily changes.

Apps for tracking menstrual cycles are widely available and becoming increasingly sophisticated. Some are used to help generate an awareness of one’s own body while others might want to use them for contraceptive purposes. Others still might need the app for making plans for travel or sport.

An issue with this can be that many of these apps aren’t great at predicting menstrual cycle length – a factor that proves particularly problematic for female athletes who are planning their training. This is what researchers from the SFI Insight Centre based in NUI Galway wanted to address.

The study aimed to design a statistical model that accounted for variability both between women and within a woman’s own cycle to identify patterns. This could then be used to inform decisions on training and health.

A broad range of experiences

First, the researchers recruited 2,125 athletes to log their menstrual cycles and bodily changes they experienced relating to their cycle. This resulted in 16,524 cycles being logged.

The participants used a mobile app called FitrWoman. The app’s intended audience is for female athletes who want to use an understanding of their individual cycle to improve their performance but proved a useful tool in the research.

The free, calendar-based app enabled the participants to record their menstrual cycle and provide relevant information relating to wellness, nutrition and exercise based on the athlete’s predicted menstrual cycle and length.

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This meant the users also inputted 25 variables including flow, bloating, constipation, mood and feelings of weakness.

Using the right kind of statistics

The researchers noted how previous studies have classed menstrual cycles into two groups: ‘standard’ and ‘menstrual dysfunction’. A standard cycle is that which is less than 35 days in length, while those above 35 days are classified as dysfunctional.

This is important as while the standard menstrual cycles fit within classical statistical methodologies, accounting for non-standard cycles takes some extra work. This involves using Bayesian statistics – a form of statistics that uses prior data to increase accuracy.

From this, the study found that the overall menstrual length without any reported symptoms was 27.4 days. Importantly it also found that some of the variables reported had a significant effect on predicting the length of the cycle.

Injury, stomach cramps and flow amount were all associated with an increased menstrual length. Meanwhile, the reporting of tender breasts was associated with a shorter cycle. These data were used to accurately predict many of the cycle lengths of the participants, showing that continued development on these apps could prove useful for women who want to track their cycles more accurately.

The research does acknowledge that the data is observational and depends on its participants logging their data. It also doesn’t help understand the causal mechanisms of variables on cycle length. The study concludes that future research would benefit from collecting more future information, such as polycystic ovary presence, daily diet and country of origin.

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The death knell of the FPS franchise? • The Register

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The RPG Greetings, traveller, and welcome back to The Register Plays Games, our monthly gaming column. Since the last edition on New World, we hit level cap and the “endgame”. Around this time, item duping exploits became rife and every attempt Amazon Games made to fix it just broke something else. The post-level 60 “watermark” system for gear drops is also infuriating and tedious, but not something we were able to address in the column. So bear these things in mind if you were ever tempted. On that note, it’s time to look at another newly released shit show – Battlefield 2042.

I wanted to love Battlefield 2042, I really did. After the bum note of the first-person shooter (FPS) franchise’s return to Second World War theatres with Battlefield V (2018), I stupidly assumed the next entry from EA-owned Swedish developer DICE would be a return to form. I was wrong.

The multiplayer military FPS market is dominated by two forces: Activision’s Call of Duty (COD) series and EA’s Battlefield. Fans of each franchise are loyal to the point of zealotry with little crossover between player bases. Here’s where I stand: COD jumped the shark with Modern Warfare 2 in 2009. It’s flip-flopped from WW2 to present-day combat and back again, tried sci-fi, and even the Battle Royale trend with the free-to-play Call of Duty: Warzone (2020), which has been thoroughly ruined by hackers and developer inaction.

Whatever the title, COD is gaming’s most toxic community. If it’s not racial slurs being screamed down poor-quality mics by tweenagers, it’s threats of sexual violence against not just your mother but your entire family and their ancestors.

Hourglass is set in a sandblasted Doha, Qatar

Hourglass is set in a sandblasted Doha, Qatar

Battlefield, on the other hand, is for grownups. While COD’s multiplayer scene mostly favours modestly sized team deathmatch, Battlefield is epic in scope with 64-player objective-based gameplay, soldier classes (scout, assault, medic, support), enormous maps, air and land vehicles, destructible environments, “levelution” (actions players can take to drastically change the terrain), and somewhat realistic projectile ballistics (as opposed to COD’s hitscan programming). It is also home to the insanely powerful Frostbite engine.

Like Call of Duty, Battlefield started out as a Second World War game, establishing the rivalry we have today. But it too has bounced around different settings to varying success, with the modern-era Battlefield 3 and 4 (2011, 2013) held as the defining games of the series. It even took a major risk with Battlefield 1 (2016) focusing on the First World War. It paid off – and, as things stand, Battlefield 1 is probably the last great entry in the franchise.

Pressing T on PC allows you to change attachments

Pressing T on PC allows you to change attachments

On 19 November, Battlefield 2042 came out, again going back to the future after the mediocre WW2 title Battlefield V. The reveal trailer is a gratuitous appeal to fans of 3/4, focusing on what came to be known as “Battlefield moments” by fans – instances of absurdity enabled by game mechanics, like a player ejecting from a jetfighter mid-flight to twist in the air and take out a pursuing jet with a rocket launcher. This was something famously achieved by the player Stun_gravy back in Battlefield 3. It also introduces extreme weather events, which appear to be 2042’s alternative to levelution. It’s wicked – fun to watch, visually stunning, and deftly designed to get the hype pumping.

Youtube Video

If only it played like that.

The reality is Battlefield 2042 has predictably arrived in an unfinished state, marred by bugs, a paucity of content, and baffling design decisions that threaten to alienate the core fanbase. If we look at what makes Battlefield Battlefield, much of that has been irredeemably screwed with.

Breakaway takes place in the Antarctic

Breakaway takes place in the Antarctic

The experience hinged on large-scale, class-based warfare. The scout/recon was the sniper, feeding intel to the team on enemy movements and taking them out at range. The medic healed soldiers in sticky situations while support could lay down suppressing fire and resupply other players. Assault had the fire rate and explosives to press forwards and capture objectives. It was simple and effective. But DICE thought: No, let’s scrap that and have actual characters, called “Specialists” in game, each of which have certain abilities exclusively available to them, kind of like in the “hero shooters” Overwatch or Valorant.

View from the jetfighter cockpit

View from the jetfighter cockpit

On top of that, you can equip each of the 10 Specialists in whatever class style you like, creating flexible hybrids but ultimately watering down team play and forcing every match to be full of clones. At the end of a game, the top-performing player characters will spout corny, cocky little quips. Why? Never mind that we just sat through half an hour of ultraviolence, now you have to joke about it? It’s crass, irritating, and totally unnecessary.

The character Sundance has a wingsuit for traversing great distances at speed

The character Sundance has a wingsuit for traversing great distances at speed

Then there’s the map design. OK, the flagship modes of Conquest and Breakthrough have been cranked up to 128 players, the maps have never been so vast. Fantastic. But you have to do it with some nuance. It feels like 2042’s maps are only huge because they are mostly empty space – and this has dire consequences for gameplay, particularly if you are stuck with or happen to enjoy an infantry role.

A capture point on the Renewal map is a lab full of butterflies

A capture point on the Renewal map is a lab full of butterflies

Although the seven new maps in the base game are impressive on the surface, without much cover and objectives being up to 600 metres away from each other, the gameplay loop for those on the ground becomes run > run > run > shoot > miss > die > repeat. All the while, vehicle players are making hay, and there is a huge balancing issue here. At launch, hovercrafts were a nuisance with their high-calibre mounted machine guns, extreme durability, and the sheer numbers in which they were allowed to spawn. Likewise, helicopters and tanks have an all-you-can-eat buffet of infantry to dine on just laid out in front of them.

The Hourglass map is reminiscent of BF4 – with more empty space

The Hourglass map is reminiscent of BF4 – with more empty space

Yes, infantry have countermeasures but they often seem weak or need some degree of team cooperation to pull off. For example, one player hacks a helicopter so it can’t flare while another uses the window to fire off a guided missile. But here we get to the missing features present in earlier titles – there’s currently no in-game voice chat so player squads can better organise themselves.

Incoming tornado viewed from a tank on Discarded

Incoming tornado viewed from a tank on Discarded

There’s no real class system, no server browser, no smaller-scale game modes (something 2042 could really benefit from), no persistent lobbies so players from the prior game can play together again, fewer in-game assignments, no proper scoreboard, no spectator mode, no firing range, limited destruction and levelution… honestly the list goes on. Again the question is: why?

Choppers ... I don't know how people fly these things and get kills

Choppers … I don’t know how people fly these things and get kills

The selection of guns that can be unlocked is dwarfed by previous entries and progression isn’t interesting – simply get kills for new attachments, reach this level to get this gun etc. Gunplay was also rubbish at launch, with random bullet spread making everything but snipers seem wildly inaccurate even if your crosshairs were glued to the target. It got to the point that submachine guns, typically short-range weapons, were more viable choices than assault rifles because of their higher fire rate. As of last week, a patch was rolled out to improve on some of these early complaints, and the game does feel better – though there is still a huge amount of work to be done.

Soaring over the Manifest map

Soaring over the Manifest map

While an Nvidia GTX 970 could run Battlefield 4 on ultra settings, it looks like the days of pristine optimisation are behind us. Don’t expect to have much fun with 2042 if you don’t have an extremely powerful and contemporary rig, and even console players are reporting lacklustre performance. DICE has confirmed that it is working on this, though a “fix” could be months down the line. On an RTX 3070 and Ryzen 9 3900X, I have had to turn many graphical settings to their lowest to get a tolerable 50-80 frames per second at 1080p, with severe lag and frame drops sucking the life out of the experience.

As for another missing feature, there’s no single-player campaign – though there is the ability to play solo with and against bots. This feeds into the Escape From Tarkov-esque extract-’em-up mode Hazard Zone, which pits player squads against each other as well as AI. Notably, playing 2042 solo results in far better performance than online. I was able to pull passable frames with every setting on full whack – meaning that performance issues are firmly in DICE’s court. Let’s hope this is sorted out soon.

Perhaps Battlefield 2042’s saving grace is the Portal feature, which enables players to program their own game modes in browser via a low/no-code approach. It also includes a number of favourite maps, weapons, and vehicles from Battlefield 1942, Bad Company 2, and Battlefield 3 all recreated to 2042’s graphical standards. It certainly seems like DICE hopes players will fill in the gaps from the base game via Portal; why else would they release it in this state? It is also a desperate ploy to capitalise on nostalgia for games long out of support. However, what really happened was that players made AI bot farms where they could amass experience points without the skill needed to overcome real people. In response, DICE nerfed the amount of XP awarded in player-made modes.

Orbit is set at a rocket launch pad

Orbit is set at a rocket launch pad

The thing is, Battlefield usually has a litany of launch issues with each release. It was game-breaking bugs that made me drop V very early on, never to return, and even fan-favourite Battlefield 4 was a hot mess to start with. It ended up the series’ peak. In this era of live-service games, we can only hope that DICE is capable of making 2042 everything its marketing material promised, but it looks like the rewritten Battlefield experience is here to stay for the time being. ®

Bootnote

Rich played and will hopefully play Battlefield 2042 again on Twitch as ExcellentSword – once performance has been improved. Chuck him a follow for more video game impressions as they happen! Every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from around 8:30-9pm UK time.

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EU official warns data rules may need to change – putting Irish DPC in the spotlight

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Enforcement of GDPR has attracted a lot of criticism since the regulations came into force in 2018, with a great of deal of that placed on Ireland’s DPC.

Ireland’s role in policing Big Tech on data protection is coming under scrutiny, as a senior European Commission official has warned that the bloc’s privacy rules may need to change if enforcement is not effective.

Politico reports that commission vice-president Věra Jourová said more power may need to be put in the hands of EU institutions when it comes to General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

“Either we will all collectively show that GDPR enforcement is effective or it will have to change and … any potential changes will go towards more centralisation,” she said at a conference this week in Brussels.

Under GDPR’s ‘one-stop shop’ mechanism, tech giants such as Facebook and Google are currently able to handle much of their GDPR responsibilities in one EU country. This means that many data protection investigations fall to regulators in countries where Big Tech companies have European headquarters – namely Ireland and Luxembourg.

Any changes would likely give more power to the EU executive or Europe’s network of privacy regulators, Jourová said.

DPC in the spotlight

Enforcement of GDPR has attracted a lot of criticism since the regulations came into force in 2018, with a great of deal of that placed on Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC).

The DPC acts as the EU’s lead data supervisor for several major US tech players that have European headquarters in Ireland, including Facebook, Google, TikTok and Twitter. In September, WhatsApp was issued the DPC’s largest ever fine for breaching GDPR.

But this has created a hefty workload for the regulator. At an Oireachtas hearing earlier this year, the DPC faced criticisms over how it has been handling GDPR complaints against Big Tech companies.

Dr Johnny Ryan, senior fellow at the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, said Ireland had become a “bottleneck of GDPR investigation and enforcement”, and privacy campaigner Max Schrems claimed there was a “spiral of unresolved complaints” being created.

In response, Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon said much of the criticism was unfounded and that the complexity lies in “an enormous range of stakeholders” involved.

“The complexities of the decision-making involved in the ‘one-stop shop’, which multinationals may avail of under the GDPR, means that the pace of delivery is not solely within the domain of the DPC,” she added.

‘Time to revisit’ the DPC structure

But Dixon could be getting further support at the DPC. It was recently reported that the Department of Justice has asked officials to consider expanding the number of data protection commissioners from one to three.

Privacy advocates are encouraging the Government to do so. Digital Rights Ireland has recently written to Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, TD, saying it is “now time to revisit” how the DPC is structured.

In a letter first reported on by the Irish Examiner and later posted on Twitter, the group said the appointment of additional commissioners would be an “opportunity to develop the global role of the DPC”.

“A stronger DPC is needed to protect human rights and uphold Irish and EU law, and the appointment of new commissioners is an opportunity to develop this,” the letter concluded.

Don’t miss out on the knowledge you need to succeed. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of need-to-know sci-tech news.



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Carbon-cutting app aims to help Londoners ease into net zero future | London

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For those who want to be part of a zero carbon future but find the prospect of giving up flying, ditching the car and turning vegan daunting, help may be at hand. A Finnish-made online tool that promises to give users the key to their own “sustainable good life” by taking control of their carbon footprint is set to be launched in the UK.

London Councils, the body that represents all London boroughs, is looking at developing a version of the tool, which aims to be helpful rather than hectoring, letting people create their own tailor-made path to reducing their CO2 output rather than giving out blanket prescriptions such as stopping flying or eating meat.

Its developers say users in Finland who answer the tool’s 20-odd questions and commit to change commonly reduce their carbon footprint by 30% in 12 months, through simple steps such as buying secondhand clothes, cycling more and eating locally produced food.

Philip Glanville, the mayor of Hackney and chair of London Councils’ transport and environment committee, said the tool could help show citizens that “even small tweaks to their daily lives” could contribute to tackling the climate crisis.

“The vast majority of our residents are motivated to help prevent climate change – our recent polling suggests 87% feel this way,” he said. “But Londoners can only make the choices they are given, and how important government and businesses are in enabling real sustainable choices that fit into their lives.”

Finland has agreed to reduce its CO2 emissions by 15 megatonnes by 2030 compared with 1990 levels. According to calculations by Sitra,the Finnish innovation fund that developed the tool, if every household has two people reducing their carbon footprint by 20%, that reduction alone would result in 73% of the national reduction required.

“There’s a misconception that it doesn’t really matter what you do as an individual, how you eat, how you live, how you move or what type of products and services that you buy,” said Markus Terho, from Sitra. “Studies show that individual action has a significant potential to lower CO2 impact on a global level.”

The average annual carbon footprint of a Londoner is 8,345kg of CO2 emissions, according to the Global Carbon Atlas, so if two people in every one of its 3.6m households reduced their carbon footprint by 20%, this would mean an emission reduction of 12 megatonnes.

Terhosaid achieving a carbon footprint reduction of as much as 20% “is easy to do, anyone can do it and it’s very fast”.

The tool, which launched in Finland in 2018, has gone viral in the Nordic nation of 5.5 million people, with 1.2m tests taken. While only about 24% of its population are motivated enough by climate fears to change the way they live, the majority think other things such as wellbeing, health, saving money and time, and fun are more important, says Terho.

“The beauty of this is that everyone can find their own way to live a good life that is sustainable,” said Terho. “You can find your own unique combination of actions that create meaningful reduction.”

Sitra is an independent body that has a mission to future-proof the Nordic nation, funded by an €84m endowment gifted by the Finnish government to mark 50 years of independence in 1967. Terho said another 17 countries were looking to adapt the approach, and the organisation estimated this had the potential to take as much as a gigatonne of carbon out of the atmosphere by 2030.

Terho stressed that engaging citizens was only a small part of the solution. “Activating citizens on a large scale will bring CO2 reductions and push governments, cities, municipalities and companies to move quicker,” he said. “​​Mitigating climate change is such a huge global societal challenge that everyone’s contribution is needed.”

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