Archives for June 30, 2018

Google Wants Employees to Work Instead of Arguing Politics

In the past few months,  2,600 Google employees have signed a petition asking the company to do more about harassment–and to make HR investigations transparent, according to The Wall Street Journal. 

It’s one of the many changes going on at Google when it comes to employee communications. Google has encouraged dialogue unrelated to the workplace for years, and now it’s not working out so well. 

Last year, Google fired James Damore for expressing his views about how choice and biology may be the true driver for the lack of women in tech, saying that his views perpetuated gender stereotypes and violated the code of conduct. 

But, not everyone at Google agreed with the decision. And, it seems, that there is very little at Google that everyone agrees on. Because the company encouraged message boards and the like to discuss non-work issues, they are dealing with trolls and hurt feelings and it’s a big mess. 

It was a nice idea–let’s make the workplace your whole world, where you can bring your “whole self.” But, as I’ve written before, that doesn’t work out so well in practice. Google is finding it necessary to create clear policies about what constitutes harassment, including rules against doxxing–releasing personal information–as retaliation.

While this is a good idea–employees shouldn’t be attempting to punish each other for political and other views that someone finds offensive–the fact that Google reached this level indicates an overall culture problem. 

Google has long been praised for innovative practices and former Head of People Operations, Lazlo Bock, received praise in many circles. But, perhaps some of that praise was too early–when you have a culture that has employees trolling and doxxing each other, perhaps there is an HR problem. 

The solution is to focus on work and tell people to find their social life elsewhere. But that requires people to leave the office. Bock claimed that the reason for all the on-campus perks was to increase conversations and innovation, it also kept people on campus. It’s difficult to build relationships with people outside of work when you’re never gone. As a result, you need your co-workers to meet all your needs, including your need to discuss politics. Which, as anyone could guess, can be a disaster.

Google needs to get back to work, shut down the non-work related boards, and make sure people gain outside social lives. You know, like a traditional business. Turns out those stodgy old fogies were on to something.  

Space Photos of the Week: Scientists Are Seeing Red Over Jupiter’s Spot

Jupiter’s red spot is going to be one of the first points of study for the James Webb Space Telescope. This ambitious and complicated instrument is rather late to launch as well as over budget (as reported in WIRED). But when it does go, up it’s going to look right in the heart of this gigantic storm. Scientists are hoping to learn why the red spot is actually red; they believe the gas giant’s atmosphere contains molecular parts called chromophores that color its clouds. Whether astronomers find them will determine whether they crack the mystery of Jupiter’s iconic spot.

Feeling dizzy? The Juno spacecraft speeds over Jupiter at tens of thousands of miles per hour, but still manages to capture ridiculously detailed close-ups—like this photo of swirling, dancing storms. The white clouds are believed to be higher up in the atmosphere, whereas the darker regions live lower, closer on the planet.

Enceladus, Saturn’s watery and icy moon, has long intrigued scientists looking for evidence of life beyond Earth. And now it’s the subject of some big news: A paper out this week in the journal Nature says the Cassini spacecraft has detected complex organic molecules in plumes erupting from the surface. While far from a definitive discovery of life on Enceladus, this marks a milestone for research into the moon’s habitable potential.

Can you spot the asteroids in this photo? Don’t see any? Look a bit closer: Those streaks of white stretching across this gorgeous photo of the galaxy cluster Abell 370 are all asteroids. Turns out they aren’t even close to Abell 370; those asteroids are closer to Earth, pulling off an epic photobomb as the Hubble Space Telescope snaps shots. Rock on!

The Hubble Space Telescope often produces colorful composite images that look like glorious paintings, and this stunning pic of the Abell S0740 galaxy cluster is a perfect example. Abell S0740 lives more than 450 million light years away from Earth—or maybe we should say lived? The light in this photo is so old that even our extinct dinosaurs did not exist when it set out into the universe.

Oh hi, brand-new Martian crater! NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter reveals evidence of a recent impact on our solar system neighbor sometime in the past six years. (By Mars crater standards, that’s new. Some of the planet’s pockmarks are millions of years old.) The surface of Mars tends to be reddish from iron oxide in the dirt—that’s right, rust. Yet the dust in the crater’s “blast zone” looks bluish in comparison, which indicates something new and … impactful has taken place.