The Samsung Galaxy A42 5G is a thoroughly decent midrange phone that doesn’t really need to exist.
Taking it at face value, it’s fairly priced at $400 with a big 6.6-inch OLED screen, generous 5,000mAh battery, and a healthy support policy that will see it receiving security updates through the next few years. That’s a pretty good deal.
In the context of Samsung’s Galaxy A lineup, it’s situated between the Galaxy A52 5G and the A32 5G, two very good options in their own price brackets. The $499 A52 5G offers a few more high-end bells and whistles than the A42 5G, like a fast refresh screen and an IP67 waterproof rating. At $279, the more basic A32 5G includes an LCD rather than OLED.
But if you’re shopping for a new device with Verizon, you won’t see either the A52 5G or the A32 5G on the retailer’s shelves (digital or otherwise). Instead, you’ll only find the A42 5G, thanks to one feature it has and the others don’t: mmWave 5G support. Until recently, this was a feature reserved for premium phones, and the A42 5G is one of the least expensive devices that can connect with the network. Verizon in particular has been pushing this super-fast flavor of 5G hard over the past couple of years. Despite its efforts, mmWave is still scarce and highly range-limited, but the carrier is still heavily biasing its stock toward devices that support it.
That’s why the A42 5G exists, at least in the US, but I’m not convinced that’s a good enough reason for anyone besides Verizon.
Samsung A42 5G screen, battery, and performance
The Galaxy A42 5G offers a big 6.6-inch 720p OLED screen. That’s not a lot of resolution stretched across a fairly big panel, and it shows — if you look closely at images you’ll see some pixelation. The screen gets bright enough for indoor use, but I had a hard time seeing it outside even with brightness maxed out. The OLED panel shows nice contrast compared to an LCD (i.e., what you’ll get in a less expensive model like the A32 5G), but otherwise the display is a little underwhelming.
The A42 5G offers an in-display fingerprint sensor for biometric unlocking and it’s one of the better ones I’ve come across in this budget-to-midrange class — it’s responsive and only occasionally fussy. Budget phones often have sensors that are less precise and require additional scans more frequently, and that is a real pain considering how many times we unlock our devices every day.
Battery life is excellent thanks to a large 5,000mAh cell — most days I only drained it to 70 percent by bedtime, but even a day with heavy use that included a Zoom call on cellular data only brought it down around 50 percent. A power user would definitely get a full day and a little extra from it, and with moderate use it can easily be stretched to two days on a charge.
Overall performance from the A42 5G’s Snapdragon 750 processor and 4GB of RAM (there’s a healthy 128GB of storage, too, and it’s expandable via MicroSD) is good for day-to-day tasks. The only slowness I noticed was a little bit of lag starting the camera app, and slight delays using more processing-intensive camera features like portrait mode.
The US version of the A42 5G ships with Android 11. Beyond that, Samsung has guaranteed two additional OS upgrades and four years of security support. In terms of device longevity, that puts it ahead of a lot of the midrange Android competition, which often only sees a couple of years of security support.
Samsung’s current implementation of Android is a little more cluttered than we prefer, and activating it on Verizon’s network means you’ll end up with even more pre-downloaded apps on top of that. It’s a lot. There’s some sort of game featuring a cartoon bear on the phone I’ve been using for the past few weeks, and I do not care for it but I haven’t been able to summon the energy to uninstall it either.
Samsung A42 5G camera
The A42 5G includes a 48-megapixel f/1.8 main rear camera, accompanied by an 8-megapixel f/2.2 ultrawide, and 2-megapixel depth sensor, which is all par for the midrange class. There’s also a 13-megapixel selfie camera around front. A version of the phone sold in the UK and Europe included a 5-megapixel macro and a slightly higher-res 5-megapixel depth sensor, but we’re not missing out on anything important by not having those cameras on the US version.
In good light outdoors, the Galaxy A42 5G takes vibrant, detailed photos. Like other Samsung devices before it, the A42 produces colors that lean toward oversaturated, which can be distracting if a more natural look is your thing. Portrait mode photos are convincing enough, and the camera can sometimes struggle deciding on white balance and exposure in mixed lighting situations.
Photos in very low light show a lot of smeared detail thanks to noise reduction, but outside of the Pixel phones in this price bracket, that’s not something we’d expect a midrange device to excel at. All told, the A42 5G’s photo capabilities are on par with its class. Spending a bit more on the A52 5G will get you a stabilized main camera that will get more sharp shots in dim lighting and slightly better low-light performance in general, but in the $400 range the A42 measures up well against most of its peers.
The Galaxy A42 5G is a fine phone for $400, and if you’re committed to buying from Verizon, it’s one of the better options at that price. But if you’re able to buy an unlocked phone or you aren’t on Verizon, then there are other options, including in Samsung’s own midrange lineup, that are well worth your consideration. Unless you live in an area with good mmWave coverage and spend a lot of your time outside where the signal can actually be reached, the A42 5G’s unique feature is of limited value.
If you’d like to save a little money, the A32 5G is a viable alternative for $280. You’ll get the same security support longevity as the A42 5G along with similar photo capabilities, a huge battery, and 5G support that’s ready for upcoming improvements to Verizon’s and AT&T’s networks. Its processor is a little less robust and the LCD isn’t as nice to look at as the A42 5G’s OLED, but if these things aren’t priorities then you might as well save a little and go for the less expensive device.
If you think you’ll want a little more than the A42 5G has to offer, then the $500 A52 5G is a good step-up option with a bit of a better camera, a great high refresh rate screen, and the added peace of mind of IP-rated waterproofing. If you can find a Pixel 4A 5G in stock anywhere, that would be another good alternative at $500 with a better camera, faster processor, and cleaner software. It offers a smaller 6.2-inch screen, though, and again, you’ll have a hard time finding one new at this point since its successor, the Pixel 5A, will likely be arriving in the near future.
If none of the above suits you, then the A42 5G really isn’t a bad choice. Its healthy support policy, decent overall performance, and robust battery life make it one of the best options from Verizon for around $400. Just don’t get too excited about mmWave.
The OnePlus 9 Pro is a legitimate flagship phone that is genuinely competitive with the best Android phones on the market — at least from a features and quality perspective. Yet in terms of market and mind share, it’s still destined to be a niche device for a small group of enthusiasts looking for a specific kind of elegance in their Android device.
And that’s great.
If you live in the US and you’re buying an Android phone, chances are very high that you’ll end up with a Samsung Galaxy phone. Samsung has the carrier relationships, quality, and marketing that have led directly to market share. LG, Motorola, and even Googlesell more phones here than OnePlus does.
But after nearly seven years and dozens of phones, OnePlus has established itself as a brand that can make great phones that are serious alternatives to the mainstream. The $1069 OnePlus 9 Pro (the only option in North America, other parts of the world have access to a slightly less expensive model) achieves that goal with only a handful of notable compromises.
OnePlus’ flagship phones always come with a laundry list of top-of-the-line specs, but what makes the OnePlus 9 Pro good isn’t the numbers; it’s how well those specs translate into one of the best experiences you can get using Android.
OnePlus 9 Pro hardware design and 5G support
The hardware design on the OnePlus 9 Pro is the most seamless, elegant phone that the company has designed to date. It is, of course, big. It has a 6.7-inch screen that goes from edge to edge in a body that’s narrow enough to make it just barely usable for me in one hand.
What I can’t help but notice is how far OnePlus has come in build quality. The glass on the front and back curves into the aluminum rail on the edges with no seams at all. It’s well-balanced, beautiful, and solid.
It’s also the spitting image of a Galaxy S20 Plus. Shift a couple of buttons around, move the selfie camera to the middle, and swap out the logo, and it’s the same design. I get that there are only so many ways to sandwich curved glass and aluminum together, but it’s uncanny.
To be fair, OnePlus does keep some of its identity in the three-stage ringer switch, which easily lets you toggle between a ringer, vibration, and fully silent. It may still be my favorite feature on OnePlus phones, and I remain baffled as to why more Android phone makers don’t adopt a physical ringer switch.
Speaking of vibration, the haptics on the OnePlus 9 Pro aren’t sloppy at all, unlike many Android phones. Unfortunately, the trade-off is that they aren’t very strong; I often can’t feel it vibrate in my pocket.
The OnePlus 9 Pro has the top-tier Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor, which is paired with eight gigs of RAM on the 128GB model. Unfortunately, this configuration isn’t sold in North America — OnePlus originally expected to make it available, but later said that supply constraints led it to offer only the more expensive version with 256GB of storage and 12GB of RAM. There’s no microSD card slot for storage expansion in either model. What you get is what you get.
It supports both Sub-6 and millimeter-wave (mmWave) styles of 5G, but there’s a significant caveat: the phone supports it, but OnePlus has only managed to land 5G certification from its carrier partner, T-Mobile. If you buy it unlocked, as of now, it will only work with T-Mobile’s 5G network. Everything else will be LTE. AT&T 5G support doesn’t appear to be in the cards at all, and as for Verizon, OnePlus says that it “continues to work with Verizon to certify both the 9 and 9 Pro on its 5G network.” Later, on March 26th, Verizon announced that it would support 5G on the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro.
OnePlus 9 Pro battery and charging
For OnePlus, the standout spec is its proprietary charging technology. There’s a 65W charger included in the box, and it can charge up the phone ridiculously fast. The phone’s 4,500mAh battery is actually split in two, which helps further speed charging.
If you like, you can spend an additional $69 on OnePlus’ new Warp Charge 50 wireless charger. It charges at 25W, but since the battery is split, it’s essentially the same as charging at 50W, wirelessly. It also works if you set the phone on the charger in landscape mode. With the phone fully dead, it charged completely in 45 minutes. With ambient mode in Google Assistant on, it took a bit longer — but it was still wicked fast compared to other wireless chargers.
That 4,500mAh battery was enough to get me through a full day and a half of moderately heavy usage. However, OnePlus phones do tend to be a little more variable in their battery life depending on use. Spending a day shooting 4K video and pushing the processor with games meant I could kill it with less than four hours of screen-on time.
So while the battery life might not be best in class, the way OnePlus has built its ecosystem for charging means I’m able to top off faster than I can with other phones — provided I use OnePlus’ proprietary chargers, of course.
OnePlus 9 Pro screen
After wireless charging, the next standout spec on the OnePlus 9 Pro is that 6.7-inch screen. Like Samsung, OnePlus has switched over to an LTPO style of OLED, which can be more power efficient and allows the company to have more control over the refresh rate.
The screen can go all the way from 120Hz on down to 1Hz, depending on what’s happening on the display. OnePlus has branded the touch response rate on the screen as “Hyper Touch,” clocked at 360Hz for certain games, and though I am dubious it makes that big a difference for gamers, OnePlus says it could. More consequential is the screen resolution: 1440 x 3216 at 525ppi. You can leave it at that high resolution and have the high refresh rate screen going at the same time. Doing so probably hits battery life, but to me, the point of this max-spec phone is to max the specs, so I didn’t turn down the resolution or the refresh rate.
Those are the specs on the screen, but it’s the experience that matters. And again, I think OnePlus has done a remarkable job here. Something about the tuning of the animations in OxygenOS makes this phone feel just a little bit smoother than even Samsung phones. I also appreciate the color tuning — although it’s not as subdued as an iPhone or even a Pixel, it’s more restrained than Samsung’s default settings.
OnePlus 9 Pro camera
Without delving into a lot of history, I will just point out that until very recently, camera quality has been the main downfall for OnePlus phones. It’s a particularly bad way to fall down, too, because often, the clearest and simplest way to compare phones that otherwise look and perform nearly equivalently is to look at the photos they take.
OnePlus knows all of this and wants to position the OnePlus 9 Pro as a heads-up competitor — or at least a viable alternative — to the very best Samsung and even Apple have to offer. So it did a thing a lot of challenger brands do: called in a ringer.
That ringer is Hasselblad, which OnePlus is partnering with to improve its camera results. It will be a multiyear effort, and it’s far from guaranteed it’ll be a fruitful partnership. In fact, most of these sorts of deals don’t really do anything notable when it comes to the camera’s quality.
This year, Hasselblad’s participation with OnePlus’ development process amounted to helping the company tune the colors from the camera and lending a bit of its interface to the camera’s Pro mode. Oh, and most importantly for OnePlus, Hasselblad allowed its logo to be stamped next to the lenses.
I do think there’s some credit due to this color-tuning influence. In the same way that other smartphone brands have a “look” to their photos, I think OnePlus is developing its own. iPhone photos are generally flat and neutral, tending to the warm side of color; Pixel photos contrasty and blue; and Samsung photos have the vibrancy slider set to max.
The OnePlus 9 Pro’s image output lands mostly in the middle. It tends toward blue, and it definitely lifts up shadows to create more even lighting. Its photos are more striking but less accurate than what you’ll get out of an iPhone.
The camera system is good, but it can’t quite match the quality you get from an iPhone 12 Pro Max or Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra — both of which cost more than the OnePlus 9 Pro. It handles a variety of conditions quite well, but sometimes I just had to take an extra beat to compose my shot. It let me better judge what the viewfinder was showing and, honestly, gave me time to try the shot again.
Galaxy S21 Ultra (left) vs. OnePlus 9 Pro (right)
As usual with smartphone cameras, I think the difference comes down to software. I like the colors the 9 Pro produces, but sometimes it just tries too hard and whiffs. Similarly, OnePlus seems to want to bring a little of that Pixel contrast magic to bear but instead just oversharpens. And lightening shadows is sometimes laudable, but not when it adds completely unnecessary and distracting image noise.
The main camera uses a new 48-megapixel Sony sensor with OIS, though when I pressed OnePlus to tell me what exactly that sensor brings to the table, I didn’t really get a clear answer. You can shoot 12-bit RAW images in the Pro mode (which is two bits more than last year, if you’re keeping count).
That’s all nice, but the interface on Pro mode is what gets me. You can clearly see what’s set to manual and what’s in auto mode. It’s simple and easy to use, too. Best of all is focus peaking, which draws little lines over the part of the image that’s in focus. It is a lot clearer and more fun to use than the tap-to-focus you need to use on other phones. (You can do that here, too, of course.)
The OnePlus 9 Pro’s other cameras include a big, 50-megapixel ultrawide with a sensor that’s quite a lot nicer than the usual step-down sensors ultrawides get stuck with. I loved using it right up until it went haywire with sharpening. OnePlus put in a custom lens to help with distortion at the edges, and it works as well or better than pure software fixes at keeping straight lines from bowing.
The telephoto camera is 3.3x, and it’s not anything special at that zoom level. Beyond it, digital zoom is kind of a mess. It gets pantsed by the S21 Ultra with its periscope-style lens. There’s also a monochrome camera that serves only as a helper for the rest of the system, but I suspect it’s not doing anything especially important. OnePlus did drop the gimmicky and pointless “color filter” camera from last year’s 8 Pro this time around. It will probably drop the monochrome camera next year, if I had to guess.
30X zoom. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (left) vs OnePlus Pro 9 (right).
OnePlus’ software-focused Nightscape mode works really well for capturing nighttime shots, although to my tastes, it over-brightens the image. Portrait mode is a mixed bag; heads often look artificially cut out from the blurry background. Again, I can get good shots, but portrait mode was often one of those situations where I needed to try the shot a second time. The selfie camera is passable in good light but falls down fast in the dark.
Unfortunately, video is equally messy. The OnePlus 9 Pro will let you shoot up to 8K 30 or 4K 120, but neither looked good. In fact, regular old 4K 30 has that overprocessed and oversharpened look you see so often from smartphones. The big new feature is improved HDR for backlit subjects, but the effect is minimal at best.
That’s a whole pile of critical takes compared to phones that cost more than this phone. But despite the price difference, I think the OnePlus 9 Pro’s camera should be held to as high a standard as possible — it’s a flagship phone. It can sometimes hang with the best of the best, and that’s a win.
OnePlus 9 Pro performance and OxygenOS 11
Even though the camera is often the main differentiator for an Android phone, it’s not necessarily everybody’s highest priority. When I’m not pixel-peeping photos, the OnePlus 9 Pro is the best Android phone I’ve used so far this year. The performance is great. I’m especially impressed with the optical in-screen fingerprint sensor, which is super fast and doesn’t seem to be thrown by weird lighting conditions.
OnePlus’ version of Android is called OxygenOS, and it’s now at version 11. The company has borrowed Samsung’s idea of shifting content down to meet your thumb and added in support for an always-on ambient display. The animations feel smooth, and OnePlus has learned its lesson about how annoying it can be to have apps close in the background too often.
OnePlus has committed to two major OS updates and three years of bimonthly security updates, which puts it ahead of brands like LG but behind Samsung and Google.
You can customize a few things like the font and icons, too. My favorite customization is an ambient display mode that displays a colorful bar that shows how often you’ve been using your phone throughout the day.
One feature borrowed from Apple and / or Microsoft is the ability to put your widgets into a separate panel so they’re not littering your main home screen, accessible via a quick swipe down. I love it, but I wish it wasn’t mapped to the same thing other Android phones use to quickly bring down notifications.
Mostly, though, OxygenOS just feels chill, especially compared to Samsung. OnePlus isn’t pushing its own ecosystem of apps and services (though with a new OnePlus Watch coming, perhaps that may change). It’s also not festooning its own apps with advertisements, unlike Samsung.
The OnePlus 9 Pro is not a “flagship killer.” It’s a flagship. Although it still costs a little less than its top-tier competitors, it nevertheless is a pricey phone that makes a lot of promises. Mostly, it delivers on them. Even though a tiny fraction of customers buy OnePlus phones compared to Apple and Samsung, the company has built a track record long enough to deserve its status as an established brand.
If you’re considering one of the new OnePlus phones, I am actually hard-pressed to make the case for the OnePlus 9 Pro over the regular OnePlus 9, which Allison Johnson reviewed. The regular OnePlus 9 is $240 less, and the things you lose are mostly the nice-to-haves that justify the Pro’s existence: fast wireless charging, OIS, a telephoto lens, mmWave 5G, and the slightly larger screen. The cheaper OnePlus 9 lacks telephoto, but its other cameras take photos that are nearly equivalent to the pro. It has a high refresh rate screen, fast wired charging, wireless charging (though it’s not as fast), and most importantly, a nice OnePlus software experience with great performance.
The reason to opt for the 9 Pro over the regular 9 is in some ways the same reason you’d opt for a OnePlus phone over a Samsung phone in the first place: it’s just a little nicer and a little different than what everybody else has in their pocket.
Update March 26th, 2021 5pm ET:Verizon announced it would support 5G on the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro and OnePlus confirmed they will not work on AT&T’s 5G network. The review has been updated to note the new information.
Between July 11th and 13th 2021, the New York Mets selected their future franchise pieces In the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft. Needless to say, it was an exciting one for the blue and orange!
After 2020’s draft, 20-rounds is a complete breath of fresh air, as the prospect market was HOT! The Mets began round one in the 10th selection spot. I’ve mentioned before that the Mets are 19th ranked of 30 MLB teams in farm systems, with only 3 of the top 10 prospects being pitchers. You can never have enough pitching. This year, the Mets drafted 12 pitchers alone!
Also, may I remind everyone, 3 months ago I wrote an article titled, “New York Mets: Pitchers to watch for in the 2021 MLB Draft”. Although I had high hopes, I sort of mentioned that the Mets 10th overall pick did not look hopeful to draft Kumar Rocker… well, the “baseball gods” heard that…
That being said, let’s take a look at the future of the New York Mets.
2021 New York Mets Draft Picks and Summaries
ROUND 1: 10th Pick, RHP Kumar Rocker
A part of Vanderbilt’s 1-2 pitching punch, Kumar Rocker sits 6th overall in Major League Baseball’s top 100 prospect list. This kid is monstrous on the mound, with a football body type similar to his father who was an NFL player. Rocker stands 6’5”, 245lbs, displaying strength in a muscular body type with good usage of power from the legs and hips. He’s a strike-thrower, not afraid to attack the zone, can paint corners, and work top and bottom shelf. He works a fastball, slider, and changeup. His fastball is most relied on, carries impressive velocity, sitting 95-96mph with great command. He’s touched up to 99 max on his fastball from time to time. His slider is his out-pitch and will be very crucial as he climbs the Mets ranks. His slider can be used like a curveball as well, changing movement, direction, and placement. His changeup was very absent from his game repertoire; it’s a usual back-pocket option but not a needed one.
Rocker has started 39 career games for Vanderbilt, going 28-10 over 236 and 2/3 innings, 321 strikeouts with only 68 walks. Rocker finished the 2021 season with a 2.73 ERA. His career headlines also were impressive, being named Baseball America’s Freshman of the Year, 2019 College World Series Most Outstanding Player, and he also threw a no-hitter in 2019.
Rocker is a strikeout machine and considered elite; this was a 10th round steal by the Mets, and truly is a boost for the future of this organization.
ROUND 2: 46TH Pick: RHP Calvin Ziegler
The New York Mets round 2 selection (46th overall) is a fairly familiar face. Right-hander Calvin Ziegler was their pick, the top pitching prospect in all of Canada. I spent time scouting Ontario and eastern Canada; Ziegler competed in the Canadian Premier Baseball League with the Great Lakes Canadians which I coached against. Watching this kid was like watching magic; high schooler throwing 97mph? Yep, unheard of. Aside from the CPBL, Ziegler was throwing for the TNXL Academy in Florida, prepping for the Draft. He was a commit to Auburn University.
He’s ranked 268th of 500 top-ranked prospects by Baseball America, and 134th on MLB Pipeline. Ziegler is a right-hander with a ton of talent. He’s 6’0”, 205lbs, tall with an athletic build from top to bottom. He has a loose arm, repeats his delivery well with solid fundamentals and arm action. Ziegler is known for his fastball; better yet he’s known for the drastic increase in fastball velocity between 2019 and present. We’ve seen 89-91 maximum transpire to 91-94 average, with a top-velocity of 97mph. His fastball is his hottest tool currently, with great command and ability to move around the zone. His curveball is a well-hooking breaking ball between 82-84mph that can be thrown for strikes, accompanied by his most dominant option, the slider. His changeup is also complimentary to his repertoire.
Ziegler will be a key took for the future of the Mets on the pitching side. He recently signed his contract and is excited to start the journey!
ROUND 3: 81st Pick: RHP Dominic Hamel
Another arm to the system, out of Dallas Baptist University, right-handed pitcher, Dominic Hamel. The 96th ranked prospect by MLB is impressive on the rapsodo charts. Hamel is an overall 50 on the 20-80 scale, however, spin rates on his pitches are phenomenal. He throws a fastball, maxing 96mph which can touch all of the strike box. His curveball breaks well, shoots downward into and off the zone. The slider bites late in the early 80s with good late-breaking action, and the changeup works low with good velocity reduction. He’s struck out 136 batters over 91.2 innings going 13-2. The Mets can see good innings out of this kid in the near future.
Carlson had claimed that the agency was spying on him and planned to leak his communications to take him off air.
One of the sources said that Carlson’s name was picked up in third-party communications and his identity was unmasked, meaning others mentioned him in their communications. In the NSA foreign intelligence reports, the names of Americans are redacted, or “masked.” Certain authorized US officials have the authority to request the names of those individuals if they have a justifiable reason.
The NSA declined to comment on Saturday. Last month, when the accusations were made, the NSA tweeted a statement indicating the Fox host’s claim “is untrue.”
“Tucker Carlson has never been an intelligence target of the Agency and the NSA has never had any plans to try to take his program off the air,” the statement said.
“For the NSA to unmask Tucker Carlson or any journalist attempting to secure a newsworthy interview is entirely unacceptable and raises serious questions about their activities as well as their original denial, which was wildly misleading,” a Fox News spokesperson said in a statement to CNN.
Katie Bo Williams and Oliver Darcy contributed to this story.
The U.S. Attorney General, Merrick Garland, spends two days here touting a new task force to combat surging summer violence. The Illinois native arrived right after three mass shootings happened in Chicago in one day. Police Supt. David Brown said after the mass shootings, “we are in a battle for the heart and soul of these communities.”
Will Speaker Pelosi appoint Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger to the Jan. 6 investigation panel?
Minority Leader, Kevin McCarthy, pulls another Illinois Representative, Rodney Davis, as well as all other GOP members from the panel after the Speaker rejects outspoken loyalists to Donald Trump, Reps. Jim Jordan and Jim Banks from serving on the committee.
Walter Freeman was itching for a shortcut. Since the 1930s, the Washington, D.C. neurologist had been drilling through the skulls of psychiatric patients to scoop out brain chunks in the hopes of calming their mental torment. But Freeman decided he wanted something simpler than a bone drill — he wanted a rod-like implement that could pass directly through the eye socket to penetrate the brain. He’d then swirl the rod around to scramble the patient’s frontal lobes, the brain regions that control higher-level thinking and judgment.
Rummaging in his kitchen drawer, Freeman found the perfect tool: a sharp pick of the sort used to shear ice from large blocks. He knew his close colleague, surgeon James Watts, wouldn’t sanction his new approach, so he closed the office door and did his “ice-pick lobotomies” — more formally, transorbital lobotomies — without Watts’ knowledge.
BOOK REVIEW — “The Icepick Surgeon: Murder, Fraud, Sabotage, Piracy, and Other Dastardly Deeds Perpetrated in the Name of Science,” by Sam Kean (Little, Brown, & Company, 368 pages).
Though the amoral scientist has been a familiar trope since Victor Frankenstein, we seldom consider what sets these technicians on the path to iniquity. Journalist Sam Kean’s “The Icepick Surgeon: Murder, Fraud, Sabotage, Piracy, and Other Dastardly Deeds Perpetrated in the Name of Science,” helps fill that void, describing how dozens of promising scientists broke bad throughout history — and arguing that the better we understand their moral decay, the more prepared we’ll be to quash the next Freeman. “Understanding what good and evil look like in science — and the path from one to the other — is more vital than ever,” Kean writes. “Science has its own sins to answer for.”
Expert at spinning historical science yarns — his last book, “The Bastard Brigade,” was about the failed Nazi atom bomb — Kean presents a scientific rogues’ gallery that’s both entertaining and chilling. Naturalist William Dampier, who influenced Charles Darwin’s work, resorted to piracy to fund his fieldwork in the 17th century. He joined a band of buccaneers that seized gems, scads of valuable silk, and stocks of perfume in raids throughout Central and South America.
A century later, celebrated Scottish surgeon John Hunter worked with grave robbers to obtain bodies so he could study human anatomy. His colleagues emulated his approach, and the pipeline from corpse-snatchers to anatomists continued for decades. The practice was tacitly accepted because it could yield valuable insights — Hunter discovered the tear ducts and the olfactory nerve, among other things — but the human toll was horrifying nonetheless. At public hangings, so-called sack-‘em-up men “sometimes even yanked people off the gibbet who weren’t quite dead yet,” Kean writes. “They’d merely passed out from lack of air — only to pop awake later on the dissection table.”
In a way, though, the gruesome endpoints Kean describes — the scrambled brains, the ransacked ships, the deathbeds — are the least interesting part of his story. They mostly confirm philosopher Simone Weil’s impression that real-world evil is “gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring.”
What’s more compelling is Kean’s take on how the scientists justified their actions. They pushed aside thoughts of collateral damage — the lives they disrespected and damaged — by rationalizing that their contributions outweighed any harm they were doing. Freeman’s work at an early 20th-century psychiatric asylum convinced him of the unalloyed good of calming agitated patients via lobotomy. “The ward could be brightened when curtains and flowerpots were no longer in danger of being used as weapons,” Freeman observed.
“Understanding what good and evil look like in science — and the path from one to the other — is more vital than ever,” Kean writes.
But it wasn’t long before the downsides of Freeman’s blinkered strategy showed up. Botched lobotomies killed some patients, while others, like John F. Kennedy’s sister Rosemary Kennedy, emerged unable to speak normally or care for themselves.
Kean excels at conveying each scientist’s slide into corruption — one so gradual that, like the fabled boiling frog, they scarcely noticed they were in hot water. Freeman was once a wunderkind neurology professor, beloved by his students. At some point, he opened a book by Portuguese neurologist Egas Moniz and got religion. Moniz claimed excising brain tissue helped end-stage patients recover enough to leave asylums, and Freeman felt inspired to help his own severely ill patients in the same way. At first, it seemed like a reasonable approach of last resort. In Moniz’s midcentury heyday, lobotomies became an accepted part of medical practice at asylums, and Moniz even won the Nobel Prize in 1949 for his advances in psychosurgery.
But then Freeman started performing more and more lobotomies, with fewer ethical misgivings. He increasingly used the crude ice pick to probe patients’ brains, rather than Moniz’s more traditional surgical tools. And he started offering the surgery to adult patients with less severe mental illness and, finally, to young children with mood disturbances. Why not operate as early as possible, he argued, before things had a chance to get out of control?
English naturalist Henry Smeathman likewise began with the highest intentions — he was an ardent opponent of the slave trade. But years later, on a lonely posting to Sierra Leone, he yukked it up with slave ship captains in his free time, then signed on as a slave-trading agent himself. His rationale? By putting his oar in, he could ensure his field specimens got fast passage on slave ships from Africa to England. “Preserving dead bugs and plants meant more to him than preserving his morals,” Kean notes.
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Kean’s catalogue of scientific ne’er-do-wells does have some notable gaps. While he briefly mentions Nazi doctors and their horrifying experiments on concentration-camp prisoners, he skips entirely over early 20th-century U.S. eugenics, a branch of pseudoscience concerned with preserving “fit” human bloodlines and discarding the “unfit.” Founders of this movement, including researcher Francis Galton, in many ways prepared the ground for the genocidal crimes of Adolf Hitler and his henchmen.
Yet Kean makes up for his omissions, at least in part, with the complexity of the portraits he does include. We learn about Smeathman’s respect for his Sierra Leonean guides’ natural history knowledge, and about how carefully Freeman followed up with each of his patients to document their progress. Many unscrupulous scientists, Kean reveals, are far more like us than not. Though it’s comforting to view them as alien, we have many of the same human tendencies they do — and, like them, we have a hard time detecting when the drip-drip-drip of moral compromise turns into a flood.
“Any one of us might have fallen into similar traps,” Kean writes. “Honestly admitting this is the best vigilance we have.”
To avoid such traps, Kean advises scientists to adopt clear ethical guidelines before launching any project, based on research showing that people behave more ethically when they assert their honesty at the start of a task. He also advocates for a technique developed by psychologist Gary Klein and championed by Nobel Prize-winner Daniel Kahneman called the premortem — thorough assessments of all the ways a planned research venture could go awry. But the book stops short of specific policy implications on this score; there’s no analysis of how well scientific premortems might work to forestall future dastardly deeds.
What’s more, some scientists are already so far into the morass that premortems are out of the question. It’s fitting that Freeman’s final surgery, an early 1967 lobotomy, ended in disaster. He failed to aim his pick just right, and the patient sustained a brain bleed and died. No doctor in the U.S. has performed such a procedure since — at least, so far as the medical record shows. It may be true that, thanks to Freeman’s surgeries, some patients left asylums and returned to their families. But decades later, what is remembered most are the lives the ice pick destroyed.
From the start, OnePlus has positioned its midrange lineup of Nord phones as a less expensive, entirely separate lineup to its flagship devices. But with the Nord 2, which comes as a direct successor to the original Nord released last year, the line between the two seems blurrier than ever.
While the original Nord had its own character, such as a unique design and exclusive features like an ultrawide selfie camera, the Nord 2 feels more like a stripped down flagship. It’s got a very similar camera bump to the OnePlus 9, for example, and although the specific sensors are different, its cameras fill the same functions. But all the core essentials are still there: a vibrant high refresh rate screen, good battery life, and easy-to-use software.
A more affordable, non-flagship starting price means it’s hard to argue with these tradeoffs. The OnePlus Nord 2 costs £399 / €399 for its 8GB RAM / 128GB storage model, rising to £469 / €499 for a 12GB RAM / 256GB storage version. (OnePlus isn’t selling the Nord 2 in the US, but those prices roughly convert to $470 and $588, respectively.) For this review, I’ve been using the 12GB model.
With its 6.43-inch display, the OnePlus Nord 2 is a hair smaller than the OnePlus 9 (which has a 6.55-inch display), but otherwise this is a very similar-looking device. There’s a rectangular camera bump on the back containing three cameras, a hole-punch cutout for the selfie camera on the top left on the front, and a USB-C port on the bottom (but sadly, no headphone jack). Biometrics are handled via a snappy in-display fingerprint sensor, and there’s a physical slider to switch between silent and vibrate on the right of the phone.
You’ll find Gorilla Glass on the front and back of the phone, but since its frame is plastic you might want to use a case if you’re particularly worried about the frame’s finish wearing off. Otherwise I didn’t notice the phone flexing any more than a typical aluminum framed phone. Like the original Nord, the Nord 2 doesn’t have an official IP rating for dust or water resistance.
Oh, and this is also a 5G phone: you get sub-6GHz support, but no mmWave. Given the latter high-speed, low-range network type has barely started to roll out in the Nord 2’s release markets, it’s not something many people are likely to miss.
The most notable sign that this isn’t a flagship OnePlus device is its processor, which is a MediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI rather than one of Qualcomm’s flagship Snapdragon 888 chips. Considering MediaTek is a brand more commonly associated with budget devices, I was apprehensive about its inclusion on the OnePlus Nord 2, but I came away pleasantly surprised by performance overall. Yes, you miss out on Qualcomm-exclusive features like high quality AptX Bluetooth audio, but otherwise switching between apps was hitch-free, and the processors’ GPU happily made the most of the phone’s smooth 90Hz display while scrolling through even a relatively graphically intensive Twitter feed (which, in comparison, stuttered on the original Nord). I noticed the phone being slightly slow to wake up on a couple of occasions, however, but overall performance was on a par with, if not slightly better than the original Nord in everyday usage.
The Nord 2’s 1080p screen is generally hard to fault. It does everything well that you’d expect from an OLED display. Whites are crisp and bright, colors are punchy, and blacks are, well, black. Its 90Hz refresh rate is technically a step down from the 120Hz panel that you’ll find on phones like the OnePlus 9, but in practice I didn’t notice a downgrade.
As a bonus, this time around the Nord 2’s screen is actually flanked by stereo speakers (one downward-firing and one from the phone’s earpiece), as opposed to the original Nord, which only ever played media audio out of its downward-facing speaker. You’ll still want to use headphones for proper listening, but the speakers’ volume meant I had no trouble hearing podcasts played out of the phone’s speakers while cooking.
I got a little under five hours of screen-on time out of the Nord 2’s 4,500mAh battery, easily enough to last through a full day with a little to spare. But I was more impressed by the inclusion of Warp Charge 65 fast-charging here. When charging from zero, I hit 89 percent after a half hour, and 99 percent after 35 minutes, which felt remarkably quick. You have to use one of OnePlus’ proprietary chargers and the cable it comes with to get these speeds, but at least you get both in the box. The Nord 2 doesn’t support wireless charging, which isn’t entirely surprising at this price.
The Nord 2 runs on OxygenOS 11.3 out of the box, which is notable for being the first version of OnePlus’ software to reflect its integration with Oppo’s ColorOS, as XDA Developers reported. But despite the under-the-hood changes, the phone didn’t feel radically different in everyday usage. I found a few changes in the Settings menu, though, where several controls have been renamed and shifted positions slightly. It meant I struggled initially to find OnePlus’ standard screen calibration options, for example, but they’re still there in a slightly different sub-menu. It bodes well for the future of OxygenOS, which continues to be an uncluttered take on Android that I mostly appreciate for its ability to keep out of my way. In terms of ongoing support, the company promises you get two major Android updates and three years of security updates with the Nord 2, though it declined to say how regular these security updates would be.
Around the back of the Nord 2, you’ll find three rear cameras. Its main camera uses a 50-megapixel Sony IMX766 sensor (which OnePlus previously used for the ultrawide cameras on the 9 and the 9 Pro), which is flanked by a much lower-resolution pair of cameras: an 8-megapixel ultrawide and a 2-megapixel monochrome sensor of questionable utility. On its front there’s a 32-megapixel selfie camera, but it’s not paired with an ultrawide camera this time around, which makes me, personally, a little sad.
I generally liked the shots I got out of the Nord 2, and OIS on the main sensor means it’s easy to get consistently sharp shots every time you hit the shutter button. That said, they definitely have OnePlus’ typically punchy look, which prioritizes vibrancy over accuracy. It’s most obvious when you look at landscape photograph shots: I can promise you the grass in the photographs below was much less green and much more yellow in reality. Edges also tend to have a slightly over-sharpened look to them.
At night, the Nord 2’s standard photography mode automatically takes photos that are almost as bright as the Google Pixel’s Night Sight mode, and if you head into the phone’s dedicated Nightscape Ultra mode you get photos that almost look like they were taken in daylight were it not for how washed out they appear. In its standard photography mode, this brightness hides the fact that low-light shots aren’t particularly detailed, like in the photo below of an apartment block where the dividing lines between wooden slats have been smoothed out of existence. You’ll be able to make out your friends if you photograph them in a dimly lit bar, but their skin might come out looking a little smooth and plasticine-y in the process.
Oddly, this vibrancy doesn’t carry over to the ultrawide camera, where shots seem much more muted and arguably more color-accurate in comparison. There’s also less detail thanks to the lower resolution sensor.
When it comes to people, the OnePlus Nord 2 can’t seem to resist the temptation to brighten skin tones, raise shadows, and make everything look a little flat. Even with its beautification mode turned off, I still got the impression the Nord 2 was avoiding showing me every last wrinkle and pore in my face. To its credit, the effect means you can barely tell I took the shots below while sweating my way through a horrid UK heatwave, but I think the overall photographs end up looking blander as a result. It’s a similar story with the phone’s selfie camera, although this is partially offset by the extra detail from defaulting to 32-megapixel shots, while the main camera on the rear defaults to around 12.
OnePlus’ continued insistence on including low-resolution monochrome sensors on the backs of its phones is baffling. The black and white photography option that makes use of it is still buried all the way at the end of the camera’s list of filters, and even once you go to the trouble of using it, I’ve yet to notice any difference it makes compared to a software-based filter. You can even cover up the monochrome sensor on the Nord 2 while you take a black and white shot, and the phone seemingly continues on unperturbed.
But complaints about the easily ignorable monochrome sensor aside, I think the Nord 2’s cameras get a lot of things right if you share its preference for bright, colorful shots. OIS on the main camera means it’s relatively easy to get crisp photographs, and you could do a lot worse at this price point.
A month ago, OnePlus announced the so-called Nord CE or “Core Edition,” an affordable phone which was pitched as offering the essential features of a OnePlus smartphone without any extra bloat. But the more I use the OnePlus Nord 2, the more I think that this is the phone that fits that description much more accurately.
From its screen, to its cameras, its processor, and its software, the Nord 2 feels like a flagship phone stripped of any unnecessary features. There’s no Hasselblad-branded cameras, just a reasonably specced set of sensors. There’s no flagship Qualcomm chipset, but instead you get a processor that has no trouble handling the day-to-day duties of a modern smartphone. No wireless charging, but fast wired charging that more than makes up for it.
All of this adds up to a compelling device if you’re looking to spend between £400 and £500 and you’re in a market when OnePlus is actually selling the Nord 2. A stripped down flagship it may be, but it’s hard to argue with what’s been left.
The nation’s favorite pickup truck has a great lineup for 2021, including some serious engine power and capability. Since the main reason people go for a heavy duty pickup is for the utility factor, I decided to make that the focus of my review on the 2021 Ford F-250 Super Duty. The truck sector might just be the most competitive one in the US market. America is still very much the homeland of the pickup community, and Ford’s F-series is still among the top players in that market. So how did the 2021 F-250 fare?
F-250 – A Real Powerhouse
It may not surprise many readers to learn that the Ford F-250 is an exceptionally powerful truck. There are three engine options available, a 6.2L V8 gasoline, a 7.3L V8 gasoline and a 6.7L Power Stroke diesel V8. I was excited to try the most powerful of the bunch, which is the turbo diesel V8.
The 6.7L diesel V8 outputs an incredible 476-hp at 2,600-rpm and a mind-boggling 1,050 lb-ft of torque at just 1,600-rpm. This is a bona fide torque machine. This is partially what makes it such a good towing vehicle, which is a real must for an effective truck. We’ll deal with that in more detail further below.
The 6.2L base-level engine is very impressive itself, making 385-hp at 5,750-rpm and 430 lb-ft of torque at 3,800-rpm. That’s a good amount of low- to mid-level torque, ensuring solid performance on the base model. The mighty 7.2L gasoline V8 gets better results as you might expect, with 430-hp at 5,500-rpm and 475 lb-ft of torque at 4,000-rpm.
Superb Towing and Payload Capacities
After learning about the various powerhouses that are built beneath the massive hoods of the F-250, a further non-surprise would be the truck’s capability in towing. There are a range of capacities that depend largely on which configuration you opt for. Between the Regular Cab, SuperCab, and Crew Cab models, and of course between the F-250 and the other models in the series. The best conventional towing capacity of any Ford Super Duty is an incredible 24,200 lbs. Using gooseneck towing, that goes up to 37,000 lbs.
The F-250 manages up to 20,000 lbs of towing capacity if you opt for the diesel V8 engine Crew Cab configuration. The other two engines can make it to about 15,000 when you go for the 4WD drivetrain. On a gooseneck hitch, the Regular Cab 4WD 6.7L diesel V8 can tow up to a very respectable 21,800 lbs. As for payload, you can load up to 4,260 lbs in the Regular Cab model with the “Long Box” rear bed setup. Among all the F-250 models, there isn’t a single one that fails to offer at least a payload capacity of 3,000 lbs.
Added Bonus: Tremor Off-Road Package
My tester came with the Tremor Off-Road package installed, and it has to be said that this makes the F-250 into one of the most capable off-road trucks I’ve ever seen. The package adds features like a front-end lift, specially tuned suspension, 35” tires from Goodyear that offer unbelievable traction, and the Trail Control system with off-road drive modes, and even rock crawl mode. If you need an already capable stock Super Duty to go the extra mile —- over rocks —- then I do recommend this package.
Impressive Fuel Economy
During my time with the F-250, I took it on a short road trip of around 450 miles, with most of that time being spent on the highway between 65 and 75 MPH. I was able to see first had just how much of an improvement the new 10-speed automatic transmission makes when paired with the optional 6.7L turbo diesel engine. I observed an average of 21 MPG, which is incredibly impressive for a truck of this size. That also allows you to hit nearly 700 highway miles on a single tank of diesel fuel.
The Mighty F-250 Super Duty – It’s a Win for Ford
Ford knows what they’re doing when it comes to trucks which is why this truck is an overall win for the marque. I should point out, however, that this truck is not as comfortable on the highway as RAM or GM offerings. Rivals offer a more controlled steering feel on the highway and a smoother ride.
The City of Santa Maria’s Planning Commission will hold a meeting Wednesday night about a new project that would bring in more affordable housing.
Plans are to build 184 affordable apartments on more than six acres at the corner of Miller Street and Plaza Drive.
“Affordable” means it has to be accessible to people who make 60% or less of the area’s median income. In Santa Barbara County, the median income for a household of four is $124,900.
“You would have to earn less than a certain amount but on the other hand, it would also make sure that you don’t pay more than a certain percentage of your income towards rent,” said Chuen Ng, City of Santa Maria Director of Community Development.
Ng says that’s typically about 30%.
People would have to show proof of income to be eligible to move in.
“Anecdotally, we’re hearing that there’s a tremendous need for affordable housing, and I think we know that from the high number of applications that we’re getting for accessory dwelling units.”
City officials say they expect a project of this scale to cost around $40 million, and that it could be another 12 months of planning before construction begins.
The planning commission will hold a meeting via Zoom to discuss the next steps in the Centennial Square apartment complex project. It’s scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. on July 21. Click here for the full agenda and links to join.
Almost without exception, the gorgeous, clever short stories in Lizzy Stewart’s It’s Not What You Thought It Would Be are preoccupied with girlhood, as seen through the eyes of women who are now old enough and wise enough to understand all the stuff that was once beyond their comprehension. Several touch on place and the idea of escape, and at least one explores, quite brilliantly, how women are both seen, and not seen, out in the world. The very best of them, however, encompass both teenage boredom, the fretful ennui that we tend to mourn as adults even as we recall how we longed to escape it, and the special intensity of female friendships, particularly those that go all the way back to the awkward, geeky years before we reinvented ourselves.
If Stewart, a London-based illustrator who teaches at Goldsmiths, intended this collection of comics, her first, to be a showcase of her talents, then she should soon be deluged by fantastic commissions. She can do everything. Sometimes, she’s plangent in black and white; sometimes, she’s vivid in full colour. One minute, you look at her drawings and think of Isabel Greenberg, that great weaver of modern mythologies; the next, you find she has brought Daniel Clowes (Ghost World) or the Israeli artist Rutu Modan irresistibly to mind. But there’s a certain consistency here, too. So much goes unsaid. She is so good at capturing ellipses and difficult silences, the way people talk at cross purposes. And her way with time is incredibly deft. In one story, set at a wedding reception, two women talk for the first time in many years, the weight of which you feel in every frame. In another, a couple of young women meet up in a pub. One lives elsewhere now, having left for university. Their conversation begins with jolliness and ease, but rapidly descends into inadvertent slights and hurt.
It’s impossible to play favourites here. But if I had to choose, I have two. In Dog Walk, a pair of teenagers, with nothing to do, climb up on to the roof of a school building, where they lie listlessly in the sun waiting for “someone” (ie boys) to pitch up. It brought back to me something of my own restlessness at that age; the feeling that even sitting in a bus shelter was more interesting than being at home. In Heavy Air, the narrator looks back fondly at the brutalist postwar estate where she grew up, a shabby place whose utopian ideals were long since forgotten by the time she was born (soon, she and her family will have to move out while the council refurbishes it). The book’s opening story, it comes, courtesy of a sick fox and a dramatic storm, with two small epiphanies – and it looks so very beautiful on the page: the balconies and the trees, the buses and the big skies. I fell for it immediately, and then for all those that followed it, and I feel pretty certain that legions of other readers will do the same, this year and in many years to come.