Should PhDs In Economics Lead The Federal Reserve?

23 Jul 2017, 6:29 am

Amgen And Novartis: First Mover Advantage Is A Must

23 Jul 2017, 6:21 am

I Own This Projected 9.43% Dividend Yield REIT With Immediate 18% Upside

23 Jul 2017, 5:58 am

Fed Watching Time: Here's How Gold Investors Should Be Positioning Themselves For The Upcoming Week

23 Jul 2017, 4:23 am

Admit It, It Is About Time To Go Bottom-Fishing For General Electric

23 Jul 2017, 4:04 am

Optimization for self-production may explain mysterious features of the ribosome

22 Jul 2017, 3:52 pm
A new study explains the previously mysterious characteristics of ribosomes, the protein production factories of the cell. Researchers mathematically demonstrated that ribosomes are precisely structured to build themselves as quickly as possible to support efficient cell growth.

Buy Chipotle Stock Amid Recent Outbreak Fears

22 Jul 2017, 12:48 pm

Value And Income: It's A Matter Of Taste

22 Jul 2017, 11:30 am

The Long Case For Apple

22 Jul 2017, 11:05 am

Microsoft: Post-Earnings Analysis

22 Jul 2017, 10:09 am

S&P 500 Weekly Update: Major Indices Add To Their Highs, The Secular Bull Market Continues

22 Jul 2017, 5:44 am

Name that scotch: Colorimetric recognition of aldehydes and ketones

21 Jul 2017, 8:40 pm
Vodka tastes different from brandy, and connoisseurs can distinguish among different brands of whiskeys. The flavors of spirits result from a complex bouquet of volatile compounds. New colorimetric sensor arrays on disposable test-strips read by hand-held devices allow for their rapid, inexpensive, and sensitive identification by their chemical 'fingerprints'. They are based on novel sensor arrays that detect and differentiate among a diverse range of aldehydes and ketones.

Rush hour pollution may be more dangerous than you think

21 Jul 2017, 5:53 pm
Everyone knows that exposure to pollution during rush hour traffic can be hazardous to your health, but it's even worse than previously thought. In-car measurements of pollutants that cause oxidative stress found exposure levels for drivers to be twice as high as previously believed.

AMD To Easily Beat Revenue Estimates

21 Jul 2017, 5:22 pm

Good fighters are bad runners

21 Jul 2017, 5:19 pm
For mice and men, a strength in one area of Darwinian fitness may mean a deficiency in another. A look at Olympic athletes shows that a wrestler is built much differently than a marathoner. It's long been supposed that strength in fighting, or protecting territory and resources, comes at the expense of running, or spatial mobility. Now an experiment with house mice provides evidence for this theory.

3-D scanning with water

21 Jul 2017, 5:19 pm
An innovative technique has been developed that more completely reconstructs challenging 3-D objects. This new approach to 3-D shape acquisition is based on the well-known fluid displacement discovery by Archimedes and turns modeling surface reconstruction into a volumetric problem. Their method accurately reconstructs even hidden parts of an object that typical 3-D laser scanners are not able to capture.

Ultrathin device harvests electricity from human motion

21 Jul 2017, 5:19 pm
A new electrochemical energy harvesting device can generate electrical current from the full range of human motions and is thin enough to embed in clothing.

Superluminous supernova marks the death of a star at cosmic high noon

21 Jul 2017, 4:25 pm
The death of a massive star in a distant galaxy 10 billion years ago created a rare superluminous supernova, one of the most distant ever discovered. The brilliant explosion, more than three times as bright as the 100 billion stars of our Milky Way galaxy combined, occurred about 3.5 billion years after the big bang at a period known as 'cosmic high noon,' when the rate of star formation in the universe reached its peak.

Rare discovery of three new toad species in Nevada's Great Basin

21 Jul 2017, 3:34 pm
Three new species of toads have been discovered living in Nevada's Great Basin in an expansive survey of the 190,000 square mile ancient lake bottom, report investigators.

In saliva, clues to a 'ghost' species of ancient human

21 Jul 2017, 3:34 pm
In saliva, scientists have found hints that a 'ghost' species of archaic humans may have contributed genetic material to ancestors of people living in sub-Saharan Africa today. The research adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting that sexual rendezvous between different archaic human species may not have been unusual.

General Electric Plunges After Earnings

21 Jul 2017, 3:28 pm

Scanning the surface of lithium titanate

21 Jul 2017, 2:55 pm
Researchers have applied advanced scanning methods to visualize the previously unexplored surface of a superconductor: lithium titanate.

Tough robots making an ImPACT

21 Jul 2017, 2:46 pm
New and improved rescue robots tough enough to function in extreme and hostile environments were unveiled recently at a demonstration at Tohoku University, Japan.

Seagrass meadows: Critical habitats for juvenile fish and dugongs in the east coast Johor islands

21 Jul 2017, 2:45 pm
Seagrass meadows in Johor harbor have three times more juvenile fish than coral reefs, scientists have found. They also found that the dugong herds there prefer certain types of meadows over others.

Who learns foreign language better, introverts or extroverts?

21 Jul 2017, 2:42 pm
Extravert Chinese students learning English as a second language are likely to perform better in speaking and reading, but less proficient in listening than their introvert counterparts, according to a study.

Energy-efficient accelerator was 50 years in the making

21 Jul 2017, 2:39 pm
With the introduction of the Cornell-Brookhaven ERL Test Accelerator, scientists are following up on the concept of energy-recovering particle accelerators first introduced by physicist Maury Tigner at Cornell more than 50 years ago.

Amazon Acts Against Its Greatest Threat

21 Jul 2017, 2:34 pm

The moon is front and center during a total solar eclipse

21 Jul 2017, 2:31 pm
In the lead-up to a total solar eclipse, most of the attention is on the sun, but Earth's moon also has a starring role.

Most impactful neuroscience research

21 Jul 2017, 2:13 pm
A study of the 100 most-cited neuroscience articles has revealed that 78 of these papers cover five topics, including neurological disorders, the prefrontal cortex, brain connectivity, brain mapping and methodology studies.

Why sugary drinks and protein-rich meals don't go well together

21 Jul 2017, 2:13 pm
Having a sugar-sweetened drink with a high-protein meal may negatively affect energy balance, alter food preferences and cause the body to store more fat.

Flashes of light on dark matter

21 Jul 2017, 2:13 pm
A web that passes through infinite intergalactic spaces, a dense cosmic forest illuminated by very distant lights and a huge enigma to solve. These are the picturesque ingredients of a scientific research that adds an important element for understanding one of the fundamental components of our Universe: dark matter.

Five times the computing power

21 Jul 2017, 2:12 pm
Researchers have developed a method to increase by a factor of five the computing power of a standard algorithm when performed in one type of standard chip, FPGA. The new method is both simple and smart, but the road to publication has been long.

Most precise measurement of the proton's mass

21 Jul 2017, 1:54 pm
By means of precision measurements on a single proton, scientists have been able to improve the precision of the measurement of the mass of the proton by a factor of three and also corrected the existing value, finding it is significantly lighter than previously believed.

Dividend Champion On Clearance Rack And In My Portfolio

21 Jul 2017, 1:48 pm

Surface Laptop is just a laptop, making it Microsoft’s most baffling release yet

21 Jul 2017, 1:00 pm

(video link)

After several years of building systems that compete with, but aren't quite, laptops, Microsoft has built a plain old laptop: the Surface Laptop.

I think there's a good chance that the Surface Laptop will become Microsoft's best-selling piece of PC hardware. This is such a straightforward proposition: it's a regular PC laptop. It has no trickery; no tear-off keyboard, no special hinge, no detachable GPU, none of the other things that have made the Surface Pro, Surface Book, and Surface Studio notable or unusual. It can't be said any plainer: Surface Laptop is just a PC laptop.

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AT&T: Oversold, Unloved, And Poised To Pop

21 Jul 2017, 12:00 pm

AMD Vega Is Stillborn

20 Jul 2017, 8:40 pm

Micron And Intel: The AI And Security Play Of The Century

20 Jul 2017, 6:13 pm

AMD: The Catalyst No One Is Talking About

20 Jul 2017, 5:35 pm

Computer analysis of what is scenic may help town planners

20 Jul 2017, 2:44 pm

Can you tell a green field from a cold steel rail?

BEAUTY, proverbially, is in the eye of the beholder. But surroundings matter. A paper published two years ago in Nature found a correlation between people’s sense of well-being and the “scenicness” of where they lived. The paper’s authors measured scenicness by asking volunteers to play an online game called Scenic-or-Not, which invites participants to look at photographs of neighbourhoods and rate their scenic value on a scale of one to ten.

The correlation, the paper’s authors found, held true whether a neighbourhood was urban, suburban or rural. It bore no relation to respondents’ social and economic status. Nor did levels of air pollution have any influence on it. The authors also discovered that differences in respondents’ self-reported health were better explained by the scenicness of where those respondents lived than by the amount of green space around...Continue reading

Philip Morris Quits Smoking

20 Jul 2017, 2:00 pm

Seeking Alpha In Small-Cap REITs

20 Jul 2017, 1:25 pm

Formula E wows the crowds with street racing in NYC

20 Jul 2017, 12:00 pm

Elle Cayabyab Gitlin

NEW YORK—On July 15 and 16, the fledgling sport of Formula E racing managed something its older, bigger, much richer sibling never managed: racing with the Statue of Liberty and the downtown Manhattan skyline as a backdrop. After races in Miami (2015) and Long Beach, California (2015, 2016), the Big Apple became the third US venue to host an ePrix, and it should provide the electric racing series a home for some time to come thanks to a 10-year contract with the city.

Before a sold-out crowd of 18,000, DS Virgin Racing's Sam Bird stepped up to the pressure and took two wins from two races. And with championship leader Sebastien Buemi absent—the Swiss driver was committed to racing in Germany in the World Endurance Championship the same weekend—ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport's Lucas di Grassi made up ground in the title fight, narrowing the gap to just 10 points with two races left to go. Given all the excitement (and the fact NYC qualifies as the closest stop on the Formula E calendar), Ars took to the grandstands to see how one of our favorite racing series is starting to mature.

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Some good news and some bad, in the fight against HIV

20 Jul 2017, 8:07 am

THE latest progress report* from UNAIDS, the United Nations body charged with combating HIV and AIDS, brings mixed news. On the positive side, as the chart shows, the death rate from AIDS continues to fall. In 2016 there were 1m AIDS-related fatalities, down from 1.9m in 2005, the year of peak mortality. This reflects the successful promulgation of antiretroviral drugs in almost all parts of the world to those already infected. Such drugs can keep symptoms at bay indefinitely, prolonging lifespans to those enjoyed by the uninfected.

As the chart also shows, the death rate among women and girls is both lower than that for men and boys, and is also falling faster. This is despite both sexes having similar rates of infection (indeed, at 51% of the infected population, females carry a slightly higher burden of the disease). This inequality probably reflects both earlier diagnosis of women, whose HIV status is checked routinely at antenatal clinics, and a more responsible female...Continue reading

Elon Musk knows what’s ailing NASA—costly contracting

19 Jul 2017, 12:30 pm

Enlarge / SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket launches the EchoStar 23 satellite in March, 2017. (credit: SpaceX)

The seas were calm in early December 2010 when a spacecraft fell out of the sky, deployed its parachutes, and splashed into the Pacific Ocean. No American spacecraft had returned this way to Earth in 35 years, not since the splashdown of the final Apollo mission. The Dragon bobbing in the blue water didn’t carry any astronauts, just a whimsical payload of Le Brouère cheese. But it had made history all the same, as no private company had ever launched a spacecraft into orbit and safely returned it to Earth.

Just two years earlier, Elon Musk’s SpaceX had been left for dead. Like so many other new space ventures that had come before, it had made big promises but delivered few payoffs. Bankruptcy would certainly have swallowed SpaceX had NASA not thrown Musk a $1.6 billion lifeline two days before Christmas in 2008—a contract for a dozen cargo delivery flights to the International Space Station.

For some critics, SpaceX seemed just another company standing in line for a government handout. NASA didn’t see it this way. In the months after the Dragon’s historic flight, NASA studied the cost of developing the Falcon 9 rocket, SpaceX's booster with nine engines that had lifted the Dragon spacecraft into orbit. The analysis concluded that had NASA developed the rocket through its traditional means, it would have cost taxpayers about $4 billion.

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Events in Iceland explain years of famine in Europe’s Dark Ages

18 Jul 2017, 1:25 pm

Katla boils over in 1918

IT SEEMED like a curse. The summer of 821 was wet, cold and yielded a poor harvest. Then winter came. Temperatures plunged. Blizzards smothered towns and villages. The Danube, the Rhine and the Seine—rivers that never froze—froze so hard that the ice covering them could be crossed not just on foot but by horse and cart. Nor did spring bring respite. Terrible hailstorms followed the snow. Plague and famine followed the storms. The next few winters were worse. Fear stalked the land. Paschasius Radbertus, a monk of Corbie, in what is now northern France, wrote that God Himself was angry. Yet it was not God that wrought this destruction, according to Ulf Büntgen of the University of Cambridge, but rather a volcano now called Katla, on what was then an unknown island, now called Iceland.

At the moment Katla, one of Iceland’s largest volcanoes, located near the island’s southern tip, sleeps beneath 700 metres of ice. It...Continue reading

The uncertain future of genetic testing

18 Jul 2017, 12:45 pm

Enlarge (credit: Catherine Losing for Mosaic)

Bringing genetics into medicine will lead to more accuracy, better diagnosis, and personalised treatment—but not for all. For Mosaic, Carrie Arnold meets families for whom gene testing has led only to unanswered questions. This article was first published by Wellcome on Mosaic, and it's republished here under a Creative Commons licence.

AnneMarie Ciccarella, a fast-talking 57-year-old brunette with a more than a hint of a New York accent, thought she knew a lot about breast cancer. Her mother was diagnosed with the disease in 1987, and several other female relatives also developed it. When doctors found a suspicious lump in one of her breasts that turned out to be cancer, she immediately sought out testing to look for mutations in the two BRCA genes, which between them account for around 20 per cent of families with a strong history of breast cancer.

Ciccarella assumed her results would be positive. They weren’t. Instead, they identified only what’s known as a variant of unknown or uncertain significance (VUS)—or two of them, one in both BRCA1 and BRCA2. Unlike pathogenic mutations that are known to cause disease or benign ones that don’t, these genetic variations just aren’t understood enough to know if they cause problems or not.

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Pocket brains: Neuromorphic hardware arrives for our brain-inspired algorithms

16 Jul 2017, 3:30 pm

(credit: Miguel Navarro / Getty Images)

As the world’s great companies pursue autonomous cars, they’re essentially spending billions of dollars to get machines to do what your average two-year-old can do without thinking—identify what they see. Of course, in some regards toddlers still have the advantage. Infamously last year, a driver died while in a Tesla sedan—he wasn't paying attention when the vehicle's camera mistook a nearby truck for the sky.

The degree to which these companies have had success so far is because of a long-dormant form of computation that models certain aspects of the brain. However, this form of computation pushes current hardware to its limits, since modern computers operate very differently from the gray matter in our heads. So, as programmers create “neural network” software to run on regular computer chips, engineers are also designing “neuromorphic” hardware that can imitate the brain more efficiently. Sadly, one type of neural net that has become the standard in image recognition and other tasks, something called a convolutional neural net, or CNN, has resisted replication in neuromorphic hardware.

That is, until recently.

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The state of Mac gaming

14 Jul 2017, 12:00 pm

Enlarge / Could this really be a keyboard and mouse for modern gaming? Well... (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

Gaming on the Mac is terrible, right? That has been the consensus among gamers for a decade-plus—Ars even declared Mac gaming dead all the way back in 2007. But in reality, the situation has gotten better. And after Apple dedicated an unprecedented amount of attention to Mac gaming at WWDC 2017, things might be looking up for Mac gamers in the coming years.

When Apple announced new Macs and a major update to its Mac graphics API at this year’s developer conference, there was an air of hope amongst Mac gamers and developers. Gaming on a Mac may look more appealing than ever thanks to the introduction and gradual improvement of Apple’s relatively new Metal graphics API and a better-than-ever-before install base. On top of that, discrete Mac graphics processors have just seen some of their biggest boosts in recent years, VR support is on the way, and external GPU enclosures promise previously impossible upgradeability.

So gaming on the Mac is improving, but is it good or still terrible? Are we on track to parity with Windows? Speaking to game developers who specialize in the Mac about the state of Mac gaming in the wake of WWDC, Ars encountered plenty of optimism. Still, there’s plenty to be cautious about.

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Virtual reality gives old fairground rides new purpose

13 Jul 2017, 3:21 pm

What you see..what they see

KRAKEN, a 17-year-old rollercoaster at SeaWorld Orlando, an amusement park in Florida, reopened in June after several months of refurbishment. That, in itself, is unusual. The normal fate of old rides is demolition and replacement by new ones offering fresh thrills. More unusual still is that Kraken, though it had not undergone any physical upgrade during its refurbishment, had customers queuing eagerly to get on it as though it were a brand new offering. Which, in a sense, it was.

SeaWorld Orlando is the latest in a string of parks to turn to virtual reality (VR) to recycle rollercoasters of days past. In the case of Kraken, the rider wears a headset that takes him on an underwater journey which matches the coaster’s movements, dodging prehistoric sea creatures such as pliosaurs, careering down into an underwater canyon, and straining to escape the clutches of the terrible, tentacled monster after...Continue reading

More ways to classify planets

13 Jul 2017, 3:21 pm

A TAXONOMY of planets is emerging fast. On June 19th a group of researchers led by Andrew Howard of the California Institute of Technology divided bodies smaller than Neptune into two classes, based on both their current composition and a consequent presumption about how they formed. Now, another group of astronomers, led by Vardan Adibekyan of the Astrophysics and Space Science Institute in Porto, Portugal, have performed a similar trick on gas giants, the largest type of planet, which are represented in the solar system by Jupiter and Saturn.

The team’s work, just published in Astronomy and Astrophysics, suggests gas giants come in two types, with intermediate forms being rare. The smaller type have a mass up to four times that of Jupiter. The larger have between ten and 20 times Jupiter’s mass. Jupiter, chosen as a reference because it is the solar system’s largest planet, has 320 times the mass of Earth.

Using the “Extrasolar...Continue reading

How does an animal with no heart circulate oxygen?

13 Jul 2017, 3:21 pm

THE phrase “prehistoric monster” might have been coined with sea spiders in mind. Though neither large (the biggest are hand-sized) nor threatening to people, their quintessential creepy-crawliness presses many of the buttons marked “horror” in the human psyche. And prehistoric they certainly are. Fossils show that they date from at least 500m years ago, during the Cambrian period, the dawn of the animals. True spiders, to which sea spiders (some of which have more than eight legs) are but distantly related, are known for certain only from as far back as the Carboniferous period, about 300m years ago.

One of the crucial evolutionary developments that permitted multicellular animals to come into being during, or shortly before, the Cambrian period was a circulatory system. Small creatures, consisting of one or a few cells, can absorb enough oxygen for their respiratory requirements directly from the water they inhabit. It simply diffuses into them. Larger ones, though, need a way of...Continue reading

Blood from young animals can revitalise old ones

12 Jul 2017, 2:41 pm

IT WAS one of the oddest experiments in the history of dentistry. In the early 1950s a researcher called Benjamin Kamrin was looking into the causes of tooth decay. To do so, he turned to that scientific stalwart, the lab rat. Specifically, he cut small patches of skin from pairs of rats and then sutured the animals together at the site of the wound. After about a week of being joined in this way, the animals’ blood vessels began to merge. The result was two rats whose hearts pumped blood around a shared circulatory system. This state of affairs is called parabiosis.

Parabiosis works best on animals that are closely related genetically. By getting his rats to share blood, as well as genes, and then feeding the animals a variety of diets, Kamrin hoped to prove (which he did) that it was sugar in food, and not some inherent deficiency in individuals, that was responsible for rotting their teeth.

Other people, though, have used the technique to find more striking results. For example, mammalian bone density usually drops with age. Three years after Kamrin’s work, however, a gerontologist called Clive McCay showed that linking an old rat to a young one boosted the density of the oldster’s bones. In 1972 another paper reported, even more spectacularly, that elderly rats which shared blood with young ones lived four to five...Continue reading

If FCC gets its way, we’ll lose a lot more than net neutrality

12 Jul 2017, 10:59 am

Enlarge / Net neutrality supporters rally for Title II reclassification of broadband in front of the White House in November 2014. (credit: Stephen Melkisethian)

The Republican-led Federal Communications Commission is preparing to overturn the two-year-old decision that invoked the FCC's Title II authority in order to impose net neutrality rules. It's possible the FCC could replace today's net neutrality rules with a weaker version, or it could decide to scrap net neutrality rules altogether.

Either way, what's almost certain is that the FCC will eliminate the Title II classification of Internet service providers. And that would have important effects on consumer protection that go beyond the core net neutrality rules that outlaw blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization. Without Title II's common carrier regulation, the FCC would have less authority to oversee the practices of Internet providers like Comcast, Charter, AT&T, and Verizon. Customers and websites harmed by ISPs would also have fewer recourses, both in front of the FCC and in courts of law.

Title II provisions related to broadband network construction, universal service, competition, network interconnection, and Internet access for disabled people would no longer apply. Rules requiring disclosure of hidden fees and data caps could be overturned, and the FCC would relinquish its role in evaluating whether ISPs can charge competitors for data cap exemptions.

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Review: HP’s new Spectre x2 is a crazy value compared to the Surface Pro

10 Jul 2017, 6:00 pm

Readers, meet HP's new Spectre x2 convertible. (video link)

Convertibles and detachables are ideal for people who need versatility but only want one device. Microsoft's Surface Pro ran on that idea and became a convenient multi-use product for many. However, the newest update to the Surface Pro left a lot to be desired, and other OEMs are jumping on this opportunity to out-Surface the Surface Pro.

HP's updated Spectre x2 fine-tunes the original device's design while giving the internals a power boost from Core M to Core i5/i7 for better productivity. The Spectre x2 is also more affordable than the Surface Pro and includes its keyboard and pen in the box rather than forcing customers to pay extra for them. HP's Spectre x2 challenges the value of the Surface Pro while also trying to prove to users that you can make a two-in-one your main PC without much compromise.

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How I learned to stop worrying (mostly) and love my threat model

8 Jul 2017, 1:00 pm

Enlarge / We are not Batman. But you get the idea. (credit: Tiffany Liu, MIT)

I have a healthy level of paranoia given the territory I inhabit. When you write things about hackers and government agencies and all that, you simply have a higher level of skepticism and caution about what lands in your e-mail inbox or pops up in your Twitter direct messages. But my paranoia is also based on a rational evaluation of what I might encounter in my day-to-day: it's based on my threat model.

In the most basic sense, threat models are a way of looking at risks in order to identify the most likely threats to your security. And the art of threat modeling today is widespread. Whether you're a person, an organization, an application, or a network, you likely go through some kind of analytical process to evaluate risk.

Threat modeling is a key part of the practice people in security often refer to as "Opsec." A portmanteau of military lineage originally meaning "operation security," Opsec originally referred to the idea of preventing an adversary from piecing together intelligence from bits of sensitive but unclassified information, as wartime posters warned with slogans like "Loose lips might sink ships." In the Internet age, Opsec has become a much more broadly applicable practice—it's a way of thinking about security and privacy that transcends any specific technology, tool, or service. By using threat modeling to identify your own particular pile of risks, you can then move to counter the ones that are most likely and most dangerous.

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Is the post-dinosaur world the Age of Frogs?

6 Jul 2017, 2:50 pm

Looks like we made it

AROUND 66m years ago Earth collided with a space rock so large that it punched a crater more than 180km across in the area now known as the Yucatán peninsula, in southern Mexico. This collision did for the dinosaurs and many other sorts of animal besides. It thus wiped much of the ecological slate clean, permitting the survivors—those that did not, as it were, croak in the impact’s aftermath—to strut their evolutionary stuff unconstrained.

Human beings, with phylocentric arrogance, often refer to the subsequent period, extending to the present day, as the “Age of Mammals”—and it is true that mammals have done well in it. At the moment, zoologists recognise about 5,400 species of this hairy, milk-secreting group of creatures. But another sort of terrestrial vertebrate has done better even than this, with almost 6,800 living species. It might be at least as fair to call the post-dinosaur world the “Age of...Continue reading

A better way to make drinks and drugs

6 Jul 2017, 2:50 pm

Cubist art

SINCE the dawn of civilisation, people have used yeast to leaven bread, ferment wine and brew beer. In the modern era, such fermentation has extended its range. Carefully selected moulds churn out antibiotics. Specially engineered bacteria, living in high-tech bioreactors, pump out proteinaceous drugs such as insulin. Some brave souls even talk of taking on the petroleum industry by designing yeast or algae that will synthesise alternatives to aviation fuel and the like.

But fermentation remains a messy process, and one prone to spoilage and waste. Whatever the product, the reaction must generally be shut down after a matter of days to clean out the detritus of biological activity—both cells that have died and the surplus of living ones which growth and reproduction inevitably yield. Alshakim Nelson, a chemist at the University of Washington, in Seattle, and his team, propose to change all that. They have developed a bioreactor that not only keeps...Continue reading

Cameras are about to get a lot smaller

6 Jul 2017, 2:50 pm

THE pill-sized cameras in today’s mobile phones may seem miraculously tiny, given that a decade ago the smallest cameras available for retail sale were the size of a pack of cards. But Ali Hajimiri of the California Institute of Technology is unimpressed. In his opinion even these phone cameras are far too thick (witness the optical bump on the back of most mobile phones), so he and his team plan to replace them with truly minuscule devices that spurn every aspect of current photographic technology. Not only do Dr Hajimiri’s cameras have no moving parts, they also lack lenses and mirrors—in other words, they have no conventional optics. That does away with the focal depth required by today’s cameras, enabling the new devices to be flat. The result, he hopes, will be the future of photography.

Brave words. But, as an inventor, Dr Hajimiri has form to back them up. In 2002 he helped found a firm (now taken over by a bigger one) to build power amplifiers for mobile phones. More than...Continue reading

A new device to help train sniffer dogs

6 Jul 2017, 2:50 pm

WHEN it comes to finding hidden explosives, the self-propelled detection system known as a sniffer dog has no equal. But sniffer dogs have to be trained, and that is a delicate process. In particular, the trace levels of explosive vapour involved are so low (because dogs’ noses are so sensitive) that accidental contamination of supposedly residue-free “control” samples is a serious possibility. That confuses the animal and slows down its training. Things would therefore go more smoothly if a trainer could find out instantly whether a sample had indeed been compromised by traces of explosive, so that he could tell whether a dog’s reaction to a supposed blank was justified.

This is no theoretical risk. When Ta-Hsuan Ong of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology monitored one such training session he found that six out of 68 controls were contaminated—and that one out of 28 supposedly “live” samples had no explosive residue. Dr Ong thinks, however, that he has a...Continue reading

At the boundary between chaos and order, order rules (eventually)

6 Jul 2017, 1:15 pm

Enlarge / Chaos looks different for everyone (Hitchcock included), but order can sneak up on you as quick as a deadly bird. (credit: Alfred Hitchcock / Archive Photos / Getty Images)

Back in the dark days of the last century when I was a university undergraduate, chaos theory was my first love. Quantum mechanics was, to me, a mess of contradictions, but I felt like I might actually understand something about chaos. More the fool me, I guess.

I got sucked into optics, and, like all summer romances, nonlinear dynamics—the broader field in which chaos theory sits—became a sepia-colored memory. Until this year at least. Unexpectedly, I had to teach a course on it. And that led me to pay more attention to current research, which managed to generate this article on Ars Technica. Yes, my brain is a nonlinear dynamical system that defies prediction (unless you are my wife; she probably saw this coming).

When we teach nonlinear dynamics in classes, the equations are always naturally dissipative. That means there is some mechanism for energy loss in the equations. However, we always balance these with an external energy input. For instance, a set of equations describing an idealized climate allows energy to be radiated out into space, but that is balanced by energy from the Sun. However, there are many places where balance doesn't exist: a coin toss, a roulette wheel, or a pinball machine are classic examples.

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Winamp’s woes: How the greatest MP3 player undid itself

3 Jul 2017, 3:38 pm

Tens of millions of Winamp users are still out there. (credit: Flickr user uzi978)

As many of us are busy crafting the perfect playlist for grilling outdoors, most likely such labor is happening on a modern streaming service or within iTunes. But during the last 15 years or so, that wasn't always the case. Today, we resurface our look at the greatest MP3 player that was—Winamp. This piece originally ran on June 24, 2012 (and Winamp finally called it quits in November 2013).

MP3s are so natural to the Internet now that it’s almost hard to imagine a time before high-quality compressed music. But there was such a time—and even after "MP3" entered the mainstream, organizing, ripping, and playing back one's music collection remained a clunky and frustrating experience.

Enter Winamp, the skin-able, customizable MP3 player that "really whips the llama's ass." In the late 1990s, every music geek had a copy; llama-whipping had gone global, and the big-money acquisition offers quickly followed. AOL famously acquired the company in June 1999 for $80-$100 million—and Winamp almost immediately lost its innovative edge.

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The agony and ecstasy of (grassroots) racing

3 Jul 2017, 1:34 pm

(credit: Alex Bellus)

Like many a holiday weekend stateside, July 4 is for racing. And although Daytona snagged the headlines, it's far from the only motorsports showdown taking place given the many weekend warriors on the grassroots circuits. Our Jonathan Gitlin is one such driver, and we're resurfacing his tale of getting behind the wheel this holiday. His piece originally ran on October 3, 2014.

BRAINERD, Minnesota—With 15 minutes to go, I put on my helmet and retreated inside it, focusing on what to do next. My heart rate had been steadily climbing all morning in anticipation of racing in anger for the first time in 2014. One of my team mates, Scott, has been out on the soaking wet track for the last two hours, but he’ll soon be visiting the pit lane for a fuel stop and to hand the car over to the next driver; the next driver being me. Way back in 2011, I wrote a piece asking (and answering) the question of whether it was possible to learn how to race cars just by playing video games. It was my first real foray on a track after nearly 20 years of wanting to get into motorsport, and I’ve not looked back since. No games this time. Rather, as someone who simply races for a hobby, I’d been curious about quantifying the physical workload involved.

Even though I’ve accumulated a respectable amount of racing hours in the intervening years, I still spend the hours between waking up on race day and getting in the car questioning why I'm actually doing all this. "So what if one time I drove here and came back to the pits on three wheels? Didn't we fix that and come in fourth the following day?" I've felt much better about my pre-race stage fright after hearing Felix Baumgartner discuss his own problem during the Red Bull Stratos jump, and I gave myself a similar pep talk. “The car will be good. You’ve done this before, you know what you need to do. Build up to speed. Concentrate. Focus on your driving, ignore the lap times.” As Scott brings the car into the pit lane, I wait atop the pit wall, seat insert in hand (I’m short and need a booster seat). Only four people are allowed over the wall if the car's gas cap is open; the fueler, someone wielding a fire extinguisher, the driver, and one other person who can help, strapping in—or pulling out—the driver.

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More than Carpool Karaoke, these new features persuade drivers to buy dash cams

2 Jul 2017, 1:00 pm

Video shot/edited by Jennifer Hahn. (video link)


In the time that's passed since we reviewed a number of dash cams last year, the essential use of an in-car camera hasn't changed. Dash cams record footage of the road in front of you (and sometimes behind) while you drive, ensuring you have a video account of any incident that occurs while you're in or around your vehicle. But dash cams haven't really caught on in the United States as much as they have in countries like Russia, which is often the country of origin of most of the dash-cam videos you've seen. The benefits of dash cams are clear: they can prove what really happened if you're in an accident, some can monitor activity around your car even when the car is off, and your insurance provider may offer a discount for having a dash cam installed in your car.

But most of the benefits of these little black boxes may never reach you if you never end up needing their footage, and this lack of instant gratification is likely a big reason why Americans haven't bought into them yet. Some companies are trying to change this with dash cams that do more than just monitor your driving, or are designed to fit into your vehicle more discreetly. We've tested a few new dash cams to see how companies are setting their devices apart from others, and what extra features we could see dash cams provide for drivers in the future.

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The beefy Dell Precision 7520 DE can out-muscle a growing Linux laptop field

30 Jun 2017, 12:00 pm

Enlarge / Kind of a looker, no? (credit: Scott Gilbertson)

Project Sputnik has done an admirable job over the years of bringing a "just works" Linux experience to Dell Ultrabooks like the XPS 13 Developer Edition—in fact, we've tested and largely enjoyed those experiences multiple times now. But while the XPS 13 is a great machine that I would not hesitate to recommend for most Linux users, it does have its shortcomings. The biggest problem in my view has long been the limited amount of RAM; the XPS 13 tops out at 16GB. While that's enough for most users, there are those (software developers compiling large projects, video editors, even photographers) who would easily benefit from more.

Normally to get more RAM from a Dell, you'd pick up one of the various Precision laptops. These lack the svelteness of the XPS series, but the line can pack in more RAM and larger hard drives. Unfortunately, the availability of the Ubuntu-based Precision machines has traditionally been somewhat spotty. Luckily with this latest refresh, though, that's no longer the case: you can get Ubuntu-based Precision laptops in a variety of configurations from the Dell site.

Dell isn't the only manufacturer producing great Linux machines. And in fact the Oryx Pro from System 76 is another great machine that earned my previous recommendation for anyone who needed more RAM and didn't mind the additional size and weight. Naturally, Linux will probably work just fine on plenty of hardware not specifically tailored to running Linux, but, if you want a "just works" experience, I've usually suggested staying away from bleeding-edge hardware that sometimes lacks drivers.

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Neonicotinoids can harm some bees

28 Jun 2017, 8:48 pm

Or not to bee

NEONICOTINOIDS are so good at killing things which suck the sap and chew the flesh of crops that they have become the world’s most widely used family of insecticides. For decades, though, there has been a fear that they harm non-crop-eating insects, too—in particular, bees.

The evidence for this has been mixed. Swedish research published in 2015—two years after the EU imposed a moratorium on the use of three popular neonicotinoids, clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam—found that wild bees in fields sown with neonicotinoid-treated oilseed rape (canola) reproduced poorly. Yet other field studies have found no discernible effects on either wild-bee or honeybee populations. Two studies published in Science on June 30th add to the case against.

The first*, by Ben Woodcock of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Wallingford, Oxfordshire, and colleagues, was funded in part by Bayer CropScience, maker...Continue reading

Tales from the very first iPhone line

28 Jun 2017, 12:00 pm

Enlarge / Steve Ballmer and my buddies Jason and Matt. Matt doesn't really have anything to do with this story, but he was in the picture with Jason so he gets to be in the intro image, too. (credit: Aurich Lawson)

June 29, 2007 is hot. Texas hot.

I’m hunched beneath an ugly orange awning that features the blue Death Star logo, getting what shade I can out of the thing as it flaps limply in a breeze hot and damp as dog's breath. Behind my back is the cool glass of a store window, on which you can still see the fading outline of recently removed “CINGULAR STORE” vinyl banners. It’s not quite 90 degrees Fahrenheit—that’s about 32 degrees Celsius for you Celsius fans—but the 90 percent humidity robs the shade of almost all of its comfort. The world is a slowly baking convection oven, and the glass I’m leaning on is the only nice thing in it.

A friendly lady from the cosmetics store next door is making the rounds again with bottles of water from a wicker basket, along with coupons for mascara. Her mascara looks solid in spite of the dripping humidity, so I take a coupon.

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If Ferrari built an M3: The 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio

26 Jun 2017, 12:00 pm

Video shot and edited by Jennifer Hahn (video link)

It's fair to say that I'd been looking forward to getting behind the wheel of the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio for some time. The brand's new flagship sedan is a $72,000, 505hp (377kW) rear-wheel drive statement of intent, a car that says to rivals at BMW and Mercedes and Cadillac that the Italians are back. It first caught our attention at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show, then again in Los Angeles. Last year, the Giulia Quadrifoglio teased us some more in New York 2016 and then once again this year when we awarded it Best New Luxury Car. But a build-up like that can be risky. Cars don't always meet our expectations, and there's little worse than the feeling when you fail to gel with a car you've been looking forward to driving.

A man on a TV show once said something along the lines of "you can't consider yourself a true petrolhead until you've had an Alfa Romeo." At the time, I wasn't entirely sure what he was talking about. The Alfas that populated the roads during my early driving years in the 1990s were unremarkable and badly compromised. During the 2000s, they were pretty but almost exclusively front-driven. And the Giulietta rental car I crossed Europe in a few years back had the most amazingly uncomfortable driving seat I'd ever encountered.

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Roundup: The best “escape room” games for a breakout party

24 Jun 2017, 2:00 pm

Enlarge / Some typical escape room components—plus a "Chrono Decoder"—from Escape Room: The Game. (credit: Spinmaster)

Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our weekend look at tabletop games! Check out our complete board gaming coverage at cardboard.arstechnica.com—and let us know what you think.

I don't know CPR. I can't tie a tourniquet. But I can work my way out of a locked, puzzle-stuffed room in 60 minutes or less.

I've been honing this vital skill over the last year as the current mania for physical "escape rooms" has made its way to the tabletop. In an escape room, a team of players works together to solve codes and puzzles that will eventually provide a means of escape. Usually this requires organizing a group, traveling to a physical location, and paying a significant per-person fee.

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The tragedy of FireWire: Collaborative tech torpedoed by corporations

22 Jun 2017, 12:30 pm

Enlarge / In retrospect, perhaps our favorite port logo. (credit: Flickr user jeremybrooks)

The rise and fall of FireWire—IEEE 1394, an interface standard boasting high-speed communications and isochronous real-time data transfer—is one of the most tragic tales in the history of computer technology. The standard was forged in the fires of collaboration. A joint effort from several competitors including Apple, IBM, and Sony, FireWire was a triumph of design for the greater good. It represented a unified standard across the whole industry, one serial bus to rule them all. Realized to the fullest, FireWire could replace SCSI and the unwieldy mess of ports and cables at the back of a desktop computer.

Yet FireWire's principal creator, Apple, nearly killed it before it could appear in a single device. And eventually the Cupertino company effectively did kill FireWire, just as it seemed poised to dominate the industry.

The story of how FireWire came to market and ultimately fell out of favor serves today as a fine reminder that no technology, however promising, well-engineered, or well-liked, is immune to inter- and intra-company politics or to our reluctance to step outside our comfort zone.

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OnePlus 5 review—The best sub-$500 phone you can buy

20 Jun 2017, 4:45 pm

Ron Amadeo

Smartphone companies don't seem to care about cultivating a true "lineup" of phones. If you aren't spending at least $650, most companies will offer you anonymous, second-rate devices that seem like they've had no thought put into them. With the death of the Nexus line and with Lenovo's continued bungling of Motorola, the "good but not $650" market is slimmer than ever. Enter the OnePlus 5, which continues the company's tradition of offering an all-business, high-end smartphone for a great price.

SPECS AT A GLANCE: OnePlus 5
SCREEN 1920×1080 5.5" (401ppi) AMOLED
OS Android 7.1.1 (Oxygen OS)
CPU Eight-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 (Four 2.35GHz Kyro 280 Performance cores and four 1.90GHz Kyro 280 Efficiency cores)
RAM 6GB or 8GB
GPU Adreno 540
STORAGE 64GB or 128GB
NETWORKING 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS, NFC
BANDS GSM: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz
WCDMA: Bands 1/2/4/5/8
FDD-LTE: Bands  1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/17/18/19/ 20/25/26/28/29/30/66TDD-LTE: Bands 38/39/40/41TD-SCDMA: Bands 34/39
CDMA EVDO: BC0
PORTS USB 2.0 Type-C, 3.5mm headphone jack
CAMERA Rear: 16MP main camera, 20MP telephoto camera,

Front: 16MP

SIZE 154.2 x 74.1 x 7.25mm ( x  x in)
WEIGHT 153 g (5.4 oz)
BATTERY 3300 mAh
STARTING PRICE $479 / £449
OTHER PERKS "Dash" charging, three-position physical notification mode switch, fingerprint sensor, notification LED, Dual SIM slots

Today OnePlus is both announcing the OnePlus 5 and lifting the review embargo on the device, which we've had for about two weeks now. $479 (£449) gets you an aluminum-clad pocket computer with a 2.45GHz Snapdragon 835 SoC, 6GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, and a 3,300mAh battery. You still get OnePlus' physical 3-way alert switch, a USB-C port, capacitive buttons with a front-mounted fingerprint reader, and a headphone jack. The phone has two cameras on the back: one 16MP main camera and one 20MP telephoto camera, arranged in the most iPhone-y way possible. Besides the $479 version, there's a more expensive $539 (£499) version, which ups the RAM from 6GB to a whopping 8GB, adds another 64GB of storage for a total of 128GB, and changes the color from "Slate Gray" to "Midnight Black." This more expensive version is the one we tested.

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Thin ice: Vanishing ice only exacerbates a bad, climate change-fueled situation

19 Jun 2017, 12:00 pm

Enlarge / In Greenland, sea ice is seen from NASA's Operation IceBridge research aircraft in March 2017. NASA's Operation IceBridge has been studying how polar ice has evolved over the past nine years and is currently flying a set of eight-hour research flights over ice sheets and the Arctic Ocean to monitor Arctic ice loss. According to NASA scientists and the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), sea ice in the Arctic appears to have reached its lowest maximum wintertime extent ever recorded. (credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Most people view our planet’s vanishing ice as a symptom of climate change. And if they pay a bit more attention, some people might even be aware of some of its effects, including sea level rise and the opening up of the Arctic to shipping. But ice is also an active player in the Earth's climate—it doesn’t only respond to warming by melting. Changes in our planet’s ice are capable of feeding back on the climate system, creating further consequences for the globe.

The regions of our planet where temperatures fall below the freezing point are characterized by ice and snow, lots of ice and snow. Across land masses, seas, and oceans, roughly 70 percent of the fresh water exists as ice. But now, in response to the warming of our planet, that entire system is changing.

This part of the Earth, where water exists in its frozen state, is called the cryosphere. On land, this includes the giant ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica, the ice in mountain glaciers, snow on mountain tops, and frozen soil in boreal and tundra regions of the Northern Hemisphere—including large parts of Canada and Russia. The system is dynamic. In the world's polar regions, sea ice grows in winter and recedes in summer. On land there are also frozen rivers and lakes, which can also experience seasonal variation. The cryosphere is the global story of ice, and it’s a highly active and important component in our Earth's climate system.

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