Mind-controlled device helps stroke patients retrain brains to move paralyzed hands

26 May 2017, 8:59 pm
Stroke patients who learned to use their minds to open and close a plastic brace fitted over their paralyzed hands gained some ability to control their own hands when they were not wearing the brace, according to a new study. The participants, all of whom had moderate to severe paralysis, showed significant improvement in grasping objects.

Chemical array draws out malignant cells to guide individualized cancer treatment

26 May 2017, 6:37 pm
Melanoma is a particularly difficult cancer to treat once it has metastasized, spreading throughout the body. Researchers are using chemistry to find the deadly, elusive malignant cells within a melanoma tumor that hold the potential to spread. Once found, the stemlike metastatic cells can be cultured and screened for their response to a variety of anti-cancer drugs, providing the patient with an individualized treatment plan based on their own cells.

Conch shells may inspire better helmets, body armor

26 May 2017, 6:37 pm
Engineers have uncovered the secret to the exceptional toughness of conch shells, and say the same principles can be used for body armor and helmets.

'Tiny clocks' crystallize understanding of meteorite crashes

26 May 2017, 6:37 pm
Scientists are using new imaging techniques to measure the atomic nanostructure of ancient crystal fragments at meteorite impact sites. The end goal? To understand when impacts ended and life began.

Dog skull study reveals genetic changes linked to face shape

26 May 2017, 4:57 pm
A study of dog DNA has revealed a genetic mutation linked to flat face shapes such as those seen in pugs and bulldogs.

Bioelectricity new weapon to fight dangerous infection

26 May 2017, 12:45 pm
Changing natural electrical signaling in non-neural cells improves innate immune response to bacterial infections and injury. Tadpoles that received therapeutics, including those used in humans for other purposes, which depolarized their cells had higher survival rates when infected with E. coli than controls. The research has applications for treatment of emerging diseases and traumatic injury in humans.

New cellular target may put the brakes on cancer's ability to spread

26 May 2017, 12:45 pm
Researchers have discovered a biochemical signaling process that causes densely packed cancer cells to break away from a tumor and spread the disease elsewhere in the body.

Sweetening connection between cancer and sugar

26 May 2017, 12:45 pm
Scientists have found that some types of cancers have more of a sweet tooth than others.

Century-old drug as potential new approach to autism

26 May 2017, 12:45 pm
In a small, randomized Phase I/II clinical trial (SAT1), researchers say a 100-year-old drug called suramin, originally developed to treat African sleeping sickness, was safely administered to children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), who subsequently displayed measurable, but transient, improvement in core symptoms of autism.

Diesel pollution linked to heart damage

26 May 2017, 12:45 pm
Diesel pollution is linked with heart damage, according to research presented today at EuroCMR 2017.

DNA ladders: Inexpensive molecular rulers for DNA research

26 May 2017, 12:45 pm
New license-free tools will allow researchers to estimate the size of DNA fragments for a fraction of the cost of currently available methods. The tools, called a DNA ladders, can gauge DNA fragments ranging from about 50 to 5,000 base pairs in length.

Knowledge gap on the origin of sex

26 May 2017, 12:45 pm
There are significant gaps in our knowledge on the evolution of sex, according to a research review on sex chromosomes. Even after more than a century of study, researchers do not know enough about the evolution of sex chromosomes to understand how males and females emerge.

Isolated Greek villages reveal genetic secrets that protect against heart disease

26 May 2017, 12:45 pm
A genetic variant that protects the heart against cardiovascular disease has been discovered. The cardioprotective variant was found in an isolated Greek population, who are known to live long and healthy lives despite having a diet rich in animal fat.

AT&T: CEO Stephenson Just Revealed Major Time Warner Merger Upside Catalyst

26 May 2017, 12:01 pm

How to build your own VPN if you’re (rightfully) wary of commercial options

26 May 2017, 12:00 pm

Enlarge (credit: Aurich / Thinkstock)

In the wake of this spring's Senate ruling nixing FCC privacy regulations imposed on ISPs, you may be (even more) worried about how your data is used, misused, and abused. There have been a lot of opinions on this topic since, ranging from "the sky is falling" to "move along, citizen, nothing to see here." The fact is, ISPs tend to be pretty unscrupulous, sometimes even ruthless, about how they gather and use their customers' data. You may not be sure how it's a problem if your ISP gives advertisers more info to serve ads you'd like to see—but what about when your ISP literally edits your HTTP traffic, inserting more ads and possibly breaking webpages?

With a Congress that has demonstrated its lack of interest in protecting you from your ISP, and ISPs that have repeatedly demonstrated a "whatever-we-can-get-away-with" attitude toward customers' data privacy and integrity, it may be time to look into how to get your data out from under your ISP's prying eyes and grubby fingers intact. To do that, you'll need a VPN.

The scope of the problem (and of the solution)

Before you can fix this problem, you need to understand it. That means knowing what your ISP can (and cannot) detect (and modify) in your traffic. HTTPS traffic is already relatively secure—or, at least, its content is. Your ISP can't actually read the encrypted traffic that goes between you and an HTTPS website (at least, they can't unless they convince you to install a MITM certificate, like Lenovo did to unsuspecting users of its consumer laptops in 2015). However, ISPs do know that you visited that website, when you visited it, how long you stayed there, and how much data went back and forth.

Read 81 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Realty Income's Income Is On Sale: Will You Buy Any?

26 May 2017, 12:00 pm

Investors Got It Wrong - Cramer's Mad Money (5/25/17)

26 May 2017, 11:33 am

General Electric: CEO Jeff Immelt Just Tapped Out

26 May 2017, 11:29 am

The Safest Dividend Is The One That's Just Been Raised

26 May 2017, 11:00 am

Fruit flies journey to International Space Station to study effects of zero gravity on the heart

25 May 2017, 11:55 pm
Researchers have announced that six boxes of fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) will travel to the International Space Station (ISS) to study the impact of weightlessness on the heart. The fruit flies are scheduled to launch on June 1, 2017, from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and will travel to the ISS via a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft.

'Authentic' teachers are better at engaging with their students

25 May 2017, 11:55 pm
Teachers who have an authentic teaching style are more positively received by their students, according to new research.

Balancing rights and responsibilities in insurers' access to genetic test results

25 May 2017, 11:48 pm
Researchers have compared the regulation of life insurers' use of genetic information in the UK, Canada, and Australia.

Government transparency limited when it comes to America's conserved private lands

25 May 2017, 11:48 pm
A new study examined why private-land conservation data is sometimes inaccessible and found that limited capacity within some federal agencies as well as laws prohibiting others from disclosing certain information are to blame.

Top 5 Dividend Stocks For Young Investors

25 May 2017, 9:34 pm

The long, winding road for driverless cars

25 May 2017, 8:48 pm

CARMAKERS like to talk about autonomous vehicles (AVs) as if they will be in showrooms in three or four years' time. The rosy scenarios suggest people will soon be whisked from place to place by road-going robots, with little input from those on board. AVs will end the drudgery of driving, we are told. With their lightning reactions, tireless attention to traffic, better all-round vision and respect for the law, AVs will be safer drivers than most motorists. They won’t get tired, drunk, have fits of road rage, or become distracted by texting, chatting, eating or fiddling with the entertainment system.

The family AV will ferry children to school; adults to work, malls, movies, bars and restaurants; the elderly to the doctor’s office and back. For some, car ownership will be a thing of the past, as the cost of ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft tumbles once human drivers are no longer needed. Going driverless could cut hailing costs by as much as 80%, say optimists....Continue reading

IVF babies do not have lower cognitive skills than naturally conceived children

25 May 2017, 8:42 pm
Researchers analysed data of hundreds of UK children who had been born through IVF or ICSI (when the man has a low sperm count), testing the same groups of children every few years up to the age of 11. They found a positive association between artificial conception and cognitive development when a child was between the ages of three and five.

Changing climate could have devastating impact on forest carbon storage

25 May 2017, 8:39 pm
Biologists have shown what could be a startling drop in the amount of carbon stored in the Sierra Nevada mountains due to projected climate change and wildfire events.

Infections, other factors raise risk of pregnancy-related stroke in women with preeclampsia

25 May 2017, 8:13 pm
Infections, chronic high blood pressure and bleeding or clotting disorders increase the risk of pregnancy-related stroke in women with preeclampsia. Although pregnancy-related stroke is rare, women with preeclampsia are at higher risk of stroke during pregnancy and postpartum.

AMD Remains A Better Investment Than Nvidia

25 May 2017, 4:01 pm

Male and female beetles fight over penis spines

25 May 2017, 2:49 pm

Evolution in action

ANTAGONISM is built into the nature of sexual reproduction itself. Members of each sex try to maximise their own reproductive fitness, which is a combination of the quality and the quantity of offspring they are able to raise to the point where those offspring can themselves reproduce. If conflict between males and females is part and parcel of reproduction, some still have it much tougher than others. Spare a thought, in particular, for the females of the cowpea seed beetle.

Males of this species have penises armed with sharp spikes. These can do serious damage to a female’s reproductive tract. And all in the name of male procreative success, for previous research has shown (though the precise mechanism remains obscure) that male cowpea seed beetles with longer penile spines have greater mating success than those with short ones.

Evolutionary theory predicts that it would be in the interests of females to fight back, by...Continue reading

How to build cheaper smart weapons

25 May 2017, 2:49 pm

A million dollars up in smoke

ON APRIL 7th a salvo of missiles fired by American warships in the Mediterranean scored direct hits on several Syrian aircraft shelters from hundreds of miles away, demonstrating once more the effectiveness of precision, or “smart”, weapons. At $1.3m apiece such missiles are usually reserved for important targets like parked aircraft. They are too pricey to be expended on lightly armed insurgents. (As George Bush junior once memorably put it, he was not prepared to “fire a $2m missile at a $10 empty tent and hit a camel in the butt”.)

Frank Fresconi, who works at the Army Research Laboratory’s Aeromechanics and Flight Control Group, in Maryland, hopes to change that. He is working on something called the Collaborative Cooperative Engagement (CCOE) programme, which hopes to provide the advantages of smart weapons at a fraction of the cost. A new generation of cut-price precision munitions could change the way America’s...Continue reading

Airports switch to “virtual” control towers

25 May 2017, 2:49 pm

THE 67-metre-tall control tower that opened at San Francisco International Airport in October is a stylish structure that cost $120m. It is supposed to resemble a beacon of the sort used in ancient times to guide ships safely to harbour. Those in the know might be forgiven for wondering if the new control tower is less a beacon than a white elephant. Elsewhere, airport managers are starting to abandon the panopticons that have dominated airfields for decades in favour of remote-controlled versions that promise to be cheaper and safer. Instead, they are housed in ordinary low-rise buildings, in some cases hundreds of kilometres away from the facility they are monitoring.

These remote control towers receive a live video feed from cameras positioned around an airfield. The images are stitched together by computer and displayed on screens (as pictured above) to create a virtual view of the runways and taxiways being monitored. In some cases the screens surround the air-traffic controllers,...Continue reading

Using light to fingerprint paper

25 May 2017, 2:49 pm

A PIECE of paper is a complicated product. Trees are felled, stripped of their bark, chipped, mashed, and then mixed with water and churned into pulp. That pulp is washed and refined, before being beaten to a finer slush. Laid out flat, drained of water, then squeezed between large rollers, the slush at last becomes one large, long sheet of paper.

All those machinations introduce a great deal of randomness to the arrangement of fibres within an individual piece of paper. In an article due to be published in Transactions on Privacy and Security, Ehsan Toreini, a security expert at the University of Newcastle, and his colleagues, describe a way to turn that randomness into a “fingerprint” that is unique to any given sheet of paper. (In security jargon a fingerprint is any unique, identifying pattern, not just one from a finger). That could, they hope, help to cut down on fraud.

The researchers are not the first to realise that paper might...Continue reading

“Disco bacteria” could churn out drugs and useful chemicals

25 May 2017, 2:49 pm

M.C. Escherichia

THE central idea of synthetic biology is that living cells can be programmed in the same way that computers can, in order to make them do things and produce compounds that their natural counterparts do not. As with computers, though, scientists need a way to control their creations. To date, that has been done with chemical signals. In a paper published in Nature Chemical Biology, Christopher Voigt, a biologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, describes an alternative. Instead of chemicals, he and his colleagues demonstrate how to control customised cells with coloured light.

Engineering cells to respond to light is not a new idea. The general approach is called optogenetics, and it has become a popular technique for controlling nerve cells in neuroscience. But Dr Voigt is not interested in nerve cells. In 2005 he altered four genes in a strain of Escherichia coli bacteria, which gave...Continue reading

General Electric: What's Happening?

25 May 2017, 12:57 pm

Bitcoin: Getting Dangerous Up Here

25 May 2017, 11:06 am

It's Not Rocket Science: 5 + 5 = 10

25 May 2017, 10:45 am

Demystifying The Amazon Valuation Dilemma

24 May 2017, 9:24 pm

General Electric Is Under Attack

24 May 2017, 6:34 pm

Invest In Alphabet And Keep It Until You Retire

24 May 2017, 4:22 pm

Look! Manipulation

24 May 2017, 3:40 pm

Ford Stock On Its Way To Sub $10 Levels

24 May 2017, 3:03 pm

The A-EON Amiga X5000: An alternate universe where the Amiga platform never died

24 May 2017, 11:30 am

The Amiga computer was a legend in its time. Back when the Macintosh had only a monochrome 9-inch screen, and the PC managed just four colors and monotone beeps, the Amiga boasted a 32-bit graphical operating system in full color with stereo-sampled sound and preemptive multitasking. It was like a machine from the future. But the Amiga’s parent company, Commodore, suffered from terminal mismanagement and folded in 1994, just as PCs and Macintoshes were catching up technologically. The platform, like many others before it, seemed to be at an end.

So when a brand new Amiga computer arrived at my doorstep in 2017, you can imagine it was quite a surprise. Accordingly, the Amiga X5000 is a curious beast. In some respects, it's more closely related to its predecessors than either modern PCs or Macintoshes. Yet this is a fully current machine capable of taking on modern workloads. How such a device came to be is a fascinating story, but that's not our goal today—let’s dive into what the experience of using the X5000 is like.

The X5000 was developed by A-EON, a company formed by Trevor Dickinson in 2009 to develop new PowerPC-based Amiga computers. It is powered by a custom PowerPC motherboard, supporting a dual-core Freescale CPU at various clock speeds up to 2.5GHz. The Amiga has a long history of PowerPC support, starting with add-on accelerator cards released in 1997 using the old Motorola 603 and 604 chips. And since the release of Amiga OS 4.0 in 2007, the operating system itself was recompiled to be PowerPC-native, and many Amiga applications have been rewritten to support this architecture.

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Pfizer Vs. Merck: 4 Reasons One Is The Superior Choice

24 May 2017, 2:47 am

10 Attractive High-Yield Blue Chips For Contrarians

23 May 2017, 7:00 pm

AMD: Vega Is A Nvidia Killer

23 May 2017, 5:33 pm

I'm The Idiot

23 May 2017, 3:31 pm

AT&T: CFO Stephens Just Knocked The Cover Off The Ball

23 May 2017, 12:00 pm

Diving deep into the world of emergent gravity

22 May 2017, 11:30 am

Enlarge / The Bullet Cluster, which has been viewed as a demonstration of dark matter. (credit: APOD)

The Universe is a strange place. Apart from the normal matter that we see around us, there appears to be a far larger amount of matter that we cannot see—the infamous dark matter. Even more puzzling, the Universe seems to be bathed in a similarly invisible dark energy, which drives the Universe to expand faster and faster. This all points to something missing from our understanding. At the moment, we tend to think that dark matter is something missing from quantum mechanics, a particle that provides dark matter. Dark energy seems to be more gravity related.

But it's possible the two are linked. According to Professor Erik Verlinde from the University of Amsterdam, it may be that dark matter does not exist. His work indicates that in a Universe with dark energy (a positive cosmological constant), gravity does not exactly follow general relativity. His preliminary calculations indicate that the difference between general relativity and his work may provide forces that we currently ascribe to dark matter.

Getting rid of dark matter is a big, headline-grabbing claim, and Verlinde's gotten his share of attention when he's promoted his ideas in the past. But is there really anything to such a seemingly bold idea? We talked with the dark energy man himself to get a better idea.

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The PicoBrew Pico: Getting closer to a counter-top beer-making machine

20 May 2017, 12:30 pm

I’m in my mother’s kitchen in Los Angeles drinking a beer with my sister on a hot spring afternoon. The beer is a bready, hoppy IPA without any overwhelming flavors that would make you think too hard. The alcohol content is acceptable. The brew is properly carbonated and doesn’t taste flat. This beer isn’t going to win any awards, but I could serve it to friends and family without having to apologize for it. In short, it’s easy drinking, something you can have a conversation over.

The beer, however, came from a beer-making machine on my countertop, which was why the overwhelming averageness of the brew instead felt amazing. Maybe that’s a low bar to clear in order to merit applause, but given my past experience with the PicoBrew Zymatic, it felt appropriate.

In 2015, I reviewed the Zymatic, a large machine that was supposed to help brewers cook up their wort automatically—but the fermentation process was largely left in the hands of the Zymatic owner. I produced two below-average beers, perhaps owing to the heatwave I was brewing in at the time (the temperatures surely killed off some yeast). But another part of the problem with the Zymatic was that it combined a machine-driven brewing process with the traditionally hands-on fermentation, bottling, and carbonating processes. It was hardly the “set-it-and-forget-it” appliance that I expected.

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A Trump FCC advisor’s proposal for bringing free Internet to poor people

19 May 2017, 11:30 am

(credit: Aurich / Thinkstock)

When Donald Trump won the presidency, his early decisions made it clear that the Federal Communications Commission would become much less strict in regulating Internet service providers. The FCC transition team he formed to chart a new course for the agency was primarily composed of people who oppose net neutrality rules and want ISPs to face fewer regulations in general. After the transition advisors finished their analysis and made recommendations, Trump named Republican Ajit Pai the new chairman, and Pai has since gotten to work reversing the net neutrality rules and other decisions made by his Democratic predecessor, Tom Wheeler.

One of the most immediate changes was that the FCC leadership now fully supports zero-rating, the practice in which ISPs exempt some websites and online services from data caps, often in exchange for payment from the websites. Zero-rating is controversial in the US and abroad, with many consumer advocates and regulators saying it violates the net neutrality principle that all online content should be treated equally by network providers.

But some zero-rating proponents believe it can serve a noble purpose—bringing Internet access to poor people who otherwise would not be online. That's the view of Roslyn Layton, who served on Trump's FCC transition team, does telecom research at Aalborg University in Denmark, and works as a visiting fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

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A way to make water potable using carbon dioxide

18 May 2017, 2:46 pm

THE world’s thirst for clean drinking water is vast and growing. It is also unslaked, particularly in poor countries. The World Health Organisation estimates that more than 660m people rely on what it calls “unimproved” water sources. A quarter of this is untreated surface water. Moreover, even water that has undergone at least some treatment may not be potable. Across the planet, 1.8bn human beings drink water contaminated with faeces. All this polluted water spreads diseases such as cholera, dysentery and typhoid. Every year, more than half a million people die from waterborne diarrhoea alone. As they describe in a paper in Nature Communications, however, Howard Stone of Princeton University and his colleagues have an idea for a new and cheap way to clean water up by mixing it with a substance normally regarded as a pollutant in its own right—carbon dioxide.

There are many existing ways to make water safe to drink, but each has drawbacks. The...Continue reading

WannaCry should make people treat cyber-crime seriously

18 May 2017, 2:46 pm

IN 1933 Britain’s parliament was considering the Banditry bill—the government’s response to a crime wave. The problem was that criminals were using a newfangled invention, the motor car, to carry out robberies faster than the police could respond. The bill’s proposed answer to these “smash-and-grab” raids was to create new powers to search cars and to construct road blocks.

In the end, the Banditry bill was not enacted. Its powers were too controversial. But the problem did not go away; what the bill proposed was eventually permitted, and now seems normal. Since then, the technology of theft has not stood still. Indeed, just as in the 1930s, it remains one step ahead of the authorities.

On May 12th, for instance, security companies noticed that a piece of malicious software known as WannaCry was spreading across the internet, first in Britain and Spain, and then around the world. It would reach 230,000 computers in 48 hours, an unprecedented scale of infection...Continue reading

How the eggshell got its spots

18 May 2017, 2:46 pm

Unscrambled eggs

COLLECTING wild birds’ eggs is a hobby, once popular, that is frowned on today. In some countries, it is illegal. That, though, makes past collections the more valuable. And one of them, assembled by the splendidly named John Colebrook-Robjent and bequeathed by him, in 2008, to the Natural History Museum’s outpost at Tring, north-west of London, has recently been pressed into service. Its job was to answer questions about the arms races that go on between some birds and the nest parasites (cuckoos and so forth) that attempt to trick them into raising the parasites’ young.

That this behaviour causes parasites’ eggs to evolve to look like those of their hosts, and the hosts’ eggs to evolve not to look like those of parasites, is well established. But Eleanor Caves of Cambridge University and her colleagues wondered if there was more to it. They noted that some nest parasites have sub-groups, known as races, which specialise on different...Continue reading

The exploits of bug hunters

18 May 2017, 2:46 pm

TO HELP shield their products from ransomware like the recent worldwide WannaCry attack, most big software-makers pay “bug bounties” to those who report vulnerabilities in their products that need to be patched. Payouts of up to $20,000 are common. Google’s bounties reach $200,000, says Billy Rios, a former member of that firm’s award panel. This may sound like good money for finding a programming oversight, but it is actually “ridiculously low” according to Chaouki Bekrar, boss of Zerodium, a firm in Washington, DC, that is a dealer in “exploits”, as programs which take advantage of vulnerabilities are known.

Last September Zerodium’s payment rates for exploits that hack iPhones tripled, from $500,000 to $1.5m. Yuriy Gurkin, the boss of Gleg, an exploit-broker in Moscow, tells a similar story. Mundane exploits for web browsers, which might, a few years ago, have fetched $5,000 or so, are now, he says, worth “several dozen thousand”. Unsurprisingly, Zerodium and Gleg...Continue reading

Cheap illumination’s benefits in remote areas may be limited

17 May 2017, 9:18 pm

But will it help him learn?

FOR sunny places not connected to the electricity grid, the falling price of solar panels and LED lighting promises a bright future. No more smoky, lung-damaging kerosene lamps. Greater security and safety. More ways to connect with the world—even if that involves only something as simple as being able to charge a mobile phone. And, above all, the chance to work or study into the evening and thus improve both a family’s immediate economic circumstances and its children’s future prospects. It is a tale of hope. But as a study just published in Science Advances, by Michaël Aklin of the University of Pittsburgh and his colleagues, shows, these potentially glowing benefits can in some cases amount to not very much at all.

More than 1bn people around the world have no access to electricity. Providing them with off-grid solar power is something almost all development experts agree is A Good Thing. Yet the...Continue reading

The state of the car computer: Forget horsepower, we want megahertz!

17 May 2017, 11:30 am

Audi MMI on the Q7 was one of our favorites.

If I asked you "how many computing devices do you own?" your mind will probably first jump to your PCs and laptops at home, and then to your smartphones and tablets. The more tech savvy might include smartwatches, TVs, and video game systems. But there's one computing device that not many people think about as a computing device: the car infotainment system.

Like everything else, infotainment systems are computers with processors, operating systems, and applications, but you won't find much material out there that treats them as such. Microsoft, Apple, Google, Samsung, and others hold big press conferences about their new hardware and software, touting ever-larger spec sheets, new features, and universally known sub-brands like iPhone, Surface, and Galaxy.

But you'll almost never see car companies announce how much RAM is in their new car infotainment systems, though; most won't speak a word about specs or even say what software they're running. Sure, the main purpose of a car is to drive it, so horsepower, safety, and comfort are top-of-mind. But after the steering wheel, pedals, and (for some drivers) the turn signal, the infotainment system is one of the most-used interfaces of a car. If it sucks, you're probably going to be unhappy.

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Google Tracker 2017—All the stuff Google has in the works ahead of Google I/O

15 May 2017, 11:00 am

Welcome to the latest edition of the Google Tracker, an annual series where we chronicle Google's and Alphabet's attempts to take over every aspect of modern life. With Google I/O happening in just a few days (Wednesday, May 17), we wanted to round up everything we know (or everything we think we know) that Google is working on.

So the following is a heady mix of past announcements, acquisitions, software teardowns, rumors from reliable sources, and some speculation. We're not claiming everything (or anything) in this list will launch at I/O—timing aside, this is simply everything we've heard Google is working on.

Table of Contents

Android O Developer Preview 2 and other Android features

Just like last year, the big Android developer preview release happened before I/O, taking a bit of the excitement out of the event. The first Android O Developer Preview launched in March, so what's left for I/O? Google published a roadmap for future Android O releases and slotted the second developer preview in between "May" and "June." Conveniently, that happens to be when Google I/O is. We'd say it's a lock for the second preview to be introduced at the show.

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Dune: Spice and sandworms power one of the great “lost” board games

13 May 2017, 12:00 pm

Enlarge / The Shai-Hulud greets its Fremen pals on the front cover of the first edition of the game. (credit: Tom Mendelsohn)

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.

“Do a friend a favor,” says a promotional card included in the legendary 1979 board game Dune. “If you know someone who has the basic brain power to comprehend Avalon Hill games, then get him to send us this postcard.”

At the bottom of the card, that friend literally has to sign a sort of affidavit: “I swear that I have the necessary grey matter to enjoy your games.”

Read 39 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Why AI researchers like video games

11 May 2017, 2:53 pm

LAST year Artur Filipowicz, a computer scientist at Princeton University, had a stop-sign problem. Mr Filipowicz is teaching cars how to see and interpret the world, with a view to them being able to drive themselves around unaided. One quality they will need is an ability to recognise stop signs. To that end, he was trying to train an appropriate algorithm. Such training meant showing this algorithm (or, rather, the computer running it) lots of pictures of lots of stop signs in lots of different circumstances: old signs and new signs; clean signs and dirty signs; signs partly obscured by lorries or buildings; signs in sunny places, in rainy places and in foggy ones; signs in the day, at dusk and at night.

Obtaining all these images from photo libraries would have been hard. Going out into the world and shooting them in person would have been tedious. Instead, Mr Filipowicz turned to “Grand Theft Auto V”, the most recent release of a well-known series of video games. “Grand Theft...Continue reading

Ubuntu 17.04 review: Don’t call it abandonware, per se

11 May 2017, 12:00 pm

Enlarge / Finally made it to the end of the alphabet with.... Zesty Zapus. We had to use this German children's book (Bilderbuch fur Kinder) to learn about this "meadow jumping mouse" (bottom right). (credit: Florilegius/SSPL/Getty Images)

Last month, it finally happened. Six years after its tumultuous switch from GNOME 2 to the homegrown Unity desktop, Canonical announced it was abandoning work on Unity. Going forward, the company will switch the default Ubuntu desktop back to GNOME beginning with next year's 18.04 LTS release. This means Canonical is also abandoning the development of the Mir display server and its unified interface of Ubuntu for phones and tablets. The company's vision of "convergence," as Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth termed it, has officially died.

Shuttleworth posted that news just a few days before Ubuntu 17.04 arrived, which took a considerable amount of wind out of the sails for this update to Canonical's flagship Unity-based Linux desktop. To be fair, however, the last few Ubuntu desktop releases haven't had much wind in their sails to start with. There have been a few feature updates and some work on bringing in more up-to-date GNOME and GTK elements, but by and large they've been maintenance releases.

While Ubuntu 17.04 offers a few new features, bug fixes, and improvements over its predecessor, it qualifies as a significant release because it will likely be the last version of Unity that Canonical ships. Technically Ubuntu 17.10 will come later this year, but it seems unlikely the company is going to put much effort into developing a desktop it is abandoning.

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These people want you to know climate change isn’t just for liberals

9 May 2017, 12:40 pm

Enlarge (credit: Aurich / Thinkstock)

He doesn’t start with an apocalyptic description of future impacts when he talks to people about climate change, but, for some audiences, University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor of Environmental Studies Calvin DeWitt does turn to the book of Revelation. “I’ll have a white-out pen in my pocket, and I’ll have them read Revelation chapter 11, verse 18. It’s a description of the sounding of the last trumpet, as you hear in Handel’s ‘Messiah,' and the end verse says, ‘The time has come for destroying those who destroy the Earth,’” DeWitt told me. “And so, I say, ‘I have a white-out pen here for anyone who would like to correct their Bible.’”

DeWitt sees his faith as fundamental to, rather than in conflict with, his concern about climate change. He often finds common ground with fellow evangelicals by talking about stewardship of the wonderful natural world they have been given as a home. Put in these familiar terms, climate change seems more like an issue worthy of careful consideration.

Public opinion on climate change is, generally speaking, sharply divided by political and cultural identity. Research on this “cultural cognition” by Yale’s Dan Kahan has highlighted patterns of polarization around certain topics. We rely on our network of family, friends, and community for signals about what is true, and we feel pressure to harmonize our views with the views of that group. The more that political signals get tangled up with climate science, the harder it becomes for conservatives to do anything but reject it.

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Hanging by a thread: How the online nerdy T-shirt economy exists in an IP world

6 May 2017, 12:00 pm

Enlarge / A moviegoer wearing his Superman T-shirt in the lobby prior to watching the new Superman Returns movie on June 27, 2006 in Chicago... little did we all know what kind of a film awaited (sigh). (credit: Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

Most everybody has at least one. It may be buried in the back of a closet somewhere or wadded up in a pile, forgotten. Perhaps it's even clinging to your back right now, fitting you to, well, a tee.

The humble T-shirt has been a staple of daily life for what feels like forever, and the Internet has only enhanced humanity’s fondness for it.

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Today, even US water is overly medicated—these scientists want to change that

3 May 2017, 11:30 am

Enlarge / The Trout Run Sewage Treatment Plant in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. (credit: Montgomery County Planning Commission / Flickr)

Sylvia Lee, PhD, is a scientist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Milbrook, New York. She has access to an unusual—yet essential—set of laboratory equipment: a whole greenhouse filled with white fiberglass bathtubs. There’s no mistaking these vessels with those you’d find in the average bathroom, however. While these bathtubs are about the same length, they’re shallower, narrower, and have a raised racetrack-like interior that water circulates around. And none of the lab members spend time inside them.

Instead, researchers fill them with rocks and organisms obtained from local streams in upstate New York. And in place of bubble bath, they add to the water D-amphetamine, the same active substance found in several ADHD and narcolepsy medications. The water in the tubs is mixed with enough amphetamines to make the organisms think they’re sitting downstream from one of Baltimore’s water treatment plants. The goal of this lab is to find out what the US’ heavily medicated population might be doing to its surroundings.

The United States of America is a highly medicated country: almost seven in 10 Americans take prescription drugs. That translates to 4.4 billion prescriptions and nearly $310 billion spent on medication in 2015. Painkillers, cholesterol-lowering medications, and antidepressants top the list of drugs most commonly prescribed by doctors.

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Modern “Hackintoshes” show that Apple should probably just build a Mac tower

1 May 2017, 11:30 am

Dan Counsell

Apple is working on new desktop Macs, including a ground-up redesign of the tiny-but-controversial 2013 Mac Pro. We’re also due for some new iMacs, which Apple says will include some features that will make less-demanding pro users happy.

But we don’t know when they’re coming, and the Mac Pro in particular is going to take at least a year to get here. Apple’s reassurances are nice, but it’s a small comfort to anyone who wants high-end processing power in a Mac right now. Apple hasn’t put out a new desktop since it refreshed the iMacs in October of 2015, and the older, slower components in these computers keeps Apple out of new high-end fields like VR.

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Gloomhaven review: 2017’s biggest board game is astoundingly good

29 Apr 2017, 12:00 pm

Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our weekend look at tabletop games! Check out our complete board gaming coverage at cardboard.arstechnica.com.


Gloomhaven, the new cooperative, campaign-driven dungeon crawl board game from designer Isaac Childres, is big. Really big.

The game’s campaign—which is composed of a possible 95 different dungeons—will easily take you 100 hours to complete. Riffling through the game's box for the first time, I couldn’t stop laughing at the absurd bounty of it all. Eighteen oversized punchboards holding hundreds of tokens greet you as you start diving through the contents; beneath them are thousands of cards belonging to dozens of decks, seventeen miniatures (each held in their own little box), various wooden pieces, and an enticing array of sealed boxes, envelopes, and books.

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Trump’s first 100 days: The good, the bad, and the ugly for tech and science

28 Apr 2017, 11:30 am

Enlarge (credit: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg)

The first 100 days of President Donald Trump's administration come to a close Saturday. By any account, this presidential honeymoon of sorts was a mixed bag. The 45th president's biggest achievement was the confirmation to the Supreme Court of Neil Gorsuch. His biggest defeat was the failure to live up to a campaign promise to get Congress to repeal Obamacare—officially known as the Affordable Care Act. "We couldn't quite get there. We're just a very small number of votes short in terms of getting our bill passed," the president said. And throughout it all, the administration's first three months, which ended with the lowest public approval rating of any new president at this stage, remained clouded in political turmoil, largely because the FBI is investigating whether Trump's presidential campaign colluded with the Russian government.

The current administration will claim several crowning achievements that fall somewhere in between the president's Supreme Court victory and his healthcare reform defeat. These achievements—or setbacks, depending on your political leanings—run the gamut when it comes to policy areas. The president's FCC appointment has pushed net neutrality to the chopping block. Online privacy took a hit as well after Trump signed legislation allowing home Internet and mobile broadband providers to sell or share Web browsing history without consent from consumers. Trump also signed legislation designed to limit federal funding for Planned Parenthood and other groups that provide abortions. The president ordered the termination of President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan, and he rolled back the Obama administration's move to require automakers to increase fuel efficiency.

"If the standards threaten auto jobs, then common sense changes could've and should've been made," Trump said about the mileage standards. And speaking of jobs, Trump also notably signed an executive order requiring a wholesale review of the H-1B visa program. That program has allowed tens of thousands of foreign tech-sector workers to come and work in the US each year.

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The secret lives of Google raters

27 Apr 2017, 1:40 pm

Things are on fire, as usual. That's Moss from the IT Crowd, who sometimes feels like a rater.

Things are on fire, as usual. That's Moss from the IT Crowd, who sometimes feels like a rater. (credit: The IT Crowd/Channel 4)

Something disturbing has been happening to Google's advertising algorithms. These are the programs responsible for placing ads in appropriate contexts; serving up travel-related ads to people searching for hotels or music-related ads to people watching the latest Beyoncé video. But in the UK, government ads for the Royal Navy, the Home Office, and Transport for London recently ran before YouTube videos featuring Holocaust-denying pastor Steven Anderson, who enthusiastically endorsed the man who killed 49 people in Florida's gay nightclub Pulse. According to the UK government, its taxpayer-sponsored ads also ran on videos from "rape apologists" and on white supremacist speeches from David Duke.

Google's business immediately took a hit: prominent European ad agencies cut ties with the company, while AT&T and Verizon cut all video ad buys. Acknowledging the gravity of the problem, Google assured advertisers and users that it would make sure no ads ran alongside "upsetting-offensive" content. The company said it was unleashing its army of over 10,000 raters, people who work around the clock to make sure Google's algorithms don't return results that are unhelpful, offensive, or downright horrific.

Who are these raters? They're carefully trained and tested staff who can spend 40 hours per week logged into a system called Raterhub, which is owned and operated by Google. Every day, the raters complete dozens of short but exacting tasks that produce invaluable data about the usefulness of Google's ever-changing algorithms. They contribute significantly to several Google and Android projects, from search and voice recognition to photos and personalization features.

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An AI wrote all of David Hasselhoff’s lines in this bizarre short film

25 Apr 2017, 4:00 pm

Behold: It's No Game, written by an AI and starring the great David Hasselhoff. (video link)

Last year, director Oscar Sharp and AI researcher Ross Goodwin released the stunningly weird short film Sunspring. It was a sci-fi tale written entirely by an algorithm that eventually named itself Benjamin. Now the two humans have teamed up with Benjamin again to create a follow-up movie, It's No Game, about what happens when AI gets mixed up in an impending Hollywood writers' strike. Ars is excited to debut the movie here, so go ahead and watch. We also talked to the film cast and creators about what it's like to work with an AI.

The scenario in It's No Game is sort of like Robocop, with about 20 hits of acid layered on top. Two screenwriters (Tim Guinee and Walking Dead's Thomas Payne) are meeting with a producer (Flesh and Bone's Sarah Hay), who informs them that it doesn't matter if they go on strike because the future is AI writing movies for other AI. As evidence, she shows them Sunspring, gushing about how it "got a million hits." The fact that Sunspring did in fact get a million hits in real life, and that there really is a writer's strike threatening Hollywood, make this movie even more of a reality distortion field.

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“Mindless Eating,” or how to send an entire life of research into question

24 Apr 2017, 11:30 am

Enlarge / Can an elementary-school child eat this pile of carrots? (credit: flickr user: Diane Main)

Brian Wansink didn’t mean to spark an investigative fury that revisited his entire life’s work. He meant to write a well-intentioned blog post encouraging PhD students to jump at research opportunities. But his blog post accidentally highlighted some questionable research practices that caused a group of data detectives to jump on the case.

Wansink attracted the attention because he’s a rockstar researcher—when someone’s work has had such astronomical impact, problems in their research are a big deal. His post also came at a time when his field, social sciences, is under increased scrutiny due to problems reproducing some of its key findings.

Wansink is probably regretting he ever started typing. Tim van der Zee, one of the scientists participating in the ongoing examination into Wansink’s past, keeps a running account of what’s turned up so far. “To the best of my knowledge,” van der Zee writes in a blog post most recently updated on April 6, “there are currently 42 publications from Wansink which are alleged to contain minor to very serious issues, which have been cited over 3,700 times, are published in over 25 different journals, and in eight books, spanning over 20 years of research.”

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Galaxy S8 review: Gorgeous new hardware, same Samsung gimmicks

21 Apr 2017, 2:46 pm

Ron Amadeo

The past few months have been a humbling time for Samsung. The Galaxy Note 7's explosive debut and double recall eventually led to an unprecedented cancellation of Samsung's flagship device. The recall process and resulting investigation kept the company's name in the mud for months and months. Memes were created across the Internet, property was damaged, and everyone visiting an airport was constantly reminded that Samsung produced a faulty device. To top it all off, the head of Samsung Group and several other Samsung executives were indicted on corruption allegations, with at least one person resigning as a result.

Now Samsung is ready to move on from those dark times with the launch of a new flagship, the Galaxy S8. It has a lot riding on the S8's success, and the company seems ready to rise to the occasion. The S8 is one of Samsung's strongest flagship offerings ever, with an all-new design, slim bezels, and the debut of a speedy new processor. Since this is a Samsung flagship, it will also be backed by dump trucks full of marketing dollars ensuring it will be featured in every commercial break, be on every billboard, and have prime real estate at every electronics store.

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Send Wi-Fi companies floor plans, receive the ultimate mesh networking test

19 Apr 2017, 11:30 am

The old showbiz adage continues to hold true (even in Wi-Fi testing): you can't please everyone. Shortly after our last round of mesh Wi-Fi testing, in which a six-pack of Plume devices surprised the field, e-mails arrived from both the Google Wifi and AmpliFi HD teams. The results weren't representative of their devices, they said, and perhaps I placed the devices badly. Both companies suggested placing an access point (AP) downstairs instead of all three APs being upstairs.

While I doubted this pretty strongly—such a setup would require a multi-hop "tree" topology, which neither device is really designed well for—I set my own ego aside. At the very least, these pleas highlighted a weakness common to any three-piece mesh kit: they're deceptively difficult to place well.

But blindly following Google's and AmpliFi's recommendations to move an access point downstairs would have weakened the devices' previous coverage pattern upstairs. That arrangement means the upstairs and downstairs access points have to cover half of the house from one location rather than each covering about a third of the house the way I'd had them arranged.

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