A 13% Yield, Industry Turnaround, And Upside Potential For This Pure-Play LP

23 Sep 2017, 1:27 pm

Is beaming down in Star Trek a death sentence?

23 Sep 2017, 1:00 pm


In the 2009 movie Star Trek, Captain Kirk and Sulu plummeted down toward the planet Vulcan without a parachute. “Beam us up, beam us up!” Kirk shouted in desperation. Then at the last second, after a tense scene of Chekov running top speed to the transporter room, their lives were saved moments before they hit the doomed planet’s rocky surface.

But can beaming out save someone’s life? Some would argue that having one’s “molecules scrambled," as Dr. McCoy would put it, is actually the surest way to die. Sure, after you’ve been taken apart by the transporter, you’re put back together somewhere else, good as new. But is it still you on the other side, or is it a copy? If the latter, does that mean the transporter is a suicide box?

These issues have received a lot of attention lately given Trek’s 50th Anniversary last year and the series' impending return to TV. Not to mention, in the real world scientists have found recent success in quantum teleporting a particle’s information farther than before (which isn’t the same thing, but still). So while it seems like Trek's transporter conundrum has never had a satisfying resolution, we thought we’d take a renewed crack at it.

Read 79 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Retirement Strategy: Why Is Bank Of America In TARP II?

23 Sep 2017, 1:00 pm

Buy This High Healthcare Yield With The Lowest Payout Ratio

23 Sep 2017, 12:23 pm

Biotech: The Big Payoff

23 Sep 2017, 11:30 am

Kinder Morgan: Contrarian Dividend Play

23 Sep 2017, 8:34 am

NASA'S OSIRIS-REx spacecraft slingshots past Earth

22 Sep 2017, 8:25 pm
NASA's asteroid sample return spacecraft successfully used Earth's gravity on Friday to slingshot itself on a path toward the asteroid Bennu, for a rendezvous next August.

Mechanism that underlies age-associated bone loss

22 Sep 2017, 7:05 pm
A major health problem in older people is age-associated osteoporosis -- the thinning of bone and the loss of bone density that increases the risk of fractures. Researchers have now detailed an underlying mechanism leading to that osteoporosis. When this mechanism malfunctions, progenitor cells stop creating bone-producing cells, and instead create fat cells. Knowledge of this mechanism can provide targets in the search for novel bone-loss.

Two Group A Streptococcus genes linked to 'flesh-eating' bacterial infections

22 Sep 2017, 7:05 pm
Group A Streptococcus bacteria cause illnesses ranging from mild nuisances like strep throat to life-threatening conditions such as flesh-eating disease, also known as necrotizing fasciitis. Life-threatening infections occur when the bacteria spread underneath the surface of the skin or throat and invade the underlying soft tissue. Researchers have found two group A Streptococcus genes involved in invasive infections, which may be potential targets for therapeutics.

This Time It Matters: Why Apple Is Falling

22 Sep 2017, 6:43 pm

Why Has Tesla Suddenly Become So Shy About The Model 3?

22 Sep 2017, 6:09 pm

Enhancing the sensing capabilities of diamonds with quantum properties

22 Sep 2017, 4:29 pm
When a nitrogen atom is next to the space vacated by a carbon atom, it forms what is called a nitrogen-vacancy center. Now, researchers have shown how they can create more NV centers, which makes sensing magnetic fields easier, using a relatively simple method that can be done in many labs.

Intel Is No Match For AMD

22 Sep 2017, 3:36 pm

700 years old saint myth has been proven (almost) true

22 Sep 2017, 3:17 pm
Scientists confirm that the age and content of an old sack is in accordance with a medieval myth about Saint Francis of Assisi.

Our weight tells how we assess food

22 Sep 2017, 3:17 pm
A new study demonstrated that people of normal weight tend to associate natural foods such as apples with their sensory characteristics. On the other hand, processed foods such as pizzas are generally associated with their function or the context in which they are eaten. But that's not all. The research also highlighted the ways in which underweight people pay greater attention to natural foods and overweight people to processed foods.

Residents: Frontline defenders against antibiotic resistance?

22 Sep 2017, 3:17 pm
Residents often decide which antibiotics to start a patient on so they could become the first line of defense against antibiotic resistance.

Strategy might prevent infections in patients with spinal cord injuries

22 Sep 2017, 3:17 pm
A new study sheds light on how to reduce the number of infections in patients with spinal cord injuries without using antibiotics.

Usher syndrome: Gene therapy restores hearing and balance

22 Sep 2017, 3:17 pm
Scientists have recently restored hearing and balance in a mouse model of Usher syndrome type 1G characterized by profound congenital deafness and vestibular disorders caused by severe dysmorphogenesis of the mechanoelectrical transduction apparatus of the inner ear's sensory cells. These findings open up new possibilities for the development of gene therapy treatments for hereditary forms of deafness.

Fitbit Ionic review: Meet the $300 fitness-focused smartwatch

22 Sep 2017, 2:45 pm

Video shot by Justin Wolfson (video link)

Fitbit has a lot riding on its new $300 Ionic smartwatch. Analyst reports suggest the smartwatch category will continue to grow over the next few years, and Apple and Google already have well-established devices and operating systems. Being one of the top players in the wearables game, Fitbit is unlikely to build a device that runs Android Wear (much less watchOS), so it designs its own devices from the ground up. The Ionic is Fitbit's serious attempt at a smartwatch, far more so than the $200 Blaze that came out last year. Running Fitbit OS, the Ionic combines the most crucial fitness features with what Fitbit believes to be the most crucial smartwatch features.

While testing the Ionic, I asked myself two main questions: does it provide the best fitness experience for the price? And does Fitbit thoughtfully incorporate smartwatch features into a primarily fitness-focused device? It does—but there may be better solutions out there.

Read 62 remaining paragraphs | Comments

A sustainable future powered by sea

22 Sep 2017, 1:40 pm
Researchers develop turbines to convert the power of ocean waves into clean, renewable energy.

Assembly of nanoparticles proceeds like a zipper

22 Sep 2017, 1:40 pm
It has always been the Holy Grail of materials science to describe and control the material's structure-function relationship. Nanoparticles are an attractive class of components to be used in functional materials because they exhibit size-dependent properties, such as superparamagnetism and plasmonic absorption of light. Furthermore, controlling the arrangement of nanoparticles can result in unforeseen properties, but such studies are hard to carry out due to limited efficient approaches to produce well-defined three-dimensional nanostructures.

Stimuli fading away en route to consciousness

22 Sep 2017, 1:40 pm
Whether or not we consciously perceive the stimuli projected onto our retina is decided in our brain. A recent study shows how some signals dissipate along the processing path to conscious perception. This process begins at rather late stages of signal processing. By contrast, in earlier stages there is hardly any difference in the reaction of neurons to conscious and unconscious stimuli.

Ancient textiles reveal differences in Mediterranean fabrics in the 1st millennium BC

22 Sep 2017, 1:40 pm
Analysis of Iron Age textiles indicates that during c. 1000-400 BC Italy shared the textile culture of Central Europe, while Greece was largely influenced by the traditions of ancient Near East.

Crowning the 'king of the crops': Sequencing the white guinea yam genome

22 Sep 2017, 1:40 pm
Scientists have, for the first time, provided a genome sequence for the white Guinea yam, a staple crop with huge economic and cultural significance on the African continent and a lifeline for millions of people.

Winter cold extremes linked to high-altitude polar vortex weakening

22 Sep 2017, 1:40 pm
When the strong winds that circle the Arctic slacken, cold polar air can escape and cause extreme winter chills in parts of the Northern hemisphere. A new study finds that these weak states have become more persistent over the past four decades and can be linked to cold winters in Russia and Europe.

Flint's water crisis led to fewer babies and higher fetal death rates, researchers find

22 Sep 2017, 1:16 pm
An estimated 275 fewer children were born in Flint, Michigan, while the city was using lead-contaminated water from the Flint River, according to new research findings.

Breathing dirty air may harm kidneys

22 Sep 2017, 1:16 pm
Outdoor air pollution may increase the risk of chronic kidney disease and contribute to kidney failure, say researchers. Scientists culled national VA databases to evaluate the effects of air pollution and kidney disease on nearly 2.5 million people over a period of 8.5 years, beginning in 2004. The scientists compared VA data on kidney function to air-quality levels collected by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as well as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Effective help is available for migraine sufferers

22 Sep 2017, 1:15 pm
Although it’s the third most prevalent illness in the world, migraine is widely misunderstood and frequently undiagnosed. Until quite recently a common “remedy” for migraine was to lie in a dark room and wait for the pain to pass. But today there are treatments that work – and new medications formulated specifically for migraine are in the pipeline.

Rainbow colors reveal cell history

22 Sep 2017, 1:14 pm
A system called "Beta-bow", which allows the history of beta-cells to be traced by genetic bar-coding and multicolor imaging, has been developed by researchers.

New genetic syndrome predisposes the body to cancer

22 Sep 2017, 1:14 pm
A new syndrome caused by biallelic mutations -- those produced in both gene copies inherited from the mother and father -- in the FANCM gene predisposes the body to the appearance of tumors and causes rejection to chemotherapy treatments. Contrary to what scientists believed, the gene does not cause Fanconi anemia. Researchers recommend modifying the clinical monitoring of patients with these mutations.

It Takes Only The Smallest Of Changes To Shatter This REIT's Equilibrium

22 Sep 2017, 10:52 am

GE's Road To Recovery

22 Sep 2017, 4:59 am

6 Reasons This 15% Yielding Stock Is A Screaming Buy And My Largest Holding

21 Sep 2017, 7:21 pm

Musings On The Possible AMD / Tesla Chip Deal

21 Sep 2017, 5:58 pm

Did Tesla Just Ditch Nvidia For Advanced Micro Devices?

21 Sep 2017, 3:28 pm

Uniti: Free Falling

21 Sep 2017, 1:46 pm

How To Hide The Dividend Death Of A 10% Yield REIT

21 Sep 2017, 1:18 pm

Science-in-progress: Did the Bullet Cluster withstand scrutiny?

21 Sep 2017, 11:30 am

Enlarge / Behold, the Bullet Cluster. (credit: NASA)

Dark matter was first proposed to explain the speed at which stars orbit the center of their galaxies. Ever since, the search for other lines of evidence for dark matter has been an interesting one.

One of the biggest successes appeared to be a collision of galaxy clusters called the Bullet Cluster. It provided one of the most spectacular and intuitive indications that seemed to show that dark matter was real. Our own report on the first evidence of the Bullet Cluster, written more than a decade ago, was pretty excited. And in the stories that followed about the existence of dark matter, we've tended to treat the Bullet Cluster as a gold standard. If you can't explain the Bullet Cluster, then your theory is probably a bit useless really.

The image above shows the remnant of two galaxy clusters that have collided, with a smaller "bullet" that has passed through the larger cluster. The energy of the collision is such that regular matter has been heated to very high temperatures, causing it to glow like crazy in the X-ray regime (which is shown in red). So, an X-ray telescope can produce a clear image of the matter distribution of both the bullet and the larger cluster. Even better, this collision appears to be almost side-on to us, so we have the best seat in the house to observe it.

Read 40 remaining paragraphs | Comments

When Should You Buy Apple Again? Redux

21 Sep 2017, 1:51 am

General Electric: A 5% Yield On Its Way?

20 Sep 2017, 7:55 pm

Ethereum Is The Investment To Make While Bitcoin Lags With Regulatory Questions

20 Sep 2017, 7:37 pm

AT&T's Dividend Finally Gets Some Good News

20 Sep 2017, 5:24 pm

The Storm Is Coming

20 Sep 2017, 9:21 am

How to RGB: A system builder’s guide to RGB PC lighting

19 Sep 2017, 1:01 pm

Enlarge (credit: Mark Walton)

Corsair has a lot to answer for.

In 2014, the PC parts specialist debuted the world's first mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX RGB switches. The idea, according to Corsair, was to provide the ultimate in keyboard customisation by individually lighting each key with an LED capable of displaying one of 16.8 million colours. Coupled with some bundled software, users could light up the WASD keys in a different colour for use with shooters, turn the number key row into a real-time cool down timer, or turn the entire keyboard into a garish music visualiser. Unfortunately for Corsair, so bad was the bundled software that most people simply took to setting the keyboard up with the most eye-searing rainbow effect possible and called it a day.

Which brings us neatly onto the current state of the enthusiast PC. What started with a single keyboard has grown into a industry of RGB-capable components, peripherals, and cases designed for maximum levels of rainbow-coloured nonsense. Indeed, alongside the inclusion of tempered glass side panels, RBG lighting has been the de facto trend for 2017—so much so that it's harder to find components without the tech rather than with it.

Read 29 remaining paragraphs | Comments

iOS 11, thoroughly reviewed

19 Sep 2017, 11:00 am

Enlarge / The iOS 11 era begins. (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

The iPad is having a great year.

It started with the $329 iPad back in April, a compelling tablet that’s both good and cheap enough to entice upgraders and people who have never bought a tablet before. And it continued in June, with new 10.5- and 12.9-inch iPad Pros with high-end screens and powerful specs that make them look and feel a lot more “pro” than they did before.

This is all really good, compelling, well-differentiated hardware, and it has paid off for Apple so far—the new tablet drove year-over-year iPad sales up for the first time in more than three years. While it’s not clear where the trendlines are ultimately heading, Apple has to be happy that the tablet it has described as “the future of computing” doesn’t appear to be in terminal decline.

Read 272 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Audi Sport’s RS3 and TT-RS: The same engine but very different cars

17 Sep 2017, 1:00 pm

(video link)

We usually pay for our own travel expenses, but in this case Audi provided flights to New York City and two nights' accommodation. While we have paused all sponsored travel opportunities at this time, this event took place in July before that moratorium began.

SALISBURY, Conn.—Success on the racetrack doesn't sell cars like it used to. That said, plenty of car companies still go racing. And it's not just a marketing exercise; it remains an engineering one, too. Competition breeds ingenuity, and a motorsports department is like a skunk works that can add a halo to a mundane car or turn an already good one all the way to 11. BMW has M. Mercedes-Benz has AMG. Volvo (yes, that Volvo) has Polestar. And Audi has Audi Sport.

We were quite smitten with Audi Sport's handiwork when we tested the R8 this summer, but, given that car's bones, it was bound to impress. Finding out what Audi Sport's engineers can do with more modest beginnings was the reason we headed up to Lime Rock Park, a scenic race track a couple of hours north of New York City. Well, that, plus we were promised a hot lap with racing legend Hans Stuck in the driver's seat.

Read 32 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Build, gather, brawl, repeat: The history of real-time strategy games

15 Sep 2017, 10:03 am

Enlarge / Not every DOS-era RTS game inspires a film adaptation.

The rise and fall of real-time strategy games is a strange one. They emerged gradually out of experiments to combine the excitement and speed of action games with the deliberateness and depth of strategy. Then, suddenly, the genre exploded in popularity in the latter half of the 1990s—only to fall from favor (StarCraft aside) just as quickly during the 2000s amid cries of stagnation and a changing games market. And yet, one of the most popular competitive games in the world today is an RTS, and three or four others are in a genre that branched off from real-time strategy.

At 25 years old, the real-time strategy genre remains relevant for its ideas and legacies. And with it deep in a lull, now is the perfect time to give it the same in-depth historical treatment that we've already given to graphic adventures, sims, first-person shooters, kart racers, open-world games, and city builders.

Before I start recounting the history of the genre, some quick ground rules: as in all of these genre histories, I'm looking to emphasize innovation and new ideas, which means that some popular games may be glossed over and [insert-your-favorite-game] might not be mentioned at all. For the purposes of this article, a real-time strategy game is one that involves base building and/or management, resource gathering, unit production, and semi-autonomous combat, all conducted in real time (rather than being turn-based), for the purpose of gaining/maintaining control over strategic points on a map (such as the resources and command centers).

Read 105 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Two years on, the Kuiper Belt is in sight

14 Sep 2017, 2:54 pm

The heart of the matter

ON SEPTEMBER 11th, nearly 6bn kilometres from Earth, beyond the orbit of Neptune, a spacecraft emerged from hibernation. The primary task of New Horizons, launched by NASA in 2006, was to explore Pluto. It completed that mission in July 2015, zooming past Pluto at almost 50,000kph, then spending over a year transmitting back a trove of data and images that astronomers are still analysing.

Now, after five months asleep, New Horizons is turning its attention to its secondary objective, which is to explore the even more remote Kuiper Belt. A much larger analogue of the asteroid belt, the Kuiper Belt is a cosmic junkyard, full of rubble thought to be left over from the formation of the solar system. But whereas the asteroid belt is made mostly of rock and metal, objects in the Kuiper Belt are composed largely of frozen water, ammonia and methane. Pluto is one such chunk, albeit considerably...Continue reading

Faking cellular suicide could help control inflammation

14 Sep 2017, 2:54 pm

What a good death looks like

AS PARACELSUS first pointed out in the 16th century, it is the dose that makes the poison. Inflammation, in particular, is vital to fighting infection or healing wounds. If it lingers, however, it can cause more harm than good. Chronic inflammation often impedes the very healing that it is meant to promote. Many drugs have been invented to combat that problem, but none is as effective as doctors would like. Now, as they describe in a paper in ACS Macro Letters, a team led by Mitsuhiro Ebara at the National Institute for Materials Science in Japan have come up with a new approach. They have worked out how to persuade cells in inflamed tissues to believe that other cells nearby have just committed suicide.

Cells can suffer chaotic deaths or orderly ones. Chaotic deaths are the end result of a process called necrosis, in which toxins, pathogens or other forms of damage cause a cell to fail...Continue reading

As electric motors improve, more things are being electrified

14 Sep 2017, 2:54 pm

HENRY FORD may have brought motoring to the masses in 1908 with the Model T, but his wife, Clara, preferred to drive an electric car. Combustion engines were noisy, dirty and in their early years required hand-cranking to start. Mrs Ford’s 1914 Detroit Electric, however, moved away instantly, was nearly silent and its speed was easy to control by pushing or pulling on a wooden rod that selected the required amount of power from a bank of nickel-iron batteries. Her car could travel for about 80 miles on a single charge and exceed speeds of 20mph.

Mr Ford’s mass-production techniques soon cut a Model T’s price to $500—one seventh that of Mrs Ford’s car. As refuelling stations spread, the internal-combustion engine went on to conquer all. Now electric cars are cruising back, as performance improves and costs fall. Tesla’s new Model 3, for instance, reaches 140mph and its lightweight lithium-ion battery has enough juice for 300 miles. But it is not just better and cheaper batteries...Continue reading

The giant panda is on a bit of a roll

13 Sep 2017, 8:33 pm

Climbing out of a hole

PANDAS are famously shy. Rather than counting them directly, surveyors must infer their presence from dung and semi-chewed bamboo stalks scattered on the forest floor. But they are also hard to find because there are not many left. A mix of hunting and habitat destruction has ravaged the species. By the late 1970s, their numbers had fallen to around 1,000 individuals.

Such precarity is why zoos spend so much effort trying to persuade captive pandas to reproduce. But it is a tricky task. On September 11th Edinburgh Zoo announced that Tian Tian, its resident panda, had failed to carry a pregnancy to term, the fifth time that attempts to produce a cub have failed. In America, keepers at the Smithsonian National Zoo, in Washington, DC, are waiting anxiously, hoping that a bear called Mei Xiang will have better luck.

Yet things are looking up for this most charismatic of megafauna. China’s most recent survey, completed in 2014,...Continue reading

A clever way to transmit data on the cheap

13 Sep 2017, 4:32 pm

THE word “smart” is ubiquitous these days. If you believe the hype, smart farms will all employ sensors to report soil conditions, crop growth or the health of livestock. Smart cities will monitor the levels of pollution and noise on every street corner. And smart goods in warehouses will tell robots where to store them, and how. Getting this to work, however, requires figuring out how to get thousands of sensors to transmit data reliably across hundreds of metres. On September 15th, at a computing conference held in Miami, Shyam Gollakota and his colleagues at the University of Washington are due to unveil a gadget that can do exactly that—and with only a fraction of the power required by the best devices currently available.

Dr Gollakota’s invention uses a technology called “LoRa” (from “long range”). Like Wi-Fi, this allows computers to talk to each other with radio waves. Unlike Wi-Fi, though, LoRa is not easily blocked by walls, furniture and other...Continue reading

Destiny 2 review: Guardians rise up—and so does Bungie—to fix the first game

13 Sep 2017, 10:45 am

Enlarge / I go into greater detail about Dominus Ghaul in the pre-review. Here, I explain more about why you should care about his world. (credit: Bungie)

My feature-length look at Destiny 2's first 15 hours can be summed up as follows: the Destiny series has returned with a better story, superior zones to shoot bad guys in, and a more pronounced sense of purpose. It has also returned looking a helluva lot like the series' first always-online, first-person shooting game.

Those initial sessions left me optimistic about the state of the sequel, which is why I chose to cover it in "pre-review" form at all (let alone in a positive manner). Still, I wanted to tell a more complete story of how much content ships in this game—and whether Destiny 2's network requirements might get in the way.

One week of questing, shooting, and engram-collecting later, I have a verdict. I do this knowing fully well that Destiny 2 has content-related surprises up its robo-armored sleeves, thanks to weekly events and the like. But I have mostly reached the edges of the game's on-disc content and can see the full picture of what Bungie expects its fans to play for weeks and months on end.

Read 36 remaining paragraphs | Comments

The Ars 10: We pick our favorite indie games from PAX West 2017

11 Sep 2017, 11:30 am

Ars Technica staffers began attending PAX West in 2007, when it was the only Penny Arcade Expo around. A lot has changed in 10 years, but the biggest difference has been the exponential growth of playable independent games on the massive show floor. Even if we didn't have to wait in a single line, four days is simply not enough time to try out the hundreds of indie titles on offer at PAX today.

Still, we did our best, playing dozens of the most interesting games we could get our hands on during this year's show. We've narrowed that list down to 10 you should definitely watch out for, along with a number of honorable mentions that piqued our interest. Consider this far-from-comprehensive effort our attempt to help you filter through the utterly ridiculous number of independent games floating around these days and seek out the best and most innovative for your playing time.

Read 54 remaining paragraphs | Comments

I’ve fallen in love with a laptop—the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga

9 Sep 2017, 12:00 pm

(video link)

When writing a review, whether of a computer game, a film, a book, or a piece of hardware, there is always a certain amount of pressure to be "objective," to write from some kind of non-personal, neutral viewpoint divorced from any kind of emotional response.

I've never subscribed to this view myself. Here at Ars, we don't try to review every piece of hardware that hits the market; our selection of review products is implicitly skewed toward those that we think are likely to be good, or if not good, then in some sense significant due to their profile, their positioning within the market, or whatever other factors we deem to be relevant. As such, someone reading the laptop reviews at Ars will always see a somewhat skewed representation of the market without being exposed to its full breadth. The same goes for laptop reviews virtually anywhere. 

Read 30 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Antibiotic resistance in fish farms is passed on from fish food

7 Sep 2017, 2:44 pm

THE mucky sediment below fish farms usually teems with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The presence of such bacteria is a cause of increasing concern because resistance can limit the ability to fight diseases, but it is also not that surprising: pisciculturalists have a long history of dosing fish they are breeding and rearing with antibiotics. But some scientists suspect there is more to it than that. One group, led by Jing Wang of Dalian University of Technology in China, has found that the problem is also linked to what the fish are being fed.

Dr Wang knew from previous reports that fish farmers who had not used antibiotics for years, or had never used them at all, still had sediment in their marine farms carrying bacteria with many of the genes associated with drug resistance. The genes had to be getting into the bacteria somehow; one possible pathway was through antibiotic-resistance genes in fish food mingling in various ways with bacteria in the sediment.

Working with a...Continue reading

After exploring Saturn, Cassini faces a fiery end

7 Sep 2017, 2:44 pm

On a mission to the end

ON SEPTEMBER 11th, around 1.2bn kilometres from Earth, Cassini, a robotic spacecraft that has been orbiting Saturn for 13 years, will make a final flypast of Titan, Saturn’s biggest moon. Since April the NASA craft has been conducting a series of long, looping orbits that take it between Saturn itself and the innermost of the planet’s famous rings. After passing Titan, Cassini will dive back towards Saturn, but this time, it will not return. On September 15th, at about 1pm London time, it will kiss the outer edges of Saturn’s atmosphere and begin to tumble, losing contact with Earth. A few minutes later it will burn up as a shooting star, bringing down the curtain on a long and dramatic mission to an under-explored corner of the solar system.

Cassini is not the first spacecraft to visit Saturn. Pioneer 11 flew past in 1979 on its way to...Continue reading

How to hurricane-proof a Web server

7 Sep 2017, 11:30 am

Enlarge / We could all use a little levity in the IT world (especially if you lived in the path of Hurricane Harvey). (credit: Aurich / Getty)

HOUSTON—I had enough to worry about as Hurricane Harvey plowed into the Texas Gulf Coast on the night of August 25 and delivered a category 4 punch to the nearby city of Rockport. But I simultaneously faced a different kind of storm: an unexpected surge of traffic hitting the Space City Weather Web server. This was the first of what would turn into several very long and restless nights.

Space City Weather is a Houston-area weather blog and forecasting site run by my coworker Eric Berger and his buddy Matt Lanza (along with contributing author Braniff Davis). A few months before Hurricane Harvey decided to crap all over us in Texas, after watching Eric and Matt struggle with Web hosting companies during previous high-traffic weather events, I offered to host SCW on my own private dedicated server (and not the one in my closet—a real server in a real data center). After all, I thought, the box was heavily underutilized with just my own silly stuff. I'd previously had some experience in self-hosting WordPress sites, and my usual hosting strategy ought to do just fine against SCW’s projected traffic. It’d be fun!

But that Friday evening, with Harvey battering Rockport and forecasters predicting doom and gloom for hundreds of miles of Texas coastline, SCW’s 24-hour page view counter zipped past the 800,000 mark and kept on going. The unique visitor number was north of 400,000 and climbing. The server was dishing out between 10 and 20 pages per second. The traffic storm had arrived.

Read 76 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Advances in AI are used to spot signs of sexuality

6 Sep 2017, 8:03 pm

MODERN artificial intelligence is much feted. But its talents boil down to a superhuman ability to spot patterns in large volumes of data. Facebook has used this ability to produce maps of poor regions in unprecedented detail, with an AI system that has learned what human settlements look like from satellite pictures. Medical researchers have trained AI in smartphones to detect cancerous lesions; a Google system can make precise guesses about the year a photograph was taken, simply because it has seen more photos than a human could ever inspect, and has spotted patterns that no human could.

AI’s power to pick out patterns is now turning to more intimate matters. Research at Stanford University by Michal Kosinski and Yilun Wang has shown that machine vision can infer sexual orientation by analysing people’s faces. The researchers suggest the software does this by picking up on subtle differences in facial structure. With the right data sets, Dr...Continue reading

Researchers produce images of people’s faces from their genomes

6 Sep 2017, 8:03 pm

What the genes predicted, and what we got

CRAIG VENTER, a biologist and boss of Human Longevity, a San Diego-based company that is building the world’s largest genomic database, is something of a rebel. In the late 1990s he declared that the international, publicly funded project to sequence the human genome was going about it the wrong way, and he developed a cheaper and quicker method of his own. His latest ruffling of feathers comes from work that predicts what a person will look like from their genetic data.

Human Longevity has assembled 45,000 genomes, mostly from patients who have been in clinical trials, and data on their associated physical attributes. The company uses machine-learning tools to analyse these data and then make predictions about how genetic sequences are tied to physical features. These efforts have improved to the point where the company is able to generate photo-like pictures of people without ever clapping eyes on...Continue reading

Already, Destiny 2 understands its fate, its purpose, its desti… you know

5 Sep 2017, 2:00 pm

Enlarge / Our first flight to the planet of Nessus—and the first of many we plan to undertake, now that Destiny 2's retail edition has left us with such strong pre-review impressions. (credit: Bungie)

The first time I reviewed a brand-new Destiny game, I gathered less than a week of impressions. Some online-shooter fans may have needed more time with a game of that caliber and scope to determine whether it was up to snuff. I did not.

After beating Destiny's too-short campaign back in 2014, I found myself dissatisfied with the lack of post-campaign content. The worlds felt tiny. The AI wasn't up to par. The game didn't deliver any long-term "economic" systems like crafting or trading, and its mix of confusing currencies never paid off. Destiny's time-tested, Halo-styled shooting mechanics made a good first impression, but nothing about its characters, missions, or worlds made me want to hang around and keep shooting its guns.

Paid expansions did their best to patch together enough content and gravitas to compel people to keep playing. They never hooked me, however. I never got over the fact that Destiny's most "epic" experience was a "loot cave," which let players essentially press a big, shiny button and make insanely powerful weapons pop out. When that's your game's hottest ticket, you're in trouble. (And no, the ridiculous bullet-sponge bosses, which did nothing more than stand around and absorb insane damage without requiring intelligent strategies, didn't count.)

Read 41 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Android 8.0 Oreo, thoroughly reviewed

4 Sep 2017, 10:00 am


Android 8.0 Oreo is the 26th version of the world's most popular operating system. This year, Google's mobile-and-everything-else OS hit two billion monthly active users—and that's just counting phones and tablets. What can all those users expect from the new version? In an interview with Ars earlier this year, Android's VP of engineering Dave Burke said that the 8.0 release would be about "foundation and fundamentals." His team was guided by a single question: "What are we doing to Android to make sure Android is in a great place in the next 5 to 10 years?"

Read 246 remaining paragraphs | Comments

The psychology of Soylent and the prison of first-world food choices

3 Sep 2017, 4:30 pm

(credit: Aurich Lawson / Lee Hutchinson / Thinkstock)

Back around Labor Day 2013, Senior Editor Lee Hutchinson passed on the various grilled and barbecue delights of a holiday weekend. Instead, he spent seven days testing a peculiar new nutritional meal substitute—Soylent. The product has only grown in notoriety and evolved in its composition since. This long weekend, we're resurfacing Hutchinson's reflection from several months after that initial experience (originally published in May 2014). If interested in some of our Soylent coverage since then, here are a few highlights:

I’ve spilled a lot of virtual ink on Soylent over the past year—I count thirteen pieces, including the five-day experiment from last summer when I ate nothing but the stuff for a full week. This, though, is probably the last Soylent-specific piece that I’ll write for a while. It’s the piece that I’ve wanted to do all along.

Here we're going to talk about how the final mass-produced Soylent product fits into my life, without any stunts or multi-day binges. More importantly, we're going to take a look at exactly what might drive someone in the most food-saturated culture in the world to bypass thousands of healthy, normal, human-food meal choices in favor of nutritive goop. It's something a lot of folks simply can't seem to wrap their heads around. Today it's relatively easy to make a healthy meal, so why in the hell would anyone pour Soylent down their throat?

Read 47 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Tech companies declare war on hate speech—and conservatives are worried

1 Sep 2017, 2:05 am

"One of the greatest strengths of the United States is a belief that speech, particularly political speech, is sacred," wrote Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince in a 2013 blog post. Both then and now, the CDN and Web security company has protected websites from denial-of-service attacks that aim to drown out targets with fake traffic. Prince vowed that this service would be available to anyone who wanted it.

"There will be things on our network that make us uncomfortable," Prince wrote. But "we will continue to abide by the law, serve all customers, and hold consistently to a belief that our proper role is not that of Internet censor."

Recently, this stance put Prince in a really uncomfortable position. Cloudflare was providing service to the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website that published an article trashing Heather Heyer, a victim of lethal violence during the Charlottesville protests. So under pressure from anti-racism activists, Cloudflare dropped the hate site as a customer. The move caused Daily Stormer to go down for more than 24 hours.

Read 46 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Microscopic lasers may stop tumours spreading around the body

31 Aug 2017, 2:51 pm

Set spasers to “kill”

IT IS more than 50 years since “Fantastic Voyage” hit the silver screen. The film’s premise, shrinking a submarine and her crew of doctors to the point where they can travel through a patient’s bloodstream to repair damage in situ, though entertaining, remains as absurd as it was in 1966. Not so the idea that therapeutic machines small enough to circulate in this way might be built. Indeed, perhaps inspired by the film, several such efforts have been made. Some are drug-delivery devices. Some are ways of concentrating externally applied energy into tissue that needs to be killed. And they are starting to be approved for clinical use.

The latest attempt, by Vladimir Zharov of the University of Arkansas and Mark Stockman of Georgia State University, in Atlanta, involves injecting cancer patients with hordes of tiny lasers that will seek out and destroy so-called circulating tumour cells (CTCs). These are...Continue reading

A wonder drug for heart disease that isn’t that wonderful

31 Aug 2017, 2:51 pm

ON AUGUST 27th the results of a trial of an anti-inflammatory medicine called canakinumab were released at a meeting, in Barcelona, of the European Society of Cardiology. Press reports were gushing, telling of a fabulous new drug that would cut the risk of heart attacks and cancer at the same time. The coverage was so positive that people reading or hearing it might have been forgiven for wondering when this treatment would be available to everyone. The answer is probably “never”, for canakinumab’s benefits have been greatly oversold. This trial was, nevertheless, important. Though it offered no immediate treatment, it confirmed what has long been suspected—that inflammation is an important factor in heart disease.

It has been common knowledge for decades that one way to reduce someone’s risk of having a heart attack is to keep his cholesterol levels low. But that is only part of the story. About half of heart attacks happen to those who have what are considered...Continue reading

Robotic flippers reveal how plesiosaurs swam

31 Aug 2017, 2:51 pm

Plesiosaurs roamed Earth’s oceans for nearly 150m years, until their extinction 66m years ago. They were propelled by four equal-sized flippers, unlike any animal alive today. A question that has long bothered palaeontologists is, did all four flap up and down, or were they rowing rather than flapping, or did the back ones steer rather than flap or row? As he reports in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, Luke Muscutt of Southampton University, in England, has now answered this definitively. By testing robotic replicas of plesiosaur flippers in a water tank he has shown that all four flapping up and down is by far the most efficient and powerful arrangement.

This is probably the worst US flood storm ever, and I’ll never be the same

30 Aug 2017, 12:00 pm

Enlarge / Houston, on Monday, basically all across the city. (credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

HOUSTON—Lightning crashed all around as I dashed into the dark night. The parking lot outside my apartment building had become swollen with rains, a torrent about a foot deep rushing toward lower ground God knows where. Amazingly, the garage door rose when I punched the button on the opener. Inside I found what I expected to find—mayhem.

In dismay, I scooped up a box of books that had been on the floor. As I did, one of the sodden bottom flaps gave way, and a heavy book splashed into the water: From Dawn to Decadence, a timeless account of the Western world's great works by Jacques Barzun. Almost immediately, a current from the rushing water beyond the garage door pulled the tome away, forever. Damn, I loved that book. An indescribably bad night had just gotten that little bit worse.

This little scene played out on Sunday morning, around 4am, after sheets of rain from Hurricane Harvey had drenched southern Houston for the previous 12 hours. A few miles away, amidst the tempest, my wife sat on the front porch of her sister's new home. It had been built on pilings to keep it safe from flooding. But when 24 inches falls in less than 24 hours, as it did over Clear Creek south of Houston, bad things happen.

Read 33 remaining paragraphs | Comments

The hottest new board games from Gen Con 2017

26 Aug 2017, 12:00 pm

Last weekend, we strapped on our most comfortable walking shoes, checked our gaming wishlist twice, and jumped headlong into the self-proclaimed “best four days of gaming”—the annual Gen Con tabletop gaming convention in Indianapolis, Indiana. This year’s 50th-anniversary show was extra special: turnstile attendance for an estimated 60,000 con-goers reached a record-breaking 209,000, and for the first year ever, the con sold out well before the doors opened on Thursday.

With approximately 500 exhibitors, over 19,000 ticketed events, and entire convention halls and stadiums filled to capacity with board games, roleplaying games, miniatures games, and everything in between, Gen Con is a lot to take in. We couldn’t get to all of it, but we skipped sleep, meals, and general mental well-being to bring you what we see as the best of the show.

Below are the 20 board games we think you should be paying attention to going into the last few months of the year (cube-pushing Eurogame fans will want to tune in again in late October when we hit the giant Spieltage fair in Essen, Germany). Most of the games below will be coming out over the next several weeks and months, but because of the vagaries inherent in board game releases, exact dates are hard to pin down. Your best bet is to head to your local retailer, boardgameprices.com, or Amazon and put in a preorder for anything that catches your eye. And if you missed it, be sure to check out our massive photo gallery of the show.

Read 81 remaining paragraphs | Comments

With the USS McCain collision, even Navy tech can’t overcome human shortcomings

25 Aug 2017, 12:15 pm

Enlarge / Tugboats from Singapore assist the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) as it steers toward Changi Naval Base, Republic of Singapore, following a collision with the merchant vessel Alnic MC while underway east of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore on August 21. Ten sailors were missing after the collision.

In the darkness of early morning on August 21, the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with a tanker in the Strait of Malacca off Singapore. Ten sailors are believed to have lost their lives in the McCain collision. When added to the seven who died in the June 17 collision of the USS Fitzgerald with the container ship ACX Crystal, this has been the deadliest year at sea for the US Navy's surface fleet since the 1989 turret explosion aboard USS Iowa (in which 47 sailors perished).

The McCain's collision was the fourth this year between a naval vessel and a merchant ship—the third involving a ship of the US Navy's Seventh Fleet. (The other collision involved a Russian intelligence collection ship near the Bosporus Strait in Turkey.) There hasn't been a string of collisions like this since the 1950s.

Collisions are one of the biggest nightmares of those who go to sea. Cmdr. W.B. Hayer famously posted a brass plaque on the bridge of the destroyer USS Buck misquoting Thucydides: "A collision at sea can ruin your entire day" (this quote later found its way to Navy training posters). But few can look at the photos of Berthing 2 or the captain's stateroom aboard the USS Fitzgerald in the Navy's recent supplemental report on its collision and laugh.

Read 41 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Monterey Car Week is like Comic Con and the Oscars but with wheels

24 Aug 2017, 12:45 pm

Enlarge / When you have so much eye-candy in one place, this becomes a familiar sight. (credit: Jonathan Gitlin)

Although we usually pay for our own travel expenses, for this trip Genesis provided flights to San Francisco and five nights' accommodation in Monterey, California.

MONTEREY, Calif.—There are a few big tentpole events on the automotive world's calendar. First come the auto shows of New York and Geneva, when manufacturers whip the dust sheets off their latest wares. Next up are Indianapolis, Monte Carlo, and Le Mans, where races have been held for decades (for more than a century in the case of the former). That trio annually puts machines and the teams that run them through the wringer. But none of these iconic happenings is quite like Monterey Car Week.

Each year toward the end of August, this normally sleepy peninsula a hundred miles or so south of San Francisco plays host to a four-wheeled festival that might best be described as a cross between Comic Con and the Oscars, just for cars. The Comic Con comparison feels apt because, for the fan, there's just about everything you could hope to see. And the Oscars? Well, Monterey is where the megastars of the car world show up. I don't mean famous people—though there are plenty of those—but the A-list automobiles themselves. Cars that mere mortals like me just read about, vehicles distinguished by otherworldly valuations or legendary histories, are suddenly sharing the same sunlight as the rest of us.

Read 29 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Tales of an IT professional sailing around the Antarctic loop

22 Aug 2017, 12:45 pm

Jen Thomas

Carles Pina i Estany is not what comes to mind when you picture your typical Polar explorer. A native of sunny Barcelona, he works as a Software Engineer at Mendeley—a London-based technology company owned by science publishers Elsevier. Before this year, he had never even slept aboard a ship. But when the invitation came for him to embark on a three-month expedition around the Antarctic, he jumped at the chance.

It all happened rather quickly. Pina i Estany’s partner, Jen Thomas, who had previously worked with the British Antarctic Survey, was working as Data Manager for a research trip led by the newly created Swiss Polar Institute. The SPI connects researchers active in polar or extreme environments, promotes public awareness of these environments, and facilitates access to research facilities in those extreme environments. Billionaire adventurer Frederik Paulsen sponsored the excursion—he even went along for the rideThis was most definitely not your typical office tech support gig.

Read 38 remaining paragraphs | Comments