Parker-Hannifin: So Much More Than Just A Dividend King

20 Mar 2018, 5:51 am

Steen Jakobsen: Now Is The Time To Be In Capital-Preservation Mode

20 Mar 2018, 5:36 am

High China Iron Ore Port Stocks Not The Whole Story

20 Mar 2018, 4:55 am

India Exemplifies EM Appeal

20 Mar 2018, 4:47 am

The Next Recession Is Rooting Now

20 Mar 2018, 4:35 am

Discovery of sophisticated 115,000-year-old bone tools in China

20 Mar 2018, 2:09 am
An analysis of 115,000-year-old bone tools discovered in China suggests that the toolmaking techniques mastered by prehistoric humans there were more sophisticated than previously thought.

Newly described human antibody prevents malaria in mice

20 Mar 2018, 1:58 am
Scientists have discovered a human antibody that protected mice from infection with the deadliest malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum. The research findings provide the basis for future testing in humans to determine if the antibody can provide short-term protection against malaria, and also may aid in vaccine design. Currently, there is no highly effective, long-lasting vaccine to prevent malaria.

Three genes essential for cells to tell time

20 Mar 2018, 1:57 am
One family of genes allows cells to adapt to daily changes in environmental conditions by adjusting their internal 'body clock,' the circadian clock responsible for regular sleep-wake cycles. The new discovery reveals for the first time that circadian regulation may be directly connected to cellular stress.

Climate change threatens world's largest seagrass carbon stores

19 Mar 2018, 8:00 pm
In the summer of 2010-2011 Western Australia experienced an unprecedented marine heat wave that elevated water temperatures 2-4°C above average for more than 2 months. The heat wave resulted in defoliation of the dominant Amphibolis antarctica seagrass species across the iconic Shark Bay World Heritage Site. Researchers alert us of the major carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions resulting from this loss of seagrass meadows at Shark Bay -- one of the largest remaining seagrass ecosystems on Earth.

New osteoarthritis genes discovered

19 Mar 2018, 7:59 pm
In the largest study of its kind, nine novel genes for osteoarthritis have been discovered. Results could open the door to new targeted therapies for this debilitating disease in the future.

LSD blurs boundaries between the experience of self and other

19 Mar 2018, 7:59 pm
LSD reduces the borders  between the experience of our own self and others, and thereby affects social interactions. Researchers have now found that the serotonin 2A receptor in the human brain is critically involved in these intertwined psychological mechanisms. This knowledge could help develop new therapies for psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia or depression.

Americans prefer economic inequality to playing Robin Hood, study finds

19 Mar 2018, 7:57 pm
Given the chance to play Robin Hood, most Americans show little interest in taking from the rich and giving to the poor. A new study may explain why it's so hard for voters in modern democracies to erase the economic inequalities that separate most citizens from the nation's super-wealthy elites.

Agriculture initiated by indigenous peoples, not Fertile Crescent migration

19 Mar 2018, 7:57 pm
Small scale agricultural farming was first initiated by indigenous communities living on Turkey's Anatolian plateau, and not introduced by migrant farmers as previously thought, according to new research.

First evidence of live-traded dogs for Maya ceremonies

19 Mar 2018, 7:57 pm
Earliest evidence that Mayas raised and traded dogs and other animals -- probably for ceremonies -- from Ceibal, Guatemala.

Intensification of agriculture and social hierarchies evolve together, study finds

19 Mar 2018, 7:57 pm
Researchers analyzed the evolution of 155 Island South East Asian and Pacific societies to determine that, rather than intensification of agriculture leading to social stratification, the two evolve together. The study illustrates the way social and material factors combine to drive human cultural evolution.

At first blush, you look happy -- or sad, or angry

19 Mar 2018, 7:57 pm
Our faces broadcast our feelings in living color -- even when we don't move a muscle. That's the conclusion of a groundbreaking study into human expressions of emotion, which found that people are able to correctly identify other people's feelings up to 75 percent of the time -- based solely on subtle shifts in blood flow color around the nose, eyebrows, cheeks or chin.

'New life form' answers question about evolution of cells

19 Mar 2018, 7:57 pm
Bacteria and Archaea must have evolved from the putative Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA). One hypothesis is that this happened because the cell membrane in LUCA was an unstable mixture of lipids. Now, scientists have created such a life form with a mixed membrane and discovered it is in fact stable, refuting this hypothesis.

Termite queen, king recognition pheromone identified

19 Mar 2018, 7:57 pm
Forget the bows and curtsies. Worker termites shake in the presence of their queens and kings. New research explains how these workers smell a royal presence.

Shedding light on the mystery of the superconducting dome

19 Mar 2018, 7:57 pm
Physicists have induced superconductivity in a monolayer of tungsten disulfide. By using an increasing electric field, they were able to show how the material turns from an insulator into a superconductor and then back into a 're-entrant' insulator again. Their results show the typical 'dome-shaped' superconducting phase, and finally provide an explanation for this phenomenon.

Don't blame adolescent social behavior on hormones

19 Mar 2018, 7:57 pm
Reproductive hormones that develop during puberty are not responsible for changes in social behavior that occur during adolescence, according to the results of a newly published study.

Pregnant women and new moms still hesitant to introduce peanut products

19 Mar 2018, 7:57 pm
In January 2017 guidelines were released urging parents to begin early introduction of peanut-containing foods to reduce the risk of peanut allergy. A new study shows those who are aware of the guidelines are still hesitant to put them into place and not everyone has heard of them.

So close, yet so far: Making climate impacts feel nearby may not inspire action

19 Mar 2018, 7:57 pm
An expert says it is possible to make faraway climate impacts feel closer. But that doesn't automatically inspire the American public to express greater support for policies that address it.

Qualcomm: A Fearful Aftermath

19 Mar 2018, 7:02 pm

Cutting carbon emissions sooner could save 153 million lives

19 Mar 2018, 6:52 pm
As many as 153 million premature deaths linked to air pollution could be avoided worldwide this century if governments speed up their timetable for reducing fossil fuel emissions, a new study finds.

Research signals arrival of a complete human genome

19 Mar 2018, 6:46 pm
Research have just published attempts to close huge gaps remain in our genomic reference map. The research uses nanopore long-read sequencing to generate the first complete and accurate linear map of a human Y chromosome centromere. This milestone in human genetics and genomics signals that scientists are finally entering a technological phase when completing the human genome will be a reality.

Historians to climate researchers: Let's talk

19 Mar 2018, 6:46 pm
Ours is not the first society to be confronted by massive environmental change. Over the course of history, some societies have been destroyed by natural disasters, like Pompeii, while others have learned how to accommodate floods, droughts, volcanic eruptions and other natural hazards. The key is how a society plans for and interacts with the stress from nature.

Facebook Stock Crashes: Buying Opportunity Or Time To Sell?

19 Mar 2018, 5:05 pm

Non-antibiotic drugs promote antibiotic resistance

19 Mar 2018, 4:09 pm

THE widespread use of antibiotics encourages the pathogens they are directed against to become inured to their effects. That is well known. But antibiotics cause damage to non-target species as well, so these, too, tend to evolve immunity. Since most antibiotics are administered by mouth, the many bacteria that live peacefully in the human gut are particularly susceptible to such evolutionary pressures.

The medical consequences of this are ill-understood, in part because most gut bacteria are anaerobes (meaning they flourish only in the absence of oxygen) and so are difficult to culture. But Lisa Maier of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, in Heidelberg, and her colleagues have, nevertheless, grown 40 of the most common strains of them in anaerobic conditions. They have then gone on to expose those cultures to hundreds of drugs for a range of ailments, at the sorts of concentrations that might be encountered in the human intestine. Their study, published this week in Nature, has revealed an unexpected avenue by which gut bacteria...Continue reading

It's Now Time To Buy The #1 REIT In The World

19 Mar 2018, 10:45 am

It's The Best Time In 22 Years To Buy This High-Yield Dividend Aristocrat

19 Mar 2018, 7:44 am

Bitcoin: Not 'Just A Correction' Anymore, The Bubble Is Bursting, For Now

19 Mar 2018, 4:43 am

AT&T: Bullish Breakout Ahead?

18 Mar 2018, 6:18 pm

The Next Recession Could Be Decades Away

18 Mar 2018, 4:28 pm

Buy This 16.2% Yielding REIT Now, Bargain Price, The CEO Is Buying

18 Mar 2018, 1:15 pm

VR headsets have become the new arthouse—the best of SXSW’s fantastic VR festival

18 Mar 2018, 1:00 pm

After roughly three years of commercial viability, virtual reality seems to have excelled within a different realm than the one I typically wonder about: the film festival. Events like Sundance, Tribeca, and South By Southwest already overflow with weird, not-quite-accessible films about real-world drama, emotions, and nonsensical stories. And today, the only venue that fits those works better than arthouse theaters, quite frankly, is the ornate, vision-filling VR headset.

But filmmakers aren't just descending onto hardware like HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Samsung GearVR in a boring, flash-in-the-pan manner. At SXSW 2018 in particular, they're finally exhibiting a proficiency in two equally important extremes: what VR can sell that normal films cannot, and what VR must compromise or let go of for the sake of a better film experience.

I went eyes-on with nearly two dozen VR experiences at SXSW 2018, and I'll be honest, some of them were rough. Some filmmakers still think that a 360-degree video that forces viewers to crane their neck and hunt around for content is a good idea (geez, please stop making those). Others packed far too much visual noise or too many unnecessary interactions into a 3D world that never answered the important question of why its content and message was better in VR than on a flat screen.

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Advanced Micro Devices' Promising Future - The Fortune Teller's Idea Of The Month

18 Mar 2018, 12:44 pm

This MLP Still Looks Attractive After The FERC's Policy Revision

18 Mar 2018, 5:11 am

Has Procter & Gamble Become A Bargain After The 16% Decline?

17 Mar 2018, 7:01 pm

Ok, Who's Confused?

17 Mar 2018, 5:46 pm

A 13% Yield On Qualified Dividends - No K-1, But...

17 Mar 2018, 1:15 pm

Stocks To Watch: Wake-Up Call For The IPO Market

17 Mar 2018, 12:47 pm

Retire Rich: How To Buy Low And Sell High

17 Mar 2018, 12:00 pm

Galaxy S9+ review—Faster specs, better biometrics in a familiar package

15 Mar 2018, 8:58 pm

Ron Amadeo

Believe it or not, the high-end Android smartphone market isn't super competitive. LG's mobile unit is regularly the company's worst-performing division, so much so that the company is backing away from a yearly release cycle and delaying its flagship smartphone. HTC's January 2018 was the company's worst month in more than a decade—until even worse numbers were reported in February. Google makes the all-around best Android phone, but it is either uninterested in creating or unable to create a competitive distribution and marketing chain, leaving many people unable to buy the phone.

We hear talk about new brands from China, but Huawei was essentially banned by the US government from meaningfully competing here, Xiaomi keeps pushing back a US launch, and LeEco's US arrival was a crash landing with no survivors.

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A new type of smooth car suspension

15 Mar 2018, 3:50 pm

WHEN unveiled at the Paris Motor Show in 1955, the Citroën DS caused a sensation. It was not just the car’s elegant lines that encouraged 12,000 customers to place immediate orders, but also its mechanical innovations. Chief among these was that instead of steel springs, the DS rode on a self-levelling hydropneumatic suspension. This used spheres, filled with nitrogen, connected to each wheel. When started, the car’s engine pumped hydraulic fluid into the spheres, lifting the vehicle’s body. Bumps in the road were dampened by the incompressible fluid squeezing the compressible gas in the spheres. It made the DS appear to glide over France’s then badly damaged post-war roads.

French roads are now in good shape. Instead, it is to Britain that test drivers look to find some of the most “demanding” roads in Europe. Being plagued with pot holes, humps and choppy surfaces makes them an ideal proving ground for vehicle engineers. Which is why Shakeel Avadhany has opened a development base at the MIRA Technology Park, an automotive-research...Continue reading

An out-of-control Chinese space station will soon fall to Earth

15 Mar 2018, 3:50 pm

ITS name means “heavenly palace”. But Tiangong-1, an eight-tonne Chinese space station launched in 2011, will not remain in the heavens much longer. After visits from crews in 2012 and 2013, Tiangong-1’s mission officially ended in March 2016. A few months later China’s space agency appeared to confirm what amateur skywatchers had already suspected, that it had lost control of the station. It said it expected Tiangong-1 to fall from the sky sometime late in 2017.

In fact, the station is still up there, orbiting at an average height of 250km. But the inaccuracy of the agency’s prediction is understandable. At low altitudes (anything under about 2,000km), orbital mechanics is a surprisingly imprecise science. Earth’s thin outer atmosphere exerts a measurable drag on anything in such an orbit, and this drag means that, without regular boosts, that object will fall out of orbit eventually. The drag itself, however, is not constant. So exactly when this fiery fall will...Continue reading

Judges and examiners get laxer with practice

15 Mar 2018, 3:50 pm

STUDENTS are widely judged on their abilities before being allowed to enter top universities. Athletes are assessed on their physical prowess before being awarded medals. And academic papers, like those reported in this section, must run the gauntlet of peer review before being published. In making their determinations, evaluators study that which they are judging in a sequence, one student, athlete or paper after another, and apply standardised criteria. This approach is supposed to afford equal treatment to all. But research just published in Psychological Science by Kieran O’Connor and Amar Cheema of the University of Virginia suggests that it is actually biased in favour of those who are judged late in the process.

Dr O’Connor and Dr Cheema wondered whether making repeated evaluations led judges to feel that their decisions became easier, and if so, whether this increased fluency ultimately led them, unknowingly, to view the evaluation process and evaluations...Continue reading

Are research papers less accurate and truthful than in the past?

15 Mar 2018, 3:50 pm

AN ESSENTIAL of science is that experiments should yield similar results if repeated. In recent years, however, some people have raised concerns that too many irreproducible results are being published (see chart 1). This phenomenon, it is suggested, may be a result of more studies having poor methodology, of more actual misconduct, or of both.

Or it may not exist at all, as Daniele Fanelli of the London School of Economics suggests in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. First, although the number of erroneous papers retracted by journals has increased, so has the number of journals carrying retractions. Allowing for this, the number of retractions per journal has not gone up (chart 2). Second, as chart 3 shows, scientific-misconduct investigations by the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) in America are no more frequent than 20 years ago, nor are they more likely to find wrongdoing. Dr Fanelli’s point is not quite proved. The peak in reproducibility worries occurs after his retraction and ORI data run out. But it seems unlikely there would have been a sudden, recent shift in either.

As might be expected, countries with weaker misconduct policies than America’s—China and India, for example—are sources of more misdemeanours, such as the inappropriate copying or reuse of images like the gel patterns...Continue reading

Mass die-offs are driving efforts to create hardier corals

15 Mar 2018, 3:50 pm

BY SOME estimates, half of the world’s coral has been lost since the 1980s. Corals are delicate animals, and are succumbing to pollution and sediment from coastal construction. Also to blame are sewage, farmland run-off and fishing, all of which favour the growth of the big, fleshy algae that are corals’ main competitors for space. (The first two encourage algal growth and the third removes animals that eat those algae.) But the biggest killer is warming seawater. Ocean heatwaves in 2015, 2016 and 2017 finished off an astonishing 20% of the coral on Earth. This is troubling, for countless critters depend on coral reefs for their survival. Indeed, such reefs, which take up just a thousandth of the ocean floor, are home, for at least part of their life cycles, to a quarter of marine species. Losing those reefs would cause huge disruption to the ocean’s ecosystem. So researchers are looking for ways to stop this happening.

One approach is to lower reef temperatures directly. In December...Continue reading

The loan program that buoyed Tesla, stalled out, and landed on Trump’s cut list

14 Mar 2018, 11:45 am

We still fondly recall our time driving the Arcimoto SRK, the most surprisingly fun EV we've driven in ages. Video shot/edited by Jennifer Hahn of our experience with it in 2016. (video link)

The Arcimoto FUV slices through a wet Vegas parking lot, kicking up spray from puddles and smiles from passersby. Despite the unusual downpour, I stay bone dry under the electric tricycle's semi-enclosed canopy, twisting the throttle to zip back and forth with a grin on my face.

While taxis on the road beside me inch through traffic toward the annual CES trade show, the world's first Fun Utility Vehicle is living up to its name. It's nippier than a car, drier than a scooter, and easier to handle than a motorbike.

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Guidemaster: The best dash cams worthy of a permanent place in your car

12 Mar 2018, 2:00 pm

Enlarge (credit: Valentina Palladino)

If you've ever been in a fender-bender or a serious car accident, you can appreciate the importance of a dash cam. These tiny car cameras stick to your windshield and silently record driving footage, capturing all the strange, mundane, and perilous things going on in front of your car. In addition to peace of mind during daily commutes, they can provide information footage to law enforcement, insurance companies, and other parties in accident situations, monitor your car when you're not around, and sometimes capture fun videos of you and your friends on a road trip.

But with the numerous big and small companies making dash cameras now, wading through the sea of devices before you choose one to buy is a formidable task. Ars reviewed the newest dash cams and revisited our testing of existing devices to pick the best dash cams available now.

Note: Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.

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Hands-on with Android P—Is this the beginning of a new design language?

9 Mar 2018, 5:35 pm

Android P Developer Preview is out this week, and the whole Android community is combing through it looking for changes. When Android P is released later this year, it will bring an all-new notification panel, new settings, official notch support, and a ton of other tiny changes.

We already did a rundown of the features announced in Google's blog post, but now we've actually gotten to spend some time with the next major version of Android, so we're here to report back. What follows are some of the more interesting things we discovered.

Material Design 2?

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Valve’s making games again: Hands-on with Artifact’s digital trading cards

9 Mar 2018, 4:44 pm

Enlarge / Two posters, one ambitious game. (credit: Valve)

BELLEVUE, Washington—I was about to sit down to play Valve's first new PC game series in five years. But this being Valve, the world's first press demo for Artifact was preceded by something almost equally rare: a speech from company cofounder Gabe Newell. The speech wasn't just a how-to of gameplay mechanics, nor was it focused on the day's major surprise reveal—that Valve had hired Magic: The Gathering (MtG) creator Richard Garfield four years ago to start working on this game.

Instead, Newell gave a high-level overview of the game, with unexpected comments about the company's history, corporate structure, and economics. Valve devotees tend to scrutinize every word uttered by Newell; he's a five-years-ahead type of thinker in the games industry and generally plays his cards very close to the vest. And looking back, his Thursday evening speech feels like a compelling examination, and possibly a criticism, of where Valve has gone over the past few years.

"From a high-level perspective, we want to stay away from pay-to-win," Newell said. Within nearly the same breath, he announced that Artifact will not function as a free-to-play game—you'll have to buy something akin to a "starter" pack of gameplay cards, another staffer later clarified, before you can load into a game. Further cards can be purchased in packs and singles, either directly from Valve or from fellow players. And this, Newell insisted, will do something important for how the psychology of its paid cards plays out. "When you’re in a free-to-play environment, you get into a tendency that rarity equals power," Newell said. He called this an "artificial relationship" and insisted that in Artifact, "that’s not the case at all. Lots of common cards will be super powerful."

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Passenger drones are a better kind of flying car

8 Mar 2018, 3:55 pm

TRAVELLERS have long envied the birds. In 1842 William Henson, a British lacemaker, somewhat optimistically filed a patent for an “aerial steam carriage”. It took another 60 years and the arrival of the internal combustion engine before Orville and Wilbur Wright flew the first practical aeroplane. In the 1920s Henry Ford began tinkering with the idea of making cars fly. “You may smile,” he said. “But it will come.” In 1970 his company considered marketing the Aerocar, one of the few flying-car designs that managed to gain an airworthiness certificate.

Yet flying cars have never taken off. That is not because they are impossible to build, but because they are, fundamentally, a compromise, neither good on the road nor graceful in the sky. They are also inconvenient. Most designs require a runway to take off and land, and a pilot’s licence to operate. But that is changing. Developments in electric power, batteries and autonomous-flight systems have led to a boom in sales of small drone...Continue reading

Russia’s new nuclear weapons are technically plausible…

8 Mar 2018, 3:55 pm

ON MARCH 1st, addressing Russia’s parliament, President Vladimir Putin announced a range of new, high-tech, “invincible” nuclear weapons. Lest anyone was unsure at whom that part of the speech was aimed, it featured a computer-generated animation of nukes falling on Florida, where Donald Trump, America’s president, has his Mar-a-Lago resort.

Mr Putin’s new weapons included nuclear-powered, nuclear-tipped cruise missiles with nearly infinite range and nuclear-armed underwater drones designed to creep up on enemy ports before destroying them. Though they sound fantastical, most of the new weapons are technically feasible. Underwater drones, for instance, already exist. Bolting a nuclear warhead to one poses no fundamental difficulties. The real question is whether there is any strategic or tactical need for them.

Most of the headlines focused on a cruise missile that sports a nuclear engine as well as a nuclear warhead. The idea is not new. The American Supersonic Low Altitude...Continue reading

Nuclear physics and the fight against beer fraud

8 Mar 2018, 3:55 pm

GO INTO a trendy pub and the beer list will be accompanied by tasting notes as purple as in any upmarket wine bar. The “grassy aromas” and “citrus notes” come from the flowers of Humulus lupulus, or the hop plant. These vary in flavour from region to region and between different varieties of the plant. Brewers therefore tend to be rather particular about obtaining specific types of hops from specific plants in specific places, to ensure the flavour of their beer does not change unpredictably.

But they cannot always be sure of what they are buying. Unscrupulous growers can adulterate high-quality hops with cheaper varieties, which can affect a beer’s taste. Detecting doctored shipments can be difficult. Existing tests focus on measuring levels of chemical telltales such as essential oils. But they are not very sensitive, typically requiring adulteration of 10% or more before triggering an alert. Now, as they report in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Miha Ocvirk, a PhD...Continue reading

Yelling at “scumbags”—inside the White House’s last gaming violence summit

8 Mar 2018, 12:50 pm

Enlarge / "DEATHGAMES" is a wholly original character representing gaming's image in certain corners. Image and concept (c) Ars Technica, All Rights Reserved. (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty)

“I think the first words he said to me were something like, ‘What are we going to do with these scumbags?’”

In the wake of a horrific school shooting, a senior member of the White House appeared ready to take the game industry to task for supposedly desensitizing an entire generation to the horrors of gun violence. But while President Trump has repeatedly called out video games and other violent media in recent weeks, he’s not the one who reportedly called game industry representatives “scumbags” in advance of a White House summit. The above quote is instead attributed to the last senior White House official to host a meeting with the video game industry: Vice President Joe Biden.

Back at the start of 2013, the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School weighed heavily on the nation’s collective consciousness. The shooting killed 20 Connecticut school children on December 14, 2012, and the entire country was looking for somewhere to direct its anger and take action.

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On Twitter, falsehood spreads faster than truth

7 Mar 2018, 8:48 pm

ACROSS the French countryside, in the summer of 1789, rumours swirled about vengeful aristocrats bent on the destruction of peasants’ property. It was not true. The Great Fear, as it is now known, tipped France into revolution with a flurry of fact-free gossip and rumour.

Two centuries later the methods for spreading nonsense are much improved. In the first paper of its kind, published in Science on March 8th, Soroush Vosoughi and his colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology present evidence that, on Twitter at least, false stories travel faster and farther than true ones.

The study, carried out at MIT’s Laboratory for Social Machines, showed this by examining every tweet sent between 2006 and 2017. The researchers used statistical models to classify tweets as false or true, by applying data taken from six independent fact-checking organisations. That allowed them to categorise over 4.5m tweets about 126,000 different stories. Those stories were then ranked according to how they spread among...Continue reading

Behind the lens at SpaceX’s historic Falcon Heavy launch

6 Mar 2018, 12:45 pm

Enlarge / Got one! (credit: Trevor Mahlmann)

Even when you’re assigned to capture potential history—the would-be launch of the world’s most powerful rocket, in this instance—it’s important to keep one simple mantra in mind.

Photography is just the art of playing with light.

I have the privilege of working around a launch pad several days a year. Often, there stands a rocket and spacecraft about to reach for the stars, and my task is to do their triumphant flight justice by capturing it and preserving the memory. With such a challenge, where do you even begin?

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Is it time to take the Hyperloop seriously?

4 Mar 2018, 1:00 pm

Tesla Motors

Imagine traveling the length of the United Kingdom—from London to Edinburgh, 400-plus miles—in under an hour. A journey from Los Angeles to San Francisco would take less than 30 minutes (five hours less than the average drive between the two cities). Your journey would be safe and comfortable, your carbon footprint almost non-existent.

Passengers and cargo would be loaded into a pod, which accelerates gradually via electric propulsion through a low-pressure tube. The pod quickly lifts above the track using magnetic levitation and glides at airline speeds for long distances due to ultra-low aerodynamic drag.

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Review: Buick aims high, falls short with $60,000 Enclave Avenir

2 Mar 2018, 12:45 pm

Marlowe Bangeman

“Huh, a $60,000 Buick.”

That was my first thought after scanning the Monroney sticker for the 2018 Buick Enclave Avenir after it arrived in my inbox along with electronic copies of the usual fleet loan documents. A price tag of $60,000 is close to European luxury territory, as well, so Buick is really trying to make a statement with its fully redesigned, three-row crossover.

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Life clings on in the driest corners of the Earth

1 Mar 2018, 3:44 pm

Down desolation road

IT DOES not rain much in the Atacama desert. A 1,000km strip of land running along the Chilean coast, it is Earth’s driest desert outside its poles. Average annual rainfall in certain parts can be as low as a millimetre or two a year, and some Atacaman weather stations have never seen a drop of water.

Yet it does rain occasionally. And as Dirk Schulze-Makuch, an astrobiologist at the Technical University of Berlin, and his colleagues report in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a desert downpour in 2015 offered the perfect natural experiment for probing the limits of what sorts of conditions life can tolerate.

The Atacama is not quite lifeless. A few specialised animals and plants scrape a living in the less arid parts. And scientists have found evidence of microbial life even in the very driest areas. What is less clear, though, is whether those microbes are natives able to endure such extreme...Continue reading

Robotic labs for high-speed genetic research are on the rise

1 Mar 2018, 3:44 pm

IN THE basement of Imperial College sits the London DNA Foundry. The word “foundry” calls forth images of liquid metal being poured into moulds—of the early phase of the Industrial Revolution, in other words. This foundry is, however, determinedly modern. Liquid is indeed being moved around and poured. But it is in minuscule quantities, and it is not metal. Instead, it is an aqueous suspension of the genetic codes of life.

The laboratory is an example of a wider movement. Similar biofoundries are being set up around the world, from the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, via Silicon Valley, to the National University of Singapore. All offer ways of centralising the donkey work of genetic-engineering research. Instead of biotechnology companies buying and operating their own laboratories, foundries will do it for them.

London DNA Foundry’s operations room is filled with boxy devices, each designed to do one particular operation, such as pipetting, repeatedly and quickly. A...Continue reading

More than half a century later, where’s the male pill?

28 Feb 2018, 1:15 pm

Enlarge / Women today have multiple options for contraception; researchers hope to soon give men the same degree of choice. (credit: BSIP/UIG via Getty Images)

In 1940s India, Dr. Marthe Voegeli made a potentially world-changing discovery: that exposing the testicles to hot water baths at temperatures of 116 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes every day for three weeks provided six months of reliable contraception.

She carried out a series of experiments showing that men could achieve varying lengths of contraceptive effectiveness from these hot baths. Getting men to take part in her research in the 1940s and '50s was no mean feat for a woman of her time, and she only managed to recruit dozens of men to her trials, however. That's far short of the hundreds and thousands who would be required to take part in a meaningful trial nowadays.

Despite this, Voegeli's preliminary results were promising. Yet the aims of her research were soon forgotten. Why? The female hormonal contraceptive pill was approved by the FDA in 1960, and interest in her work waned as the quest for non-intrusive, reliable contraception was deemed by many to have been realized.

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How did life begin? It’s Chemistry 101, but in space

26 Feb 2018, 1:00 pm

Star-forming region near the center of the Milky Way. Composite image, assembled from infrared images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope, and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory in 2009. (credit: NASA & ESA)

How did life start? There may not be a bigger question. To learn the secret of our origins means going back beyond the earliest forms of biological life, past simple bacteria, and down to the chemistry of the building blocks that came earlier.

Most people have heard DNA’s double helix described as the blueprint for life, but its single-stranded relative RNA is also critical for transmitting genetic information. Both are present in the cells of all living organisms, and many scientists suspect that RNA was the original genetic material, coming on the scene before DNA, more than four billion years ago during a period scientists call “RNA world.”

But to build the RNA world, RNA and other biomolecules had to come together in the first place. Their constituent parts have a distinctive chemical property called chirality that’s related to how their atoms are arranged. And a debate has broken out about how life’s chirality got started: is it the product of the chemical environment of the early Earth, or did life inherit its chirality from space?

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XPS 13 2018 review: Dell’s improvements propel this laptop forward

24 Feb 2018, 1:00 pm


The XPS 13 laptop needed an overhaul and Dell needed to make a statement. The XPS family has produced some of the best and most-loved consumer ultrabooks, but this particular laptop has been stifled in recent years. Since 2016, it has seen incremental improvements that helped it keep up with the competition in terms of performance, but not in design, hardware perks, and general innovation.

Performance is key, sure, but it's not the only factor that contributes to why customers choose some laptops over others. The new XPS 13, announced at CES in January, has plenty of new characteristics that Dell hopes will push the device back to the front of the pack: a fresh rose gold and alpine white color option, a refreshed design with a new thermal management system, new biometric security features, and 8th-gen Intel CPUs.

But not everything has changed, and the XPS 13's biggest challenge is proving that it has matured well by balancing necessary new features with reliable existing features that users have grown to expect.

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The Cadillac CT6 review: Super Cruise is a game-changer

22 Feb 2018, 2:00 pm

Enlarge (credit: Jonathan Gitlin)

Cadillac's flagship CT6 might not have the best interior in its class. It might not have the sharpest, track-honed handling. It doesn't have a butter-smooth V12 engine. It definitely doesn't have the best infotainment system. And yet, it is carrying the most exciting technology being offered in any production vehicle on sale in 2018.

Called Super Cruise, Cadillac's new tech represents the best semi-autonomous system on the market. In fact, Super Cruise is so good, I think General Motors needs to do everything it can to add it to the company's entire model range, post-haste.

You sure sound excited about this thing

Regular readers will know this isn't the first time I've written about Super Cruise. In fact, at last year's New York auto show, we awarded it an Ars Best distinction in the "Automotive Technology" field—a bold move for new technology that we had yet to actually test.

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Review and interview: Brass Tactics finally brings true RTS to VR

21 Feb 2018, 4:00 pm

Enlarge / Boy, the flying units in Brass Tactics sure are pesky—and that's the point. (credit: Hidden Path / Oculus)

BELLEVUE, Washington—Virtual reality has been a thing for years, yet for some reason, it has had a lack of real-time strategy (RTS) games. To this, I can't help but say, what gives? Managing a giant army à la StarCraft seems like a nice fit for VR's mix of hand-tracked controllers and first-person twists—while also minding VR's limits. Stand above a battlefield (or, if your room is cramped, sit without losing the effect). Use your hands to become a war puppeteer. Enjoy a refreshing control and perspective alternative to ancient, mouse-driven menus.

It's a VR no-brainer... that nobody has truly attempted until this week.

Unlike other RTS-ish games in VR, this week's Brass Tactics is the first full-blown take on the genre to see a retail release. It's not perfect—indeed, it has a couple of glaring issues ahead of its Thursday launch—but Brass Tactics is clearly a few steps above "just good enough." It functions as a pure, solid RTS, while it also comes packed with nice VR touches. Best of all, thanks to a free, unlimited, works-online demo version, every single VR owner out there (even outside the Oculus ecosystem) can try it for themselves—and try it they should.

Clear RTS skies

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Supplements are a $30 billion racket—here’s what experts actually recommend

20 Feb 2018, 3:50 pm

Enlarge / Choose wisely. (credit: Getty | Mario Tama)

There are more than 90,000 vitamin and dietary supplement products sold in the US. They come in pills, powders, drinks, and bars. And they all anticipate some better versions of ourselves—selves with sturdier bones, slimmer waist lines, heftier muscles, happier intestines, better sex lives, and more potent noggins. They foretell of diseases dodged and aging outrun.

On the whole, we believe them. Supplements are a $30 billion industry in the US. Recent surveys suggest that 52 percent of Americans take at least one supplement—and 10 percent take four or more. But should we? Are we healthier, smarter, stronger, or in any way better off because of these daily doses?

The answer is likely no. Most supplements have little to no data to suggest that they’re effective, let alone safe. They’re often backed by tenuous studies in rodents and petri dishes or tiny batches of people. And the industry is rife with hype and wishful thinking—even the evidence for multivitamins isn’t solid. There are also outright deadly scams. What’s more, the industry operates with virtually no oversight.

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Guidemaster: Smartwatches worthy of replacing your favorite timepiece

19 Feb 2018, 12:15 pm

Enlarge / Apple Watch Series 2. (credit: Valentina Palladino)

If you hate looking at your smartphone all day, you should consider getting a smartwatch. While it may seem counter-intuitive to get a new gadget to lessen your dependency on another, it's more effective than you think. Smartwatches take the most crucial parts of a smartphone—call and text alerts, app notifications, and quick controls—and put them on your wrist.

That means no more fumbling with your smartphone during a meeting to silence a call, no more checking Twitter or Facebook every two minutes for the newest post. Instead of absentmindedly staring at your smartphone's display, the most important information hits your wrist as it happens. As wearables, smartwatches can also track daily activity, and some even double as high-end fitness watches equipped with heart rate monitors, GPS trackers, music storage, and more.

Today, your smartphone remains the biggest factor to consider when you buy a smartwatch. Most smartwatches must pair to your phone to receive information, so the smartwatch you choose must be compatible with your handset either through its operating system or a companion mobile app. So to make the selection process easier for would-be watch wearers, we've revisited all of the smartwatches we've reviewed recently and picked out the best ones for all types of users with all types of phones.

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iMac Pro review: Working as intended

16 Feb 2018, 4:10 pm

Samuel Axon

Some high-end professional Mac users are frustrated, and they have been for years.

The current Mac Pro received a lukewarm reception when it began shipping in 2013, and it has been preserved in amber ever since. The MacBook Pro went with few substantial updates for a long period of time after 2012. And when Apple overhauled its video editing software and released Final Cut Pro X in 2011, many editors were turned off by its compromises.

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Apple’s HomePod: Paying $350 for a speaker that says “no” this much is tough

14 Feb 2018, 5:30 pm

Jeff Dunn

What is this thing?

That, in essence, is the question most onlookers have asked about Apple’s HomePod speaker since its unveiling last summer. The natural inclination is to compare it to smart speakers like the Amazon Echo or Google Home. It’s a speaker with a talking assistant in it, the thinking goes. Apple just wants a piece of that growing pie.

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The Greatest Leap, part 6: After Apollo, NASA still searching for an encore

13 Feb 2018, 12:45 pm

Video shot by Joshua Ballinger, edited and produced by Jing Niu and David Minick. Click here for transcript. (video link)

And then it was all over.

After the drama of Apollo 13, the final four human missions to the Moon in 1971 and 1972 flew smoothly. With each successive, increasingly routine landing, astronauts made longer forays out onto the dusty lunar terrain and delved deeper into the scientific secrets hidden there.

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