Almost half of US adults who drink, drink too much, and continue to do so

17 Jul 2018, 6:30 pm
A new study has found that about 40 percent of adults in the United States who drink alcohol do so in amounts that risk health consequences, and identifies a range of factors associated with starting or stopping drinking too much.

Broadly acting antibodies found in plasma of Ebola survivors

17 Jul 2018, 6:25 pm
Recent Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreaks highlight the need for licensed treatments. ZMapp, an experimental therapy, has shown promise in a clinical trial, but targets only one of five known species of Ebola virus. Now scientists have discovered powerful, broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) in the blood of EVD survivors. In animal studies, two of these antibodies provided substantial protection against disease caused by the three species known to cause fatal human illness.

5,000 percent increase in native trees on rat-free palmyra atoll

17 Jul 2018, 6:25 pm
New research demonstrates dramatic positive benefits for native trees following rat removal at Palmyra Atoll, a magnificent National Wildlife Refuge and natural research laboratory located about 1000 miles south of Hawaii. For five native tree species, including Pisonia grandis, fewer than 150 seedlings were counted in the presence of rats, and more than 7700 seedlings were counted five years after rats were removed.

Sap-sucking bugs manipulate their host plants' metabolism for their own benefit

17 Jul 2018, 6:25 pm
Researchers have shown for the first time that free-living, sap-sucking bugs can manipulate the metabolism of their host plants to create stable, nutritious feeding sites.

The rise of secondary imaging interpretations

17 Jul 2018, 6:25 pm
Among Medicare beneficiaries, the frequency of billed secondary interpretation services for diagnostic imaging services increased from 2003 to 2016 across a broad range of modalities and body regions, often dramatically.

For professional baseball players, faster hand-eye coordination linked to batting performance

17 Jul 2018, 5:57 pm
Professional baseball players who score higher on a test of hand-eye coordination have better batting performance -- particularly in drawing walks and other measures of 'plate discipline,' reports a study.

A single genetic change in gut bacteria alters host metabolism

17 Jul 2018, 5:57 pm
Scientists have found that deleting a single gene in a particular strain of gut bacteria causes changes in metabolism and reduced weight gain in mice.

As we get parched, cognition can easily sputter, dehydration study says

17 Jul 2018, 4:58 pm
Getting parched can fuzz attentiveness and make it harder to solve problems. Dehydration can easily put a dent in those and other cognitive functions, a new metadata analysis of multiple studies shows. Researchers are particularly interested in accident potential this may pose for people who toil in the heat around heavy equipment or military hardware.

The scent of coffee appears to boost performance in math

17 Jul 2018, 4:58 pm
Research reveals that the scent of coffee alone may help people perform better on the analytical portion of the Graduate Management Aptitude Test, or GMAT, a computer adaptive test required by many business schools.

Solutions to water challenges reside at the interface

17 Jul 2018, 4:58 pm
Researchers describe the most advanced research innovations that could address global clean water accessibility. A new comprehensive article focuses on understanding and controlling the interfaces between materials and water.

What is the meaning of life? Ask a conservative

17 Jul 2018, 4:58 pm
A deep analysis of a series of surveys across 16 countries that spanned several years shows that people who are on the conservative end of the political spectrum believe their lives are meaningful while those on the liberal end continue to search for meaning.

Childhood abuse linked to greater risk of endometriosis

17 Jul 2018, 4:58 pm
A study of more than 60,000 women has found that sexual and physical abuse in childhood and adolescence is associated with a greater risk of laparoscopically-confirmed endometriosis diagnosed during adulthood. The study -- the largest of its kind -- found that women reporting severe-chronic abuse of multiple types had a 79 percent higher risk of laparoscopically-confirmed endometriosis.

Close-ups of grain boundaries reveal how sulfur impurities make nickel brittle

17 Jul 2018, 4:56 pm
Engineers have shed new light on a scientific mystery regarding the atomic-level mechanism of the sulfur embrittlement of nickel, a classic problem that has puzzled the scientific community for nearly a century. The discovery also enriches fundamental understanding of general grain boundaries that often control the mechanical and physical properties of polycrystalline materials.

Nitric oxide tells roundworms to avoid bad bacteria

17 Jul 2018, 4:56 pm
Nitric oxide gas produced by a type of harmful bacteria lets roundworms know to stay away from it, says a new study.

Exploding waves from colliding dissipative pulses

17 Jul 2018, 3:25 pm
The interaction of traveling waves in dissipative systems, physical systems driven by energy dissipation, can yield unexpected and sometimes chaotic results. These waves, known as dissipative pulses are driving experimental studies in a variety of areas that involve matter and energy flows.

New cost-effective instrument measures molecular dynamics on a picosecond timescale

17 Jul 2018, 3:25 pm
Studying the photochemistry has shown that ultraviolet radiation can set off harmful chemical reactions in the human body and, alternatively, can provide 'photo-protection' by dispersing extra energy. To better understand the dynamics of these photochemical processes, a group of scientists irradiated the RNA base uracil with ultraviolet light and documented its behavior on a picosecond timescale.

Digital media use linked to behavioral problems in kids

17 Jul 2018, 3:25 pm
Teens who spend lots of time using digital devices are prone to psychiatric problems, reports a team of scientists in a new study. Children who are heavy users of digital devices are twice as likely as infrequent users to show symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the study finds.

High vinculin levels help keep aging fruit fly hearts young

17 Jul 2018, 3:25 pm
A new discovery in how heart muscles maintain their shape in fruit flies sheds light on the crucial relationship between cardiac function, metabolism, and longevity. Researchers have discovered that maintaining high levels of the protein vinculin confers health benefits to fruit flies. Their work shows that fruit flies bred to produce 50 percent more vinculin enjoyed better cardiovascular health and lived a third of their average life span longer.

Social isolation: Animals that break away from the pack can influence evolution

17 Jul 2018, 3:25 pm
For some animals -- such as beetles, ants, toads, and primates -- short-term social isolation can be just as vital as social interaction to development and long-term evolution. Evolutionary biologists describe approaches for testing how an animal's isolation might impact natural selection and evolution. This framework can help design more effective breeding, reintroduction, and conservation strategies.

Transmission of specific colors of light over long distances

17 Jul 2018, 3:24 pm
Researchers have reached a new milestone on the way to optical computing, or the use of light instead of electricity for computing. They explored a new way to select and send light of a specific color using long silicon wires that are several hundred nanometers in diameter and their work enabled a new type of nanoscale ''light switch'' that can turn on and off the transmission of one color of light over very long distances.

Netflix: Not A Buy On The Dip

17 Jul 2018, 1:47 pm

Bitcoin - $16,000 To $28,000 By Year-End

17 Jul 2018, 1:47 pm

The Strongest Buy Within My Strong Buy List (Brad Thomas)

17 Jul 2018, 1:20 pm

Get Paid 16.4% Yield To Wait For Big Upside To Play Out

17 Jul 2018, 12:15 pm

Farnborough Airshow Day 1: Boeing Bamboozling Everyone

17 Jul 2018, 4:06 am

AT&T: Sore Loser

17 Jul 2018, 12:30 am

When $1 Trillion Isn't $1 Trillion And A Warning From The Largest Asset Manager On Earth

16 Jul 2018, 6:09 pm

Cisco: The Amazon Sell-Off Is Silly

16 Jul 2018, 5:49 pm

To make Curiosity (et al.) more curious, NASA and ESA smarten up AI in space

16 Jul 2018, 2:30 pm

Block Island, the largest meteorite yet found on Mars and one of several identified by the Mars Exploration Rovers. (credit: NASA)

NASA's Opportunity Mars rover has done many great things in its decade-plus of service—but initially, it rolled 600 feet past one of the initiative’s biggest discoveries: the Block Island meteorite. Measuring about 67 centimeters across, the meteorite was a telltale sign that Mars' atmosphere had once been much thicker, thick enough to slow down the rock flying at a staggering 2km/s so that it did not disintegrate on impact. A thicker atmosphere could mean a more gentle climate, possibly capable of supporting liquid water on the surface, maybe even life.

Yet, we only know about the Block Island meteorite because someone on the Opportunity science team manually spotted an unusual shape in low-resolution thumbnails of the images and decided it was worth backtracking for several days to examine it further. Instead of this machine purposefully heading toward the rock right from the get-go, the team barely saw perhaps its biggest triumph in the rear view mirror. "It was almost a miss," says Mark Woods, head of autonomy and robotics at SciSys, a company specializing in IT solutions for space exploration that works for the European Space Agency (ESA), among others.

Opportunity, of course, made this near-miss maneuver all the way back in July 2009. If NASA were to attempt a similar initiative in a far-flung corner of the galaxy today—as the space organization plans to in 2020 with the Mars 2020 rover (the ESA has similar ambitions with its ExoMars rover that year)—modern scientists have one particularly noteworthy advantage that has developed since.

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How To Retire At 62 With A Measly Million

16 Jul 2018, 12:00 pm

iQIYI: Time To Pile In?

16 Jul 2018, 8:17 am

AT&T: Buy Or Sell?

15 Jul 2018, 6:50 pm

AT&T Vs. Verizon: The Better Stock Is Still Crystal Clear

15 Jul 2018, 4:55 pm

How The Battle Between HBO And Netflix Just Took A Surprising Turn

15 Jul 2018, 4:20 pm

4 Reasons This 7.3% Yielding Blue Chip Is A Strong Buy

15 Jul 2018, 3:42 pm

Heard On The REITs - Ho Hum Week As We Await Earnings Season

15 Jul 2018, 10:45 am

Monthly Pay 10.3% Yielding REIT, Too Good To Be True?

14 Jul 2018, 7:30 pm

Retirement Strategy: The "Best" Of Regarded Solutions And Dividend Growth Investing

14 Jul 2018, 2:00 pm

The Hidden Jewel Behind This 15% Yield

14 Jul 2018, 1:15 pm

Stocks To Watch: Prime Time In Retail

14 Jul 2018, 12:51 pm

Is It Time To Adjust Your Portfolio? - Today's Editors' Picks

14 Jul 2018, 11:00 am

Nokia 6.1 Review—The best answer to “What Android phone should I buy?”

13 Jul 2018, 3:20 pm

Ron Amadeo

As someone who spends a lot of time with smartphones, I often get asked, "Hey Ron, what Android phone should I buy?" The high-end answer is usually easy: buy a Pixel phone. But not everyone is willing to shell out $650+ for a smartphone, especially the types of casual users that ask for advice. Beyond the flagship smartphones, things get more difficult within the Android ecosystem. Motorola under Google used to be great at building a non-flagship phone, but since the company was sold to Lenovo (which gutted the update program), it has been tough to find a decent phone that isn't super expensive.

Enter HMD's Nokia phones, an entire lineup of cheap smartphones ranging from $100 to $400. HMD recently launched the second generation of its lineup, with phones like the Nokia 2.1, 3.1, and 5.1. We recently spent time with the highest end phone in this series that happens to be one of the few HMD devices for sale in the US: the Nokia 6.1. And for $269, you get a pretty spectacular-sounding package of a Snapdragon 630, a 5.5-inch 1080p screen, stock Android 8.1, fast updates, and a metal body.

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The rise of the robochef

12 Jul 2018, 2:48 pm

CREATOR, a new hamburger joint in San Francisco, claims to deliver a burger worth $18 for $6—in other words, to provide the quality associated with posh restaurants at a fast-food price. The substance behind this claim is that its chef-de-cuisine is a robot.

Until recently, catering robots have been gimmicks. “Flippy”, a robotic arm that flipped burgers for the entertainment of customers at CaliBurger in Pasadena, near Los Angeles, earlier this year is a prime example. But Flippy could perform only one task. Creator’s bot automates the whole process of preparing a burger. And it is not alone. Other robot chefs that can prepare entire meals are working, or soon will be, in kitchens in other parts of America, and in China and Britain.

Creator’s burger bot is a trolley-sized unit that has a footprint of two square metres. Customers send it their orders via a tablet. They are able to customise everything from how well-done the burger will be to the type of...Continue reading

A cheap way to save rice plants from the effects of acid rain

12 Jul 2018, 2:48 pm

Shower time

ACID rain damages crops. In particular, it damages rice, because many rice-growing countries, which are predominantly in Asia, do not have in place the pollution-control mechanisms that are now routine in the wheat-growing continents of Europe and North America. A rice crop soaked by acid rain can be saved if it is rinsed with clean water. But it is not always obvious when that needs doing, for rainfall varies in its acidity and is not always acidic enough to cause harm.

What is needed is a cheap and reliable way of finding out whether a particular set of plants have actually been stressed by a fall of acid rain. And Wang Xin of Nankai University, in Tianjin, China, thinks he has one. It relies on the reaction of soil bacteria to molecules secreted by plant roots.

Dr Wang knew from the botanical literature that most plants secrete from their roots a mixture of carbohydrates, amino acids and fatty acids that are food for microbes. He also knew, from...Continue reading

The way people walk can be used for ID and health checks

12 Jul 2018, 2:48 pm

The clue is in the tread

LISTEN carefully to the footsteps in the family home, especially if it has wooden floors unmuffled by carpets, and you can probably work out who it is that is walking about. The features most commonly used to identify people are faces, voices, finger prints and retinal scans. But their “behavioural biometrics”, such as the way they walk, are also giveaways.

Researchers have, for several years, used video cameras and computers to analyse people’s gaits, and are now quite good at it. But translating such knowledge into a practical identification system can be tricky—especially if that system is supposed to be covert. Cameras are often visible, are fiddly to set up, require good lighting and may have their view obscured by other people. So a team led by Krikor Ozanyan of the University of Manchester, in England and Patricia Scully of the National University of Ireland, in Galway have been looking for a better way to recognise gait....Continue reading

A mummy’s final meal adds to an ancient mystery

12 Jul 2018, 2:48 pm

HOW to prepare for a trip to the mountains concerned hikers five millennia ago as much as it does today. That is the conclusion of the latest study of the mummy dubbed “Ötzi the Iceman”, who perished 5,300 years ago in the Alps, near what is now the border between Austria and Italy. An analysis of the Iceman’s remains suggests that his meal before he set off on what was to turn out to be a fatal trip was high in protein and fat, and composed mainly of meat.

The Iceman’s remains were discovered in 1991. After a diplomatic tussle over which side of the border his resting place was, they ended up in a museum in Bolzano, Italy. Subsequent analysis told a tantalising tale. An initial investigation suggested he had died of exposure during a winter storm. Later CT scans, however, revealed an arrowhead lodged in his left shoulder. This had severed a vital artery. Closer examination showed a deep cut to his right hand, suggesting that he had recently been in a fight. That led to...Continue reading

Arcimoto raised $19 million to build “fun utility vehicles”—now what?

11 Jul 2018, 3:00 pm

Enlarge / In this newly acquired/unassuming warehouse located within Eugene, Oregon's Whiteaker neighborhood, one of the most fun vehicles we've driven to date is born. (credit: Jeremy Bronson / Arcimoto)

EUGENE, Ore.—It's 2pm on a Saturday afternoon, and Eugene, Oregon is about to witness the (re)launch of its most serious entry in the electric mobility industry to date. Outside of Arcimoto's new factory, located in the sliver of industrial space between the railroad tracks and the increasingly-hip Whiteaker neighborhood, parked cars are starting to line up. Heavily represented are Eugene's automotive stalwarts: Volkswagen diesel wagons, Toyota hybrids, Subaru Outbacks, and a smattering of newer electric cars and quirky vehicles like the Isuzu Vehicross.

The crowd assembled to witness the delivery of Arcimoto's first "Signature" line of three-wheeled "Fun Utility Vehicles" is as classically Eugene as the vehicles they drove here. Aging hippies brush shoulders with middle-aged public radio-supporters, and there's also a mix of more mainstream families and a few younger alternative types—including one performatively circling the parking lot on a OneWheel. Any hope of assessing the prospects of Arcimoto's quirky three-wheeled electric runabout based on the crowd in attendance faded as I realized that this same group could just as easily be on hand to check out the opening of a new microbrewery or outdoor wear store.

This left me back at the problem I was presented with when I accepted an Ars assignment to cover my hometown's "automaker"—how do you judge a three-wheeled electric vehicle that straddles the recreational and practical markets, and is built by a company that has gone through seven previous iterations over its decade-long history? This problem is only amplified by the fact that even the version of the FUV I was recently given access to represents an early "Signature" build. Significant design iterations remain ahead. And even if there were a solid point of reference in the market for the Arcimoto FUV today, it would still be a moving target.

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The AI revolution has spawned a new chips arms race

9 Jul 2018, 2:12 pm

Enlarge / A lot has changed since 1918. But whether it's a literal (like the City of London School athletics' U12 event) or figurative (AI chip development) race, participants still very much want to win. (credit: A. R. Coster/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

For years, the semiconductor world seemed to have settled into a quiet balance: Intel vanquished virtually all of the RISC processors in the server world, save IBM’s POWER line. Elsewhere AMD had self-destructed, making it pretty much an x86 world. Then Nvidia mowed down all of it many competitors in the 1990s. Suddenly only ATI, now a part of AMD, remained. It boasted just half of Nvidia’s prior market share.

On the newer mobile front, it looked to be a similar near-monopolistic story: ARM ruled the world. Intel tried mightily with the Atom processor, but the company met repeated rejection before finally giving up in 2015.

Then just like that, everything changed. AMD resurfaced as a viable x86 competitor; the advent of field gate programmable array (FPGA) processors for specialized tasks like Big Data created a new niche. But really, the colossal shift in the chip world came with the advent of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). With these emerging technologies, a flood of new processors has arrived—and they are coming from unlikely sources.

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The BeOS file system, an OS geek retrospective

5 Jul 2018, 3:22 pm

HD, so like... a high-definition floppy?

It's the day after Independence Day in the US, and much of our staff is just returning to their preferred work machines. If this was 1997 instead of 2018, that would mean booting up BeOS for some. The future-of-operating-systems-that-never-was arrived just over 20 years ago, so in light of the holiday, we're resurfacing this geek's guide. The piece originally ran on June 2, 2010; it appears unchanged below.

The Be operating system file system, known simply as BFS, is the file system for the Haiku, BeOS, and SkyOS operating systems. When it was created in the late '90s as part of the ill-fated BeOS project, BFS's ahead-of-its-time feature set immediately struck the fancy OS geeks. That feature set includes:

  • A 64-bit address space
  • Use of journaling
  • Highly multithreaded reading
  • Support of database-like extended file attributes
  • Optimization for streaming file access

A dozen years later, the legendary BFS still merits exploration—so we're diving in today, starting with some filesystem basics and moving on to a discussion of the above features. We also chatted with two people intimately familiar with the OS: the person who developed BFS for Be and the developer behind the open-source version of BFS.

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Tomorrow’s squadron leaders will be accompanied by drones

5 Jul 2018, 2:57 pm

JULY 16th sees the opening of the Farnborough air show. Plane spotters attending the show, which by entente cordiale alternates annually with that in Paris, will be hoping for an appearance by one of the F-35 Lightning fighters delivered recently to Britain’s air force and navy. The F-35 represents the best that the present has to offer in aerial military technology. The minds of visitors from the aerospace industry and the armed forces, though, will mostly be on the future—and in particular what sort of aircraft will follow the F-35. All around the show will be drones of almost every shape and size. This raises the question: will future combat aircraft need pilots?

At least part of the answer can be found 400km north of Farnborough, near Preston, Lancashire. Warton Aerodrome is the site of Britain’s nearest equivalent to Lockheed Martin’s celebrated Skunk Works—a research and development facility run by BAE Systems, the country’s largest aerospace and defence...Continue reading

How to fool infrared vision gear into thinking you are not there

5 Jul 2018, 2:57 pm

ANIMALS have made use of camouflage to hide from one another for almost as long as eyes have been around to spot them. Humans, being copycats, have made extensive use of camouflage tricks they have seen in nature by applying concealing colouration to everything from clothing to tanks. A way to thwart camouflage, though, is to employ infrared-viewing technology to look for the heat emitted by an otherwise-camouflaged object. Designing something that can prevent this, and can thus carry camouflage into the infrared, has proved tricky. But Coskun Kocabas of the University of Manchester, in England, thinks he can do it.

Giving thermal invisibility to an object whose own temperature and that of its surroundings are constant is not too hard. But maintaining that cloaking as either the object or its surroundings heats up or cools down is tricky. Dr Kocabas thought he might be able to do this using graphene, a material composed of a single layer of carbon atoms.

Pure graphene is...Continue reading

What I’ve learned from nearly three years of enterprise Wi-Fi at home

5 Jul 2018, 11:30 am

Enlarge / A USG router, a 10-gigabit Ethernet switch, and a 48-port PoE switch. This is what it sounds like when fans cry. (credit: Lee Hutchinson)

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

There is a moment of perfect stillness after the cable slips through my fingers and vanishes back up the hole in the ceiling like an angry snake. Then the opening stanza of a rich poem of invective leaps from my lips and my wife stares up at me from below, eyes wide, frozen just as I am, ready to catch me if I rage too hard and lose my balance.

But perched precariously on the top step of an inadequate and shaky ladder in the corner of my living room, drenched in sweat and speckled head to toe in pink insulation and sheetrock dust, body aching with dull red heat, I just can’t maintain the torrent of swearing. I’m too tired. The words die on my lips and I drop my burning arms to my side. Sweat stings my cut hands—“man hands,” my wife has always called them, hands that seem to always sport an ever-changing collection of cuts and dry spots and calluses and torn nails as house or computer projects come and go. Tiny drops of blood ooze from shredded cuticles.

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IVF may bring northern white rhinos back from the brink of extinction

4 Jul 2018, 4:28 pm

Game over?

SUDAN, the last male northern white rhinoceros on Earth, died in March. He is survived by two females, Najin and her daughter Fatu, who live in a conservancy in Kenya. This pair (pictured) are thus the only remaining members of the world’s most endangered subspecies of mammal. But all might not yet be lost. Thomas Hildebrandt of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, in Berlin, in collaboration with Avantea, a biotechnology company in Cremona, Italy, is proposing heroic measures to keep the subspecies alive. In a paper just published in Nature, he and his colleagues say that they have created, by in vitro fertilisation (IVF), apparently viable hybrid embryos of northern white rhinos and their cousins from the south. This, they hope, will pave the way for the creation of pure northern-white embryos.

IVF seems the last hope for the northern white rhino. Though stored sperm from Sudan and several other males are available, both Najin and Fatu now seem unable to conceive. This means, if the subspecies is to be preserved, that one or both of them will have to have some eggs removed from their ovaries and combined with stored sperm in a Petri dish.

Extracting rhinoceros eggs is hard. The animals’ ovaries are over a...Continue reading

The Internet-demanded, partially scientific testing of Ultra-Ever Dry (in HD!)

4 Jul 2018, 12:26 pm

The video that started this journey.

It's Independence Day in the US, and much of our staff is at work near a grill with ketchup and mustard handy instead of office supplies. Though now that we mention condiments, everyone's favorite hotdog toppings did once crossover into Ars daily life. Back in 2013, a certain hydrophobic sealant called Ultra-Ever Dry swept through a niche portion of the Internet thanks to what seemed like a too-good-to-be-true demo video that went viral. Being the rigorous reviewers we are, Ars couldn't sit this one out. So for today's holiday, we're resurfacing this hands-on look at Ultra Ever Dry—ketchup and mustard included. The piece originally ran on May 21, 2013; it appears unchanged below.

You've seen the video, right? An image of what looks like an azure-colored metal floor plate appears, backed by some "Streets Have No Name" guitar knock-off. A mysterious hand is getting ready to soak this thing with a squeeze bottle full of water, but the first squirt yields puzzling results. Water beads up and shoots off the surface, leaving the plate bone-dry. Then the title: "What is Ultra-Ever Dry?"

That sequence has played out nearly two million times through YouTube (it's literally more popular than some official Justin Bieber offerings). The video is an endless cycle of items shrugging off water, mud, oil, dirt, paint, and other stickiness with eye-popping ease. Ultra-Ever Dry claims to be a "revolutionary super hydrophobic coating that repels water and refined oils using nanotechnology." Clearly, either the company has made a pact with the devil and gained supernatural powers, or it's got some awesomely talented materials people.

We were just as amazed as most of you were, and we knew we had to try this stuff out. Two hundred dollars and one expense report later, I had a box full of Ultra-Ever Dry cans sitting on the floor of my office, ready to be applied to things various and sundry.

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Leaks, riots, and monocles: How a $60 in-game item almost destroyed EVE Online

3 Jul 2018, 2:59 pm

(credit: Opening image based on Eve Online assets courtesy CCP Games.)

Long before loot boxes became the bane of the Internet's existence, in-game purchases at large could cause a bit of commotion within certain gaming communities. Roughly seven years ago, for instance, a simple monocle almost brought down one of the most active gaming communities around: EVE Online. With a staff holiday looming tomorrow on July 4, we're resurfacing this cautionary tale of computer-gaming consumerism. It originally ran on July 11, 2011 and appears unchanged below.

Controversy was expected, but not virtual riots.

On June 21, developer CCP updated its popular space-opera-slash-MMO EVE Online so that players could take their avatars outside their ships and walk around the game world. With this new ability came a store that sold vanity items—in-game clothing and accessories that alter an avatar's looks but don't change an avatar's abilities. The price for these items was much higher than most people expected for vanity in-game items which did absolutely nothing, and it made players nervous. The EVE playerbase didn't want their game turning to microtransactions to increase the cost of playing.

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Guidemaster: Picking the right Thunderbolt 3 or USB-C dock for your desk

3 Jul 2018, 12:15 pm

Enlarge (credit: Valentina Palladino)

The introduction of USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 ports and the transition away from legacy ports hasn't been smooth. PC and smartphone OEMs began using USB-C ports a few years ago because they allowed companies to make thinner devices with faster ports. Gargantuan in comparison, USB-A ports we all know and love from thumbdrives take up a lot of space on devices, they don't handle data transfer as efficiently as new ports, and they're limited when it comes to multiple connections and charging.

USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 are the way of the future, but most of our accessories are stuck in the past. PC and smartphone OEMs lead the way by adopting USB-C as standard, but that often leaves users to search for an adapter or dongle to connect all of the peripherals they already have. On top of that, many new peripherals are still using the old connections.

Rising to the occasion are USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 docks—boxy devices punctured by USB-As, HDMIs, DisplayPorts, and SD card readers—and other ports. A dock or hub connects to all your peripherals so you can then connect it to your PC through just one USB-C port. But not all docks are created equal. After reviewing a wide array of what's available today, we've found there are a few key features users should look for to determine which option is best for you to bridge the gap between your PC and everything you want to use with it.

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Mixed surgical teams lead to less medical error

2 Jul 2018, 7:00 pm

Calm down. I’m the boss

SURGEONS are people, and people are animals, and animals often fight. Which is why Frans de Waal, an expert on animal behaviour, has turned his attention to the operating theatre to see if the methods he honed studying chimpanzees might be used to improve surgical practice.

Dr de Waal—and, more particularly Laura Jones, his colleague at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, who did the actual field work—used those methods to construct ethograms of surgical teams. An ethogram is a list of all the types of behaviour that occur within a group of animals. To draw up these lists Dr Jones observed interactions between 400 doctors, nurses and technicians during 200 operations. She logged all the non-technical communications she spotted, and classified them as “co-operative” (likely to lead to better surgical outcomes), “conflictive” (potentially jeopardising patient safety) or neutral.

As she describes in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, after analysing each of more than 6,000 exchanged insults and pleasantries, she found that surgical communication does indeed mimic wild-animal behaviour, both collaborative and hostile. In particular, as happens among wild animals, individuals jostle for dominance with others of their own...Continue reading

1990, meet 2018: How far does 20MHz of Macintosh IIsi power go today?

1 Jul 2018, 1:45 pm

Enlarge / Have you ever seen a more glorious sight? (credit: Chris Wilkinson)

Back in September 2014, Ars Technica's Andrew Cunningham took on a Herculean challenge in modern computing. Egged on by his coworkers, he used a PowerBook G4 running OS 9.2.2 as his "daily driver" for a couple of days, placing a turn-of-the-century bit of hardware into the present tense. It's no surprise that almost nothing was achieved that week (except for, of course, the excellent article).

Years later, I had that story on my mind when I was browsing a local online classifieds site and stumbled across a gem: a Macintosh IIsi. Even better, the old computer was for sale along with the elusive but much-desired Portrait Display, a must-have for the desktop publishing industry of its time. I bought it the very next day.

It took me several days just to get the machine to boot at all, but I kept thinking back to that article. Could I do any better? With much less? Am I that arrogant? Am I a masochist?

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Guidemaster: One-upping the NES Classic Edition with the Raspberry Pi 3 and RetroPie

30 Jun 2018, 1:22 pm

Andrew Cunningham

In November 2016, Nintendo surprised everyone by going back to its roots and releasing the NES Classic. The delightful emulator/nostalgia-fest sparked unanticipated demand, including near-instant supply issues and 200-percent-plus markups in secondary markets. So in December of 2016, we decided to build our own version instead.

Last April, Nintendo bizarrely halted sales of the hot-selling retro console, sparking us to resurface this guide. And with the news that Nintendo relaunched the console this week—but yet again supply is an early hurdle for interested gamers—we're re-running this piece to help those of you with a DIY streak once build your own, more flexible alternative. Hardware recommendations have been updated and lightly edited to reflect current availability and pricing for June 2018.

Against my better judgment, I’ve tried a couple of times to snag one of those adorable little $60 mini NES Classic Editions—once when Amazon put some of its limited stock online and crashed its own site, and once when Walmart was shipping out small quantities every day a couple of weeks ago. In both cases, I failed.

But the dumb itch of nostalgia can’t always be scratched by logical thoughts like “do you really need to pay money for Super Mario Bros. 3 again,” and “Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest is probably the weakest of the three NES Castlevania games.” Since it’s not entirely clear if or when those little mini NESes will become readily available, I decided to funnel that small wad of expendable cash and the desire for some nostalgia-fueled gaming into a DIY project.

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7:57:148—Volkswagen makes racing history with record-breaking electric race car

29 Jun 2018, 11:30 am

Enlarge (credit: VW Motorsport)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.—All it took was two visits to the annual Pikes Peak International Hill Climb for it to steal our hearts. The second-oldest motor race in the United States—only the Indy 500 predates it—is unlike virtually every other professional motorsports event we cover. And this year's edition proved to be novel in its own right.

Last weekend, we were on hand to witness French racing driver Romain Dumas and car maker Volkswagen stamp their authority on all 12.4-miles (19.99km) of the course, destroying its existing record and setting the first sub-eight minute time in race history. What makes the feat even more interesting around Ars is that the car in the record books is all-electric, marking perhaps the first time in major motorsport that a battery electric vehicle has beaten the internal combustion engine fair and square.

In retrospect, if any car has an advantage at Pikes Peak it's the EV. The start line is already at 9,390 feet (2,862m) above sea level; the finish line is an even higher 14,110 feet (4,300m), and much of the course is above the tree line, where there's 40 percent less oxygen to breathe. Consequently, internal combustion engines will lose power—significantly—as they climb the route, even with the aid of forced induction or crafty fuel mixtures.

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Making medical clothing that kills bugs

28 Jun 2018, 4:22 pm

AROUND the beginning of the 20th century the medical profession underwent an image makeover. Doctors swapped their traditional black coats for white ones, similar to those worn by scientists in laboratories. This was meant to bolster a physician’s scientific credibility at a time when many practising healers were quacks, charlatans and frauds. As the importance of antiseptics became more widely understood, white was also thought to have the advantage of showing any soiling.

Nowadays many doctors are likely to wear everyday clothes, or blue or green “scrubs”, which are said to reduce eye strain in brightly-lit operating theatres. White coats are reckoned to be capable of spreading diseases as easily as clothing of any other colour, especially when long sleeves brush against multiple surfaces. Many clinics and hospitals now have a “bare below the elbows” policy for staff, whether in uniform or their own clothes. This is also supposed to encourage more thorough handwashing.

What,...Continue reading

A big collaboration is trying to understand diseases of the psyche

28 Jun 2018, 4:22 pm

DISEASES of the psyche have always been slippery things. Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression and a host of others have no visible markers in the brain. Their symptoms overlap sufficiently that diagnoses may differ between medical practitioners, or even vary over time when given by a single practitioner. In this they are unlike neurological diseases. These either leave organic traces in the brain that, though not always accessible before a patient’s death, are characteristic of the condition in question, or cause recognisable perturbations of things such as electroencephalograms.

The impulse to categorise, though, is enormous—as witness the ever greater number of conditions identified in successive editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association. That is because diagnosis and treatment go hand in hand. But if diagnostic categories are misconceived then treatment may be misapplied. In this context a paper...Continue reading

The eye's structure holds information about the health of the mind

28 Jun 2018, 4:22 pm

BECAUSE it is locked away inside the skull, the brain is hard to study. Looking at it requires finicky machines which use magnetism or electricity or both to bypass the bone. There is just one tendril of brain tissue that can be seen from outside the body without any mucking about of this sort. That is the retina. Look into someone’s eyes and you are, in some small way, looking at their brain.

This being so, a group of researchers at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, working with others around the world, decided to study the structure of the eye for signs of cognitive decline. Changes in the brain, they reasoned, might lead to changes in the nervous tissue connected to it. They focused on a part of the eye called the retinal nerve-fibre layer (RNFL). This is the lowest layer of the retina and serves to link the light-sensitive tissue above to the synapses which lead to the brain. The team’s results, published in JAMA Neurology this week,...Continue reading

Polio has been reported in Papua New Guinea

28 Jun 2018, 4:22 pm

ON JUNE 8th reports of a suspected case of polio came from Venezuela. Fortunately, it turned out to be a false alarm. The report that came from Papua New Guinea on June 22nd, though, is no fiction. It was issued by the World Health Organisation and concerns not one, but three children who have tested positive for a threatening polio virus.

Around the world, polio is in full retreat. A mere three countries are still known to harbour wild polio viruses. These are Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. In 2017 only 22 cases of polio caused by such wild viruses came to the attention of the authorities. Unfortunately, the reason for this success, which is the extensive vaccination against polio of children throughout the world, can occasionally backfire and itself cause polio outbreaks.

In many countries polio vaccine includes live, attenuated viruses which breed in the recipient’s intestines and then enter the bloodstream, thereby triggering a protective immune response. An...Continue reading

Talking to Google Duplex: Google’s human-like phone AI feels revolutionary

27 Jun 2018, 1:00 pm

Enlarge / The end result of Duplex. You ask for a reservation, it makes a phone call in the background, and gets back to you with a result. (credit: Google)

NEW YORK—Evidently, I didn't walk into a run-of-the-mill press event. Roughly two months after its annual I/O conference, Google this week invited Ars and several other journalists to the THEP Thai Restaurant in New York City. The company bought out the restaurant for the day, cleared away the tables, and built a little presentation area complete with a TV, loudspeaker, and chairs. Next to the TV was a podium with the Thai restaurant's actual phone—not some new company smartphone, the ol' analogue restaurant line.

We all knew what we were getting into. At I/O 2018, Google shocked the world with a demo of "Google Duplex," an AI system for accomplishing real-world tasks over the phone. The short demo felt like the culmination of Google's various voice-recognition and speech-synthesis capabilities: Google's voice bot could call up businesses and make an appointment on your behalf, all while sounding shockingly similar—some would say deceivingly similar—to a human. Its demo even came complete with artificial speech disfluencies like "um" and "uh."

The short, pre-recorded I/O showcase soon set off a firestorm of debate on the Web. People questioned the ethics of an AI that pretended to be human, wiretap laws were called into question, and some even questioned if the demo was faked. Other than promising Duplex would announce itself as a robot in the future, Google had been pretty quiet about the project since the event.

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macOS Mojave: A visual tour of Dark Mode and other major features

26 Jun 2018, 6:12 pm

Enlarge / The dynamic Mojave wallpaper in transition. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Today, Apple released the public beta for macOS Mojave. It adds dark mode, makes significant user experience overhauls to Finder and Quick Look, adds a bunch of apps you might be familiar with from iOS, provides new ways to organize your desktop icons, and more.

Installing a beta this early is not advisable for most users—though if you want to brave it, knock yourself out—so we've spent the past week exploring this new build in order to give you a sense of its major features without the risk (and illustrated with a plethora of screenshots to boot).

Generally, Mojave's changes paint a picture of a Mac platform that continues to seek a tighter relationship with iOS. There's a new way to bring iOS apps to the Mac. Continuity features have been expanded for more use cases. An overhauled Mac App Store takes cues from the iOS 11 App Store, and system updates have even been relocated to the OS's settings panel.

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First space, then auto—now Elon Musk quietly tinkers with education

25 Jun 2018, 2:00 pm

Enlarge / A glimpse of a SpaceX worker in Hawthorne: young, wearing a hat, possibly listening to music! (credit: SpaceX)

In a corner of SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California, a small, secretive group called Ad Astra is hard at work. These are not the company’s usual rocket scientists. At the direction of Elon Musk, they are tackling ambitious projects involving flamethrowers, robots, nuclear politics, and defeating evil AIs.

Those at Ad Astra still find time for a quick game of dodgeball at lunch, however, because the average age within this group is just 10 years old.

Ad Astra encompasses students, not employees. For the past four years, this experimental non-profit school has been quietly educating Musk’s sons, the children of select SpaceX employees, and a few high-achievers from nearby Los Angeles. It started back in 2014, when Musk pulled his five young sons out of one of Los Angeles’ most prestigious private schools for gifted children. Hiring one of his sons’ teachers, the CEO founded Ad Astra to “exceed traditional school metrics on all relevant subject matter through unique project-based learning experiences,” according to a previously unreported document filed with the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

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Acer Chromebook Tab 10 review: Chrome OS revives Google’s tablet future

23 Jun 2018, 2:00 pm

Enlarge / Hellllloooooo Chrome OS tablets. (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Chrome OS took over schools with clamshells, but now Google is shaking things up with slabs. After a spring announcement, Acer has built the first Chrome OS tablet, the $329 Chromebook Tab 10, to give teachers and students a more flexible device to use for schoolwork both in and out of the classroom.

Some might perk up at the idea of a lightweight yet durable tablet with a 2048×1536 display and a built-in Wacom stylus running Chrome OS, but this device (like many other Chrome OS devices) will only be sold in the education market. While regular consumers may not be able to get their hands on the Chromebook Tab 10, however, there will be more Chrome OS tablets to come that will be sold to the general public.

After spending some time with this inaugural Chrome OS tablet, it would be remiss to think that it's essentially the same thing as an Android tablet—devices that are largely unsupported at this point. We may not be traditional educators or students at this point, but Ars tested the Chromebook Tab 10 with a few things in mind: how does the Chrome OS experience translate on a tablet sans-keyboard? And, perhaps more importantly, can Chrome OS bring Google's tablet category back from the dead?

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Why a 40-year-old SCOTUS ruling against software patents still matters today

21 Jun 2018, 8:15 pm

Enlarge / Under the Federal Circuit appeals court, patent law swung from software patent skepticism in the 1970s to extreme permissiveness in the 1990s, then started to swing back toward skepticism with stricter Supreme Court oversight. (credit: Federal Circuit Historical Society / Aurich Lawson)

Forty years ago this week, in the case of Parker v. Flook, the US Supreme Court came close to banning software patents. "The court said, 'Well, software is just math; you can't patent math,'" said Stanford legal scholar Mark Lemley. As a result, "It was close to impossible in the 1970s to get software patents."

If the courts had faithfully applied the principles behind the Flook ruling over the last 40 years, there would be far fewer software patents on the books today. But that's not how things turned out. By 2000, other US courts had dismantled meaningful limits on patenting software—a situation exemplified by Amazon's infamous 1999 patent on the concept of shopping with one click. Software patents proliferated, and patent trolls became a serious problem.

But the pendulum eventually swung the other way. A landmark 2014 Supreme Court decision called CLS Bank v. Alice—which also marks its anniversary this week—set off an earthquake in the software patent world. In the first three years after Alice, the Federal Circuit Court, which hears all patent law appeals, rejected 92.3 percent of the patents challenged under the Alice precedent.

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The top ten games from E3 2018

19 Jun 2018, 11:30 am

In spite of countless leaks and pre-show announcements, this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) still managed to surprise us. Perhaps the biggest surprise of all was the presence of so many well-crafted, single-player delights. We were also happy to see way fewer battle royale cash-ins than we’d feared—though maybe they are just taking longer to develop.

Since attending the show last week, our E3 brain trust (Kyle Orland, Sam Machkovech, Samuel Axon) has been arguing over our favorite hands-on and hands-off demos. We managed to settle on this definitive top-ten list, along with a slew of honorable mentions.

Our selected games are listed in alphabetical order, not ranked.

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What happened last time it was as warm as it’s going to get later this century?

18 Jun 2018, 1:00 pm

Enlarge / Map of Antarctica today showing rates of retreat (2010-2016) of the “grounding line” where glaciers lose contact with bedrock underwater, along with ocean temperatures. The lone red arrow in East Antarctica is the Totten Glacier, which alone holds ice equivalent to ~3m (10ft) of sea level rise. (credit: Hannes Konrad et al, University of Leeds UK.)

"What's past is prologue"- Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

The year 2100 stands like a line of checkered flags at the climate change finish line, as if all our goals expire then. But like the warning etched on a car mirror: it’s closer than it appears. Kids born today will be grandparents when most climate projections end.

And yet, the climate won’t stop changing in 2100. Even if we succeed in limiting warming this century to 2ºC, we’ll have CO2 at around 500 parts per million. That’s a level not seen on this planet since the Middle Miocene, 16 million years ago, when our ancestors were apes. Temperatures then were about 5 to 8ºC warmer not 2º, and sea levels were some 40 meters (130 feet) or more higher, not the 1.5 feet (half a meter) anticipated at the end of this century by the 2013 IPCC report.

Why is there a yawning gap between end-century projections and what happened in Earth’s past? Are past climates telling us we’re missing something?

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How ARKit 2 works, and why Apple is so focused on AR

16 Jun 2018, 1:00 pm

Enlarge / A LEGO app using Apple's new ARKit features. (credit: Apple)

Augmented reality (AR) has played prominently in nearly all of Apple's events since iOS 11 was introduced, Tim Cook has said he believes it will be as revolutionary as the smartphone itself, and AR was Apple’s biggest focus in sessions with developers at WWDC this year.

But why? Most users don’t think the killer app for AR has arrived yet—unless you count Pokémon Go. The use cases so far are cool, but they’re not necessary and they’re arguably a lot less cool on an iPhone or iPad screen than they would be if you had glasses or contacts that did the same things.

From this year's WWDC keynote to Apple’s various developer sessions hosted at the San Jose Convention Center and posted online for everyone to view, though, it's clear that Apple is investing heavily in augmented reality for the future.

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