Chimp females who leave home postpone parenthood

20 Nov 2017, 7:15 pm
Female chimps that lack supportive friends and family wait longer to start having babies, researchers find. An analysis of more than 50 years' worth of daily records for female chimpanzees in Gombe National Park in Tanzania indicates that would-be moms who leave home or are orphaned take roughly three years longer to start a family.

Survey taps students' motivation in STEM

20 Nov 2017, 7:15 pm
Researchers are learning more about undergraduates' experience in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) classes and sharing a set of survey questions that will help researchers and educators at other universities do the same.

Preclinical study demonstrates promising treatment for rare bone disease

20 Nov 2017, 7:15 pm
Researchers have led a preclinical study demonstrating that the drug palovarotene suppresses the formation of bony tumors (osteochondromas) in models of multiple hereditary exostoses (MHE). The research is an important step toward an effective pharmacological treatment for MHE, a rare genetic condition that affects about 1 in 50,000 people worldwide.

New way to write magnetic info could pave the way for hardware neural networks

20 Nov 2017, 7:15 pm
Researchers have shown how to write any magnetic pattern desired onto nanowires, which could help computers mimic how the brain processes information.

Astronomers reveal nearby stars that are among the oldest in our galaxy

20 Nov 2017, 7:14 pm
Astronomers have discovered some of the oldest stars in our Milky Way galaxy by determining their locations and velocities.

Genome sequencing reveals extensive inbreeding in Scandinavian wolves

20 Nov 2017, 7:14 pm
Researchers have for the first time determined the full genetic consequences of intense inbreeding in a threatened species.

Sleeve gastrectomy, common weight-loss surgery, lowers women's tolerance to alcohol

20 Nov 2017, 6:39 pm
Women who have had gastric sleeve surgery to lose weight may want to consider limiting the number of alcoholic drinks they consume post-surgery. A new study found that after undergoing sleeve gastrectomy, women could be legally intoxicated after drinking half the number of drinks than women who did not have this surgery.

Seafloor sediments appear to enhance Earthquake and Tsunami danger in Pacific Northwest

20 Nov 2017, 5:45 pm
The Cascadia Subduction Zone off the coast of the Pacific Northwest has all the ingredients for making powerful earthquakes -- and according to the geological record, the region is due for its next 'big one.' A new study has found that the occurrence of these big, destructive quakes and associated devastating tsunamis may be linked to compact sediments along large portions of the subduction zone.

Brain stimulation can change how much we enjoy and value music

20 Nov 2017, 5:45 pm
Researchers have proven it is possible to increase or decrease our enjoyment of music, and our craving for more of it, by enhancement or disruption of certain brain circuits.

Patient-centered medical home model improves chronic disease management

20 Nov 2017, 5:45 pm
Data from more than 800 Veterans Health Administration (VHA) primary care clinics revealed that national implementation of a patient-centered medical home model was effective at improving several chronic disease outcomes over time.

Cell cycle proteins help immune cells trap microbes with nets made of DNA

20 Nov 2017, 5:45 pm
In your bloodstream, there are immune cells called neutrophils that, when faced with a pathogenic threat, will expel their DNA like a net to contain it. These DNA snares are called neutrophil extracellular traps or NETs. Researchers describe an important step in how these NETs are released and how they stop a fungus from establishing an infection in mice and human cells.

Previous evidence of water on Mars now identified as grainflows

20 Nov 2017, 5:44 pm
Dark features previously proposed as evidence for significant liquid water flowing on Mars have now been identified as granular flows, where sand and dust move rather than liquid water, according to a new article. These findings indicate that present-day Mars may not have a significant volume of liquid water. The water-restricted conditions that exist on Mars would make it difficult for Earth-like life to exist near the surface.

Materialists collect Facebook friends and spend more time on social media

20 Nov 2017, 5:44 pm
If you're materialistic, you're likely to use Facebook more frequently and intensely. A new article reveals that materialistic people see and treat their Facebook friends as 'digital objects,' and have significantly more friends than people who are less interested in possessions. It also shows that materialists have a greater need to compare themselves with others on Facebook.

Antarctic landscape insights keep ice loss forecasts on the radar

20 Nov 2017, 5:09 pm
New maps of a mountainous landscape under a key glacier in West Antarctica will be a valuable aid in forecasting sea level changes.

Righty blue whales sometimes act like lefties, study finds

20 Nov 2017, 5:09 pm
To support their hulking bodies, blue whales use various acrobatic maneuvers to scoop up many individually tiny prey, filtering the water back out through massive baleen plates. In most cases, the whales roll to the right as they capture their prey, just as most people are right-handed. But, researchers now show that the whales shift directions and roll left when performing 360° barrel rolls in shallow water.

Smoking study personalizes treatment

20 Nov 2017, 5:09 pm
A simple blood test is allowing researchers to determine which patients should be prescribed varenicline (Chantix) to stop smoking and which patients could do just as well, and avoid side effects, by using a nicotine patch.

Key signaling protein for muscle growth

20 Nov 2017, 5:09 pm
Researchers have discovered the importance of a well-known protein, myeloid differentiation primary response gene 88 (MyD88), in the development and regeneration of muscles. Researchers have described the protein's critical role in the growth and repair of skeletal muscles, both in post-natal development and in the regeneration of injured adult muscles.

First interstellar asteroid is like nothing seen before

20 Nov 2017, 5:09 pm
For the first time ever astronomers have studied an asteroid that has entered the Solar System from interstellar space. Observations from ESO's Very Large Telescope in Chile and other observatories around the world show that this unique object was traveling through space for millions of years before its chance encounter with our star system. It appears to be a dark, reddish, highly-elongated rocky or high-metal-content object.

Nanoparticles could allow for faster, better medicine

20 Nov 2017, 5:09 pm
Gold nanoparticles could help make drugs act more quickly and effectively, according to new research.

Light green plants save nitrogen without sacrificing photosynthetic efficiency

20 Nov 2017, 4:36 pm
Scientists designed plants with light green leaves with hopes of allowing more light to penetrate the crop canopy and increase overall light use efficiency and yield. This strategy was tested in a recent modeling study that found leaves with reduced chlorophyll content do not actually improve canopy-level photosynthesis, but instead, conserve a significant amount of nitrogen that the plant could reinvest to improve light use efficiency and increase yield.

Tesla: Not Approaching Terminal Decline

20 Nov 2017, 3:23 pm

OnePlus 5T review—An outstanding combination of specs, design, and price

20 Nov 2017, 2:00 pm

Ron Amadeo

After launching the OnePlus 5 earlier this year, OnePlus is back with an end-of-year upgrade for the device. The OnePlus 5T takes a winning formula—high-end specs with a low price tag and a metal body—and reworks the front of the phone to dedicate as much space as possible to the screen. This device has a new screen, a new button layout, a new fingerprint reader, and a new camera setup. It almost feels like a totally new device.

We liked the OnePlus 5 from earlier in the year, but, with the more modern design, OnePlus has fixed OnePlus 5's biggest downside. The result is something that is extremely compelling—a $500 phone that makes you question exactly why you'd give $800 to those other OEMs when this has nearly everything the more expensive phones have.

Read 51 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Even With Model 3 Success, Tesla Is Structurally Bankrupt

20 Nov 2017, 1:56 pm

Uniti Is Poised To Profit 2.0

20 Nov 2017, 11:45 am

GE Just Kicked Its Pension Problems Down The Road

20 Nov 2017, 8:37 am

Has The Plunge Begun?

20 Nov 2017, 5:00 am

Ford: Game Over?

19 Nov 2017, 6:24 pm

Standby For The Coming Golden Age Of Investment

19 Nov 2017, 4:09 pm

General Electric: A High Yield Payout That Can't Be Cut

19 Nov 2017, 2:15 pm

Omega Healthcare Investors: 'You Won The Month'

19 Nov 2017, 10:05 am

The Top 5 Utility Dividend Stocks For 2018

19 Nov 2017, 8:42 am

Drinking A Bit Of T

18 Nov 2017, 6:43 pm

Last Chance To Pick Up This 5.3% Yielder On The Cheap

18 Nov 2017, 3:01 pm

Record Earnings And A 10% Yield On Qualified Dividends - Buy This Niche MLP On The Dip (No K-1)

18 Nov 2017, 2:49 pm

Retirement Strategy: Dividend Growth Investing In A Scary Market

18 Nov 2017, 2:00 pm

Pandemic Legacy: Season 2—The world’s “best board game” gets better

18 Nov 2017, 1:00 pm

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

How do you follow the most popular board game ever made?

In a world where three separate versions of Smurfs Monopoly exist, Pandemic Legacy: Season One (PL:S1) isn’t the biggest-selling game of all time—but it has topped the popularity charts at Board Game Geek since it was released. It’s as close to “universally loved” as it’s possible to get in this contrarian world.

Read 23 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Retirement Security: Fire And Fury In Telecommunications

18 Nov 2017, 1:00 pm

Ethereum: The No. 2 Cryptocurrency Is Like The Currency Of An Innovative Country

17 Nov 2017, 8:07 pm

Canadian Cannabis Stocks: What To Do Now

17 Nov 2017, 3:44 pm

Cisco: Turning Into Another IBM?

17 Nov 2017, 2:32 pm

Does This 11.6% Yielder Still Have Room To Run?

17 Nov 2017, 2:00 pm

The Ultimate Food, Shelter And Clothing REIT

17 Nov 2017, 11:45 am

Surface Book 2 review: Monster performance, but lightning hasn’t struck twice

16 Nov 2017, 7:38 pm

Enlarge / The 15-inch Surface Book 2. (credit: Peter Bright)

Introduced a little over two years ago, Microsoft's Surface Book was the hybrid laptop that I had long hoped the company would build. Like the Surface Pro, it worked as a true standalone tablet, but it had the all-important stiff hinge, making it suitable for use on your lap in a way that the Surface Pro's kickstand and Type Covers never really supported.

The Surface Book was not just a useful form factor; it was also something of a technological showcase. Other hybrid designs I've used, such as the ThinkPad Helix, had clunky mechanical linkages between the tablet portion and the base. The Surface Book boasted a clever software-controlled system. The fulcrum hinge design, which helped keep the device balanced when the screen was open, is elegant and visually striking.

And to top it all off, the Surface Book came with an optional discrete GPU, with the GPU housed not in the tablet part but in the base. While we've seen many systems with switchable graphics—using the low-power integrated GPU unless you're playing a game or similar and need the full power of the discrete chip—having the discrete GPU be in a separate component was an exciting twist.

Read 41 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Wine-making existed at least 500 years earlier than previously known

16 Nov 2017, 4:10 pm

ACCORDING to the ancient Greeks, wine was first discovered by Dionysus, and proved so popular that he was rewarded with godhood. The ancient Persians credit it to a woman who had been banished from the presence of the legendary King Jamshid. Despondent, she wandered into a warehouse where she found a jar containing the remains of some spoiled grapes. Thinking this was as good a method of suicide as any, she drank the liquid. The effect was not quite what she had expected.

For archaeologists, as opposed to mythmakers, untangling the history of wine is particularly hard, partly because the product is perishable and partly because the technique is simple enough to have been invented independently by early settlers in different parts of the world. It did not help that, until recently, archaeologists would wash any ancient pottery they unearthed in hydrochloric acid to strip off any accumulated gunk, which also removed any organic compounds that might have given a clue about what was once stored in the pots.

Fortunately, bits of wine-stained pottery still turn up. As reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, finds at two sites have pushed the origins of large-scale winemaking back to 6,000 BC, half a millennium or more before the previous date. A team of researchers led by Patrick McGovern from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of...Continue reading

Growing tiny tumours in the lab could help treat cancer

16 Nov 2017, 3:58 pm

Giving up their secrets

ALMOST half a century after Richard Nixon declared war on cancer, there has been plenty of progress. But there is still no cure. One reason is that “cancer” is an umbrella term that covers many different diseases. Although the fundamental mechanism is always the same—the uncontrolled proliferation of cells—the details vary enormously. Leukaemia is not the same as colon cancer. Even within a particular type of cancer, one patient’s disease will differ from another’s. Different mutations, for instance, will affect different genes within a tumour. The result is that cancer can be frustratingly difficult to treat.

Medicine, though, is getting better at accounting for these differences. In a paper just published in Nature Medicine, a team led by Meritxell Huch, a biologist at the Gurdon Institute, a cancer-research centre at the University of Cambridge, describes a technique that could, one day, help doctors design bespoke treatments for their patients,...Continue reading

New surgical robots are about to enter the operating theatre

16 Nov 2017, 3:58 pm

ROBOTS have been giving surgeons a helping hand for years. In 2016 there were about 4,000 of them scattered around the world’s hospitals, and they took part in 750,000 operations. Most of those procedures were on prostate glands and uteruses. But robots also helped surgeons operate on kidneys, colons, hearts and other organs. Almost all of these machines were, however, the products of a single company. Intuitive Surgical, of Sunnyvale, California, has dominated the surgical-robot market since its device, da Vinci, was cleared for use by the American Food and Drug Administration in 2000.

That, though, is likely to change soon, for two reasons. One is that the continual miniaturisation of electronics means that smarter circuits can be fitted into smaller and more versatile robotic arms than those possessed by Intuitive’s invention. This expands the range of procedures surgical robots can be involved in, and thus the size of the market. The other is that surgical robotics is, as it were,...Continue reading

How to send a message to another planet

15 Nov 2017, 8:33 pm

Rendez-vous

IN 2029 the inhabitants, if any, of the planet GJ 273b will receive a message that will change their lives forever. Encoded in radio signals emanating from an innocuous-looking blue-green planet 12.4 light-years away, will be tutorials in mathematics and physics, followed by a burst of music. The import of the message, however, will be clear: “Let’s talk.”

Or so Douglas Vakoch hopes. For on November 16th Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI), the group that he heads, and the organisers of Sónar, a music festival in Barcelona, announced they had sent a series of missives towards Luyten’s star, the red dwarf around which GJ 273b orbits.

“Sónar Calling GJ 273b”, as the initiative is called, sent its message in mid-October from a radar antenna at Ramfjordmoen, in Norway. The antenna, run by EISCAT, a scientific organisation based at the Swedish Institute of Space Physics in Kiruna, is usually used to study Earth’s...Continue reading

LG V30 review: Good hardware design marred by bad camera, software

15 Nov 2017, 12:30 pm

Ron Amadeo

Another six months, another LG flagship phone. Typically the V series has been LG's wacky, experimental line with an extra "ticker" screen on the front. This year, though, the V30 is all business. The ticker is gone in exchange for a slim-bezel device and a clean look.

With the V30, LG is still basically following the same path that Samsung travels by shipping a heavily skinned phone with a glass back and slow updates. When you do all the same things as Samsung without the marketing budget, it's hard to stand out.

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Spatial audio is the most exciting thing to happen to pop music since stereo

11 Nov 2017, 3:00 pm

Enlarge / To get the Dolby Atmos version of Automatic For The People, you'll have to buy this complete 3-CD, 1-Blu-ray edition. (credit: R.E.M./Craft Recordings)

As much as I love overpriced gizmos in my living room, I still tend to be reluctant about new standards. TVs are a great example. I've appreciated the bonuses offered by 3D, 4K, and HDR, but I concede they all lack content and are less amazing than salespeople would lead you to believe. They're also generally not worth replacing TVs that are only a few years old.

The same goes for audio, which fortunately hasn't strayed far from a "5.1" surround-sound profile since the dawn of DVD adoption. Really, I've been fine with two good speakers and a subwoofer for my entire adult life. I laugh at overblown, pre-film Dolby intros in a theater. I shrug at the surround effects in hectic action movies. I have failed A/B tests in picking out major differences between 5.1 and 7.1 systems.

Surround audio can be cool, sure. But if I were to ever change up my entire living room, I'd need something to blow my aural expectations away. This week, that might have finally happened.

Read 56 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Smelly farms may succumb to subtle science

9 Nov 2017, 3:47 pm

I love the smell of para-cresol in the morning

FARMYARDS smell. There is no getting away from that. They smell because of the excrement produced by the animals which live there. And however carefully this excrement is dealt with—whether by modern versions of the time-honoured process of muck-spreading that inject it below the surface of the fields it is fertilising; or by anaerobic digestion, in which it is used to make methane that can, in turn, be employed to generate electricity—it is still the case that the buildings housing the animals themselves stink.

Besides being unhealthy for farmworkers (not to mention the neighbours, if the farmyard is near a village), such smells are bad for business. Research has found that improving the air quality of the places where pigs and other livestock are housed makes for healthier and more productive animals. The question is, how to do that cheaply? Jacek Koziel of Iowa State University reckons he has the answer:...Continue reading

Enhanced understanding of the microbiome is helping medicine

9 Nov 2017, 3:47 pm

WHEN, at the turn of the century, the first human genomes were sequenced, many biologists felt they had had delivered into their hands the keys to unlocking numerous puzzles about disease. Since then there has indeed been a fruitful effort to understand how the thousands of human genes which control hormones, enzymes and other molecules of the body serve to regulate health. But, in an unexpected turn of events, it is also now apparent that the human genome is not the only one to which attention should be paid. Human guts contain microbes, lots of them. Added together, the genes in these bugs’ genomes amount to perhaps 150 times the number in the human genome alone. If the bacteria in question were doing little more than swimming around digesting lettuce, this would be of small consequence. But they are doing much more than that.

The members of the microbiome, as this community is known, are, to a surprising extent, partners of humanity. And when that partnership goes wrong, the results...Continue reading

When will the Earth try to kill us again?

9 Nov 2017, 12:00 pm

Enlarge

“The revolutions and changes which have left the earth as we now find it, are not confined to the overthrow of the ancient layers” - Georges Cuvier, 1831.

Our planet Earth has extinguished large portions of its inhabitants several times since the dawn of animals. And if science tells us anything, it will surely try to kill us all again. Working in the 19th century, paleontology pioneer Georges Cuvier saw dramatic turnovers of life in the fossil record and likened them to the French Revolution, then still fresh in his memory.

Today, we refer to such events as “mass extinctions,” incidents in which many species of animals and plants died out in a geological instant. They are so profound and have such global reach that geological time itself is sliced up into periods—Permian, Triassic, Cretaceous—that are often defined by these mass extinctions.

Debate over what caused these factory resets of life has raged ever since Cuvier’s time. He considered them to be caused by environmental catastrophes that rearranged the oceans and continents. Since then, a host of explanations have been proposed, including diseases, galactic gamma rays, dark matter, and even methane from microbes. But since the 1970s, most scientists have considered the likely root cause to be either asteroid impacts, massive volcanic eruptions, or a combination of both.

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A bird’s alarm calls do not always come out of its beak

8 Nov 2017, 9:48 pm

Nice primaries, dahling

CHARLES DARWIN was fascinated by bird communication. In “The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex” he devoted equal space to both the sorts of sounds that emerge from birds’ beaks and the more percussive noises that they make with other parts of their bodies, such as their feet and feathers. He speculated that both types of sounds were important for sending signals to others, but was unsure if this was true. In the years that have passed since his death, ornithologists have proved time and again that birds’ songs, squawks and shrieks are used for sending signals to their kin, their rivals and sometimes even their predators. In contrast, their more percussive sounds have received almost no attention at all. A study published in Current Biology by Trevor Murray at the Australian National University, in Canberra, however, suggests that is a mistake. At least one bird creates a specific, audible warning...Continue reading

A randomised trial shows that the power of the press is real

8 Nov 2017, 9:48 pm

MALCOLM X, an American political activist, described the media as the most powerful entity on Earth, “because they control the minds of the masses”. Some journalists may find this proposition flattering, but though those who study such things agree newspapers exert some influence over their readers, the effect has proved devilishly difficult to quantify. Now, Gary King of Harvard University and his colleagues have measured the impact of stories from almost three dozen different news sources on the American public, as judged by the content of posts on Twitter, a microblogging service. Their study, published this week in Science, found that even stories from the news sites that formed part of the study, which were small compared with, say, the New York Times or the Washington Post, increased Twitter discussion of the issues in those stories by about 60%. They also shifted the nature of the views expressed in those tweets towards those of the published...Continue reading

A new nerve-cell monitor will help those studying brains

8 Nov 2017, 6:05 pm

SCIENCE is a mixture of the intellectual and the practical. And the practical requires tools. Until the invention of the telescope, astronomy had been stuck in a rut for millennia. Until the invention of the microscope, microbiology did not exist.

Neuroscience, too, has advanced recently on the back of some powerful tools, particularly techniques for scanning whole brains. But the devices that look at the nitty-gritty of how nerve cells themselves work are still Heath-Robinson affairs. These are the electrodes that record the impulses of individual cells, ideally simultaneously with lots of others, in order to try to work out how networks of cells process information.

That may change with a device described this week in Nature. The business end of Neuropixels, as the new tool is known, is a probe made in the way that computer chips are made, by photolithography. This probe (see picture) is 1cm long and 70 microns across—about the width of a human hair. It is capable of recording signals from 384 nerve cells at the same time. These signals are gathered individually by electrodes 12 microns across that cover the probe’s surface. The electrodes are made from titanium nitride, a material chosen because it is both amenable to photolithography and can survive for at least six months inside a...Continue reading

Hacking the vote: Threats keep changing, but election IT sadly stays the same

7 Nov 2017, 3:55 pm

Enlarge / A voting machine is submitted to abuse in DEFCON's Voting Village in July. (credit: Sean Gallagher)

The outcome of the 2016 presidential election is history. But allegations of voter fraud, election interference by foreign governments, and intrusions into state electoral agencies' systems have since cast a pall over the system that determines who makes the laws and enforces them in the United States. Such problems will not disappear no matter what comes out of a presidential commission or a Congressional hearing.

"Amazon will not go out of business because one percent of its transactions are fraudulent," said David Jefferson, a visiting computer scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and chairman of the Verified Voting Foundation, a non-governmental organization working toward accuracy, integrity, and verifiability of elections. "That's not the case for elections."

Jefferson's words came during his talk at the latest edition of DEFCON, the annual infosec event. Election hacks naturally became something of an overarching theme within the Caesar's Palace convention center this summer. In fact, there was an entire room dedicated solely to testing the reliability of US electronic voting systems. Called "Voting Village," the space was filled with more than 25 pieces of electoral hardware—voting machines and other electronic election-management equipment—in various stages of deconstruction. Any curious conference attendee, no matter where they fell within the conference's wide technical skill spectrum, could contribute to the onslaught of software and hardware hacks targeting the machines in this de facto lab.

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Essen 2017: Best board games from the biggest board game convention

6 Nov 2017, 1:15 pm

Enlarge / Behold the craziness of Essen... (credit: Owen Duffy)

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

Every October, the German city of Essen becomes the epicenter of tabletop gaming geekdom. Tens of thousands of visitors descend on the International Spieltage fair, where publishers from around the world debut their up-and-coming releases over four frantic days of dice chucking, card shuffling, and cube pushing.

For gamers, it’s an enthralling, bewildering, almost intimidating spectacle. Where gaming events in other countries, like Gen Con in the US or the UK Games Expo, incorporate celebrity guests, panel discussions, and side attractions, Essen is focused squarely on the games—everything from light and fluffy family favourites to impenetrable brain-melters.

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iPhone X review: Early adopting the future

3 Nov 2017, 1:47 pm

Enlarge / The iPhone X isn't actually "all screen," and it has that notch. But that doesn't make it any less dramatic. (credit: Samuel Axon)

A lot has changed in the decade since Apple shared its first iPhone with the world, but most people's relationships to their smartphones have not changed for a while. After an explosion of innovation, we’ve mostly seen incremental updates to processing power, security features, screen size, cameras, and software in recent years. These have added up over time, but the progress has rarely revolutionized this product area or its users' experience.

Generally, people have understandably been fine with that. Stability is good for consumers. We now see our phones as practical tools, not as anything extraordinary—not anything that opens up exciting and relevant new possibilities in our professional and personal lives like those earliest iPhone and Android phones did.

Some enthusiasts have nevertheless lamented that this is no longer the Apple whose products, once perceived as truly groundbreaking, excited them. But even more so than usual, Apple wants buyers to see this new phone, the most expensive iPhone yet released, as revolutionary. It has positioned iPhone X as a blueprint for all handsets to come.

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Xbox One X review: An exclamation point for hardware, a question mark for software

3 Nov 2017, 7:01 am

Enlarge / A lot of tech packed into this svelte box. (credit: Kyle Orland)

When the Xbox One launched in 2013, Microsoft had to try to convince gamers that extra features and hardware like the Kinect made its console worth $100 more than Sony’s PlayStation 4. Today, Microsoft is trying to convince many of those same gamers that the extra horsepower in the Xbox One X makes it worth $100 more than the PS4 Pro for the definitive living room 4K gaming experience.

When it comes to hard numbers, the Xbox One X definitely merits Microsoft’s marketing hype as “the most powerful console ever.” Microsoft has pulled out the stops in squeezing stronger components into the same basic architecture of the four-year-old Xbox One. In games like Gears of War 4 and Super Lucky’s Tale, the system generates performance that’s equivalent to modern PC hardware that costs hundreds of dollars more.

When it comes to seeing the value of that hardware on the screen, though, the promise of the Xbox One X is currently unfulfilled—at the very least, it's incomplete. We’ve only been able to test a relative handful of games that have gotten a downloadable patch providing the full “Xbox One X enhanced” treatment as of press time. That list excludes high-profile exclusives like Forza Motorsport 7 and Halo 5, as well as major cross-console comparisons like Rise of the Tomb Raider or Middle-Earth: Shadow of War.

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The latest unmanned drone is a version of an existing manned one

2 Nov 2017, 3:51 pm

Look! No hands...

IN THE future, the skies of cities may belong to aerial drones. These are spiderlike devices with four or more propellers (thus often known as quadcopters, hexacopters, octocopters and so on) that provide both lift and thrust. The hope is that autonomous, self-guided versions of these will deliver anything from pizzas to passengers from door to door without being held up by terrestrial traffic jams.

Delivering goods, and particularly people, to and from a battlefield is, though, a bit different. Aircraft have to be hardened against enemy action, and also need the capacity to transport large payloads. A flying spider is unlikely to cut the mustard. Instead, Lockheed Martin, the maker of one of the world’s best-known military helicopters, the Black Hawk, is working on a drone with those specifications—made from a Black Hawk helicopter.

Turning existing helicopters into drones is not a new idea. Northrop Grumman’s RQ-8 Fire...Continue reading

Mammoth society seems to have been like that of modern elephants

2 Nov 2017, 3:51 pm

All for one and one for all

ELEPHANTS live in social groups of up to a dozen, led by a matriarch. At least, they do if they are not mature males. But once a male becomes sexually potent, he leaves his native band and sets up shop by himself. The only males present in these groups are therefore juveniles. This arrangement is common to all living species of elephant (of which there are either two or three, depending on which taxonomist you ask). But elephant biologists would like to know if it was also true of extinct elephant species. And for one of those, the mammoth, this week sees the publication of data suggesting that it was.

One advantage elephants gain from living together is that the groups are repositories of information that gets handed down the generations—for example, what parts of a home range are best avoided, because they are dangerous. Males may not have time to learn of all these hazards (for elephants may range over tens of thousands of square...Continue reading

A new chamber has been detected in the Great Pyramid of Giza

1 Nov 2017, 10:03 pm

ANCIENT Egypt has held the world in thrall for so long that some of those once enthralled are now ancient history themselves. Well-to-do Romans of the early Empire, for instance, would tour the place to look at antiquities older to them than the Colosseum is to a tourist today. Yet Egypt keeps secrets still. Its royal tombs, both those underground and the skyward-reaching pyramids, are rife with stories of hidden chambers. And, in the most famous tomb of all, the Great Pyramid of Giza, one such has just been shown to be real.

It was discovered by Kunihiro Morishima of Nagoya University, in Japan, and his colleagues. They searched not by the time-honoured archaeological techniques of digging with trowels and knocking down walls with hammers, but by muon tomography—an esoteric way of looking inside things using the fallout from cosmic rays that have hit Earth’s atmosphere. Muons are heavy kin to electrons. They are able to penetrate solid matter to some degree, but are eventually absorbed by it. By measuring the absorption rate of...Continue reading

The underground story of Cobra, the 1980s’ illicit handmade computer

1 Nov 2017, 4:34 pm

Enlarge / Mihai Moldovanu tinkers with his beloved Cobra. (credit: Adi Dabu)

BUCHAREST, Romania—Mihai Moldovanu grabs the cardboard box with the enthusiasm of a man from the future who’s opening a time capsule.

“Maybe it could still work,” he tells me.

He dusts it off with his hands. Inside the box rests the computer he built for himself in high school. He hasn’t switched it on in 10, maybe 20 years. This summer, when moving from one apartment to another, he stumbled upon the box. “I need to find a charger and an old TV set. It’s going to be tricky to revive it.”

Read 58 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Waymo has a big lead in driverless cars—but here’s how it could lose it

31 Oct 2017, 2:30 pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty / Aurich)

Waymo has long had a sizable lead in self-driving technology, and recent reports indicate that Larry Page, CEO of Waymo parent company Alphabet, is determined not to let it slip away. According to The Information's Amir Efrati, Waymo CEO John Krafcik is under pressure to launch a commercial service in the Phoenix metro area as soon as this fall.

But at a Monday event with reporters at Waymo's Castle testing grounds in California's Central Valley, Krafcik was non-committal about the company's launch plans. In fact, he cast doubt on whether a driverless taxi service would even be Waymo's first product, as almost everyone has assumed it would be.

"We'll have to see," Krafcik said, noting that the company was also working on self-driving truck technology. "We're also considering working directly with cities."

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Emissions, eschmissions: How to (simply) reduce your carbon footprint in 2017

28 Oct 2017, 12:00 pm

Winter is coming—and not in that Game of Thrones sense. Many people are starting to button up across the US, but while you might have to turn the heater up too, there’s reason to stop and think before blasting the warm air. Like so many of the best aspects of modern living, heaters aren’t necessarily great for the environment. In fact, your heating habit may be bloating your carbon footprint dramatically.

With the Trump administration ditching the Paris Climate Agreement, of course, there may be no federal mandate for individuals and organizations to shrink their carbon footprint. But many people—for reasons ranging from the financial to the environmental—still want to find out how to shrink their impact on the Earth. While it’s hard, there is a way.

Carbon footprints are essentially a convenient way for scientists and environmental advocates to provide you with a number—typically in tons—of the C02 emissions you produce each year. Calculated based on a number of factors including where you live, what you eat, and how you get around, the size of each person’s C02 footprint varies widely. Things are especially different between city slickers and suburbanites, as urban living lowers carbon emissions by 20 percent. Still, the average American clocks in at 16.4 metric tons, or some 36,00 pounds, of carbon dioxide and its greenhouse gas equivalents each year, according to the World Bank. That made for a shared national footprint of about 5,300 million metric tons in 2015, which continues to contribute to the acceleration of global climate change.

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Super Mario Odyssey review: Mario’s densest, deepest adventure yet

26 Oct 2017, 1:00 pm

Enlarge / "May you be as joyful as a Mario in boxer shorts and an oversized boxing glove hat" -Ancient proverb

A few weeks ago, I got dragged down a rabbit-hole discussion of what defines a "core" Mario game. One proposed definition relied on Mario trying to reach an explicit "goal point" or exit at the end of the level.

While a core Mario game could have secondary goals (like collecting red coins or one-ups) and while there might be multiple exits in a single level, getting from the start to the end has always been a defining characteristic of his adventures. Even more open 3D games like Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy have retained this model to some extent, ending with a run through the level and putting Mario back to the start after he collects a star (or "shine").

By this strict definition, Super Mario Odyssey can't really be considered a core Mario game at all. The game's wide-open "Kingdoms" don't have any set end points, instead they exist more as spaces to run and jump around at your leisure. When you stumble on one of the many power moons that are Mario's most explicit goals within these levels, the exploring continues on from that same point after a short animation. On top of that, you only need to collect a small handful of these available moons before you're allowed to move on to the next Kingdom (and back) at your leisure.

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Google Pixelbook review: Prepared today for the possible reality of tomorrow

26 Oct 2017, 1:00 pm

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Chromebooks may be most popular in the classroom, but Google wants to ride that train out of schools and into the next phase of students' lives. The Pixelbook is the manifestation of that idea, the piece of hardware that combines Google's revamped design aesthetic and Internet-based software with the needs and wants of a younger generation.

Google stopped selling the original Chromebook Pixel, but seemingly only because the company wants to shine the spotlight on its new Chrome OS laptop. No distractions, no other (potentially) cheaper options: if you're someone who grew up using Chrome OS in school, this $999 convertible is the one you should get if you want to continue using Chrome OS later in life.

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Returning to Second Life

23 Oct 2017, 4:30 pm

Seriously, this once happened.

A decade ago, dozens of media outlets and technologists discovered "The Next Internet." An original cyberspace science fiction fantasy had finally come to fruition as the world gained a second digitized reality. In a short period of time, countries established embassies, media companies opened bureaus, one of Earth’s biggest rock bands played a concert (sort of), political campaigns took to its streets, and people became real-world millionaires plying their skills in this new arena.

That much hyped "Next Internet?" You may remember it better by its official name—Second Life. For many modern Internet users, the platform has likely faded far, far from memory. But there’s no denying the cultural impact Second Life had during the brief height of its popularity.

Explaining Second Life today as a MMORG or a social media platform undersells things for the unfamiliar; Second Life became an entirely alternative online world for its users. And it wasn’t just the likes of Reuters and U2 lookalikes and Sweden embracing this platform. Second Life boasted 1.1 million active users at its peak roughly a decade ago. Even cultural behemoth Facebook only boasted 20 million at the time.

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Sonos One review: A better sounding smart speaker

19 Oct 2017, 4:14 pm

Enlarge (credit: Jeff Dunn)

Sonos is finally girding itself for the smart speaker wars. With Amazon’s Echo line of speakers proving a surprise hit and the usage of digital assistants growing generally, wireless speaker pioneer Sonos has launched its first voice-enabled speaker, the Sonos One. This $199 device taps in to the same Alexa assistant that Amazon plants in its own hardware; at some point in 2018, Sonos says it will add support for the rival Google Assistant as well.

It is generally accepted that current smart speakers like the Echo and Google Home, the devices for which such assistants are mainly designed, are mediocre when used as speakers. Given Sonos’ reputation for delivering above-average audio quality, the hope is that the One provides the smarts of an Echo (and, eventually, a Home) without skimping on sound.

In many ways, that’s exactly what the Sonos One does. It runs circles around the Echo and Home in the audio department, and it does nearly all of the same "Alexa things" you can do with an Amazon-made device. The One makes sense for someone who has a set of Sonos speakers already and is curious to see how an Echo-like machine would fit into their lifestyle.

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Vivoactive 3 review: Garmin’s often the underdog, often the better choice

12 Oct 2017, 1:20 pm

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The fight to make the best all-purpose smartwatch has never been tougher. There are a number of new wearables around the $300 mark that want to be your device of choice for both fitness and all-day wear. Since fitness is still the most practical use for wearables, most companies follow the same pattern: make the best fitness device for the money and supplement it with other smart features that would be most useful to the masses.

Garmin's latest attempt to execute that plan is the $300 Vivoactive 3, a device poised to take on the $329 Apple Watch Series 3 (without LTE) and the $300 Fitbit Ionic. It has serious fitness chops—as most would expect from a Garmin device—as well as a bunch of typical smartwatch features. The stakes are high for Garmin, given the Vivoactive's price and its competition: the device must give users the best value for their money by being both a solid fitness watch and smart device, while also being unique enough to persuade prospective users away from similar devices. Some of the Vivoactive 3's fitness and smartwatch features are Garmin signatures (and can be found on other Garmin devices), but others are features necessary to keep up with the Joneses in the wearable space.

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Review: watchOS 4 breathes new life into fitness side of the Apple Watch

27 Sep 2017, 11:29 am

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WatchOS 4 officially became available to all Apple Watch owners last week even if its release was overshadowed by the hype surrounding the Series 3 Apple Watch. The newest software update for Apple's wearable brings a decent amount of change, but it's not enough to make the Apple Watch feel like an entirely new machine. Some of the biggest new additions in watchOS 4 include a new vertical Dock, new Siri and Toy Story watch faces, a slew of new heart rate monitor calculations, and new Music and News apps.

While watchOS 4 is available for all Apple Watch models, I primarily tested it on an Apple Watch Series 2. Though we also spent time trying the new Series 3 Watch, I wanted to see how much of an impact watchOS 4 has for those who stick with an existing Apple Watch rather than upgrading to the newest model. And no matter which version of the Apple Watch you have, they'll all feel similar running watchOS 4.

Dock and interface

You won't notice many differences on watchOS 4 when first booting it up on your Apple Watch. Your preferred watch face fills the entire display. Swiping down from the top opens the notification drawer, swiping left or right changes the watch face, and swiping up from the bottom opens the Control Center. The Control Center now has a new feature, the flashlight switch, and it has three controls: one that puts a bright white rectangle on the display, one with a flashing white rectangle, and the last with a bright red rectangle. Apple explained the flashing option could be useful when you're doing outdoor activities at night like walking the dog or running. Reflective clothing makes it easier for cars to see you in the dark, and the flashing option can almost act as a similar warning to surrounding vehicles if you're not wearing that kind of clothing.

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macOS 10.13 High Sierra: The Ars Technica review

25 Sep 2017, 5:00 pm

Enlarge / High Sierra wallpaper. The low-hanging clouds in the background may or may not be related to the name. (credit: Apple)

If you've felt like the last few macOS releases have been a little light, High Sierra won't change your mind.

That's not because there's nothing here but because most of Apple's development work this time around went into under-the-hood additions and updates to foundational technologies. Changing filesystems, adding external graphics support, adding support for new image compression formats, and updating the graphics API to support VR are all important, and none of them are small tasks. But the UI doesn’t change, apps get only minor updates (when they get them at all), and multiple features continue to be more limited than their iOS counterparts. Updates like Mountain Lion and El Capitan have drawn comparisons to Snow Leopard for focusing on refinement rather than features, but High Sierra is the closest thing we've gotten to a "no new features" update in years. High Sierra is so similar to Sierra in so many ways that it’s honestly pretty hard to tell them apart.

It’s not like the constancy of macOS is a bad thing; while the Mac operating system has been trundling along in a comfortable groove, iOS has been working its way through an exciting-but-occasionally-awkward teenage phase, and Windows has swerved wildly from desktop OS to tablet OS and back again. On the other hand, it has been a while since I came away from a new macOS version thinking, "Yes, this software absolutely makes my computer indisputably better than it was before."

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