Shoemakers bring bespoke footwear to the high street

22 May 2018, 2:29 pm

AMONG the boutiques in the canal district of Amsterdam is a shoe shop, called W-21, that has a selection of stylish footwear in the window. A select group of customers were recently invited there to have their feet scanned by a laser, and then to spend 30 seconds walking on a modified treadmill in a special pair of shoes stuffed with accelerometers, pressure gauges, thermometers and hygrometers. All this generated a wealth of data, which was displayed on a large screen along with a model of how the walker’s feet were moving.

From these data an algorithm determined the ideal soles for the customer’s shoes. Upstairs, a couple of 3D printers began humming away to make those soles. In about two hours they were ready to be fitted to a new pair of shoes, uniquely tailored to each person’s feet.

Some level of customisation is nothing new for buyers of apparel. But there is a big difference between clothes, which are relatively straightforward to tailor and alter, and shoes, which are...Continue reading

AT&T: What's The Worst-Case Scenario?

22 May 2018, 12:43 pm

A hidden world of communication, chemical warfare, beneath the soil

22 May 2018, 12:22 pm
New research shows how some of these harmful microbes have to contend not just with a farmer's chemical attacks, but also with their microscopic neighbors -- and themselves turn to chemical warfare to ward off threats.

Michael Jackson's antigravity tilt -- Talent, magic, or a bit of both?

22 May 2018, 12:21 pm
Three neurosurgeons set out to examine Michael Jackson's antigravity tilt, introduced in the movie video 'Smooth Criminal,' from a neurosurgeon's point of view.

Friends influence middle schoolers' attitudes toward peers of different ethnicities, races

22 May 2018, 12:21 pm
Studies have shown that for young people, simply being around peers from different ethnic and racial backgrounds may not be enough to improve attitudes toward other groups. Instead, children and adolescents also need to value spending time and forming relationships with peers from diverse groups. A new study examined how friends in middle school affect each other's attitudes about interacting with peers of different ethnicities and races, finding that they significantly influence each other's racial and ethnic views.

Young toddlers may learn more from interactive than noninteractive media

22 May 2018, 12:21 pm
Preschoolers can learn from educational television, but younger toddlers may learn more from interactive digital media (such as video chats and touchscreen mobile apps) than from TV and videos alone, which don't require them to interact. The article also notes that not all children learn to the same degree from these media.

Giant invasive flatworms found in France and overseas French territories

22 May 2018, 12:21 pm
One of the consequences of globalization is the introduction of invasive species. Giant hammerhead flatworms, or land planarians, up to 40 cm (over 1 foot) in length, are reported from France and overseas French territories.

Link between tuberculosis and Parkinson's disease discovered

22 May 2018, 12:21 pm
The mechanism our immune cells use to clear bacterial infections like tuberculosis (TB) might also be implicated in Parkinson's disease, according to a new study. The findings provide a possible explanation of the cause of Parkinson's disease and suggest that drugs designed to treat Parkinson's might work for TB too.

Kids show adult-like intuition about ownership

22 May 2018, 12:21 pm
Children as young as age three are able to make judgements about who owns an object based on its location, according to a new study.

Experimental drug eases effects of gluten for celiac patients on gluten-free diet

22 May 2018, 12:21 pm
An investigational new drug offers hope of relief for celiac disease patients who are inadvertently exposed to gluten while on a gluten-free diet. Inadvertent exposure to gluten can be a frequent occurrence for celiac patients that triggers symptoms, such as pain in the gut and diarrhea, due to intestinal damage.

Model estimates lifetime risk of Alzheimer's dementia using biomarkers

22 May 2018, 12:21 pm
Lifetime risks of developing Alzheimer's disease dementia vary considerably by age, gender and whether any signs or symptoms of dementia are present, according to a new study.

New study sheds light on the opioid epidemic and challenges prevailing views about this public health crisis

22 May 2018, 12:21 pm
A new study sheds new light on the sharp rise in fatal drug overdoses in recent years, one of the most severe public health challenges of our time. The study found that the growth in fatal overdoses for non-Hispanic whites (NHWs) aged 22-56 years was sufficiently large to account for the entire growth in mortality rates (MR) and years of potential life lost (YPLL) for this population from 1999 to 2015.

How wheat can root out the take-all fungus

22 May 2018, 12:21 pm
In the soils of the world's cereal fields, a family tussle between related species of fungi is underway for control of the crops' roots, with food security on the line. Beneficial fungi can help plants to protect themselves from cousins eager to overwhelm the roots, but it's a closely fought battle. Working out the right conditions to support those beneficial fungi and identifying the cereal varieties that are best suited to make the most of that help is no mean task.

Microsoft 3.0: A Turnaround That Looks Real

22 May 2018, 7:32 am

General Electric Is Uninvestable

22 May 2018, 6:58 am

Micron: Time For A Breakout

22 May 2018, 6:53 am

Dividend Sensei's Portfolio Update 35: If You Want To Get Rich, Follow The Data

22 May 2018, 6:21 am

Pregnant smokers may reduce harm done to baby's lungs by taking vitamin C

21 May 2018, 10:47 pm
Women who are unable to quit smoking during their pregnancy may reduce the harm smoking does to their baby's lungs by taking vitamin C, according to a new randomized, controlled trial.

Daily egg consumption may reduce cardiovascular disease

21 May 2018, 10:47 pm
People who consume an egg a day could significantly reduce their risk of cardiovascular diseases compared with eating no eggs, suggests a new study.

Higher formaldehyde risk in e-cigarettes than previously thought

21 May 2018, 10:46 pm
The researchers who published an article three years ago about the presence of previously undiscovered forms of formaldehyde in e-cigarette vapor revisited their research and found that formaldehyde risks were even higher than they originally thought.

Bought AT&T After Selling Verizon

21 May 2018, 10:31 pm

The vessel not taken: Understanding disproportionate blood flow

21 May 2018, 8:45 pm
Each time a blood vessel splits into smaller vessels, red blood cells (RBCs) are presented with the same decision: Take the left capillary or the right. While one might think RBCs would divide evenly at every fork in the road, it is known that at some junctures, RBCs seem to prefer one vessel over the other. One new computer model looks to determine why RBCs behave this way, untangling one of the biggest mysteries in our vascular system.

Sleep better, parent better: Study shows link between maternal sleep and permissive parenting

21 May 2018, 8:45 pm
A new study looks at the link between maternal sleep and permissive parenting during late adolescence. Findings show that mothers who don't get enough sleep or who take longer falling asleep have a greater tendency to engage in permissive parenting -- parenting marked by lax or inconsistent discipline.

Widespread ocean anoxia was cause for past mass extinction

21 May 2018, 7:43 pm
For decades, scientists have conducted research centered around the five major mass extinctions that have shaped the world we live in. The extinctions date back more than 450 million years with the Late Ordovician Mass Extinction to the deadliest extinction, the Late Permian extinction 250 million years ago that wiped out over 90 percent of species.

Major fossil study sheds new light on emergence of early animal life 540 million years ago

21 May 2018, 7:43 pm
All the major groups of animals appear in the fossil record for the first time around 540-500 million years ago -- an event known as the Cambrian Explosion -- but new research suggests that for most animals this 'explosion' was in fact a more gradual process.

Insufficient sleep, even without extended wakefulness, leads to performance impairments

21 May 2018, 7:42 pm
Researchers have isolated the impacts of short sleep and extended wakefulness on vigilant performance decline.

Sweet potatoes didn't originate in the Americas as previously thought

21 May 2018, 7:42 pm
Sweet potatoes may seem as American as Thanksgiving, but scientists have long debated whether their plant family originated in the Old or New World. New research by a paleobotanist suggests it originated in Asia, and much earlier than previously known.

Cisco Systems: Should We Be Worried?

21 May 2018, 1:20 pm

Land Is No Longer A Rich Man's Game

21 May 2018, 11:00 am

Chesapeake Energy Common Is Making Its Move

21 May 2018, 9:59 am

Pershing Square (Bill Ackman) Q1 2018 Investor Letter

21 May 2018, 9:04 am

Trading Mistake 7: Nvidia - No Emotional Detachment

21 May 2018, 2:58 am

6 Reasons Apple Could Keep Crushing The Market Over The Next Decade

20 May 2018, 10:05 pm

Tesla: Going The Wrong Way

20 May 2018, 6:27 pm

Buy This Burger Behemoth

20 May 2018, 5:11 pm

Bottom Fishing Again For A 9% Yield On Qualified Dividends

20 May 2018, 1:16 pm

High-Quality REIT Yielding 6% Is Off To A Strong Start, 35% Upside Potential

19 May 2018, 7:30 pm

Regretting It Already

19 May 2018, 3:54 pm

A dozen years after near-death, Star Trek’s future may be stronger than ever

19 May 2018, 2:00 pm

On May 13, 2005, Star Trek: Enterprise ended its four-season run with the controversial two-part finale, “These Are the Voyages… ” The finale infamously brought in cast members from The Next Generation to tell the final chapter in Enterprise’s story, and it was viewed by some as a disrespectful and ignominious end to 18 almost-unbroken years of Trek on the small screen.

Generously put, many fans considered this a low point in the franchise’s history. With Enterprise, some fans blamed the anemic finale on the series’ often-uneven writing. Others blamed Rick Berman, who had been Star Trek’s Nerd-in-Chief since Gene Roddenberry’s passing in 1991. And still others blamed the rise of “darker” and more heavily serialized sci-fi fare like Battlestar Galactica (although BSG showrunner Ron Moore first dabbled in this style, largely successfully, in the latter seasons of Deep Space Nine).

But no matter who or what was to blame, Trekkies everywhere were suddenly in an odd position—left to wonder if the universe they’d come to know and love for almost four decades would make it to its 50th birthday. Star Trek was off the airwaves with no successor series waiting in the wings for the first time since 1987. And for some salt in the wound, it had even been three years since the last TNG-cast film, Nemesis, which had been poorly received by most fans and critics. (Its predecessor, Insurrection, hadn’t fared much better.)

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Retirement: Should You Buy These Beaten-Down Stocks Now?

19 May 2018, 1:00 pm

Spotlight On Gambling Reset And Banking Bill

19 May 2018, 12:20 pm

Tesla: Tsunami Of Sales And Profits In Q3

19 May 2018, 11:46 am

What makes good music?

17 May 2018, 2:51 pm

HIT songs are big business, so there is an incentive for composers to try to tease out those ingredients that might increase their chances of success. This, however, is hard. Songs are complex mixtures of features. How to analyse them is not obvious and is made more difficult still by the fact that what is popular changes over time. But Natalia Komarova, a mathematician at the University of California, Irvine, thinks she has cracked the problem. As she writes in Royal Society Open Science this week, her computer analysis suggests that the songs currently preferred by consumers are danceable, party-like numbers. Unfortunately, those actually writing songs prefer something else.

Dr Komarova and her colleagues collected information on music released in Britain between 1985 and 2015. They looked in public repositories of music “metadata” that are used by music lovers and are often tapped into by academics. They compared what they found in these repositories with...Continue reading

Arctic ice brings an understanding of ancient Europe’s economy

17 May 2018, 2:51 pm

GREENLAND’S icy mountains are not an obvious place to search for an archive of economic history, but a study just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that they provide one. Joseph McConnell of the Desert Research Institute, in Reno, Nevada, and his colleagues have tracked economic activity in Europe and the Mediterranean over the centuries by measuring variations in the amount of lead in a core of Greenlandic ice. Lead is a good proxy for economic activity because it is a by-product of silvermaking (lead and silver often occur in the same ore, known as galena), and therefore of the money supply. Extracting silver from galena involves boiling off the lead. Winds from Europe carried to Greenland enough lead pollution from this process for it to be preserved in the layers of snow that, compacted, form the island’s ice cap.

Although the lead concentration in the core that Dr McConnell looked at shows many peaks and troughs, some...Continue reading

The two ways to measure how fast the universe is growing do not agree

17 May 2018, 2:51 pm

Edwin Hubble in his natural habitat

ONE of the most basic facts about the universe is that it is expanding. This observation, made by Edwin Hubble (pictured) in 1929, leads to all sorts of mind-stretching ideas. That the universe is growing implies it was smaller in the past—possibly a lot smaller. Which leads to the thought that a “Big Bang” kicked everything off. It also opens the question of whether the universe will expand for ever, or will eventually see its expansion halted and reversed by gravity, thus ending in a Big Crunch.

Things got stranger in 1998, when a group of astrophysicists discovered that the rate of expansion is increasing, for this finding raised another question in turn. The acceleration of the expansion was so great that it seemed something was actively pushing the universe apart. Thus was born the notion of “dark energy”—a new component of the cosmos, invoked to balance the equations.

Trying to work out what dark energy...Continue reading

Colombia’s national survey of its biodiversity is ambitious

17 May 2018, 2:51 pm

“BLOODY plants! Always in the way.” That is not the sort of expostulation expected of a researcher from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. But Lee Davies is not a botanist, he is a mycologist—an expert in fungi—who, at home in London, helps curate Kew’s fungarium. And, although history and convenience mean the study of fungi is often lumped together with that of plants, Dr Davies is keen to point out that mushrooms and their kin have nothing in common with the vegetable kingdom beyond their sedentary way of life.

His sentiment was particularly understandable on this occasion. Being ankle deep in mud, on a narrow trail traversing a precipitous hillside that was sloping down who-knew-how-far-or-where, and then trying to collect a specimen hidden just out of reach behind a tangle of greenery, would fray anyone’s nerves. But the specimen was duly acquired, popped in a plastic bag, labelled and carried back to base camp for processing and identification.

Dr Davies and his compadres...Continue reading

In the lab with Xbox’s new Adaptive Controller, which may change gaming forever

17 May 2018, 5:00 am

A look inside the Xbox Inclusive Tech Lab as they reveal their new controller with improved accessibility. (Video shot and edited by CNE and Justin Wolfson. Click here for transcript.)

REDMOND, Washington—The Xbox Adaptive Controller (XAC), slated to launch "later this year," looks almost incomplete at first glance. The clean, confusing-looking slab, nearly the length and width of an Xbox One S, has no joysticks. The usual selection of Xbox inputs has been reduced down to a few menu buttons, a D-pad, and two black, hand-sized pads.

Don't let the pared-down design fool you. The XAC is one of the most unique and widely useful control tools Microsoft has ever designed, and it seems poised to change the way many players interact with the games they love.

Sam Machkovech

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Porsche’s Panamera 4 E-Hybrid Sport Turismo is a heck of a hybrid

16 May 2018, 11:30 am

Jonathan Gitlin

In the next few months, Porsche is going to launch the Mission E, a sleek and powerful electric vehicle that might just be the most competition the Tesla Model S will have faced to date. However, the company has been electrifying some of its range for some time now.

We'll have to wait a while for better battery tech before we get a plug-in hybrid EV (PHEV) 911, Boxster, or Cayman, but Porsche's Panamera and Cayenne range are available now with a side helping of lithium-ion. The first PHEV Porsche appeared in 2014 in the second-generation Cayenne. It impressed us when we tested it last year, beating less powerful plug-in SUVs from BMW and Volvo when it came to fuel economy and driving fun. But the boffins in Stuttgart have been tinkering with their PHEV tech, adding more kWh, horsepower, torque, and generally refining all the software and control electronics that make everything work. They've done a fine job, if our time testing the $104,000 Panamera 4 E-Hybrid Sport Turismo is anything to go by.

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The world’s lightest wireless flying machine lifts off

15 May 2018, 4:33 pm

Where’s the swatter?

DRONES are getting ever smaller. The latest is the first insect-sized robot to take to the air without a tether delivering its power.

To get their device aloft, Sawyer Fuller of the University of Washington, in Seattle, and his colleagues, who will be presenting their work at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Brisbane later this month, had to overcome three obstacles. One is that the propellers and rotors used to lift conventional aircraft are not effective at small scales, where the viscosity of air is a problem. A second is that making circuitry and motors light enough for a robot to get airborne is hard. The third is that even the best existing batteries are too heavy to power such devices. Nature’s portable power supply, fat, packs some 20 times more energy per gram than a battery can.

In 2013 Dr Fuller, then at Harvard, was part of a team which overcame the first of these hurdles, making a robotic insect that weighed just 80mg. The team copied nature by equipping their device with a pair of wings which flapped 120 times a second (close to the frequency of a fly’s wing beat). They partly overcame the second hurdle by doing away with conventional motors and driving the wings using a piezoelectric ceramic that flexes in response to electrical...Continue reading

Nintendo Labo tests, part one: Robot Kit’s cardboard stomps are fun but shallow

13 May 2018, 3:00 pm

Sam Machkovech

There's a lot to unpack with the build-your-own-controller series of Nintendo Labo kits. Figuratively, the two boxed releases, dubbed Variety Kit and Robot Kit, include many opportunities to build, play, experiment, and learn, and that's worth exploring. Plus, they have to be literally unpacked before you can even get started—because you have to clip a zillion cardboard pieces together to turn your Switch into a range of weird toys.

As such, my colleague Kyle Orland has taken his time to play with the Variety Kit since its April 20 launch, specially because he has invited his young daughter to participate. Nintendo Labo absolutely screams parent-child participation in its advertisements, packaging, and in-game presentations, and it opens up the opportunity for families to build weird stuff like a functional piano, a motorcycle, and a Tamagotchi-like cardboard house.

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Remediating Fukushima—“When everything goes to hell, you go back to basics”

11 May 2018, 1:15 pm


Seven years on from the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011, Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has come a long way from the state it was reduced to. Once front and center in the global media as a catastrophe on par with Chernobyl, the plant stands today as the site of one of the world’s most complex and expensive engineering projects.

Beyond the earthquake itself, a well understood series of events and external factors contributed to the meltdown of three of Fukushima’s six reactors, an incident that has been characterized by nuclear authorities as the world’s second worst nuclear power accident only after Chernobyl. It’s a label that warrants context, given the scale, complexity, and expense of the decontamination and decommissioning of the plant.

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How do you define “safe driving” in terms a machine can understand?

10 May 2018, 2:54 pm

WHEN people learn to drive, they subconsciously absorb what are colloquially known as the “rules of the road”. When is it safe to go around a double-parked vehicle? When pulling out of a side street into traffic, what is the smallest gap you should try to fit into, and how much should oncoming traffic be expected to brake? The rules, of course, are no such thing: they are ambiguous, open to interpretation and rely heavily on common sense. The rules can be broken in an emergency, or to avoid an accident. As a result, when accidents happen, it is not always clear who is at fault.

All this poses a big problem for people building autonomous vehicles (AVs). They want such vehicles to be able to share the roads smoothly with human drivers and to behave in predictable ways. Above all they want everyone to be safe. That means formalising the rules of the road in a precise way that machines can understand. The problem, says Karl Iagnemma of nuTonomy, an AV firm that was spun out of the Massachusetts...Continue reading

A better way to transmit messages underwater

10 May 2018, 2:54 pm

RADIO waves cannot penetrate water, so cannot be used for submarine communication. That is why the sea is probed by sonar, not radar. But, as people and their machines venture ever farther into the deep, ways of building underwater communications networks would be welcome. And researchers at Newcastle University, in England, led by Jeff Neasham, think they have just the thing to build them with: an acoustic “nanomodem”.

Existing underwater modems, which transmit and receive data via sound, are power-hungry (consuming up to two watts when receiving messages, and as much as 35W when transmitting) and expensive (costing between £5,000 and £15,000, or $7,000-20,000). Dr Neasham’s nanomodems consume only ten milliwatts when listening, and 1W when broadcasting. They cost about £50 a pop. They are also, being about the size of a matchbox, a tenth as big and heavy as the conventional variety. But they suffer from no diminution in range. They are able, as an existing modem is, to broadcast...Continue reading

The idea that women are cyclical cuckolders bites the dust

10 May 2018, 2:54 pm

Equally unattractive at any time of the month?

ONE of the more intriguing findings in the field of evolutionary psychology over the past two decades has been that ovulating women are more strongly attracted to men with faces that have pronounced masculine characteristics, such as wide jaws and heavy brows, than to men who do not have such traits. Other research suggests men with highly masculinised faces have strong immune systems, a desirable trait in children, but also tend to form weaker long-term bonds with romantic partners, and are thus more likely to desert and leave the mother, both literally and metaphorically, holding the baby. Logic therefore suggests that a woman’s ideal evolutionary strategy is to mate with such men in secrecy, while duping less masculine (but better bonded) males into believing that the resultant offspring are their own—thus garnering reliable help in raising them.

Nearly a dozen experiments have yielded results which seem to confirm this...Continue reading

Evolution sometimes leads up blind alley

9 May 2018, 6:49 pm

This picture is of an Edith’s checkerspot butterfly laying her eggs on some blue-eyed Mary, the plant usually eaten by its caterpillars. This week’s Nature, however, describes the fate of a population of the insect in Nevada that evolved to prefer ribwort plantain, a weed introduced from Europe that is common in American cattle pastures. This particular group of checkerspots was studied for 25 years by Michael Singer and Camille Parmasan of the University of Texas at Austin. The pair watched the insects evolve gradually over the decades until they would lay their eggs only on the alien invader, which provided more abundant feeding for their larvae than blue-eyed Mary did. Dr Singer and Dr Parmasan then saw the whole population vanish within a year, when a change of land use caused ribwort to disappear, even though blue-eyed Mary was still available. The butterflies had been trapped in an evolutionary cul-de-sac.


Ubuntu 18.04: Unity is gone, GNOME is back—and Ubuntu has never been better

9 May 2018, 2:30 pm

Canonical recently released Ubuntu 18.04, the company's latest iteration of its popular Linux distribution, nicknamed Bionic Beaver. Ubuntu 18.04 is a Long Term Support (LTS) release and will receive updates and support from Canonical until April 2023. But more notably...

Unity is gone. GNOME is back. And Ubuntu has never been better.

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The Ars Technica Mother’s Day gift guide

7 May 2018, 4:15 pm

Enlarge / We're guessing Fitbits will be a pretty popular gift this Mother's Day, at least as far as gadgets go. (credit: Valentina Palladino)

We won’t knock anyone who treats their mom to a brunch date, a box of chocolates, or some jewelry this Mother’s Day. But being a collection of tech-obsessed androids, we’d be remiss not to argue that the right gadget can make a more lasting and practical impact on Mom’s everyday life.

We’re still working on our mind-reading device here at Ars HQ, so for now, you know your mom better than we do. If she likes her current routines, don’t try to force some new gadget into her life just because you think it’s cool. But if she has room for a new piece of tech—or just wants an update to an old one—we have a few Mother's Day gift ideas for you, the nerdy child, so you can grab a gadget that may not immediately get stuffed in her bedroom closet. Here’s to doing a little bit more to pay Mom back for all the annoyance you’ve caused her over the years.

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

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Ars Technica System Guide, Spring 2018: The show-your-work edition

5 May 2018, 2:30 pm

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty)

In the December 2017 System Guide, we discovered the unexpected. Given the bevy of pre-built computing devices now available, there's a lot of debate and confusion about building one yourself these days. What's the goal behind a custom PC build in 2018? What makes a certain hardware choice "right" to support that?

So rather than starting 2018 with a traditional guide—where Ars presents three build ideas and a set of specific hardware to accomplish each—we're going to take a step back. This will be more of a meta-guide than an actual guide; we're going to share the methods and mechanics behind putting together your favorite long-running PC building guide. So while this guide will build from a set of three major system design goals like always, this edition will go through each major PC hardware component one by one, focusing more on ideology than instruction, discussing how a specific part does (or doesn't) contribute to a specific construction goal.

Standard system design goals

It's not enough to say a system should be "fast" just like it's not enough to sum up a sports car with its 0-60 time on a track. A gaming-focused system that impressively renders the most demanding scenes in Crysis can still be frustratingly slow to boot... and may handle the same gaming scenes abysmally if you forgot to (or didn't want to) close your email client or your 30-tab Web browser first. A system with server intentions may effortlessly run five or 10 entire virtual machines but similarly stumble on a single demanding application. Meanwhile, a five-year-old system that doesn't have very impressive specs might feel surprisingly fast. You know you're not going to play the latest AAA games in 4K on it, and you don't expect it to handle 200 tabs in Chrome, but somehow, despite how old it is, such a build can feel comfortable.

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A pasteurisation machine for breast milk

3 May 2018, 2:49 pm

FOR the feeding of babies, everyone agrees that “breast is best”. It is not, however, always convenient. Textile workers in Bangladesh, who are mostly women, are entitled to four months’ maternity leave. Once this is over, they often end up parking their children with relatives when they are at work. Those with refrigerators at home can use breast pumps to express milk before they go on shift, and leave it behind to chill. But fridges are expensive, and many do not own one. Unchilled milk goes off within a couple of hours so the inevitable outcome for fridgeless mothers and their babies is the use of infant formula.

A chance meeting in a coffee shop in Dhaka may, though, have helped with this problem. It was between Sabrina Rasheed (pictured above, right), a child-nutrition expert at the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research in Bangladesh, and three Canadian students. Two, Scott Genin and Jayesh Srivastava, are engineers. The third, Micaela Langille-Collins, is a trainee doctor....Continue reading

How to change emotions with a word

3 May 2018, 2:49 pm

DIPLOMATS the world over know that a well-chosen turn of phrase can make or break a negotiation. But the psychological effects of different grammatical structures have not been investigated as thoroughly as they might have been. A study just published in Psychological Science, by Michal Reifen-Tagar and Orly Idan, two researchers at the Interdisciplinary Centre Herzliya, in Israel, has thrown some light on the matter. Dr Reifen-Tagar and Dr Idan have confirmed that a good way to use language to reduce tension is to rely, whenever possible, on nouns rather than verbs.

Dr Idan, a psycholinguist, knew from previous work that the use of an adjective instead of a noun in a sentence (“Jewish” rather than “Jew”, for example) can shape both judgment and behaviour. Likewise, Dr Reifen-Tagar, a social psychologist, knew from her own earlier research that successful diplomacy often hinges on managing anger in negotiating parties. Putting their heads together, they...Continue reading

Block 5 rocket launch marks the end of the beginning for SpaceX

3 May 2018, 1:10 pm

Enlarge / SpaceX has tinkered with its Falcon 9 rocket for a decade. Now, it says it's done. (credit: SpaceX)

Less than eight years after its maiden launch, the Falcon 9 booster has become the most dominant rocket in the world. Modern and efficient, no rocket launched more than the 70m Falcon 9 booster launched last year. Barring catastrophe, no rocket seems likely to launch more this year.

In part, SpaceX has achieved this level of efficiency by bringing a Silicon Valley mindset to the aerospace industry. The company seeks to disrupt, take chances, and, like so many relentless start-up companies, drive employees to work long hours to meet demanding engineering goals.

While founder Elon Musk’s ambitions to settle Mars get most of the public’s attention, the company’s workhorse Falcon 9 rocket, which almost never leaves Earth orbit, is the reason SpaceX has soared to date. And on this vehicle, Musk’s company has imprinted its ethos of disruption and innovation by seeking every opportunity to improve the rocket.

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Oculus Go review: The wireless-VR future begins today for only $199

1 May 2018, 5:30 pm

Enlarge / Facebook just announced the immediate retail availability of Oculus Go—and we've already had a week to test it. (credit: Sam Machkovech)

Surprise! Oculus released a new virtual reality headset today. The Oculus Go standalone headset is now for sale at Amazon, Newegg, and Best Buy starting at $199—yes, $199, with no other hardware required—following a retail-launch unveil at Facebook's annual F8 conference.

What's more, Oculus sent us a working headset last week for the sake of a review—and I have no shortage of thoughts about what Oculus has gotten right with its first "budget" VR product. Before I break down performance, software, features, and limitations, I want to set the scene by rewinding to another era in which a "futuristic" gadget sector began plummeting in price.

Let's travel back to the very beginnings of the portable MP3 player market.

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Google I/O 2018 preview—What we’re expecting from Google’s big show

30 Apr 2018, 5:40 pm


Google's biggest show of the year, I/O 2018, will start up in just a few days. In addition to tons of developer talks, the show typically serves as a coming-out party for a bevy of Google announcements.

I/O hasn't necessarily been your typical tech announcement event where months of pre-leaks reveal 90 percent of what will happen. But while we can't know what's coming for certain—everyone remembers those skydivers wearing augmented reality glasses, right?—we can go into this year's show with a few informed predictions. Based on our analysis of evidence, past news, and Google's usual release schedules, here's what we're expecting at Google I/O 2018.

Android P Developer Preview 2

This first one is easy. Every year Google releases a new developer preview of Android at I/O, and Google's own schedule says we'll get a new developer preview in "May," the same month as Google I/O. A new preview of Android P is pretty much a lock. The real question is "What do we expect in the second Android P Preview?"

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Life in (virtual) pit lane: The war stories of video game car design

28 Apr 2018, 2:00 pm

Enlarge / Variety is the spice of life, and Forza Motorsport 7 has a lot of variety. Early racing games, though? Phew... (credit: Turn 10 Studios)

Like it or not, there’s no denying that the entire history of video games as a popular medium can be told through the steady evolution of three simple acts: shooting a pistol, jumping from platform to platform, and redlining a car’s engine. Even as gaming has democratized over the past decade—with eased access to development tools like Unity ensuring that more offbeat or intellectual fare has the chance to find an audience—the traditional big-budget core of the market has become even more monolithic. Today, only a handful of so-called triple-A developers churns out a steady stream of military-taupe shooters like Call of Duty or sun-spangled racers like Turn 10 Studio’s Forza series.

For that last category of gaming fans, this thinning at the top has devastated the once-diverse racing genre, largely due to the ever-increasing technological standards and demands of today. Players continue to thirst for the feeling of gliding a Lamborghini around a gentle curve rendered as accurately as possible, and only a handful of studios currently has the budget or the infrastructure to keep up.

But if you talk with veteran artists who put hours and hours into these games over the years, this technological arms race has always whirred beneath the shining surface of the pristine racing sims that players know and love. Today, Turn 10 and others continue to push the boundaries of photorealism past the “uncanny valley,” but 25 years ago it took a similar amount of dedication and know-how simply to make any car appear 3D rather than 2D.

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A beginner’s guide to the world of weird and wonderful Japanese import cars

26 Apr 2018, 12:30 pm

Enlarge / Warning: Reading this article may send you into a portal that involves a lot of Craigslist browsing, research into Japanese auto brokers, and increased familiarity with foreign-language parts websites. (credit: Aurich Lawson)

Did you grow up playing Gran Turismo, marveling over the weird and wonderful Japanese market (JDM) cars that never made it to these shores? If you, too, always wanted to drive JDM exotica like a Nissan Skyline, Toyota Century, or Mazda Cosmo, prepare yourself for good news.

H.R.2628, the "Imported Vehicle Safety Compliance Act of 1988," has long been a thorn for automotive enthusiasts in the USA. This is the official reason why, after you discovered those cars in Gran Turismo, you couldn’t actually buy one. Known as the ‘25 Year Rule,' H.R.2628 essentially requires auto enthusiasts to wait 25 years to the month from when a vehicle was first manufactured before it can be legally imported if the vehicle wasn’t originally meant for sale in the US market.

Take something like the Nissan Skyline mentioned above. The company never offered it for sale in the US, which means Paul Walker’s famous R34 Skyline GT-R in 2 Fast 2 Furious isn’t legal for import. The R34 was first manufactured in 1999, placing the earliest year for importing under H.R. 2628 at 2024. Sure, there are various places in the US that will smuggle vehicles newer than 25 years into the country and play the "state legal" game (where they act like state legality somehow overrides federal law), but this isn't true. At any time, a Nissan Skyline-importer can be caught and have their car taken away with zero recourse.

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How to make your old Game Boy as good as (or better than) new

24 Apr 2018, 2:45 pm

Enlarge / Fixing and upgrading old Game Boys is a fun way to revive and personalize your old tech; it's also a great excuse for revisiting some classic games. (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

Old Nintendo consoles are clearly having a Moment.

This interest has been spurred in part by official hardware releases like the NES and SNES Classic Editions, tiny replica consoles that have more in common with your smartphone than with the original hardware. But lots of people still want to dig out their old cartridges and play games on actual hardware, as evidenced by the Analogue NT, the Super NT, and Hyperkin’s unabashed Game Boy Pocket clone.

It’s that last one I want to focus on. Nintendo’s retro revival has so far focused mostly on the classic boxes that you hooked to a TV, ignoring the portables that buoyed Nintendo when home consoles like the GameCube and Wii U faltered. But Hyperkin’s backlit Game Boy clone and the (heretofore totally unsubstantiated) rumors about a Game Boy Classic Edition suggest that people want to relive their long childhood car trips just like they want to relive hours in the basement parked in front of a TV and an NES.

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Experts say Tesla has repeated car industry mistakes from the 1980s

22 Apr 2018, 1:30 pm

Tesla Factory in Fremont, California, 2016. (credit: Maurizio Pesce / Flickr)

Production had been halted for much of last week in Tesla's car factory in Fremont, California, and its battery factory near Clark, Nevada. In a Tuesday note to employees, CEO Elon Musk said that the pause was necessary to lay the groundwork for higher production levels in the coming weeks. Musk said he wants all parts of the company ready to prepare 6,000 Model 3 cars per week by the end of June, triple the rate Tesla has achieved in the recent weeks.

The announcement caps a nine-month period of turmoil that Musk has described as "production hell" as Tesla has struggled to ramp up production of the Model 3.

Tesla had high hopes for its Model 3 production efforts. In 2016, Musk hired Audi executive Peter Hochholdinger to plan the manufacturing process, and Business Insider described his plans in late 2016: "Hochholdinger's view is that robots could be a much bigger factor in auto production than they are currently, largely because many components are designed to be assembled by humans, not machines."

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Android Go review—Google’s scattershot attempt at a low-end Android OS

20 Apr 2018, 11:00 am

Enlarge (credit: Android)

Here in the US and other developed countries, the smartphone and Internet markets are more or less saturated—most people are online and swiping away at their smartphones. This isn't the case everywhere though—only about half of the worldwide population is on the Internet. That means there are more than 3.5 billion people that don't have access to the largest collection of human knowledge (and dank memes) ever assembled.

These throngs of disconnected people come from poorer countries, so when they do eventually get online, they will do so via the most inexpensive devices they can get. The cheapest online-capable devices we make are also the smallest: smartphones. And on smartphones, unless you're spending several hundred dollars on an Apple device, there's one OS out there: Android.

Google has taken to calling these people the "next billion users" and has been chasing them for some time with various programs. The effort we're looking at today, Android Go, is Google's largest to date. It offers the whole Android package but reworked with entry-level phones in mind.

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Despite alien theories and novel mutations, the real Ata puzzle may be ethical

18 Apr 2018, 12:15 pm

Enlarge (credit: Bhattacharya et al. 2018)

In 2003, Oscar Munoz found a mummy in the Atacama Desert ghost town of La Noria. The six-inch-long mummy, now called Ata, has an elongated skull, oddly shaped eye sockets, and only ten pairs of ribs... which helped fuel wild speculation that she was an alien hybrid. Ata was sold several times—probably illegally—and ended up in the private collection of Barcelona entrepreneur and UFO enthusiast Ramón Navia-Osorio. A 2013 documentary called Sirius soon helped immortalize Ata, focusing heavily on the alien hybrid claims.

When a team led by University of California, San Francisco bioinformatics researcher Sanchita Bhattacharya recently sequenced the tiny mummy’s genome, however, it revealed only a girl of Chilean descent. There were a complicated set of genetic mutations, including some usually associated with bone and growth disorders and a few more that have never been described before. Those mutations, the researchers claim, may help explain her unusual appearance.

It’s easy to see why the team's March paper attracted so much interest: a high-profile urban legend was fully debunked at last, but now there were hints at compelling medical discoveries. Most press outlets presented the results as conclusive, cut-and-dried science—except for a few UFO fan sites that loudly insisted the study was part of a cover-up. But even beyond the extraterrestrial exchanges, things have gotten very complicated, both in terms of the scientific claims and in terms of whether the research should have been done at all.

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The billion-dollar question: How does the Clipper mission get to Europa?

16 Apr 2018, 12:30 pm

Enlarge / The politics of getting to Europa are anything but straightforward. (credit: NASA)

LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE, Calif.—At one end of the conference room, four large window panes framed a view of the San Gabriel Mountains. Outside, ribbons of greenery snaked across the hills, a vestige of spring before the dry summer season descends upon Los Angeles.

Inside, deep in discussion, a dozen men and women sat around a long, oval-shaped wooden conference table. They were debating how best to send a daring mission, known as Europa Clipper, to Jupiter’s mysterious, icy moon Europa. Although hundreds of scientists and engineers were already planning and designing this spacecraft, the key decisions were being made in this room on the top floor of the administrative building at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

It will not be cheap or easy to reach Europa, which lies within the complicated gravitational tangle of Jupiter and its dozens of moons, 600 million kilometers from Earth. But the payoff, scientists feel, is potentially incalculable. Beneath Europa’s ice, perhaps just a few kilometers down in some areas, lies the most vast ocean known to humans. With abundant energy emanating from the moon’s interior into the ocean, scientists speculate life might exist—probably just microbes, but why not something krill-like, too?

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God of War (2018): How to reinvent a beloved series without ruining what works

12 Apr 2018, 7:01 am

Enlarge / "It really has been a meaningful journey full of mutual understanding, hasn't it son?" / "Dad, let go, I want to go play with my friends!"

Hey, remember Kratos? You know, Kratos... the bloodthirsty Greek god in the God of War series who slaughtered thousands upon thousands of victims, both mortal and immortal, with an icy cold heart largely devoid of mercy?

Well... get this. What if Kratos had a kid sidekick? And what if that kid was a sickly, sensitive weakling? Wouldn't that just be crazy?

This concept drives the new God of War reboot for the PS4, and at the start it plays out a lot like the cringe-worthy, sitcom-level twist you'd expect from such a pitch. Kratos is now bearded, slightly more aged, and relocated to the cold and unfamiliar climes of Scandinavia. He's paying his final respects to a wife we don't get to see. Left behind with Kratos is a son, the small and frail Atreus, who is over-eager to accompany his dad on a quest to spread his mom's ashes from "the highest peak in all the realms." (That's a welcome respite from the usual "save/destroy the world" impetus driving most action games, at least.)

After a slow and somewhat annoying start, though, Atreus proves to be just the shot in the arm this series needed for a new generation of consoles and players. The addition of a child to play off adds much-needed depth and development to the remorseless revenge machine featured in previous God of War games.

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The way we regulate self-driving cars is broken—here’s how to fix it

10 Apr 2018, 12:00 pm

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty)

Last month, an Uber self-driving car struck and killed pedestrian Elaine Herzberg in Tempe, Arizona. The tragedy highlights the need for a fundamental rethink of the way the federal government regulates car safety.

The key issue is this: the current system is built around an assumption that cars will be purchased and owned by customers. But the pioneers of the driverless world—including Waymo, Cruise, and Uber—are not planning to sell cars to the public. Instead, they're planning to build driverless taxi services that customers will buy one ride at a time.

This has big implications for the way regulators approach their jobs. Federal car regulations focus on ensuring that a car is safe at the moment it rolls off the assembly line. But as last month's crash makes clear, the safety of a driverless taxi service depends on a lot more than just the physical features of the cars themselves.

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