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Industry & Technology

Paying people to preserve forests really seems to work

Ars Technica - July 21, 2017 - 4:38pm

Enlarge (credit: Kate Evans for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR))

We’re trashing the world not because it’s fun, but because it pays to do so. People respond to financial incentives. So, how do you provide an incentive to stop trashing the world? One idea is to use cold, hard cash. If people earn more by not trashing, the thinking goes, the incentive flips: it suddenly pays to conserve. Based on this idea, a trial program in Uganda paid landowners to preserve the forest on their land and tracked the results.

It turned out not to be so simple—people don’t always neatly do what they’re supposed to. What if these landowners were already concerned about deforestation and were already preserving their land? You’ve just forked out quite a bit to pay for something that was already going to happen. Or what if they just cut down trees elsewhere instead? Figuring out whether the benefits of the program are worth the cost requires collecting a lot of data.

A paper in Science this week reports on the results, which are encouraging: deforestation slowed to about half the previous rate, and it looks as though people didn’t just shift their forest clearing elsewhere. The program benefits seem to have outweighed the costs, whichever way you slice it. In other words, money provides a great incentive to preserve habitats, which is great news for climate change efforts.

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2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody Release Date, Price and Specs - Roadshow - Reviews - July 21, 2017 - 4:24pm
Though not a trackday special to rival the likes of the Camaro ZL1, the new Hellcat Widebody finally has enough grip to manage all that power. Almost enough, anyway.

Fox's Comic-Con Panel and the Case of the Mysteriously Absent X-Men Universe

Wired - July 21, 2017 - 4:23pm
The studio's biggest comic-book properties were suspiciously absent during their Hall H presentation.

Cartoon bunnies are hacking your brain - CNET - News - July 21, 2017 - 4:15pm
VR's mind tricks can teleport you into a Pixar-like world where your role and "smart" characters suck you deeper into the story.

Pull on yer wellies and let's wade through the week's storage news

The Register - July 21, 2017 - 4:04pm
But Muuuuuum...

A mudslide of storage news has mired Vulture Central and we're up to our waists in it. Alas, this seems to be becoming a weekly occurrence. We waded through it, sorted it out, tidied it up, and mopped the floors.…

Mario Kart director philosophical about need for the blue shell

Ars Technica - July 21, 2017 - 4:02pm

Enlarge / Love it or hate it, Mario Kart's director see the blue shell is a necessary part of the Mario Kart formula. (credit: YouTube / ZaziNombies)

Since its introduction in Mario Kart 64, the blue shell has become a universal shorthand for the perils of video game rubber-banding; an item I called "scourge of the skillful and the great white hope of the novice" in my own Mario Kart 8 review. Targeting the first-place player with a nigh-unstoppable projectile from anywhere on the course is a perfect encapsulation of the series' focus on giving everyone playing a chance rather than letting pure racing skill win the day by default.

Love it or hate it, the blue shell is a necessary part of the game, according to Mario Kart 7 and 8 director Kosuke Yabuki. In a recent interview with Eurogamer, Yabuki said Mario Kart just doesn't feel like Mario Kart without the item.

"We're always experimenting with what new elements to introduce or what elements can be removed," Yabuki told the site. "We have tried—or we are trying—to see what the game's like without the blue shell. When we've experimented without the blue shell, actually it feels like something's missing. Like there's something not quite enough in the game. So for now we've kept it in."

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Nokia 8 Release Date, Price and Specs - CNET - Reviews - July 21, 2017 - 3:56pm
Two rear cameras and a speedy processor top the rumor list.

Amazon discounts are misleading you, consumer group says - CNET - News - July 21, 2017 - 3:50pm
The Federal Trade Commission reportedly is looking into Amazon's discount policy after a Consumer Watchdog complaint.

2018 Subaru Impreza adds new features, higher price tag - Roadshow - News - July 21, 2017 - 3:48pm
The price bump isn't all that much, so don't expect it to break the bank all of a sudden.

Yes, ancient civilizations on Mars sounds crazy. And yet…

Ars Technica - July 21, 2017 - 3:34pm

Enlarge / Crater water ice on Mars at Vastitas Borealis, seen by the European Space Agency's Mars Express. (credit: ESA)

This week we all had a good laugh at the expense of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), who asked NASA scientists during a committee hearing whether it was possible that a civilization existed on Mars thousands of years ago. "Would you rule that out?" he asked. "See, there's some people... Well, anyway."

Rohrabacher is an interesting figure in Washington, whose once-idiosyncratic views seem largely in vogue with those of the new administration. Politico called Rohrabacher "Putin's favorite Congressman" in a mini-profile last year. Like Trump, the Congressman has also has called climate change a hoax. In a 2014 letter to President Obama, Rohrabacher wrote, "Mr. President, we both know I have referred to the theory of man-made global warming as a 'hoax,' and, yes, I once used to the phrase 'dinosaur flatulence' as a soft jab at what I considered to be climate alarmism."

So after Rohrabacher's question—which seemed driven by some arcane conspiracy theory given his use of "some people"—it was curious that one of his few defenders was a well known climate scientist, Gavin Schmidt. "To be fair, NASA astrobiology is very interested in this (and similar) questions. Not sure why it's out-of-bounds to ask," the NASA climate modeler wrote on Twitter.

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Amazon will pay full price to US retailers to boost its inventory [Update]

Ars Technica - July 21, 2017 - 3:24pm


Amazon sells a wide variety of products, but you can't buy anything and everything through the online retailer. The company is reportedly trying to change this by sacrificing huge profits in favor of efficiency—according to a CNBC report, Amazon contacted thousands of third-party retailers via e-mail about taking part in a new program in which Amazon would buy their inventory at full price. Amazon would then be able to sell those products on its website, allowing it to quickly fulfill more orders around the world.

According to the e-mail obtained by CNBC, Amazon is offering "no additional fees" for a limited time for the third-party retailers that choose to be part of the new program. Amazon will buy their inventory at local market price, meaning Amazon likely won't make much of a profit on those items if and when they sell on its website. But according to an Amazon spokesperson that confirmed the authenticity of the e-mail, profit isn't the biggest goal of this program.

"When items are unavailable in a particular geography, we provide customers with selection from another marketplace," the spokesperson said. "This offers customers a wider selection of great brands and helps sellers increase sales."

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Mercedes E-Class All-Terrain 4x4^2 is a dystopian wagon-tank - Roadshow - News - July 21, 2017 - 3:20pm
Where you're going, you won't need roads. No, seriously, you won't.

You'll never need roads with the Mercedes E-Class All-Terrain 4x4^2 - Roadshow - News - July 21, 2017 - 3:20pm
Built on a lark, the All Terrain 4x4^2 is never going to be something you'll find at the dealership.

Legal boffins poke holes in EU lawmaker's ePrivacy proposals

The Register - July 21, 2017 - 3:08pm
Recommend amendments on privacy, tracking and encryption

The European Commission's proposed ePrivacy law needs significant amendments, particularly on location tracking and keeping people's communications confidential, according to an in-depth study.…

Total Solar Eclipse: Guess How Many People Can Actually Watch?

Wired - July 21, 2017 - 3:00pm
When a total solar eclipse passes over the US on August 21, nerds will flock to the areas where they can see a total blackout. How many of them can fit?

Get 1TB of cloud storage for life for $30 - CNET - News - July 21, 2017 - 2:58pm
An even better deal on this unique service, which gives you 500GB of Dropbox-like space and 500GB for backups. Plus: Get Shadow Warrior: Special Edition for free (normally $50) and a huge assortment of free Microsoft ebooks!

Most weapons on the dark web come from US, study finds - CNET - News - July 21, 2017 - 2:42pm
New research investigates guns, explosives and ammunition available in online black markets.

Facebook seeks patent for a modular device - CNET - News - July 21, 2017 - 2:30pm
Could Facebook be trying to succeed where Google's Project Ara has so far failed?

What is this – some kind of flashy, 3-bit consumer SSD? Eh, Seagate?

The Register - July 21, 2017 - 2:27pm
Nytro new PC disk replacement line of SSDs

Seagate has a new line of Nytro consumer SSDs coming using 3-bits/cell flash.…

FDA not amused by coffee laced with Viagra-like drugs, issues recall

Ars Technica - July 21, 2017 - 2:11pm

(credit: N i c o l a)

A cup of this brew will certainly get you up in the morning. But the Food and Drug Administration is not having it.

The agency announced a second voluntary recall of a coffee product laced with a Viagra-like drug. The latest recall affects the uniquely named “New of Kopi Jantan Tradisional Natural Herbs Coffee” product, distributed by Bestherbs Coffee LLC. As in other cases, the owner of Bestherbs Coffee suspects that a common herbal ingredient used in the coffee was purposefully contaminated to cut down on costs.

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