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Industry & Technology

A farewell to kings? New ideas on the vanishing monarch butterflies

Ars Technica - 1 hour 41 min ago

Enlarge (credit: US Fish and Wildlife)

Everybody loves monarch butterflies. Author Anurag Agrawal refers to them as “the Bambi of the insect world.” They are specifically bred to be released at weddings; their image has been pressed into service as the symbol of environmental organizations like the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Non-GMO project.

This popularity makes them a great research system for two reasons. First, funding is abundant and easy to drum up. And, unlike other darlings of conservationists—like polar bears, which look like cute, cuddly stuffed animals—monarch butterflies are bugs. So animal rights activists don’t really get worked up when scientists breed them and experiment on them, then sacrifice them and grind up their bodies for analysis.

Regular donations and a lack of harassment from PETA, however convenient though they may be, are hardly the only reasons why Agrawal has devoted his life to studying monarchs or why he has written a book about them called Monarchs and Milkweed: A Migrating Butterfly, a Poisonous Plant, and Their Remarkable Story of Coevolution. Monarches and their sole food source, the toxic milkweed plant, provide a great example of coevolution.

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Wilson’s Heart is Oculus’ most interesting VR misfire yet

Ars Technica - 2 hours 41 min ago

When will a VR system finally get an honest-to-goodness adventure? Early adopters and curious onlookers continue to ask this question, wondering when they'll get their own unique, hours-upon-hours mix of story, puzzles, battles, and thrills.

The closest answer up until now remains the incredible and memorable Resident Evil 7. However, that's a bit of a cheat, since it launched primarily for normal TV displays with an optional, albeit awesome, VR mode attached. Thus, the hunt's still on—and the folks at Oculus have been crowing for months about how their upcoming game Wilson's Heart would do the trick.

I'm not just here to inform you that Oculus's high-budget, high-production-value attempt missed the mark—especially for those readers who don't own an Oculus and high-end PC to match. Rather, I'm interested in exploring just how this week's new game, which once looked quite promising, slammed to Earth with melted wings on its back—and what that says for the current state of VR gaming.

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While You Were Offline: Hey Please Don’t Call Trump’s New Hotline to Report UFOs

Wired - 3 hours 41 min ago
The hotline was set up to help people report crimes allegedly committed by undocumented immigrants. The post While You Were Offline: Hey Please Don’t Call Trump's New Hotline to Report UFOs appeared first on WIRED.

Undeveloped microbiomes make infants more prone to illness

Ars Technica - 3 hours 41 min ago

Wild rodents spread more than 35 diseases. Pet mice and rats carry much fewer, luckily, but the diseases they do spread include rat bit fever and Leptospirosis. (credit: ArtBrom)

As every parent knows, newborns and infants are extremely prone to infections. This increased susceptibility is typically attributed to babies’ immature immune systems—since they’re so new to the world, babies haven’t been exposed to many pathogens yet. But there may be more to this phenomenon than previously thought. A recent paper published in Science suggests that infants’ underdeveloped gut microbiomes may be largely responsible for their increased susceptibility to infection.

The microbiome is a diverse community of organisms living in a single environment, including environments like the bodies of larger animals. In humans, the bulk of the microbiome is in the intestines, where these tiny organisms help us digest food and regulate some of our body’s responses to our diet. However, studying the microbiome in humans is challenging for practical and ethical reasons. As a result, mice have the most widely studied mammalian microbiomes.

The recent Science paper provides new insights into how the microbiome interacts with a mouse’s ability to resist infection. For this study, germ-free adult mice were given a transplant of gut contents from either neonatal mice, adolescent mice, or adult mice. The transplant came from the first few inches of the large intestine/colon, so this transplant process was not dissimilar to a stool transplant (more commonly known as a poop transplant). These transplants altered the gut microbiome of the recipient so that it matched the donor mouse’s.

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A Cosmic-Ray Hunter Closes in on Super-Energetic Particles

Wired - 4 hours 41 min ago
Angela Olinto's new balloon experiment takes her one step closer to the unknown source of the most energetic particles in the universe. The post A Cosmic-Ray Hunter Closes in on Super-Energetic Particles appeared first on WIRED.

Samsung Galaxy S8 vs. LG G6: Which one's the smarter buy? - CNET - News - 4 hours 42 min ago
Both the Galaxy S8 and G6 have big screens, water resistance and premium looks. But which one is the better way to go?

Parents coming to visit? This tech can help - CNET - News - 4 hours 42 min ago
Make family visits smoother and less stressful with a few smart upgrades.

How they created that astonishing 'American Gods' sex scene - CNET - News - 4 hours 42 min ago
A trap door and plenty of effects magic. Actor Yetide Badaki reveals just how complex it was to film that startling sequence in the first episode.

The Unsettling Performance That Showed the World Through AI’s Eyes

Wired - 5 hours 42 min ago
Artist Trevor Paglen is best known for images of the security state. Now he's collaborating with Kronos Quartet and Obscura Digital to explore AI. The post The Unsettling Performance That Showed the World Through AI’s Eyes appeared first on WIRED.

What if You Could Grow a Baby in a Bottle?

Wired - 5 hours 42 min ago
An artificial womb to help premies makes you wonder where the technology could go next. The post What if You Could Grow a Baby in a Bottle? appeared first on WIRED.

Inside the Conspiracy Theory That Turned Syria’s First Responders Into Terrorists

Wired - 5 hours 42 min ago
Social media brought the White Helmets and their work to the world's attention—then it made them a bogeyman for the alt-right. The post Inside the Conspiracy Theory That Turned Syria's First Responders Into Terrorists appeared first on WIRED.

Doctor Who: Thin Ice review

Ars Technica - 14 hours 37 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Jon Hall/BBC)

This is a post-UK broadcast review of Doctor Who. River Song always warned the Doctor against spoilers, so be sure to watch the episode first. Doctor Who broadcasts on Saturdays at 7:20pm UK time on BBC One, and 9pm EDT on BBC America.

Thin Ice is a classic, thoroughly entertaining Doctor Who episode with a plot that finally breaks the ice on series 10 of the popular sci-fi show, while still having time to put kids (both on screen and the hide-behind-the-sofa variety) at the center of the story.

There is more room for Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie) to discover what the Doctor's motivations are—alongside a good dash of Time Lord ethics: "if I don't move on, more people die," he says as a little boy disappears under the ice, never to be seen again. But when he's challenged by Bill, the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) says: "I'm 2,000 years old and I've never had the time for the luxury of outrage."

Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Game over for Amazon's free apps and games program - CNET - News - 15 hours 45 min ago
Amazon's Underground Actually Free program, which lets you grab premium apps for nothing, won't be around forever, folks.

'Orange Is the New Black' season 5 reportedly leaked by hackers - CNET - News - 15 hours 52 min ago
A hacking group threatens to target other shows after claiming to put 10 episodes of Netflix's tentpole series online in an apparent ransom attempt.

CNET UK podcast 519: Filtering the facts with BBC's QI's chief Elf - CNET - News - 15 hours 54 min ago
James Harkin, head of research for BBC's QI joins the show to discuss how to filter the world's knowledge and brings a few tech facts to blow our minds.

Schoolboy given goggles to regain sight

BBC Technology News - 17 hours 35 min ago
Charlie, now eight, started losing his sight aged four, and has only been able to see close up until now.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe: Join us for 47 minutes of live gameplay - CNET - News - April 29, 2017 - 10:42pm
Watch us race through Nintendo Switch's hottest new party game.

The death of the smartphone is further away than you think. And there is no 'Next Big Thing'

ZDnet News - April 29, 2017 - 10:22pm
The smartphone represents the latest major platform shift, and it may also be the last one. We will still need the smartphone's functionality, and no wearable device looks like offering a single viable replacement. Pacific Crest's Ben Wilson suggests looking for a range of AI-based devices instead

Steve Ballmer takes excitement to new levels of crazy - CNET - News - April 29, 2017 - 9:16pm
Commentary: At Friday night's Game 6 between his Los Angeles Clippers and the Utah Jazz, the former Microsoft CEO offers self-expressions that might frighten some.

Toxic algae on the rise as our oceans warm

Ars Technica - April 29, 2017 - 9:00pm

Enlarge (credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

Global ocean temperatures have been rising, but the consequences of these increases are not fully clear. A recent paper published in PNAS clarifies one of them by showing that harmful algal blooms have already become more intense.

Some types of algae naturally produce toxins. When these algae grow rapidly, they create a bloom that can kill off other species in the same ecosystem. A number of species (including Alexandrium fundyense and Dinophysis acuminate) produces toxins that accumulate in shellfish. People who eat these shellfish can experience paralytic or diarrhetic shellfish poisoning. So these blooms can hurt aquatic ecosystems, fisheries, and people.

The recent paper in PNAS used data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to model sea-surface temperatures and track algal blooms. These models showed that warming in the North Atlantic since 1982 has significantly increased the growth rate of the two most dangerous species of algae. For both of these species, algal blooms have grown to cover a much larger area of the oceans in the last 35 years. Additionally, the length of bloom season has increased by as much as eight weeks over that same time period.

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