Thursday, January 31, 2019

"The Wild Experiment That Showed Evolution in Real Time"

Ed Yong:

In the fall of 2010, Rowan Barrett was stuck. He needed a piece of land, one with plenty of mice, and after days of futile searching, he found himself at a motel bar in Valentine, Nebraska, doing what people do at bars: telling a total stranger about his problems.

A young evolutionary biologist, Barrett had come to Nebraska’s Sand Hills with a grand plan. He would build large outdoor enclosures in areas with light or dark soil, and fill them with captured mice. Over time, he would see how these rodents adapted to the different landscapes—a deliberate, real-world test of natural selection, on a scale that biologists rarely attempt.

But first, he had to find the right spots: flat terrain with the right color soil, an abundance of mice, and a willing owner. The last of these was proving especially elusive, Barrett bemoaned. Local farmers weren’t keen on giving up valuable agricultural land to some random out-of-towner. After knocking on door after door, he had come up empty. Hence: the bar.

Barrett’s drinking companion—Bill Ward, or Wild Bill to his friends—thought the idea was bizarre, but also fun. “He told me, ‘I’ve got this alfalfa field. You’re welcome to come by tomorrow. I’m okay with you building this thing,’” Barrett said to me. “I just about fell out of my chair.”


“Utter ignorance was a good thing,” said Barrett, who had, until this point, only ever worked with small fish. “Anyone who had worked with mice would have never attempted this.”
And speaking of animals:
A Northern California beach is unable to be reopened after it was closed due to the partial government shutdown, because it has been overrun with elephant seals.


“I’ve not seen anything like this here with these numbers,” John Dell’Osso, the chief of interpretation and resource education for the seashore, told the San Francisco Bay Area CBS. “An occasional rogue elephant seal, yes, but nothing like this.”

Point Reyes National Seashore is home to around 1,500 elephant seals that typically frequent Chimney Beach, which features 100-foot-cliffs that keep them hidden from the general public. But during the shutdown, the colony moved from its usual spot to an area at Drakes Beach, usually populated with tourists, by knocking down a fence.

Good episode of Star Trek Discovery this week

Doctor Aphra Vol. 3: Remastered is 78% off right now

$3.99 currently at Amazon as part of their Star Wars sale. Fun series.

Princess Peach and Luigi-themed Switch controllers

Both Gamecube-inspired controllers are available for preorder.

"How a teenage 'Fortnite' player found Apple's FaceTime bug — and why it was so hard to report it"


a 14-year-old high school student in Tucson, Arizona, just wanted to chat with friends and play some "Fortnite" when he discovered a major bug in Apple's popular FaceTime feature.


[He] brought his discovery to his mother . . . a lawyer.


For the next week, [she] tried to notify Apple of the flaw through a variety of avenues, many of which were dead ends.

Ten funny tweets

"The sidewalk is still sinking in SF's Mission Bay. It could liquefy during an earthquake"


Mission Bay isn't the only neighborhood in the Bay Area that's sinking. Treasure Island, SFO Airport and Foster City are sinking "as fast as 10 millimeters per year."

"Lowe's is discontinuing its Iris smart home line -- and even ending online support for existing Iris products"


Given that some gadgets are transferable and customers can get a refund for others, Lowe's is handling the Iris shutdown better than other extinct hubs. The popular Revolv hub ended up completely bricked when parent company Nest shut down the service and all compatible gear was rendered useless.
The UltraViolet digital locker service is going away

"the Patriots coaches have a room at Gillette Stadium with a float tank that simulates four to five hours of sleep in 40 minutes"

Says Josh McDaniels.

From a 2017 article:

Tom Brady is a proponent and reportedly keeps a float tank of his own at home to help him remain atop his game as he nears 40.


The edge, then, as players describe it, isn't necessarily in the relaxation experienced while in the tank. It's that those moments of relaxation lead to better sleep later on. Improved quality of sleep is a very good thing for an athlete, of course, since it's linked to improved reaction time, quicker physical recovery, and an increased capacity for learning.
And speaking of Super Bowl coverage:

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

"seeing people walking on that road is pretty normal for me. Seeing random people standing on my patio is not"

Terrifying story with a twist ending:

When I was 9 I usually got home from school about an hour before my mom got home from work. I live maybe 50 meters away from school so my mom figured I was mature enough to be home alone for around an hour before she got home. This one day I got home from school. I did the usual thing which was to make sure I locked the front door, and double checked that the back door leading to the patio was also locked. (I was 9, being alone was a little scary even though it was in the middle of the day and only for one hour) I then rushed to my room upstairs to play as much PlayStation as possible before my mom came home and made me do homework.

While playing, I heard this noise coming from outside my window. (My room was located one floor over the patio, with a view to the road I told you about before) It was kinda like the sound of a cat. But my cat had been missing for over three months. Hope sparked and I thought “OMG, did he finally come back?!” I ran downstairs to check if it was my cat, but the sight that met me gives me goosebumps just writing this.

There was a guy standing on my patio. A tall guy with black hair covering half of his eyes, making him look like a male version of the ring women or something. I could hear him making high pitched sounds, almost like a cat meowing. A brown liquid was running down from his mouth, and I could see him spitting out my dads stomped cigarettes. He was actually eating from the ashtray. I was frozen observing this, eventually snapped out of it and screamed so loud that the man must have heard it. He didn’t react, he kept on eating from the ashtray.

I ran upstairs to my room

"Sweetheart Is a Diamond-Sharp, No-Nonsense Survival Thriller"


The need to leave this place soon becomes more urgent. Exploring the area, Jennifer comes across an old abandoned campground with a few rusty supplies, and what appears to be a dug-up grave. (Also found: a book of scary campfire stories, offering a charming bit of foreshadowing.) Loud noises in the middle of the night wake her up. She buries her friend, but his body goes missing in the morning. And what’s with that half-eaten shark that washed ashore?

Custom one-sixth scale Tom Hardy Venom

Tom Hardy and symbiote heads available here.

Metallica poster

By Sam Wolfe Connelly.

"Tijuana, a city of 1.8 million that not long ago was celebrating a major reduction in violence, is in the grip of an unprecedented homicide crisis"


A record 2,518 people were killed here in 2018 — nearly seven times the total in 2012. With 140 killings per 100,000 people, Tijuana is now one of the deadliest cities in the world.


In the past, the body count was driven by powerful drug cartels battling over lucrative trafficking routes to the United States. Now the main cause is competition in a growing local drug trade, with low-level dealers sometimes dying over the right to sell drugs on a single street corner.


A high-ranking state police official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said cartel leaders may themselves be unable to control the violence, which is fueled by easy access to guns smuggled from the U.S.

From a long thread looking at Dune's ornithopters

Professor Layton Nendoroid available for preorder

Three different faces, various accessories.

"For the last year and a half, a second Venezuelan Supreme Court has presided over the country’s laws through the miracle of cloud computing"


Its 33 jurists live in the U.S., Panama, Colombia and Chile. Every 15 days, they hold court via video conference.

Known as the Supreme Tribunal of Justice for Venezuela in exile, it has referred its country’s military leaders to the International Criminal Court at the Hague. It has also sentenced Nicolas Maduro, a man still considered Venezuela’s president by Russia, Cuba and China, to 18 years in prison. Until this week, few paid much attention to this court without a country. Its Twitter handle is not even verified.

This tribunal in exile is about to become more relevant.


Carlos Vecchio, whom the U.S. recognized on Sunday as Venezuela’s diplomatic representative in Washington, told me in an interview that the interim government considers this Skype judiciary to be his country’s supreme court.

Video game roundup

"Tesla is updating its Model S and Model X lineup today by launching cheaper options with a software-limited battery pack"


Tesla is instead going back to its old model of “software-limited battery pack” – meaning that it is only producing one battery pack for Model S and Model X, the 100 kWh pack, but it is offering two options and one of them is limiting the energy capacity accessible.


Model S and Model X owner can upgrade to the “Extended Range” version through an over-the-air update whenever they are willing to pay for it.

"Foxconn reconsidering plans to make LCD panels at Wisconsin plant"


Foxconn Technology Group is reconsidering plans to make advanced liquid crystal display panels at a $10 billion Wisconsin campus, and said it intends to hire mostly engineers and researchers rather than the manufacturing workforce the project originally promised.


Earlier this month, Foxconn, a major supplier to Apple Inc., reiterated its intention to create 13,000 jobs in Wisconsin, but said it had slowed its pace of hiring. The company initially said it expected to employ about 5,200 people by the end of 2020; a company source said that figure now looks likely to be closer to 1,000 workers.

Ten funny tweets

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Nighthaunt warband

Hollywood Weapons: Fact or Fiction? is a fun watch on Netflix

The Mythbusters-style episodes I watched focused on using a minigun to mow down the jungle (Predator) and using pistols to cut a hole in the floor (Underworld).

Ideas for "stories with realistic AI!"

Among other ideas:

"The confusing parts of Lord of the Rings start to make a lot more sense when you realize it's actually just a transcribed #DnD campaign"

From the lengthy thread:

"Gandalf lied, he was no wizard."

God Emperor of Dune

Oscar Isaac's been cast as Duke Leto, btw.

Interview with the teenage volunteer who generated so much traffic for Buzzfeed

NYMag interview:

I first started making quizzes during my high-school yearbook class. We had computers with us all the time and I would always get my deadlines done fast, so at free time me and my friend Katie would take quizzes. One day I actually realized anybody could make them and I thought that was pretty cool. I think my first quiz was in April 2017.


Is it fair to say BuzzFeed really encouraged you, as a community member, to contribute for free?
It always seemed to me that they wanted me to make quizzes, but now I’m getting responses [on Twitter] where people are saying I should have realized I was taking these people’s jobs. I never really got that vibe because they were telling us to make more quizzes.

You mentioned on Twitter that you feel bad and like you might have been a cause of the layoffs. I just want to tell you, and I know a lot of people on Twitter have been saying this too, that none of this is on you.
When I first read Matthew’s [Perpetua, formed head of quizzes and games at BuzzFeed] blog post I thought, “I’m that Michigan teenager. I’m causing all this traffic.” I felt a lot of weight on me. Luckily, people have been reassuring me that it’s not my fault. I really felt like it was as I first learned about the layoffs. I felt really bad.


I never knew I was the second-highest driver worldwide. I always knew my quizzes did well based on my dashboard views. Toward the end of the year, BuzzFeed actually sent me a package with some clothes and water bottles, a recipe book, and a coffee mug

New 1/18 scale Dark Sources figures available for preorder

These and many more highly-articulated figures available for preorder. Exo-suits, too.

Monday, January 28, 2019

"Major iPhone FaceTime bug lets you hear the audio of the person you are calling … before they pick up"


A significant bug has been discovered in FaceTime and is currently spreading virally over social media. The bug lets you call anyone with FaceTime, and immediately hear the audio coming from their phone — before the person on the other end has accepted or rejected the incoming call.

Naturally, this poses a pretty privacy problem as you can essentially listen in on any iOS user, although it still rings like normal, so you can’t be 100% covert about it. Nevertheless, there is no indication on the recipient’s side that you could hear any of their audio.


Until Apple fixes the bug, it’s not clear how to defend yourself against this attack either aside from disabling FaceTime altogether.
We tested the bug at MacRumors and were able to initiate a FaceTime call with each other where we could hear the person on the other end without ever having pressed the button to accept the call.
What’s more, if one of these “fake” conference calls is happening, if the recipient hits the power or volume button to ignore the call, it not only broadcasts audio to your phone but video as well.
After the call recipient pressed the volume-down button, footage from the iPhone 8's front-facing camera could be seen on the iPhone X — even though the call recipient had not answered the call.


In a statement, an Apple spokesperson said the company is "aware of this issue and we have identified a fix that will be released in a software update later this week."

The Flash and The End redesigned

Deluxe T-1000 figure available for preorder

$10 extra includes the bonus T-1000 Statue:

Over 25 points of articulation
Magnetic neck to enable flexible rotation of the head
Alternate head
5 Alternate hands
Pair of interchangeable metal-like hook arms
Interchangeable metal-like pointing forefinger
Interchangeable metal-like pointed hand
Police officer dark blue shirt with name tag and badge
Police officer dark blue pants with black buckled belt and pouches
Pair of black shoes
Set of magazines packs
Walkie talkie
Set of handcuffs
7 Magnetic bullet hits in various sizes
Figure stand