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

"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?

"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.

"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.

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."

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

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."

"a LOT of the [Buzzfeed]’s overall traffic comes from quizzes and a VERY large portion of that traffic comes from a constant flow of amateur quizzes made by community users"

In the recent past, the second highest traffic driver worldwide has been a community user in Michigan who is a teenager in college who, for some reason, makes dozens of quizzes every week. It’s kinda amazing how much revenue-generating traffic the site gets from unpaid community volunteers. So, in a ruthless capitalist way, it makes sense for the company to pivot to having community users create almost all of the quizzes going forward. I understand math. I get it.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

"Birmingham brought to standstill by YouTuber James Charles"

Birmingham was brought to a standstill on Saturday, with motorists abandoning cars and the city gridlocked for hours after thousands of teenagers flooded the city centre to see a 19-year-old YouTuber make a 30-second public appearance at a cosmetics store.


Charles, who was making his first visit to the UK, stepped outside the Birmingham shop for a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony at 4pm before heading back inside for a private meet-and-greet session with 250 competition winners. He later claimed about 8,000 fans were in the shopping centre itself, which had to shut down its escalators for safety reasons and employ extra security staff.
BBC (which has photos of the packed mall):
West Midlands Police had earlier said the gridlock was caused by problems with traffic lights at the junction of Bristol Street and The Horsefair.

But contractor Amey later said this was incorrect and the lights had been working all day.

Rose Byrne locked in at the Australian Open

Ten funny tweets

Real men clean with lava; Cat food for dangerous men

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Jon Gruden slapping Raiders sticker on helmets at the Senior Bowl

Boba Fett cake

Friday, January 25, 2019

"Fossilized Insect Discovered Not in Amber, But in Opal"

The initial theory is that this encasement may mean the opal itself is opalized amber. Theoretically speaking, the insect likely was trapped in tree sap or resin which, over time and under the right circumstances, was preserved as amber with the insect encasement. This is a process many of us are familiar with. However, a second, much rarer process of opalization can also occur. And so, in this case, as conditions changed for the amber specimen, it is possible the amber opalized, preserving the inclusion. Amazingly, the silica surrounding the insect also structurally changed to produce the play of color.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Gender roles in Star Trek and Star Wars

"Meet the designers who make a living building tiny houses on The Sims"

That same interest has translated over to The Sims, in part because building such a small house that can fit all the basics–and that Sims characters can still use–is a difficult proposition in virtual space, too. It’s also appropriate given that The Sims originally began as an architecture simulator, with the Sims themselves existing only to test out how well a house functioned.

Ten funny tweets

The Umbrella Academy trailer

Google's "DeepMind AI AlphaStar goes 10-1 against top 'StarCraft II' pros"

The pros and AlphaStar played their games on the map Catalyst using a slightly outdated version of StarCraft II that was designed to enable AI research. While TLO said during a stream that he felt confident he would be able to top the AI agent, AlphaStar managed to win all five games, unleashing completely unique strategies each time.


AlphaStar actually performed fewer actions per minute than his human opponent and significantly fewer than the average pro player would use. The AI also had a reaction time of about 350 milliseconds, which is slower than most pros. While the AI took its time, it was able to make smarter and more efficient decisions that gave it an edge.
You can find the matches here.

Buffy #1 cover by Becca Carey

And a few more of her concepts:

Modern job: "Hate Engine Optimization"

Alternative occupation:

And from a thread discussing China's influencer incubators:

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

"the Plug Uglies, the Chunkers, and the Rip-Raps"

From Joanne Freeman’s The Field of Blood, available at Amazon.

"Did you know that Farming Simulator esports is a thing?"

Beginning this summer, the Farming Simulator League spans 10 tournaments across Europe, culminating with Giants’ own FarmCon in summer 2020. With €250K ($284K USD) up for grabs


The first Championship event debuted at AgriTechnica 2017, a farm-tech expo in Hanover, Germany. Ammann said that the event organizers thought Farming Simulator‘s presence might interest younger attendees, but nobody anticipated the level of demand. As seen in the photo below, the regular-sized booth was packed wall-to-wall with viewers to watch the three-player bale-stacking battles.

Disney's Pandora "utility suit"

Ten funny tweets

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

New comic book covers

Doctor Aphra #30-31 by Ashley Witter.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #1 by Miguel Mercado.

Runaways #20 by Kris Anka.

Age of X-Man: X-Tremists #3 by Rahzzah.

Conan #5 by Gabriel Walta.