Experimental rocker EMA talks VR, the Dark Web, and hiding behind screens

August 26th, 2017
by The Feeder

Enlarge / Portland’s Erika M. Anderson, better known in experimental-music worlds as EMA, talks to Ars in July 2017. (credit: Sam Machkovech)

PORTLAND, Ore.—After a recent evening of dinner and drinks with artist/musician Erika Anderson, I was taken to a stranger’s apartment, then asked to put on a VR headset and lie on a floor. I did as I was told, without any explanation of what was about to happen. I could hear muffled giggling in the room through my headphones as a VR scene opened up above me.

I had landed in an alternate reality of technicolor skies while laying on what appeared to be a massage table. The VR experience invited me to look to my left, where I saw a mirrored reflection of “myself.” I had become a brightly colored naked woman. Then, the ponies appeared. Little pink ponies began slowly prancing in my direction, and once they reached my virtual body, I could feel something in real life—like little hooves—”running” over my arm just as they appeared in VR.

A few hours earlier, I had asked Anderson, better known to indie and experimental music fans as the critically acclaimed EMA, to show me around her current hometown of Portland in whatever way she pleased. I did this in part to talk about her brand-new, well-reviewed album, Exile in the Outer Ring, but also about her dabbling with technology in the public sphere and what her future tech-related plans might be. I should have known that her Portland tour would somehow combine computers, art, discomfort, and insanity. I just didn’t think it’d lead me to an impromptu VR animal-massage experience on a dirty apartment floor.

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Posted in EMA, erika m. anderson, Gaming & Culture, indie rock, noise rock | Comments (0)

The best new board games from Gen Con 2017

August 26th, 2017
by The Feeder

Last weekend, we strapped on our most comfortable walking shoes, checked our gaming wishlist twice, and jumped headlong into the self-proclaimed “best four days of gaming”—the annual Gen Con tabletop gaming convention in Indianapolis, Indiana. This year’s 50th-anniversary show was extra special: turnstile attendance for an estimated 60,000 con-goers reached a record-breaking 209,000, and for the first year ever, the con sold out well before the doors opened on Thursday.

With approximately 500 exhibitors, over 19,000 ticketed events, and entire convention halls and stadiums filled to capacity with board games, roleplaying games, miniatures games, and everything in between, Gen Con is a lot to take in. We couldn’t get to all of it, but we skipped sleep, meals, and general mental well-being to bring you what we see as the best of the show.

Below are the 20 board games we think you should be paying attention to going into the last few months of the year (cube-pushing Eurogame fans will want to tune in again in late October when we hit the giant Spieltage fair in Essen, Germany). Most of the games below will be coming out over the next several weeks and months, but because of the vagaries inherent in board game releases, exact dates are hard to pin down. Your best bet is to head to your local retailer, boardgameprices.com, or Amazon and put in a preorder for anything that catches your eye. And if you missed it, be sure to check out our massive photo gallery of the show.

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We say happy birthday to Goldeneye 007 by looking at my 20-year-old review

August 26th, 2017
by The Feeder

Enlarge / Happy birthday, Goldeneye 007! (credit: Rare)

Hours of sniping through snow and low frame rates, along with grenade-launcher game slowdowns and shouts of “Temple shotties,” turn 20 years old today. N64 first-person shooter classic Goldeneye 007 launched in the United States on August 25, 1997, and it’s hard to turn in any direction on the Internet today without finding someone posting an appreciation for it.

But how many of those appreciations are as old as the game?

Behold: my very first employer, the Dallas Morning News, celebrated the occasion today by republishing my own launch-week review of Goldeneye 007. In August 1997, I was a junior in high school who had been contributing to the paper’s “Electronic Adventures” column for about a year, which was chock full of high school and college students willing to accept ridiculously low pay in exchange for early access to modern games.

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The Babylonians discovered a strange form of trigonometry

August 25th, 2017
by The Feeder

Enlarge / The 3,700-year-old Babylonian tablet known as Plympton 322 turned out to be a trig table, expressed in ratios of the lengths of the sides of the triangles, rather than angles. (credit: UNSW/Andrew Kelly)

The Babylonian civilization was at its peak roughly 4,000 years ago, with architecturally advanced cities throughout the region known today as Iraq. Babylonians were especially brilliant with math, and they invented the idea of zero as well as the base 60 number system we still use today to describe time (where there are 60 minutes in an hour). Now it appears that the Babylonians invented trigonometry, almost 1,000 years before Pythagoras was born.

University of New South Wales mathematicians Daniel Mansfield and Norman Wildberger discovered this after a breakthrough analysis of an ancient cuneiform tablet, written between 1822-1762 BCE in the Babylonian city of Larsa. Long a mystery, the tablet shows three columns of numbers. Describing their work in Historica Mathematica, the researchers call the tablet “a trigonometric table of a completely unfamiliar kind and… ahead of its time by thousands of years.”

Mathematician Daniel Mansfield explains the Babylonian system for doing trigonometry.

What made it hard for scholars to figure this out before was the complete unfamiliarity of the Babylonians’ trigonometric system. Today we use the Greek system, which describes triangles using angles that are derived from putting the triangle inside a circle. The Babylonians, however, used ratios of the line lengths of the triangle to figure out its shape. They did it by putting the triangle inside a rectangle and completely circumvented the ideas of sin, cos, and tan, which are key to trigonometry today.

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The Babylonians discovered a strange form of trigonometry

August 25th, 2017
by The Feeder

Enlarge / The 3,700-year-old Babylonian tablet known as Plympton 322 turned out to be a trig table, expressed in ratios of the lengths of the sides of the triangles, rather than angles. (credit: UNSW/Andrew Kelly)

The Babylonian civilization was at its peak roughly 4,000 years ago, with architecturally advanced cities throughout the region known today as Iraq. Babylonians were especially brilliant with math, and they invented the idea of zero as well as the base 60 number system we still use today to describe time (where there are 60 minutes in an hour). Now it appears that the Babylonians invented trigonometry, almost 1,000 years before Pythagoras was born.

University of New South Wales mathematicians Daniel Mansfield and Norman Wildberger discovered this after a breakthrough analysis of an ancient cuneiform tablet, written between 1822-1762 BCE in the Babylonian city of Larsa. Long a mystery, the tablet shows three columns of numbers. Describing their work in Historica Mathematica, the researchers call the tablet “a trigonometric table of a completely unfamiliar kind and… ahead of its time by thousands of years.”

Mathematician Daniel Mansfield explains the Babylonian system for doing trigonometry.

What made it hard for scholars to figure this out before was the complete unfamiliarity of the Babylonians’ trigonometric system. Today we use the Greek system, which describes triangles using angles that are derived from putting the triangle inside a circle. The Babylonians, however, used ratios of the line lengths of the triangle to figure out its shape. They did it by putting the triangle inside a rectangle and completely circumvented the ideas of sin, cos, and tan, which are key to trigonometry today.

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Continental rethinks the wheel—and the brake—for electric cars

August 25th, 2017
by The Feeder

Enlarge (credit: Continental)

When it comes to making a car slow down, for the last few decades pretty much every car on the road has used the same idea: a brake disc mounted to the axle with calipers that press high-friction pads onto the disc’s surface, slowing its rotation. It’s a tried-and-tested formula, one that car makers adopted from the aerospace industry as a better solution than the venerable drum brake. But the boffins at Continental (the tire company) have been rethinking the standard way of doing things, specifically in the context of small and medium-size electric vehicles. Enter the New Wheel Concept.

The focus on EVs is logical, since in their case deceleration is often achieved via regenerative braking using the electric motor instead—at least on the driven wheels. Obviously, EVs can’t ditch the conventional brake, there needs to be redundant system for situations when regenerative braking isn’t possible like when the battery is full and can’t accept more energy. A consequence of using regenerative braking is that the friction brakes get much less use than in a conventional car, so they tend to last a lot longer. But there is a downside: a buildup of rust that can impair their performance when you need to use them, according to Continental. (This is only an issue with cast iron brakes, but we’re not aware of many hybrids that use carbon ceramic discs outside of the hypercar crowd.)

“In EVs, it’s crucial that the driver expends as little energy as possible on the friction brake,” said Paul Linhoff, Head of Brake Pre-Development in the Chassis & Safety Business Unit at Continental. “During a deceleration, the momentum of the vehicle is converted into electricity in the generator to increase the vehicle’s range. That’s why the driver continues to operate the brake pedal—but it certainly doesn’t mean that the wheel brakes are active too.”

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Posted in cars, Continental Tires, electric vehicle | Comments (0)

The end-Cretaceous mass extinction was rather unpleasant

August 25th, 2017
by The Feeder

(credit: Don Davis/NASA)

There are a few hellish episodes in Earth’s unfathomably long history that make even Hollywood’s most bombastic disaster movie look like a sunny picnic. The end-Cretaceous extinction is the most well-known, since it wiped out the dinosaurs (minus the birds, of course) and opened the door for the mammalian revolution—which most human beings regard as generally a good thing.

Though the story is probably familiar, there are still significant questions about exactly what happened during that cataclysm. Many species were seemingly in trouble before that colossal meteoroid crashed into the coastal Yucatan, perhaps partly because of a long-lived series of massive volcanic eruptions in what is now India. This has led some to question whether the impact was as deadly as it’s made out to be. But we’ve also filled in some details of just how the meteoroid impact would mess up the Earth, and these include mind-blowing tsunamis, rampant wildfires, and see-sawing climate effects. So how lethal was the impact?

A team led by Charles Bardeen at the National Center for Atmospheric Research employed a climate model to investigate one major aspect of this story. In many places around the world, there is a thin geologic layer that marks the time of the impact event. It contains soot that apparently blanketed the planet after wildfires kicked it up into the air. (These wildfires would be triggered globally by the heat of debris reentering the atmosphere.) Was there enough soot to black out the Sun?

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Posted in climate model, k-pg mass extinction, k-t mass extinction, mass extinctions, science | Comments (0)

Ferrari says goodbye California T, hello Portofino

August 25th, 2017
by The Feeder

Ferrari

The Frankfurt International Motor Show is fast approaching, and while more than a few car makers have chosen to skip this year’s event, Ferrari has something new in store for us. It’s replacing the California T with a newer, lighter convertible—the Portofino. It’s a more aggressive look for the company’s entry-level model, and the looks have been heavily influenced by the aerodynamics department, something that’s fast becoming a Ferrari calling card.

We were pleasantly surprised by the California T when we tested one last year; the car has an undeserved reputation, probably because it’s not mid-engined or doesn’t have a massive V12 up front. It’s no out-and-out sports car, for even Ferrari describes it as a GT (grand tourer), but we imagine the Portofino is going to offer a noticeable performance bump over the outgoing car.

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Posted in cars, Ferrari California T, Ferrari Portofino | Comments (0)

Hackable flaw in connected cars is ‘unpatchable’, warn researchers

August 25th, 2017
by The Feeder

Potentially fatal flaw could take a generation of cars to eliminate – but is this a ‘tempest in a thimble’?

Posted in CAN bus, Car security, Denial of Service, ICS-CERT | Comments (0)

Amazon Prime members will get even deeper discounts at Whole Foods

August 25th, 2017
by The Feeder

Enlarge (credit: Francisco Antunes)

Amazon has the official green light to go through with its acquisition of Whole Foods, and customers will soon feel the difference in their wallets. According to a press release from Amazon, the company is set to lower prices of Whole Foods items the same day that the merger closes: Monday, August 28.

“We’re determined to make healthy and organic food affordable for everyone,” Jeff Wilke, CEO of Amazon Worldwide Consumer, wrote in the release. “Everybody should be able to eat Whole Foods Market quality.”

Customers shopping at Whole Foods locations on Monday will see new, lower prices on various “grocery staples,” including organic bananas, apples, salmon, organic large brown eggs, lean ground beef, avocados, and more. Amazon didn’t detail how low those new prices would be, but any change is likely welcomed by Whole Foods customers. The store has been cheekily called “Whole Paycheck,” due to how much money one can spend on a week’s worth of groceries there.

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Posted in amazon, Amazon Prime, Biz & IT, online shopping, whole foods | Comments (0)