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Instagram adds Boomerang clips, mentions and links to Stories

Instagram has been making regular tweaks to its Stories feature since it debuted a few months ago. Today, the social network is adding a trio of tools to the collection of photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours. First, you can now choose to use Boomerang to capture clips for Stories. All you have to do is swipe right from your feed to access the Stories camera. Under the record button there will be an option for Boomerang mode. Once selected, simply tap record to shoot the short burst of photos that will play forward and backward in your Story.

In addition to the new Boomerang mode, Instagram also added mentions and links to Stories. Mentions are the same as if you were tagging someone in a comment or caption, just use the @ symbol followed by the username. Inside your Story, anyone you mentioned will be underlined and tapping on the username will display a pop up that links to the person’s profile. If you’re mentioned by someone you follow, you’ll get a notification in Instagram Direct. If someone you don’t follow mentions you, a notification will appear in message requests.

Links debut in Instagram Stories as well, but only for verified accounts. The company says the feature is in testing right now, adding a “See More” option at the bottom of Stories. To access whatever the link is pointing to, all you have to do is swipe up to view it with Instagram’s built-in browser. Unfortunately, there’s no word on when or if all users will be privy to the tool. On the plus side, all of these new items are available now for iOS, Android and Windows 10 via the latest update in each respective app store.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Instagram


‘RunGunJumpGun’ is a damn near-perfect mobile game

Fast-paced, reaction-based, “twitch” games have always been my thing, but rarely have they ever been this simple. RunGunJumpGun blends the brutal level design of a twitch game, the accessibility of an automatic runner and one of the most intuitive control schemes ever conceived. I first played it in early September, just after it launched on Steam. Despite having just two inputs — shoot and jump — there’s an awful lot more to the game.

Ostensibly, it’s an automatic runner — think Canabalt or the upcoming Mario iOS game — but with a wealth of gameplay mechanics and ideas added on top. You’re always just running, gunning or jumping, of course, but through intelligent level design and a masterful difficulty curve, it stays fresh and taxing throughout its 120 levels.

Today, RunGunJumpGun is out for iOS and Android, and it’s perhaps the most challenging, rewarding and downright fun mobile game of the year. Before its release, I spoke with the team behind the title, ThirtyThree Games, to find out how they managed to get so much game out of just two buttons.

“We weren’t out to just make an infinite runner mobile game that’s run-of-the-mill,” said programmer Logan Gilmour. “We were hoping it would stand more among PC games than mobile games, but then play equally well on mobile.” ThirtyThree Games set out to emulate the rush of games like Super Meat Boy, VVVVVV and Hotline Miami, and they nailed it. The game has the same fast pace and “live, die, repeat” mentality, for sure. But its control scheme and structure make it a very different experience overall, and one that stands alone without the need for comparisons.

At its core, RunGunJumpGun is about balancing the two inputs. “Jumping,” in this game, is actually more like flying — your character aims their gun downwards and will ride upwards while you hold down the button. You also need to shoot enemies and obstacles in front of you, but as soon as you do, you start to lose altitude. Several times per second, you’ll be deciding which button to press, but you never move your fingers apart from to push down. One button, one finger.

Removing all the other controls completely strips away everything between you and the game. “It lets you fall into a trance, and that’s kind of a big thing for the game, getting people lost in it,” said music and story designer Jordan Bloemen. “[Players] aren’t focusing on what they’re trying to do with a controller, they’re just trying to manage two buttons … Beyond that everything can just kind of wash over them.”

“It lets you fall into a trance, and that’s kind of a big thing for the game, getting people lost in it.”

Stripping away controls has its issues, though. You’re removing a lot of the tools that gamers are typically given to overcome to the challenges placed in front of them. It’s easy for that to become annoying, but although you will certainly be frustrated by RunGunJumpGun at points — some levels had me dying maybe 30 times in a row — you’ll be frustrated at your lack of skill, not at the game itself.

That sense of fairness is key to twitch games. When one hit can kill, developers getting something wrong is difficult to stomach. Take Furi, a boss rush game released earlier this year. It’s generally superb, but there are several moments where it seems the game is unfair — maybe a parry timing is off, a hit box not quite right. As a result, I constantly put it down for weeks at a time in frustration. As mentioned, I struggled massively with some levels in RunGunJumpGun but I never once felt the urge to stop. I always knew it was my fault I was dying.


I struggled massively with some levels, but I never once felt the urge to stop. I always knew it was my fault I was dying.

A lot of work went into making RunGunJumpGun, its levels and each second of gameplay, feel fair yet challenging. There are small things, like making levels “concave,” so your character can’t get caught in a cove and die, or ensuring that the automated movement “is always the speed you want to go at,” but the truly interesting tweaks are invisible.

ThirtyThree Games used analytics and testers to analyze every second of gameplay. “We let a lot of people play the game, and we could see these big spikes where everyone was dying,” explained Bloemen. The team then acted on that data in different ways. Some levels were simply reordered for a smoother difficulty curve, but others were changed on a second-by-second level. “We collected the actual position where every person died,” said Gilmour. “So we could see where everyone was being killed by one hazard, and then just take the hazard out.”

The team would iteratively re-order and smooth out the levels, then bring in a new group of testers that hadn’t played before and see what the new data looked like. Their own little live, die, repeat loop, as it were. The importance of curving difficulty, according to the team, is paramount. “Especially the first world, that’s kind of make-or-break, said Bloemen. “That’s where you’re going to piss someone off and they’re not going to play anymore.”

It’s tough to find a better example of a difficulty curve done right.

While the first world (there are three, each containing 40 levels) hooked me; the second made me fall in love. It’s there that the developers start throwing a bunch of new elements at you, and it’s tough to find a better example of a difficulty curve done right.

Take the first ten minutes or so of world two: It starts by introducing a new mechanic — screen warping, which allows you to fly out the top of the screen and appear at the bottom, or vice versa. Then, it asks you to use screen warping to navigate a complex level. Then, it makes you do that with pin-point accuracy — one false move and you’re dead. Finally, you’ve nailed it. Of course, before you have time to relax, turrets are added. Then force fields. Then spaceships that shoot at you. Finally, fire turrets — the barrage of new elements feels like it never ends.

Removing the deaths, the section amounts to maybe three minutes of gameplay. In that time, you’ll have learned and mastered multiple new mechanics and hazards. Although the deaths will come thick and thin, no single level transition is too challenging, But if you skipped any given minute, the leap in difficulty would be near insurmountable.

Later in the game, some of these new mechanics take a little longer to get used to. The addition of water in particular threw me off for a while, because the movement physics are completely different. The final few levels are also an exception, as the difficulty is pretty much just ratcheted up to 11. But the general curve, and the way new ideas are introduced, is nothing short of perfect.

While data obviously had huge impact on defining the game’s structure, it wasn’t always enough. The team had their own thoughts on how enjoyable or challenging each level was, and there’s not a linear line of difficulty from beginning to end. “It’s important to have a little bumpiness in that curve,” said Gilmour. “Sometimes when we bring in a new mechanic, we make the first version of that a little harder. But you overcome it, and then the next time it’s easier, and you get a nice win, it feels like you’re getting some mastery.”

It also helps that playing the game feels great. The pixel art is bright and easy to follow, while the EDM soundtrack mixes menacing bass with light melodies that reminded me of another twitch favorite of mine, Electronic Super Joy. Like ESJ, rather than taking itself seriously, RunGunJumpGun is filled with humor. Some of this comes through dialog — there’s a story told through one-liners before each level — but a lot is down to the game itself. I lost track of the number of times I fell into an obvious trap, or a spinning disc bounced up at just the right moment to kill me — there’s a deviousness to the level design that, when coupled with the quick and colorful restart animation, actually makes dying as funny as it is frustrating.

There’s a final piece to RunGunJumpGun I’ve neglected to mention, and it’s perhaps the thing that’ll keep you coming back: Atomiks, the game’s name for the 10 tokens scattered throughout each level. Taking the “Atomik path” will bring you closer to death than any other path through a level, essentially making it “the nastiest way to play,” according to Gilmour. A tone chimes when you collect an Atomik, increasing in pitch each time to form a satisfying musical scale.

They’re almost like false waypoints, tempting you off the safer path at every opportunity. But collecting Atomiks is also the way you unlock more worlds, and “completing” the game is collecting them all. The path to victory is littered with near-endless death.

I played RunGunJumpGun a lot on PC, and grew deeply attached to it. As such, I was a little worried about how the game would handle on mobile. There’s a tactile immediacy about hammering away on a keyboard that’s just missing from a phone or a tablet. But my concerns were unfounded. The simplicity of the layout — tap the left side of the screen for jump, the right side for gun — means that you don’t miss the tactile feedback too much. I do think the game controls a little better with a keyboard, but being able to play it anywhere more than makes up for that.

“Personally, my favorite way to play it is on iPad,” said Gilmour. “It’s killer, the screen is really responsive, and you’re holding this thing, it reminds me of playing a Game Boy when I was a kid.” I have to agree. It’s great to jump into for a couple of minutes at a time, or to completely zone out with for an hour. I’ve handed the game to a few friends, and even those that don’t typically enjoy twitch games had a good time.

RunGunJumpGun is out now for iOS and will be released imminently for Android, priced at $2.99. There’s been some talk of a PlayStation Vita port in the future, but that’s very much in the “research to see if it makes sense” phase, according to Bloemen. Oh, and if playing on a PC or Mac is more your speed, the price of the Steam version of the game is going to drop down to $2.99 temporarily as well. In case it wasn’t clear, whatever your platform of choice, I can’t recommend this game enough.


Hyperloop co-founder ‘very serious’ about California secession

In the wake of the election result, Hyperloop co-founder Shervin Pishevar (pictured, right) began tweeting about his desire to see California secede from the United States. Naturally, it was dismissed as emotions running high after the highly divisive campaign, but Pishevar isn’t backing down. At the Web Summit conference today, the billionaire was asked if he was serious about “Calexit*,” to which he said that he was “very serious.” He added that there would be “announcements” about his plans to implement the program coming in the near future.

“In terms of the election, and there’ll be more announcements coming. I am, very serious and it’s not just me, it’s others, and there’ll be announcements specifically coming in terms of that. To what you’re… to what you’re bringing up.”

For Pishevar, Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric is personal: His father fled Iran after being marked for death by the Ayatollah Khomeini. Moving to the save haven of the US, Pishevar Sr. drove a cab while studying for his PhD and encouraged his son to embrace the immigrant experience the country offered. Pishevar believes that it’s not just him who feels outraged at the result, and will throw their weight behind the Yes California movement.

1/ If Trump wins I am announcing and funding a legitimate campaign for California to become its own nation.

— Shervin (@shervin) November 9, 2016

While it’s not likely to happen overnight — after all, the constitution doesn’t provide for a mechanism for secession — it’s clear that figures within the tech industry are serious about this. California is already the world’s sixth largest economy, so it has the money, and potentially the political will to see this through. We wouldn’t be surprised to see other big Silicon Valley names talking about joining the movement in the next few months.

*A portmanteau of California and Exit, a name taken from Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.


Florida voters conflicted over Zika-fighting mosquitoes

You can’t just go and release genetically-modified mosquitoes into the environment without making sure people are okay with it — regardless of how badly we need a way to eradicate the Zika virus. In Tuesday’s election, 65 percent of Florida residents in the city of Key Haven voted against a ballot measure that’d sanction such a test, according to MIT Technology Review. Meanwhile, some 58 percent of voters in the county that Key Haven is a part of, Monroe County, voted in favor of the test. Now it’s up to the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District Board of Commissioners (FKMCDBC) to make a decision.

The FDA approved the trial back in August. But, local residents were opposed to the idea, causing the FKMCDBC to wait until Election Day to get a better picture of how the region felt.

“The referendum is not legally binding, so the agency [FKMCDBC] could still choose to go ahead with the trial when it next meets on November 19th,” Technology Review writes. The company responsible for the modified mosquitoes, Oxitec, thinks that FKMCDBC will still go through with the trial and hopes to proceed as planned.

The FDA assessed that the mosquitos won’t have a “significant impact” on the environment, and for its part, Oxitec is bullish on its effectiveness. “We expect to see the same results [from this trial] as we’ve seen everywhere else,” CEO Hadyn Parry told Time. Tests in Brazil, the Cayman Islands and Panama have seen mosquito populations drop by over 90 percent.

Source: MIT Technology Review


Windows 10’s virtual trackpad turns tablets into mice

Microsoft has begun testing out a new virtual trackpad feature in Windows 10, allowing users to turn their tablets into mice while using external displays. Chances are it’ll form part of the OS’s “Creators Update” arriving next spring, with the feature now live in the latest Windows 10 Insider Preview release (build 14965, if you’re interested). The virtual trackpad is exactly what it sounds like: A square boundary with left and right mouse buttons sitting below it, performing the function you’d expect but using a device’s touchscreen to receive inputs.

The idea is a Windows 10 tablet can double as a mouse while it’s hooked up to an external monitor or TV. While it may seem like a niche use case, it means anyone wanting to use their slate like a proper PC can carry one less peripheral with them — assuming it performs the task well enough. The virtual trackpad comes to Windows 10 alongside updates to Microsoft’s Sticky Notes and Windows Ink Workspace software, and you can take it for a spin right now provided you’re in the Insider program’s Fast Ring.

Here’s the new onscreen trackpad feature for Windows 10. Designed for when you connect to a second display and don’t have a mouse

— Tom Warren (@tomwarren) November 9, 2016

Via: The Verge

Source: Microsoft


Facebook vows to fight fake news but won’t say how

Facebook has a news problem. The algorithm powering its Newsfeed can’t always distinguish an accurate story from a complete fabrication, which means misleading and false stories regularly circulate throughout the site. Following Donald Trump’s win in the US presidential election this week, commentators are arguing that fake stories shared on Facebook’s Newsfeed propelled his campaign, and executives at the site need to take responsibility for distributing accurate, vetted news.

In a statement shared with TechCrunch, Facebook VP of product management Adam Mosseri said that the company is aware of the fake-news problem. “We take misinformation on Facebook very seriously,” the statement says. “We value authentic communication and hear consistently from those who use Facebook that they prefer not to see misinformation.” The rest of Mosseri’s thoughts read as follows:

In Newsfeed we use various signals based on community feedback to determine which posts are likely to contain inaccurate information, and reduce their distribution. In Trending we look at a variety of signals to help make sure the topics being shown are reflective of real-world events, and take additional steps to prevent false or misleading content from appearing. Despite these efforts we understand there’s so much more we need to do, and that is why it’s important that we keep improving our ability to detect misinformation. We’re committed to continuing to work on this issue and improve the experiences on our platform.

Facebook does not label itself a news organization, even though Pew Research Center found in May that 62 percent of adults in the US get their news from social media, and Facebook is a powerhouse in this space.

As BuzzFeed News reported last week, a team of teenagers in Macedonia figured out how to game the Facebook Newsfeed algorithm, and they made up to $5,000 a month circulating fake pro-Trump stories on the site. Their headlines include, “Breaking: Proof surfaces that Obama was born in Kenya – Trump was right all along,” and, “Oprah Tells FOX News Host ‘Some White People Have To Die.’”

The prominence of these stories speaks to a larger problem of “filter bubbles” on Facebook and other social media sites, where users end up seeing stories and opinions only from sources they agree with. Facebook has not stated how it plans to address the issues of fake news or filter bubbles on the site.

Facebook came under fire recently for getting rid of human editors who curated the site’s Trending news section. The Trending stories are now picked by an algorithm with a poor track record of distinguishing truth from fiction.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg shared his own thoughts on the election, alongside a photo of him holding his daughter as the results poured in. His update read as follows:

Holding Max, I thought about all the work ahead of us to create the world we want for our children. This work is bigger than any presidency and progress does not move in a straight line. The most important opportunities of Max’s generation — like curing all disease, improving education, connecting everyone and promoting equal opportunity — will take long term focus and finding new ways for all of us to work together, sometimes over decades.

We are all blessed to have the ability to make the world better, and we have the responsibility to do it. Let’s go work even harder.

Source: TechCrunch


Apple’s Extended Holiday Return Policy Now in Effect

Apple’s annual extended holiday return policy began today in the United States and several other countries.

Most products and accessories purchased between November 10 and December 25 of this year are eligible for return until January 8, 2017 in the United States, Australia, Canada, and select other regions, or until January 20, 2017 in many European countries such as France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

Apple products that can be returned include, among other things, the iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, and Apple TV. The few items that cannot be returned include Apple or iTunes gift cards and opened software. Apple products can be opened and used prior to the return date, but must be returned undamaged with the original packaging.

When making a purchase at an Apple retail store, we recommend that you ask for printed and emailed copies of your receipt. Both printed and emailed receipts will indicate the return date for each product purchased, while Apple also lists the cutoff date under the “Your Account” section on its website.

All purchases made before today or after December 25 are subject to Apple’s standard 14-day return policy in most countries.

Tag: Apple retail
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Instagram Update Introduces Boomerang and User Mentions Into Stories

An update rolling out to the iOS, Android, and Windows 10 Instagram app today has introduced the company’s standalone app “Boomerang” directly into its new Snapchat-like stories feature. Boomerang allows users to take a burst of photos that cycle forwards and backwards quickly, creating an animated GIF that they can share to Instagram and Facebook directly within the app.

Today, when users swipe left-to-right to open the stories camera, there will be a new format picker under the shutter button which can be toggled between “Normal” and “Boomerang,” and shared directly to their story.

Mentions are also making an appearance in stories, allowing Instagram users to tag friends and family members using the @ icon normally found in comments and captions of posts. Whenever a friend taps the @ mention on a story, they’ll be directed to that user’s profile. Anyone who’s mentioned in a story will also receive a direct message with a link to the image or video they were tagged in.

Additionally, a “See More” tag for some verified accounts will help users dig deeper into that person’s media content.

Watching someone’s story and want to dig deeper? You may spot “See More” links at the bottom of some stories. This is a test that lets verified accounts add links so it’s easy to learn more. From discovering the latest music by Chance the Rapper (@chancetherapper) to learning about a new movie starring Dwayne Johnson (@therock) or reading a related article from Bustle (@bustle), tap “See More” or swipe up to view the link right inside the app.

Instagram is available to download for free from the App Store [Direct Link], and the 9.7 update will continue rolling out to users throughout the day.

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10 hidden MacOS Sierra features you need to know – CNET

If you upgraded to MacOS Sierra, then you are likely familiar with its headlining features, whether you are using Siri to speak to your Mac, unlocking it with an Apple Watch or cutting and pasting from your Mac to your iPhone or vice versa with the universal clipboard. You might also be using iCloud to sync your data across your devices or to optimize your storage while using Apple Pay to shop on your Mac while watching a video in Sierra’s PIP window.

In addition to these big-ticket items, some smaller features may have escaped your gaze. Let’s bring them into focus to help you get the most out of MacOS Sierra.

1. App tabs

Tabs, they’re not just for browsers anymore. With MacOS Sierra, you can use tabs in apps other than Safari (or your browser of choice). Open Finder or Maps or, for example, and hit Command-T to open a new tab. Other apps such as Mail and TextEdit let you use tabs but don’t support the Command-T keyboard shortcut. For those apps, a tab will open when you use the File menu to open a New View Windows (in Mail) or New file (in TextEdit).

If a new window opens instead of a tab, go to System Preferences > Dock and set Prefer tabs when opening documents to Always.

And if you find yourself with multiple windows scattered across your desktop for a single app, you can combine them into one neat-and-tidy tabbed window by going going to Window > Merge All Windows.

merge-all-windows.jpg Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

2. Mail filters

The stock Mail app offers filters to help you sort through your inbox. At the top of your inbox is a small, circular button with three lines of decreasing length. Click on it to filter your inbox. It defaults to showing you all of your unread messages, but if you click on the blue text, you can filter using other criteria.

If you don’t see this button, then you are likely using Mail’s classic layout. To disable that view, go to Mail > Preferences > Viewing and then uncheck the box for Use classic layout.

mail-filters.jpgmail-filters.jpg Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

3. New editing tools in Photos

The big feature of the updated Photos app are the new Memories albums it generates. Tucked inside the app are two new editing tools: Brilliance and Markup.

When editing a photo, the new Brilliance slider can be found under the Light section in the Adjust menu. Apple states it “brightens dark areas and pulls in highlights to reveal hidden detail and make your photo look richer and more vibrant.” To me, it effectively combines the Highlights, Shadows, Brightness and Contrast adjustments.

At the bottom of the column of edit tools along Photos right edge, click the triple-dot button to access the new Markup tool. As with Mail and Preview, you can use Markup to add text, arrows, lines and other annotations to a photo.

photos-brilliance.jpgphotos-brilliance.jpg Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

4. Notes collaboration

You can now share a note in the stock Notes app to collaborate on a note-taking exercise. Open a note and click the new share button at the top of the window. Select how you’d like to send the invite, enter a contact’s name and click Share. Once accepted, invitees to the note can add, edit and remove content.

5. Lyrics in iTunes

For your next karaoke party, bust out your Mac. iTunes now lets you view a song’s lyrics as you listen (or sing loudly and poorly) along. To see the lyrics of the song that’s playing in iTunes, click the Up Next button and then click Lyrics. You’ll need to scroll manually to keep up as the song plays, which diminishes the karaoke aspect of this feature, but it’s still a preferable way to view lyrics than using Google which sends you to an ad-laden song-lyrics site.

itunes-lyrics.jpgitunes-lyrics.jpg Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

6. Previews and tapbacks with Messages

Messages on MacOS Sierra didn’t get all of the fireworks that its iOS analog did. You don’t get bubble and fireworks effects, stickers or iMessage apps on the Mac, but you do get a couple of useful features.

The first is rich URL previews. When you send or receive a link, Messages provides a bit of context by way of the title and an image of the page of the link.

The second is tapbacks for quick replies. Right-click on a message bubble and choose Tapback to send a quick thumbs-up or -down, heart or Ha-ha.

7. More secure and flexible Safari

To improve security (and battery life), Safari has favored HTML5 over Flash, Java and other plug-ins. With Safari 10 in MacOS Sierra, you can have your cake and eat it, too. That is, Safari avoids Flash and other plug-ins but allows you to use them on a site-by-site or instance-by-instance basis.

Let’s use Flash as an example, since it’s the most widely used plug-in. On sites that offer both HTML5 and Flash Safari defaults to HTML5 by telling the site that you don’t have Flash installed, even if you do. For sites that require Flash to show content, Safari displays a link to install or enable Flash. When you click on it, Safari then admits to the site you are visiting that you have Flash installed and asks you if you want to Use Every Time or Use Once for the site.

This arrangement keeps Flash use to a minimum without forcing you to use an alternate browser to view content that requires Flash or another plug-in.

safari-flash.jpgsafari-flash.jpg Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

8. Two new Keyboard options

You likely tap out as many words texting on your phone as you do typing on your Mac. To bring the two experiences in line, Apple has added two new keyboard features to MacOS Sierra to make typing on your Mac feel more like typing on your phone. Head to System Preferences > Keyboard > Text and you’ll find two new options, Capitalize words automatically and Add period with double-space.

9. Return of RAID Assistant

Apple removed RAID support in Disk Utilities in OS X El Capitan, but it makes its triumphant return in MacOS Sierra. Open Disk Utility and under the File menu you’ll find a familiar line at the bottom for RAID Assistant. With it, you can create a Striped (RAID 0) array for speed or a Mirrored (RAID 1) array for data redundancy, should your Mac have multiple hard drives.

raid-assistant.jpgraid-assistant.jpg Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

10. Game Center is gone

Consider this last item addition by subtraction. As with iOS 10, MacOS Sierra waved goodbye to Game Center. If you do play games tied to your Game Center account, that information is included right in the game by way of Apple’s GameKit, leaving you with one less stock app taking up space on your Mac.


This trick makes a cheap bottle of vodka taste like Grey Goose – CNET


Filtered vodka, ready for tasting.

Alina Bradford/CNET

Everyone would love to be able to go to the store and pick up a premium vodka, but not everyone’s budgets will allow for such an indulgence.

But there’s good news for those who want to stock up on booze for the holidays. The lowest quality vodka can apparently be improved with something you probably already have in your kitchen: a water filtering pitcher.

I tested the trick to see if it works. Here’s what happened.

Grab a water filtration pitcher

Good vodka is filtered five or more times usually using a charcoal filter. So, it’s important to make sure that your water pitcher has a charcoal filter. I didn’t already have a water filtering pitcher laying around, so I had to buy one. To make my test a little more scientific, I bought the store-brand pitcher and a name-brand pitcher. They were both around $8.

I also bought a $6 bottle of vodka, which was the cheapest I could find. I also bought a nicer bottle of vodka that was six times more expensive (it was a small bottle, too) to compare my filtered vodka to.

Filtering the vodka

To filter the vodka, I poured half of the cheap bottle of vodka into one pitcher and the other half into the other pitcher. When the vodka was done filtering, I poured each into separate clean containers and ran them through the filters, again. Overall, each batch got filtered five times.

Did it work?

Now for the tasting. According to my research (yes, I did real researching and not just a bunch of drinking), good vodka doesn’t burn your tongue or throat.

I recruited my husband to help me taste-test each batch and then compare it to the good vodka. After explaining the criteria of good vodka, we tipped ’em back in the name of science.

First, we tried the vodka filtered by the store-brand pitcher. Winces and gagging insued. Though it wasn’t as rough as the vodka before it was filtered, there was only a little improvement. At this point, I was pretty bummed and sure that the project had failed.

Next, we tried the vodka filtered by the name-brand pitcher. It was just a tad harder than drinking a glass of water. I was shocked. Vodka is my drink of choice and I’ve never tasted one this smooth. Complete success.

Finally, we compared the name-brand pitcher’s filtered vodka to the more expensive vodka. The filtered vodka won, no contest.

I have to be honest, I thought this experiment would be a complete bust, but it really works. Be sure to filter the vodka at least five times and choose a good pitcher. The whole process takes less than 30 minutes and is totally worth it.

Why it works

The science behind this experiment is simple. Vodka companies typically filter vodka to improve flavor using activated charcoal, a component in many water pitcher filters. The filtering removes carbon-based impurities that cause the bad taste. The more you filter, the more impurities are removed, making the vodka taste a little better each time you filter it. Your water pitcher filter mimics this process by removing impurities from the vodka just like it removes impurities from water.

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