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24
Jul

The moon may be hiding lots of water below its surface


Since 2008, we’ve known that there is water on the moon. The lack of atmosphere and a magnetic field means that most of the water on our satellite’s surface would be immediately stripped by the sun. However, that doesn’t apply within the Moon’s interior; an analysis of Apollo 15 and Apollo 17 moon rocks almost a decade ago revealed small amounts of water within volcanic glass beads. Now, research suggests that there actually may be a whole lot of water in the moon’s interior.

We learn most of what we know about objects in space through light. Orbital spectrometers can measure the light bouncing off a planet or moon (or measure the light from a star, for further-away objects) and examine the wavelengths. By looking at what is reflected and what’s absorbed, scientists can get a better idea of what elements and compounds are present on the surface. The problem is these spectrometers also measure heat, and the surface of the moon gets very hot during the day. This crowds out readings that could indicate water on the moon.

The team, which published their findings in Nature Geoscience, used measurements from samples retrieved on the Apollo missions to conduct their research. This data, combined with detailed temperature readings and maps for specific areas of the moon, allowed the team to remove the heat detection from spectrometer data. They then applied their technique to readings from India’s Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter.

Their results were surprising: In the areas the team was studying, they found evidence of water in almost every single deposit that was a result of a volcanic eruption. “The distribution of these water-rich deposits is the key thing,” said Ralph Milliken, lead author of the study. “They’re spread across the surface, which tells us that the water found in the Apollo samples isn’t a one-off.” The fact that these were found in former volcanic sites implies that the moon’s interior may be water-rich. The colored areas in the image below indicate water that’s in ancient volcanic deposits; yellow and red means an extra rich water reading.

There are still many questions to be answered — where did this water come from, for starters — but these findings are important for many reasons. Sure, it could tell us more about the early solar system. But for NASA, which is interested in building a moon base, this news could be incredibly important. Weight is incredibly important in space travel, and the ability to drill into the lunar surface for water could be a huge step towards making a lunar colony viable and self-sufficient.

Source: EurekAlert

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24
Jul

‘Final Fantasy’ characters are now selling Nissans


Final Fantasy character Lightning has landed herself another ad campaign. She’s already hawked Prada and Louis Vuitton and now she’s moved from the fashion world to the auto industry. Lightning appears with Snow Villiers — who was also in the Prada campaign — in an ad for Nissan.

In the video, two people hop into a Nissan and the passenger throws on some VR goggles, which turns her driver into Snow. The drive then becomes a VR adventure for the passenger while the driver makes faces like he’s driving in some sort of epic setting even though he’s just on a normal road and not experiencing anything out of the ordinary. The ad then shows off some Nissan features before the driver and passenger switch, and as the guy slips on the VR headset, his driver turns into Lightning.

The ad is a little weird, but I think the overall message is that if you don’t want to ride around with whoever you’re with, just throw on some VR goggles and hang out with a Final Fantasy character. But just make sure you do it in a Nissan.

Via: Kotaku

24
Jul

Elon Musk hints at changes to SpaceX’s Mars rocket


We’ve known for a while that SpaceX’s plan to get an uncrewed capsule to Mars by the end of next year was a little too ambitious. Last week, we reported that Musk had abandoned plans for the Red Dragon capsule altogether, but he promised something much better was waiting in the wings. Now, thanks to Ars Technica’s keen eye, we may know a little more about what form this vehicle will take.

A 9m diameter vehicle fits in our existing factories …

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 22, 2017

Last year, Elon Musk outlined a bold plan to begin transporting large numbers of humans to the red planet in a concerted effort to begin colonizing Mars. It seems as though this plan was at once too big and too small, though. Rather than focusing efforts on landing a single capsule on the red planet, Musk wants to shoot for a plan that’s more in line with his original grand vision of sending larger ships to establish a Martian colony.

But he clearly doesn’t want it to be too big; no one can ever accuse Musk of not having a vision, but it also needs to be feasible and achievable if he ever actually wants to get SpaceX to Mars. That’s where this tweet comes in. The original SpaceX plan involved a massive rocket with 42 engines, with a 12-meter diameter, that would ferry ships of a 100 people or more to the red planet. Musk is now hinting that the rocket he is planning to use will have a 9-meter diameter. According to Ars Technica, this could leave the rocket with half the engines (21) and, therefore, half the mass.

That’s much more feasible on multiple levels: cost, mass (weight is the single most important criteria when considering spaceflight), technical complexity, and issues of production: Finding a place to build a rocket as massive as the one Musk had originally envisioned would be challenging. This 9-meter rocket would be much bigger than the 3.7-m Falcon 9s the company is currently producing, but as Musk points out, it would fit in their current factories. This is all a lot of conjecture, but considering the source is Musk himself, it’s feasible that the company is building a smaller version of their original Interplanetary Transport System. And because this rocket could be easier to build (though still will be a challenge), it could bring Musk’s Mars ambitions one step closer to reality.

Via: Ars Technica

Source: Elon Musk

24
Jul

The best accessories for your dorm


When we talk about the best accessories for students, we’re not just talking about things like mice and laptop bags, though make no mistake: We most definitely have opinions there. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t also include some more domestic items in our back-to-school guide — stuff intended for a home but compact enough to fit comfortably into a cramped dorm room. We’re talking an electric kettle and a three-in-one breakfast center with a coffee maker, griddle and toaster. (If all you want is an oven or coffee press, we have picks there, too.) Lastly, we found a small, affordable printer — you know, in case you’re too lazy to run across campus to the library.

Source: Engadget’s 2017 Back to School Guide

24
Jul

MetroPCS customers can use T-Mobile’s scam-fighting tools


Shortly after the FCC revealed its plan to fight robocalls, T-Mobile introduced two anti-scamming tools back in March to alert customers to shady calls. Now, the carrier is giving MetroPCS users the same treatment, making Scam ID and Scam Block available for free on July 25th.

Scam ID works a bit like caller ID: If a call comes from a number the network suspects is predatory (cross-referenced with PrivacyStar’s database of known scammers), the customer’s phone will display a “Scam Likely” alert. If they don’t even want to take the risk, users can turn on Scam Block to prevent those shady calls from making it to their device. T-Mobile has already identified and flagged or blocked 273 million of these calls, according to the company’s press release. Given how obnoxious robocalls are — and how much money they can cost the unwary — any effort carriers make is welcome.

Source: T-Mobile

24
Jul

Galaxy S8 Active ditches the curved display in leaked images


Samsung has been putting out Active versions of its S line since the S4 and this weekend, some images and specs of the upcoming Galaxy S8 Active leaked on Reddit. The leaker supposedly got ahold of the phone from a pal who works for Samsung. Internally, the phone is pretty similar to the standard S8 and has a Snapdragon 835 CPU, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. The phone also has a 12-megapixel rear camera and an 8-megapixel front-facing camera. However, the S8 Active has a 4,000mAh battery, larger than the 3,000mAh and 3,500mAh batteries of the S8 and S8 Plus, respectively.

Externally, instead of the S8’s curved Infinity Display, the S8 Active has a regular, flat display with bezels. And rather than the programmable “Active” button, this model has a Bixby button that can’t be remapped.

The Galaxy S8 Active has a military standard certification and is reportedly going to be an AT&T exclusive. There’s as of yet no information about the model’s price or release date.

Via: 9to5Google

Source: Reddit

24
Jul

An iPod Shuffle for Spotify is surprisingly essential


Thanks to Baby Driver, we’ve all been reminded of our love affair for the MP3 player — namely the iPod. Now that Apple Music, Spotify and others allow us to carry millions of songs on our phones at all times, the days of frantically loading a dedicated media player before leaving the house are long gone. However, that doesn’t mean a tiny device that easily fits in your pocket is no longer a worthy music companion. Enter Mighty, an iPod Shuffle-like gadget that syncs Spotify playlists for offline playback and the most compelling case I’ve seen in awhile for a separate music player.

The Mighty’s resemblance to the iPod Shuffle is uncanny. It’s a smidge larger, but they undeniably share design features, right down to the handy clip on the back. Up front, Mighty offers the same controls: There are buttons for skipping tracks and volume adjustments situated around a circular ring with the play/pause control (that’s also the power button) in the center. Again, it’s just like the Shuffle. The only big difference is the addition of a button in the top right corner to jump between playlists. There’s also an LED indicator to let you know when the player is on, charging or about to run out of juice. Mighty also offers 8GB of storage or what the company says is enough for more than 1,000 songs.

To access all of those Spotify playlists and get Mighty set up, there’s a mobile app for iOS and Android doing all the heavy lifting. The company says it considered a desktop app too, but it focused on the mobile software and doesn’t have any immediate plans to make a version for your computer. Once the app is installed on your phone, the rest of the setup process takes about 10 minutes. That includes creating a Mighty account, renaming your device something only you will understand, connecting it to WiFi, downloading updates and linking your Spotify account. None of those take very long individually, but I spent the bulk of that time waiting for updates to download and install.

Once all of that is done, all you have to do is select which playlists to sync from Spotify to Mighty. That process doesn’t take long either, depending on how many items you’re loading onto the device, of course. For me, it look about five to seven minutes to sync a group of nine playlists, or about 25 hours worth of music, for the first time. When you launch the Mighty app, there’s a tab for Spotify that shows all of your playlists — both the items that you’ve marked for offline playback on your mobile device and the ones that aren’t. You can sync any playlist for offline playback, not just the ones downloaded on your phone already.

Like offline playback in Spotify, there are three quality settings in the Mighty app as well. I made the rookie mistake of not checking this before I synced for the first time, and the result was really awful sound quality. With the default “Normal” setting, the audio loaded onto Mighty had very little bass and a ton of treble. It was really terrible. However, once I switched both my Spotify and the Mighty apps over to “High” quality for downloads and swapped out all of my lower-quality playlists, the difference was night and day. And yes, opting for the “Extreme” setting amped up the sound quality even more. Yes, higher quality takes up more space, but in this case, you really need something other than the default for it to sound good.

The Mighty app is also handy for checking how much storage space you’ve used and how much battery is left. Once you hit play, the gadget will no longer beam info to the app. So, don’t expect to keep tabs on those totals while you’re listening to Kesha. Why? Well, Mighty connects to the app via WiFi and Bluetooth and when you start any music, those two connections turn off to conserve battery. Thankfully, when you pause the tunes, it only takes a few seconds for the device to pair with your phone and display those stats.

Since Mighty connects via both Bluetooth and WiFi, you can use it with wireless headphones — a feature the iPod doesn’t offer. Sure, the added connectivity boosts the feature set, there are some caveats. First, you connect wireless headphones (and speakers, too) via the Mighty app. If you’re planning to leave your phone behind on a run, any Bluetooth accessories will connect directly with the device after the initial pairing. This means you won’t have to fire up the app before you head out every time.

Second, Mighty doesn’t have the best Bluetooth range. It’s actually pretty terrible. Due to the small size, the device’s Bluetooth radio is significantly smaller than what’s in your phone, so signal strength suffers. The company says it hopes to improve this in a future software update, but as it stands, I reached for wired earbuds most of the time to avoid the annoyance. I’ve been using the Urbanears Stadion wireless in-ear headphones at the gym for a few months, so I decided to give them a go with Mighty. Unfortunately, with those headphones on and Mighty in my pocket, the music cut out every few seconds during a workout. Pretty much any time the device wasn’t in clear sight of my headphones, I had signal issues.

The same setup (wearing wireless earbuds with Mighty in my pocket) was slightly better at home, but the music still cut out regularly. I was able to remedy the signal loss by clipping Mighty on the collar of my shirt, closer to the headphones, or setting it on the table in front of me. Obviously, neither is ideal if you’re working up a sweat, so hopefully the tweaks the company has in the works will fix things. If you’re thinking of clipping it on your waistband while you go for a run, you’ll want to get wired headphones to minimize interruptions.

Other than the issues with Bluetooth, I didn’t encounter many headaches during my time testing Mighty. I will say that even with all of the Spotify playlists I spin regularly, I didn’t come close to hitting Mighty’s advertised 1,000-plus song capacity. In terms of battery life, the company claims five hours on a charge. I didn’t quite get that much listening time out of the device, but Mighty says battery life will suffer if you load up higher-quality audio files like I did. I could usually listen for about four hours before I needed to plug it in. If you plan to use it all day, you’ll want to recharge during your lunch break.

The iPod Shuffle has Mighty beat with its namesake feature: shuffle. Right now, there’s no shuffle mode that bounces through the playlists you have synced to create a random mix. You can only listen to a playlist front to back, so if you want a mix of songs, you’ll need to manually create one yourself in the Spotify app. According a Kickstarter update, the feature could arrive in the future. For now, there’s no definite timetable for its debut. In fact, the streaming service has to add the functionality on its end before Mighty can employ it on the device.

Mighty also plans to eventually include other content like audiobooks and podcasts, but again, there’s no timeframe for exactly when that might happen. Local file support is also on the company’s road map, but for now, any files you’ve uploaded to Spotify won’t be available to sync on Mighty.

Mighty delivers on its promise of offline playback for Spotify users. The setup process is relatively quick and simple, so you don’t have to futz with it for an hour to get it up and running. Due to the design, you’ll have to do most of the heavy lifting inside the Mighty app on an Android or iOS device, but thankfully that works well and is easy to use.

At $86, is Mighty worth the price of admission? It’s quite a bit more expensive than the iPod Shuffle, but it does offer features like wireless connectivity. Of course, the key is you don’t have to actually own the music you load onto the device — you just need a paid Spotify account. If the company is able to fix the Bluetooth issues and work with Spotify to introduce a much-needed shuffle feature, Mighty could be a compelling workout companion or an on-the-go option for the streaming generation. For now, it’s a solid concept that needs a little fine-tuning and one that probably won’t convince you to leave your phone behind just yet.

24
Jul

The UK wants smart homes to become one with the energy grid


The UK government imagines a near future where smart home devices and appliances can help balance the scales of energy supply and demand, as well as save consumers and businesses money. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has worked with regulator Ofgem and the industry on the “smart systems and flexibility plan,” which sets out ways in which we can make smarter, more efficient use of the grid and new technologies. Connected appliances could play an important part. You might want to set your smart washing machine to run when electricity is particularly cheap, for example, or even cede control of your smart fridge to an external force that turns it off for ten minutes when demand is high and the grid is stressed.

This is called “demand-led response,” and some businesses already have special arrangements with energy suppliers to cut costs and/or help manage pressure on the grid. The government believes it may be possible to do this on a much smaller scale, across individual households and devices. For that to happen, though, it needs to lead the discussion, help draft industry standards, regulate, legislate and make sure systems and data are safe and fit for purpose. Basically, all the stuff you might imagine the government needs to do to support innovation in this area, with this report marking the beginning of that process.

More and more energy is coming from renewable sources, and we’re using it in different ways too, like charging our EVs at night. Gaming the system used to mean setting the water tank to heat up before dawn when electricity was cheapest, whereas now it’s filling up a Tesla Powerwall from solar roof tiles and selling excess juice back to the grid. Vehicle-to-grid tech trials and other smart and efficient ways to manage energy are being developed, and the government wants to make sure it’s creating the right environment for those to move forward.

Smart meters let you see exactly what you use and how much it’s costing you, allowing you to manage usage and expense. But this direct line to the supplier can work both ways. The government wants to make it cheaper and easier for individuals to sell electricity back to grid, as well as help people understand when the best time to do that is.

The plans aren’t focused just on the end consumer’s role, but that of the energy producer, too. The government wants to further explore opportunities for new, industrial-scale storage projects, for instance. Though today’s report is full of impenetrable language, it pretty much does what it says on the tin: It’s a loose plan for smarter, more flexibility energy management, which will be followed by more formal action and legislation.

In a related announcement, The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy also launched the “Faraday Challenge” today, a £246 million investment fund to support research and development in battery technology.

Source: Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (1), (2), Ofgem

24
Jul

At the Mercedes museum, your rental car parks itself


The concept of a self-parking car certainly isn’t new, but Daimler is about to take the next logical step on that front. It’s partnering with Bosch to launch an Automated Valet Parking service at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart. When it launches at the start of 2018, anyone (not just museum guests) can rent cars that will not only drive themselves out, but park themselves upon return. You just need a smartphone app to both make the reservation and the virtual handover when you’re done.

The key is the combination of Mercedes’ self-driving tech with Bosch’s smart car park grid. A slew of sensors in the multi-storey facility monitor the surroundings, telling the car where to go — it’s not just blindly making its way toward an assigned parking spot. A Bosch spokesperson couldn’t go into detail regarding the tech, but did note that it should work with any car that meets certain conditions: it needs a parking control unit, an automatic transmission, an electronic stability program and keyless entry.

This ultimately amounts to a tech showcase for Daimler and Bosch, but it’s notable that this is an honest-to-goodness commercial offering and not just a tech demo. Even if fully autonomous on-demand cars are still years away, you could see the rise of in-between offerings where the cars park themselves. That would still be a big improvement. You could spend less time marching through car parks and more time enjoying your trips.

Source: Daimler

24
Jul

A Twitter joke gave rise to a truly original soccer game


The internet has a fantastic ability to embrace a joke, and then beat it to death faster than you can mumble “my name’s Jeff.” From Hobo With a Shotgun and Kung Fury through to Goat Simulator and Snakes on a Plane, what works as a 60-second gag rarely has staying power.

It’s the biggest concern anyone should have going in to Dan Marshall’s indie football soccer game, Behold the Kickmen. It started out as a joke that Marshall, creator of The Swindle, made on his Twitter feed, with him saying that he’d create a soccer title despite knowing nothing of the sport.

A year and a bit later, and Marshall, egged on by his followers, has produced Kickmen as a standalone title. It’s a soccer simulator written by someone who claims to know nothing of the sport, if you’ve ever seen Mitchell and Webb’s glorious satire of underdog sports movies, you’re 90 percent there.

Kickmen is, as the marketing doesn’t make painfully clear, the world’s most faithful and accurate soccer simulator ever made. The circular arena holds nine players on each side, eight outfielders and a “goldkeeper” while an umpire governs the action.

The aim of the game is to do a goal, into the enemy team’s net, by kicking or walking the ball toward it. The farther away you do this from, the more goals you score, so a short tap-in earns you one point, while a punt from the halfway line earns you three.

There are other features that, of course, folks totally confident of their football soccer knowledge will be familiar with. Such as extra time, where players can run into a floating clock icon on the field to extend the match’s length, and offside, where part of the screen is deemed offside.

In addition, Kickmen comes with a “Future Dystopian Reskin” option that swaps out the football soccer for a more Speedball-esque vibe. Which is good, because the game’s primary influences are both Sensible Soccer and Speedball, as explained by Marshall early on in its development.

The game advises you to begin with the tutorial, then the story mode, then finally the quick-play option, which lets you tweak every element of the game, including team size. And you should, because many of the more-nuanced elements of Kickmen’s gameplay take some getting used to.

When you begin the story mode, your team will have almost none of their core abilities, including passing and tackling. You’ll need to buy those by raising money, which is done by winning games and impressing the fans in the stadium.

A mistimed pass towards my own goal resulted in a spectacular own two goals. Woe.

Users are only able to control whichever player is closest to the ball, with the system switching between them automatically. They then dribble the ball around the enemy at a frustratingly slow pace and attempt to avoid tackles until you can afford to buy the sprint and sidestep (“Dash”) abilities.

If you’re used to more responsive, and immersive football games, then Kickmen’s learning curve is steep. Not being able to select the player you’re controlling, and the AI’s tendency to swarm everyone around the ball makes tactical play a lot harder. During moments such as extra time, when you need a player to collect an icon, the auto-switching system can hamper your progress. But these flaws also make the game difficult to master, in the way that you dimly remember from older console titles that made you work for your entertainment.

There are certainly moments during play when you wish that Marshall’s feigned indifference to the sport was less prominent. Because, deep down, the game is densely packed with the sort of ironic misuse of footballing terms that only someone familiar with the game could successfully achieve.

Jon Turi United still needs to work on the whole doing goals business.

In terms of atmosphere, Marshall recruited friends and followers to record chants and cheers for the virtual stadiums. At various points, you’ll even hear exasperated fans ask you to “do a goal now,” as well as one asking you to hurry up and win as they need to use the bathroom.

The soundtrack will likely divide users into those who love their womp-womp heavy EDM and those who do not. It’s likely that you may, over time, gradually reduce the in-game music for your own tunes when you gradually tire of the repetition.

The soundtrack will likely divide users into those who love their womp-womp heavy EDM and those who do not.

The story mode itself begins like the career mode of many a football sim, with your awful team sat at the bottom of the league. Only by playing beyond yourself and earning cash can you upgrade your team and progress up the league table football spreadsheet.

Although the game’s presentation makes it look like it runs in a league format, users will instead play each team consecutively until you beat them. Which can prove problematic when you come across a superior group of players who are blocking your route to upgrades.

Behold the Kickmen may have started out as a joke, but it manages to avoid becoming grating or one-note in its execution. It stands both as a joke and a meta-joke at once, as a commentary on the cynicism of football, the business of football games and game development itself.

Then there’s the branching-story mode, which sees your hotshot young striker rising through the ranks and uncovering the secret of his father’s death. Every line of dialogue could have been cribbed from a thoughtful parody of a high school movie, with the football bully taunting your progress.

There’s a term, ludonarrative dissonance, describing where a title’s narrative and its gameplay are in conflict. Behold the Kickmen is (very) funny, and fun to spend time with, but playing the game is its weakest element.

After all, the tutorials are intentionally surreal (and obtuse); the branching, RPG-style story dialogue is comic; and even the rolling news chyron is a machine gun for gags. But you’d rather spend time there, reading the increasingly-ludicrous headlines than actually in the stadium. Not that it was expected, but a lack of local multiplayer — which sports games usually thrive on — also dents the enthusiasm.

That’s probably unfair, because the gameplay, while fiddly and frustrating, is enormously satisfying when it begins to work. After a few frustrating games, my star player, Billy Steele of Jon Turi United, managed to do three goals after a lucky punt from the halfway line. You could hear my bellow of delight from half a street away.

Behold the Kickmen is available on Steam for Windows, setting you back $3.99 / £2.79, a figure that’s so small that you can’t not buy it.

Source: Behold the Kickmen

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