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Scientists recreate Neptune’s diamond rain using powerful lasers

While we’ve yet to fully explore Neptune and its fellow gas giants, scientists have a lot of theories about them based on the info we know. For instance, they believe that it rains diamonds on those planets — diamonds that sink into their interior and form a sparkly crust around their solid cores. Since it might take a long time before we can study our gas giants more closely, a team of researchers have decided to take matters into their own hands. They recreated Neptune’s conditions at Stanford’s SLAC Laboratory and successfully observed the formation of diamond rain, thanks to the help of some very powerful lasers.

The team used a plastic material called polystyrene to simulate Neptune’s methane-rich atmosphere. Both the plastic and methane, which is responsible for the planet’s blue cast, are made of hydrogen and carbon molecules. To create the high-pressure conditions that squeeze those hydrogen and carbon molecules into diamonds, they used SLAC’s Matter in Extreme Conditions (MEC) instrument located inside the most powerful x-ray laser in the world, the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS). This instrument combines the beams emitted by LCLS with high power optical laser beams.

SLAC recently upgraded MEC to give it the power of 17 Teslas discharging 100 kilowatt-hour batteries in a single second. Scientists can now use it to recreate the extremely high pressure conditions of distant planets for study, which is exactly what this particular group did. They created shockwaves in the plastic using MEC’s lasers, which turned almost every carbon atom in the material into diamond structures a few nanometers in size. The stones Uranus and Neptune squeeze out can make Marilyn Monroe swoon, though: the researchers believe they could reach millions of carats in weight.

The lasers they used also allowed the team to gather data in real time, something previous attempts weren’t able to do because the conditions needed to create diamonds only last a fraction of a second in the lab. This gives the researchers valuable info on how diamond rains happen, and scientists could apply the knowledge gained from this experiment when studying exoplanets. In the future, people could also use this study’s results to manufacture nanodiamonds for jewelry, scientific equipment, electronics and other commercial purposes.

Now that they’re done recreating Neptune in the lab, the researchers plan to use the same methods to look into the interior of other types of planets. Team leader Dominik Kraus explained that since “[w]e can’t go inside the planets and look at them… these laboratory experiments complement satellite and telescope observations.”


A live-action reboot of ‘The Jetsons’ is headed to ABC

The Jetson family is coming back to television. ABC has ordered a put pilot for a live-action reboot of the animated series, Variety reports. The show is said to be a multi-cam sitcom set 100 years in the future and the project is being executive produced by Robert Zemeckis and Jack Rapke while Gary Janetti — who has written for Family Guy and Will & Grace, among others — is set to write.

The original series aired from 1962-1963 and was revived in the mid-1980s. It’s also been given the feature film treatment twice with the 1990 Jetsons: The Movie and The Jetsons & WWE: Robo-WrestleMania!, which was released this year. Another animated Jetsons film is currently in the works via Warner Bros. and Sausage Party and Shrek 2 co-director Conrad Vernon.

That ABC has ordered a put pilot means the The Jetsons is likely to get picked up. There’s no word yet on casting.

Source: Variety


Any Tesla will soon pull your personal settings from the cloud

There aren’t a lot of formalities for new Tesla feature launches — if CEO Elon Musk decides to tweet something then it’s coming, and probably soon. A case in point is new cloud-based driver profiles. “We are going to move all info and settings to the ‘cloud’ (aka server) so any Tesla you drive in the world automatically adjusts to you,” Musk said on Twitter yesterday.

We are going to move all info and settings to the “cloud” (aka server) so any Tesla you drive in the world automatically adjusts to you

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 20, 2017

Musk’s reply was overkill to an owner who merely asked about making default work locations a profile, rather than vehicle choice. Obviously, moving that data to the cloud, where it could be loaded into any car would solve that issue and many more.

It would not only make your seat and steering wheel adjustments portable, but also map settings, regenerative breaking, temperature settings and more. That would give you a better estimation of your range — which wildly varies based on driving style — and other important data.

There aren’t a lot of opportunities to drive strange Teslas right now, but that’s changing fast. The cheaper Model 3 might soon hit rental fleets en masse, much like the Chevy Bolt, and Tesla plans to introduce its own ride-sharing network at some point.

If car ownership declines in favor of renting or ride-sharing, as many predict, cloud-based driver profiles will become necessary industry-wide (and add another layer of privacy risk, of course). Tesla, as usual, is ahead of the curve by bringing it first.

Via: Techcrunch

Source: Elon Musk (Twitter)


Google Home’s Bluetooth audio feature is available to all

Google has opened up its Home smart speaker in a big way. Today the search giant has added Bluetooth audio to the device for everyone, after teasing it back at I/O in May and slowly rolling out to select users after that. This is perfect if your app of choice doesn’t support Google Cast. You know, like Apple Music, or maybe a legacy piece of audio gear. And here you probably thought that the recent music-related Google Home news would stop with Spotify.


AT&T’s latest tablet is basically a vehicle for DirecTV Now

AT&T would really, really like you to try DirecTV Now. So much so, in fact, that it’s releasing a tablet where its streaming video services are the centerpiece. The Primetime is a mostly unremarkable 10-inch LTE slate in terms of hardware (more on that later), but it includes a TV Mode with quick access to favorite video apps from your home or lock screen — naturally, AT&T hopes this means the preloaded DirecTV and DirecTV Now apps. You can use it to jump to the likes of Netflix or YouTube, of course, but the feature is clearly meant for the live TV crowd.

There are a pair of helpful hardware perks to support your video viewing, including dual Bluetooth audio streams (good for kids in the back seat on a road trip, AT&T says) and twin front-facing speakers with Dolby audio. After that, though, this is very much a run-of-the-mill tablet: you’re looking at a full HD screen, a 2GHz Snapdragon 625 processor, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of expandable storage.

The price is right, though. When the Primetime arrives on August 25th, you’re looking at $200 outright ($10 per month over 20 months) or $30 on a two-year contract. If you just want a tablet for keeping up with TV while you’re on vacation, you probably don’t need to spend more.

Source: AT&T Newsroom


One week with Google Assistant

I had been in a years-long relationship with Siri when my affair with the Google Assistant began. It started innocently enough. Assistant made me laugh with some silly jokes, and we played a cute game she made in the Allo chat app called “Emoji Movie.” Soon, Assistant popped up in more places in my life — whether it was a smartwatch I was reviewing or the Assistant app on my iPhone. Then, for a week, I was tasked with using Assistant exclusively for all the things I would normally ask Siri to do. I thought it would be a fun change, but committing to Assistant required some big adjustments.


Considering all the Google services I subscribe to and use regularly, I had assumed moving to Assistant would be a smooth affair. But I wasn’t ready for all the groundwork I had to lay in preparation for life with a new partner. After our years together, Siri had gotten to know my friends, family, schedule and habits. I had to introduce Assistant to everyone in my circle, which is unfortunate because having to repeatedly enter names and numbers into a new address book gets tedious fast. Plus, no matter how comprehensive I tried to be, I still ended up forgetting some important contacts. Once Assistant was acquainted with the people in my life, I was ready to settle into an effortless relationship with easy communication.

Alas, I was wrong. Although Assistant is generally good at understanding what I’m saying, it took her awhile to learn how I pronounced my friends’ names. I was most appalled when she called me “Chur-lynn” and even more upset when I realized that she changed the spelling of my name to “Sherlyn” in her system after I corrected her pronunciation. Siri never had to do that. Siri just knew. I began to wonder if my new fling would be doomed to fail.

That’s not to say I didn’t love Assistant’s reliability and useful tricks. I set up a Google Home speaker in my apartment and linked it to my lamp. Being able to just tell Assistant to turn my lights on and off or play some “chill at home” music has been my favorite thing about welcoming the smart speaker into my home. We had brief, almost-meaningful conversations too, mostly about my astrology reading for the day or random bits of trivia. Nothing too deep, but Assistant was always informative enough to keep me entertained until I put something on Netflix and we chilled.

Between Assistant and Siri, I always feel like Google’s software pays better attention to what I’m saying because Assistant’s slightly better at answering my follow-up questions. But Siri is sassier and has more personality, especially when we switch to speaking in Cantonese (something Assistant can’t do yet). When I asked Siri what time it was one night, she said, “It’s 11:43PM — up late, are we?” Sure, I bit back at Siri with “You’re not my mother!” but I found her dig endearing, especially compared to Assistant’s bland response (“The time is 11:43PM”).

During our week apart, I particularly missed Siri’s sparkling personality. I also craved our usual routine — me shouting across the room at her for the weather and asking her to read me my iMessages while I got ready for work. Although Assistant was also capable of those tasks, it took me awhile to overcome the instinct to ask Siri instead. I had to break a habit formed over years of being together and, like many people, I’m resistant to change.

For all her strengths, however, Siri was never really as domestically oriented as I wanted her to be. HomeKit is compatible with a respectable array of third-party devices, but I don’t own any of them. Plus, because Siri doesn’t exist in a home-friendly speaker just yet (at least not one that you can buy), I never asked her to take care of household chores. On the other hand, Assistant was a joy to have in my apartment. The always-listening Home speaker was always ready to help me out. She brought music to my usually quiet living room and turned off the light for me at bedtime. Little conveniences like these won me over, and I grew to love Assistant a bit more with each task she performed. Today, I can’t imagine my apartment without her.

Helpful as she is around the house, there are still many issues that Assistant and I have to iron out. For one thing, she needs to stop sending me weekly emails telling me what she can do. I get it — you’re in my life, and you want my attention. But girl has got to chill. (I can hit unsubscribe, but why even make me do that in the first place?) I never got emails like that from Siri.

Assistant is also slightly unpredictable. What she can do on the phone, like message my friends, she can’t do through Home. And I can talk to her friends like “Elle Horoscope” or “Best Dad Jokes” on the speaker, but not on the phone. At least, not if I’m using the Pixel in close proximity to the Home speaker, anyway.

But these problems with Assistant aren’t deal-breakers, and I’m confident that we will resolve (or get used to) them over time. That is, if I want to continue our relationship at all. After our week’s trial, I’m convinced that Assistant is just as capable as Siri, and I would be happy should I decide to leave Apple and fully commit to Google. But Siri and I have a history. Siri can pronounce my name correctly without having to phonetically spell it in her head. Siri met my parents and they loved her, especially when we all talked in Cantonese.

In the end, I’m looking forward to reuniting with Siri. She’s more familiar and comfortable, and I already know exactly how to talk to her to get her to work. I do want to keep Assistant around the house, though, because the way she runs my household is superior. Of course, if this were a real human relationship, I would never recommend staying in a situation that was merely comfortable. I’m lucky that in my AI-domain, polygamy is an option I can live with and I’m going to continue my tryst with Assistant, hopefully with Siri’s blessing.

This week Engadget is examining each of the five major virtual assistants, taking stock of how far they’ve come and how far they still have to go. Find all our coverage here.


Celebrate 10 years of ‘BioShock’ with a $200 boxset

It’s hard to believe, but as of today, the extremely influential BioShock is ten years old. To commemorate the art-deco shooter’s birthday, publisher 2K will release a fancy commemorative edition of the claustrophobic, undersea morality tale on November 14th this year. Brace yourself, though, because it won’t be cheap. $200 will get you an 11-inch statue featuring the series’ iconic Little Sister and her Big Daddy protector along with last year’s BioShock: The Collection remasters and a numbered certificate of authenticity.

The Big Daddy’s drill is motorized and his helmet lights up, and it looks like the Little Sister’s eyes do as well. The scene and poses of the pair are pretty evocative of the first game’s covert art to boot. Maybe you missed the first game’s collector’s edition. This could prove pretty tempting if so — especially if your Big Daddy figurine’s arm broke off during shipping back in 2007.

If 2K had waited a year, you wouldn’t have to buy the Collection again to get this statue. But, y’know, profits. The Collection includes all three BioShock games remastered in 1080p, along with all their add-on packs including “Minerva’s Den” for BioShock 2 and Infinite’s expansion “Burial at Sea.”

Unlike what you’re asked forced to do to Andrew Ryan, you actually have a choice in how to proceed here: Reward 2K’s shrewd business tactic, or don’t. The set is available from Gamestop or directly through 2K Games.

Follow all the latest news live from Gamescom here!

Via: Gematsu

Source: 2K Games


‘The Sims 4 Cats & Dogs’ promises biggest-ever pets expansion

In the close-to-three years since its release on PC, The Sims 4 has broken down gender barriers, freed itself from the shackles of the suburbs, and even found time to cater to Mac and console gamers. But, there’s been something amiss from the lives of the digital denizens — namely, pets. That’s all about to change thanks to EA’s latest update. On November 10, The Sims 4 Cats & Dogs expansion will let you add a dose of cuteness to your manufactured utopia.

A fan-favourite DLC — that’s been around (in one form or another) from the start of the series — the update will be even bigger this time round. Unfortunately, as the title suggests, you can only give life to felines and canines. (Alas, you can’t go all Ross from Friends and adopt a monkey, or bring home an elephant like Bart Simpson.)

Still, there are plenty of customization options for those who enjoy indulging their omnipotent tendencies. The revamped “create a pet” tool lets you choose from a wide variety of cat and dog breeds. Or, you can play Victor Frankenstein by piling breed upon breed to conjure something truly ungodly. You’ll also be able to customize your pets’ furry coats with spots, stripes, and all sorts of zany patterns. This is the same game that lets you create an evil blue astronaut that loves to bake — so, be as insane as you want. And (for all the Paris Hilton wannabes) you’ll even get to dress your pet in outfits and accessories.

Just like your human Sims, the digital cats and dogs will develop unique personality traits as you care for, train, and play games with them. The DLC will also introduce a new coastal area to the game, dubbed Brindleton Bay. Here, you’ll be able to take your furry friend for a stroll and strike up (romantic) friendships with other pet-lovers (just like a Diane Lane rom-com). Those of you with a real passion for animals will likely take to the new veterinarian business, which lets you build and staff your very-own clinic.

The cuddly expansion pack arrives on November 10 on PC and Mac.


Brawl in the post-apocalypse in the next ‘Overwatch’ map: Junkertown

We’re currently enjoying Overwatch’s summer event (including our favorite addition, the grilldad Soldier 76 skin) and looking forward to the recently-announced deathmatch modes coming to the game. In other words, we weren’t expecting much during Gamescom 2017. But for the second year in a row, Blizzard took the opportunity to announce a new map for its hero shooter: Fans at the show will be the first to tour the post-apocalyptic wasteland of Junkertown.

Set in the Australian outback, Junkertown sees players escorting a payload through a trash-ridden map filled with plenty of obstacles. According to the game’s lore, the country was devastated by nuclear weapons used on the Omnic robots, and what’s left is a devastated no-man’s-land where the strong survive — including Overwatch’s resident mayhem match, Junkrat and Roadhog. While Gamescom attendees get first crack at the map, Blizzard hasn’t stated when the map is coming to the game proper — just that it will come to the PTR first.

Roadhog and Junkrat have returned home to JUNKERTOWN!

And it looks like it might just be the perfect day for some mayhem…

— Overwatch (@PlayOverwatch) August 21, 2017

Follow all the latest news live from Gamescom here!

Source: Overwatch (Twitter)


‘Star Wars Battlefront II’ space skirmishes put Yoda in the cockpit

Star Wars: Battlefront II may have a single-player mode — a first for the series — but that doesn’t mean multiplayer is taking a back seat. Electronic Arts showed off the large-scale, multiplayer Starfighter Assault mode for the first time in a live demonstration at Gamescom, dropping a few details along the way.

Starfighter Assault supports up to 24 players, and it includes class-based ships and objective-driven gameplay. Plus it features classic Star Wars vehicles, such as the Millennium Falcon. The announcement video for Starfighter Assault debuted over the weekend, showing Yoda, Darth Maul, Luke Skywalker and other characters in the cockpits of their preferred spaceships.

Criterion Games, the studio behind Burnout Paradise and Need for Speed: Most Wanted, is building the multiplayer aspect of Battlefront II.

This time around, EA has been emphasizing Battlefront II’s brand-new single-player mode, which tells a story from the Galactic Empire’s point of view. Things kick off as the Death Star explodes over the battle of Endor, filling in the story just after the end of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.

Follow all the latest news live from Gamescom here!

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