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The Art of Technology
Updated: 1 hour 48 min ago

Curse of Naxxramas is an uninspiring Hearthstone expansion

7/27/2014 3:30pm
These are the jokes, folks...

Those of us who have played Hearthstone since the closed beta was released have stared at the same basic collection of cards, play modes, and once-a-turn hero powers for nearly a year now. These features haven't limited play too much. There are tons of viable deck combinations to create out of the game's nearly 400 cards, and the controlled randomness of the Arena mode has kept the game fresh after what must be hundreds of hours of play.

Yet the metagame (i.e. the types of decks people pick to match up against other common decks) has stagnated around two or three viable deck types (with slight variations) in which players see the same ultra-powerful cards appear again and again (if I never have to hear Leeroy Jenkins' famous war cry again, it will be too soon). At some point, even the best-designed collectible card game needs an infusion of new cards and gameplay ideas to prevent things from getting stale.

Blizzard realizes this, of course. The newly released "Curse of Naxxramas" expansion allowed the company to expand the game's card selection and add new types of gameplay to the mix. The first of five "wings" of the expansion launched earlier this week as a free update, and future wings will appear weekly for a small cost ($20 or 2,800 in-game gold for the whole thing). While it's definitely nice to get some new content in the game, I came away from that first wing a little disappointed.

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Cold-blooded animals keep their protein-making machinery running smoothly

7/27/2014 2:00pm
Kristina Servant

Animals have evolved to occupy almost all corners of the Earth. To survive, no matter the weather outside, the chemical reactions that run their bodies must adjust to the temperature. This is easy for warm-blooded animals like humans, because we have the ability to maintain our body temperature.

But cold-blooded animals can’t do that. When the weather changes and the mercury swings, their cells get exposed to that change in temperature. Yet cold blooded animals survive just fine. Michael Welte, associate professor of biology at the University of Rochester, may have just discovered one way such animals compensate. His team’s findings have been published in the Journal of Cell Biology.

One key to an organism’s survival at any temperature is to ensure that proteins are being made at the right time and in the right amount. But making proteins requires chemical reactions, and those reactions are sensitive to temperature.

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How sci-fi series Extant built a realistic future

7/27/2014 1:00pm

CBS Sci-fi drama Extant explores a world where human-level artificial intelligence is a reality. Centered on the Woods family, it follows astronaut Molly (Halle Berry), who finds herself pregnant after a year alone in space, husband and genius roboticist John (Goran Visnjic), and their son Ethan, a robot and the most advanced AI ever created. caught up with creator Mickey Fisher and showrunner Greg Walker to discuss Extant's creation, how to build a realistic future, using tech to foster personal connections and partnering with Steven Spielberg. How long had you been working on Extant before you got people like Halle Berry and Steven Spielberg involved?

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All systems “go” as control restored to beleaguered sex gecko satellite

7/27/2014 12:00pm
These aren't our illustrious orbiting sex geckos, but they are the experiment's ground-based control sex geckos, and that's almost as good!

Good news, everyone: according to a statement from the Russian space agency Roscosmos, positive control has been reestablished over the agency’s orbiting Foton-M4 satellite. Launched a week ago, Foton-M4 carries a primarily biological payload made up of geckos, flies, plant seeds, and various microorganisms.

The satellite made headlines late last week when just a few days after launch, ground control lost communication with the satellite and could no longer send it commands.

As of Saturday night, the crisis appears to be over, and Roscosmos can once again talk to Foton-M4. "The link is established, the prescribed commands have been conducted in accordance with the plan," confirmed Roscosmos' chief official Oleg Nikolayevich Ostapenko. According to an additional quote from Ostapenko on, Roscosmos is sure that "90 percent" of the satellite’s experiments are still viable.

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Bose accuses Beats of using patented noise-cancelling tech

7/26/2014 6:05pm

Bose Corp. filed a lawsuit on Friday that accuses popular headphone maker Beats Electronics of infringing upon several of its patents.

The suit claims that Bose lost sales because Beats—which Apple announced it would acquire for $3 billion in May—used patented noise-cancelling technology in its Studio and Studio Wireless headphone lines.

Beats’ products that allegedly use the technology “can also be used for noise cancellation when no music is played, a feature that Beats also advertises,” the suit states. “Thus, Beats specifically encourages users to use the infringing functionality. Beats advertises no method to turn off features that cause end users to directly infringe.”

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How to implement a self-destruct feature into free trial software?

7/26/2014 2:00pm
Stack Exchange

This Q&A is part of a weekly series of posts highlighting common questions encountered by technophiles and answered by users at Stack Exchange, a free, community-powered network of 100+ Q&A sites.

theGreenCabbage asks:

I am interested in implementing a free trial version to my existing software. I plan on having the trial last 14 days. Upon the 14th day, my software would prompt the user to either pay for the paid version, or have the consequence of not being able to use it. The free trial version is entirely unlocked, meaning all paid features are there.

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Researchers: Forget old experiments, let’s reinvent the wheel

7/26/2014 12:15pm
Beamsplitters like these are enough to confirm that single photons can be linearly polarized. Fermilab

One of the joys of the arXiv is that anyone can submit anything to the website. Cranks and kooks can publish to their hearts' content in the theoretical physics section. Their work will remain there, read only by those searching for casual amusement. Yet somewhere between all the excellent science and slapstick comedy are scientists who just get stuff flat out wrong.

This is the story of how two respected physicists failed to understand photon angular momentum. Don't worry, they're not alone. Every physicist who has given the subject any thought has lost sleep working it out (and has had nightmares involving Jackson's Classical Electrodynamics). Since I lost sleep over it, I figured I would ensure that you all lose some sleep too.

Spinning photons and rotating electric fields

The fundamental confusion arises from the fact that there are two equivalent ways of describing the angular momentum of a photon. A cursory inspection of nature, however, seems to reveal that one is more natural than the other.

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Gallery: Chrome Beta for Android gets a Material Design makeover

7/26/2014 11:01am"xrailTop", {sz:"300x250", kws:["top"], collapse: true});Chrome Beta for Android updated recently, and with the update came a Material Design makeover, the new design style Google introduced at I/O. It's easy to think of a browser as "just an address bar," but this new version of Chrome has a ton of changes, including a slick new incognito mode design, a flatter icon, and an overall cleaner and brighter look. Just click through the gallery below for an overview.

In a blog post announcing the update, Google says the new version of Chrome "is starting to sport some of the elements of Material Design," indicating that the redesign isn't finished yet. While it looks like most of the immediate stuff is finished, like the new tab page, address bar, menu, and incognito mode, some areas, like the settings, haven't changed at all.

In addition to the new look, Chrome Beta 37 will now support automatically signing in across multiple accounts. The changelog also lists "performance improvements," and on the Android L developer preview especially, this new version is fast, even when scrolling. The version also fixed a bug where Chrome 36 would identify Android L as "Android 4.3" (that's Jelly Bean), the beta corrects that and identifies L as "4.4.99."

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Massive impacts show asteroid has deep crust

7/26/2014 10:07am
Artist's impression of the huge impact that deformed the protoplanetary asteroid Vesta, leaving the large impact basin we see today. Martin Jutzi

A new study shows that the asteroid 4 Vesta may have a different internal structure than previously thought. Vesta, the second largest body in the asteroid belt after the dwarf planet Ceres, is notable for two gigantic craters, so big that they partly overlap despite being on opposite poles of the asteroid.

The first, chronologically speaking, is called Venenia (Named for a priestess of the goddess Vesta in Roman mythology), the result of an impact some 2 billion years ago. The crater is 395 kilometers in diameter, but only penetrated about 25 kilometers deep into the surface of Vesta. And then there’s Rheasilvia. Also named for a priestess of Vesta, Rheasilvia is a whopping 505 km in diameter (Vesta is only 525km in diameter), and the rim of the crater is also one of the tallest mountains in the solar system. Rheasilvia was probably created about one billion years ago, and it obliterated part of Venenia where the two overlap.

The impact penetrated so deep that it’s thought to reach down through the asteroid’s crust to its mantle. The new study, however, shows that, while it did reach about 60-100 km, it did not penetrate to the mantle, suggesting the mantle begins deeper than previously thought.

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Turn your selfies into vanity artwork—made from Lego!

7/26/2014 8:58am

Brick-a-Pic lets you convert your photos into Lego artworks. Upload a picture, and the company will send you a brick mosaic picture with precisely the right pieces selected from the Lego color palette. You can then assemble the pictures according to a handy guide.

Clearly it's already possible to create pictures from Lego if you have the brick skillz. But Brick-a-Pic automates the process. It has developed a piece of software that converts your image into appropriately sized pixels using only official Lego colors and those colors that Lego used to produce but has discontinued. It then sends you the correct number of bricks of the different colors you need to produce your artwork.

Kits come in a range of sizes, from 16x16 pixels (up to 256 Lego bricks) through to 48x48 pixels (up to 2,304 bricks). If you are feeling really extravagant you can go all out with a custom mosaic which can be any size and comes with up to 5,000 bricks.

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British reality show rigs teens’ iPhones to record all their activity

7/25/2014 4:17pm
Always on their phones, those teens. Channel 4

A new reality series airing on Channel 4 used rigged iPhones to monitor all the digital activities of its teen characters, wrote the Columbia Journalism Review on Thursday. The system, referred to as a "digital rig" by the studio that developed it, had feeds monitored by a production team 13 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Secret Life of Students was a four-part documentary series meant to portray the lives of 12 freshmen as they navigated the first four months of college. In addition to filming the students, the production studio, Raw TV, also thought it would be a good idea to track the students' activity on their phones, including Internet search history, Twitter usage, texts, and phone calls.

While the entire program, phone use included, seems to have fallen a little flat, it produced some interesting moments. "Is chlamydia permanent?" one subject searched on her phone after finding out during a phone call, which was also recorded on the rigged phones, that she might have contracted it from another subject .

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After moving money around, Google paid tiny amount in European taxes

7/25/2014 3:15pm
David Dennis

Google continues to expand its use of legal-but-questionable tax shenanigans as a way to minimize its overseas tax burden.

According to Irish media reports Friday, in 2013 Google Ireland Limited paid an effective tax rate of just 0.16 percent on €17 billion ($22.8 billion) revenue, which came to a mere €27.7 million ($37.2 million). Google paid €11.7 billion in “administrative expenses,” which The Irish Times reports “largely refers to royalties paid to other Google entities, some of which are ultimately controlled from tax havens such as Bermuda.”

David Wilson, a London-based Google spokesman, confirmed the Irish figures to Ars.

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Tracking and combatting our current mass extinction

7/25/2014 2:55pm
Ecosystem engineer: a giant tortoise native to a different island creates wallows that trap rain water on a dry island in Mauritius. Zairabee Ahamud

At various times in its past, the Earth has succeeded in killing off most of its inhabitants. Although the impact that killed the non-avian dinosaurs and many other species gets most of the attention, the majority of the mass extinctions we're aware of were driven by geological processes and the changes in climate that they triggered.

Unfortunately, based on the current rate at which animals are vanishing for good, we're currently in the midst of another mass extinction, this one driven by a single species: humans. (And many of the extinctions occurred before we started getting serious about messing with the climate.) This week's edition of Science contains a series of articles tracking the pace of the extinction and examining our initial efforts to contain it.

Extinction and “defaunation”

Estimating the total number of animal species is a challenging task, but numbers range from roughly five to 10 million. Of those, we seem to be exterminating about 10,000 to 60,000 every year. Up to a third of the remaining vertebrate species are thought to be threatened or endangered. Amphibians have it even worse, with over 40 percent of species considered threatened.

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Congress finally passes cell phone unlocking bill

7/25/2014 2:30pm
HI TRICIA! 王 圣 捷

The US House of Representatives has unanimously passed a bill called S517 that will make it legal to unlock one's cell phone in order to switch service providers.

The House passed the Senate version of the bill without making any changes to it. That means that the controversial language banning "bulk" unlocking won't be in the final version of the bill. If that language had stayed in, the bill would have protected consumers while leaving phone resellers and recyclers open to copyright claims.

"This is something that Americans have been asking for and I am pleased that we were able to work together to ensure the swift passage of legislation restoring the exemption that allowed consumers to unlock their cell phones," House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte said in a statement published by National Journal.

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Infringement to go: Pirate Bay goes mobile

7/25/2014 2:13pm

The Pirate Bay screenshot Of the many sites around the Web dedicated to helping people find downloadable copyrighted content, The Pirate Bay is the boldest. It's also one of the longest-surviving and most popular sites for illegal torrent files.

That continues to be true despite the site's many legal travails, including co-founder Peter Sunde's arrest in May.

Yet the site continues to grow, adapt, and change. It's now dogma among big Internet companies that the future is mobile, and The Pirate Bay is no different. The website has now debuted a new mobile service at

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Verizon Wireless to slow down users with unlimited 4G LTE plans

7/25/2014 2:00pm

Verizon Wireless today confirmed that it will begin slowing down LTE data speeds when customers who have unlimited plans and use a lot of data connect to congested cell sites. This "Network Optimization" was implemented in 2011 but previously applied only to 3G users.

"Starting in October 2014, Verizon Wireless will extend its network optimization policy to the data users who: fall within the top 5 percent of data users on our network, have fulfilled their minimum contractual commitment, and are on unlimited plans using a 4G LTE device," the Verizon announcement said. "They may experience slower data speeds when using certain high bandwidth applications, such as streaming high-definition video or during real-time, online gaming, and only when connecting to a cell site when it is experiencing heavy demand."

People who use 4.7GB or more per month fall in the top five percent and will thus see slower connections when using their devices in congested areas, Verizon says in an FAQ. When asked to explain the reason for the "minimum contractual commitment" clause, a Verizon spokesperson told Ars the company is focusing the policy on "customers who are still on a month-to-month plan" and have grandfathered unlimited data. "We discontinued offering unlimited plans to new customers in 2011," the spokesperson said.

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SpaceX wins intermediate victory over US in launch contract case

7/25/2014 1:48pm

The United States government has lost its bid to toss SpaceX's lawsuit over lucrative national security-related launch contracts.

In two orders issued on Thursday, the US Court of Federal Claims said that the two parties have been ordered to seek mediation as a way to resolve their ongoing dispute.

Three months ago, the private space firm sued after learning that the Air Force had entered into exclusive agreements with government contractors that locked out private companies from competing for the launch contracts without providing suitable justification. As of now, the only authorized contractor to send up Air Force payloads is United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

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How to defeat facial-recognition machines and look like a rock star

7/25/2014 1:36pm
CV Dazzle

The National Security Agency revelations from whistleblower Edward Snowden have produced a cottage industry of companies providing technological innovations that seek to defeat the NSA surveillance state.

The bulk of this effort is focused on encryption services that secure all manners of online communications from the NSA's prying eyes. But what about privacy in the non-virtual world?

Brooklyn artist Adam Harvey has developed a low-tech solution to protect your privacy—fashioned even before the Snowden revelations—using makeup and hairstyles he says could defeat facial-recognition machines. Privacy enthusiasts must be willing to look like Marilyn Manson or a rocker from Kiss, but this method just might make you safe from the facial-recognition technology that is being embraced by everything from sports stadiums to the FBI.

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Google X’s “Baseline Study” applies big data techniques to healthcare

7/25/2014 1:00pm
Contando Estrelas

Google X has launched a new moonshot called "Baseline Study," which is intended to help us better understand the human body. Google wants to collect genetic and molecular information that it will use to create a picture of a healthy human. The project will initially start with 175 people and will later expand to "thousands" more. Unlike most Google X projects, Google's hasn't come out and talked about this one; all the information we have comes from a Wall Street Journal report.

The plan is to collect a massive amount of information on healthy people and to use that data to proactively identify and address health problems. Most medicine today is reactive rather than focusing on the prevention of illness—something goes wrong and then you get treatment. Once Google has a good baseline of what a healthy human looks like, that data can be compared to data from other individuals to discover potential problems before symptoms become obvious.

Larry Page has frequently spoken about the possibility of using big data techniques to improve healthcare while lamenting that privacy laws limit searches through medical data. With the Baseline Study, it seems that Google intends to build a database of its own that can avoid these limits. With all this data, Google will use its big data prowess to search for "biomarkers," or specific molecules that indicate something is amiss. Google won't have free rein over the data, though—the Institutional Review Boards of Duke and Stanford University will review how it intends to use the information.

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Cable companies: We’re afraid Netflix will demand payment from ISPs

7/25/2014 12:30pm
Should Netflix CEO Reed Hastings insist on payments from Comcast and Verizon? JD Lasica

While the network neutrality debate has focused primarily on whether ISPs should be able to charge companies like Netflix for faster access to consumers, cable companies are now arguing that it's really Netflix who holds the market power to charge them.

This argument popped up in comments submitted to the FCC by Time Warner Cable and industry groups that represent cable companies. (National Journal writer Brendan Sasso pointed this out.)

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), which represents many companies including Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cablevision, Cox, and Charter wrote to the FCC:

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