"I Fucking Love Science" is an impressive Internet phenomenon. It started as a Facebook account, where one woman (Elise Andrew) simply posted anything that impressed or amazed her about science. From there, it has grown into its own website, which features a number of additional writers. And, as of yesterday, it will be coming to TV.
The future host of the show is comedian Craig Ferguson, currently host of The Late Late Show on CBS. Ferguson announced the new project via a video shown at SXSW. The program will be appearing on the Science Channel (naturally).
Ferguson, like Stephen Colbert, has been using his talk show to dive into science topics that might otherwise not reach broad audiences. For just one example, he interviewed author Jennifer Ouellette about her book The Calculus Diaries, a topic that rarely pops up on the major networks. As such, he's a natural choice for the show.
Ever wake up with a crippling hangover and think "never doing that again"? Most people who have had the experience end up drinking again before too long—if they didn't, there probably wouldn't be much of a market for all the vintners, brewers, and distillers currently in business. Still, you might think that a bad hangover would cause people to exercise a bit more caution with their alcohol intake.
If you thought so, you'd probably be wrong, at least according to research that went out last week. Some researchers set up a few hundred young Missouri relatives with electronic diaries and asked them to track their drinking and hangover experiences. (In academic jargon, this approach is apparently termed an "Ecological Momentary Assessment.") Twenty-one days and a hefty 2,276 "drinking episodes" later, the researchers looked at whether incidents of hangover—of which there were 463—had little effect on how long it took participants to have their next drink.
It initially looked like hangovers scared people off, with an average increase of six hours until the next drink among those who suffered from one. But many other factors affect drinking frequency, so the authors had to do a multivariate analysis, taking into account things like a history of alcohol abuse, the day of the week, typical drinking frequency, and so on. When these other factors were considered, the impact of hangovers largely went away.
Security researchers have developed a password storage system that uses inexpensive hardware to prevent the cracking of passwords—even the most common and weak ones such as "123456," "password," and "letmein."
The S-CRIB Scrambler uses an additional layer of protection over methods many websites use now to prevent mass account compromises in the event a password database is exposed during a site breach, according to a post published Friday on the University of Cambridge's Light Blue Touchpaper blog. Rather than relying solely on a one-way cryptographic hash to represent plaintext passwords, the small dongle performs an additional operation known as hash-based message authentication code (HMAC). The secret 10-character key used to generate the HMAC resides solely on the dongle. Because it's not included in password tables that are stored on servers, the key could remain secret even in the event of a major security breach.
The new method comes amid twin epidemics of website security breaches that spill password databases and a large percent of end users who use "princess," "123abc," and other easily guessed passcodes to safeguard their accounts. Like a similar approach unveiled last year that uses a hardware security module to encrypt hashed passwords, it's designed to make it much harder for attackers to guess the plaintext corresponding to the hashes in a leaked database. Even if a hacker gains access to hashes protecting "123456" or other extremely weak passwords, there is no way to crack them.
We weren't impressed by iOS 7 on the iPhone 4. The Apple A4 that powers the phone is now nearly four years old, and you can feel it from the moment you turn the phone on. It just isn't well-suited to iOS 7's big, sweeping animations and other graphical effects, and its jerky performance is worlds away from what you'd get on a new iPhone 5S, 5C, or even the one-year-newer 4S.
iOS 7.1 is the new operating system's first major update. While there's only so much Apple can do to optimize its software for old hardware, we hoped it would improve the iPhone 4's performance enough to make things pleasant for people squeezing another year out of their phones.What doesn’t change
Embattled Bitcoin exchange site MtGox has filed for bankruptcy protection in the United States under Chapter 15 of the American bankruptcy code, which is designed to aid cases where there are “debtors, assets, claimants, and other parties of interest involving more than one country.”
The site previously filed for bankruptcy protection in Japan, where its corporate offices are, at the end of February 2014. According to court documents filed in federal court in Dallas late Sunday, CEO Mark Karpeles told the court that the company has approximately $63.9 million in liabilities and approximately $37.7 million in assets.
In the filing, Karpeles also mentioned that the company “lost” 744,408 bitcoins (around $463 million at present) due to a “defect or ‘bug’ in the Bitcoin software algorithm being exploited by one or more persons who ‘hacked’ the Bitcoin network.” He also said that the loss, combined with an additional loss of around 100,000 of the company’s own bitcoins, constituted “around seven percent of all bitcoins in the world.”
National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden has made his longest public appearance since he leaked top-secret documents about US surveillance last year. Snowden spoke to a crowd of tech enthusiasts at the SXSW conference via a heavily encrypted video link ("He's behind seven proxies," said Ben Wizner of the ACLU, the event's moderator. The description is more likely a reference to an Internet meme than a literal description of Snowden's video-chat tech.)
During the event webcast by the Texas Tribune, Snowden spoke with ACLU technologist Chris Soghoian about encryption, his motives, and "the future of the Internet."
Some would have preferred Snowden not to get such an audience. “Rewarding Mr. Snowden’s behavior in this way encourages the very lawlessness he exhibited,” wrote Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) in a letter to SXSW organizers encouraging them to cancel the event.
Even though Titanfall is also launching on PC tomorrow (not to mention on the Xbox 360 later this month), the game is correctly seen as the most important technology and gameplay showcase so far in the Xbox One's short life. So the Microsoft-supporting pixel counters out there might be a bit worried to hear that the game will be launching at a resolution of 1408x792.
That oddly specific number, the same as the resolution for last month's beta, packs exactly 10 percent more pixels in each dimension than the 720p images players are used to on most games for last-generation consoles. Respawn lead engineer Richard Baker confirmed Titanfall's launch resolution to Eurogamer, but he also said that the team was "likely to increase resolution after we ship" via a downloadable patch.
"We've been experimenting with making it higher and lower," Baker told the site. "One of the big tricks is how much ESRAM we're going to use, so we're thinking of not using hardware MSAA and instead using FXAA to make it so we don't have to have this larger render target. We're going to experiment. The target is either 1080p non-anti-aliased or 900p with FXAA. We're trying to optimize... we don't want to give up anything for higher res. So far we're not 100 percent happy with any of the options. We're still working on it."
In an interview at SXSW, Sundar Pichai, Google's head of Android, Chrome, and Apps, announced that Google will be jumping into the wider wearables space with an Android-based SDK focused on wearable devices. The new SDK will be released to developers in just two weeks with the hope of getting feedback from them. And like Android for smartphones, Google will be developing a device-agnostic app platform for wearable computers.
While it's easy to imagine this platform as "Android for watches," Pichai said the company was thinking "more broadly" and, according to the Wall Street Journal, pitched an idea for a jacket with tons of sensors. Google is rumored to be working on smartwatch of its own, but Pichai declined to say if Google is working on any devices. Instead, Pichai said he thinks about the wearables market at "a platform level." This "platform" idea move perfectly mirrors Android's strategy in smartphones and tablets, where Google licenses the OS out to other OEMs to produce hardware, and Google uses its influence over the software to drive people toward Google services.
While on the surface it would make sense for Google to launch a wearables platform in the same vein as Android, this outcome wasn't a foregone conclusion. Google's other wearables project, Google Glass, is definitely not a platform that is welcoming to outside manufacturers. With Glass, Google is going the Apple route with a closed-off, fully vertical device where Google controls the hardware and software. None of the special Glass parts are shared with outside developers or OEMs. Google accepts app submissions for Glass, but it strictly controls what is and is not allowed in the Glass store—for instance, facial recognition apps are banned for no reason other than the fact that Google doesn't like them.
Apple has just released iOS 7.1, the first major update to iOS 7. The new update provides a variety of security and stability fixes, some speed improvements, and UI tweaks that refine the new design introduced back in December. The update is available for all devices that can run iOS 7: the iPhone 4, 4S, 5, 5C, and 5S; the iPad 2, both Retina iPads, both iPad minis, and the iPad Air; and the fifth-generation iPod touch.
The update brings a whole pile of fixes. It addresses a crashing bug with the iPhone 5S, improves speed on the iPhone 4, introduces the new CarPlay feature, adds new accessibility options, and makes a handful of other refinements to the UI. The accuracy of the TouchID fingerprint scanner has also been improved for iPhone 5S users. The first iOS 7.1 beta was released to developers back in mid-November, and four additional betas have been issued since then. Throughout the beta cycle, Apple has continuously adjusted the operating system's user interface, polishing it and making it more consistent.
We've been playing with the iOS 7.1 betas for a few months now, and we'll be publishing a full review of the software after we've spent a little more time with the final release. We'll also be revisiting our original article about performance on the iPhone 4 later today. Update: And here it is!
[UPDATE 12:20pm CT: Ars reader Brendan Long pointed out that the site's creator, Vortuarackne, told users that due to technical difficulties "all deposits have been refunded." Vortuarackne also provided a public link to prove it. He continued: "Needless to say PonziCoin will no longer be taking deposits. Apologies again for the gigantic cock up."]
A website calling itself Ponzicoin appears to have stayed true to its word—taking bitcoins from "players" and running with them. Since Sunday, 37 people have sent a total of just over 10 bitcoins (worth around $7,000 at present exchange rates) to the site and are still waiting to be paid. Previously, the site had paid out to hundreds of people.
The website, whose creator is unknown and who has obscured any details about him or herself, describes the “game” this way: “Players make deposits in line with the minimum and maximum investment limits. As more players make deposits, older ones are repayed [sic] at 120%.”
Netflix performance on Comcast, which had been deteriorating for months, finally got a little better in February according to Netflix's latest speed rankings.Netflix streamed at an average of 1.68Mbps on Comcast in the US in February, up from 1.51Mbps in January. The average on Comcast was above 2Mbps as recently as September, but it had gone down each month until Netflix decided to pay Comcast for a direct connection to its network.
Netflix and Comcast announced that deal on February 23, but the direct connection had been established at least a couple of days before that. Still, most of February likely passed before the companies started exchanging traffic directly, and not all Netflix traffic is going over the direct connections yet. Thus, average performance could increase more significantly in March and beyond.
"In the US, there were no big shifts in the major ISP rankings in February," Netflix said in a blog post this morning. "We do expect to see Comcast’s performance improve in the rankings next month when we release March data as a result of the recent agreement between Netflix and Comcast."
An online-only shooter like Titanfall is the kind of game you can only fully evaluate on live servers against the full universe of players, so we won’t have a complete review of the game until later this week. We were able to get some quality time with the near-final build of the Xbox One version of the game this weekend, though, playing alongside fellow journalists and developers from EA and Respawn. That time was enough to develop some general impressions of the title beyond our extensive time with the beta.
The biggest addition over the beta release is in the campaign mode, which takes nine normal six-on-six multiplayer matches on specific maps and dresses them up with a thin veneer of story. A hardpoint area-capturing match might turn into a battle to secure anti-aircraft guns to protect a planet from an invasion (or to protect the invading force, on the other side). A kill-them-all Attrition battle on a dry desert planet turns into a key battle to secure the only convenient fueling station in that area of space.
These scenarios are laid out somewhat elegantly in 15 seconds or so of voice-over just before each battle starts and through a quick spoken recap of the consequences of your victory or defeat during the match’s final moments. They’re also sometimes punctuated by impressive visual compositions during the introduction. One battle begins with a large wave of AI grunts charging in D-Day style, while another starts with the planet’s native, pterodactyl-like creatures swooping down to take out some incidental grunts (too bad they don’t seem to have much effect on the rest of the match).
Move over, Blu-ray: Sony and Panasonic have just announced a new optical disc specification with even higher storage capacities. The new "Archival Disc" format promises to store between six and 20 times the data of a standard 50GB dual-layer Blu-ray disc. Unlike Blu-ray, this new format is intended primarily for professional, archival use. The companies first announced that they would be working on this then-nameless standard together in July of 2013.
"Optical discs have excellent properties to protect themselves against the environment, such as dust-resistance and water-resistance, and can also withstand changes in temperature and humidity when stored," reads the release. "They also allow inter-generational compatibility between different formats, ensuring that data can continue to be read even as formats evolve. This makes them robust media for long-term storage of content."
First-wave Archival Discs are slated to launch in summer of 2015 and will be able to hold up to 300GB of data. By comparison, the largest commonly available Blu-Ray discs use the 100GB and 128GB BDXL format. Archival Discs will apparently be double-sided, so this works out to 150GB of data per side. Future versions of the technology will improve storage density, increasing to 500GB (or 250GB per side) and 1TB (500GB per side) as the standard matures.
How much water goes swirling down the drain when you flush a toilet? How many gallons does it take to fill a hot tub? Most of us, it turns out, have no idea. A new study in PNAS finds that Americans have some major blind spots when it comes to how we use water and how we can best conserve it.
Shahzeen Attari, a researcher from Indiana University, surveyed more than 1,000 people living in the US about their perceptions of water use. The participants were recruited via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, a crowdsourced marketplace for work; each was given $3 of Amazon credit for completing the survey.
First, the participants were asked two open-ended questions: describe the single most effective thing they could do to conserve water, and describe the single most effective thing that Americans in general could do to conserve water. And despite the obvious similarity between these two questions, two very different answers emerged. Regarding their own water conservation, most people recommended “curtailment” strategies, or small ways that they could cut their water consumption (such as taking shorter showers or turning the water off when brushing their teeth). But for other Americans, the participants tended to recommend more major “efficiency” actions such as replacing appliances with water-efficient versions.
This week, I bought my first bitcoin. Actually, it wasn't really a "bitcoin" but a tiny fraction of one. At Boston's South Station, I inserted a dollar bill into one of the country's only Bitcoin ATMs. In return, I received 0.0014 bitcoins, though it's preferable to say that I received "1.4 milliBits."
"You're now a bitcoiner," Chris Yim, co-founder of Liberty Bitcoin, told me.
Yim and his business partner, Kyle Powers, put their first Bitcoin machine inside the station, near the door out to train track #6. They man the machine nearly every day for varying hours, which they publish on their site before the start of each week. While money is locked inside the machine, someone could pick the box up and take it if it was left unattended. Yim said they are working on finding a way to secure the machine and leave it open 24 hours a day.
The Universe is incredibly regular. The variation of the cosmos' temperature across the entire sky is tiny: a few millionths of a degree, no matter which direction you look. Yet the same light from the very early cosmos that reveals the Universe's evenness also tells astronomers a great deal about the conditions that gave rise to irregularities like stars, galaxies, and (incidentally) us.
That light is the cosmic microwave background, and it provides some of the best knowledge we have about the structure, content, and history of the Universe. But it also contains a few mysteries: on very large scales, the cosmos seems to have a certain lopsidedness. That slight asymmetry is reflected in temperature fluctuations much larger than any galaxy, aligned on the sky in a pattern facetiously dubbed "the axis of evil.”
The lopsidedness is real, but cosmologists are divided over whether it reveals anything meaningful about the fundamental laws of physics. The fluctuations are sufficiently small that they could arise from random chance. We have just one observable Universe, but nobody sensible believes we can see all of it. With a sufficiently large cosmos beyond the reach of our telescopes, the rest of the Universe may balance the oddity that we can see, making it a minor, local variation.
Following the MtGox Bitcoin exchange losing millions to a hack and filing for bankruptcy, anonymous attackers took over the personal blog and reddit account of MtGox CEO Mark Karpeles on Sunday. After seizing control, the hackers posted (Pastebin) a message to the two spaces detailing their findings and the reasoning behind the attack.
"It’s time that MTGOX got the bitcoin communities [sic] wrath instead of Bitcoin Community getting Goxed," the message reads. "This release would have been sooner, but in spirit of responsible disclosure and making sure all of ducks were in a row, it took a few days longer than would have liked to verify the data... Included in this download you will find relevant database dumps, csv exports, specialized tools, and some highlighted summaries compiled from data. Keeping in line with fucking Gox alone, no user database dumps have been included."
Forbes reports the 716 megabyte file placed on Karpeles' site included items like his home address, CV, and an Excel spreadsheet that seems to document more than a million trades. But the most interesting piece of information shared is a summary of 18 different currency balances—with 951,116 bitcoins listed. In light of the 850,000 bitcoins supposedly lost in the recent attack, the hackers concluded this figure demonstrates fraud. The footnote reads, "That fat fuck has been lying!!"
I bought one of Mophie's external battery packs not long after we reviewed one in mid-2012, and since then it's become one of my favorite travel companions. My phone is in near-constant use while I'm traveling for work, whether I'm transmitting communications to the Ars Orbiting HQ, tethering my computer to my phone, or shooting some quick on-the-fly video or pictures without digging out my DSLR.
The upside to an external battery pack is that I can plug pretty much anything into it, from an iPhone to an Android tablet to a Chromebook 11. The bad thing is that you have to remember to have it on you, and you also need to carry around the necessary cables at all times. That's where Mophie's Space Pack comes in—it's a revised version of the company's Juice Pack battery cases, with a twist. In addition to a 1,700mAh battery, it includes either 16GB or 32GB of storage that you can use to augment your iPhone's internal storage. It's not for everyone, but for some iPhone 5 and 5S users among you, it just might be able to kill three birds with one stone.The case The case slides on to your iPhone 5 or 5S. Pull the two parts back apart to get the phone out of the case. Andrew Cunningham
The case itself is very similar to Mophie's existing Juice Pack Plus or Juice Pack Air, the largest and second-largest battery cases the company sells. Its 1,700mAh battery is identical to the Air, and they share roughly equal physical dimensions and weight (the Space Pack is very slightly larger and heavier, but it's hard to tell the difference). It comes apart in two pieces that slide onto the phone and interlock. The bottom of the case has a male Lightning connector that goes into the phone, but you charge the case itself with the same micro USB port that you might find in an Android or Windows phone or tablet.
This week, Ars launched its own cryptocurrency. We told you how we did it, why we did it, and how you could get in on the action. (We even told you about some of the gory behind-the-scenes technical details!)
The response was great—in fact, the number of miners has nearly doubled in just a few days. With all that action, we wanted to know what crazy hardware you’ve devoted to mining something that can, at best, buy you a silly digital hat. We asked, and, as expected, the Ars community came through in spades.
To start, the most clever hardware rig was no hardware at all. Urethramancer announced: “My crazy setup was, in the end, begging. Best ARS/s rate ever. Got my hat by mining at first, before it slowed down a bunch, then got the name all shiny from a donation. Gave away the rest. I'm out of the game!”
Researchers at MIT are analyzing animated GIFs in an attempt to catalog what they believe to be a unique, Internet-based emotional vocabulary.
An animated GIF—these days often presented in the form of a "reaction GIF"—can make us laugh, but it can also help convey various other complex emotions, including anger, contempt, guilt, or even empathy in an environment that is frequently dominated by text. The advantage of communicating with GIFs, claim the authors of this research, is they can quickly and easily add context in a subtle way that text or emoticons cannot.
The project, called GIFGIF, was created by Travis Rich and Kevin Hu, research students at MIT's Media Lab working across a mix of fields including data science, who hope to capture this specific kind of vocabulary using quantitative methods (i.e., you). Their ultimate goal is to create a tool that lets people explore the world of GIFs by the emotions they evoke, rather than by manually entered tags. The best part? The quantitative nature of the research means you no longer have to feel guilty for looking at funny GIFs all day.