posted about 8 hours ago on ars technica
In this conceptual image, eight SuperDraco thrusters fire as a Dragon spacecraft enters the Martian atmosphere at supersonic speeds. (credit: SpaceX) This week SpaceX announced plans to land a Dragon spacecraft on Mars by 2018. This would be a monumental achievement for NASA or any other national space agency, let alone a single company, considering the 6,000kg Dragon is nearly an order of magnitude more massive than anything previously landed on the red planet. With the long-term goal of Mars colonization squarely in its crosshair, SpaceX has been testing key technologies needed to land on Mars for years. One of them is supersonic retro-propulsion, which Ars revealed has been tested on upgraded Falcon 9 rockets since September 2013. Supersonic retro-propulsion proved a resounding success. But the Falcon 9 and its Merlin engines won't be going to Mars. SpaceX will use a different type of propulsion, the SuperDraco thruster, to propulsively land on the red planet. Here's how the landing will work: as the Dragon (dubbed Red Dragon) begins its descent to Mars at supersonic speeds, the spacecraft will fire eight of these thrusters into this onrushing atmosphere. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted about 11 hours ago on ars technica
(credit: Toni Verdú Carbó) We've recently been treated to that extra day in February that reminds us that 2016 is a leap year. Introduced by Julius Caesar, the leap day is necessary because the orbital year is not exactly equal to the 365 days of our calendar year. Without the adjustment, this year’s spring-like Christmas would eventually become routine even without climate change. After a few more generations, the snows of July would give way again to sweltering afternoons. Given enough time, the seasons would march across the calendar. In order for the months to retain their traditional characters, the leap day is inserted every four years (with some exceptions). It keeps the calendar in sync with our expectations for the seasons. But throwing an occasional day at the problem isn't enough. Just as a watch requires periodic adjustments to keep it in agreement with the real time, we need to make occasional tweaks to our global watch. But what is this global watch, and what is the “real” time that it needs to agree with? Read 26 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted about 14 hours ago on ars technica
(credit: Thinkfun) Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our weekend look at tabletop games! Check out our complete board gaming coverage right here—and let us know what you think. Who knew being locked in a room would become so popular? "Escape rooms" are so hot that even my sleepy Chicago suburb has one. Just plop down 30 bucks, and you too can be locked for an hour inside a foam-stone medieval "dungeon" located right next to a butcher shop. Each group of ten guests has to find a way out of the room before the hour expires. This generally involves solving cooperative puzzles, parsing clues, figuring out a mystery, and popping open a giant lock. Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted about 15 hours ago on ars technica
(credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe) Improving the public's understanding of anthropogenic climate change is vital to cultivating the political will to do something about it. However, a lot of research has shown that simply improving people’s understanding won’t necessarily do much to change their stance. This is because people’s opinions on many topics rest largely on their political affiliation, rather than how well they understand the science. That leaves us with a thorny state of affairs. If improving science education isn’t going to shift public opinion, what can? A recent paper in Nature Climate Change suggests that education might not be as hopeless a cause as previously thought—but the work has some important limitations that may not give us much cause for optimism. A problem with previous research on the topic is that “knowledge about climate change” was treated as a monolith, the authors of the new paper argue. Past studies didn't take into account that there are different kinds of knowledge about climate change. While knowledge in one area might be influenced by ideology, knowledge in other areas might not be. Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 1 day ago on ars technica
Homogenized fecal matter for transplantation (credit: Wikimedia) Our guts are teeming with trillions of microbes. They fight, form alliances, gobble our food, spew chemicals, and hack our immune systems. These hidden happenings in our innards hold sway over our health. Yet the key microbial players and their affairs vary considerably from person-to-person. And, overall, these communities remain a mystery to scientists. This week, three studies published in the journal Science offer new glimpses of what’s going on in the black box that is our guts. While they all provide insights into these complex communities, they also highlight just how much we still have to learn. Two studies dug into people’s health and, literally, their poop looking why there is so much variation in gut microbiome. Factors the studies hoped might explain that variation include diet, medication, disease, and stool types—from hard lumps to mushy piles according to the Bristol stool scale. The studies looked at samples from 1,135 Dutch and 1,106 Belgian volunteers. Researchers found that such factors account for only 18.7 percent and 7.6 percent, respectively, of variation. What differences account for the rest are complete unknowns. Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 1 day ago on ars technica
We'll have to wait until the demo's complete to see how these Blackroom weapons will work in John Romero's next video game. (credit: John Romero) John Romero announced his return to video game development on Monday in the form of a Kickstarter project, but he and another ex-id Software veteran, Adrian Carmack, apparently agreed with Ars' initial assessment of their crowdfunding campaign. The duo has now put its money request on hold, declaring that they will return once they can put a playable demo into the hands of their fans. "The team is at work on a demo which demonstrates the kind of gameplay, look, and innovative, cool features that make Blackroom truly unique," Romero announced in a "backer-only" update post. "Simply put, this will take more time than the Kickstarter has left, so we’ve decided to suspend the campaign and launch a new one when the gameplay demo is ready." Blackroom's Monday announcement came with little more than big promises of a return to "classic" first-person shooter gameplay, a few snippets of concept art, and the confirmation of a single additional staffer in the form of a "metal composer." Instead of putting any money where his mouth is, Romero instead teased fans with a pair of remade levels (1, 2) from the original version of Doom—as in, downloadable WAD files you could inject into the original executable. Those throwback levels were admittedly very good, but they failed to illustrate new mechanics or systems to expect in a new game. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 1 day ago on ars technica
(credit: flickr user: hjl) When people think they’re being watched, they’re more inclined to behave themselves. This behavior pops up again and again: in blood donation, energy saving, and charitable giving. There are many explanations for why this happens—maybe we think people are more likely to treat us well if they see us behaving in a prosocial way; in some cases, we might behave ourselves in front of others in order to avoid awkward conversations or having to lie. Harvard researchers Todd Rogers, John Ternovski, and Erez Yoeli wanted to find out if they could leverage this tendency in order to increase voter turnout. A “get-out-the-vote” (GOTV) letter is a simple, impersonal reminder that has a small but noticeable effect on voter turnout. A meta-analysis of 79 experiments on the effects of GOTV letters found that, on average, they boosted turnout by 0.194 percentage points—for example, from 39 percent to 39.194 percent. It’s a tiny figure, but if applied across the US, it would result in around 450,000 extra voters (out of an estimated 235,248,000 eligible voters). Not nothing, but still not a lot. Rogers, Ternovski, and Yoeli suspected that adding a hint of oversight to the letters could make a bigger difference. Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 1 day ago on ars technica
Muraki Kanae The 3D hologram pop star known as Hatsune Miku wags her hand at a Seattle crowd while singing about how men should bring her "pudding made from special eggs." (That's what Google Translate says, at any rate.) 9 more images in gallery .related-stories { display: none !important; } SEATTLE—"Do you think ten-year-old you would believe that a concert like this could ever exist?" My buddy asked me this after we'd spent two hours laughing at the weirdest concert we'd ever attended: Hatsune Miku Expo 2016. The concert's distinguishing feature was a massive, see-through screen in front of a rock band, on which singing, 10-foot-tall anime princesses were projected. Forget Britney, Miley, or Taylor: no pop star fits the "larger than life" bill quite like a hologram singer who packs stadiums and can change costumes with a single hard-drive swap. The snark possibilities were rich. As we walked out of the concert, however, snark gave way to giddy delight. We had finally seen Miku in the "flesh." Its creators and backing band rarely play in Miku's homeland of Japan, let alone elsewhere, forcing the curious to watch one of a scant few YouTube videos to see what the heck this show is all about. North Americans have nine more opportunities this year, including this coming Saturday in San Francisco, thanks to a continent-spanning tour. I caught the tour's opening night in Seattle last Saturday, fully prepared to chide it. Read 20 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 1 day ago on ars technica
Cover art for the first Wheel of Time novel. (credit: Tor Books) After a rough false start, it looks like Robert Jordan's fantasy epic The Wheel of Time will be coming to television after all. The news was delivered on the series' Google+ page by Jordan's widow, Harriet McDougal, who owns the copyright to the novels and has controlled the franchise's direction since Jordan's death in 2007. We have few details about the project at this point, aside from assurances that a "major studio" will have more to share soon: Wanted to share with you exciting news about The Wheel of Time. Legal issues have been resolved. The Wheel of Time will become a cutting edge TV series! I couldn’t be more pleased. Look for the official announcement coming soon from a major studio —Harriet Optioning The Wheel of Time makes sense, given the appetite for TV adaptations of dense, sprawling fantasy series. HBO's Game of Thrones and Starz's Outlander have both been successful, and Wheel of Time is a firmly established property that has the added benefit of actually being a finished story already. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 1 day ago on ars technica
Winter ice rink in Marshall, Texas. The historic county courthouse is in the background. (credit: Joe Mullin) Patent reform advocates who were hoping to "shut down the Eastern District of Texas" face disappointment today, as the top US patent appeals court ruled (PDF) against a venue transfer in a dispute between two food companies. Tech companies and patent reform advocates have been complaining that they don't get a fair shake in East Texas, a rural district that's been a hotspot for patent litigation for more than a decade now. The case decided today, In re: TC Heartland, doesn't directly involve tech companies or East Texas, but it could have had a big effect on both. The lawsuit began when Kraft Foods accused rival food company TC Heartland of infringing its patents on "liquid water enhancers." Heartland's defense lawyers asked to move the case from Delaware to TC Heartland's home state of Indiana, but a Delaware magistrate judge rejected the transfer motion. According to the magistrate, the fact that TC Heartland shipped about 2% of the accused products to Delaware is enough to allow the plaintiffs to sue there. Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 1 day ago on ars technica
(credit: Marvel) For many viewers, the introduction of Frank Castle—aka The Punisher—was the highpoint of Daredevil's second season. Played by John Bernthal, Castle takes a very different approach to ridding Hell's Kitchen of crime, choosing the kill shot over just crippling the bad guys. Evidently Marvel was listening to the chorus of fans calling for a full Punisher series; on Friday Entertainment Weekly reported that the comic empire has ordered just that. Bernthal is actually the fourth actor to play Frank Castle, after Dolph Lundgren (The Punisher, 1989), Thomas Jane (The Punisher, 2004), and Ray Stevenson (Punisher: War Zone, 2008). The character is one of Marvel's grittiest, and those previous three adaptations did poorly at the box office. But we live in a post-Deadpool age, where comic characters no longer have to be PG-13. Not to mention that a series on Netflix enjoys freedoms denied to tentpole cinema releases. This will be the sixth Marvel series to run on Netflix. We've already seen Jessica Jones and Daredevil, with Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and The Defenders all in the works. Certainly, Disney's acquisition of Marvel for $4 billion in 2009 continues to look like a clever move, particularly in contrast to how DC's catalogue is being translated into live action. Now if only someone would finally push the button on a Dredd series for Netflix... Read on Ars Technica | Comments

Read More...
posted 1 day ago on ars technica
Poorly maintained equipment, as shown in a union complaint about Verizon maintenance. (credit: Communications Workers of America) Verizon says its network has suffered 57 incidents of vandalism in seven states in the two weeks since 36,000 workers went on strike. The "incidents of sabotage," mostly involving the severing of fiber optic cables or damage to terminal boxes, "have cut off thousands of Verizon customers from critical wireline services," the company said Wednesday. Under normal conditions, there are only about a half-dozen incidents of sabotage over the course of a year, a Verizon spokesperson told Ars today. Verizon says it is still investigating the incidents and hasn't pinned the blame on anyone specific. But the company's announcement pointed out that "these malicious actions take place as Verizon is experiencing a strike." Verizon reported similar incidents of vandalism during another strike in 2011. Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 1 day ago on ars technica
Google's OnHub router just got a major new feature: IFTTT support. The demoed features let you do things like lock your doors when your device disconnects from the router or send an e-mail when someone connects to your wireless network. There are a few example recipes on this IFTTT page, or you can make your own using any of the channels supported on IFTTT. IFTTT (If This Then That) is a service that lets you connect apps to other apps or connect apps to smart home devices. Developers for apps and services can build "If" triggers and "Do" actions that plug into the site. Users can make a "recipe" by combining these triggers and actions into a useful program, using the format "If [something happens], do [this action]." Say you want to automatically tweet out a link every time an article on a website is posted. You can grab the RSS trigger function, so now you have "if a new item on this RSS feed appears, then [do this action]." Then you can combine it with the Twitter action and make "if a new item on this RSS feed appears, then tweet it out." Each trigger and action has its own configuration options, so you can do necessary plumbing like giving the "RSS action" the exact RSS feed it needs and giving the Twitter bot your login credentials so it can post from your account. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 1 day ago on ars technica
An artist's conception of Cassini, which carries a dust analysis system. (credit: NASA) The composition of the dust between stars in our galaxy provides a window into some of the material that went into forming our Solar System. The local dust left behind from this process has been through many shake-ups in its history that have changed its composition; interstellar dust should be relatively pristine. For a long time, however, our efforts to understand interstellar dust have relied largely on inferences, as it’s difficult to directly observe the dim, diffuse material using telescopes. Luckily, there is a way to get a direct measurement. There’s a cloud of interstellar dust near our Solar System, known as the Local Interstellar Cloud (LIC, sometimes called the “Local Fluff”). Some of it is streaming into our Solar System. This stream of LIC material was first observed by the Ulysses spacecraft in 1993, and grains of dust were captured by the Stardust spacecraft in the early 2000s and analyzed by a citizen science project. The inward dust flow also passes by Saturn, where NASA happens to have a spacecraft with a dust collection system. This is Cassini, which was outfitted with that capability with the intention of capturing dust native to Saturn's rings. It just happened to be in the right place with the right tools to catch some interstellar dust. Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 1 day ago on ars technica
Nerdy cousins Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key) and Rell (Jordan Peele) try to act like gangbangers to rescue Keanu, the preternaturally adorable kitten. (credit: Warner Bros.) There's a whole subgenre of nerd comedy out there like Big Bang Theory that's about laughing at nerds, poking fun at them for being on the spectrum, asexual, or both. But now, thanks to comedians like Key & Peele, John Oliver, and writer/director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead), there is another kind of nerd comedy—a great kind, where we laugh with the nerds, and those nerds have personalities that go beyond stale stereotypes. Key & Peele's first feature film, Keanu, is a perfect example of this kind of comedy. It's not perfect, but it will crack you up just like a good Internet meme does. Though the sketch comedy show Key & Peele airs on Comedy Central, it found an audience on YouTube. There, clips from the show racked up millions of views and popularized the comedians' sharp blend of dork pop culture references and satirical takes on racial weirdness in America. Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele are both biracial, and their resulting insider/outsider experiences are often fodder for their sketches—and fuel many of the jokes in Keanu, too. The premise of the movie, like a lot of the bits on their show, is that they're two geeky, middle-class guys who talk like white people (or, as Key says to Peele in Keanu, "You sound like John Ritter all the time.") And this can get awkward for all kinds of reasons. In Keanu, the problem is that movie-loving stoner Rell (Peele) must drag his wonky cousin Clarence (Key) into an LA gang war to rescue his kitten (the eponymous Keanu). Turns out that all the people who couldn't make it into the Crips and the Bloods have formed a new gang, the Blips. And their leader, Cheddar, has kidnapped Keanu. Why? It's a long shaggy-dog fluffy-kitten story that involves turf wars, two scary gang ninjas from Allentown, and a new kind of super-drug called Holy Shit. To get the kitten back, Rell and Clarence infiltrate the Blips by pretending to be gangsters, dropping N-bombs and doing their best to act ghetto in chinos and pastel shirts. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 1 day ago on ars technica
(credit: Comcast) Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler is a fan of Comcast's plan to bring its TV service to customers without traditional set-top boxes. Comcast putting set-top box functionality into Samsung smart TVs and Roku devices without charging a monthly set-top box fee "points the way forward" and proves that industry complaints about proposed FCC rules are misguided, Wheeler said in a press conference after yesterday's FCC meeting. In February, the FCC took a preliminary vote on rules requiring pay-TV companies to make their content and programming information available to makers of third-party hardware or applications. Cable companies blasted the FCC proposal, but last week Comcast launched a program to make its TV service available on other set-top boxes. "I think that what Comcast just did is proving our point that you can take a third-party device, put set-top box functionality into it, and protect copyright, protect the economic ecosystem, not have to rebuild the network, and all these other horrible things that the industry has [claimed would happen]," Wheeler said yesterday. "That is the essence of our proposal, that you can safely move content to a third-party device." Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 1 day ago on ars technica
It's like an alternate universe where Sega and Nintendo merged in 1992. Less than 24 hours after the rollout of official mod support for emulated Steam versions of dozens of Genesis/Mega Drive classics, the Steam Workshop listing for Sega Mega Drive Classics Hub is a Wild West-style grab bag of total overhauls, useful gameplay, and graphical tweaks—along with legally questionable uses of other companies' copyrighted content. Of the 163 Steam Workshop Mega Drive mods currently listed on Steam, the vast majority are revisions to the Sonic the Hedgehog series. Those run the gamut from minor gameplay modifications (adding Knuckles to Sonic 1 or a homing attack to Sonic 2, for instance) to complete reworkings of the entire game (Sonic 3 Complete, Sonic Thrash), silly sprite swaps (Ring the Ring), and at least somewhat offensive jokes. Outside of the Sonic series, Japanophiles are using the mod support to offer fan translations of the original Japanese versions of certain games as well as palette swaps that replace Americanized characters and backgrounds with their original Japanese counterparts. Other popular mods include early prototype versions of existing games (as well as unreleased titles) and "Chill Editions" that grant unlimited health and power. There are also a few completely silly mods that are difficult to categorize. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 1 day ago on ars technica
Conde Nast Traveller - Getty An overhead shot of the Airlander 10, inside Hanger 1 at Cardington Airfield 3 more images in gallery .related-stories { display: none !important; } Airlander 10, the world's largest and longest aircraft, is preparing to gently glide out of its gargantuan shed—which is incidentally the largest hangar in the UK—at Cardington Airfield in Bedfordshire. Earlier this month Airlander 10, which is being built by Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV), was officially named Martha Gwyn by the duke of Kent. HAV is now in the "final stages of testing" before it can exit the hangar, which will be a "matter of weeks" rather than months. The Martha Gwyn is an odd beast. At its most basic, it's a 92-metre (302ft) blimp filled with 38,000 cubic metres of helium. There are four propellers—two at the back, one on the front left, one on the front right—that provide vectored thrust from four V8 turbo-diesel engines. But in addition to those rather mundane elements, the envelope (the bit that holds all the helium) has an aerofoil silhouette that reportedly increases lift efficiency by 40 percent. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 1 day ago on ars technica
(credit: Getty Images|Akio Kon/Bloomberg ) Everyone wants a slice of the self-driving car market, and we can now add electronics giant Panasonic to that list. Tom Gebhardt, head of Panasonic's US automotive division spelled out the company's plans in an interview with Automotive News. He said that Panasonic has ideas about the way we interact with autonomous cars, which the company will develop out of its expertise with infotainment systems. The company is also working closely with Tesla on the battery "Gigafactory" in Nevada, which will be key to Tesla's ability to deliver almost 400,000 Model 3 electric vehicles to those in that gigantic queue of preorders. Gebhardt wasn't able to put a number on Panasonic's contribution to the factory—apparently that's down to Tesla—but he said that the company would "do what we need to do to assure supply." As we've discussed previously, government regulators and the auto industry are hoping for great things from autonomous vehicle technology. In the US, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is extremely bullish on self-driving cars, which it sees as the answer to reducing the 33,000 deaths on US roads each year. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 1 day ago on ars technica
(credit: cncphotos) Entertainment company Rovi announced that it has officially acquired DVR maker TiVo in a deal worth $1.1 billion. Rovi will pay for the deal mostly in stock at $10.70 per share, with approximately $277 million to be paid in cash at $2.75 per share. Rovi's CEO Tom Carson will continue to run the company, although it will now assume the "iconic TiVo brand" as its name. The deal seems to be centered on patents. According to The New York Times, Rovi's interactive TV program guides account for less than half of its $526 million revenue last year, while the rest is made up of its licensed intellectual property. TiVo made a name for itself with its DVR technology, but the patents that make its DVR hardware and software work are proving to be more valuable. Together, Rovi and TiVo have over 6,000 patents issued and pending in the digital entertainment space. "Rovi’s acquisition of TiVo, with its innovative products, talented team, and substantial intellectual property portfolio, strengthens Rovi’s position as a global leader in media discovery, metadata, analytics, and IP licensing,” Carson said in a statement. “It’s an exciting time as the media and entertainment landscape undergoes a significant evolution.... By working together, Rovi and TiVo will revolutionize how consumers experience media and entertainment and at the same time build value for our stockholders." Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 1 day ago on ars technica
The first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket begins its reentry burn at an altitude of 70km. (credit: NASA) In September, 2014, a Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Florida carrying a Dragon spacecraft bound for the International Space Station. The capsule carried some notable cargo, including the first 3D printer to be tested in space as well as 20 mousetronauts to study muscle loss. Yet the most far-reaching part of that mission came after the Falcon 9 deployed its upper stage and began falling back to Earth. As it descended into the upper levels of Earth's atmosphere, the rocket's engines fired for its "reentry burn." A few minutes later, the first stage splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean, completing one of the last flights before SpaceX began trying to land its rocket on an autonomous drone ship. But even as SpaceX was testing technology needed for terrestrial landings of its reusable Falcon 9 rocket, it was also taking some of its first steps toward landing on Mars. That's because during that launch—and about 10 others since late 2013—SpaceX has quietly been conducting the first flight tests of a technology known as supersonic retro-propulsion—in Mars-like conditions. It did so by firing the Falcon 9's engines at an altitude of 70km down through 40km, which just happens to be where the Earth's thin upper atmosphere can act as a stand-in for the tenuous Martian atmosphere. Therefore, as the Falcon thundered toward Earth through the atmosphere at supersonic speeds and its engines fired in the opposite direction, the company might as well have been trying to land on Mars. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 1 day ago on ars technica
(credit: Ivan David Gomez Aarce) Privacy activists and at least one senator are up in arms over a proposed change to a section of the Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure that would allow any magistrate judge to issue warrants authorizing government-sanctioned hacking anywhere in the country. If the proposal does go forward, it would mark a notable expansion of judicial power to sign off on "remote access" of criminal suspects’ computers. As Ars has reported previously, for more than two years now, the Department of Justice has pushed to change Rule 41 in the name of being able to thwart online criminal behavior enabled by tools like Tor. On Thursday, the Supreme Court passed the proposed change to Rule 41 and sent it to Congress on Thursday, which will have until December 1 to modify, reject, or defer the proposal. If the House of Representatives and Senate do not pass a resolution in favor by simple majority, the revisions will become law that same day. Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 1 day ago on ars technica
Source: YouTube—님슈기 A petite young woman with pale skin and short hair braces herself for her next bite of food. A plate hovers directly in front of her mouth, holding five sauce-covered, finger-sized rice cakes (they look like tteokbokki, a popular Korean street food). She lines them up side-by-side with her chopsticks and slowly guides them all into her mouth. You can literally hear every bite, every chew that breaks down the rice cakes, every sniffle she makes as she tries to stop the sinus-relieving effects of the insanely spicy foods she's eating. She's talking into a small mic to her right, with one earbud in her right ear, as people watch her consume more food than her stomach should be able to handle—but she does so with a cheery attitude and the occasional smile. These kinds of videos are called mukbang videos, and believe it or not, they attract millions of viewers. Mukbang combines the Korean word for "eat" (muok-da) with the word for “broadcast” (bang song) and describes exactly that: online shows where people eat a ton of food on camera. There are no gimmicks involved; no crazy costumes, no nudity (as far as I've seen), and no shock value of people eating unmentionable things. Mukbang videos simply follow one person as he or she consumes an entire (and often big) meal. If your eyebrows are raised up high in disbelief and judgement right now, you're likely not alone—but eating shows are just one genre of online videos that allow audiences to live out relatively harmless fantasies about everyday activities like eating a huge meal or going on a shopping spree. Eating for an audience, getting paid in balloons Some mukbang eaters have become stars. The craze began in South Korea, largely on the video website AfreecaTV. Mukbang stars, often referred to as Broadcast Jockeys or BJs (not kidding), make thousands of dollars a month just by having dinner on camera. This money isn't ad- or sponsorship-based; it's donated by mukbang viewers in the form of "star balloons," a type of virtual currency that can be exchanged for Korean won. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 1 day ago on ars technica
Editor's note: Though this isn't usual Ars Technica fare, we're publishing a non-tech story because we had a reporter with deep personal experience relevant to a topic of national interest. In 2005, both of us became fixated on a late-night infomercial that promised access to "hundreds of billions of dollars" in "free government money." As journalism grad students at the time, our evenings often ended with a couple beers as we decompressed by watching whatever was on our tiny 13" TV. And what was on at the time—repeatedly—was a half-hour advertisement for an outfit called "National Grants Conferences" (NGC). Why did the NGC infomercial captivate us? It wasn’t the charisma of the commercial’s star, ex-football player and former Congressman J.C. Watts (R-Okla.), who was busy making a mockery of whatever credibility he once had. And it wasn’t the enthusiastic couple who founded NGC, Mike and Irene Milin, proclaiming that numerous government grants were there for the taking. Read 61 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...
posted 2 days ago on ars technica
Gramercy Pictures Wait, who's steering this spaceship? 7 more images in gallery .related-stories { display: none !important; } While video games have been mined as fodder for films many, many times over the past few decades, only a few widely distributed films have gone the all-CGI route. Perhaps that's because 2001's Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within left such a bad taste in filmgoers' mouths, but visually, things have changed in 15 years—both for all-CGI films and for video games. Current game systems are pumping out film-caliber visuals these days, a fact that the team behind Ratchet and Clank surely must have considered before developing the first feature-length film under the PlayStation Originals brand. You may have expected that effort to lead with a more popular Sony series, like a film about God of War or Uncharted, but Ratchet and Clank does have an edge on those: a bubbly, cartoony style that better suits full-length CGI treatment, as opposed to taking a possible dive down the uncanny valley with those other games' human characters. In good news, Gramercy Pictures avoids such pitfalls with a movie that looks like its game (and there's an affiliated game that looks like the movie). As with any gaming-related film, however, I went into the film's preview screening wondering who exactly Ratchet and Clank is targeted at. Gamers? Families? CGI junkies? After the 94-minute runtime, however, I still didn't have an answer. Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read More...