posted less than an hour ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Out of my way... that unlockable content is MINE! Over the past week or so, Ubisoft's For Honor has faced criticism for the sheer amount of unlockable content it offers players, which one Reddit user calculated would cost over $700 or 5,200 gameplay hours to access. Ubisoft Montreal Game Director Damien Kieken addressed those concerns in a lengthy livestreamed video conversation. The main thrust of his argument? "We never had an intention for you to unlock everything in the game." To Kieken, the idea of unlocking absolutely everything available in For Honor "doesn't really make any sense. We applied RPG mechanics on top of the game... it's like in an RPG, let's say World of Warcraft, you would never try to unlock everything for all the characters of the whole game. It's the same thing in any MOBAs, you're not trying to unlock all the content for all the heroes in your game." It's interesting that Kieken compares the $60 For Honor to two genres that are usually free to play these days (or occasionally offered on a monthly subscription plan). Unlockable content in a fighting game like For Honor is also very different from that in an MMO, where finding and completing quests for new items and abilities is the overarching point. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: NASA) The evidence for liquid water on the surface of Mars in the distant past is strong, but a discovery a few years ago provided a glimmer of hope that the wet stuff might still be making occasional appearances on the Red Planet. Fresh, dark streaks show up on steep slopes during the “warm” season, almost as if something wet is trickling downhill. To some researchers, however, these “recurring slope lineae,” which are a few meters wide and a few hundred meters long, look more like downward slides of destabilized sediment. The question is, what could destabilize the sediment? The presence of briny water? (Water has been detected as a component of some of the minerals present, at least.) Could the thawing of carbon dioxide ice play a role? There is debate about which of these explanations can work and where water could possibly be coming from. A new study led by Frédéric Schmidt of the University of Paris-Sud throws out a possible alternative that doesn’t involve thawing anything. If you’re holding out for water, you might consider that bad news, but it is at least a satisfyingly weird process. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 2 hours ago on ars technica
(credit: Rego Korosi) The controversy surrounding Google and YouTube advertising and extremist content has spread across the pond. According to a Bloomberg report, some of YouTube's biggest advertising customers, including Verizon and AT&T, have halted spending on display and other non-search advertising on the platform. The news comes days after a stream of UK companies pulled their ads from YouTube and Google's display ad network in response to a report from The Times that cited instances of UK government advertising running over extremist content. Bloomberg reports AT&T and Verizon Communications Inc. have stopped all non-search advertising spending with Google, while Johnson & Johnson stopped all its global advertising on YouTube. AT&T said in a statement that it is concerned that its advertising may have appeared over "YouTube content promoting terrorism and hate," and it will not resume advertising "until Google can ensure this won’t happen again." Verizon has launched an investigation, presumably to find out if any of its ads appeared over extremist content. The original report from The Times cited specific instances in which UK taxpayer-funded advertising ran over hateful, offensive videos, including those by American white nationalist David Duke. That revelation sparked many companies in the UK to remove their ads from Google platforms, forcing Google to examine its ad policies and implement new tools to give advertisers more control over where their ads go. However, there have been no other reports detailing instances in which ads from the companies named above ran over offensive content on YouTube or Google's Display Network. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Ars Live #10, filmed by Chris Schodt and produced by Jennifer Hahn. (video link) UC-Berkeley environmental scientist Lynn Ingram joined us for the one-year anniversary episode of Ars Technica Live, and she gave us a broad historical perspective on climate change. Ingram's special focus is paleoclimatology, or the study of Earth's ancient ecosystems. She explained that she spends a lot of time in the lab dissolving rocks, bones, and shells in acid to get good carbon dates on them. Working with other researchers, she has found that California's climate has always been subject to dramatic fluctuations, but now those are being exacerbated by human activity. California history has always been one of drought and flood. Ingram told us about the southwestern region's great medieval warming period roughly 800 years ago, which may have caused drought for over a century. People living in the region abandoned their settlements and moved away, while plant life struggled to hold on. In the more recent past, California's central valley became an inland sea after 40 days of rain in 1862. This is the sort of megaflood that is due to happen again, Ingram told us, because they seem to occur roughly every two centuries. Even without humans contributing to rapid climate change, we should be preparing for another flood of this magnitude—but now, with atmospheric rivers becoming more common, they will probably happen more often. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 3 hours ago on ars technica
Enlarge / A view of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer on the station. (credit: NASA) Launched to the International Space Station in 2011 on the penultimate flight of the Space Shuttle, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer has quietly been collecting data during the last six years, observing more than 100 billion cosmic ray events. Although it has yet to produce any major scientific findings, physicists believe the steady accumulation of data will eventually yield insights about dark matter and other cosmic mysteries. But for that to happen, the instrument has to continue to take data. In recent months, scientists monitoring the $2 billion AMS instrument have noticed an increase in the "degradation" of one of several pumps that operate its thermal cooling system. The AMS has redundant systems, however, and could switch to a different pump if needed. Nevertheless, there appears to be an overall concern that if this degradation is not an isolated incident, it could begin to affect other cooling pumps within the AMS thermal system. (Despite several requests for information in recent weeks from Ars, NASA officials have remained cagey about the overall threat this problem presents to the instrument. The scope of repairs they're contemplating suggests that the problem could eventually become serious, however.) Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 3 hours ago on ars technica
Android O is actually here! After diving into Google's blog post, we fired up our developer tools and got Android O loaded on a sacrificial device. There are a few new interesting features, lots of UI tweaks, and plenty of odd bugs and unfinished areas. Let's dive in! Notifications: Snooze, channels, and a terrible new ambient mode My favorite new feature in Android O is the ability to do system-wide notification snoozing. If you don't want to deal with a notification right now, just pull it to the side a bit, which will unveil a new "clock" icon. Tap it and the notification will be automatically snoozed for 15 minutes, and you can tap on the drop down menu to up it to 30 minutes or an hour. This is really handy, but I'd like to be able to customize the times here. I'm sure some people would like a few hours, or maybe a "tomorrow" option. A "type in your time" option would be fine, too. Read 33 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 3 hours ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: Mark Walton) Specs at a glance: Corsair One Lowest Middle Best (as reviewed) OS Windows 10 Home 64-bit CPU Intel Core i7-7700 (liquid cooled) Intel Core i7-7700K (liquid cooled) Intel Core i7-7700K (liquid cooled) RAM 16GB DDR4 2,400MHz (8GBx2) 16GB DDR4 2,400MHz (8GBx2) 16GB DDR4 2,400MHz (8GBx2) GPU Nvidia GTX 1070 (air cooled) Nvidia GTX 1080 8GB (liquid cooled) Nvidia GTX 1080 8GB (liquid cooled) HDD 240GB SATA SSD, 1TB HDD 480GB SATA SSD, 2TB HDD 960GB SATA SSD PSU 400W SFX 400W SFX 400W SFX NETWORKING Gigabit Ethernet, AC Wi-Fi PORTS 3 x USB 3.1 Type-A, 1 x USB-3.1 Type-C, 2 x USB 2.0, 2 x DisplayPort, 2x HDMI, headphone jack, microphone jack SIZE Height: 380mm (18.6 inches), depth: 200mm (14.19 inches), width: 176mm (8.35 inches) WEIGHT 7.4kg WARRANTY Two years with 24/7 support and five day repair turnaround PRICE £1800/$1800 £2200/$2200 £2300/$2300 It's hard to believe that the Corsair One comes from the same company that designed the Bulldog, a small form factor PC so monstrously ugly that the mere thought of placing it in a living room was enough to set off a spousal gag reflex. Where the Bulldog was a confused mishmash of jaunty, l33t gamer angles, the One is sleek, sophisticated, and—dare I say it—even a little grown up. That Corsair continues to sell a slightly updated version of the Bulldog is something of mystery considering just how good the Corsair One is. Of all the small form factor (SFF) PCs I've tried—and there have been quite a few over the past year—it is by far the best. I'd even go as as to say it's one of the best pre-built PCs you can buy, full stop. At £2,300 for a fully loaded version, the Corsair One isn't cheap by any means—and as always, going the DIY route can lead to substantial savings—but few homebrew PCs have such a tiny footprint. Fewer still do so while being entirely liquid cooled, graphics card and all. It's a combo that results in a PC that doesn't just fit into the living room environment aesthetically, but acoustically too. Read 21 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 4 hours ago on ars technica
Enlarge / The Workflow app. (credit: Workflow) Late yesterday, Apple closed a deal to acquire Workflow, an app for iOS power users that lets you string a series of repetitive actions together to make them easier and quicker to accomplish. In many ways, the app accomplishes for iOS what the Automator app does for macOS. Late last year Apple laid off Sal Soghoian, the product manager in charge of automation-related products like Automator and AppleScript, and eliminated his position; the purchase of Workflow suggests that it could be the future of Apple's automation-related efforts. Workflow's developers—Ari Weinstein, Conrad Kramer, Ayaka Nonaka, and Nick Frey—are all being hired by Apple, and they'll continue to develop Workflow which will continue to exist in the App Store. It used to cost $2.99, but it's now available to all users free of charge. The amount Apple paid for Workflow hasn't been disclosed, but TechCrunch reports that it was a "solid payday" for both the developers of the app and its investors. Apple's statement about the acquisition highlighted that it had won an Apple Design Award in 2015 for its use of iOS' accessibility features, which suggests that the Workflow team could also help Apple develop and implement new accessibility features in future versions of iOS. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 4 hours ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier) Anna O. Szust is not a real person. She is, literally, a fraud: oszust means “fraud” in Polish. Nonetheless, Szust has been appointed as an editor at 40 bogus academic journals. After sending out her fake application for an editorial role, the researchers responsible for the world’s nerdiest sting operation began to receive responses almost immediately. “Four titles immediately appointed Szust editor-in-chief,” report Piotr Sorokowski and colleagues in Nature this week. At legitimate journals, editors play an important role in quality control. They decide whether a paper is worth sending out for peer review, and, if so, who is best qualified to review it. Then they decide whether to publish it, based on the advice of the reviewers. A high-quality journal has rigorous editors who work to ensure higher-quality science, which helps to stop bad science—ranging from the silly to the truly dangerous—from getting the approval stamp of publication and peer review. Predatory journals Bogus, predatory journals, on the other hand, are not concerned with quality; they’re concerned with making a buck or ten thousand. They take advantage of legitimate open access scientific journals, which often charge a fee for publication in order to cover their costs; papers are then made available without a subscription. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 5 hours ago on ars technica
McLaren Pity the humble hypercar. For a brief moment in time you're the hottest thing on four wheels, splashed across thousands of desktop wallpapers (and bedroom walls, if car posters are still a thing). But these days that kind of star power doesn't last long. Blame the companies that build them. You'd think it would be hard to top something like a McLaren P1, a hybrid with 903hp (673kW) and a $1.6 million price tag, but that's just what McLaren intends to do with the next car in its "Ultimate" series, the BP23. The BP23 is still two years off, and details are scarce on the ground. It will be a hybrid and have even more power than the P1, and more advanced aerodynamics. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 8 hours ago on ars technica
Enlarge / The Vallejo Police Department initially dismissed the kidnapping allegations as a hoax. (credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images News) A California man who pleaded guilty last year to a strange and elaborate kidnapping operation in 2015 has now been sentenced to 40 years in prison. The defendant, Matthew Muller, was later caught as part of a separate burglary later that month but initially denied the kidnapping. Local media reported Tuesday that the two victims are now engaged to be married—just days after speaking at Muller's sentencing hearing—and that Muller could face fresh criminal charges brought by local prosecutors in Solano County. In a statement issued last week, just after his sentencing hearing, federal prosecutors said that Muller, himself a disbarred attorney and former United States Marine, got what he deserved. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 15 hours ago on ars technica
It won’t cost automakers nearly as much as they say it would to fit new cars with carbon-saving technology over the next decade, a nonprofit transportation research group says. An economic analysis performed by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) found that, given recent improvements in auto technology, the EPA’s rigorous study to determine 2025 fuel efficiency standards may have been too conservative, in some cases overstating the per-car cost of implementing carbon-reducing technologies by 40 percent. The analysis comes at a time when the Trump Administration has moved to undo the fuel efficiency standards imposed by the EPA in January under the Obama Administration. Trump’s EPA has claimed that asking the auto industry to meet fuel efficiency standards of more than 50 mpg by 2025 would cost American jobs. (The ICCT notes that this mpg number can be reduced by about 23 percent during “real-world” driving "due to factors like greater real-world acceleration and operating in hot and cold temperatures" and accounts for that in its study.) Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 17 hours ago on ars technica
(credit: Qualcomm) When it announced the Snapdragon 835, Qualcomm promised that the latest in its family of ARM systems-on-chips would boost performance by 27 percent with a 40 percent reduction in power consumption. The first early benchmarks of the processor that Qualcomm doesn't want us to call a processor have been run and the results are... well, they're a little uneven. Anandtech went to Qualcomm's San Diego headquarters and was shown the 835 running in a hardware platform reference—a basic smartphone built around the chip that serves as a platform for hardware testing and software development. During this visit, they were able to run a handful of basic benchmarks to gauge the performance of the new chip. Naively, one would assume that Snapdragon 835 would be faster than the 820/821 that went before it. 835 is, after all, a higher number than 820, and higher numbers usually mean better when it comes to processors. But the situation with the 835 is more complicated than that. In the early days of the modern smartphone era, Qualcomm's 32-bit ARM Snapdragon chips were generally best-in-class. While many ARM chips use core designs that are developed by ARM itself in the UK, Qualcomm did something different; it had a pair of custom designs, Scorpion in 2008 and Krait in 2012, developed in house. These designs were broadly superior to ARM's Cortex-A8, A9, and A15 designs that other companies were using. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 18 hours ago on ars technica
Enlarge / The smartphone-based semen analyzer tests for male infertility in seconds from the privacy of home with a 3D-printed setup costing less than $5, which can analyze most semen samples in less than 5 seconds. (credit: Vignesh Natarajan) The male equivalent of the at-home pregnancy test may have just landed. With a simple smartphone device and a chip that slurps up sperm, men can easily and cheaply measure the count and motility of their swimmers. The test is about 98 percent accurate, takes less than five seconds, and requires no training to run, Harvard researchers report Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine. It’s also cheap—the device and the microfluidic chip cost just $4.45 total to manufacture. Researchers are hopeful that the invention will help couples trying to have children—as well as those trying not to. Worldwide, it's estimated that more than 30 million men face fertility issues at some point. And couples in developing countries or remote areas may not have easy access to fertility clinics. On the flip side, those who undergo vasectomies are encouraged to monitor their sperm counts afterward to make sure the procedure worked. A simple, mobile phone-based test could help both groups. Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 19 hours ago on ars technica
(credit: Arcade Flyer Archive) The historical record of video games received a strange shake-up on Wednesday from Ed Fries, the ex-Microsoft executive who had a huge part in the creation of the original Xbox. Fries took to his personal blog, which typically covers the world of retro gaming, to announce a zany discovery: he had found the world's earliest known arcade game Easter egg. His hunt began with a tip from Atari game programmer Ron Milner about the 1977 game Starship 1. This tip seemingly came out of nowhere, as the duo were talking about an entirely different '70s arcade game, Gran Trak 10, which Fries was researching separately. Starship, Milner said, had a few special twists that didn't all make it to market, but one did: a secret message to players. The game would display "Hi Ron!" if players put in the right combination of button commands. This type of thing is better known to gaming fans as an Easter egg, and more than a few Atari games had them as a way to include the developer's name (which Atari never put in games or on cabinets). Milner didn't tell anyone at Atari about the secret message for 30 years, he told Fries, and one reason is because he'd forgotten how to trigger it. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 19 hours ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: Mike Mozart) About 17,000 AT&T wireline technicians and call center employees went on strike in California and Nevada today while filing an unfair labor charge to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) alleging that AT&T violated federal law. "The company has shown disrespect to the bargaining process by changing the work assignments of workers without bargaining as required by federal law," the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union said in its strike announcement. "Further, AT&T reneged on an agreement to resolve the dispute without any explanation." The CWA said that AT&T "is asking its workers to do more for less—keeping them from their families with unpredictable overtime, undercutting pay and advancement, offshoring good jobs, and pushing more health care costs onto employees." Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 20 hours ago on ars technica
Enlarge / The evolution of the vortex over femtoseconds. (credit: Spektor et. al.) The late 20th and early 21st century have seen a revolution in the study of light. Far from the old days of seeing things dimly through microscopes, we are now in the position to freeze light, use it to make materials transparent, and watch it spiral around on a gold surface. Watching light do its thing is very difficult. This sounds a bit silly, as we observe the world through the effects of light. But what we actually see is an average effect. Light, shade, colors, and texture all come to us via the intensity of light, provided by lots of individual photons. We are in no position to see the femtosecond flickering of the field that averages to our spectacular view of the world. All the interesting stuff we see is related to the amplitude and phase of the light field, though. And the amplitude of a light wave changes very fast, going through a complete cycle in two to three femtoseconds. The wavefront (phase) also travels very fast, moving around 300 nanometers every femtosecond. Tracking this sort of motion is tricky, but it reveals all sorts of intriguing stuff. Read 19 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 20 hours ago on ars technica
Consider this your regularly scheduled reminder that the Internet Archive continues to host some of the coolest relics of nerd history. Now, the scan-and-upload team led by Jason Scott delivers quite the piece of video game nostalgia: the Atari Coin Connection. Long before consumer magazines and fan newsletters ruled the industry, Atari's first publication launched in 1976 to an audience of businesses and arcade operators. The publication existed to simultaneously promote new arcade games and offer operator advice for existing machines, and full archives of the mostly black-and-white newsletter can now be accessed in the form of pristine scans. Scott confirmed to Ars that these scans have been sitting on other sites for roughly eight years. "I have been handed a pile of manuals, newsletters, and magazines today—about 20 gig—and while a lot were already on the Archive, a bunch weren't, so I'm reconciling that," Scott said to Ars via e-mail. As a result, they're bound to receive much more attention and love. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 20 hours ago on ars technica
Enlarge The Supreme Court issued a 5-2 opinion (PDF) today allowing cheerleading uniforms to be copyrighted. The case, Star Athletica v. Varsity Brands, is expected to have broad effect in the fashion world and beyond. A group of 3D printing companies had also asked the high court to take up the case, asking for clarity on how to separate creative designs, which are copyrightable, from utilitarian objects that are not. The case began when Varsity Brands, the world's largest manufacturer of cheerleading and dance-team uniforms, accused Star Athletica of infringing its copyrighted designs. Star Athletica fought back in court, saying the chevrons and stripes on the uniforms had a utilitarian function—namely, to identify cheerleaders as cheerleaders. Noting that Varsity Brands had sued or acquired several other competitors, Star's lawyers complained that Varsity's aggressive litigation led to high uniform prices, "to the detriment of families everywhere." The district court sided with Star, saying the designs couldn't be separated from the uniform's utilitarian function. But a panel of judges at the US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit disagreed, saying there was no utilitarian need for stripes and chevrons and that "a plain white cheerleading top and plain white skirt still cover the body" and allow for jumps, kicks, and flips. Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 21 hours ago on ars technica
Tony Shaff, 44 Pages AUSTIN, Texas—If you ever attended a pediatric dentist or loved reading between the ages of two and 12, chances are good you've come across Highlights. The legacy kids' magazine turned 70 in the summer of 2016, and throughout the decades it has been a cultural constant. Everyone knows about hidden picture searches or the long-running Goofus and Gallant comic, but poetry from Lewis Carroll, Emily Dickinson, and Langston Hughes has also graced its pages (and unpublished submissions from the likes of Walter Cronkite sit in the archives). The Highlights brand has become such a part of the American fabric that it has been referenced in pop culture across decades, in everywhere from Beavis and Butthead to The Colbert Report, Mad Men, The Simpsons, Blackish, and Arrested Development. If you haven't recently flipped through the magazine, Highlights will likely surprise you after all these years. A new documentary called 44 Pages (which is the magazine's constant size, since there's no advertising) chronicles Highlights' history, process, and philosophy in the run-up to its 70th anniversary edition in June 2016. At South by Southwest, the film showed that Highlights is a more complex publication than your younger-self ever recognized. Now, as it has done throughout its history, Highlights quietly packs real, grown-up science and tech into each issue as seamlessly as it hides a hammer within the bark of some illustrated tree. Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 22 hours ago on ars technica
Ferrari Good news, everyone: the 2017 Formula 1 season starts this weekend. As has become tradition, the first race of the year is in Melbourne, Australia, meaning those of us in Europe or North America can expect a late night or very early morning. This will be the first year under new management—with Liberty having purchased F1 from CVC, ousting Bernie in the process—and also the first year for new aerodynamics regulations and new tires. The two preseason tests have come and gone, but yet again—and despite more than 20 years following the sport—I still have no idea who's going to come out on top. Black and round The principal complaint about F1 in recent years—along with inaudible engines, exorbitant ticket prices, and the boredom of overwhelming Mercedes domination—has been the Pirelli tires. Specifically, it's about the tires' inability to cope with more than one heat cycle. With most racing slicks, if you push too hard and overheat the tire, backing off for a few corners lets them cool down, and everything goes back to normal. But when the F1 Pirellis of the past few years overheat, they're ruined. (It's possible this is caused by a particular chemical used in the manufacturing process that makes the tire compound extrudable.) That won't be the case this year; now the tires will suffer little to no drop-off or degradation, so expect a lot of one-stop strategies, at least for the first few races. Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 22 hours ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Pope Francis holds his homily during his weekly audience Wednesday in St. Peter's Square in Vatican City, Vatican. Pope Francis is warning the world's youth to be wary of the "false image of reality" portrayed in social media and on reality television shows. In a written message the Vatican issued Tuesday, the pontiff cautioned followers not to let the Internet dilute the church's message. The speech will be released in video format on World Youth Day on April 9. "History teaches us that even when the Church has to sail on stormy seas, the hand of God guides her and helps her to overcome moments of difficulty. The genuine experience of the Church is not like a flash mob, where people agree to meet, do their thing, and then go their separate ways," Francis wrote. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 23 hours ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: Getty | Marc Bruxelle) With little evidence of health benefits, television advertisements for testosterone were very successful at persuading men to seek treatments for a questionable disorder, a new study in JAMA suggests. The potent commercials may have been a significant driver in the boom in testosterone use, which launched sales ten-fold in the US between 2000 and 2011. The study, led by researchers at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, examined insurance claims of around 17.2 million American men in 75 television markets between 2009 to 2013. During that time, more than a million of the men got their testosterone levels tested and more than 283,000 started treatment. Looking at advertising patterns, the researchers calculated that a single ad aired to a million men was linked to 14 new tests, five new prescriptions following testing, and two new prescriptions given without testing. Ad exposure varied by market, with some seeing as many as 200 ads during the study period. Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 23 hours ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | tiero) Years in the making, a proposal to mandate the installation of fiber conduits during federally funded highway projects might be gaining some new momentum. If the US adopts a "dig once" policy, construction workers would install conduits just about any time they build new roads and sidewalks or upgrade existing ones. These conduits are plastic pipes that can house fiber cables. The conduits might be empty when installed, but their presence makes it a lot cheaper and easier to install fiber later, after the road construction is finished. The idea is an old one. US Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) has been proposing dig once legislation since 2009, and it has widespread support from broadband-focused consumer advocacy groups. It has never made it all the way through Congress, but it has bipartisan backing from lawmakers who often disagree on the most controversial broadband policy questions, such as net neutrality and municipal broadband. It even got a boost from Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who has frequently clashed with Democrats and consumer advocacy groups over broadband—her "Internet Freedom Act" would wipe out the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules, and she supports state laws that restrict growth of municipal broadband. Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 24 hours ago on ars technica
A solar cell with 26.3 percent efficiency. (credit: Photovoltaic & Thin Film Research Laboratories (Kaneka corporation)) Solar panels are cheaper than ever these days, but installation costs can still be considerable for homeowners. More efficient solar panels can recapture the cost of their installation more quickly, so making panels that are better at converting sunlight into electricity is a key focus of solar research and development. The silicon-based cells that make up a solar panel have a theoretical efficiency limit of 29 percent, but so far that number has proven elusive. Practical efficiency rates in the low-20-percent range have been considered very good for commercial solar panels. But researchers with Japanese chemical manufacturer Kaneka Corporation have built a solar cell with a photo conversion rate of 26.3 percent, breaking the previous record of 25.6 percent. Although it’s just a 2.7 percent increase in efficiency, improvements in commercially viable solar cell technology are increasingly hard-won. Not only that, but the researchers noted in their paper that after they submitted their article to Nature Energy, they were able to further optimize their solar cell to achieve 26.6 percent efficiency. That result has been recognized by the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL). Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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