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Jonathan Blow reports staggering first-week sales for his epic new game The Witness. (credit: Sam Machkovech) As app and game sellers have transitioned into a post-Big Box retailer's world, where download-only shops like the App Store, Steam, PlayStation Network, and Xbox Live reign supreme, they've had to contend with a race to the pricing bottom. The storefronts may be selling billions in software, but while they've made new room for upstart developers, they've also created expectations for flash sales, free-to-play offers, and subscription-fueled game giveaways. Famed indie game maker Jonathan Blow made a substantial profit by selling his 2008 breakout Braid for $15, but his long-awaited follow-up, The Witness, launched at a much higher price last week: $40. On Tuesday, Blow took to his official blog to announce that a higher price point had done nothing to dampen its launch's sales, confirming over $5 million in first-week revenue. "This is a good chunk more revenue in one week than Braid made in its entire first year," Blow wrote in the announcement, and he added other sales clarifications, including the fact that high launch sales haven't quite covered the costs of development. (During a Witness launch-day Twitch Q&A, Blow estimated a total development cost of $6 million. "Why isn't this [game] $15?" he told viewers. "This game is giant. It's got tons of stuff in it.") Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Mayer is banking on MaVeNS. (credit: Yahoo) On Tuesday afternoon, Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer said that the company would be exploring "strategic alternatives” for its Web businesses, including a 15 percent cut in staffing, the closure of five global offices, and potentially divesting "non-strategic assets of value." The announcement happened before Yahoo’s fourth quarter financial call in which the company reported $4.968 billion in revenue for 2015, an 8 percent year-over-year increase from 2014's revenue. Revenue for Q4 2015 was $1.27 billion. Still, the company reported a hit with a one-time $4.5 billion "goodwill impairment charge" in this final quarter, likely a write down from expensive acquisitions. The company said that it was in need of simplification measures, saying that "a smaller product portfolio emphasizing Yahoo's core strengths will yield better focus, execution, and ultimately clearer value to shareholders, advertisers, and users." In a press release, Yahoo called out Games and Smart TV as verticals that would be shut down in 2016. In addition, the company said that it would engage in "cost saving efforts" to reduce the number of employees to 9,000 and the number of contractors to 1,000 by the end of 2016. Yahoo also said it would close offices in Dubai, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Madrid, and Milan within the next three months. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: bruce_fulton) The people who burst from bed as the sun rises to cheerily tackle their to-do list—while others sluggishly rouse and fumble with coffee makers—may have a few DNA tweaks in common. Scanning the genetic blueprints of more than 89,000 people, researchers found that those who self-identify as “morning people” tended to have genetic variations in 15 specific spots in their genome compared with people who prefer to sleep in. Seven of those varied regions were in the DNA-neighborhoods of genes involved in circadian rhythms, aka daily physiological cycles, the authors reported in Nature Communications. For the remaining eight locations, researchers were a little foggy on a possible link to sleeping schedules and will need to do further research. Though previous studies have hinted at a genetic basis for the difference between early birds and night owls, the new study offers the biggest genetic analysis to-date that backs up the DNA-based explanation. The genetic information was harvested from customers of 23andMe, a personal genetics company that offers direct-to-consumer DNA sequencing. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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You see, because Blizzard is "killing" off cards when it doesn't need to. Eh? Oh, forget it... One of the nice things about purely digital collectible card games like Hearthstone is that cards never have to go out of print. Sure, different cards are rarer than others by design—some significantly so. But unlike cardboard collectible cards—which are costly and logistically difficult to produce at scale indefinitely—there's no technical reason Blizzard can't keep producing digital copies of the entire set of Hearthstone cards for purchase by new players just getting into the game. That state of affairs is set to change soon. With the introduction of a set of new formats today, Blizzard isn't only shaking up how Hearthstone is played but also how it's sold. The changes highlight how a form of time-limited scarcity is becoming more common even in the functionally limitless store shelves of online games. New Formats? The details of Hearthstone's new Standard format are laid out in great detail over on the Battle.net blog, but in short, Blizzard is splitting the game into two separate modes. The "Wild" format will let players use all existing Hearthstone cards as normal, while "Standard" play will let players only use cards from sets released in the last year or so. Players are free to play either or both formats, but Standard will be the only format sanctioned in Blizzard-sponsored tournaments, which should have a strong effect on the competitive scene. Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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How many more Amazon Books locations should we expect in the future? According to a mall development company's CEO, up to 400. (credit: Amazon) A Tuesday earnings call from a mall operator included its CEO's analysis on the kinds of brick-and-mortar stores the company expected to see in the marketplace, and it included a staggering guess for one upstart brick-and-mortar retailer: up to 400 Amazon Books locations. The Wall Street Journal was first to report on the earnings call, during which General Growth Properties, Inc. CEO Sandeep Mathrani made the estimate while fielding a question about his properties' foot traffic in an online-shopping world. Mathrani pointed out high return rates at physical stores for online-ordered products, which he estimated at 38 percent, and that fed into his follow-up estimate: "You go to Amazon opening brick-and-mortar book stores, and their goal is to open, as I understand, 300 to 400 bookstores." (Currently, Amazon only operates a single shop at Seattle's University Village shopping center.) He added that "the last mile is all important" in terms of engaging with customers, noting that other major online retailers like Bonobos, Birchbox, and Warby Parker have plans for their own brick-and-mortar expansions throughout the United States. "It’s a very interesting evolution, because the cost of the last mile is that important," Mathrani said to investors. "The mall business, if you appreciate that it's more focused on fashion, is very different than a staple business where you’re buying commodity. In the mall business, the impact of eCommerce is a lot less—it’s actually your friend, not your enemy." Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Mega-City One is the land of opportunity. (credit: Lionsgate) Imagine a high-density city, and you probably think of something like Mega-City One, full of pollution, poverty, and huge, ugly housing projects. But the reality, according to new research in urban studies, is that high-density city plans offer residents more economic opportunities. Especially for people who want to give their children better lives, high-density cities are the most likely to deliver on the American Dream. Measuring sprawl and economic mobility Upward mobility is on the decline in the US. Once billed as a land of opportunity for the poor and hardworking, the country now offers little hope to people born in poverty. Writing in the latest issue of Landscape and Urban Planning, the researchers note that the "chance of upward mobility for Americans is just half that of the citizens of Denmark and many other European countries." A study from the Brookings Institution found that "39 percent of children born to parents in the top fifth of the income distribution will remain in the top fifth for life, while 42 percent of children born to parents in the bottom fifth income distribution will stay in that bottom fifth." But some parts of the country are better off than others. As the researchers explain: Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Female Aedes aegypti mosquito as she was in the process of obtaining a "blood meal" (credit: US Department of Health and Human Services) Zika, the mosquito-spread virus sparking outbreaks across the Western Hemisphere and suspected of causing birth defects and neurological problems, has been transmitted through sexual contact in the United States, the Dallas County Health and Human Services (DCHHS) reported Tuesday. A patient was infected via sexual contact with a person who had recently traveled to Venezuela, a country currently experiencing a Zika outbreak, the health department said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the sexual transmission. There is still no evidence that Zika is spreading in US mosquito populations. “Now that we know Zika virus can be transmitted through sex, this increases our awareness campaign in educating the public about protecting themselves and others,” Zachary Thompson, DCHHS director, said in a press release. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: T-Mobile) T-Mobile USA has matched Verizon Wireless in a series of crowdsourced speed tests but still trails both Verizon and AT&T in overall network coverage. The findings come from the company OpenSignal and are based on 377 million data samples from 182,000 users of the OpenSignal Android and iOS apps during the last three months of 2015. "Verizon is still the operator to beat when it comes to network reliability, but T-Mobile is squaring off against the super-carrier in download speed," OpenSignal wrote. "Nationally both operators are averaging 4G [LTE] connections of 12Mbps, and in a speed comparison in the 11 largest US cities, T-Mobile just barely edged out Verizon. AT&T and Sprint hardly even factored in the contest." Read 18 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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A demonstration of stun cuffs at a National Sheriffs' Association meeting. A Maryland judge who ordered a deputy to remotely shock a defendant with a 50,000-volt charge pleaded guilty (PDF) to a misdemeanor civil rights violation in federal court Monday, and he faces a maximum of one year in prison when sentenced later this year. The incident happened in July 2014 during jury selection for a trial concerning a man accused of carrying a loaded handgun during a police stop the year before, according to a plea agreement with former Charles County Circuit Court Judge Robert Nalley. Robert Nalley. Before jurors were brought in, the judge was asking the defendant if he had questions to submit to prospective jurors, who were not yet in the courtroom. Delvon King, the 25-year-old defendant acting as his own attorney, refused to answer several times. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The Electron, an Arduino-compatible controller that just happens to have a GSM cellular connection built in. (credit: Particle) Particle, a company that makes development kits for wireless Internet of Things applications—formerly known as Spark Devices—is preparing to ship a new board-based computer that will allow developers to use Arduino code to build mobile wireless devices based on GSM cellular connections. The Electron will allow developers to build Internet of Things devices that can connect nearly anywhere in the world where there's a 2G or 3G mobile wireless network. Electron is the followup to Particle's Photon, a Wi-Fi based device with similar capabilities. Both Photon and Electron can use Arduino "sketch" code or code written in Particle's own development tool. And Particle offers a cloud service that allows developers to scale up their devices to full-production deployments of more than 100,000 devices. Part of the appeal (and the business model) for Electron is that it comes with its own global data plan. Using an IoT SIM that works on cellular networks in over 100 countries, the Electron's basic data plan starts at $2.99 per month for 1 megabyte of data and 99 cents for each additional megabyte. That's not a lot of data, but Electron is intended mostly for "machine to machine" (M2M) applications, where relatively small messages are sent between the device and the cloud—not for things like streaming video or more consumer-type broadband cellular applications. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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With about six months left on Microsoft's free Windows 10 upgrade promotion, Redmond is stepping up its efforts to get Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users to upgrade to its newest operating system. Windows Update has three classes of update: important, recommended, and optional. The first category is always downloaded and (if preferred) installed automatically. The last category always requires manual downloading and installation. The middle, "recommended," is by default treated the same as "important," but users can also opt to treat it as equivalent to "optional." As announced last October, the free Windows 10 update has been promoted from an "optional" update to being a "recommended" one. This means that with the default Windows Update settings, the new operating system will be downloaded automatically, and its installer will be started. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: Jeremy Brooks ) An open source network utility used by administrators and security professionals contains a cryptographic weakness so severe that it may have been intentionally created to give attackers a surreptitious way to eavesdrop on protected communications, its developer warned Monday. Socat is a more feature-rich variant of the once widely used Netcat networking service for fixing bugs in network applications and for finding and exploiting security vulnerabilities. One of its features allows data to be transmitted through an encrypted channel to prevent it from being intercepted by people monitoring the traffic. Amazingly, when using the Diffie-Hellman method to establish a cryptographic key, Socat used a non-prime parameter to negotiate the key, an omission that violates one of the most basic cryptographic principles. The Diffie-Hellman key exchange requires that the value be a prime number, meaning it's only divisible by itself and the number one. Because this crucial and most basic of rules was violated, attackers could calculate the secret key used to encrypt and decrypt the protected communications. What's more, the non-prime value was only 1,024 bits long, a length that researchers recently showed is susceptible to cracking by state-sponsored attackers even when prime numbers are used. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Greetings, Arsians! Courtesy of our partners at TechBargains, we have a number of deals on laptops, desktops, and accessories to share today. One of them makes Black Friday prices look steep—you can get a Dell Inspiron 3000 desktop computer with 16GB of RAM and a 2TB hard drive for just $599. That's nearly half of its original list price of $1,032. Now's the time to upgrade if you're in need of a new desktop, because this price definitely won't last long. Check out the full list of deals below as well. Featured Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals) A federal appeals court is upholding lifetime GPS monitoring of a convicted felon, in this instance a Wisconsin pedophile who served time for sexually assaulting a boy and a girl. The court upheld the constitutionality of a Wisconsin law that, beginning in 2008, requires convicted pedophiles to wear GPS ankle devices for the rest of their lives. A federal judge had sided with the offender, Michael Belleau, now 72. Wisconsin appealed to the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled (PDF) in the state's favor Friday and derided the lower court's ruling as "absurd." Among other things, Belleau said the GPS device violated his privacy because he had served his time and was not on post-prison supervision. The three-judge appeals court did not agree, saying: When the ankleted person is wearing trousers the anklet is visible only if he sits down and his trousers hike up several inches and as a result no longer cover it. The plaintiff complains that when this happens in the presence of other people and they spot the anklet, his privacy is invaded, in violation of the Fourth Amendment, because the viewers assume that he is a criminal and decide to shun him. Of course the Fourth Amendment does not mention privacy or create any right of privacy. It requires that searches be reasonable but does not require a warrant or other formality designed to balance investigative need against a desire for privacy; the only reference to warrants is a prohibition of general warrants. The court's reasoning, however, could apply to other criminals who have a propensity to reoffend. The court said that the burden on privacy "must in any event be balanced against the gain to society from requiring that the anklet monitor be worn. It is because of the need for such balancing that persons convicted of crimes, especially very serious crimes such as sexual offenses against minors, and especially very serious crimes that have high rates of recidivism such as sex crimes, have a diminished reasonable constitutionally protected expectation of privacy." Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / The iPad Air 2. A new version could bring over multiple features from the iPad Pro. (credit: Andrew Cunningham) Mark your calendars: A new report from Buzzfeed's John Paczkowski says that Apple is planning a product event for March 15, its first since the iPhone 6S, iPad Pro, and Apple TV event it held back in September. Paczkowski's sources have reliably predicted the dates of multiple iPhone and iPad events in the past, and 9to5Mac's sources have also pegged March 15th as the event date. Apple's plans could change, but as of this writing, Apple is expected to make a couple of (literally) small announcements. The most significant is the "iPhone 5SE," a 4-inch iPhone that combines the approximate size of the iPhone 5S with many features from the iPhone 6 and 6S. Current rumors say that Apple Pay support, an Apple A8 or A9, upgraded LTE, and a lightly modified design will be the most significant features and that the phone will replace the iPhone 5S at the bottom of Apple's iPhone lineup. Rumors also suggest we'll see an iPad Air 3 at the event and that it could inherit a lot of features from the iPad Pro. An upgraded four-speaker design, a Smart Connector, Apple Pencil support, and a rear LED flash are all supposedly in the works. We haven't heard anything about internal specs, but an Apple A9X (possibly paired with less RAM than the iPad Pro's 4GB) seems like a distinct possibility. The 9.7-inch iPad hasn't been updated since October of 2014—it wasn't refreshed when Apple introduced the iPad Pro and iPad Mini 4 last year. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: europe-vs-facebook) BRUSSELS—Over the weekend, negotiators from the European Union's executive body, and the US Federal Trade Commission worked frantically to thrash out a deal to allow transatlantic data transfers to take place. But the so-called Safe Harbour 2.0 is far from a done deal. So how did we get here? Two men are essentially responsible: Edward Snowden, and Max Schrems. The whole world knows only too well about the whistleblowing exploits of Snowden, who infamously exposed the US National Security Agency's PRISM spying operation. What Austrian privacy campaigner Schrems went on to do with that information, once it became public in 2013, is logical but impressive in its scale. Schrems—then a law student in his mid-20s—looked at the companies accused of leaking personal information to the NSA, and decided to file an official complaint about the misuse of his personal data by Facebook. Read 28 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: Comcast) Comcast today announced that its gigabit cable Internet service will be available in Atlanta and Nashville early this year, with the next deployments coming to Chicago, Detroit, and Miami in the second half of 2016. Exact deployment dates haven't been revealed. Today's announcement also said that Comcast's fiber-based 2Gbps service, which launched last year, is now available to 18 million homes as planned. That's a sizable chunk of Comcast's network, which passes 55 million homes and businesses in 39 states and Washington, DC. The 2Gbps fiber service launched first in Atlanta, spreading next to Chicago, Detroit, Miami, Nashville, and other metro areas. While Comcast's fiber-to-the-home service—known as Gigabit Pro—delivers 2Gbps both downstream and upstream, it won't be available throughout Comcast's territory. Comcast says it does plan to bring gigabit cable to "virtually" its entire territory over the next two or three years. That's due to version 3.1 of DOCSIS, the Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification, which can bring gigabit download speeds without the need to deploy fiber to homes. New modems will be required. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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At the Boeing booth on the Air & Space exposition floor in September 2015, a rack of once and future smart bombs—JDAM and JDAM Extended Range. (credit: Sean Gallagher) If you're wondering how much the war against the Islamic State is costing the US and why the Obama administration isn't ramping up its bombing campaign even more, consider this fact: from August 2014 to December 2015, the US military dropped $1.3 billion in smart bombs and other guided munitions on ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria, with air operations costing an average of about $11.2 million per day. So many smart bombs have been dropped during the roughly 9,000 missions flown by US Air Force and Navy aircraft that the Department of Defense is running out of the guided weapons—and the Pentagon wants to stock up for ramped-up attacks. The military also wants to accelerate updates to the aging B-52 fleet to convert them into "arsenal ships" that can hang around for long periods of time and deliver bigger loads of guided bombs against targets such as ISIS. Defense One reports that the Obama administration will send a request to Congress next week to approve an additional $1.8 billion for the DOD in order to purchase 45,000 new Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) smart bombs and other air-dropped ordnance. The $1.8 billion bomb request is part of a total of $7.5 billion the Pentagon will seek to cover Operation Inherent Resolve, the ongoing operation against ISIS. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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An eleventh hour data transfer "political agreement" has been reached between US and European Union officials, just as privacy watchdogs in the 28-member-state bloc were circling tech giants with the threat of enforcement action. The European Commission's vice president Andrus Ansip—perhaps mindful of keeping national data regulators from the Article 29 Working Group at bay—said during a press conference on Tuesday afternoon that a framework agreement was now in place. What that means, in practice, is that the Commission has negotiated some breathing space to strike a deal with the US. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: Clever Cupcakes) A new lawsuit (PDF) filed against flailing tech giant Yahoo claims that company managers governing the "Media Org" were biased against men. It also claims that the company's Quarterly Performance Review (QPR) process favored female employees and that the company engaged in mass layoffs without proper warnings. Gregory Anderson was editorial director of Yahoo's Autos, Homes, Shopping, Small Business, and Travel sections until he was terminated in 2014. In his complaint, Anderson says that between 2012 and 2015, Yahoo reduced its work force by more than 30 percent to fewer than 11,000 employees. That constitutes a mass-layoff, which requires 60-day notice under state and federal law, he says. Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Artist's conception of Nintendo's new VR-focused NX console (not really). Two decades after the flop of the Virtual Boy and after years of saying that virtual reality isn't a good fit for its company philosophy, Nintendo has joined the swelling ranks of tech companies interested in VR. The news comes from a Nintendo earnings call out of Japan last night, during which Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima reportedly said the company is "looking into" VR. Nintendo didn't provide any other details about any potential VR plans, but the tidbit is especially interesting considering Nintendo's work on the still shadowy NX console, first mentioned last March. Since that announcement, we've been left guessing about a project Nintendo has only said is "the new hardware system with a brand-new concept." With the Wii U seemingly not powerful enough to drive a really convincing, high-res VR headset, it's not ridiculous to think that Nintendo has been "looking into" VR as an integral part of its new NX hardware. If Nintendo has been working on a VR system this whole time, though, it has done a good job of hiding it. Until today, the company has been consistently bearish on the kind of VR technology that has excited much of the gaming industry. When asked about VR plans back in 2014, Nintendo Senior Director of Corporate Communications Charlie Scibetta told Ars that the company "[tries] to innovate on our own and not necessarily follow what others have done just for the sake of doing that." Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: Credit: Wikimedia Commons) Most of the mutations associated with autism spectrum disorder affect genes involved in brain development, as you’d expect. But there’s also a link between the immune system and ASD: viral infection during pregnancy may lead to more cases of ASD in children. A new study published in Science links a specific immune signaling molecule known as interleukin-17a to this phenomenon. Studies of humans show that viral infection during pregnancy is correlated with an increase in ASD in the ensuing children, though this connection is not yet fully understood. A fundamental tenet of epidemiology is that correlation is not causation, which means that the association between viral infection and ASD doesn’t necessarily mean that catching a virus during pregnancy causes ASD in the baby. Controlled experiments of pregnancy-related exposures can’t ethically be conducted in humans, so the authors of this paper use mouse models instead. In these mice, when pregnant females are infected with a dsRNA sequence that mimics a viral infection, their offspring show behavioral symptoms typical of ASD. In rodents, ASD-like symptoms include a lack of interest in social interaction, stereotyped repetitive behaviors, abnormal communication behaviors, and other social deficits, all of which can be examined using behavioral tests. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Morgan Motor Company The Aero 8 is a no-nonsense modern sports car powered by a BMW V8. You used to have to wait five or six years between ordering a Morgan and delivery. That's now down to six to 12 months, the company says. 5 more images in gallery .related-stories { display: none !important; } The Morgan Motor Company—best known for still using postwar styling and wooden body frames for some of its cars—will have a full hybrid and electric range within the next three years. The British car maker is going to invest $8.6 million (£6 million) to develop hybrid and electric powertrains for all the models in its range by 2019, working in conjunction with Delta Motorsport and Potenza technology. Despite the retro image of Morgan's cars—the company does still use ash wood as a structural material, even in 2016—the company has actually been quite forward-looking over the past decade. The Aero 8 (introduced in 2007) has an up-to-date aluminum chassis and modern aerodynamics, even if it looks like it stepped out of the pages of an alternative history novel. "We have been involved in the research and development of new propulsion technology since the inception of the LifeCar project almost ten years ago. We are now ready to develop the best hybrid and electric drive-train solutions for production implementation before the end of the decade," said Steve Morris, Morgan's boss. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Artist's impression of W2246-0526, a galaxy shining in infrared with the luminosity of 350 trillion suns. (credit: ESO) Brightness can mean different things. A nearby candle is brighter than an identical one in the distance. To avoid confusion, astronomers use the word "luminosity" rather than brightness to indicate the total amount of light that an object puts out. By that measure, W2246-0526 is the brightest—the most luminous—galaxy in the observable Universe. A group of researchers has now taken advantage of the abilities of the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) to take a look inside W2246-0526 and see what’s going on there. The cause of the brightness is not mysterious. The galaxy’s incredibly bright core, which outshines the rest of its stars by a factor of over 100, is home to a very active supermassive black hole (SMBH). While nearly every galaxy houses a SMBH, only the most active ones earn the title of quasar. ("Active" in this context means that the black hole is rapidly consuming a lot of matter, producing its incredible light output through friction as it does.) Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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LOOK INTO MY TEETH AND DESPAIR. (credit: Ray Troll) Nicknamed the "buzzsaw shark," this 270 million-year-old creature is actually an extinct relative of the ratfish called a Helicoprion. Its bizarre tooth arrangement has confused scientists for over a century, but one artist finally got it right. Ray Troll, whose art show about Hilicoprion has been touring the US for the past three years, has been on the front lines of scientific research about one of the strangest fossils ever found. When geologist Alexander Petrovich Karpinsky discovered the creature's tooth whorl in 1899, at first he thought it was a kind of ammonite because the teeth looked so much like the ammonite's spiral shell. Paleo expert Brian Switek writes that it took Karpinsky a little while to realize that it was actually part of a larger animal. Over the next century, many different paleontologists offered explanations for what it might be, including a defensive formation on Helicoprion's nose, a ridge on its back, or even sticking out of its mouth like a spiky, curled tongue. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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