posted 7 days ago on ars technica
Apple will be reporting its financial results for the third quarter of 2015 today at 5pm Eastern/2pm Pacific. As usual, we'll be on the call to liveblog the proceedings and offer charts and commentary. This was the first full quarter of Apple Watch availability, so we'd expect some of the company's statements and many analyst questions to focus on Apple's newest product. Apple won't be breaking watch sales out into their own category, but rather lumping them into "other devices" with iPods, Beats headphones, the Apple TV, and other accessories. We'd expect to see that category spike this quarter, but the company may not choose to elaborate on just how well the watch is selling. Things were quiet for most of Apple's other products, aside from the odd Mac refresh. The iPhones and iPads are all mid-cycle, and the iPod's recent refresh wouldn't show up in this quarter's results (and likely wouldn't make much of a difference, in any case). Whatever the company has to say, we'll be there to tell you about it this afternoon. Read on Ars Technica | Comments

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Online game streaming services are beginning to pop up all over the place, and they each promise a future in which you can kick your game system and discs to the curb. Just subscribe to their services, they insist, and you'll have instant, anywhere-you-want access to new games running on high-end computers. As people who've tested the likes of Nvidia Grid, PlayStation Now, and GameFly Streaming can attest to, these services work to some extent—with their fair share of caveats. In particular, the server-to-user structure introduces lag and button-press delays—twitchy-gaming kryptonite, basically—and their game rosters tend to dig back a few years as opposed to being loaded with the coolest new titles. The game-streaming crowd grew one bigger last Tuesday thanks to an entry from a company we never expected to join the fray: Comcast. They didn't offer some sort of far-off tease, either. Within hours of an announcement, the cable and Internet company's Xfinity Games service debuted, albeit in beta form, for an invite-only slew of its X1 TV customers. Read 31 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The music-streaming site Grooveshark was unceremoniously yanked offline in April, following a devastating 2014 court ruling that held its founders responsible for copyright infringement. Grooveshark management apologized "without reservation" for launching their site without proper licenses. Many of Grooveshark's power users lost not only their go-to source for music streaming, but also carefully cultivated playlists of their favorite music. Those playlists, saved on Grooveshark, were likely handed over to the record labels who sued it, along with the rest of the site. Now a group of Israeli techies say they've salvaged nearly all of the rogue website's database—something that will be a huge relief to diehard Grooveshark fans. What's more, they've built their own Grooveshark-like streaming service, on a website called StreamSquid—and cofounder Ofir Yosef says it's perfectly legal. Read 19 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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ANN ARBOR, Michigan—On Monday, the University of Michigan formally opened Mcity, a 32-acre outdoor research lab for testing out the future of automotive technology. Mcity simulates an urban environment for University of Michigan researchers, car makers, and technology suppliers so they can try out ideas in real-world conditions without the risks that would come on actual public streets. As it opened, we were on hand to see Mcity for ourselves and to experience some of the technology demonstrations first-hand. If you ever had one of those large play mats for toy cars as a kid, Mcity will look familiar. It features a variety of roads and streets, including a small section of freeway, a little downtown Main Street, an underpass, gravel and brick-paved roads, roundabouts, plus plenty of traffic signals and intersections. (Of course, this one is built for real cars and adults, not Matchbox toys.) The whole lab is also packed with networked sensors to collect data on tests conducted on its streets. The day kicked off with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Both of Michigan's senators and Congressperson Debbie Dingell sat on stage for the ceremonies alongside Ann Arbor's mayor. The intent behind Mcity was best summed up by Senator Gary Peters (D-Mich): Michigan—not Silicon Valley—should be at the vanguard of automotive technology development. That said, plenty of tech firms familiar to readers of Ars were present, including Qualcomm, Verizon, and Xerox. Traditional automotive tech firms like Bosch and DENSO came out to see the facilities, too, as did actual car makers. Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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A few days ahead of the Windows 10 launch, Microsoft has released the latest version of its development environment. Over the last few years, Microsoft has been making Visual Studio into a tool for cross-platform development, with a mix of both first- and third-party components, and Visual Studio 2015 takes this to the next level. Out of the box, a full install of Visual 2015 Enterprise includes support for C#, C++, Visual Basic, Java, F#, Python, JavaScript, PowerShell, Microsoft's JavaScript-based TypeScript, and SQL. It can target Windows and Android—during installation there's an option to fetch and install the Android SDK—and with the included Xamarin libraries it also supports iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watches. This makes for a hefty package; with all the options and all the third-party components, Visual Studio 2015 weighs in at 27GB. Add local documentation and another few gigabytes are eaten up. Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Microsoft has released an emergency update to patch a security bug that allows attackers to remotely execute malicious code on computers running every supported version of Windows. The critical vulnerability, which is present in all supported version of Windows, involves the way the Windows Adobe Type Manager Library handles fonts that use Microsoft's OpenType format. The bug allows attackers to take complete control of vulnerable computers. Attackers can exploit it by luring targets to booby-trapped websites or by tricking a target into opening a malicious file. There are no indications at the moment that the vulnerability is being actively exploited in the wild. Still, the unscheduled issuance on Monday is an indication that the chances of exploitation are high enough to merit installation as soon as possible. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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After weeks of investigating the June 28 Falcon 9 failure and scrutinizing data collected from over 3,000 telemetry channels, video channels, and debris analysis, SpaceX thinks it knows what caused the failure. Preliminary data points to the structural failure of a steel strut designed to hold helium pressurant tanks in place inside the upper stage liquid oxygen (LOX) tank. Following an on-time launch on June 28, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon cargo vehicle broke apart over the Atlantic Ocean. Approximately 139 seconds into the flight, just prior to the first stage separation, the vehicle disintegrated. Directly following the launch failure, Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX COO and president, attributed the anomaly to an over-pressurization of the upper stage. The cause of the over-pressurization was unknown until the flight data had been analyzed. During a media teleconference today, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk emphasized that the findings are preliminary and will be further scrutinized. The results have been shared with the FAA and all of SpaceX’s commercial partners before they were shared with the public. Musk said everyone agrees the strut failure is the likely cause. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Earlier this week, Ars got an e-mail from a reader named Rob Plant. “I think most right-thinking people have been dismayed by the tactics of charging for picture take downs—what is worrying to me is that these practices now seem to have been taken up by more legitimate websites.” Ars has long covered the scourge of “revenge porn,” in which seedy websites post revealing photos of unwilling people and then charge those victims a fee to take the photos down. But Plant was writing about a site called Ashley Madison, which markets itself as a dating website for married people to find accomplices in extra-marital affairs. (Its slogan is blunt: “Life is short. Have an affair.”) The website has been around since 2001, and although it's taken some guff for allegations that it populates its network with fake profiles of women, it still boasts 29 million users worldwide, most of whom are presumably not fake. The way it works is this: Ashley Madison allows people to sign up for free with "Guest" accounts, which permit users to send and receive photos and “winks.” Guest accounts can also reply to messages sent by a member. To become a "Full Member," one must buy credits, as opposed to, say, paying a monthly subscription. Full Members can initiate messages and chats with their credits, and women can send messages “collect." After first contact (and guidelines of the Prime Directive permitting) messages between the two users are free. Read 23 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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New government funding will boost the networks of eight rural Internet service providers, including five customer-owned ISPs in areas that aren't densely populated enough to attract major investments from big cable companies and telcos. The US Department of Agriculture today announced the new loans and grants, totaling $85.8 million. La Valle Telephone Cooperative in La Valle, Wisconsin, a town of about 1,300 residents, is getting a $7.61 million loan to expand its fiber network "and replace a switch to provide rural subscribers with improved services, including voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and the flexibility to connect to Gigabit Ethernet and IP interfaces," the USDA said. The Washington Post highlighted the efforts of La Valle in a story today: Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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It's a familiar ecology story: human dam-building activities in the 1980s wiped out a species of prawn in the Senegal River by blocking its migration routes. But this one takes an unexpected turn into human health. A pilot study suggests that reintroducing the prawns to the river wouldn’t be good just for biodiversity—it could also help to control a parasite that causes disease in humans. The research, published today in PNAS, found that when river prawns were reintroduced to a village’s water supply, the number of parasite-carrying water snails dropped substantially compared to a village with no prawns. The drop had a significant impact on the disease levels of the villagers. No-one wants spiny eggs in their bladder The construction of the Diama Dam in 1986 was followed by a massive epidemic of a nasty disease called schistosomiasis, occurring in the villages along the river. Schistosomiasis, also known as bilharzia, is a waterborne disease with a life cycle straight out of a horror movie: after the larvae penetrate human skin, they go on to mature in the intestine or bladder. The sharp, spiny eggs laid by the females—between 350 and 2,200 per day—are able to penetrate tissues, allowing them to travel through the body. Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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No matter how hard Microsoft tries, it can't defeat a judicial order requiring it to face a proposed class-action lawsuit claiming that the Xbox 360 renders gaming discs unplayable because the console scratches them. The decision (PDF) Monday by the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals sets the stage either for litigation over the allegations or a Supreme Court showdown. As we've previously described, here's what the flap is all about: Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Chipmaking giant Intel has sued (PDF) a small San Francisco digital marketing company, claiming that by calling itself "Vital Intel," the company has infringed and diluted Intel's trademarks. In a complaint filed on Thursday, Intel says that for the past year it has "attempted tirelessly to amicably resolve this matter" to no avail. "Defendant has refused to take this matter seriously and engage in a substantive dialogue with Intel," the chipmaker's lawyers write. "We don't really have a choice but to challenge trademark infringement of our rights," said Intel spokesperson Tom Waldrop. "We have an obligation to our shareholders to protect the investment in our brand." Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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In the Arctic, the area covered by sea ice that survives through the summer has been on a downward trend for as long as we've been monitoring it. But the area of ocean covered by ice only tells part of the story. Some of that ice is relatively thin, having only formed during the previous winter. Other areas have thick ice that has built up over several years and is more likely to survive through the summer. Getting a grip on the ice thickness throughout the Arctic has been a challenge. While there have been some sporadic regional surveys, they don't provide a complete picture of the polar region. That changed with the launch of the ESA's CryoSat-2 satellite, which has been gathering data since 2010. Now, researchers have used the data to show that the thickness of the sea ice is quite dynamic, with a single cold summer being enough to reverse part of the downward trend. CryoSat-2 has an instrument that can detect the altitude from the top of sea ice, even differentiating it from snow on the ice's surface. To understand ice thickness, the authors of the new paper compared that to the height of the ocean near the ice. From there, based on what we know about ice's buoyancy, it's possible to calculate the thickness. This is a little more complicated than it sounds, however, given that they had 88 million individual measurements spanning four years (2010-2014). Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Italian prosecutors have begun a criminal investigation of six former employees of the embattled company Hacking Team, according to a Reuters' report citing anonymous sources. Hacking Team was hacked two weeks ago and had its data published all over the Internet. The leaked cache includes hundreds of gigabytes of company e-mails as well as some of its source code; the police allegedly suspect the involvement of former company insiders. According to Reuters, the new criminal inquiry is in addition to the fact that the before the hack, several former employees were being privately accused of allegedly violating their contracts and using secrets to benefit competitors. Read 27 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Of all the features coming to this September's FIFA 16 soccer game, the most visually apparent one is a giant roster update that includes female players—in the form of ten major national women's soccer teams with accurately rendered players. This development, and the United States' stellar performance in this summer's FIFA Women's World Cup, led to a vocal movement. Suddenly, a thousands-strong petition called for something that's never before appeared on the cover of an annual EA Sports franchise: a woman as the cover star. On Monday, EA Sports responded to Ars' questions about the cover with confirmation of multiple women as FIFA 16 cover stars. In particular, the company identified the women who will co-star with FC Barcelona star player Lionel Messi on North American versions of the game. The American box for FIFA 16 will include US Women's National Team forward Alex Morgan, while the Canadian box will feature their team captain Christine Sinclair. When asked whether this cover star choice was made due to growing public pressure for a woman on the box, an EA Sports rep pointed to the company's announcement, which indicated that women as cover-art stars were being considered "as soon as we knew Women’s National Teams were joining FIFA 16." (We suppose if EA had waited until after the US Women's National Team won the cup, the company might have opted for golden-toed star player Carli Lloyd.) Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Aram Pan, a photographer from Singapore, has been traveling through North Korea and recording the experience with a 360-degree video camera as part of his DPRK 360 project—an attempt to give the outside world a better idea of what life inside the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is really like. But earlier this month, he snapped a photo that highlights an aspect of North Korean life that simply wandering around the country wouldn't have revealed. You don't need a search engine to find websites in North Korea, apparently—because all of them fit on a poster. Apparently, no Domain Name Service is required in the DPRK. Instead, all these sites are listed by their private IP addresses on the country's private intranet. Martyn Williams, a senior correspondent for IDG News Service, provided an analysis of the poster in his North Korea Tech blog, noting that while DNS appears to be in use within North Korea ("The North Korean Samjiyon tablet PC had several default bookmarks in its Web browser that used domain names," Williams writes) its availability is likely limited. In most photos of North Koreans using computers in schools and libraries, the addresses in browser windows use numeric IP addresses. (See Williams' post for a full translation of the table on the poster). This might be because existing DNS servers in North Korea don't support the Unicode domain names that would allow users to type them in Korean. "If you don't have have much experience with the roman alphabet and a computer keyboard, typing a short string of numbers is probably easier," Williams noted. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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A 10-year, $100 million initiative to boost the search for extraterrestrial intelligence will feature "the most powerful, comprehensive, and intensive scientific search ever undertaken for signs of intelligent life beyond Earth," the initiative's organizers promised in an announcement today. "Breakthrough Initiatives" is being bankrolled by billionaire tech investor Yuri Milner and led by a distinguished cast of scientists including Astronomer Royal Martin Rees and astronomer Frank Drake, who is Chairman Emeritus of the SETI Institute. (In 1960, Drake became the first person to set up a radio telescope to detect interstellar radio transmissions, and he formulated the Drake equation the year following.) Stephen Hawking was on stage at today's launch event, saying, “In an infinite Universe, there must be other life. There is no bigger question. It is time to commit to finding the answer," Nature reported. The money will provide "significant access to two of the world’s most powerful telescopes," the 100-meter Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia and the 64-meter Parkes Telescope in New South Wales, Australia, the official announcement said. “We would typically get 24–36 hours on a telescope per year, but now we’ll have thousands of hours per year on the best instruments,” said Andrew Siemion, director of the Berkeley SETI Research Center, according to Nature. “It’s difficult to overstate how big this is. It’s a revolution.” Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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A federal judge has ruled that Apple must defend a class-action trial, to begin in January, representing thousands of Apple store workers. The employees claim they had to spend as much as 20 minutes off the clock having their bags searched to combat employee theft—known as "shrinkage"—every time they left the premises. According to US District Judge William Alsup's ruling: (PDF) In stores where searches were performed by the manager on duty, some employees say they had to scour the store to find a manager and wait until that manager finished with other duties, such as assisting a customer. Where searches were performed by a security guard, some employees had to wait until a security guard became available. Some employees sometimes had to wait in line. Employee estimates of the duration of the whole process, including both searches and wait times, range from five minutes to up to twenty minutes per search, with extremes occurring during busy periods such as product launches or holiday seasons. By contrast, managers estimate wait times at only a few seconds. Thursday's decision sets the stage for a rare public glimpse into how Apple treats its retail store workers. Store workers in 2012 e-mailed Apple chief Tim Cook saying the search policy treated employees "as criminals." Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Security firm Netragard has suspended its exploit acquisition program two weeks after it was found selling a potent piece of attackware to the Italian malware developer Hacking Team. Netragard has long insisted that it sold exploits only to ethical people, companies, and governments. An e-mail sent in March and leaked by one or more people who compromised Hacking Team networks, however, showed Netragard CEO Adriel Desautels arranging the sale of an exploit that worked against fully patched versions of Adobe's Flash media player. Hacking Team, in turn has sold surveillance and exploit software to a variety of repressive governments, including Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia. "Our motivation for termination revolves around ethics, politics, and our primary business focus," Desautels wrote in a blog post published Friday. "The Hacking Team breach proved that we could not sufficiently vet the ethics and intentions of new buyers. Hacking Team unbeknownst to us until after their breach was clearly selling their technology to questionable parties, including but not limited to parties known for human rights violations." Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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In May, a fire broke out in one of the factories once used by GT Advanced Technologies (GTAT), an erstwhile supplier of sapphire to Apple that is currently in the throes of Chapter 11 bankruptcy. In July, GTAT reported that damage to its sapphire furnaces housed at the facility "appears highly unlikely” and that the residue on "crystal growing equipment" would have "no likely effect on operability.” Still, that fire is causing consternation from GTAT's biggest antagonist in its bankruptcy proceedings—Apple. The smartphone maker told the US Bankruptcy Court of New Hampshire last week that it objected to a financing plan (PDF) from the bankrupt sapphire supplier, saying that details involving GTAT's insurance company could derail the settlement between Apple and its former Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM). Under GTAT's current financing plan, it must be reimbursed by its insurance company for all of the damage its sapphire furnaces sustained in the fire. If the insurance company stipulates a partial payout for the damages or no payout, or if there is a large deductible, or if parts of the machinery were self-insured by GTAT, then GTAT automatically defaults on its loans to its creditors. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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If you wanted to keep up with new characters and game balance changes following the 2009 console release of Street Fighter IV, you had to open your wallet for two additional full retail releases, 2010's Super Street Fighter IV and 2014's Ultra Street Fighter IV. Capcom won't put players through the same process for the PS4 and PC exclusive Street Fighter V, offering free updates and a steady stream of new playable characters that can be earned through gameplay alone. In announcing the change during this weekend's EVO fighting game championships in Las Vegas, Capcom said it had learned from the staggered, bundled releases of expansion content for Street Fighter IV: While these one-time updates did revive interest in the series every few years, it was difficult to keep players engaged for long periods of time unless they were competitive. This also punished players who took a break from playing the game, because if they wanted to start again in a few years, they would be forced to purchase an upgrade to join the existing player pool who had already moved on to a new version. On top of that, this old method also forced players to purchase all of the new content, even if only a few characters may have appealed to them. This time, rather than adding to the initial roster of 16 characters through large standalone expansions, Capcom will instead introduce new fighters to Street Fighter V on a "continuous basis." That should "ensure that there is always new content to look forward to in the short term, and it prevents the competitive environment from ever becoming stale" the company said. Balance and system upgrades will be available to download for free for the life of the product, without any "forced" expansion purchases. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Ashley Madison, an online dating website that specifically targets people looking to have an affair, has been hacked by a group that calls itself Impact Team. A cache of data has been released by the Impact Team, including user profiles, company financial records, and "other proprietary information." The company's CEO, Noel Bilderman, confirmed with KrebsOnSecurity that they had been hacked, but did not speak about the extent of the breach. The Impact Team claims to have a "complete set of profiles" from the Ashley Madison user database, though so far it appears to only have released a small number of them. The hackers seem to have taken umbrage at both the concept of the site—the site's slogan is "Life is short. Have an affair."—and also the site's "full delete" feature. Ashley Madison charges users $19 (£12) to completely erase their profile, but the hackers claim that the user's details aren't actually deleted. Along with some user profiles, Impact Team also released some internal network maps, employee details and salary information, and company bank account data. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Sean Gallagher The TRS-80 Model 100, the "original laptop." 11 more images in gallery .related-stories { display: none !important; } A while ago, as we at Ars were discussing our first mobile computing experiences, I recalled the first "laptop" computer I was ever issued to use as a journalist: the Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 100. Back on my first field assignment for Government Computer News, I was given the only computing device in the company inventory that could be used to file a story from the field—via acoustic couplers and an MCI Mail account. Overcome with nostalgia, I put a bid in on a Model 100 on an eBay auction shortly afterward—and then completely forgot about it. Or I forgot about it until about a week and a half ago, when I saw that I had the winning bid. And yesterday, my very own TRS-80 Model 100 arrived in a Priority Mail box (along with the Super Serial card for the Apple II Plus I recently inherited). The Model 100 was the future of mobile computing when it arrived on the market in 1983. Powered by the 2.4-MHz Intel 80C85 and four AA batteries—and squeezing out over 20 hours of battery life!—it has no internal storage other than the  RAM (8 or 24 kilobytes, depending on whether you bought the base or deluxe model). The core software for the Model 100 is stored on a ROM chip. It includes a BASIC interpreter, a text editor, a "Telecom" program for remote connections, and an address book application that stores phone numbers for dialing up connections via the built-in 300 baud modem. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Last week, a US competitive squad accomplished something this country hasn't seen since 1994—it conquered the math world. A six-person team of young adult Americans bested teams from China, South Korea, and more to win the 2015 International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) held in Thailand this month. According to the Mathematical Association of America, the competition involves six problems taken in sets of three during 4.5 hour sessions (held across two days). Each team member attempts the problems, and team totals are based on the number of points each individual scores. The US earned 185 to take the gold while China earned runner-up honors with 181.  "If you can even solve one question, you're a bit of a genius," Po-Shen Loh, Carnegie Mellon University professor and Team USA head coach, told NPR.  Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Food for the brain? A bartender and her neurologist father walked us through, among other things, an ungarnished martini (back right), an Old Fashioned (front left), and a Brandy Alexander (front right). Nathan Mattise NEW ORLEANS—A world-renowned cocktail conference may sound like a giant party (well, because it is to some extent), but increasingly the annual Tales of the Cocktail gathering of the alcohol industry doubles as the nerdiest pilgrimage for those wanting to know more about the drinks they love. Where else would Dr. Max Wiznitzer, an accomplished child neurologist and former National Institute of Health fellow, be joined onstage by his daughter Pamela, an accomplished creative director and bartender at a Manhattan cocktail spot called Seamstress? The duo closed four days of informational seminars by walking a room full of industry professionals through how the brain responds to and processes cocktails. Perhaps the average barkeep doesn't need to know that the body contains more than 350 receptor proteins solely to process smell (detecting more than half a million odorants, any of which may bind to these proteins for all of a millisecond). But that knowledge coincided nicely with Pamela Wiznitzer's recommendations to carefully consider the aroma of your garnishes. When possible, use scents that intentionally clash with a drink's ultimate flavor (thus creating an alluring complexity). Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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