posted 8 days ago on ars technica
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that if you accidentally call someone and don't take reasonable steps to prevent it, you don’t have an expectation of privacy if that person listens in. Kentucky executive James Huff accidentally called his assistant for over 90 minutes—and she listened in on an in-person conversation he was having. In this case, the court specifically found that Huff could not sue the assistant for violating a federal wiretap law. This was largely because Huff was aware of steps that he could have taken to prevent a pocket dial, such as locking the phone. "James Huff did not employ any of these measures," the court concluded earlier this week. "He is no different from the person who exposes in-home activities by leaving drapes open or a webcam on and therefore has not exhibited an expectation of privacy." Read 19 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Seems that non-Xbox owners might not have to wait that long to play the "timed exclusive" Rise of the Tomb Raider after its planned November 10 launch on Xbox 360 and Xbox One. Today, Square Enix announced that a PS4 version of the game will be released in "holiday 2016," and a PC version is planned for "early 2016." Square Enix and Microsoft made quite a splash when they initially announced Rise of the Tomb Raider as an Xbox exclusive last August. Days later, Microsoft's Phil Spencer clarified that the deal was actually a timed exclusive. "I didn't buy the IP in perpetuity," he said. Today was the first indication of just how long that exclusive timing might last. Despite the announcement, Rise of the Tomb Raider could still act as a major attractor for the Xbox One during this year's holiday sales race; 2013's Tomb Raider reboot sold over six million copies across a number of platforms. Rise will also likely be the largest big-budget action-adventure available this holiday season now that PlayStation 4 exclusive Uncharted 4 isn't coming until early 2016. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Since its launch in 2009, the $600 million Kepler Space Telescope has been scanning the cosmos in search of exoplanets—planets outside our Solar System. To date, the planet-hunting telescope has identified over 4,000 potential planets, of which nearly 1,000 have been confirmed. Faulty reaction wheels (used to maintain the telescope’s orientation in space) resulted in the termination of Kepler’s primary mission in 2013. But thanks to some out-of-the-box thinking, scientists were able to harness photons from the Sun to act as a third reaction wheel, stabilizing and allowing the telescope to carry on. Data from the first mission is still being analyzed, and the latest results to come out of it include a dozen planetary candidates that are similar to Earth in size and orbit within the habitable zone of their stars. As of today, one of these has been confirmed to be an actual planet. Of the roughly 1,030 confirmed exoplanets that Kepler has detected, again, only a dozen are close in size to the Earth. This time last year, Kepler identified its first Earth-sized planet in a habitable zone: Kepler-186f. The habitable zone, sometimes referred to as the “Goldilocks Zone,” is the region around a star that has just the right conditions to find liquid water on a planet’s surface. And liquid water is a key ingredient in the search for life. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Richard Stallman, the founder of the Free Software Foundation and the GNU Project known by many in the open source worlds as rms, is not the sort of person you'd expect to endorse a product. But Stallman and the FSF have formed a partnership of sorts with Crowd Supply, a crowdfunding company that has been largely focused on open source hardware and software projects. Crowd Supply is best known for launching the Librem laptop (a privacy-focused computer built by Purism) and the Novena (an open-hardware "laptop"  designed by Andrew "bunnie" Huang and Sean "xobs" Cross). Based in Portland, Oregon, the company was founded by Joshua Lifton, a Ph.D. alumnus of MIT Media Lab and the former head of engineering at Puppet Labs. In addition to providing product designers with a crowdfunding platform, Crowd Source also provides them with long-term sales, marketing, and fulfillment services. The partnership with FSF was a natural fit, Lifton said in a statement on the arrangement. "The lines between hardware and software are blurring," Lifton explained. "It only makes sense to consider them jointly rather than separately.” Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Journalism is prone to hyperbole, but on July 23, 1985 technology genuinely changed forever. At New York's Lincoln Center, as a full orchestra scored the evening and all its employees appeared in tuxedos, Commodore unveiled the work of its newly acquired Amiga subsidiary for the first time. The world finally saw a real Amiga 1000 and all its features. A baboon's face at 640x400 resolution felt life-changing, and icons like Blondie's Debbie Harry and Andy Warhol came onstage to demo state-of-the-art technology like a paint program. Today, Amiga—specifically its initial Amiga 1000 computer—officially turns 30. The Computer History Museum (CHM) in Mountain View, CA will commemorate the event this weekend (July 25 and 26) with firsthand hardware exhibits, speakers, and a banquet where the Viva Amiga documentary will be shown. It's merely the most high-profile event among dozens of Amiga commemorative ceremonies across the world, from Australia to Germany to Cleveland. What's the big deal? While things like the Apple II and TRS-80 Model 100 preceded it, the Amiga 1000 was the first true PC for creatives. As the CHM describes it, the Amiga 1000 was "a radical multimedia machine from a group of thinkers, tinkerers, and visionaries which delivered affordable graphics, animation, music, and multitasking interaction the personal computer world hadn’t even dreamt of." It pioneered desktop video and introduced PCs to countless new users, rocketing Amiga and Commodore to the top for a brief moment in the sun. Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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2011's The Binding of Isaac has remained an Ars Technica favorite for some time, especially due to the "Zelda roguelike" game receiving robust upgrades and improvements in a 2014 semi-sequel. But for years, the gross, religiously charged adventure had one glaring issue: its absence from Nintendo systems. That situation changed on Thursday with The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth's launch on both the Wii U and new 3DS systems, along with the Xbox One—a fact we point out because of how long its creators have been trying to get the game on a Nintendo console. "We just kept pushing them and working on the [new Nintendo] version," game creator Edmund McMillen told Ars in a Skype interview. He credited internal staffers who were fans of the game, including former Nintendo indie-games chief Dan Adelman, who had pushed for a change in policy that would allow the game to be launched on his company's devices. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Researchers at an HP security division have publicly detailed four code-execution vulnerabilities that can be used to hijack end-user machines running the latest versions of Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser. The disclosures earlier this week came more than six months after researchers from HP-owned TippingPoint first privately reported the bugs to Microsoft security engineers. According to the advisories published here, here, here, and here, Microsoft officials acknowledged the bugs and in each case asked for an extension beyond the four months TippingPoint officials normally wait before publicly disclosing vulnerabilities. All four of the extensions expired Sunday, leading to the public disclosure of the bugs. It remains unclear why Microsoft hasn't issued fixes. TippingPoint alerted Microsoft to three of the vulnerabilities in January and one of them last November. A Microsoft spokesman told Ars he was looking in to the matter. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Greetings, Arsians! Courtesy of our partners at TechBargains, the Dealmaster is back with a whole bunch of deals to help get you through your Thursday. Today's featured items are all about gaming. We've got a Playstation 4 Arkham Knight bundle for $369.99—that's $80 off, a years worth of PlayStation Plus for $39.99—that's $10 off, and for you PC gamers, an Alienware Tactx Laser Gaming Mouse with a $25 dell gift card for $44.99. Featured Gaming Deals Sony PlayStation Plus 12-Month Subscription for $39.99 (list price $49.99). Sony Playstation 4 Batman: Arkham Knight Bundle for $369.99 (list price $449.99). [Rebranded Logitech G9X] Alienware Tactx 5000dpi Laser Gaming Mouse + $25 Dell Gift Card for $44.99 (list price $79 - use 10% code 8$4T4X5Q4435VN). Desktops & Monitors Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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eSports are already rivaling traditional sports in viewership ratings, and pro game players are seeing career-ending injuries in the style of their more athletic counterparts. Now, numerous eSports leagues are once again mimicking the world of physical sports in preparing to crack down on the use of performance-enhancing drugs at tournaments. Widespread use of attention-focusing drugs like Adderall has been something of an open secret in the eSports community for a while; eSports consultant Bjoern Franzen publicly warned of rampant eSports pill-popping last year and an excellent Eurogamer exposé on the problem from April included many anonymous players admitting to widespread drug use. But the issue really came to a head earlier this month when Kory "Semphis" Friesen, a former member of high-profile pro gaming team Cloud9 who was recently let go for poor performance, admitted in a video interview that "we were all on Adderall" during Electronic Sports League (ESL) tournaments. "It's pretty obvious if you listen to the comms," Friesen said, referring to the frenetic, hectic back-and-forth on in-game chat channels. The interview seems to have been a wake-up call for some eSports leagues to tighten up their drug enforcement. "The integrity of our sport is and always will be our biggest concern," ESL Head of Communications Anna Rozwandowicz told Wired UK. "When we first saw [Friesen's comments], we focused immediately on kickstarting a policy-making process and adjusting the rules." Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 8 days ago on ars technica
Compared to deeper cosmological mysteries like the identity of dark matter and dark energy or what’s going on inside black holes, there are other unknowns that appear more mundane, their solutions seemingly within reach. But despite appearing to be a tractable problem, one mystery has managed to persist for almost the entirety of the past century, making it one of the longest-standing problems in astronomy. About a century ago, researchers observed the telltale signs of absorption of light by unknown molecules that reside in the thinly spread material in the space between stars (the interstellar medium). The gas and dust of the interstellar medium absorb certain wavelengths of light, preventing those wavelengths from arriving here and leaving gaps (or lines) in the spectrum we record when we look at other stars. Researchers can find out what substance, or "carrier," is responsible for the lines by identifying molecules that absorb the specific wavelengths that are missing from the observed spectrum. Combining this lab research with theoretical modeling and more astronomical observations has allowed us to figure out what’s lurking in interstellar space. Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Canada's large incumbent Internet service providers must now make their fiber networks available to competitors under a new requirement designed to boost broadband competition. "Following an extensive review, the CRTC [Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission] found that the large incumbent companies continue to possess market power in the provision of wholesale high-speed access services and is requiring that they make these services available to competitors," the CRTC said in an announcement yesterday. "In addition, the demand by Canadians for higher speed services will only increase in the coming years to support their growing Internet needs and usage. Large incumbent companies will now have to make their fibre facilities available to their competitors. This measure will ensure that Canadians have more choice for high-speed Internet services and are able to fully leverage the benefits of the broadband home or business." The CRTC has a framework setting out the rates, terms, and conditions under which the providers must offer wholesale access. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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People who have faces that are judged as less trustworthy are given the death penalty more often than people viewed as trustworthy, according to recent research in the journal Psychological Science. The results “paint a somewhat alarming picture of how systems of legal punishment are vulnerable to the same biases in person perception that afflict everyday individuals,” write John Paul Wilson and Nicholas Rule, the authors of the paper. This study builds on previous research suggesting that people judge the trustworthiness of faces with a high degree of consensus—we more or less agree on which faces count as trustworthy and which don’t. People with less trustworthy faces are, unsurprisingly, less likely to be trusted by other people. Economic games played in psychology labs show that even children as young as five years old are less likely to trust these individuals, and that this effect holds even when there's information about the other person suggesting that they’re trustworthy. Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 9 days ago on ars technica
Lee Hutchinson Audiophile-grade "Vodka" Ethernet cables, from AudioQuest. They even have directional indicators! 34 more images in gallery .related-stories { display: none !important; } ars.AD.queue.push(["xrailTop", {sz:"300x250", kws:[], collapse: true}]);We're still writing up the results of last weekend's James Randi Educational Foundation audiophile Ethernet challenge, and we should have it finished soon. While that's in progress, we wanted to share some good old-fashioned cable porn with you all. We purchased two 1.5 meter AudioQuest Vodka cables, since you always want to have a spare for any kind of on-stage demonstration. Rather than simply return them used to Amazon—which doesn't feel terribly ethical—we decided that at least one of the cables could better serve the public interest by sacrificing itself to undergo a methodical evisceration by my handy-dandy iFixit toolkit. So, with an X-acto knife and spudgers and vice grips in hand, I separated the hefty expensive cable into its components, layer by layer. Potentially fantastical claims about audio clarity aside, the cable itself is of reasonably high quality, with braided and foil shielding around the entire cable coupled with foil shielding around the individual twisted pair bundles. The plugs are high-quality Telegärtner MFP8s, which cost about 9 EUR each depending on where you get them. There's every indication that the cables conform to the listed Category 7 specifications and, if you were so inclined, you could almost certainly use them for 10-gigabit Ethernet over 100-meter runs and possibly even for short runs of 40-gigabit Ethernet (provided you can find the switching gear for 40GbE with 8P8C connectors). Of course, you can also use other shielded Cat7-equivalent Ethernet cables that cost one-tenth the Vodkas' price for the same purpose, so the fact that they're high quality cables doesn't really justify the price. When we finally stripped away everything and got down to the actual twisted pair copper wires, we were pleased to see that they were indeed coated in silver, as the manufacturer's page describes. I am not smart enough or educated enough to judge the manufacturer's claim that the silver coating is "excellent for very high-frequency applications, like Ethernet audio," and that the high-frequency signals "travel almost exclusively on the surface of the conductor" and thus "use" the silver instead of the underlying copper. I leave it to commenters to weigh in on if that actually, you know, means anything. Read on Ars Technica | Comments

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posted 9 days ago on ars technica
Following a two-month delay, three astronauts lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome at 17:02 EDT today (22:02 BST, 03:02 local Baikonur time). The Soyuz TMA-17M spacecraft carried the crew—NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren, JAXA astronaut Kimiya Yuri, and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko—safely into space. The crew will complete four orbits of the Earth before docking with the International Space Station (ISS) at 22:46 EDT (03:46 BST). Less than two hours later, at 00:25 EDT (05:25 BST), the Soyuz hatch will open and the crew will join NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, and Russian cosmonauts Mihkail Kornienko, as well as space station commander Gennady Padalka. Kelly and Kornienko are four months into their unprecedented one-year mission. Right now researchers know a lot about how space affects the human body during the first six months in orbit, but little is known about the effects of space on the human body from 6-12 months. Kelly and Kornienko are conducting special physical and psychological experiments on themselves to better understand the effects of life in space and prepare us for the journey to Mars. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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On Wednesday, Sony announced that it would be forming a subsidiary called Aerosense Inc. to build drones equipped with sensors for enterprise customers. Sony added that it would be teaming up with a Tokyo-based startup called ZMP, which will own half of the subsidiary. Aerosense will be grown out of Sony's mobility unit, which also makes sensors that are found on Apple and Samsung smartphones today. But despite its origins in a more consumer-oriented branch of Sony, Aerosense will eschew the consumer drone market for an equally-crowded enterprise drone market. Sony said that it plans to leverage its “camera, sensing, telecommunications network, and robotics technologies,” to build competitive enterprise-grade drones. (One can only hope that the lessons Sony learned from the well-loved robot dog Aibo carry over into the Sony's next robotics endeavor. The company only discontinued support for Aibo in 2014, and dedicated fans spend hundreds of dollars to keep their Aibos “alive” and even hold funerals for them when they can not be saved.) Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Qualcomm, the world’s largest supplier of chips for mobile phones, is reeling after announcing a 47 percent drop in quarterly profit compared to the same period in 2014. On Wednesday, the San Diego-based firm said that it made $1.2 billion in net income during the third fiscal quarter of 2015, down from $2.2 billion a year ago. As a way to bounce back, the company also announced that it would be cutting 15 percent of its workforce, and would "significantly reduce [our] temporary workforce." Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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A school project created by two Yale undergraduates in 2011 has unexpectedly become a target of Facebook's legal team. The social networking giant has demanded that the two developers, Bay Gross and Charlie Croom, abandon the website they created at whatsherface-book.com. The site featured a game that showed people pictures of their Facebook friends, then quizzed them on which pictures they could recognize. "You should not sell, offer to sell, or transfer the domain name to a third party and should let the domain registration expire," states the letter, signed by "Ethel" of Facebook's legal department. "Please confirm in writing that you will agree to resolve this letter as requested." The missive from Ethel had unusual timing, since the game stopped working earlier this year after a Facebook API update. But the two friends, who created the website as a project in their Law and Technology class at Yale, still felt they shouldn't have to remove their website. While the game stopped functioning, the site still showcased the results of the quizzes that had been taken. Plus, the site had a real point to make about Internet privacy and how it's at odds with Facebook's massive data collection. Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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When it comes to battling prostitution and child exploitation, the sheriff for the nation's second-largest county is walking tall and carrying a big stick. That's why Illinois, Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart and the operators of online classified portal Backpage.com are in a legal duel of sorts—and the First Amendment and federal law protecting website operators are squarely in the crosshairs. The latest public battle between them commenced July 1, when Dart announced that Visa and MasterCard, at his urging, agreed to stop processing ad payments for what the sheriff described as "sex trafficking industry profiteer Backpage.com." Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Alexandria, Virginia is trying to find a partner to build a citywide fiber network to serve its 150,000 residents and 15,000 businesses. But the city eight miles outside Washington, DC could already have had a fiber network up and running years ago if Verizon hadn't abandoned a plan to deliver its FiOS service there."Initially, Verizon staff indicated that the company wanted to pursue a FiOS deployment in Alexandria," the city explains in a "Verizon FiOS FAQ." The city approved a new telecommunications franchise in June 2009 allowing Verizon to construct the fiber-to-the-premises network. Further negotiations were needed to hammer out a cable television franchise as well, but early in 2010 Verizon informed the city in a letter that it would be able to complete its nationwide FiOS deployment goals without doing any work in Alexandria. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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In a rare press release issued Wednesday morning, Hacking Team, the embattled Italian surveillance software vendor, reiterated that it did not and does not have a "backdoor" into its clients’ installations of the Remote Control System, or RCS. But new analysis of its leaked source code seems to directly contradict this claim. Hacking team said: There have been reports that our software contained some sort of "backdoor" that permitted Hacking Team insight into the operations of our clients or the ability to disable their software. This is not true. No such backdoors were ever present, and clients have been permitted to examine the source code to reassure themselves of this fact. According to new research by Joseph Greenwood, a UK-based researcher with 4Armed who has been examining the leaked RCS source code in detail, this is a distinction without a difference. Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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A bug in the latest version of Apple's OS X gives attackers the ability to obtain unfettered root user privileges, a feat that makes it easier to surreptitiously infect Macs with rootkits and other types of persistent malware. The privilege-escalation bug, which was reported in a blog post published Tuesday by security researcher Stefan Esser, is the type of security hole attackers regularly exploit to bypass security protections built into modern operating systems and applications. Hacking Team, the Italian malware-as-a-service provider that catered to governments around the world, recently exploited similar elevation-of-privileges bugs in Microsoft Windows. When combined with a zero-day exploit targeting Adobe's Flash media player, Hacking Team was able to pierce security protections built into Google Chrome, widely regarded as the Internet's most secure browser by default. According to Esser, the OS X privilege-escalation flaw stems from new error-logging features that Apple added to OS X 10.10. Developers didn't use standard safeguards involving additions to the OS X dynamic linker dyld, a failure that allows attackers to open or create files with root privileges that can reside anywhere in the OS X file system. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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A report at Droid Life says AT&T is planning to raise the activation fees for new phone contracts and upgrades and also plans a brand-new activation fee for certain no-contract customers. "The new activation/upgrade fee for one and two-year agreements [effective August 1] is raising from $40 to $45, which gives AT&T the highest activation fee in the industry (Verizon is still at $40 for now)," Droid Life wrote. There's also going to be a new $15 activation fee for AT&T Next, which has customers pay for their phones in monthly installments, Droid Life wrote, adding that this change will even apply to customers who bring their own devices. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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As of yesterday, when the fourth developer beta of iOS 9 was issued to testers, those running a prerelease version of the operating system can no longer leave app reviews in the App Store. Negative app reviews left by beta testers is a perennial problem for app developers (as highlighted well in this post over on MacStories), and it's nice to see Apple taking steps to fix it even though OS X El Capitan beta testers can still leave app reviews as of this writing. Up until now, users testing new iOS versions could leave bad reviews for apps that didn't work correctly under the new OS. The problem with this, of course, is that developers can't submit apps targeting the new OS until the software (and the development tools) are finalized. That leaves a three-or-so-month gap between when users can get the software and when developers can fix specific bugs, and the iOS 9 public beta means this prerelease software is being distributed more widely than in years past. The final version of iOS 9 is due this fall—if the past three years are any indication, it will happen in September around the same time that new iPhones are introduced. The public beta is currently available for anyone who wants it (sixth-generation iPod Touch owners aside), but it looks like it won't be updated as quickly or as often as the developer beta. Read on Ars Technica | Comments

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Radiocarbon dating is an incredibly useful technique. It has been used to date objects from within approximately the last 60,000 years, revolutionising archaeology and finding uses in everything from detecting fake wine vintages to identifying illegal ivory. Unfortunately, humanity's reliance on fossil fuel combustion may ultimately mean that our species can’t have nice things like handy dating techniques. We’re releasing ancient carbon—in which the carbon-14 has long since undergone radioactive decay—into the atmosphere at such a rate that living organisms are absorbing less carbon-14, making them look old in the eyes of carbon dating. If we keep going at our current rate, we’ll hit a point in just 35 years where it’ll no longer be possible to tell the difference between modern objects and those that were on this fair Earth 1,000 years ago. In 85 years, we'll no longer be able to use radiocarbon dating to tell whether a sample is modern or from 2,000 years ago. Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Almost two years ago, we reported on the launch of a new XPRIZE competition to build a better ocean pH sensor, one that could enable a more thorough monitoring of the ocean acidification caused by CO2 emissions. The challenge was to design something that could operate autonomously in the harsh conditions of the deep ocean, while sporting accuracy rivaling laboratory techniques topside. After a series of trials, the winners of the competition were announced Monday night. Three of the five finalists will receive a share of the $2 million—split between prizes focused on accuracy and affordability—put up by Wendy Schmidt. The $750,000 grand prizes in both categories went to Sunburst Sensors, a small company in Missoula, Montana. They produced a pair of devices (one optimized for each category) based on one they currently manufacture. They utilized a miniaturized version of the most common laboratory method, in which an indicator dye is added to the water sample and the resultant color is precisely measured. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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