posted about 6 hours ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Sheep may safely graze. (credit: Karl-Friedrich Hohl / Getty Images) What makes a good spot for livestock and a good spot for solar farms often overlaps. They’re both large, quite flat, and get a good amount of sun, being free from tall vegetation. As such, solar producers are increasingly leasing farm land for their operations. The increase in solar production has environmental benefits, but it can come at the price of diminished agriculture production. That’s why there’s a growing interest in finding ways of combining ag and solar production in one place. For Todd Schmit, an associate professor of agribusiness at Cornell University, this means bringing out the sheep. It’s still a new field (Editor’s note: pun so unintended that Doug didn’t even see it until I asked), but some farmers are partnering with solar producers, the former using the latter’s land for grazing. The solar producers pay farmers to ship their sheep over to their operations, and the sheep chow down on the weeds and other plants that might grow to the point they block the Sun from reaching the panels.Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / Smoke billows from one of many chemical plants near Baton Rouge, La. 'Cancer Alley' is one of the most polluted areas of the US and lies along the once pristine Mississippi River that stretches some 80 miles from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, where a dense concentration of oil refineries, petrochemical plants, and other chemical industries reside alongside suburban homes. (credit: Giles Clarke/Getty Images) Plastic pollution usually conjures images of grocery bags blowing in the wind or nurdles lodged in a seabird’s stomach. But soon, plastic pollution may take on another meaning, as a new report forecasts that the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions in the US will outpace those of coal by the end of the decade. “Unlike the plastic trash choking our waterways and littering our communities, the plastic industry’s devastating impact on our climate is taking place under the radar, with little public scrutiny and even less government accountability,” Judith Enck, president of Beyond Plastics and a former EPA regional administrator, said in the report. Plastic is a large but often overlooked source of carbon pollution. Production in the US creates at least 232 million metric tons of greenhouse gases, according to the report by Bennington College and the nonprofit organization Beyond Plastics. Plastic production is expected to emit another 55 million tons by 2025 if the 42 plants currently planned or under construction come online.Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge This week Apple introduced a set of new MacBook Pro laptops. During the prerecorded launch event, Apple’s engineers and executives made it clear that the MVPs in these new products are the chips that power them: the M1 Pro and M1 Max chips. With 34 billion and 57 billion transistors, respectively, they are the engines powering the new Mac devices' super hi-res displays, providing blazing speed, and extending battery life. The laptops represent the apotheosis of a 14-year strategy that has transformed the company—literally under the hood of its products—in a massive effort to design and build its own chips. Apple is now methodically replacing microprocessors it buys from vendors like Intel and Samsung with its own, which are optimized for the needs of Apple users. The effort has been stunningly successful. Apple was once a company defined by design. Design is still critical at Apple, but I now consider it a silicon company. A couple days after the keynote, I had a rare on-the-record conversation about Apple silicon with senior worldwide marketing VP Greg Joswiak (aka “Joz”), senior hardware engineering VP John Ternus, and senior hardware technology VP Johny Srouji. I had been asking Apple to put me in touch with Srouji for years. His title only hints at his status as the chip czar at Apple. Though he’s begun to appear on camera at recent Apple events, he generally avoids the spotlight. An Israeli-born engineer who previously worked at Intel and IBM, Srouji joined Apple in 2008, specifically to fulfill a mandate from Steve Jobs, who felt that the chips in the original iPhone couldn’t meet his demands. Srouji’s mission was to lead Apple in making its own silicon. The effort has been so well executed that I believe Srouji is secretly succeeding Jony Ive as the pivotal creative wizard whipping up the secret sauce in Apple’s offerings. Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / Towering longleaf pines in the Green Swamp of North Carolina. (credit: Jared Lloyd / Getty Images) Tropical cyclones like Hurricane Ida can cause severe flooding, producing disruptions, damage, and loss of life. Like many other types of weather, tropical cyclones and hurricanes on the US East Coast have become more extreme over the past several decades. Although there is some controversy over the extent of the increase in intensity, there is evidence that such storms are moving more slowly than in the past. This slower movement causes storms to last longer and produce more rain. However, because conventional weather records only go as far back as 1948, it’s unclear how unusual these slow-moving cyclones are compared to earlier weather patterns.  A recent study addresses this question by using tree rings to reconstruct hundreds of years of seasonal cyclone precipitation levels. The studied trees, some over 300 years old, show that precipitation extremes have been increasing by 2 to 4 mm per decade, resulting in a cumulative increase in rainfall of as much as 128 mm (five inches) compared to the early 1700s. The greatest increases have occurred in the last 60 years, and recent extremes are unmatched by any prior events.  Beyond establishing these reconstructed historical records, researchers are working with these data sets to improve forecasts of what this region might expect in the future. Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / Thought climate change was already complicated? Now scientists have to consider the influence of tiny bits of atmospheric plastic. (credit: Sanka Vidanagama | Getty Images) Like the ash spewed from a supervolcano, microplastics have infested the atmosphere and encircled the globe. These are bits of plastic less than 5 millimeters long, and they come in two main varieties. Fragments spawn from disintegrating bags and bottles (babies drink millions of tiny particles a day in their formula), and microfibers tear loose from synthetic clothing in the wash and flush out to sea. Winds then scour land and ocean, carrying microplastics high into the atmosphere. The air is so lousy with the stuff that each year, the equivalent of over 120 million plastic bottles fall on 11 protected areas in the US, which account for just 6 percent of the country’s total area. In a study published today in the journal Nature, scientists have taken a first swing at modeling how the atmospheric particles could be influencing the climate, and it’s a strange mix of good news and bad. The good news is that microplastics may be reflecting a tiny bit of the sun’s energy back into space, which would actually cool the climate ever so slightly. The bad news is that humanity is loading the environment with so much microplastic (ocean sediment samples show that concentrations have been doubling every 15 years since the 1940s), and the particles themselves are so varied, that it’s hard to know how the pollutant will ultimately influence the climate. At some point they may end up heating the planet. Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / Harvard scientists built "Totimorphic" structural materials that can adopt and maintain any possible shape. Scientists at Case Western Reserve University and Tufts University are exploring shapeshifting liquid crystals. (credit: Aurich Lawson/Harvard/Case Western Reserve) Luxo, Jr., Pixar's trademark animated Luxo balanced-arm lamp, is based on a classic design known as the anglepoise lamp, invented by British designer George Carwardine in 1932. Almost ninety years later, the anglepoise lamp has helped inspire a novel approach to building multifunctional shapeshifting materials for robotics, biotechnology, and architectural applications, according to a new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Meanwhile, physicists at Case Western Reserve University and Tufts University have stumbled on another promising approach to creating novel shapeshifting materials. The researchers remotely manipulated the ordinarily flat surface of a liquid crystal without any kind of external stimulus (such as pressure or heat), changing its physical appearance merely with the nearby presence of a bumpy surface. It's early days, but the researchers suggest their approach could someday enable materials that can shapeshift with the ease of The X-Men's Mystique. They described their work in a new paper published in the journal Physical Review Letters. Developing novel shapeshifting materials is a very active area of research because there are so many promising applications, such as building artificial muscles—manmade materials, actuators, or similar devices that mimic the contraction, expansion, and rotation (torque) characteristics of the movement of natural muscle. For instance, in 2019, a team of Japanese researchers spiked a crystalline organic material with a polymer to make it more flexible, demonstrating their proof of concept by using their material to make an aluminum foil paper doll do sit-ups. Most artificial muscles are designed to respond to electric fields (such as electroactive polymers), changes in temperature (such as shape-memory alloys and fishing line), and changes in air pressure via pneumatics.Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / The telescope array of the Next Generation Transit Survey. (credit: NGTS) If you've ever wanted to search for distant worlds, your time has come. The team behind a planet-hunting telescope array called the Next-Generation Transit Survey (NGTS) is looking for help with the large volume of data the instrument has produced. The NGTS scans large areas of the sky with a collection of small, robotic telescopes to detect dips in stars' light that are caused by a planet passing between the stars and Earth. The team now has a lot of data, which it has sifted through using computers. But computers have difficulty distinguishing a likely planet from various sources of noise, so the researchers are asking the public to double-check the computers and provide a final call on what a signal is. Public transits One of the most successful means of searching for exoplanets has been the transit method, in which a telescope repeatedly observes the amount of light originating from a star. If a planet wanders in front of that star, the amount of light will dip slightly. These dips have a very stereotypical shape if you plot them over time in what's called a light curve, with a fairly steep drop as the planet swings in front of the star, followed by a long, flat reduction.Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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iFixit's full Apple Watch Series 7 teardown. [credit: iFixit ] As has become something of a ritual, tools-seller and repair-advocacy group iFixit has published a detailed teardown of the latest Apple product. This time, we get a look at the innards of the Apple Watch Series 7. This Watch model was announced in September—but without a release date. The eventual ship date for the first orders was Friday, October 15. iFixit's teardown lends credence to one of the prevailing theories about why there was a delay. The Apple Watch Series 7 appears to use an on-cell touch OLED panel, the same type seen in the iPhone 13 line. Consulting with a former Apple engineer, iFixit suggests that supply challenges related to this display tech are likely the reason the Apple Watch launched a bit late this year and why the device didn't get a release date in last month's keynote announcing it.Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / Bernd Mayländer stands next to the Formula 1 safety car, a Mercedes-AMG GT R. The station wagon in the background is the F1 medical car. (credit: Mercedes-AMG) Despite having followed Formula 1 closely for several decades, I still don't feel comfortable making predictions about the races. Take the recent Turkish Grand Prix, for example. Held in treacherous and changeable weather, were I a betting person I'd have said there were pretty good odds that the race would be interrupted with at least one safety car period, perhaps more. Instead, safety car driver Bernd Mayländer and his co-driver got to watch the entire race from the comfort of their car without being called upon by race control. The use of a pace car was well established in the US, but for much of F1's existence, the sport just relied on trackside marshals with flags to control or neutralize a race in the event of a crash. That changed in 1993, when F1 got over its case of "not invented here" and adopted the practice, calling on the safety car's services for the first time at that year's Brazilian Grand Prix. Mayländer and his co-driver sit on alert, waiting to be called into action by race control. (credit: Jiri Krenek/Mercedes-AMG) On that occasion, the car in question was a rather mundane Fiat Tempra sedan, with other races seeing the job performed by a Ford Escort Cosworth RS, Honda Prelude, and even a Lamborghini Diablo, depending on what each race promoter organized. But from 1996 the sport entered into a partnership with Mercedes-Benz, which has supplied the vehicles ever since. (This year, it has been joined by Aston Martin—which now uses Mercedes engines—with the two companies splitting the races between them.)Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / Aw, blank, here we go again. (credit: Rockstar Games) Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy: The Definitive Experience may go down as 2021's worst-kept secret, but how it would actually look remained surprisingly well-protected until the game's Friday reveal went live. The new look is visible in a one-minute trailer, which comes with a release date: November 11 for the Xbox console family, PS4/PS5, Nintendo Switch, and PC (via the Rockstar Games Launcher). Today's reveal video primarily shows the visual top-to-bottom touch-up applied to all three games in the collection (Grand Theft Auto III, GTA Vice City, and GTA San Andreas), with a few "wipe" transitions comparing a vanilla version of each game to its remastered equivalent. The footage largely consists of cut scenes, as opposed to the behind-the-back view of average gameplay, but we still see enough to get a look at Rockstar Games' bold artistic changes. Remastered GTA San Andreas. Thanks to the trailer's focus on cinematic scenes, we get a clear view of how Rockstar updated the characters' bulky, Mickey Mouse-like blob hands to ones with details like individual fingers. In order to include the new additions while remaining true to the games' original code and animations, Rockstar has opted for a bulbous, cartoony aesthetic, perhaps most visible in the above after-and-before gallery where a mob boss gestures with his hands while sporting a higher-res, cartoonier face. Each shot also makes clear that Rockstar is employing many higher-res textures, higher shadow resolutions, improved ambient occlusion, increased model geometry, and an entirely new staging of both pre-baked and dynamic lighting. What might look off-putting in screenshots comes together much nicer in the trilogy's full video trailer (embedded at the end of this article).Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson) Four days ago, the REvil ransomware gang’s leak site, known as the “Happy Blog,” went offline. Cybersecurity experts wondered aloud what might have caused the infamous group to go dark once more. One theory was that it was an inside job pulled by the group’s disaffected former leader. Another was that law enforcement had successfully hacked and dismantled the group. “Normally, I am pretty dismissive of ‘law enforcement’ conspiracy theories, but given that law enforcement was able to pull the keys from the Kaseya attack, it is a real possibility,” Allan Liska, a ransomware expert, told ZDNet at the time. “Rebranding happens a lot in ransomware after a shutdown,” he said. “But no one brings old infrastructure that was literally being targeted by every law enforcement operation not named Russia in the world back online. That is just dumb.”Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Getty) Alexa gets around. The voice assistant has been in all types of devices, not just Amazon's Echo products. You can talk to Alexa in coffeemakers, take it on the road with you, spend the holidays together, and even make it feed your pet. But inside many of those products—at least ones made from 2019 and on—is the same core hardware and silicon. Through a software development kit (SDK) Amazon announced this week, companies can still use Amazon's cloud services, Alexa apps, and skills, while having greater freedom over the hardware used to deliver those services. In 2019, Amazon launched Alexa Connect Kit (ACK), which allowed tech brands to use ACK modules, or, as Amazon explains it, "an Amazon-managed system-on-module" integrated into the Alexa device. It runs firmware that enables communication between the product and ACK-managed services, which come courtesy of Amazon Web Services' IoT business. Before this week's announcement, hardware was either a Mediatek WM-BN-MT-52 chipset with an Arm Cortex-M4 processor and MT7697H SoC or an Espressif ESP32-PICO-V3-ZERO, which uses Espressif’s ESP32-V3 SoC. Either ensures that makers of third-party Alexa products don't have to "write an Alexa skill, manage a cloud service, or develop complex network and security firmware" for the voice assistant to work.Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 3 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge First it was toilet paper. Then it was processors and other silicon. Now it’s cardboard. (And there’s a whole lot of other stuff in between). The latest kink in the planet’s ever-gnarled supply chain is one that is sending retailers, shippers, and consumers all scrambling. Cardboard supplies are unreliable, as are those for other packing materials like paper and plastic. And what is available costs more, with loads of companies passing the increased expenses to customers. Many of the cardboard-producing paper mills around the world shut down at different points during the COVID-19 pandemic. While plants have come back online, they’re still scrambling to fill a backlog of orders.Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / SpaceX ignites a vacuum-optimized Raptor engine attached to Starship on Thursday, October 21. (credit: SpaceX) SpaceX took another step on Thursday evening toward validating the rocket engine technology that will power its Starship rocket. For the first time, engineers at the company ignited a vacuum version of a Raptor rocket engine that had been attached to the Starship upper stage. The test-firing at sunset in South Texas lasted only a few seconds. But it appears to have been successful, and it checks another box in a series of technical tests SpaceX must complete before launching Starship on a Super Heavy rocket for an orbital test flight. This may happen sometime in early 2022. First firing of a Raptor vacuum engine integrated onto a Starship pic.twitter.com/uCNAt8Kwzo — SpaceX (@SpaceX) October 22, 2021 SpaceX has test-fired its Starship vehicle with Raptor engines before, of course. In some prototype test flights, the vehicle has ascended up to about 10 km under the power of up to three Raptor "sea level" engines. But it is quite another thing to test a rocket with a version of Raptor optimized to operate in the vacuum of space.Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / Ars' own Sam Machkovech, shown here modeling the Oculus Go's bright future. Oculus may have officially discontinued its low-end Oculus Go headset last year, but the company has one more "official" update to help future-proof the hardware. On Thursday, Oculus released an unlocked build of the Oculus Go operating system, allowing for "full root access" on more than 2 million existing units. Oculus CTO (and former id Software co-founder) John Carmack announced his plans for this update last month, saying it was something he had "been pushing on for years." In part, the unlocking is an attempt to guarantee that Go hardware will continue to be fully functional well into the future, allowing for "a randomly discovered shrink wrapped headset twenty years from now [to] be able to update to the final software version, long after over-the-air update servers have been shut down," Carmack wrote. Before that, though, the update will allow tinkerers to "repurpose the hardware for more things today," as Carmack puts it. Go hardware running the unlocked OS will no longer check for a Facebook signature at the kernel level, meaning developers can create new versions of low-level system software for the entire Android-based OS. That could allow for custom versions of low-level features like the app launcher and the removal of otherwise locked system apps. The update also allows for easy sideloading of apps outside of Go's store interface, though this was already possible on older OS versions.Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica) The Dealmaster has finished streaming Dune, so it's time for another round of the best tech deals from around the web. Today's rundown is headlined by the lowest price we've tracked for Sony's WH-1000XM4 headphones, which have fallen to $248 at various retailers this week. That matches the deal we highlighted during Amazon's Prime Day event and marks a roughly $80 drop from the noise-canceling pair's usual online going rate over the past few months. We've recommended the XM4s on several occasions in the past, and they remain an excellent blend of high comfort, useful features, and top-tier noise-canceling strength. Battery life is decent, if not amazing. And while there are definitely better-sounding pairs, Sony's out-of-the-box sound serves up some powerful bass for those who prefer that type of experience (it's possible to customize the sound into something more neutral through Sony's handy smartphone app). USB-C charging, an effective "ambient sound" mode, and a "speak to chat" feature that automatically pauses your music when you need to speak all add to the package. Bose's new QuietComfort 45 may be lighter on the head, and Apple's $550 AirPods Max may have them both beat in terms of pure sound quality and noise-canceling power, but at this price specifically, the XM4 present a strong value. Our roundup also has some appealing prices on several new 4K TVs from Sony, TCL, Vizio, and Samsung; the lowest price we've seen for the 512GB version of a recommended Samsung microSD card; a number of deals on SSDs, both internal and portable; a $20 price drop on Logitech's excellent MX Master 3 wireless mouse; a big gaming chair sale that includes models we've tested and recommended from AndaSeat, and much more. Have a look at our full curated list below.Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / People in Chile with Worldcoin's "Orb" iris scanner. (credit: Worldcoin) More than 100,000 people have had their eyes scanned in return for a cryptocurrency called Worldcoin, as a project to distribute digital money more widely around the world accelerates. Worldcoin has distributed about 30 iris-scanning hardware devices, which they call “orbs,” to early users on four continents, who get rewards for signing up more people. Orbs take photos of a user’s eyeballs, creating a unique code that can be used to claim free digital tokens. The project’s developers said on Thursday they planned to release hundreds of orbs in the coming months and eventually distribute 4,000 devices per month. The team plans to debut the cryptocurrency network early next year and begin giving away the tokens at that time. They have not said how much cryptocurrency users can expect to receive.Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: AMD) Microsoft and AMD have both released patches to fix the AMD Ryzen performance bugs present in the initial versions of Windows 11, according to an AMD knowledgebase article that was updated late yesterday. AMD has provided a new chipset driver to fix a problem that broke the "preferred core" feature that can boost performance on high-core-count, high-TDP Ryzen processors. Even if your system isn't affected by this specific bug because you're running Windows 10 or a lower-core-count Ryzen CPU, the new driver has fixes for a handful of other Ryzen and Threadripper systems running either Windows 10 or Windows 11. Another issue affected L3 cache latency on all Ryzen processors, lowering performance by between 3 and 5 percent for most apps and by up to 15 percent for some games. Microsoft began issuing a fix for the L3 cache issue to testers last week, and it's one of the many issues fixed in build 22000.282 of Windows 11 (you can see your build number by typing "winver" into a Run window or Windows Search).Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge MSI Summit E13 Flip Evo $1300 at Costco $1599 at Amazon $1599 at B&H (Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.) A 2-in-1 laptop may seem like the ultimate device for people who want portability and versatility without giving up too much power. You get the ultraportability of an ultraportable from lightweight builds measuring under 1 inch thick. When you don't need an old-school physical keyboard, you can switch to tablet mode, and with touchscreen and stylus options, creative work seems more attainable, too. But problems with battery life, heat management, durability, and audio quality often come with that oh-so-versatile approach. The MSI E13 Flip Evo isn't completely immune to all these issues, but it evolves the story around convertibles that insist on being under an inch thick. Hailing from MSI's business- and productivity-focused Summit series of machines, the E13 (there's also a 16-inch E16 with Nvidia RTX options) starts at a $1,300 MSRP and goes up to $1,900. (We've spotted it for $1,800.) With its lightweight, trim aluminum build, shiny accents, and dedicated pen, the machine is a clear rival for premium ultraportables like Dell's XPS line and Microsoft's Surface offerings.Read 50 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / The Orion spacecraft is stacked atop NASA's Space Launch System rocket. (credit: NASA) Welcome to Edition 4.21 of the Rocket Report! Plenty of news this week across the realm of rockets, from a near-success in South Korea (better luck next time, Nuri rocket) to the long-awaited stacking of NASA's Space Launch System vehicle. As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don't want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report will include information on small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets, as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar. Rocket Lab to recover next rocket. After its next launch, "Love at First Insight," Rocket Lab will attempt to make a controlled ocean splashdown of its Electron rocket first stage and then recover the vehicle from the water. For the first time, a helicopter will be stationed in the recovery zone around 200 nautical miles offshore to track and visually observe the descending stage in preparation for future aerial capture attempts.Read 30 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg star as fortune hunters in Uncharted, an origin story for the hugely popular video game franchise. Sony Pictures has released the official trailer for Uncharted, its long-awaited adaptation based on the hugely popular action/adventure video game franchise of the same name. Movies based on video game franchises can be hit or miss, even when the games themselves are awesome. And this one has been stuck in development hell since 2008, with multiple shifts in writers, directors, and cast members. But the finished film also stars Tom Holland and is directed by Ruben Fleischer, who gave us Zombieland and Zombieland: Double Tap. And the trailer has plenty of action and humor, so color us intrigued by Uncharted. (Some spoilers for the games below.) Created by Amy Hennig and developed by Naughty Dog, the original Uncharted: Drake's Fortune debuted on PlayStation 3 in 2007. Several more games followed, all receiving critical acclaim, and the franchise has sold over 41 million copies worldwide to date. The main protagonist is professional treasure hunter Nathan Drake, who claims to be a descendent of English explorer Francis Drake. The other primary characters are Victor "Sully" Sullivan, a former US Navy officer who becomes Nate's mentor and father figure; investigative journalist Elena Fisher, who becomes Nate's romantic partner; and Chloe Frazer, a reckless adventurer who serves as a foil to Elena.Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Google Play) Google has made another tweak to the fee structure for apps hosted on the Google Play app store, again granting certain developers a larger slice of the pie. The change specifically affects apps that rely on recurring subscription revenue. Previously, Google took a cut of 30 percent in the first year that a recurring subscription was active, then 15 percent in the years after that. Now, Google will take a cut of only 15 percent from the very start. Some apps that fit the Play Media Experience Program, such as apps for distributing books or streaming video or audio, will see even smaller cuts—as low as 10 percent. To join that program, developers have to opt in.Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: iStock / Getty Images) On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control's expert advisory committee on vaccines met to vote on new guidelines for the use of boosters to sustain the immunity provided by the COVID-19 vaccines in use in the US. The day prior, the Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) that greatly expanded the number of vaccinated individuals who could receive a booster shot. That set the stage for the CDC to determine whether the FDA allowance should be adopted as formal health policy. A key step in the CDC's policymaking process is approval by its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). While the CDC director isn't bound to follow ACIP's advice (and notably didn't in an earlier booster decision), overruling ACIP is unusual. Given that ACIP has now voted unanimously to expand booster use to Moderna and J&J vaccine recipients, the CDC director will likely follow its guidance. FDA sets the stage On Wednesday, the FDA announced that it was expanding its EUA for COVID-19 vaccine booster shots. Earlier this month, the FDA approved Pfizer/BioNTech boosters for people who are six months out from receiving their initial doses and are at risk of exposure (like health care workers) or severe COVID cases (the elderly and those with health conditions). The CDC approved this guidance, despite a split vote against it from its advisory committee.Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Emphasis on "in development." There's no release date for this Stardew Valley successor just yet. [credit: ConcernedApe LLC ] On Thursday, Stardew Valley creator Eric Barone dropped a two-minute teaser video for an entirely new game pretty much out of nowhere. The new game, titled Haunted Chocolatier, looks a lot like Stardew Valley, which means it's a refreshingly lovely homage to all things SNES and Squaresoft. As Barone's first new video game since SV's 2016 launch, Haunted Chocolatier currently doesn't have a release date estimate of any kind. To avoid being "tied down to any particular concept of what the game is" before its eventual launch, Barone has not yet finalized Haunted Chocolatier's gameplay systems, either. HC's reveal came alongside a lengthy FAQ, whose site has been pounded by fans' immediate interest in the new game, and it clarifies that the game revolves around "a chocolatier living in a haunted castle" who must "gather rare ingredients, make delicious chocolates, and sell them in a chocolate shop." Sweet plant-based nectar. [credit: ConcernedApe LLC ] If that sounds pedestrian to you, you clearly haven't gotten sucked into the addictive Harvest Moon homage that is Stardew Valley, which has sold millions of copies in its six years on PC and most console families. (There's also a board game version.) Like that game, Barone suggests that HC will be an entirely self-made project (programming, art, music, and more), with outside help only coming once the game is finalized and needs help with language translations and ports to other platforms. (As of press time, Barone is only committing to a launch on PC, with other platform announcements to come later.)Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Bisakha Datta / Getty Images) In the wake of severe poaching problems, some wildlife authorities have resorted to removing the horns of rhinos in order to eliminate the reason they're poached in the first place. It turns out that, in the wake of a severe poaching event, evolution came up with a similar solution. A 15-year-long civil war in Mozambique set off a burst of poaching that ultimately killed 90 percent of a national park's elephant population. In the wake of that, tuskless elephants were seen in the park. That's surprising, since tusks play an important role in elephants' foraging and defenses against predators. Now, researchers have revealed that the lack of tusks was the result of genetic changes and have even identified the genes that were likely behind it. A change of face Over the course of the Mozambican Civil War, the population of elephants in Gorongosa National Park dropped from 2,542 to just 242. But the remaining population contained a significant number of elephants that lacked tusks. Models of the population and rates of tusklessness suggest that animals without them were roughly five times more likely to survive than their fellows with tusks.Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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