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Internet Television

YouTube Unveils New Features For Content Creators | Studio App, Crowdfunding, 60fps
YouTube would be nothing without content, and original content, no less. And the people who create that original content need as many tools at their disposal as possible. YouTube has delivered a new set of features to content
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Netflix & Co. will soon make more money than movie theaters 05 June 2014, 15.49 Internet Television
Netflix & Co. will soon make more money than movie theaters
Jun. 4, 2014 - 10:06 AM PDT Jun. 4, 2014 - 10:06 AM PDT Do you prefer a night in with Netflix over paying $8 for popcorn at the theater? You’re not alone: Box office revenue has been flat over the past few years while online
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ISP to Netflix: Please come to Hong Kong! 05 June 2014, 15.49 Internet Television
ISP to Netflix: Please come to Hong Kong!
Jun. 4, 2014 - 7:15 AM PDT Jun. 4, 2014 - 7:15 AM PDT Hong Kong Broadband Network (HKBN) would love to offer its customers Netflix. The local ISP decided to make its love for House of Cards and other Netflix shows public with
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Longform journalism startup Byliner is in trouble and says its future is unclear
Jun. 3, 2014 - 6:09 PM PDT Jun. 3, 2014 - 6:09 PM PDT It’s no secret that I was bullish on Byliner, the e-singles startup that launched with a splash in 2011 with bestselling author Jon Krakauer’s “Three Cups of
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Cord Cutters: My review of Tablo, a DVR for over-the-air TV 05 June 2014, 15.49 Internet Television
Cord Cutters: My review of Tablo, a DVR for over-the-air TV
1 day ago Jun. 4, 2014 - 3:26 PM PDT Tablo is a new DVR for cord cutters that comes without any HDMI port, but with the ability to stream live and recorded TV to mobile devices, Roku boxes and Chromecast sticks. Check out our
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Earth News Reports

New street art by Hanksy 15 July 2014, 20.33 Green Architecture
New street art by Hanksy
Hanksy, who got his artist name by spoofing Banksy’s art while including Tom Hanks in it, published some new work on his website. No more Tom Hanks in it, but many pop culture icons and celebrity can be found on the
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Motion silhouette: a book with animated shadows 15 July 2014, 20.33 Green Architecture
Motion silhouette: a book with animated shadows
You already know about pop-out books, but Motion Silhouette is a new kind of book. Created by Japanese designers Megumi Kajiwara and Tatsuhiko Niijima, it has pop-out paper cutouts that come to life when you play with a
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8 geeky jokes that will make you chuckle 15 July 2014, 20.33 Green Architecture
8 geeky jokes that will make you chuckle
Sometimes designers just need to relax and laugh a little. These images should help you with that. 1. Talking to art students A cruel, but kind of realistic joke. 2. Coding in college and for your job In theory there is no
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SEKAI: miniature ecosystems on the back of animals 15 July 2014, 20.33 Green Architecture
SEKAI: miniature ecosystems on the back of animals
Maico Akiba, an artist from Japan, is more famous for the “100 years later” project, a series of objects painted to look like a hundred years old. However, the project that caught my attention is
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The Inter Milan’s logo redesign came with an over-the-top press release
The popular Italian soccer team, the Inter Milan, recently unveiled a redesign of its logo. To be honest, it would be better to talk about a realign of the logo, with a simplification of shapes and a more modern look-and-feel.
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Illustrated stamps about environmental issues 15 July 2014, 20.33 Green Architecture
Illustrated stamps about environmental issues
Maxime Francout is a French graphic designer with a real talent for illustration. He proved it again with his series of stamps that illustrate some environmental issues. Several of the stamps illustrations use some analogies
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The Print Designer Pack, only for 7 days 15 July 2014, 20.33 Green Architecture
The Print Designer Pack, only for 7 days
Design better packaging, flyers, promotional materials and more with the Print Designer Pack. Whatever the brief, this pack has a file to bring your next project to life. You’ve got 7 days to stock up on this swag of goodies
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5 design tips for startups 15 July 2014, 20.33 Green Architecture
5 design tips for startups
Building up a startup takes a lot of hard work. Of course, you’ll find startup resources by Pakwired, but you still need to work your ass off to get started. In this post you will find some advice on how to approach the
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3D printed medieval armor for Barbie dolls 15 July 2014, 20.33 Green Architecture
3D printed medieval armor for Barbie dolls
If you find Barbie to be transmitting the worst kind of stereotypes about women, you may enjoy this project. Lao Zheng has been creating detailed 3D printed medieval armors for Barbie dolls. The Kickstarter project, named Faire
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Popinjay’s Hand-Embroidered Bags Lift Pakistani Women From Poverty
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU: Banana-Fiber Sanitary Pad Offers Inexpensive Solution for Rwandan Women Popinjay’s Hand-Embroidered Bags Lift Pakistani Women From Poverty by Helen Morgan , 07/15/14   filed under: Eco-Fashion
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Technology News Reports

Housetrike Bike Camper is a Tiny Shelter on Wheels That Empowers the Homeless
Share on TumblrEmail The Housetrike is essentially a bike equipped with a small front-loaded camper that slides open and serves as a warm and comfortable bed
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Atlanta’s ‘Emerald Necklace’ Beltline Was a Grad Student’s Dream in 1999 and is Now a Reality
Share on TumblrEmail Gravel always wondered about the abandoned railroad tracks he’d seen in some of the city’s older neighborhoods. Further investigation
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Tesla’s $35,000 Model III Electric Car is Coming in 2017 With a 200-Mile Range
Share on TumblrEmail Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk has revealed that the automaker’s latest sedan will be called the Model III when it goes on sale in 2017. Both cheaper and smaller than the Model S, the Tesla
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A Laboratory for Rare Cells Sheds Light on Cancer
A way of capturing cancer cells from the bloodstream opens a new front in personal cancer treatment. By Antonio Regalado on July 10, 2014 Dangerous mix: Tumor cells collected from the bloodstream of a woman with breast
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Low-Power Color Displays 15 July 2014, 20.32 Tech
Low-Power Color Displays
Oxford University researchers demonstrate that materials used in DVDs could make color displays that don’t sap power. By Kevin Bullis on July 9, 2014 Power saver: Researchers are hoping the type of phase-change material
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Beijing Wants to Understand Its Smog 15 July 2014, 20.32 Tech
Beijing Wants to Understand Its Smog
New effort would pinpoint the source, type, and dispersal patterns of smog across Beijing to drive street-level predictions and targeted remediation. By David Talbot on July 8, 2014 Smog check: Smog in Beijing has grown
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How to Clean the Gas and Oil Industries’ Most Contaminated Water
A new process can cheaply clean extremely briny water coming up from oil wells. By David Talbot on July 7, 2014 Water works: This water treatment plant in Midland, Texas, will soon treat 500,000 gallons of oilfield waste
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Travel App Can Recommend Places by Looking at Them
Software that counts dogs, martini glasses, and mustaches in Instagram photos provides a novel way to rate businesses. By Caleb Garling on July 14, 2014 Food finder: Jetpac works out good places to eat by extracting data
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Israeli Rocket Defense System Is Failing at Crucial Task, Expert Analysts Say
Although it appears to hit incoming Hamas rockets, Israel’s system could be falling short of detonating the rockets’ warheads. By David Talbot on July 10, 2014 Flawed technology: Analysts question whether Israel’s
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Fighter planes which split in two like 'Transformers' and self-healing aircraft are set to revolutionise air warfare by 2040
The Transformer aircraft is seen as massive advance in military technology as the jet divides into several parts performing different roles once reaching the objective Once completed, the jets can reform creating a
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Qualcomm to boost wireless performance to gigabit levels with Wilocity acquisition
Qualcomm announced today that it will acquire 60GHz WiFi company Wilocity and incorporate the design firm’s products into its own SoC lineup. Wilocity has demonstrated 60GHz WiFi before and previously partnered with
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Report: Comcast’s public Xfinity WiFi program actually costs you money
Last year, Comcast announced that it would begin rolling out a WiFi program that uses customer hardware to throw a wide public net. While it’s free to Comcast’s own Xfinity subscribers, everyone else is expected to pay
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Anger mounts over Facebook’s news feed experiment, company denies wrongdoing
Over the last few years, Facebook has taken an increasing interest in manipulating how its users interact with the site. It limited the reach of advertisers and groups, defaults to a “Top Stories,” rather than “Most
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This Universal Bike Can Be Adjusted to Fit Any Body 06 July 2014, 22.32 Transportation
This Universal Bike Can Be Adjusted to Fit Any Body
Share on TumblrEmail A bicycle that fits your body properly is an absolute pleasure to ride, but many people just don’t buy the bike that’s right for them. Alternately, they’ll buy one that’s right
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Will The World Cup Bring More Visibility to the Greenest City In The World?
Share on TumblrEmail Curitiba’s green initiatives originated in the 1960s with its mayor, Jaime Lerner, who famously said, “This city is not for cars,” well
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Trouble-free Funnell Backpack Ejects a Waterproof Jacket to Protect Cyclists from the Rain
Share on TumblrEmail Cycling is one of the most fun ways to get around a city, but getting drenched in an unexpected downpour can put a damper on anyone’s day. Enter Funnell, a backpack with a waterproof
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Google Capital backs Hadoop challenger MapR
In the growing world of Hadoop--the open source big data technology that can store, process and analyze large sets of data across clusters of computers--much of the conversation (and media coverage) has revolved around
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Supercooling organs buys time for transplants
A new slow-cooling technique makes it possible to transplant a donated liver that's been outside the body for four days. Right now, the limits of human organ storage are about six to 12 hours, maybe up to 24 hours in some
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Copenhagen's new bikeshare system has on-board tablets
Copenhagen is regularly near the top of lists touting the best cities for biking in the world. Now the city has a bikeshare system to match its sterling cycling reputation. High-tech doesn't often come to mind when talking
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5 Ways to Forget How Bad Transformers: Age of Extinction Is
Hasbro By now, you’ve survived the Age of Extinction and once again succumbed to the lure of those Robots in Disguise, despite the presence of Mark Wahlberg and excitable directorial presence of Michael Bay. But where do
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Vintage Pesticide Paraphernalia From the Glory Days of DDT
Cedar wallpaper impregnated with DDT. Photo: Jared Soares/WIRED Cedar wallpaper impregnated with DDT. Photo: Jared Soares/WIRED DDT-impregnated wallpaper with images of Donald Duck and Pluto (or Jack and Jill)
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Grueling 39K-Mile Yacht Race Tests the Sanity of Cramped Crews
Photo: Gilles Martin-Raget/Team Alvimedica Photo: Gilles Martin-Raget/Team Alvimedica Photo: Tim Moynihan Photo: Volvo Ocean Race Photo: Daniel Forster/Team Alvimedica Photo: Daniel Forster/Team
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See Outtakes From Some of History’s Most Iconic Photos
Magnum's contact sheet exhibition places famous photographs next to the contact sheets they were chosen from by the photographers and their editors. Photos by Steve McCurry/Magnum Photos Magnum's contact sheet
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A Mod That Adds Co-Op Capabilities to Your StarCraft Campaign
When it comes to real-time strategy games, there are usually two main gameplay modes: the single-player campaign, where you play through a series of missions and experience the game’s story, and the multiplayer, where you
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A Perfect Post-Apocalyptic Library That Offers Books and Booze
The folks at the Long Now Foundation think deep thoughts about humanity’s future—their to-do list includes building a clock that’ll keep time for 10,000 years. But in the meantime they’ve built something more practical:
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Will 60fps YouTube videos force game developers to prioritize frame rate?
This week, Google announced that 48fps and 60fps video playback will be available on YouTube sometime in the next few months. Most video is still shot at 24 or 30 frames per second, but there is a growing demand for high
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Has Google lost the plot again at I/O 2014, or is there a method in the madness?
Back in 2011, Google’s incoming CEO Larry Page promised to put “more wood behind fewer arrows.” Since then, Google has made good on the promise and proceeded to shut down a large number of products (Reader, iGoogle,
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Android ‘L’, Android smartwatches, Android Auto, and Android TV announced at Google I/O
Updated @ 2:40pm That’s it — the keynote is over. This incredibly long event took us from the Android “L” release to Android Auto to Android TV. We saw smartwatches, smart TVs, and a brand new UI on the stage. There
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US Supreme Court rules against Aereo, eviscerates the company’s business model
The Supreme Court ruled today that Aereo’s business model, which uses hundreds of tiny antennas to transmit individual streams of television to specific users, is illegal and violates the Copyright Act of 1976. Aereo’s
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How to watch hacking, and cyberwarfare between the USA and China, in real time
You’ve no doubt heard countless stories about how the internet is rife with hackers and ruled by malware-peddling malcontents. You’ve probably read dozens of paragraphs on how the next great theater of war will
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Sony pushes 4K TV at the World Cup, even though there’s nothing to watch – and no Blu-rays, cables, or bandwidth for 4K
At the 2014 World Cup, the weirdest thing isn’t that USA is doing better than England, but that 4K TV is being pushed surprisingly hard. As I watched USA versus Portugal last night, one of the main ads around the edge of
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Issue 21 27 June 2014, 16.43 Tech
Issue 21
© CBS Interactive. All rights reserved.A ZDNet Web site | Visit other CBS Interactive sites: This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service — if this is your content and you're reading it on someone else's site,
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Q&A: How the mythology of big data can blind us
Kate Crawford has an unusual talent. She demystifies big data so effectively she finds herself flown around the world to do just that. But there's a catch. Just when you think you understand how big data works, she throws a
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Google begins removing search results in Europe
In May, the European Union's highest court ruled that individuals have the "right to be forgotten," meaning that anyone in the E.U. could request that Google remove links that appear when you Google search for that person. On
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World’s First Glow-in-the-Dark Road Promises a Brighter, More Energy-Efficient Future
Share on TumblrEmail Recently, prolific Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde and civil engineering firm Heijmans nabbed headlines by installing the world’s first glow-in-the-dark road in the
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SkyTran to Build Futuristic Maglev ‘Hover Monorail’ in Israel
Share on TumblrEmail SkyTran Inc. and Israel Aerospace Industries just signed an agreement to build a high-speed, levitating, energy-efficient transportation system at the Israel Aerospace Industry (IAI)
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Aquarius USV: Eco Marine Power Unveils Solar-Electric Hybrid Vessel for the High Seas
[WizardRSS: unable to retrieve full-text content]Eco Marine Power (EMP) is dedicated to developing energy-efficient marine vessels, and they just unveiled their latest ship design - the Aquarius Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV).
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Malware on the Move 27 June 2014, 16.43 Tech
Malware on the Move
Already a Magazine subscriber? You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account. Activate Your Account Become an Insider It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research,
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The Importance of Feelings 27 June 2014, 16.43 Tech
The Importance of Feelings
For decades, biologists spurned emotion and feeling as uninteresting. But Antonio Damasio demonstrated that they were central to the life-regulating processes of almost all living creatures. Damasio’s essential insight is
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Searching for the "Free Will" Neuron 27 June 2014, 16.43 Tech
Searching for the "Free Will" Neuron
It was an expedition seeking something never caught before: a single human neuron lighting up to create an urge, albeit for the minor task of moving an index finger, before the subject was even aware of feeling anything.
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The Cross-Section of Memory 27 June 2014, 16.43 Tech
The Cross-Section of Memory
Neuroscientists at MIT’s Picower Institute have demonstrated that optogenetics can be used to place false memories in the brains of lab rodents. By Sam Wotipka, Emma Sconyers, and Lindsay Brownell on June 17,
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Weed’s Chronic Energy Use Becomes a Concern
Researchers are discovering ways to grow marijuana more efficiently. By Kevin Bullis on June 27, 2014 The legalization of marijuana in some U.S. states has energy providers worrying that a boom in indoor growing could put
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The Thought Experiment 27 June 2014, 16.43 Tech
The Thought Experiment
I was about 15 minutes late for my first phone call with Jan Scheuermann. When I tried to apologize for keeping her waiting, she stopped me. “I wasn’t just sitting around waiting for you, you know,” she said, before
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Tech Time Warp of the Week: 50 Years Ago, IBM Unleashed the Room-Sized iPhone
That massive computer in the latest season of Mad Men is the real thing. The machine that takes up a whole room in the fictional 1960s ad agency at the heart of the critically acclaimed TV series—and leads ad man Michael
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Angular Size of a Soccer Goal 27 June 2014, 16.43 Tech
Angular Size of a Soccer Goal
When I watch the World Cup, I always think about set pieces. This is when the ball is placed at a certain spot and a team is allowed to then kick the ball (called a free direct kick). If this kick occurs near the goal, the
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Outlander TV Adaptation Won’t Shy Away From Spanking
Elenna Loughlin Diana Gabaldon is the author of the wildly popular Outlander series, which tells the story of Claire Randall, a World War II-era nurse who finds herself transported to 18th-century Scotland, where she falls
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Gadget Lab Podcast: Android All Over 27 June 2014, 16.43 Tech
Gadget Lab Podcast: Android All Over
So Googly Ariel Zambelich/WIRED Lots of big announcements from Google this week. During the keynote speech of its I/O developer conference, the company laid out its broad, forward-looking plan for the future of the Android
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U.S. Says It Spied on 89,000 Targets Last Year, But the Number Is Deceptive
Getty About 89,000 foreigners or organizations were targeted for spying under a U.S. surveillance order last year, according to a new transparency report. The report was released for the first time Friday by the Office of
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Apple Kills Aperture, Says New ‘Photos’ App Will Replace It
Apple introduces OS X Yosemite at WWDC 2014. Photo: Apple Heavy-duty photo-editing Mac users may not be happy this morning. Apple told news website The Loop that it has decided to abandon Aperture, its professional
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Hacker hijacks thousands of Synology storage devices, forces them to mine 500 million Dogecoins
If you have a device that connects to the internet on a regular basis, patch it. That’s the big-picture takeaway from today’s news of a hacker who convinced Synology DiskStations (a type of network-attached storage
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What is 802.11ax WiFi, and do you really need a 10Gbps connection to your laptop?
If you thought that your new 802.11ac router’s max speed of 1,300Mbps was pretty crazy, think again: With 802.11ac fully certified and out the door, the Wi-Fi Alliance has started looking at its successor, 802.11ax —
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Creative Cloud and Photoshop 2014: Adobe piles on the goodies for photographers
Adobe is continuing its full-court press to convince photographers to move to its Creative Cloud subscription-based licensing model. Today’s announcement of Creative Cloud 2014 marks its biggest effort yet. New features in
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Adobe Ink stylus and Slide ruler aim to replace your sketch pad with an iPad (video)
Adobe has long dominated the business of providing software tools for creative professionals — but it has always shied away from hardware. Today that changes with the roll-out of two new accessories designed to play into
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Europe and South Korea unite to standardize 5G, even though true 4G still isn’t available
Europe, perhaps a little bit embarrassed about being so far behind the US’s deployment of 4G LTE, has announced that it will work together with South Korea to develop the next-gen 5G standard. Both the EU and South Korea
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T-Mobile Un-carrier 5 and 6: Free iPhone loans, VoLTE, and unmetered music
On Tuesday evening, T-Mobile held its Un-carrier event in Seattle and streamed it live to the public. To everyone’s surprise, T-Mobile launched two initiatives: free 7-day test drives with the iPhone 5S, and unmetered music
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How to beam energy to wireless, batteryless pacemakers
Engineers have found a safe way to wirelessly transfer energy to medical implants in the body. They used it to power a tiny batteryless pacemaker that's about the size of a grain of rice. And so far it works! In rabbits for
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Your next flight could be revolutionizing weather forecasting
Twice a day the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) releases weather balloons at 102 sites throughout the United States, Caribbean, and Pacific. The data these balloons collect help meteorologists
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Harley-Davidson Unveils Its Very First Electric Motorcycle
Share on TumblrEmail Electric vehicles are known for being whisper quiet, but that wouldn’t be right with a Harley-Davidson chopper. In place of gas explosions
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Cannondale’s Chainless CERV Concept Bike Transforms as You Ride It!
Share on TumblrEmail Priority Designs and Cannondale have joined forces to create a cutting-edge concept bike that transforms to change shape as you ride it! Known as the Continuously Ergonomic Race Vehicle
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A Flying Car that Takes You Sightseeing: Is This the Future of Transportation?
Share on TumblrEmail Created by design team Akki Reddy Challa, Fabien Chancel, and Michael Harboun, The Aeon Project takes on the challenge of melding
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Shining Light on Madness 21 June 2014, 18.59 Tech
Shining Light on Madness
At Novartis’s research lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a large incubator-like piece of equipment is helping give birth to a new era of psychiatric drug discovery. Inside it, bathed in soft light, lab plates hold living
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Cracking the Brain’s Codes 21 June 2014, 18.59 Tech
Cracking the Brain’s Codes
In What Is Life? (1944), one of the fundamental questions the physicist Erwin Schrödinger posed was whether there was some sort of “hereditary code-script” embedded in chromosomes. A decade later, Crick and Watson
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A Search Engine for the Era of Apps 21 June 2014, 18.59 Tech
A Search Engine for the Era of Apps
A new kind of search engine will make it possible to search inside the apps on your phone. By Tom Simonite on June 15, 2014 Once upon a time there was the Web, a vast universe of information and services that were tangled
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Eavesdropping on Neurons 21 June 2014, 18.59 Tech
Eavesdropping on Neurons
A new automated version of one of neuroscience’s most important techniques, patch clamping, makes it much easier and faster for scientists to tap into the inner workings of brain cells. By Alix Morris, Jenny Rood, and Abi
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Neuroscience’s New Toolbox 21 June 2014, 18.59 Tech
Neuroscience’s New Toolbox
The hypothalamus is a small structure deep in the brain that, among other functions, coördinates sensory inputs—the appearance of a rival, for example—with instinctual behavioral responses. Back in the 1920s, Walter
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The Promise and Perils of Manipulating Memory
When it comes to the study of memory, we might be living in something of a golden age. Researchers are exploring provocative questions about what memory fundamentally is—and how it might be manipulated. Some scientists are
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New Eruption at Piton de la Fournaise on Reunion Island
The June 21, 2014 eruption of Piton de la Fournaise on Reunion Island. LIinfo.re (video capture). I guess the competition in Group E just got more interesting. Piton de la Fournaise, located on Reunion Island in the Indian
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Volcano World Cup: Group E 21 June 2014, 18.59 Tech
Volcano World Cup: Group E
The Volcano World Cup rolls on. Remember, vote in Group A, Group B, Group C and Group D. Today we tackle Group E: Ecuador, France, Honduras, and Switzerland. Ecuador: If any country has a true cakewalk to the Round of 16, it
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What to Expect From the Wild New Harry Potter Ride, ‘Escape From Gringotts’
Diagon Alley, the new expansion to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, was open to media and VIPs on Thursday, June 19, 2014. Ty Wright/WIRED ORLANDO, Florida — Escape From Gringotts is one hell of a ride, a
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The hypothalamus is a small structure deep in the brain that, among other functions, coördinates sensory inputs—the appearance of a rival, for example—with instinctual behavioral responses. Back in the 1920s, Walter Hess of the University of Zurich (who would win a Nobel in 1949) had shown that if you stuck an electrode into the brain of a cat and electrically stimulated certain regions of the hypothalamus, you could turn a purring feline into a furry blur of aggression. Several interesting hypotheses tried to explain how and why that happened, but there was no way to test them. Like a lot of fundamental questions in brain science, the mystery of aggression didn’t go away over the past century—it just hit the usual empirical roadblocks. We had good questions but no technology to get at the answers.

By 2010, Anderson’s Caltech lab had begun to tease apart the underlying mechanisms and neural circuitry of aggression in their pugnacious mice. Armed with a series of new technologies that allowed them to focus on individual clumps of cells within brain regions, they stumbled onto a surprising anatomical discovery: the tiny part of the hypothalamus that seemed correlated with aggressive behavior was intertwined with the part associated with the impulse to mate. That small duchy of cells—the technical name is the ventromedial hypothalamus—turned out to be an assembly of roughly 5,000 neurons, all marbled together, some of them seemingly connected to copulating and others to fighting.

“There’s no such thing as a generic neuron,” says Anderson, who estimates that there may be up to 10,000 distinct classes of neurons in the brain. Even tiny regions of the brain contain a mixture, he says, and these neurons “often influence behavior in different, opposing directions.” In the case of the hypothalamus, some of the neurons seemed to become active during aggressive behavior, some of them during mating behavior, and a small subset—about 20 percent—during both fighting and mating.

That was a provocative discovery, but it was also a relic of old-style neuroscience. Being active was not the same as causing the behavior; it was just a correlation. How did the scientists know for sure what was triggering the behavior? Could they provoke a mouse to pick a fight simply by tickling a few cells in the hypothalamus?

A decade ago, that would have been technologically impossible. But in the last 10 years, neuroscience has been transformed by a remarkable new technology called optogenetics, invented by scientists at Stanford University and first described in 2005. The Caltech researchers were able to insert a genetically modified light-sensitive gene into specific cells at particular locations in the brain of a living, breathing, feisty, and occasionally canoodling male mouse. Using a hair-thin fiber-optic thread inserted into that living brain, they could then turn the neurons in the hypothalamus on and off with a burst of light.

Optogenetics: Light Switches for Neurons

Anderson and his colleagues used optogenetics to produce a video dramatizing the love-hate tensions deep within rodents. It shows a male mouse doing what comes naturally, mating with a female, until the Caltech researchers switch on the light, at which instant the murine lothario flies into a rage. When the light is on, even a mild-mannered male mouse can be induced to attack whatever target happens to be nearby—his reproductive partner, another male mouse, a castrated male (normally not perceived as a threat), or, most improbably, a rubber glove dropped into the cage.

“Activating these neurons with optogenetic techniques is sufficient to activate aggressive behavior not only toward appropriate targets like another male mouse but also toward inappropriate targets, like females and even inanimate objects,” Anderson says. Conversely, researchers can inhibit these neurons in the middle of a fight by turning the light off, he says: “You can stop the fight dead in its tracks.”

Moreover, the research suggests that lovemaking overrides war-making in the calculus of behavior: the closer a mouse was to consummation of the reproductive act, the more resistant (or oblivious) he became to the light pulses that normally triggered aggression. In a paper published in Biological Psychiatry, titled “Optogenetics, Sex, and Violence in the Brain: Implications for Psychiatry,” Anderson noted, “Perhaps the imperative to ‘make love, not war’ is hard-wired into our nervous system, to a greater extent than we have realized.” We may be both lovers and fighters, with the slimmest of neurological distances separating the two impulses.

Optogenetics and other new techniques mean scientists can begin to pinpoint the function of the thousands of different types of neurons among the roughly 86 billion in the human brain.

No one is suggesting that we’re on the verge of deploying neural circuit breakers to curb aggressive behavior. But, as Anderson points out, the research highlights a larger point about how a new technology can reinvent the way brain science is done. “The ability of optogenetics to turn a largely correlational field of science into one that tests causation has been transformative,” he says.

What’s radical about the technique is that it allows scientists to perturb a cell or a network of cells with exquisite precision, the key to sketching out the circuitry that affects various types of behavior. Whereas older technologies like imaging allowed researchers to watch the brain in action, optogenetics enables them to influence that action, tinkering with specific parts of the brain at specific times to see what happens.

And optogenetics is just one of a suite of revolutionary new tools that are likely to play leading roles in what looks like a heyday for neuroscience. Major initiatives in both the United States and Europe aspire to understand how the human brain—that tangled three-pound curd of neurons, connective tissue, and circuits—gives rise to everything from abstract thought to basic sensory processing to emotions like aggression. Consciousness, free will, memory, learning—they are all on the table now, as researchers use these tools to investigate how the brain achieves its seemingly mysterious effects (see “Searching for the “Free Will” Neuron”).

Connections

More than 2,000 years ago, Hippocrates noted that if you want to understand the mind, you must begin by studying the brain. Nothing has happened in the last two millennia to change that imperative—except the tools that neuroscience is bringing to the task.

The history of neuroscience, like the history of science itself, is often a story of new devices and new technologies. ­Luigi Galvani’s first accidental electrode, which provoked the twitch of a frog’s muscle, has inspired every subsequent electrical probe, from ­Walter Hess’s cat prod to the current therapeutic use of deep brain stimulation to treat Parkinson’s disease (approximately 30,000 people worldwide now have electrodes implanted in their brains to treat this condition). The patch clamp allowed neuroanatomists to see the ebb and flow of ions in a neuron as it prepares to fire. And little did Paul Lauterbur realize, when he focused a strong magnetic field on a single hapless clam in his lab at the State University of New York at Stony Brook in the early 1970s, that he and his colleagues were laying the groundwork for the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines that have helped reveal the internal landscape and activity of a living brain.

Growing Neurons: Studying What Goes Wrong

But it is the advances in genetics and genomic tools during the last few years that have truly revolutionized neuroscience. Those advances made the genetic manipulations at the heart of optogenetics possible. Even more recent genome-editing methods can be used to precisely alter the genetics of living cells in the lab. Along with optogenetics, these tools mean scientists can begin to pinpoint the function of the thousands of different types of nerve cells among the roughly 86 billion in the human brain.

Nothing testifies to the value of a new technology more than the number of scientists who rapidly adopt it and use it to claim new scientific territories. As Edward Boyden, a scientist at MIT who helped develop optogenetics, puts it, “Often when a new technology comes out, there’s a bit of a land grab.”

And even as researchers grab those opportunities in genomics and optogenetics, still other advances are coming on the scene. A new chemical treatment is making it possible to directly see nerve fibers in mammalian brains; robotic microelectrodes can eavesdrop on (and perturb) single cells in living animals; and more sophisticated imaging techniques let researchers match up nerve cells and fibers in brain slices to create a three-dimensional map of the connections. Using these tools together to build up an understanding of the brain’s activity, scientists hope to capture the biggest of cognitive game: memory, decision-­making, consciousness, psychiatric illnesses like anxiety and depression, and, yes, sex and violence.

Scientists speculated that if you could smuggle the gene for a light-sensitive protein into a neuron and then pulse the cell with light, you might trigger it to fire. You could turn specific neurons on and off.

In January 2013, the European Commission invested a billion euros in the launch of its Human Brain Project, a 10-year initiative to map out all the connections in the brain. Several months later, in April 2013, the Obama administration announced an initiative called Brain Research through Advanced Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN), which is expected to pour as much as $1 billion into the field, with much of the early funding earmarked for technology development. Then there is the Human Connectome Project, which aims to use electron microscope images of sequential slices of brain tissue to map nerve cells and their connections in three dimensions. Complementary connectome and mapping initiatives are getting under way at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Virginia and the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle. They are all part of a large global effort, both publicly and privately funded, to build a comprehensive picture of the human brain, from the level of genes and cells to that of connections and circuits.

Last December, as an initial step in the BRAIN Initiative, the National Institutes of Health solicited proposals for $40 million worth of projects on technology development in the neurosciences. “Why is the BRAIN Initiative putting such a heavy emphasis on technology?” says Cornelia Bargmann, the Rockefeller University neuroscientist who co-directs the planning process for the project. “The real goal is to understand how the brain works, at many levels, in space and time, in many different neurons, all at once. And what’s prevented us from understanding that is limitations in technology.”

Eavesdropping

Optogenetics had its origins in 2000, in late-night chitchat at Stanford University. There, neuroscientists Karl Deisseroth and Edward Boyden began to bounce ideas back and forth about ways to identify, and ultimately manipulate, the activity of specific brain circuits. Deisseroth, who had a PhD in neuroscience from Stanford, longed to understand (and someday treat) the mental afflictions that have vexed humankind since the era of Hippocrates, notably anxiety and depression (see “Shining Light on Madness”). Boyden, who was pursuing graduate work in brain function, had an omnivorous curiosity about neurotechnology. At first they dreamed about deploying tiny magnetic beads as a way to manipulate brain function in intact, living animals. But at some point during the next five years, a different kind of light bulb went off.

Since the 1970s, microbiologists had been studying a class of light-sensitive molecules known as rhodopsins, which had been identified in simple organisms like bacteria, fungi, and algae. These proteins act like gatekeepers along the cell wall; when they detect a particular wavelength of light, they either let ions into a cell or, conversely, let ions out of it. This ebb and flow of ions mirrors the process by which a neuron fires: the electrical charge within the nerve cell builds up until the cell unleashes a spike of electrical activity flowing along the length of its fiber (or axon) to the synapses, where the message is passed on to the next cell in the pathway. Scientists speculated that if you could smuggle the gene for one of these light-sensitive proteins into a neuron and then pulse the cell with light, you might trigger it to fire. Simply put, you could turn specific neurons in a conscious animal on—or off—with a burst of light.

In 2004, Deisseroth successfully inserted the gene for a light-sensitive molecule from algae into mammalian neurons in a dish. Deisseroth and ­Boyden went on to show that blue light could induce the neurons to fire. At about the same time, a graduate student named Feng Zhang joined Deisseroth’s lab. Zhang, who had acquired a precocious expertise in the techniques of both molecular biology and gene therapy as a high school student in Des Moines, Iowa, showed that the gene for the desired protein could be introduced into neurons by means of genetically engineered viruses. Again using pulses of blue light, the Stanford team then demonstrated that it could turn electrical pulses on and off in the virus-modified mammalian nerve cells. In a landmark paper that appeared in Nature Neuroscience in 2005 (after, Boyden says, it was rejected by Science), Deisseroth, Zhang, and Boyden described the technique. (No one would call it “optogenetics” for another year.)

Neuroscientists immediately seized on the power of the technique by inserting light-sensitive genes into living animals. Researchers in Deisseroth’s own lab used it to identify new pathways that control anxiety in mice, and both ­Deisseroth’s team and his collaborators at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York used it to turn depression on and off in rats and mice. And Susumu Tonegawa’s lab at MIT recently used optogenetics to create false memories in laboratory animals.

When I visited Boyden’s office at MIT’s Media Lab last December, the scientist called up his favorite recent papers involving optogenetics. In a rush of words as rapid as his keystrokes, Boyden described second-generation technologies already being developed. One involves eavesdropping on single nerve cells in anesthetized and conscious animals in order to see “the things roiling underneath the sea of activity” within a neuron when the animal is unconscious. Boyden said, “It literally sheds light on what it means to have thoughts and awareness and feelings.”

Scientists often employ words like “surprising” and “unexpected” to characterize recent results, reflecting the impact optogenetics has had on the understanding of psychiatric illnesses.

Boyden’s group had also just sent off a paper reporting a new twist on optogenetics: separate, independent neural pathways can be perturbed simultaneously with red and blue wavelengths of light. The technique has the potential to show how different circuits interact with and influence each other. His group is also working on “insanely dense” recording probes and microscopes that aspire to capture whole-brain activity. The ambitions are not modest. “Can you record all the cells in the brain,” he says, “so that you can watch thoughts or decisions or other complex phenomena emerge as you go from sensation to emotion to decision to action site?”

Brain Mapping: Charting the Information Superhighways

A few blocks away, Feng Zhang, who is now an assistant professor at MIT and a faculty member at the Broad Institute, listed age-old neuroscience questions that might now be attacked with the new technologies. “Can you do a memory upgrade and increase the capacity?” he asked. “How are neural circuits genetically encoded? How can you reprogram the genetic instructions? How do you fix the genetic mutations that cause miswiring or other malfunctions of the neural system? How do you make the old brain younger?”

In addition to helping to invent optogenetics, Zhang played a central role in developing a gene-editing technique called CRISPR (see “10 Breakthrough Technologies: Genome Editing,” May/June). The technology allows scientists to target a gene—in neurons, for example—and either delete or modify it. If it’s modified to include a mutation known or suspected to cause brain disorders, scientists can study the progression of those disorders in lab animals. Alternatively, researchers can use CRISPR in the lab to alter stem cells that can then be grown into neurons to see the effects.

Transparency

Back at Stanford, when he’s not seeing patients with autism spectrum disorders or depression in the clinic, Deisseroth continues to invent tools that he and others can use to study these conditions. Last summer, his lab reported a new way for scientists to visualize the cables of nerve fibers, known as “white matter,” that connect distant precincts of the brain. The technique, called Clarity, first immobilizes biomolecules such as protein and DNA in a plastic-like mesh that retains the physical integrity of a postmortem brain. Then researchers flush a kind of detergent through the mesh to dissolve all the fats in brain tissue that normally block light. The brain is rendered transparent, suddenly exposing the entire three-­dimensional wiring pattern to view.

Together, the new tools are transforming many conventional views in neuroscience. For example, as Deisseroth noted in a review article published earlier this year in Nature, optogenetics has challenged some of the ideas underlying deep brain stimulation, which has been widely used to treat everything from tremors and epilepsy to anxiety and obsessive-­compulsive disorder. No one knows just why it works, but the operating assumption has been that its therapeutic effects derive from electrical stimulation of very specific brain regions; neurosurgeons exert extraordinary effort to place electrodes with the utmost precision.

In 2009, however, Deisseroth and colleagues showed that specifically stimulating the white matter, the neural cables that happen to lie near the electrodes, produced the most robust clinical improvement in symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. In other words, it wasn’t the neighborhood of the brain that mattered so much as which neural highways happened to pass nearby. Scientists often employ words like “surprising” and “unexpected” to characterize such recent results, reflecting the impact that optogenetics has had on the understanding of psychiatric illness.

In the same vein, Caltech’s Anderson points out that the public and scientific infatuation with functional MRI studies over the last two decades has created the impression that certain regions of the brain act as “centers” of neural activity—that the amygdala is the “center” of fear, for example, or the hypothalamus is the “center” of aggression. But he likens fMRI to looking down on a nighttime landscape from an airplane at 30,000 feet and “trying to figure out what is going on in a single town.” Optogenetics, by contrast, has provided a much more detailed view of that tiny subdivision of cells in the hypothalamus, and thus a much more complex and nuanced picture of aggression. Activating specific neurons in that little town can tip an organism to make war, but activating the neurons next door can nudge it to make love.

The new techniques will give scientists the first glimpses of human cognition in action—a look at how thoughts, feelings, forebodings, and dysfunctional mental activity arise from the neural circuitry and from the activity of particular types of cells. Researchers are just beginning to gain these insights, but given the recent pace of technology development, the picture might emerge sooner than anyone dreamed possible when the light of optogenetics first flickered on a few years ago.

Stephen S. Hall is a science writer and author in New York City. His last feature for MIT Technology Review was “Repairing Bad Memories.”

Credit: Brain sculpture by Joshua Harker, photograph by Bruce Peterson, graphics by John MacNeill, other images courtesy of The Deisseroth Lab (Clarity), Allen Institute for Brain Science (Brainspan), Human Connectome Project
Additional Reporting: Susan Young Rojahn

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The Promise and Perils of Manipulating Memory PDF Print E-mail

When it comes to the study of memory, we might be living in something of a golden age. Researchers are exploring provocative questions about what memory fundamentally isand how it might be manipulated. Some scientists are tweaking the brains of lab rats in order to implant false memories or remove specific memories. Others are looking into how memory might be enhanced. Such research often sounds creepy, but it could lead to ways of staving off dementia, neutralizing post-traumatic stress disorder, reducing anxiety, treating depression, or curbing addiction.

Much of this work is possible because neuroscientists have realized that memory is more plastic than previously thought. Think of something that you did long agoon a sunny afternoon when you were a child, let’s say. Does your brain rummage around for that memory, show it to you, and put it back intact, as you might do with a photograph in a trunk in the attic? For decades, the prevailing answer was essentially yesthat strong memories were “consolidated” in the brain and remained static. But it now appears the opposite is true: every time you remember something, your brain rewrites or “reconsolidates” the memory. Your memory of any sunny day in your childhood is merely a version of the last time you thought about it.

Among the stunning implications is that intervening in the reconsolidation process can alter a memory and change how it feels. Some of the most intriguing research on this idea has been led by Joseph LeDoux, a neuroscientist who has been working since the 1970s to investigate how processes in the brain generate emotions. In recent years, he and colleagues have investigated whether giving people an antianxiety drug as they recall a traumatic experience can reduce the dread they feel upon further recollections. If it works, it could be one of many opportunities for reshaping memory, as LeDoux told MIT Technology Review’s deputy editor, Brian Bergstein, in his NYU office.

Giving people a pill as they reconsolidate a troubling memory sounds like an elegant treatment for PTSD and other disorders. How well has the research progressed?

The idea is still viable. The drug that’s going to do the trick in humanswe don’t yet know what it is.

Why not the antianxiety drug propranolol, which has been used in several experiments?

We know this thing works very well in rats. [In humans] there’s been some success, but it doesn’t seem that’s actually going to be a very robust solution.

What are the prospects for improving the memory of people with dementiaor any of us, for that matter?

The issue you get at whenever you’re dealing with a memory failure of any kind is: is the problem an inability to retrieve a memory that’s there, or is it that the memory is no longer there and by no means could you retrieve it? And it’s definitely the case that we have retrieval problems, right? You can’t remember something, you kind of know it’s there, and then a couple of hours later it pops up. There is stuff in our brain that we can’t easily retrieve. I think that’s where there’s hope. You can do things that would facilitate the retrieval process.

What might that be?

The simplest idea would be that it’s a problem of low arousal in the brain. We know that emotionally arousing situations are more likely to be remembered than mundane ones. A big part of the reason for this is that in significant situations chemicals called neuromodulators are released, and they enhance the memory storage process. The brain is more alert and attentive. All the spokes are working and all the gears are oiled.

So could we develop memory vitamins that offer that same boost?

[The effects of the neuromodulators] can be mimicked with drugs that do the same thing. Or if you want to remember something, put the information in a significant context. In other words, make it meaningful by thinking of it in a way that adds some positive or negative charge, or by doing something that increases your level of arousal—exercise, for example.

Would a memory prosthetic be possiblesomething put into the brain to restore lost memories in someone with dementia or a brain injury?

DARPA [the U.S. military’s R&D agency] seems to be going full steam ahead on these kinds of technologies. What they plan to do is put chips in [the brain]. It would be like a prosthesis—instead of moving your arm, you’re fixing memory. I have no idea how they would achieve that.

We don’t know the route to get there?

I don’t know the route.

Memory is, first of all, not in one spot—it’s distributed across probably multiple brain areas, many millions of synapses in those brain areas. So I don’t know how you reconfigure it, fix it. I don’t know how you regenerate the right patterns of connectivity. I don’t think you could restore lost memories. But what you might conceivably do is restore some ability to store new memories.

“You can’t remember something, you kind of know it’s there, and then a couple of hours later it pops up. There is stuff in our brain that we can’t easily retrieve. I think that’s where there’s hope. You can do things that would facilitate the retrieval process.”

Messing with memory is a huge deal. It goes to the core of who we are. Treating PTSD would be wonderful, but isn’t it also possible to make people artificial Pollyannas?

Or fearless monsters. There’s always going to be ethical implications. But we’ll just have to sort that out.

When we first published this work [on reconsolidation], someone wrote a commentary in the New York Times saying, “Let’s say you were a Holocaust survivor. You lived 50 years with these awful memories, and all of a sudden you’re erasing memories of the Holocaust. What would that do to your personality? It’s who you are now.” [After further research], the conclusion that we came up with is that a patient and therapist would have to slowly chip away at a memory to a level they were comfortable with. [And] the research so far suggests it reduces the zing, takes the emotional valence out of the situation, rather than erases the memory itself.

The other side of that is you can also intensify memories. So we did studies in rats where we give them propranolol, and that weakens the memory. But if you give them ­isoproterenol [which has the opposite effect on the brain’s neurostimulators], the memory is now stronger. If you have some way to strengthen memory after retrieval, it could be stronger and better.

What’s a situation in which people would want to do that?

In general, people who have sluggish memories, they’re not forming memories very well. Were they to be on a low dose of isoproterenol, they might get a little extra boost.

The other idea is that we might be able to give people positive experiences and a shot of isoproterenol, and store those instead of negative experiences.

You could build up more positive memories in them?

Right, right.

I imagine that could be useful in helping people struggling with depression.

And as far as I know it’s never been done. It’s doable.

So why hasn’t it been done?

Well, you know, I had the idea a while ago, and then I kind of forgot about it. And now the memory of itmaybe I’ll think about doing something. [He laughs.]

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New Eruption at Piton de la Fournaise on Reunion Island PDF Print E-mail

The June 21, 2014 eruption of Piton de la Fournaise on Reunion Island.

The June 21, 2014 eruption of Piton de la Fournaise on Reunion Island. LIinfo.re (video capture).

I guess the competition in Group E just got more interesting. Piton de la Fournaise, located on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean, had its first eruption (see above) since 2010. The eruption is behaving as most do at the shield volcano over the Reunion hotspot, with fast moving lava flows over the barren terrane. You can see some video of the eruption, showing the fissure and the branching lava flows heading down slope (see below). The lavas at Piton de la Fournaise are lower viscosity than you find at similar eruptions at another hotspot volcano, Kilauea. That’s because the lava is more alkaline, where the addition of Na, K and Ca into the magma keeps it from forming chains of silica as easily. This means the viscosity remains lower for longer and producing those fast moving pahoehoe flows. Luckily this eruption is in a very remote part of the volcano, so there is little-to-no threat from the flows, unlike the eruption in 2007.

Lava flows from the June 21, 2014 eruption of Piton de la Fournaise

Lava flows from the June 21, 2014 eruption of Piton de la Fournaise LIinfo.re (video capture)

The eruption itself started in the early morning hours on June 21 from the southeastern side of the main summit crater. There had been 10 days of precursory signs that an eruption was in the works, with higher gas emissions and seismicity, along with a red glow in the area very recently. Unfortunately this current eruption is not occurring in view of any of the webcams pointed at the volcano.

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Volcano World Cup: Group E PDF Print E-mail

The Volcano World Cup rolls on. Remember, vote in Group A, Group B, Group C and Group D.

Today we tackle Group E: Ecuador, France, Honduras, and Switzerland.

Ecuador: If any country has a true cakewalk to the Round of 16, it might be Ecuador. Their competition can’t hold a candle to the multitude of active volcanoes in Ecuador that include Tungurahua (see below), El Reventador, Sangay and Guagua Pichincha. All of those volcanoes have erupted since the turn of the century, so it doesn’t include one volcano that may have produced one of the largest eruptions of the last 2,000 years (Chimborazo) or the famous Cotopaxi. Hard to envision a way that Ecuador doesn’t cruise to the next round.

A small explosive from Tungurahua in Ecuador, seen on January 12, 2008.

A small explosive from Tungurahua in Ecuador, seen on January 12, 2008. Lesmode / Flickr

France: Actually, you might not guess it at first, but France does a good job to hold its own with volcanoes. Continental France is fairly volcanically quiet, but it does boast some regions of potential activity. Most importantly, the Chaîne des Puys lava domes (see below) formed at ~4040 BC, meaning they are very much still capable of another eruption. France’s greater empire does contain a fair amount of volcanoes as well, stretch across islands in the Caribbean, Pacific and Indian Oceans, including Piton de la Fournaise (which incidentally started erupting this morning) and the infamous Peleé that killed over 30,000 people in 1902.

Chaîne des Puys in France, seen on December 11, 2005.

Chaîne des Puys in France, seen on December 11, 2005. bobuse / Flickr

Honduras: Although much of Central America is volcanically active, the number of volcanoes that have erupted in the last 10,000 years in Honduras is quite low. There are 4 volcanoes listed in the Smithsonian/USGS Global Volcanism Program’s database, but most of them show signs they have not been active for quite some time. Isla el Tigre (see below) is one of those weathered volcanic edifices in Honduras located just off the coast in the Gulf of Fonseca.

The eroded edifice of Isla la Tigre off the coast of Honduras.

The eroded edifice of Isla el Tigre off the coast of Honduras. Micah MacAllen / Flickr

Switzerland: Being smack dab in the middle of Europe, it isn’t surprising that Switzerland is lacking in any active volcanoes. However, intercalated in the rocks of the Alps are volcanic deposits that date back hundreds of millions of years, like the chunk of rhyolite below. This rock betrays the volcanic past of Switzerland.

A rhyolite porphyry from Switzerland. This volcanic rock is likely hundreds of millions of years old.

A rhyolite porphyry from Switzerland. This volcanic rock is likely hundreds of millions of years old. Siim Sepp / Sandatlas

Select the two nations you think should move onto the Round of 16 in the Volcano World Cup. Voting will be open until June 26 at noon eastern time.

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What to Expect From the Wild New Harry Potter Ride, ‘Escape From Gringotts’ PDF Print E-mail

The new addition to the Harry Potter Theme Park, Daigon Alley, was open to the media and VIP's on Thursday, June 19, 2014.

Diagon Alley, the new expansion to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, was open to media and VIPs on Thursday, June 19, 2014. Ty Wright/WIRED

ORLANDO, Florida — Escape From Gringotts is one hell of a ride, a technologically awesome thrill that puts you in the middle of Harry Potter’s dramatic break in and escape from the wizarding world’s Fort Knox.

The centerpiece of the new Diagon Alley expansion to the fantastic Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park sends you on a daring dash through the bank’s underground vaults. You spin and whirl down the track, riding past massive 3-D projection screens (yes, you wear glasses) on which the heroes and villains of J.K.K. Rowling’s epic series act out the story.

But it is much more than a roller coaster, or even a motion-simulation-in-front-of-a-big-screen ride experience. Since you’re actually riding a kinetic, fast-moving cart that dips and makes hairpin turns, it feels more like you’re actually part of the action projected on the screen. The combination of real and special FX is powerful.

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A Diagon Alley employee holds some Gringotts cash, which you can exchange for your human dollars in Diagon Alley. Ty Wright/WIRED

When it works.

WIRED was lucky enough to experience the ride before it went kaput during this week’s media blitz. After a series of glitches—including one that left us stranded on the tracks for 10 minutes—park brass shut the ride down early Wednesday evening, and didn’t run it at all Thursday. That raises questions about whether Universal Studios will have things sorted out before the July 8 opening.

Much like “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey,” which wound would-be riders through all the halls of Hogwarts before they got onto the ride, the line to get into Gringotts is entertaining all by itself. You begin by walking into the main lobby of the bank, which is situated right at the crossroads of the various streets that make up Diagon Alley. The buildings spill out at all angles except right ones, filled top to bottom with intricately lettered signs and lively window displays, every detail painstakingly true to the source material. It’s like stepping onto the movie set.

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This talking, moving, lifelike goblin tells you how to open an account at Gringotts during the queue. Ty Wright/WIRED

In the lobby are remarkable animatronic goblins, the bank’s tellers, that are—what’s the word for it?—freaky. They’ll occasionally look up from their work in the bank’s ledgers and stare at you wordlessly. (If you want to actually interact with a goblin, there’s one in the Gringotts currency exchange building down the street that will actually answer questions that are posed to it.)

Past the lobby, a long hallway filled with desks and other office furniture has copies of the Daily Prophet, the wizarding world’s newspaper, complete with magical moving photographs. Further down the way you’ll enter the office of Bill Weasley, older brother of Harry’s ginger pal Ron. We don’t actually see much of Harry, Ron and Hermione on the Gringotts ride, come to think of it. But Bill gets more screen time here in a hologram sequence than he ever did in all eight films.

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It’s okay if the goblins unsettle you a little. Ty Wright/WIRED

After this, an “elevator” takes you down, down, down without actually moving you anywhere at all, a combination of clever video and hydraulic effects. Then you’re ready to get on the cart and ride it into the unknown.

For all the flash, Gringotts didn’t feel as thrilling as “Forbidden Journey,” which has similar effects and even flips you right upside down at some points. And as fearsome as the video projections of Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) and Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) are at the climax of “Gringotts,” the Dementor attacks in “Forbidden Journey” are much scarier. (Maybe because you’re upside down.) But Gringotts’ gentler nature carries with it a significantly lower height requirement, meaning more kids can join in the excitement.

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Google Reveals How the Android Wear UI Will Work PDF Print E-mail


When Google announced Android Wear back in March, it illustrated the company’s seriousness about the wearable game. Since then, Google has dropped bread crumbs, slowly painting us a bigger picture of what’s to come with its mobile OS. A new video from the company, released just days before its big I/O conference, outlines some of the main interaction considerations for developers who will be building apps for the inevitable wave of new wrist worn gadgets.

The big takeaway? Interacting with our gadgets is about to get a whole lot simpler. Android Wear’s banner claim is that its interface will free us from the time sucking grid of icons on our smartphones. Instead, the interface will be glanceable; requiring users to engage far less time and attention to get the information they’re looking for.

Android Wear’s banner claim is that its interface will free us from the time sucking grid of icons on our smartphones. Instead, the interface will be glanceable.

Here’s a quick look at how they’re doing it: The first thing you notice about the Android Wear interface is how little there is to notice. In the video’s example of the home screen, you see the time, weather and a “G” icon that will help you navigate to voice or text search. Users simply have to hit the button and say “Ok Google” to make any voice command available.

Android-Wear

But it’s not a one-way conversation. Google’s depth of data makes it easy for Android Wear to build a smart context around each user, allowing wearables to know what’s important to a person and when it’s important. For example, based on your calendar or inbox your smartwatch could notify you a few hours before your flight and prompt you to check in.

Another important feature is device-to-device communication. Any notification you get on your phone, you’ll get on your wearable, too. Where a smartwatch diverges from the phone is how it presents that information. Android Wear relies on stacks, which allows developers to bundle multiple notifications together like an inbox, while pages allow more than one glanceable screen of information at a time for one notification. Think of this like flipping through a tiny ebook of notifications. You can combine stacks and pages and reply to any notification through voice activation.

The video covers pretty high-level stuff, but with LG and Motorola already building their own Android Wear smartwatches, you can bet it won’t be long before we get a proper look at what this OS is capable of.

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One of F1′s Most Dangerous Tracks Is Back PDF Print E-mail

Infinit Red Bull Racing driver Daniel Ricciardo takes a lap of the Red Bull Ring during a practice session. F1 returns to Austria for the first time since 2003 at the track, which Red Bull co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz bought in 2004.

Infinit Red Bull Racing driver Daniel Ricciardo takes a lap of the Red Bull Ring during a practice session. F1 returns to Austria for the first time since 2003 at the track, which Red Bull co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz bought in 2004. Mark Thompson/Getty via Infinit Red Bull Racing.

This weekend, Formula 1 racing returns to a course that was once among the most dangerous in the world. The sport has in recent years focused on expanding beyond its traditional base in Europe, adding races in China, Singapore, Korea and, later this year, Russia. But the newest race on the calendar is in the heart of Europe: Austria, home to some of the sport’s all-time greats.

The country has a rich racing tradition—F1 drivers like Jochen Rindt, Niki Lauda, and Gerhard Berger are all Austrian—and the A1-Ring in particular saw great duels like the epic fight between Michael Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen in 1998.

That said, the track in Spielberg was once among the most dangerous in the sport. Elevation changes, tight turns, and small runoff areas made for difficult driving with little margin for error. In August 1975, accomplished driver Mark Donahue died after a crash there created a blood clot in his head. A track marshall was also killed in that crash, the Lewiston Evening Journal reported at the time. The 1987 Austrian Grand Prix had to be stopped twice due to crashes on the pit straight, and Stefan Johansson hit a deer during qualifying that year.

The track, which Red Bull co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz bought in 2004 and renamed the Red Bull Ring, first hosted the championship in 1970, when it was called the Österreichring. Racing there stopped after 1987, when officials finally deemed the course too narrow and too dangerous. F1 track guru Herman Tilke redesigned the track and it returned to F1 in 1997 as the A1-Ring. Schumacher set the lap record of 1:08.337 during the track’s most recent F1 race in 2003.

Mateschitz stepped in the following year, and Red Bull started a €70 million renovation that included a new paddock and grandstands. Racing resumed in 2011.

The new track is just 4.326 kilometers (2.688 miles) long, making it one of the shorter circuits on the calendar. It’s got 10 corners and four straightaways, which should make for some fast laps. Four turns offer passing opportunities, and 60 meters of altitude change (it’s the Alps, after all) will add an extra challenge.

The Red Bull Ring has the same layout as A1, but feels far more commercial. Gone are the corners named after legendary drivers, named instead for corporate sponsors. Turn six, for example, is no longer named for Austrian F1 ace Niki Lauda (now non-executive chairman of Mercedes F1) is named for German tool manufacturer Würth. That said, turn eight, the track’s fastest, still bears the name of F1 racer Jochen Rindt.

The name changes are kind of a bummer, but won’t matter once the drivers start the 71-lap race on Sunday. And though it might be Red Bull’s party, Mercedes plans to crash it. Drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg topped Friday’s practice sessions, while both Red Bull drivers were more than a second behind.

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The Amazing Micro-Engineered, Water-Repelling Surface That Lives Outside My Window PDF Print E-mail

See how the water drop bounces off the leaf instead of splashing?

If the water hits the leaf harder, it’ll splash. But it still doesn’t wet the surface.

Here you can watch the water drops merge into one big, wobbly drop.

So how does this leaf  repel water?

To understand this, we first need to know what it means to get wet. Since water molecules attract each other, a blob of water wants to shrink inwards. That’s why a water blob floating in space is round, like a sphere (it’s the most ‘shrunken-in’ shape). But down here on Earth, water isn’t floating in mid-air. It’s sitting on some surface, like your table, your bathtub, or a leaf. This surface pulls down on the water, and squishes the sphere into a pancake. So it looks more like this.

drop0

Aatish Bhatia

In fact, you can measure just how ‘wettable’ a surface is by calculating its contact angle.

drop4

Aatish Bhatia

The more a surface attracts the water, the more it squishes the ball into a pancake, and the wetter the surface.

dropacute

Hydrophilic (water-loving) surfaces squish the water ball into a pancake. Aatish Bhatia

On the other hand, hydrophobic (water-hating) surfaces attract the water less, so the drop is more round.

drop2

Aatish Bhatia

And then you have superhydrophobic surfaces, like Never Wet, which barely attract the water at all. On these surfaces, water drops are almost spherical. It’s nearly impossible to get these surfaces wet – the water just rolls off them.

drop3

Aatish Bhatia

To find out what’s going on with our leaf, we need to measure its contact angle. Janine put a tiny drop of water on the leaf.

plume poppy contact angle mod

Janine Nunes & Aatish Bhatia

BOOM. The contact angle works out to about 175 degrees. The leaf is extremely water repellent – it’s superhydrophobic.

But how does a leaf become superhydrophobic? The trick to this, Janine explained, is that the water isn’t really sitting on the surface. A superhydrophobic surface is a little like a bed of nails. The nails touch the water, but there are gaps between these nails. So there’s fewer points of contact, which means the surface can’t tug on the water as much, and so the drop stays round.

Cassie-Baxter

To get superhydrophobic, a drop must lie on a surface that looks like a bed of nails.  ZanderZ / Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

If this explanation is correct, then the surface of the plume poppy’s leaf must be coated in tiny needles. To find out, we stuck one of these leaves inside an electron microscope (didn’t I tell you she has access to the coolest toys? I wasn’t lying.)

And, just as we expected, we saw this field of tiny wax needles, each needle just a few microns in length!

topside leaf_2043X

Janine Nunes & Aatish Bhatia

Here’s another look at these tiny spikes. You can see the ripples on the leaf behind it.

topside leaf_2429X

Janine Nunes & Aatish Bhatia

Zooming in further…

topside leaf_8171X

Janine Nunes & Aatish Bhatia

The water drops are suspended on these ultra-microscopic wax needles, and that keeps it from wetting the surface.

Next, we looked at the underside of this leaf with the microscope. We’d noticed earlier that the underside of the leaf was also superhydrophobic, and you could see it was covered with tiny hair-like filaments. But we were blown away with what we saw through the microscope.

underside leaf_94X

Tiny hair-like filaments grow out from the veins under the leaf.  Janine Nunes & Aatish Bhatia

Let’s take a closer look at those fibers.

underside leaf_412X

Janine Nunes & Aatish Bhatia

At this scale, they look like claws reaching out from the veins. To give you a sense of scale, each of these fibers is about as thick as a regular human hair. Now let’s land on one of them.

underside leaf_4270X

Janine Nunes & Aatish Bhatia

Once again, you see a fine mesh of tiny, ultra-microscope wax needles coating each of these fibers, each needle being only a few microns in length. This ability to touch without really touching, by resting the water on a bed of nails, is the secret to the incredible water-repelling powers of this leaf.

There’s one last thing I wanted to know. Why has this plant, and so many others, evolved this incredible ability to keep water at bay? One common explanation is that this allows the leaves to clean themselves. You see, as water rolls around on a superhydrophobic surface, it scoops up dirt and sand with it. Here’s Janine demonstrating this neat self-cleaning property of the leaf with genuine Jersey Shore (TM) sand.

However, I’m not sure that I buy this explanation. Why would a plant evolve a method that cleans the under-side of its leaves? Maybe it produces the wax for some other reason, and as an accidental benefit, this wax just happens to keep the leaves clean? Is there a clear evolutionary advantage for these leaves to be superhydrophobic? I don’t know the answer, but I’d love to find out. If you have any leads, drop me a note in the comments.

Oh, and when something interesting catches the corner of your eye, don’t forget to stop and check it out.

Shoutouts

A big thanks to Janine Nunes and Howard Stone’s lab at Princeton U. for indulging me with their time and sharing their equipment. This post wouldn’t have been possible without their extensive resources and immense help.

And a shoutout to my colleague Jaclyn for identifying the plant that no-one else could!

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Too-smart Nest smoke detectors back on the shelf PDF Print E-mail

screen-shot-2014-06-18-at-17-09-23.png

Google's Nest smart smoke alarms, which had to be pulled from the shelves after sensors worked too well, are now back on sale at a lower price -- without the features that caused safety concerns.

"We're very pleased that Nest Protect is once again available to customers," Nest marketing chief Doug Sweeny said in a blog post. "And now, the price is $99 to make it accessible to as many people as possible."

The smart gadget, which is Web-connected and part of the Internet of Things (IoT) movement, combines a smoke detector and carbon monoxide monitor. Previously, the gadget cost $129, and could be controlled by hand gestures instead of users being required to get up close to the ceiling and punch buttons to control the smoke alarm.

However, the sensors worked too well -- and it was discovered that random hand gestures could accidentally turn the alarm's silent feature on.

An over-the-air patch was issued to existing models to disable the feature, but new alarms were also taken off the shelves by Nest until the software fix was applied.

Nest was acquired in January by Google for $3.2 billion. In addition to the smoke detector range, Nest also offers a smart thermostat which can be controlled through mobile devices.

Read on: Nest

Image credit: Nest

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Page 5 of 80

Computer News Reports

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BlackBerry has a digital assistant, too 15 July 2014, 20.32 Computers
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IDC: Apps will drive public cloud spending to sustained double-digit growth
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How to use your Android tablet as a second laptop screen
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Google adds 13 more languages to Gmail 06 July 2014, 22.30 Computers
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California removes ban on Bitcoin, Dogecoin, and other alternative currencies
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Europe cuts roaming charges, plans to eliminate them by end of next year
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Flash storage faces challenge from Crossbar's RRAM
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What you missed at CE Week 29 June 2014, 15.19 Computers
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Android Wear smartwatches: Specs, prices and launch dates for all known models
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The tablet’s tortured past: 8 failures that led to the slates we use today
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MonkeyParking says SF shut-down demand is bananas
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Google talks about the Android L design and all the work that goes into making it great
One major theme resonated throughout this year’s Google I/O: the company is renewing its focus on improving Android’s interface—not just for phones and tablets, but across all Android-powered devices.  Android L is
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8 ways the password is dying 27 June 2014, 16.43 Computers
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How to install the Android L developer preview on your Nexus 5 or Nexus 7
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With components, Google agitates for a revolution in Web development
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Communications

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The BBC Unveils New-Look iPlayer | A Responsive HTML5 Design Brings It Up To Date
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Google Ordered To Remove ‘Innocence Of Muslims’ Over Actress’ Copyright Claims
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Netflix News Roundup: Subscriber Numbers, Pricing Tiers, Net Neutrality Statement
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What The Net Neutrality Ruling Means For Online Video 18 January 2014, 22.47 4G Voice, Video, & Data
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Vdio Is Dead | Rdio Shutters Video Service 28 December 2013, 22.35 4G Voice, Video, & Data
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YouTube’s Content ID Crackdown On Let’s Play Videos Draws Ire From Gamers & Developers
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YouTube Launching Paid Spotify-Like Streaming Music Service Before End Of 2013
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YouTube Founders Unveil MixBit, A Vine & Instagram Competitor With Hidden Tricks
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Google Launches Chromecast, a $35 Dongle That Streams Content From Mobile To TV
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Hulu Owners Decide Not To Sell After All | Fox, NBC, & Disney Reinvest Millions Instead
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Video on Instagram Arrives To Compete With Vine | Facebook & Twitter Go Head-To-Head
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PalmPad: HP Slate in Palm Clothing? 17 June 2013, 15.02 4G Voice, Video, & Data
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Home Health Monitoring is Big Business 17 June 2013, 15.02 4G Voice, Video, & Data
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Last Minute Geek’s Holiday Gift Guide 17 June 2013, 15.02 4G Voice, Video, & Data
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Android This Week: Leveling Off; Fring Calling; LogMeIn 17 June 2013, 15.02 4G Voice, Video, & Data
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MobileTechRoundup 226 17 June 2013, 15.02 4G Voice, Video, & Data
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Kindle for Android Gets Periodicals, In-App Store 17 June 2013, 15.02 4G Voice, Video, & Data
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Samsung ATIV Smart PC 17 June 2013, 15.02 4G Voice, Video, & Data
Samsung ATIV Smart PC
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Norton Hotspot VPN 17 June 2013, 15.02 4G Voice, Video, & Data
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Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance WordPress Error 17 June 2013, 15.02 4G Voice, Video, & Data
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Tactus Amazing Tactile Mobile Buttons 17 June 2013, 15.02 4G Voice, Video, & Data
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Touch screens rule the day, but maybe not forever – if Tactus has anything to say about it.  They say the flat, touch screens are boring and they are looking to put some caliente into em. The idea is really simple. 
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Has LinkedIn Been Hacked? 17 June 2013, 15.02 4G Voice, Video, & Data
Has LinkedIn Been Hacked?
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Thoughts On Arrested Development Season 4 & How Netflix Is Changing The Future Of TV
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Tesla's sales model? It's simple: don't sell cars: If you are waiting with bated breath for electric vehicles to revolutionize the transportation sector, you are likely to pass out. If it happens, it will not be an overnight process. That...
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