trendspotter points out this research from Duke University: "Hours spent at the video gaming console not only train a player's hands to work the buttons on the controller, they probably also train the brain to make better and faster use of visual input, according to Duke University researchers (abstract). 'Gamers see the world differently,' said Greg Appelbaum, an assistant professor of psychiatry in the Duke School of Medicine. 'They are able to extract more information from a visual scene.' ... Each participant was run though a visual sensory memory task that flashed a circular arrangement of eight letters for just one-tenth of a second. After a delay ranging from 13 milliseconds to 2.5 seconds, an arrow appeared, pointing to one spot on the circle where a letter had been. Participants were asked to identify which letter had been in that spot. At every time interval, intensive players of action video games outperformed non-gamers in recalling the letter."
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Wired reports on a disease infecting coffee plants across Central America that could lead to shortages around the world. "Regional production fell by 15 percent last year, putting nearly 400,000 people out of work, and that’s just a taste of what’s to come. The next harvest season begins in October, and according to the International Coffee Organization, crop losses could hit 50 percent." The disease is called coffee rust, and it has been damaging crops to some degree since the 1800s. It's not known yet exactly why coffee rust has become such a problem now, but one of the leading suspects is climate change. "Since the mid-20th century, though, weather patterns in Central America and northern South America have shifted. Average temperatures are warmer across the region, with extremes of both heat and cold becoming more pronounced; so are extreme rainfall events." The fungus that causes coffee rust thrives on warm, humid air, and higher temperatures have allowed it to climb to higher altitudes than ever before. But another likely cause is the way in which coffee is planted and harvested these days: the plants evolved as shade-dwellers, but are now often placed in direct sunlight. They're also clustered closer together, which facilitates the spread of disease. "The integrity of this once-complicated ecosystem has been slowly breaking down, which is what happens when you try to grow coffee like corn."
Lucas123 writes "With Apple announcing that it is now using PCIe flash in its MacBook Air and it has plans to offer it in its Mac Pro later this year, some are speculating that the high-speed peripheral interface may become the standard for higher-end consumer laptops and workplace systems. 'It's coming,' said Joseph Unsworth, research vice president for NAND Flash & SSD at Gartner. The Mac Pro with PCIe flash is expected to exceed 1GB/sec throughput, twice the speed of SATA III SSDs. Apple claims the new MacBook Mini got a 45% performance boost from its PCIe flash. AnandTech has the Air clocked in at 800MB/s. Next year, Intel and Plextor are expected to begin shipping PCIe cards based on the new NGFF specification. Plextor's NGFF SSD measures just 22mm by 44mm in size and connects to a computer's motherboard through a PCIe 2.0 x2 interface. Those cards are smaller than today's half-height expansion cards and offer 770MB/s read and 550MB/s write speeds."
An anonymous reader writes "Several UK Internet providers have quietly added a list of new sites to their secretive anti-piracy blocklists. Following in the footsteps of Sky, the first ISP to initiate a proxy blockade, Virgin, BT and several other providers now restrict access to several torrent site proxies. The surprise isn't really that proxies have been added to the blocklist, but that the music industry and ISPs are failing to disclose which sites are being banned."
coondoggie writes "The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) this week put out a call to fuel producers to offer options that would safely let general aviation aircraft stop using leaded fuel by 2018. The FAA says there are approximately 167,000 aircraft in the United States and a total of 230,000 worldwide that rely on the current 100 octane, low lead fuel for safe operation. It is the only remaining transportation fuel in the United States that contains the addition of tetraethyl lead, a toxic substance, to create the very high octane levels needed for high-performance aircraft engines. Operations with inadequate octane can result in engine failures, the FAA noted."
Nerval's Lobster writes "In an open letter addressed to U.S. attorney general Eric Holder and FBI director Robert Mueller, Google chief legal officer David Drummond again insisted that reports of his company freely offering user data to the NSA and other agencies were untrue. 'However,' he wrote, 'government nondisclosure obligations regarding the number of FISA national security requests that Google receives, as well as the number of accounts covered by those requests, fuel that speculation.' In light of that, Drummond had a request of the two men: 'We therefore ask you to help make it possible for Google to publish in our Transparency Report aggregate numbers of national security requests, including FISA disclosures—in terms of both the number we receive and their scope.' Apparently Google's numbers would show 'that our compliance with these requests falls far short of the claims being made.' Google, Drummond added, 'has nothing to hide.'" Another open letter was sent to Congress from a variety of internet companies and civil liberties groups (headlined by Mozilla, the EFF, the ACLU, and the FSF), asking them to enact legislation to prohibit the kind of surveillance apparently going on at the NSA and to hold accountable the people who implemented it. (A bipartisan group of senators has just come forth with legislation that would end such surveillance.) In addition to the letter, the ACLU sent a lawsuit as well, directed at President Obama, Eric Holder, the NSA, Verizon and the Dept. of Justice (filing, PDF). They've also asked (PDF) for a release of court records relevant to the scandal. Mozilla has also launched Stopwatching.us, a campaign to "demand a full accounting of the extent to which our online data, communications and interactions are being monitored." Other reactions: Tim Berners-Lee is against it, Australia's Foreign Minister doesn't mind it, the European Parliament has denounced it, and John Oliver is hilarious about it (video). Meanwhile, Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who leaked the information about the NSA's surveillance program, is being praised widely as a hero and a patriot. There's already a petition on Whitehouse.gov to pardon him for his involvement, and it's already reached half the required number of signatures for a response from the Obama administration.
davide-nature writes "The mysterious blast that flattened 2,000 square km of a remote Siberian forest in 1908 has been blamed on the most bizarre causes, such as an exotic elementary particle left over from the Big Bang, a black hole or, of course, aliens, including in the double-episode 'Tunguska' of The X-Files. But a new analysis of tiny rock samples suggests that a more mundane explanation — a meteor exploding in the atmosphere — may be the right one. The blast is estimated to have packed between 3 and 5 megatons, 10 times the energy of the meteor that exploded over Russia earlier this year."
Vigile writes "It looks like the rumors were true; AMD is going to be selling an FX-9590 processor this month that will hit frequencies as high as 5 GHz. Though originally thought to be an 8-module/16-core part, it turns out that the new CPU will have the same 4-module/8-core design that is found on the current lineup of FX-series processors including the FX-8350. But, with an increase of the maximum Turbo Core speed from 4.2 GHz to 5.0 GHz, the new parts will draw quite a bit more power. You can expect the the FX-9590 to need 220 watts or so to run at those speeds and a pretty hefty cooling solution as well. Performance should closely match the recently released Intel Core i7-4770K Haswell processor so AMD users that can handle the 2.5x increase in power consumption can finally claim performance parity."
New submitter WML MUNSON sends this quote from NJ.com: "License, registration and cell phone, please. Police officers across New Jersey could be saying that to motorists at the scenes of car crashes if new legislation introduced in the state Senate becomes law. The measure would allow cops — without a warrant — to thumb through a cell phone to determine if a driver was talking or texting when an accident occurred. It requires officers to have 'reasonable grounds' to believe the law was broken. There were 1,840 handheld cell phone-related crashes in New Jersey in 2011, resulting in 807 injuries and six deaths, according to the state Division of Highway Traffic Safety. 'Think about it: The chances of the cop witnessing the accident are slim to none,' said the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. James Holzapfel (R-Ocean), who has worked as a county and municipal prosecutor. 'He’s dispatched, and by the time he gets there — unless they’re unconscious and the phone is in their hands, or some passenger says they were on the phone — then he’s got to do what? Subpoena the service to see if the phone was actively used or not?'"
eldavojohn writes "PBS's NewsHour interviewed Geoffrey Donovan on his recent research published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine that noted a correlation between trees (at least the 22 North American ash varieties) and human health: 'Well my basic hypothesis was that trees improve people's health. And if that's true, then killing 100 million of them in 10 years should have an effect. So if we take away these 100 million trees, does the health of humans suffer? We found that it does.' The basis of this research is Agrilus planipennis, the emerald ash borer, has systematically destroyed 100 million trees in the eastern half of the United States since 2002. After accounting for all variables, the research found that an additional 15,000 people died from cardiovascular disease and 6,000 more from lower respiratory disease in the 15 states infected with the bug, compared with uninfected areas of the country. While the exact cause and effect remains unknown, this research appears to be reinforcing data for people who regularly enjoy forest bathing as well as providing evidence that the natural environment provides major public health benefits."
Backyard Brains (Motto: "Neuroscience for Everyone!"). The first one was pretty lab-oriented, with a twitching roach leg here and there. This one has more roaches, with most of them crawling on command. Will the DoD see this and decide to make cockroach soldiers? Or roboroach bomb detectors and defusers? Or cockroach drone pilots? Anything's possible these days. But meanwhile, relax and enjoy learning about roboroaches and watching how, with little circuit boards on their little backs, they scurry hither and yon under control of their human masters. WARNING: Excessively squeamish people should not watch this video, but should stick to the transcript.
dcblogs writes "Hewlett-Packard executives say that the coming demise of Windows XP next year may do what Windows 8 could not, and that's boost PC sales significantly. 'We think this will bring a big opportunity for HP,' said Enrique Lore, senior vice president and general manager of HP's business PCs. Lore was asked, in a later interview, whether the demand for XP replacement systems could help sales more than Windows 8. His response was unequivocal: 'Yes, significantly more, especially on the commercial side,' he said. Lore said 40% to 50% of business users remain on XP systems."
judgecorp writes "The Demo VC funding event has hit Europe (Moscow, specifically), and it is very clear that start-ups in Europe have to compete hard for any venture capital. In its 20 year history in Silicon Valley, Demo is famous for highlighting subsequent success stories such as Netscape, Skype and Salesforce.com. Demo Europe began with a venture capitalist waxing lyrical on how the shortage of funds means he gets plenty of choice where to put his money. Promising tech start-ups have a series of hoops to jump through including brief pitches. The most promising candidates so far include a Russian social VoIP network and a shared whiteboard."
Tackhead writes "E3 is turning into Bizarro World this year. Sony has not only promised that the PS4 will support used games without an online connection, they trolled the Xbox folks hard with this Official PlayStation Used Game Instructional Video. Compounding the silliness, and hot on the heels of the political firestorm surrounding Donglegate, Microsoft went for rape jokes during their Xbox presentation." Similarly, onyxruby writes "The Verge covers how Sony has crafted policies explicitly to make the PS4 consumer friendly to the public. They make the case that the PS4 will be superior in nearly every way [to the Xbox Next] by not requiring an Internet connection, not restricting used games, supporting indie developers and selling for $100 cheaper than the Xbox One." And if you're interested in the guts rather than the policies or the politics, Hot Hardware has a comparison of the internals of both of these new offerings.
twofishy writes "The internet has been buzzing this week with the news that Oracle has ceased to provide free time zone updates outside of the standard JDK release cycle. However, at the end of yesterday the firm appeared to have a change of heart. 'We never intended for a support contract to be required to keep JDK 7 up to date. TZUpdater was made unavailable on March 8 as part of the End of Public Updates for JDK 6, and as soon as we learned that this affected JDK 7 users we initiated the process of making it available for JDK 7 again.'"
colinneagle writes "The first developer preview of Ubuntu Touch – aka 'Ubuntu for Phones and Tablets' – was unveiled just a few short months ago. And, just a few weeks back, it was announced that the team was shooting for having a fully functional (aka "can use it as your actual phone, on a daily basis") version by the end of May. May is now over, so Bryan Lunduke published some screenshots and analysis of the core features of the Ubuntu OS for smartphones and tablets."
An anonymous reader writes "A recent UN report suggested that people should be eating more insects, because they're much less harmful to the environment that traditional meat. In response, designer Mansour Ourasanah has created the Lepsis, a small insect breeder that could be used to grow and harvest grasshoppers in urban homes."
Despite a hue and cry from disappointed users, Google has not made any moves to reverse its decision to close down Google Reader on the first of July, just a few weeks away. Despite the name — and the functions it started out with in 2001 — Reader has become more than a simple interface to RSS feeds; Wikipedia gives a concise explanation of how it evolved from just a few features to a full-blown platform of its own, incorporating social-sharing features of the kind that have become expected in many online apps. Those features have morphed over the years along with Google's larger social strategies, along the way upsetting some readers who'd grown used to certain features. If you're a Google Reader user, will you be replacing it with another aggregator?
Zothecula writes "Ever since it was first unveiled in 2007, many people were captivated with the sleek, futuristic looks of the Aptera. When Aptera Motors went out of business in 2011, not having commercially produced a single vehicle, those same people were understandably disappointed. Now, word comes that a new company may be manufacturing and selling Apteras as soon as next year." Says the article: "Aptera USA has most of the original company’s prototypes, equipment, patents and designs, so it wouldn’t be starting from scratch. Given that fact, Deringer hopes that Aptera USA could be making cars as early as the first quarter of 2014. He’s currently in the process of hiring engineers, and the company has already put in an order for 1,000 bodies from its Detroit-based supplier." Until there really is a super-charger network from central Texas to California, I wish I could get one of the gas-powered (or gas-electric hybrid) Apteras. Why should Tesla have all the fun?
MTorrice writes "Men's options for birth control have significant downsides: Condoms are not as effective as hormonal methods for women, and vasectomies require surgery and are irreversible. Doctors and scientists have for decades searched for more effective and desirable male contraception techniques. Researchers in China now propose a nonsurgical, reversible, and low-cost method. They show that infrared laser light heats up gold nanorods injected into mice testes, leading to reduced fertility (abstract) in the animals."
McGruber writes with this news from late last week: "The Guardian is reporting that Nicaragua has awarded a Chinese company a 100-year concession to build an alternative to the Panama Canal, in a step that looks set to have profound geopolitical ramifications. The new route will be a higher-capacity alternative to the 99-year-old Panama Canal, which is currently being widened at the cost of $5.2bn. Last year, the Nicaraguan government noted that the new canal should be able to allow passage for mega-container ships with a dead weight of up to 250,000 tonnes. This is more than double the size of the vessels that will be able to pass through the Panama Canal after its expansion, it said."
An anonymous reader writes "Apple has always been extremely anti jailbreaking, but it might now have a good reason to plug up the exploits. As Hardware 2.0 argues, Apple's new iOS 7 Activation Lock anti-theft mechanism which renders stolen handsets useless (even after wiping) unless the owner's Apple ID is entered relies on having a secure, locked-down OS. Are the days of jailbreaking iOS coming to a close?" I can see a whole new variety of phone-based ransom-ware based on this capability, too.
An anonymous reader writes "While the tech media has gone wild the past few days with the reports of the NSA tracking Verizon cell usage and creating the PRISM system to peer into our online lives, a new study by Pew Research suggests that most U.S. citizens think it's okay. 62 percent of Americans say losing some personal privacy is acceptable as long as its used to fight terrorism, and 56 percent are okay with the NSA tracking phone calls. Online tracking is fair less popular however, with only 45 percent approving of the practice. The data also shows that the youth are far more opposed to curtailing privacy to fight terror, which could mean trouble for politicians planning to continue these programs in the coming years."
judgecorp writes "Microsoft has sponsored research that indicates that its Internet Explorer browser uses less power than the competition, Firefox and Google (there's no explanation of what causes the difference). However, the difference in power use is not really significant — it's about one Watt when browsing. Browsing for 20 hours at this rate, the IE user would save enough power to make a cup of tea, compared with Firefox and Chrome users. That Microsoft commissioned and published the report seems to indicate a certain desperation to Microsoft's IE marketing efforts."
coolnumbr12 writes "In a recent New York Times article called 'No TV? No Subscription? No Problem?' Jenna Wortham noted how she used, 'the information of a guy in New Jersey that I had once met in a Mexican restaurant.' Dave Their of Forbes admitted that he used his sister's boyfriend's father's account in exchange for his Netflix information. But this is stealing under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which makes it a misdemeanor with a maximum one-year prison sentence to 'obtain without authorization information from a protected computer.' It is also a violation of the Digital Millennium Copy Act because it is knowingly circumventing a protection measure set up to prevent someone from watching content like 'Game of Thrones' without paying. Forbes points out that a crafty prosecutor could also claim that using an HBO Go password without paying is a form of identity theft."