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Science

Your Feces Is a Wonderland of Viruses 211

sciencehabit writes "Thanks to an anlaysis of fecal samples from four sets of Missouri-born female identical twins and their mothers, researchers have concluded that human guts harbor viruses as unique as the people they inhabit; the viral lineup differs even between identical twins. Even more surprising? These viruses may be doing good work inside of us."
Star Wars Prequels

Big Changes Planned For The Force Unleashed 2 100

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed debuted in 2008 to less than stellar reviews, but sales of the game were strong. A sequel for the game is due out in October, and the developers spoke at length with the Guardian's Games blog about the improvements they've been working on. One of their priorities was adding depth to the combat system to make it less of a button-mash. "The team has completely redesigned all the familiar Force powers from the first title including Force Push and Force Grip, and has added a few newcomers including the potentially amusing Force Mind Trick that'll allow you to trick Storm Troopers into leaping from high ledges." Enemy AI is another area that's getting some love, and they're trying to make level design more open and less linear. The team's confidence in the changes they're making stems in part from much greater familiarity with their game-building tools. "Like its predecessor, Force Unleashed 2 will combine three third-party physics engines, Havok, Euphoria and Digital Molecular Matter, to provide cutting edge human animation, materials effects and authentic physical forces. ... 'Whenever you're building the first iteration [of a game series] and a brand new game engine at the same time, everything comes in hot and fast – we were literally figuring out how to get the most out of those three technologies all the way up to shipping. The DLC then helped us to learn more, and that knowledge has given us the biggest leap forward.'" A trailer for the game was released at E3.
Earth

Concrete That Purifies the Air 88

fergus07 writes "Although much of the focus of pollution from automobiles centers on carbon emissions, there are other airborne nasties spewing from the tailpipes of fossil fuel-powered vehicles. These include nitrogen oxides (NOx). In the form of nitrogen dioxide it reacts with chemicals produced by sunlight to form nitric acid – a major constituent of acid rain – and also reacts with sunlight, leading to the formation of ozone and smog. Everyone is exposed to small amounts of nitrogen oxides in ambient air, but exposure to higher amounts, in areas of heavy traffic for example, can damage respiratory airways. Testing has shown that surfacing roads with air purifying concrete could make a big contribution to local air purity by reducing the concentration of nitrogen oxides by 25 to 45 percent."
Iphone

Apple Wants To Share Your Location With Others 248

Farhood sends in this snip from the LA Times: "In an updated version of its privacy policy, the company added a paragraph noting that once users agree, Apple and unspecified 'partners and licensees' may collect and store user location data. When users attempt to download apps or media from the iTunes store, they are prompted to agree to the new terms and conditions. Until they agree, they cannot download anything through the store. The company says the data is anonymous and does not personally identify users. Analysts have shown, however, that large, specific data sets can be used to identify people based on behavior patterns." Mashable and The Consumerist have picked up on this collection and sharing of "precise location data, including the real-time geographic location of your Apple computer or device."
Software

Preserving Virtual Worlds 122

The Opposable Thumbs blog has an interview with Jerome McDonough of the University of Illinois, who is involved with the Preserving Virtual Worlds project. The goal of the project is to recognize video games as cultural artifacts and to make sure they're accessible by future generations. Here McDonough talks about some of the technical difficulties in doing so: "Take, for example, Star Raiders on the Atari 2600. If you're going to preserve this, you've got a couple of problems. The first is that it is on a cartridge that is designed to work on a particular system that is no longer manufactured. And as long as you've got a hardware dependency there, you're really not going to be able to preserve this material very long. What we have been looking at is how feasible is it for things that fundamentally all have some level of hardware dependency there — even Doom has dependencies on DLLs with an operating system, and on particular chipsets and architectures for playing. How do you take that and turn it into something that isn't as dependent on a particular physical piece of hardware. And to do that, you need information about that platform. You need technical specifications that allow you to basically reproduce a virtualization that may enable you to run the software in its original form in the future. So what we're trying to do is preserve not only the games, but preserve the knowledge that you would need to create a virtualization platform to play the game."
Books

Prices Slashed For Nook, Kindle E-Readers 255

b0bby sends in a report from ZDNet about the sudden outbreak of a price war in e-reader devices. "On Monday, Barnes & Noble cut the price of the 3G Nook to $199. It also launched a $149 Wi-Fi version. Just hours later, Amazon responded by cutting the price of the Kindle to $189. At $259, the price of the Kindle and Nook just 24 hours ago, an e-reader purchase competed with an Apple iPad, which started at $499 for a Wi-Fi version. Below $200, a dedicated e-reader purchase makes a lot more sense." Sony dropped prices for its readers three months ago, but the move didn't kick off a price war at that time. Some believe that dedicated e-readers are doomed in the long run to lose out to general-purpose devices such as the iPad — and its coming imitators, many of which will be based on Google Android.
Idle

ThinkGeek's Best Ever Cease-and-Desist Letter 264

ThinkGeek, sister company to Slashdot, received a meticulously researched (except on one point) 12-page cease-and-desist letter from the National Pork Board. What had the meat lobbyists up in arms was an April Fools product from the TG catalog: Radiant Farms Canned Unicorn Meat, whose copy included the line "the new white meat." The NPB figured this was confusingly similar to their trademarked "the other white meat" (an advertising slogan the pork industry is considering retiring anyway). Geeknet, parent company of Thinkgeek and Slashdot, issued a press release apologizing for any confusion; you can read it on ThinkGeek's site (PDF), because the newswires refused to distribute it for some reason. Oh, and ThinkGeek has no intention of taking down the protected parody.

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