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Submission + - Universe's dark ages may not be invisible after all

StartsWithABang writes: The Universe had two periods where light was abundant, separated by the cosmic dark ages. The first came at the moment of the hot Big Bang, as the Universe was flooded with (among the matter, antimatter and everything else imaginable) a sea of high-energy photons, including a large amount of visible light. As the Universe expanded and cooled, eventually the cosmic microwave background was emitted, leaving behind the barely visible, cooling photons. It took between 50 and 100 million years for the first stars to turn on, so in between these two epochs of the Universe being flooded with light, we had the dark ages. Yet the dark ages may not be totally invisible, as the forbidden spin-flip-transition of hydrogen may illuminate this time period after all.

Submission + - California votes to ban microbeads (inhabitat.com)

Kristine Lofgren writes: The California Assembly just passed a vote to ban toxic microbeads, the tiny flecks found in toothpastes and exfoliants. Microbeads cause a range of problems, from clogging waterways to getting stuck in gums. The ban would be the strictest of its kind in the nation.

Submission + - Neural implants let paralyzed man take a drink (foxnews.com)

mpicpp writes: Erik Sorto was shot in the back 13 years ago and paralyzed from the neck down. Yet recently the father of two lifted a bottle of beer to his lips and gave himself a drink, even though he can’t move his arms or legs.

Mr. Sorto, 34, picked up his drink with a robotic arm controlled by his thoughts. Two silicon chips in his brain read his intentions and channeled them via wires to the prosthetic arm on a nearby table. The team that developed the experimental implant, led by researchers at the California Institute of Technology, reported their work Thursday in the journal Science.

“That was amazing,” Mr. Sorto said. “I was waiting for that for 13 years, to drink a beer by myself.”

Mr. Sorto’s neural implant is the latest in a series of prosthetic devices that promise one day to restore smooth, almost natural movement to those who have lost the use of their limbs through disease or injury, by tapping directly into the signals generated by the brain.

For years, laboratories at Brown University, Duke University and Caltech, among others, have experimented with brain-controlled prosthetics. Those devices include wireless implants able to relay rudimentary mental commands, mind-controlled robotic leg braces, and sensors that add a sense of touch to robotic hands. In 2012, University of Pittsburgh researchers demonstrated a brain implant that allowed a paralyzed woman to feed herself a chocolate bar using a robot arm.

Submission + - Games Workshop at 40: How They Brought D&D to Britain (blogspot.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Following on the fortieth anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons last year, another formative influence on modern gaming is celebrating its fortieth birthday: Games Workshop. Playing at the World covers the story of how the founders, Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson (not the other Steve Jackson), started out as subscribers to the 1960s British gaming zine Albion playing Diplomacy by mail and (in Ian's case) publishing silly cartoons. When Albion folded at the beginning of 1975, Livingstone and Jackson formed Games Workshop with its own zine Owl & Weasel as a way to bring "progressive games" (as in "progressive rock") to the UK. Shortly thereafter, when they discovered Dungeons & Dragons, fantasy and role-playing games became their focus. After Owl & Weasel grew up into White Dwarf in 1977, its famous "Fiend Factory" column ended up populating the D&D Fiend Folio . And in the 1980s, of course, they brought us Warhammer and their retail stories brought stylish miniatures to many a needful gamer. Happy birthday to Games Workshop!

Submission + - Google and Mattel pull the View-Master into virtual reality (mashable.com)

mpicpp writes: Mattel’s new View-Master, which launched on Friday, will debut this fall for $29.99. The View-Master uses Google's virtual reality cardboard technology and it works with various smartphones; users must slide in their mobile device, and pair it with a corresponding app.

When it launches, kids will be able to explore various 3D scenes, including the streets of Paris and Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco Bay and the solar system. While some scenes like the Golden Gate Bridge include actual images from the area, others like the dinosaur and solar system scene are enhanced with CGI technology to show, for example, what it's like to fly through the galaxy. There's also the option of buying additional reels (four for $15) for other immersive experiences.

Mattel added that the technology is safe for kids ages 7 and up, and shouldn't cause dizziness, as it often does with some virtual reality headsets on the market. It should be noted, however, that after a few minutes of testing I started to feel queasy myself. The company said the View-Master should only be used for a short period of time, and that it is conducting more testing.

Although the View-Master started off as a toy 75 years ago, it's also been used for other purposes throughout history — long before 3D technology was even in the mainstream. For example, Wadleigh said the View-Master was used during World War II to spot enemy aircraft before U.S. soldiers got onto a plane. The medical industry also used it to understand the intricacies of the body before people underwent surgery.

Submission + - Apple Fixes Critical Certificate Validation Bug in iOS 7.06

Trailrunner7 writes: Apple on Friday quietly pushed out a security update to iOS that restores some certificate-validation checks that had apparently been missing from the operating system for an unspecified amount of time.

“Secure Transport failed to validate the authenticity of the connection. This issue was addressed by restoring missing validation steps,” the Apple advisory says.

The wording of the description is interesting, as it suggests that the proper certificate-validation checks were in place at some point in iOS but were later removed somehow. The effect of an exploit against this vulnerability would be for an attacker with a man-in-the-middle position on the victim’s network would be able to read supposedly secure communications. It’s not clear when the vulnerability was introduced, but the CVE entry for the bug was reserved on Jan. 8.
Microsoft

Submission + - Microsoft's Worst Missteps Of All Time (infoworld.com)

snydeq writes: "DOS 4.0, Zune, and Windows 8 are but a few of the landmarks among 25 years of failures Redmond-style, writes InfoWorld's Woody Leonhard in a round-up of Microsoft's 13 worst missteps of all time. 'Over the years, Microsoft's made some incredibly good moves, even if they felt like mistakes at the time: mashing Word and Excel into Office; offering Sabeer Bhatia and cohorts $400 million for a year-old startup; blending Windows 98 and NT to form Windows 2000; sticking a weird Israeli motion sensor on a game box; buying Skype for an unconscionable amount of money. (The jury's still out on the last one.) Along the way, Microsoft has had more than its fair share of bad mistakes; 2012 alone was among the most tumultuous years in Microsoft history I can recall. This year you can bet that Redmond will do everything in its power to prove 2012 naysayers wrong. To do so, Microsoft must learn from the following dirty baker's dozen of its most dreck-laden decisions, the ones that have had the very worst consequences, from a customer's point of view.'"
Australia

Submission + - Australian parliament scared of ACTA? (aph.gov.au) 1

lhuiz writes: "A committee of the Australian House of Representatives said in a report today that Australia would be wise not to rush into adopting ACTA. They feel they should take into account opposition in similar countries, like the EU. Oz has long been one of the countries most willing to extend protection of intellectual rights — if they start to stall, ACTA might not make it to 6 signatories. This would mean that ACTA will never be activated."

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