November 16, 2019

This museum will pay you $25,000 to find Missouri meteorite pieces

Hey, so, funny story: Remember that crazy-bright fireball that appeared over the skies of St. Louis earlier this week? Yeah, it was awesome, but finding the leftovers would be even more awesome, and the Maine Mineral and Gem Museum is willing to fork over a hefty sum if anyone can locate sizable chunks of the rock itself. The fireball that was witnessed by man across the state of Missouri was captured on video from multiple angles, and it's believed that the rock that produced it was somewhere around 220 pounds. That's a big old chunk of space junk, but did any of it survive the trip through our atmosphere? In a press release, the museum says it will hand over a whopping $25,000 to anyone who can recover a fragment from the Missouri meteor that weighs at least one kilogram, which is roughly 2.2 pounds. "It's an exciting opportunity to have a sample from a fireball seen one month before our official opening and we wish to enlist the public's assistance," Barbra Barrett, museum director, said in a statement. "Preliminary reports indicate a fall site approximately 50 kilometers northeast of Columbia." It's pretty exciting, but before you grab your flashlight and shovel and spend the next week hunting for holes in the ground, it's important to know that nobody is even sure if any bits of the meteorite survived the trip. When a space rock enters Earth's atmosphere it gets a rude awakening. The object experiences incredible friction, as the atmosphere is "thicker" than the vacuum of space. That friction produces heat, incinerating the object as it tumbles toward the surface. The fireball we see in the sky oftentimes completely destroys the object or, in some cases, breaks it into smaller pieces which are scattered over a larger area. In the case of the Missouri meteorite, no confirmed debris has been located. Additionally, even if some tiny bits made it to the ground, there's no guarantee that any of the pieces would weigh in at over two pounds.
November 16, 2019

Superbugs could kill us all if we’re not careful

You may not see it on the surface, but there's an arms race happening at your local pharmacy. Every day, antibiotics are handed out to countless sick people around the globe. They're our best weapon against many types of bacteria, and they've worked well for us for a long time. That's beginning to change. Life finds a way, and bacteria are no different. We developed drugs to kill them off in ourselves, our animals, and even in the food we eat, but it was only a matter of time before such microorganisms found ways around them. Today, antibiotic-resistant bacteria are already claiming lives, and a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that as many as four people are killed by these new "superbugs" every hour in the United States alone. The report doesn't mince words, and the language the CDC is using is appropriately frightening. The agency says that there's no more need to beat around the bush and speak as though antibiotics will fail in the future. They're already failing today, and modern medicine is failing to catch up. The group cites 18 pathogens that it feels are the biggest threat, breaking them down into groups based on the threat they are likely to pose. The report includes five types of infection that are thought to be the most urgent, with another 11 pathogens deemed "Serious Threats." Perhaps the worst part of all of this is that antibiotic resistance is our own fault. The willful distribution of antibiotics for even the most minor infections — and the prevalent use of such drugs in agriculture — has given these microorganisms plenty of battlegrounds on which to evolve. When a pathogen mutates an immunity to any given antibiotic, that new bug can wreak havoc. Scientists are always working on new antibiotics to beat infections that have grown to beat current drugs, but the development of those new options is often slow and incredibly costly. On top of that, the widespread use of new treatments will inevitably lead to bacterial and fungal mutations to beat them as well. As for what we can all do to help, the CDC emphasizes the positive effects of vaccines, which can head off infections before they arise, meaning there's no need to use antibiotics after the fact.
November 16, 2019

Researchers develop an AI system with near-perfect seizure prediction

We've seen a smart arm bracelet that can predict nightly seizures, but now a pair of researchers have created something even more promising: an AI system that can predict epileptic seizures with 99.6-percent accuracy. Even better, it can do so up to...
November 16, 2019

NYT: Trump admin set to extend Huawei license again

In May, the US Commerce Department added Huawei to the "Entity List," banning US companies from doing business with it unless they have a special license. Since then it has extended temporary licenses for existing customers, like mob...
November 15, 2019

Black Friday is here for this popular 8-quart Instant Pot, down to $55 today only

Did you think you were going to have to wait for Black Friday to pick up a new Instant Pot at blowout prices? Fat chance! Amazon has already kicked off its big early Black Friday sale and there's a Gold Box deal that you're definitely going to want to check out. The Instant Pot LUX80 8 Qt 6-in-1 Multi- Use Programmable Pressure Cooker is one of the most popular supersized models Instant Pot offers, and it's a terrific value at $80. Pick one up before the end of the day on Friday, however, and you'll only pay $54.99!

Here's more info from the product page:

  • Stainless steel cooking pot, steam rack & lid - healthy, food grade 304 (18/8)
  • 3 adjustable modes sauté your meals to perfection with less, normal and more (low, medium, high) options
  • Exterior - brushed stainless steel finger print resistant.
  • Sound on/off - have the option to turn sound off when needed
  • Power supply: 120V – 60Hz
November 15, 2019

Xbox Scarlett will be just as powerful and affordable as the PS5

The PlayStation 5 isn’t the only new console expected to launch in holiday season 2020, but Sony’s gaming rig has certainly made the news more often than Project Scarlett in recent weeks. Microsoft, however, wants customers to know it has learned its lessons from the Xbox One launch and won’t repeat them again. Xbox Scarlett will be just as powerful as the PS5, and just as affordable. Microsoft Xbox and gaming chief Phil Spencer confirmed as much in an interview with The Verge:
I would say a learning from the Xbox One generation is we will not be out of position on power or price. If you remember the beginning of this generation we were a hundred dollars more expensive and yes, we were less powerful. And we started Project Scarlett with this leadership team in place with a goal of having market success.
Spencer also noted that Microsoft will probably make plenty of Xbox versions after Project Scarlett, but the next Xbox will be very competitive:
So we’re going all in. We’re all-in on Project Scarlett and I want to compete, and I want to compete in the right ways which is why we’re focused on cross-play and backward compatibility.
We’ve already known that the next Xbox and the PS5 will feature the same set of specs, as both consoles will rock custom AMD silicon, based on Zen 2 and Radeon RDNA architectures. So performance is bound to be similar — Xbox Scarlett will support 8K gaming, up to 120fps, ray tracing, and variable refresh rates. The Verge notes that the new Xbox will also feature SSD storage, just like the PS5 — and Sony, of course, made a big deal out of it in recent months. As for backward compatibility, Sony also said the PS5 will support games made for previous PlayStation systems, but it’s yet to clarify how it’ll all work. 
When it comes to pricing, Sony is yet to make any announcements, but the company hinted that the PS5 might be more affordable than expected. After all, Sony does want as many PS4 owners to be tempted by a fast upgrade to PS5. Spencer didn’t address the Project Scarlett’s cost either, and he didn’t confirm whether Microsoft will launch one or two Xbox Scarlett versions next year. He did say that Microsoft “will talk about the SKY lineup and how it works.” The exec also said the company doesn’t want to confuse people when asked about the Xbox lineup for next fall. Microsoft currently sells different Xbox One S and Xbox One X versions, and the addition of Project Scarlett might cause some confusion, indeed.
November 14, 2019

Rare’s next Xbox game is pure ‘Princess Mononoke’

If Sea of Thieves isn't your bag, how about a sumptuous cel-shaded game from Rare that looks like a lost Miyazaki film? The Microsoft studio announced Everwild today during the XO19 Inside Xbox presentation, and while there aren't many details to run...
November 14, 2019

‘Life is Strange’ dev’s upcoming game centers on twins and trans identity

Dontnod Entertainment has more than Twin Mirror on its slate for next year. At X019, Xbox Games Studios announced the Life is Strange developer is working on another narrative adventure title for 2020 called Tell Me Why. You'll play as twins Tyler an...
November 14, 2019

The internet’s newest obsession is this adorable dog with a tail growing from his face

The golden retriever puppy named Narwhal who was found and is being cared for by Missouri-based rescue service Mac's Mission is one of the most extraordinarily cute canines you'll ever see. That's not hyperbole -- it's thanks to the fact that this good boy has a tail growing from his face, which is why he was given the name of a whale that has a tusk extending from the canine tooth. The rescue service found Narwhal, who's since become an Internet sensation, after he'd been wandering around in freezing cold temperatures in Jackson, Missouri. Besides the unusual tail on his face, he also was nursing an injured paw. According to the New York Post, the service took "Narwhal" to the vet to have a closer look at the tail and to see if there was anything special they needed to know. The tail didn't seem to bother the young canine or get in the way of him cutely scampering around, as you can see in the video below. Accordingly, there's no plan to have the tail removed after the vet studied it, saw it's not connected to anything inside and doesn't seem to pose any problem. https://www.facebook.com/macthepitbull/videos/452048558776433/?__xts__[0]=68.ARBEaYZASBvvc9Rb-Vr6o5gLQo7xIuPCl2nq-0RTtiPkCJrbPWUNcu_Z_c1tIcxzngAy5y_sKvGTdN2xEtHXrTWjx0xLArJDyyDo4Rss6oW_dvFjmuSPcBo6vh6pS7HoruH_lwPZaBC5RAsi1kfe-z9ZL8s-Dl0oRG_qZV25T9sEcZ2xXwZqRCthGzkgo_0nGzh0sMYXcySGOMPbqLnukQYzS5jm0rPNYGt6zz4SaMedyqYSIijGhu8ZWeW7tAj9EVoF6Y9MXFTkOD3KxDf2uvg1b-w7wDBqEHe4NeApQTRqgC6YcpZ2IuaZkqVQcPqAxiAbQ2shlLftFw8pzQlBTMqLUByspU6ytl_0Ew&__tn__=-R On the rescue service's Facebook page on Tuesday, the organization posted that Narwhal seems to be "completely healthy," all in all, other than some usual puppy worms that he's getting medication for. "The million-dollar question about Narwhal's extra tail on his face -- Is it connected and does it wag?" the post continues. "The extra tail is not connected to anything and has no real use other than making him the COOLEST PUPPY EVER! ... The unicorn face tail does not bother Narwhal, and he never slows down just like any normal puppy." Mac's Mission is planning to hold on to the doggo for a little while longer, keeping an eye on him as he grows and making sure the face tail doesn't eventually turn into a problem of some sort. For now, he's continuing to bask in the service's love that has also happened to turn him into the dog version of an Internet celebrity. This photo of him, posted to the service's Facebook page on Tuesday night, has been "liked" at the time of this writing almost 9,500 times.
November 14, 2019

Nobody knows what’s creating oxygen on Mars

NASA's Curiosity rover returned some seriously surprising data to Earth earlier this year, with readings of elevated methane levels that were hard to explain. Subsequent tests attempted to pin down the cause of the higher-than-expected readings but scientists have yet to come up with a definitive answer. Now, as questions about methane continue to swirl, scientists studying the behavior of gasses on Mars have noticed that oxygen on the Red Planet also acts much differently than it does on Earth. The observations were made in the Gale Crater, which the rover has called home since it landed there back in 2012. Curiosity "breathes" the air on Mars and analyzes it to determine the levels of various types of gasses that are present. On Earth, the background levels of certain gasses rise and fall with seasons, and the same seems to be true on Mars, but only to a point. The air on Mars is largely carbon dioxide. In fact, a full 95% of the gas Curiosity breathes in during its tests is CO2. The remaining 5% is a mix of nitrogen, argon, oxygen, and carbon monoxide. By plotting levels of these gasses over the course of a full Martian year, scientists have noticed anomalies with regard to the amount of oxygen, relative to other gasses. NASA explains:
Within this environment, scientists found that nitrogen and argon follow a predictable seasonal pattern, waxing and waning in concentration in Gale Crater throughout the year relative to how much CO2 is in the air. They expected oxygen to do the same. But it didn’t. Instead, the amount of the gas in the air rose throughout spring and summer by as much as 30%, and then dropped back to levels predicted by known chemistry in fall.
The fact that the oxygen levels vary as wildly as they do is significant because it hints at as-of-yet undiscovered processes at work on the surface of the planet. For the oxygen levels to see a significant upward spike and then a dramatically fall, something must be creating it and then another something is using it. “We’re struggling to explain this,” Melissa Trainer of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center says. “The fact that the oxygen behavior isn’t perfectly repeatable every season makes us think that it’s not an issue that has to do with atmospheric dynamics. It has to be some chemical source and sink that we can’t yet account for.” Before you start dreaming of a subterranean race of Martian monsters, it's important to know that this isn't a smoking gun for life on Mars. In fact, it's far from it. There are natural processes that can generate oxygen in the absence of life, and since we have yet to find evidence of life on the Red Planet, yet can't rule it out, scientists are considering all possible options.