Posts Tagged ‘iol’

Warhammer 40K themed mobile RPG in the works

Warhammer 40K themed mobile RPG in the works

Warhammer 40,000 has featured in turn-based and real-time strategy series and also third and first person shooters, but never a 2D side-scroller before.

Games Workshop’s grim science fiction miniatures property Warhammer 40,000 is heading to iOS in the form of a side-scrolling action RPG.

Warhammer 40,000 Carnage will pit players in the role of a space marine churning through a horde of green-skinned orks, giving them the option to unlock further equipment that will be familiar to fans of the series, including chainswords, bolt guns and thunder hammers.

’We’ve taken the best of the Warhammer 40,000 universe and built a game that will appeal to seasoned 40k fans and more casual gamers alike,’ said developer Roadhouse Interactive president Tarrnie Williams. ’The game is full of explosive, adrenaline-fueled action, in stunning environments that will be familiar to many.’

The plot revolves around investigating a planet which has been consumed by collective insanity and violence, a plot device that will also be ‘familiar to many’ who have encountered the Warhammer 40,000 series before.

Best known as a tabletop wargaming franchise, Warhammer 40,000 has found its way into several video games over recent years, including 2011′s Space Marine, developed by Relic Entertainment, which also featured space marines cutting their way through hordes of orks.

Relic Entertainment, under the guidance of publisher THQ, also had a long stewardship over the Warhammer 40,000 intellectual property through its Dawn of War real time strategy series, but following the dissolution of THQ the license was reported to have ended up at Slitherine, a smaller developer and publisher specialising in historical strategy games.

Another smaller studio, Zattikka, was also granted a Warhammer 40,000 license and planned to develop a 3D isometric free-to-play game using the setting, but the company went into administration in August last year before it could release anything.

Will you be checking out Warhammer 40,000 Carnage? Let us know your thoughts in the forums.

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Paleontologists discover ‘chicken from hell’ dinosaur

Anzu wyliei
Bob Walters)

A 66-million-year-old dinosaur has been discovered — a birdlike creature that provides palaeontologists with a first in-depth look at an oviraptorosaurian species called Caenagnathidae (SEE-nuh-NAY-thih-DAY) — one that has long been difficult to study, since most remains have only been skeletal fragments.

Named Anzu wyliei (Anzu after a bird-demon from Mesopotamian myth and wyliei after Wylie, the grandson of a Carnegie museum trustee), the new species was put together from three separate skeletons found in North and South Dakota, forming almost one entire skeleton. The resultant dinosaur measures 3.5 metres from nose to tail-tip, weighing in at 225 kilograms (496 pounds), with sharp claws and a feathered body — resembling, according to the researchers, led by Matthew Lamanna of Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, a “chicken from hell.”

“It was a giant raptor, but with a chickenlike head and presumably feathers. The animal stood about 10 feet (3 metres) tall, so it would be scary as well as absurd to encounter,” said University of Utah biology postdoctoral fellow and study co-author Emma Schachner.

“We jokingly call this thing the ‘chicken from hell,’ and I think that’s pretty appropriate,” added Lamanna.

Anzu wyliei
Carnegie Museum of Natural History)

The three partial skeletons were excavated from the Hell Creek rock formation in North and South Dakota, a region famed for its abundance of dino skeletons, including Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops. The new dinosaur would, the researchers said, have resembled a giant flightless bird — much more so than more “typical” theropod species, such as Tyrannosaurus rex. A bony crest, similar to that found on the Australian cassowary, rises on its head, and its legs were long, slender, and strong, also like the cassowary. It had no teeth, but a strong beak, and it was found alongside fossilized feathers, heavily indicating that the dinosaur was feathered.

However, it wasn’t entirely birdlike — its forelimbs were tipped with sharp claws, and it had a long, strong tail.

The discovery is the first clear skeleton found belonging to the Caenagnathidae since the species was first discovered and described by paleontologist Charles Whitney Gilmore 100 years ago. It has allowed researchers for the first time to explore in greater detail Caenagnathid anatomy, and reconstruct the species’ evolution. Its anatomy and environment have also delivered new information about Caenagnathid diet and habitat preferences; the dinosaurs, the team believes, were omnivores that preferred humid floodplain environments.

Anzu in particular seems to have lived a pretty dangerous life; two of the three skeletons show evidence of breaks and fractures. However, the fact that these injuries had healed indicated that the hell-chickens were hardy, able to survive quite a bit of trauma.

A fully articulated cast of the dinosaur is on display at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and the full research paper can be seen online in the journal PLOS One.

(Source: Crave Australia)

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Cadenza: You play, and a full orchestra plays with you

Video screenshot by Leslie Katz/CNET)

You’re at home playing your violin and imagining the day when you’ll grace the stage of the world’s greatest orchestras. Wouldn’t it be nice to have symphonic accompaniment as you nurture those Itzhak Perlman dreams? A number of apps provide musical backup, but Cadenza out of Harvard goes a step further, automatically synching a recording of a full live orchestra to your style and tempo in real time.

“As you begin playing your instrument, the app listens to each note you play and the rhythm and speed in which you play them, calculating and recalibrating a prediction model for when you will play the next note,” the Cadenza site explains. “These meticulous adjustments happen every millisecond.”

Slow down in the first movement for a moody beginning, for example, or speed up for an exhilarating finish. Your full symphony orchestra will follow your lead.

The app emerged from Sonation, a music startup based at the Harvard innovation lab. The software is already available for the Mac with a library of 50 classical works from composers such as Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Haydn, Tchaikovsky, and Vivaldi for violin, viola, cello, flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, French horn. But it’s now making a run on Kickstarter with an aim of becoming a free iPhone and
iPad app as well.

Compositions come with the solo part missing. That’s for you to fill in.


What’s more, Cadenza can now synch to singers (watching this video seriously reawakened my own youthful musical-theater dreams; it’s like karaoke, but with a full, live orchestra for backup). Sonation has already licensed a large catalog of pop songs, show tunes, Disney songs, and classical voice compositions.

Sonation has tested Cadenza with musicians from such prominent institutions as Juilliard, Interlochen, and Berklee College of Music. The Kickstarter campaign for the “orchestra in your pocket” version offers rewards such as free music tracks in Cadenza, and lessons with musicians from the NY Philharmonic and Metropolitan Opera. The campaign has a few thousand dollars more to go before it hits its $25,000 goal, with eight days left. So head over to the Kickstarter page and get your tux and black gowns ready.

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A beating patch of cells could mend broken hearts

Heart cells

The images on the left show how the MeTro gel is formed. Top right you see the heart cells aligned in a pattern along the etched gel. The bottom right shows a stained slide of the grown heart cells with green and red showing proteins and blue showing the cells’ nuclei.

Wyss Institute)

When the human heart is seriously physically damaged, modern medicine’s solution can seem a bit brutal: rip it out and put another one in.

Harvard researchers may have just come up with a more elegant approach. They’ve created a layer of heart cells that actually beats on its own and could one day be used as a patch to repair major heart defects.

The research, presented Tuesday at the 247th National Meeting Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), was conducted by Ali Khademhosseini and Nasim Annabi from the Harvard Medical School, along with a team from the University of Sydney in Australia led by Anthony Weiss.

In their previous research, the team had worked with gelatin-like substances called hydrogels that are made from proteins to mimic heart tissue. But the problem was that even though the researchers could make the hydrogels take on the properties of different tissues in the body, the gels kept falling apart; they simply didn’t have the elasticity or durability of real human tissue.

To solve this issue, the researchers created a new kind of hydrogel from proteins called tropoelastin, found in all elastic human tissue. The process they used involved exposing the tropoelastin to ultraviolet light, which morphed it into a much more resilient substance they are calling MeTro gel. MeTro gel can extend to 400 percent of its length before breaking.

The scientists then built a micro scaffold out of the MeTro gel and used 3D-printing technology to etch it so that the heart cells aligned themselves in the right pattern as they grew on the structure. Once the heart cells were aligned within the grooves on the gel-based scaffold, they beat in synchrony when electrical stimulation was introduced.

Even though scientist have built organized structures of heart cells before, Annabi said, “To the best of our knowledge this is the first report of purpose-built, high-resolution patterns on the surface of an elastic human protein-based gel.”

At a press conference at the ACS meeting Tuesday, Annabi added that the artificial tissues she and her team produced could be formed into patches that could be sutured onto damaged organs, or the hydrogel could be injected into the body and then hit with the ultraviolet light to form its scaffold in vitro.

The group is currently working on growing other tissues like blood vessels and skeletal muscles, and testing is beginning in animals larger than the rats used in the initial research. In this video on the work, Khademhosseini says that a further goal is not only to make tissues that are strong and stretchy, but to modify them further to have additional properties, such as making them like stem cells that receive information from other cells to learn how to differentiate themselves. In such a way, Annabi said at the conference, it might even be possible to grow new brain cells — something to which I can already hear many a college student give a hearty “hooray!”

MeTro Hydrogels from Wyss Institute on Vimeo.

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Zombie moss: Plant revives after 1,500 frozen years

A moss core

This moss core was taken from near the surface.

Esme Roads)

It sounds like the next purposefully bad SyFy channel production: “Zombie moss! It came from beneath the Antarctic!” Researchers pulled up a sample of moss that had been sitting frozen for the last 1,500 years. Remarkably, it came back to life and started to grow again. This isn’t quite the same as an unfrozen caveman lawyer, but it’s pretty cool.

The moss sample came from a frozen core extracted from a moss bank in the Antarctic. It was sliced and placed in an incubator set to maintain normal light and temperature conditions geared for growth. A few weeks later, the sample began to grow. Carbon dating places the age of the moss at at least 1,530 years old.

“This experiment shows that multi-cellular organisms, plants in this case, can survive over far longer timescales than previously thought,” says Peter Convey of the British Antarctic Survey. He surmises that this ability would help areas repopulate with plant growth following an Ice Age. “Although it would be a big jump from the current finding, this does raise the possibility of complex life forms surviving even longer periods once encased in permafrost or ice,” he says, giving us the tiniest glimmer of hope that someday we’ll revive a woolly mammoth.

The study of the moss, titled “Millenial timescale regeneration in a moss from Antartic,” appears in the latest issue of the journal Current Biology. The paper’s lead author Royce Longton says that moss growth “should be encouraged globally to act as a carbon sink and thus reduce global warming.” It’s certainly a lot hardier of a plant than anyone had previously realized.

Drilling for moss

Researchers drill a frozen moss core.

Peter Boelen)

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How to spy on your lover, the smartphone way


Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET)

Trust is like love.

You want to believe in it, but then your rational side kicks in and dents your faith.

Here at the Ministry of Failed Relationships, we understand this. There is nothing worse than committing yourself to someone who poses as your soulmate, only to discover that their soul has drunkenly mated with a passing half-sized halfwit.

One company has — perhaps inadvertently — stumbled upon a notion that might ease your worried brow. Or confirm your dearest fear. For it is now offering phones that have built-in spyware.

mSpy created its software with a mind to, say, help parents track their unruly teens. Now, however, with the release of preloaded phones such as the HTC One,
Nexus 5,
Samsung Galaxy S4 and
iPhone 5S, you can merely buy your lover a gift and watch it keep on giving.

Mind you, mSpy’s founder, Andrei Shimanovich, told Forbes it’s not actually his business how people will end up using this nifty software.

Or think of it this way: spy software doesn’t spy on people, but rather people spy on other people.

Indeed, though the concept of spying has enjoyed some nuanced developments over the last few months, I was reasonably sure that spying on my lover would be illegal.

So for starters I thought I’d IM with an mSpy rep to see how easy this whole thing was. I posed as a troubled lover, and in return got what seemed to be rather canned answers.

Me: “Can I really spy on my lover with this? I think she may be cheating on me.”

Karen, the sales manager: “You can do that once you install mSpy on her phone.”

Me: “Is it easy to install?”

Karen: “It is very easy and fast to install mSpy on the target phone.”

Me: “But how can I do it without her knowing?”

Karen: “We can walk you through installation after purchase.”

I then told Karen which type of phone I’d like to track. An iPhone 5. Yes, I imagine my perfect, imaginary lover has an iPhone 5.

Karen’s reply: “Dear Customer, please be advised that an iPhone must be jailbroken before the installation, but the process is very fast and easy – it takes only few minutes to jailbreak an iPhone. You can check on how to jailbreak an iPhone on and for iOS 7 +. Kindly be advised that we’re the only company who assists with jailbreak. Once an iPhone is jailbroken Cydia icon will appear on the Springboard. But you can hide it after you install the app, so there will be no traces left.”

I confess that there was a certain side of me that felt excited, although if I was to spy on my imaginary lover there would surely soon be no traces of the relationship left.

Moreover, the legalities were still preying on my conscience. When I asked “But how can I do it without her knowing?” I fear that my IM buddy heard only “how can I do it” and provided merely a practical response, missing the “without her knowing” portion of the question and its deeper foray into the ethics of the situation. Or maybe that was something for later in the discussion, when we got down to brass tacks.

Still curious, I wandered over to the mSpy legal agreement. It reads, in part:

It is a considered federal and/or state violation of the law in most cases to install surveillance software onto a mobile phone or other device for which you do not have proper authorization, and in most cases you are required to notify users of the device that they are being monitored. Failure to do so may result in a violation of federal or state laws, if you install this software onto a device you do not own or if you do not have proper consent to monitor the user of the device.

After these words of warning, in large blue type is: “We absolutely do not endorse the use of our software for illegal purposes.”

But I always thought that all was legal in love and war.

Still, was mSpy just ever so slightly encouraging me to spy on my lover?

I’ve had lovers sneak into my emails and probe my phone. When I discovered them, their reply was always: “What? You thought I wouldn’t? Do I look stupid?” Or expressions to that effect.

So perhaps all this spying is, indeed, quite normal. But it won’t have mSpy’s official seal of approval.

An mSpy spokeswoman told me:

mSpy does advocate notifying users of the device that they are being monitored. During the installation stage (which had yet to be approached), users need to tick off a few boxes confirming that they have informed the monitored party and got his/her consent. As well, customer services representatives are required to share with you this information as you navigate the process. mSpy’s disclaimer clearly state that we do not approve of the illegal use of our software and in the case when the legal breach has been identified we will cooperate with relevant authorities, if required.

I leave all this, therefore, to your conscience, just as I leave national security to the consciences of those who direct it.

Most people will admit that they’d dearly wished they had evidence to back up their suspicions, when they thought their lovers were less than faithful.

But those suspicions in themselves surely described the truth of the relationship.

The difficulty, of course, is waiting for that truth to emerge. Some wait for days, months or even years to discover that what they’d feared was true. Or, more painfully, to discover that the truth was even worse than they’d feared.

Spying can never save a relationship. All it can save is time.

A sample of my chat with Karen, whom I trust completely.

Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET)

So there.

Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET)

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I backed ‘Veronica Mars,’ but DRM is hobbling my reward

Veronica Mars

Veronica Mars, ready to snark her way back into your heart.

Veronica Mars)

When I heard the “Veronica Mars” movie was up on Kickstarter, I ran over to the crowdfunding site and elatedly flung my $35 pledge at the project. Along with 91,584 other people, I helped raise $5.7 million to fund the film. This past Friday, it was officially released into theaters. My town of Albuquerque, N.M., however, was not on the theater list. But, never fear, my pledge included a digital copy of the film.

My official Kickstarter email arrived, with a link to a Digital Ultraviolet version of the film, accessed through the Flixter streaming video service. Cool. So, I went through the sign-up, got a Flixster and Digital Ultraviolet account, and settled in to watch it stream. It started to load. Then, it stopped.

I got this message, like a stab in my crowdfunding heart: “Your screen configuration does not support protected playback.” Huh? I went to the FAQ for explanation and discovered my dual-monitor desktop setup violates Flixster’s DRM restrictions. I wonder if Flixster thinks dual monitors are a gateway to pirating activities.

If I had ever tried to use Flixster before, I would have been aware of this ban on dual monitors, but I had to meet the ugly truth while in a “Veronica Mars” fever of fan fervor, which quickly slapped a big cold damper on my excitement. There are ways around the issue. I ended up downloading the Flixster app to my computer and running the movie from there. I could have switched to my laptop. Really, I just wanted the convenience of streaming my reward right then and there.

I’m not the only person who tripped over a Flixster-shaped “Veronica Mars” stumbling block. Other backers have reported issues with Flixster working with Roku boxes, along with a lack of Flixster support for
Apple TV. The result was a number of upset comments on the Kickstarter update page. Backer Sarah Zaslow wrote, “I am beyond angry that I had to use Flixster to get my digital download.”

There is a bit of a happy ending to all this. An official Kickstarter backer update arrived with an explanation and a way around the whole Flixster thing. First, the explanation: “In the end, Flixster was the best option for getting the digital movie reward out to all of you, worldwide, at the same time.”

Now, the options: “We understand that some of you prefer other platforms or services for watching digital content. If you contact our Customer Support team, they can help.” If you complain and share your technical issues with Warner Bros. customer support, you get the option to buy the movie on a service of your choice and get a refund for the purchase price.

After all this, am I down on “Veronica Mars?” No. The project has done so much right, I’m not going to torpedo the whole thing just because of the ill-advised method of doling out the digital copies. We didn’t get a “too bad, tough luck” answer to complaints, we got a work-around. It’s not ideal, but it gets you the movie on your terms.

The larger issue here is the ongoing weirdness with DRM efforts. Flixster’s DRM prevented me, a legitimate backer, from streaming the movie in my browser. If you head over to the Pirate Bay, you’ll see “Veronica Mars” sitting near the top of the current Top-100 movies list. Annoying me and plenty of other people with overzealous DRM hasn’t done anything to prevent the spread of the movie through illicit means. It won’t keep me from backing other Kickstarter films, but I hope future projects will have the faith to offer a DRM-free download.

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Could bionic plants save our lives one day?

Bionic plant

The leaf of a plant embedded with carbon nanotubes is examined under a near-infrared microscope.

MIT/Bryce Vickmark)

Bionics, such as this device invented to replace the functionality and feeling of a man’s hand lost in an accident, are steadily finding their way into human lives. Thanks to new research conducted at MIT, such devices may soon be infiltrating the plant world as well — leading to plants that could monitor their surroundings, communicate via cell phone signals, act as living streetlamps, and create more robust crops.

To engineer their bionic plants, the researchers applied a solution containing carbon nanotubes to the underside of the leaves on a Arabidopsis thaliana plant. The plant sucked up the tubes through its leaves using a process known as vascular infusion, incorporating them into its chloroplasts, the structures responsible for photosynthesis. The researchers found that the energy subsequently produced by the plant increased 30 percent, as measured by the amount of electrons that got flowing during the photosynthetic process.

In addition to the plant getting a boost in energy production, the researchers believe the nanotubes could act as a kind of micro antenna. In such a capacity, the tubes would allow plants to soak up certain wavelengths of light they can’t currently use, such as ultraviolet, green, and near-infrared.

The scientists published their findings on “plant nanobionics” Sunday in the journal Nature Materials.

Michael Strano, an MIT professor of chemical engineering and leader of the research team, told Crave that “increasing photosynthesis within plants and chloroplasts is the first step to enhancing plant growth, increasing crop yields, etcetera. Growth is a complex process with many rate-limiting steps, potentially. But there is merit to helping the plant capture more light, especially if our vision is to use some of this energy to do other exotic functions.”

Strano and research partner Juan Pablo Giraldo, a plant biologist, have already incorporated one such “exotic function” — plants that can communicate with humans, and not just to tell us when they need to be watered via Twitter, or or phone calls. These plants could actually help save our lives one day.

Send us a sign, leaf
Strano and Giraldo injected a plant with carbon nanotubes that could sense nitric oxide, a pollutant caused by combustion, in effect turning it into a living gas detector. According to Strano, when the plant senses gas, “the nanoengineered leaf emits a near-infrared light signal, like in a TV remote control, that can be read by an external detector. This type of scheme can be used for stand-off detection from the plant, with say a camera or imaging array.”

“We could someday use these carbon nanotubes to make sensors that detect in real time, at the single-particle level, free radicals or signaling molecules that are at very low-concentration and difficult to detect,” Giraldo added in a statement. Just imagine if all those plants at the airport were doing double duty as sensors for toxic airborne particles, or if your potted ficus started glowing if there was a gas leak in your home.

Next up for the researchers? “We are also interested in bionic versions of self actuating plants — like the Venus flytrap,” Strano told Crave.

Uh-oh. Bionic Venus flytraps? I want in on the movie rights. Who’s with me?

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10,000 free folding microscopes traded for inspiring ideas

Prakash Lab/TED)

The Foldscope — a low-cost microscope that can be constructed like origami out of a sheet of paper with components embedded — has the potential to revolutionize health care in developing countries — but it has the potential to do something else, too.

Creator Manu Prakash of Stanford University’s Prakash Lab wants to inspire a new generation of up-and-coming young scientists. To this end, he has created the Ten Thousand Microscope Project. Prakash will be giving away 10,000 Foldscopes to “people who would like to test the microscopes in a variety of settings and help us generate an open-source biology/microscopy field manual written by people from all walks of life.”

Prakash Lab/TED)

“Many children around the world have never used a microscope, even in developed countries like the United States,” Prakash said. “A universal program providing a microscope for every child could foster deep interest in science at an early age.”

The idea is to create a guide that will show examples of how to use the microscope, collated from the field testers, who may have unique perspectives and use the Foldscope in ways that others might not even imagine, thus inspiring other Foldscope users.

To sign up, users have to send an email to the address listed here, detailing the community they belong to and at least one thing they would like to do with the Foldscope. Experiments will need to be documented in a way that makes them replicable by anyone. The Foldscopes will be shipped this year to the applicants judged to have the best ideas.

“My dream is that someday, every kid will have a Foldscope in their back pocket,” Prakash said.

(Source: Crave Australia)

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Eating food off the floor may be OK, scientist says

Oh, no.

BillClintonCEO/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET)

We all have our rules.

For some, it’s five seconds. For others, ten. And for students, it tends to be measured in days.

Every time we drop food on the floor, we know we’re taking a risk by picking it up again and putting it in our mouths. But, well, it’s food. And it wasn’t there for that long.

A microbiologist took it upon himself to test just how dirty food gets when dropped on the floor.

Anthony Hilton of Aston University in Birmingham, UK, thought it might be instructive to try various surfaces to see if what goes down can come upon again intact.

He and his students dropped toast, pasta, and sticky candies on various floors — carpet, laminate and tiled surfaces — for between 3 and 30 seconds. Then they ate them. No, wait. Then they examined them for bacteria.

Given that this research was happening in my own home town, I worried for the results.

What Hilton and his students discovered is that the five seconds rule might be appropriate. The longer food stays on the floor, the more likely it is to attract biological nasties.

Interestingly, though, they also discovered that different surfaces had different levels of risk.

Hilton said: “We have found evidence that transfer from indoor flooring surfaces is incredibly poor with carpet actually posing the lowest risk of bacterial transfer onto dropped food.”

I find this shocking. I have seen carpets (in Birmingham and elsewhere) that defied definition. It was as if a carpet had become one wide, green piece of bacteria. Surely, then, it depends on the state of the carpet.

I thought that everyone had, at one time or another, picked food off the floor and eaten it. It’s either because they food is so good or the eater is so hungry.

However, Hilton’s research discovered that only 87 percent admitted they would eat food off the floor or had already done so.

Naturally, I don’t condone conducting this experiment on various floors in your home. I have a feeling, though, that I may not be able to stop you.

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