A powerful laser ‘porch light’ could let aliens know where we are

A powerful laser ‘porch light’ could let aliens know where we are


MIT News

An MIT researcher claims a laser space beacon detectable up to 20,000 light years away is feasible — essentially acting as a porch light for extraterrestrial life. James Clark’s study posits that focusing a one- to two-megawatt laser through a 30- to 45-meter telescope and aiming it into space would create a beacon that would emit enough radiation to be distinctive from the sun’s infrared energy.

If there are alien astronomers in a neighboring solar system (say, on the exoplanets orbiting Trappist-1, a star that’s 40 light years or so away), they might spot the signal from our little corner of the galaxy. The study suggests that we could even send a Morse code-style message with the laser by using pulses.

The tech scientists would need to build such a beacon is within practical reach. There’s a 39-meter telescope under construction in Chile, for instance, while the scrapped US Air Force YAL-1 Airborne Laser (which could destroy missiles mid-flight) had the equivalent power to the laser that Clark says would be required.

There are more practical concerns, such as the laser potentially damaging your eyes if you looked directly towards it — even though the beam would be invisible to the naked eye. The laser could also affect cameras on spacecraft that passed through it. As such, Clark suggested that installing the laser system on the far side of the moon would be the safest bet, even if it’s a vastly more impractical one.

But what of the flip side to the equation? Could we spot a similar beacon from another planet with our current technology? Well, yes, but it would require a powerful enough telescope (i.e. one meter or larger) directed at the exact source location. So, it’s unlikely as things stand. However, imaging tools used to study gases on exoplanets could detect our neighbors’ porch lights too, so there’s a slim chance we might be able to invite them over for coffee after all. Assuming they don’t annihilate us first, that is.

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What’s on TV: ‘Tetris Effect’ and ‘Great British Baking Show’

What’s on TV: ‘Tetris Effect’ and ‘Great British Baking Show’

This week Netflix premieres Outlaw King, starring Chris Pine as a hero in medieval Scotland, as well as “Collection 6” of The Great British Baking Show. On PS4 and PS VR, there’s Tetris Effect which puts a Tetsuya Mizuguchi spin on the classic puzzle game as well as the Road Rash-like Road Redemption, while FMV is back with The Shapeshifting Detective. Ultra HD Blu-ray fans can check out The Incredibles 2, Wreck-It Ralph and The Thing. Look after the break to check out each day’s highlights, including trailers and let us know what you think (or what we missed).

Blu-ray & Games & Streaming

  • Superman: The Movie (4K)
  • BlacKkKlansman (4K)
  • The Incredibles 2 (4K)
  • Air Force One (4K)
  • The Thing (4K)
  • Wreck-It Ralph (4K)
  • Sherlock (S1) (4K)
  • Grip: Combat Racing (Xbox One, PS4)
  • Ark: Survival Evolved — Extinction DLC (Xbox One, PS4)
  • The Shapeshifting Detective (PS4, Xbox One)
  • Agents vs. Villain (Xbox One, PS4)
  • Ride 3 (Xbox One, PS4)
  • Noir Chronicles: City of Crime (Xbox One, PS4)
  • Chasm (PS4, Xbox One)
  • Déraciné (PS VR)
  • Road Redemption (PS4)
  • Tetris Effect (PS4)
  • Valiant Hearts: The Great War (Switch)
  • Astebreed (Switch)
  • Battlezone: Gold Edition (Switch)
  • Crashlands (Switch)
  • MechaNika (Switch, Xbox One)
  • Forgotton Anne (Switch)

Monday

  • John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons, Netflix, 3 AM
  • Arrow, CW, 8 PM
  • The Neighborhood, CBS, 8 PM
  • Dancing With The Stars, ABC, 8 PM
  • WWE Raw, USA, 8 PM
  • The Resident, Fox, 8 PM
  • The Voice, NBC, 8 PM
  • Titans/Cowboys, ESPN, 8:15 PM
  • Happy Together, CBS, 8:30 PM
  • DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, CW, 9 PM
  • Magnum P.I., CBS, 9 PM
  • 9-1-1, Fox, 9 PM
  • This is Congo, Starz, 9 PM
  • Manifest, NBC, 10 PM
  • Bull, CBS, 10 PM
  • The Good Doctor, ABC, 10 PM
  • Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, TBS, 10:30 PM
  • Channel Zero, Syfy, 11 PM
  • Brake Room, Discovery, 11 PM

Tuesday

  • 2018 Election Coverage, ABC/CBS/NBC, 8 PM
  • The Flash, CW, 8 PM
  • The Gifted, Fox, 8 PM
  • WWE Smackdown, USA, 8 PM
  • Black Lightning, CW, 9 PM
  • Lethal Weapon, Fox, 9 PM
  • Inside the NFL, Showtime, 9 PM
  • The Challenge, MTV, 9 PM
  • Hustle in Brooklyn, BET, 10 PM
  • Trans Am, Discovery, 10 PM
  • Mayans M.C. (season finale), FX, 10 PM
  • The Purge (season finale), USA, 10 PM
  • Tosh.0, Comedy Central, 10 PM
  • The Guest Book, TBS, 10 PM
  • The Jim Jefferies Show, Comedy Central, 10:30 PM

Wednesday

  • Chicago Med, NBC, 8 PM
  • Nature, PBS, 8 PM
  • The Goldbergs, ABC, 8 PM
  • Survivor, CBS, 8 PM
  • American Housewife, ABC, 8:30 PM
  • Chicago Fire, NBC, 9 PM
  • Modern Family, ABC, 9 PM
  • Seal Team, CBS, 9 PM
  • Single Parents, ABC, 9:30 PM
  • Chicago PD, NBC, 10 PM
  • Criminal Minds, CBS, 10 PM
  • A Million Little Things, ABC, 10 PM
  • Stan Against Evil, IFC, 10 PM
  • South Park, Comedy Central, 10 PM
  • American Horror Story, FX, 10 PM
  • Dopesick Nation, Viceland, 10 PM
  • It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (season finale), FXX, 10 PM
  • Are You the One?, MTV, 10 PM
  • Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, TBS, 10:30 PM

Thursday

  • The Cry (S1), Sundance Now, 3 AM
  • SuperMansion, Sony Crackle, 3 AM
  • Tell Me A Story, CBS All Access, 3 AM
  • I Love You America, Hulu, 6 PM
  • Supernatural, CW, 8 PM
  • Panthers/Steelers, Fox, 8 PM
  • We Are Not Done Yet, HBO, 8 PM
  • The Big Bang Theory, CBS, 8 PM
  • Superstore, NBC, 8 PM
  • The Good Place, NBC, 8:30 PM
  • Young Sheldon, CBS, 8:30 PM
  • Legacies, CW, 9 PM
  • Station 19, ABC, 9 PM
  • Mom, CBS, 9 PM
  • How Far is Tattoo Far?, MTV, 9 PM
  • Baroness Von Sketch Show, IFC, 9 PM
  • I Feel Bad, NBC, 9:30 PM
  • Murphy Brown, CBS, 9:30 PM
  • Star Trek: Short Treks, CBS All Access, 9:30 PM
  • Law & Order: SVU, NBC, 10 PM
  • How to Get Away with Murder, ABC, 10 PM
  • S.W.A.T., CBS, 10 PM

Friday

  • Outlaw King, Netflix, 3 AM
  • The Great British Baking Show: Collection 6, Netflix, 3 AM
  • Little Big Awesome: Part 2, Amazon Prime, 3 AM
  • Beat Bugs (S3), Netflix, 3 AM
  • Patriot (S2), Amazon Prime, 3 AM
  • Titans, DC Universe, 3 AM
  • Westside, Netflix, 3 AM
  • Beat (S1), Amazon Prime, 3 AM
  • La Reina del Flow, Netflix, 3 AM
  • Spirit: Riding Free (S7), Netflix, 3 AM
  • Super Drags (S1), Netflix, 3 AM
  • Treehouse Detectives (S2), Netflix, 3 AM
  • Medal of Honor (S1), Netflix, 3 AM
  • Macgyver, CBS, 8 PM
  • Blindspot, NBC, 8 PM
  • Dynasty, CW, 8 PM
  • Speechless, ABC, 8:30 PM
  • Midnight, Texas, NBC, 9 PM
  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, CW, 9 PM
  • Child Support, ABC, 9 PM
  • The Contender (season finale), Epix, 9 PM
  • Z Nation, Syfy, 9 PM
  • Hawaii Five-0, CBS, 9 PM
  • Van Helsing, Syfy, 10 PM
  • Blue Bloods, CBS, 10 PM
  • Mike Judge Presents: Tales from the Tour Bus, Cinemax, 10 PM
  • ELeague: Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, TBS, 11 PM
  • This Week at the Comedy Cellar, CC, 11 PM
  • Room 104 (season premiere), HBO, 11:30 PM

Saturday

  • Florida State/Notre Dame college football, NBC, 7:30 PM
  • Oklahoma/Texas Tech college football, ABC, 7:30 PM
  • Sorority Stalker, Lifetime, 8 PM
  • Shut Up and Dribble, Showtime, 9 PM
  • Saturday Night Live: Liv Schreiber / Lil Wayne, NBC, 11:30 PM

Sunday

  • Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj, Netflix, 3 AM
  • Axios, HBO, 6:30 PM
  • Outlander, Starz, 8 PM
  • Supergirl, CW, 8 PM
  • Seduced By My Neighbor, Lifetime, 8 PM
  • Doctor Who, BBC America, 8 PM
  • The Circus: Inside the Greatest Political Show on Earth (season finale), Showtime, 8 PM
  • Dancing with the Stars: Juniors, ABC, 8 PM
  • The Simpsons, Fox, 8 PM
  • Cowboys/Eagles, NBC, 8:15 PM
  • Bob’s Burgers, Fox, 8:30 PM
  • Ray Donovan, Showtime, 9 PM
  • Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, CNN, 9 PM
  • The Walking Dead, AMC, 9 PM
  • Charmed, CW, 9 PM
  • Poldark, PBS, 9 PM
  • The Last Ship (series finale), TNT, 9 PM
  • NCIS: LA, CBS, 9:30 PM
  • Camping, HBO, 10 PM
  • The Alec Baldwin Show, ABC, 10 PM
  • Star Wars Resistance, Disney, 10 PM
  • Kidding (season finale), Showtime, 10 PM
  • Sally4ever (series premiere), HBO, 10:30 PM
  • Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, HBO, 11 PM

[All times listed are in ET]

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AMC hikes prices for its MoviePass rival in 15 states

AMC hikes prices for its MoviePass rival in 15 states


Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

It’s not just upstarts like MoviePass hiking rates for their movie subscription services. AMC is raising prices for its Stubs A-List service in the 15 states where it’s “most popular.” As of January 9th, 2019, the service will jump from $20 per month to $22 per month in Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington state and DC. That price is climbing to $24 per month in California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. You’ll still get the $20 per month rate for a year if you subscribe before January 9th, as well as in the 35 other states not affected by the price increase.

The theater chain also took a not-so-subtle dig at MoviePass’ tendency toward frequent price adjustments. It stressed that it would provide 90 days’ notice for any price or feature changes, and wouldn’t apply any such changes until after that one-year period is over. “As a reputable operator, AMC has no desire to whipsaw its guests with frequent change, nor would it do so without providing guests reasonable advance notice,” the company said.

While AMC characterized itself as “holding the line” on pricing, it’s clear that isn’t really the case. It appears to be grappling with the same problem MoviePass has faced, just on a less extreme level: too much popularity can be expensive. AMC is reaching is first-year membership goal in about four and a half months, with 500,000 Stubs A-List subscribers expected as of mid-November. That kind of growth looks great in a press release, but it could be problematic if AMC was expecting a gentler adoption rate.

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Amazon’s narrowed ‘HQ2’ picks include Dallas and NYC

Sorry, Crystal City — you’re not the only one Amazon fancies as it narrows down its choice of location for a second headquarters (aka HQ2). Wall Street Journal tipsters say the internet giant has whittled its finalists down to a “small handful” of cities, including Dallas and New York City.

Continue Reading . . . https://www.engadget.com/2018/11/04/amazon-second-headquarters-dallas-nyc/

Nutrient-recycling microbes may feel the heat: Study explores how climate change affects nature’s ability to recycle

Nutrient-recycling microbes may feel the heat: Study explores how climate change affects nature’s ability to recycle

Bacteria and fungi might conjure up images of diseases and spoiled food, but they also do a lot of good. The billions of microbes in a handful of dead leaves, for example, act as nature’s recyclers and regenerate nutrients needed for the next generation of plants to grow.

“If it wasn’t for bacteria and fungi, we’d be surrounded by masses of dead trees and plant matter, so they actually do a really important job,” said Sydney Glassman, an assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology and Plant Pathology at the University of California, Riverside.

While microbial communities are the engines driving the breakdown of dead plants and animals, little is known about whether they are equipped to handle big changes in climate. In a paper published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Glassman and colleagues at UC Irvine examined what happens after microbial communities move into new climate conditions. The study is a first step toward understanding the vulnerability of these ecosystems to climate change.

To mimic a warming planet, the researchers chose five study sites that differ in climate along the San Jacinto Mountains in southern California, three of which are in natural reserves operated by the University of California. Each site has its own set of resident microbes accustomed to the local climate.

“While we know that climate affects how fast microbes can recycle plant material, we don’t know how important the particular types of microbes are to recycling,” said Jennifer Martiny, a UC Irvine professor and co-author of the study.

To move the microbial communities around, the researchers contained the microbes in nylon containers with miniscule pores. These “microbial cages” were filled with dead, sterilized grass and live microbes sourced from each study site. The containers allowed water and nutrients — but not microbes — to move in and out. The amount of grass decayed by the caged microbes was measured at six, 12, and 18 months.

The study confirmed previous results that sites with moderate climates (not too hot or cold and not too wet or dry) saw the most decay and therefore were the most effective places for nutrient recycling. More surprisingly, however, the source of the microbes also affected the amount of decay. Microbes from certain sites performed better than others, even outside their resident environment. For example, when moved into the drier shrubland, grassland-sourced microbes outperformed the shrubland residents by as much as 40 percent.

“We expected to see a ‘home-field advantage’ situation where every microbial community decomposed best at its own site, but that wasn’t the case,” Glassman said. “While we know that microbes decay plants more slowly in hotter and drier environments, we are just now learning that specific microbial communities play an independent role in decomposition, and it is yet to be seen how these communities will be affected by climate change and desertification.”

The title of the paper is “Decomposition responses to climate depend on microbial community composition.” In addition to Glassman, who completed the work as a postdoctoral researcher at UC Irvine, collaborators at UC Irvine are: Martiny, Claudia Weihe, Junhui Li, Michaeline Albright, Caitlin Looby, Adam Martiny, Kathleen Treseder, and Steven Allison. The study was funded by the National Science Foundation and the US Department of Energy.

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of California – Riverside. Original written by Sarah Nightingale. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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Dam problems, win-win solutions

Dam problems, win-win solutions

Decisions about whether to build, remove or modify dams involve complex trade-offs that are often accompanied by social and political conflict. A group of researchers from the natural and social sciences, engineering, arts and humanities has joined forces to show how, where and when it may be possible to achieve a more efficient balance among these trade-offs. Their work is featured in a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

What’s the dam problem?

In some parts of the world, there are proposals to build thousands of massive new dams for hydroelectricity, flood control and irrigation. In other regions, such as the U.S., there is a growing movement to restore rivers by removing dams that are obsolete, pose safety risks or have large negative impacts on ecosystems. In both instances, difficult trade-offs and divergent stakeholder preferences can greatly complicate decision-making processes.

For example, conservation groups and resource agencies seeking to restore sea-run fish often favor the removal of dams that prevent these species from reaching their spawning grounds. But other stakeholders may value the diverse services that dams can provide, including water supply, hydroelectricity and reservoir-related recreation.

“This is exactly the kind of problem where you need an interdisciplinary team with the right mix of expertise to help quantify trade-offs and identify promising solutions from multiple perspectives,” says Sam Roy, lead author from the University of Maine.

Maximizing economic and ecological benefits

The research team collected a database of over 7,500 dams in New England as a “model system” to search for decisions that provide efficient outcomes for multiple criteria valued by stakeholders. These criteria include habitat availability for migratory fishes, hydroelectric power production, water storage, drinking water supply, water quality, recreational use, dam breach risks, waterfront property impacts and decision costs.

Using an economic concept known as the production possibility frontier, combined with a scenario-ranking technique, the researchers identified potential dam decisions that maximize the combined ecological and economic benefits, for individual watersheds as well as the entire New England region. Given the large size of the database (the largest of its kind in the world), together with the enormous number of potential solutions, a machine-learning approach was used to simulate the many trade-offs and find solutions that maximized total benefits.

The team’s approach can be used to identify many different kinds of decisions that result in efficient outcomes given resource and technological constraints, including ones that remove or modify specific dams to produce the greatest increase in fish habitat for a small reduction in hydropower, or the greatest improvement in dam breach safety for a small reduction in drinking water supply.

“We also find that it is possible to improve the trade-offs between certain criteria by coordinating multiple dam decisions at larger spatial scales,” says Roy. “This means that there are many opportunities to find win-win solutions that can simultaneously improve dam infrastructure, freshwater ecosystems and decision costs by selectively removing, modifying or even constructing specific dams in a river basin.”

Interdisciplinary research that connects the dots

Roy, a postdoctoral fellow at UMaine’s Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions, worked with colleagues from the University of New Hampshire, the University of Rhode Island and the Rhode Island School of Design.

“One of the strengths of our interdisciplinary approach is that we can examine many different trade-offs using an integrated, quantitative framework,” says co-author Emi Uchida, an environmental economist at the University of Rhode Island. The team also collaborates with diverse stakeholders (e.g., tribal communities, government agencies, conservation organizations) to strengthen the scientific basis of decision-making.

The authors cite the multi-stakeholder Penobscot River Restoration Project as a highly successful example where coordinating dam removal and alteration through broad stakeholder engagement dramatically reduced conflict, efficiently allocated resources, and aligned with pre-existing constraints of dam ownership and regulation.

Says Roy, “Our model can help identify specific decisions that gain the support of a broader stakeholder audience by providing desirable infrastructure and ecosystem trade-offs. This may encourage funders and practitioners to make these decisions a reality. Based on our research, there may be many more future decisions that repeat the success of the Penobscot River Restoration Project.”

Support for the Future of Dams Project is provided by the National Science Foundation’s Research Infrastructure Improvement award 1539071.

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Apple releases watchOS 5.1.1 after previous update bricked devices

Apple has released its latest watchOS update, after the previous release caused a bricking issue on some Apple Watches. The watchOS 5.1.1 update seems to resolve the problem that led the company to pull version 5.1 soon after releasing it last week. Note that if you installed watchOS 5.

Continue Reading . . . https://www.engadget.com/2018/11/05/apple-watch-watchos-update-bricking-fix/

Tencent games will verify IDs to limit playing time for children

Tencent games will verify IDs to limit playing time for children


VCG via Getty Images

Chinese tech giant Tencent has imposed game time limits on younger players to curb addiction and promote healthy habits, but it’s now taking some dramatic steps to enforce those restrictions. The company plans to verify the identities and ages of players to determine how long they’re allowed to play. Tencent will check IDs through police databases and set the game time accordingly, giving the 12-and-under crowd one hour of play (and then only between 8AM and 9PM) while the 13-to-18 audience gets two hours.

The new system is already in effect for Tencent’s flagship Honor of Kings game, but it will be in effect for 10 titles by the end of 2018. Every game should have the check in place sometime in 2019. Tencent didn’t say how it would verify users, but has been testing face recognition in Honor of Kings.

As you might guess, this could easily raise eyebrows for privacy advocates. Even if there are protections in place, Tencent will still be asking for sensitive information about minors. It might not have much choice, though. While much of the pressure to impose play limits has come from parents, teachers and others who aren’t in a position to effect change, the Chinese government hasn’t been shy about supporting measures like this. Tencent risked antagonizing officials and prompting stricter regulations if it simply ignored government concerns.

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Volkswagen wants to use quantum computers to optimize traffic

Volkswagen wants to use quantum computers to optimize traffic


Volkswagen

If you’ve ever had your bus show up later than scheduled, here’s a welcome development for you. Volkswagen, with the help of D-Wave, has tapped the power of quantum computing to develop a traffic management system that can better process transport information and improve the performance of fleet services like taxis and public buses.

According to the German automaker, the quantum system can replace current traffic models that are created by conventional supercomputers. Those systems are hindered by the fact they can only process so many tasks at a time and traffic has a lot of (literally) moving parts that have to be taken into account, including movement data collected from smartphones and transmitters in vehicles. Volkswagen’s system uses a quantum algorithm to process and optimize all of that data and spit out more timely and accurate traffic information.

The result, the company claims, will be better-run roads. Public transportation options would be able to better serve riders and spend less time driving around with empty seats. Taxis could cut down on wait times and get to passengers quicker. And as autonomous cars are deployed on city streets, the algorithm could help relay important information to those vehicles to put them on the quickest path and keep congestion to a minimum.

For now, Volkswagen’s quantum computing solution is more concept than reality. The company presented the project at the WebSummit in Lisbon and is positioning it as a commercial venture that could be sold to cities. Volkswagen said it wants to test the algorithm in Barcelona — where there is already an adequate database of traffic information available — before rolling it out elsewhere, but it can theoretically be scaled to a city of any size.

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Consumer Solutions From Coinbase And Others Aim To Attract Retail Investors To Cryptocurrency Market

Consumer Solutions From Coinbase And Others Aim To Attract Retail Investors To Cryptocurrency Market

Since the explosion of ICOs last year, the cryptocurrency market has undergone some noticeable changes. While the price of Bitcoin remains well below its all time high of 2017, institutional investors are replacing retail investors and high net-worth individuals, becoming some of the largest buyers of cryptocurrency. According to a report from Bloomberg, buyers such as hedge funds have become more involved in the cryptocurrency market through private transactions.

Coinbase has also seen a large drop-off in active users, along with publicly-posted trading and transactional volumes. A Bloomberg report on data compiled by Tribe Capital shows that the number of active (continually buying and selling crypto assets) U.S. customers on Coinbase has declined by approximately 80% since its December 2017 high.

“Due to regulations, one has to now be an accredited investor to have the best deal flow. The retail market isn’t currently built for ease, if someone wants to invest in a portfolio they have to sign up for multiple exchanges, move money across accounts, set stop losses, use hardware wallets, etc, Parul Gujral, Founder and CEO of Snowball, told me.”

And while cryptocurrency fundraising through Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) brought in billions of dollars from retail investors last year, a new report by Diar.co revealed that roughly 70% of ICOs are currently worth less now than when they were originally released. In turn, retail investor participation in the crypto market has dropped off.

In an attempt to bring retail investors back into the cryptocurrency market, new consumer-grade solutions from Coinbase and other companies are being launched to provide tools to “smartly” navigate the murky crypto market.

Coinbase Bundle, for example, is a recent solution from the popular cryptocurrency exchange, Coinbase. According to Carly Emmer, a Product Manager for Coinbase Bundle, the product was developed for customers of Coinbase’s consumer exchange product and was created based on their feedback about buying their first cryptocurrency.

Coinbase Bundle offers a market-weighted selection of the five cryptocurrencies available to buy and sell on Coinbase. With Coinbase Bundle, users can buy a bundle of five cryptocurrencies for as little as $25. Ultimately, Coinbase Bundle is aimed at helping the customer form their cryptocurrency portfolio. Coinbase Bundle will also help customers decide on what cryptocurrencies to buy within a certain price.

Coinbase Bundle is a new product we launched earlier this year that lets people buy a basket of five cryptocurrencies with just a few clicks. We talked to Coinbase customers while developing this product, and we often heard that it is really hard to choose which cryptocurrency to invest in first. With that in mind, we wanted to give customers an easy way to get started with a set of five cryptocurrencies, allocated according to market cap. Now customers can start their crypto journey by building a diverse cryptocurrency investment for as little as $25, Emmer told me.”

Once a bundle is purchased, the underlying cryptocurrencies are stored in users’ respective wallets, behaving like separate cryptocurrencies in their Coinbase account. Users can buy, sell, send and receive each cryptocurrency as an individual asset.

San-Francisco based fintech startup, Snowball, is also about to launch what they are referring to as the first “Smart Crypto Investment Automation” (SCIA) platform. Snowball will give users access to portfolio allocations and strategies of SEC-qualified, regulatory-compliant crypto indices with at least $10M assets under management with just a push of a button, and will be among the first of the “Smart Crypto Investment Automation” (SCIA) platforms.

Hunter Harrison, Founding Partner of Konza Capital, believes Snowball is tackling a true pain point for retail investors. “The average retail investor doesn’t have proprietary deal flow or access to advanced trading tools. Passive investment platforms like Snowball’s SCIA will allow them to gain easy and advanced exposure into digital assets,” Harrison said.

Once Snowball is officially launched later this month, users will no longer have to sign up for multiple crypto exchanges, download or purchase different wallets, decide what tokens to buy and sell, and will have their investments working strategically in accordance with market fluctuations.

“The majority of people have no idea how to get started with buying their first Bitcoin, let alone diversifying their crypto portfolio. Snowball allows the everyday investor to participate simply by adding a bank account or credit card, ‘Millionaire Mentor’ and Chief Marketing Officer for Snowball, Jason Stone, told me.”

Retail Investors Focused On Bitcoin

It’s also interesting to note that institutional investors entering the crypto market have displayed interest in Bitcoin. A new survey conducted by Wall Street strategy firm, Fundstrat, suggests that once institutional investors are interested in Bitcoin, they become even more bullish than their retail counterparts.

Yet according to Bill Barhydt, Founder of Bitcoin wallet, Abra, Bitcoin will serve as the future cryptocurrency for the entire retail banking system.

I believe Bitcoin is going to be the backbone of the future retail banking system. Consumers will utilize Bitcoin to get investment exposure to myriad assets, do payments and money transfers and even get credit via a global network of banks competing for consumers’ business. In all cases, they likely won’t even know they’re using Bitcoin nor will they have to understand how it works. Much in the same way TCP/IP is the backbone of Netflix and Youtube, while being transparent to the global Internet user base. While institutional investors may provide the short term liquidity in Bitcoin, is likely to be the retail banking system of the future that profits the most, Barhydt told me.”

In order to support this, Abra provides retail investments in different assets using Bitcoin as the backbone of their investing platform. Abra runs a single global platform that enables investment exposure to dozens of different assets all based upon collateralized Bitcoin contracts.

A Little Help Goes A Long Way 

Interestingly enough, a recent survey conducted by securities trading platform, SharesPost, gathered responses from 2,490 retail investors and 528 accredited investors. The survey found that nearly three-fourths of retail investors plan to increase their cryptocurrency holdings in the next 12 months. However, it was also the case that current cryptocurrency owners remain highly-bullish on the nascent asset class, expecting mainstream adoption to take longer than they had when asked earlier in the year.

An open financial system depends greatly on people’s ability to understand, explore and choose cryptocurrencies in which to invest. As a result of the consumer solutions from Coinbase and others, the cryptocurrency market could still see increased interest from retail investors moving forward.

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The EFF’s VR experience helps users spot surveillance devices

The EFF’s VR experience helps users spot surveillance devices


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With surveillance technology becoming ever more ubiquitous, it would be useful to know where to look for it. At least that’s the thinking behind the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Spot the Surveillance VR experience. It puts users in a virtual neighborhood as a young resident navigates an encounter with police, and it challenges users to spot all of the various surveillance technology that surrounds them. That includes devices like body cameras, automated license plate readers, drones and biometric devices.

“We are living in an age of surveillance, where hard-to-spot cameras capture our faces and our license plates, drones in the sky videotape our streets and police carry mobile biometric devices to scan people’s fingerprints,” EFF Senior Investigative Researcher Dave Maass said in a statement. “We made our Spot the Surveillance VR tool to help people recognize these spying technologies around them and understand what their capabilities are.”

The EFF says Spot the Surveillance works best with a VR headset, but you can also play along through a web browser. It takes just a few minutes to work through and devices like Oculus Rift, Oculus Go, HTC Vive and Windows Mixed-Reality headsets are supported. To select the surveillance devices you spot, just use your gaze to position the cursor over them, or click and drag if you’re using a web browser without a VR headset. Once you select the devices, Spot the Surveillance tells you a little bit about each one and how it’s used.

You can access Spot the Surveillance here, and the EFF wants to know what you think. It says it will incorporate user feedback in an updated version of the experience scheduled to be released in April.

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Hydropower, innovations and avoiding international dam shame

Hydropower, innovations and avoiding international dam shame

For sweeping drama, it’s hard to beat hydropower from dams — a renewable source of electricity that helped build much of the developed world. Yet five scientists from Michigan State University (MSU) say that behind roaring cascades is a legacy of underestimated costs and overestimated value.

The developing world can — and must — turn to better ways to generate hydropower for industry and livelihoods. The case is outlined in “Sustainable hydropower in the 21st century” in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“This article identifies that for hydropower to continue to make a contribution to sustainable energy it needs to consider from the outset the true costs, social, environmental and cultural that may be involved, and include those in the pricing of the infrastructure, including the eventual removal of the dam, rather than pass those on to the public in 30 years,” said Emilio Moran, John A. Hannah Distinguished Professor of Geography, Environment and Spatial Sciences.

“The benefits of energy from dams no longer outweigh the social and environmental costs that damming up rivers brings about.”

From 1920 to 1970, dams were a boom in North America and Europe. Yet nowadays, more dams are being removed in North America and Europe than are being built.

Turns out dams had a dark side. They disrupt the natural ecology of rivers, damage forests and biodiversity, release large amounts of greenhouse gases, as well as displace thousands of people while disrupting food systems, water quality and agriculture.

And to top it off, the power generated often doesn’t go to the places bearing the ecological burdens.

The MSU team — geographers, social scientists, hydrologists and engineers — examined how the needs of a changing world can be better met than damming more rivers. Yet they note that an estimated 3,700 dams that produce more than one megawatt are either planned or under construction primarily in developing countries.

The danger: a large-scale destruction of the natural world, one likely exacerbated by looming climate change.

“The human costs of large dams are no less important,” the paper notes. “The social, behavioral, cultural, economic, and political disruption that populations near dams face are routinely underestimated.”

Moreover, dams typically have a finite lifespan — usually around 30 years, making them fall short as a long-term sustainable strategy.

The group notes that it’s not that the rivers aren’t a valuable source of power. The potential is there to be released in less intrusive technologies. Innovative technologies that don’t require damming a river or resettling populations stand to transform the hydropower sector. The technologies, they say, would need to be accompanied by both environmental and social impact assessments with teeth — meaning damning assessments could stop a dam.

One option is instream turbine technology , a less intrusive way to tap into hydropower without the major disruptions of dams.

“Our team is working on alternatives to hydropower generation, such as in-stream turbines that do not involve damming up the river, but produce energy for local communities, maintain a healthy river ecology, and does not involve resettlement and other social costs,” Moran said. “Our goal is no less than transforming the hydropower sector.”

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Lime puts $3 million toward promoting e-scooter safety

Lime puts $3 million toward promoting e-scooter safety


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E-scooter companies have faced plenty of criticism for allegedly doing too little to foster safety (not to mention basic respect for the law) among riders, and Lime appears to be tackling this issue head-on. It’s launching a $3 million “Respect the Ride” campaign to both promote safety and educate customers. The initiative will venture beyond existing efforts, such as safer scooters and a safety ambassador program, to include “multi-channel” ads asking riders to wear helmets, park properly and honor local laws. There’s a new Head of Trust and Safety to manage the company’s strategy, and there will be a summit to discuss safety and policies with key partners and governments.

Lime is also relying on another, simpler tactic to promote safety: it’s offering freebies. The first 25,000 users who promise to adopt a Respect the Ride pledge will get a free Lime helmet in the mail, with 250,000 free helmets reaching people worldwide in the space of the next six months.

The push could raise awareness of safety and legal issues that many riders simply ignore. This is also a pragmatic business move on Lime’s part, though. The campaign could help burnish Lime’s image, assuaging skeptical officials who aren’t convinced it has the public interest at heart. Not that it’s guaranteed to work — it may convince some riders to wear a helmet during their commutes, but regulators may want more drastic action.

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Amazon may split new headquarters between two cities

Amazon may split new headquarters between two cities


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Amazon may have an unexpected solution to its location for a second headquarters: split it in two. A Wall Street Journal source says Amazon has decided to divide HQ2 “evenly” between two locations, with 25,000 jobs each. It’s mainly a matter of finding enough technology talent in each location, the insider claimed. It would also reduce the potential for housing and transportation problems that would come when 50,000 people are working at one facility.

The company still hasn’t decided on which cities would get the nod, according to insiders, but a choice could come as soon as this week. Earlier leaks had Amazon choosing between cities like Arlington’s Crystal City, Dallas and New York City.

Amazon declined to comment to Engadget on the report.

If true, it’s not a completely shocking move. Amazon’s HQ2 choice will depend heavily on currying favor from cities and states, and that means addressing their concerns about the impact of having many workers flood into a given area. While they might not like receiving only half as many jobs as they were hoping for, they might find relief in the reduced pressure on city infrastructure. Officials aren’t turning down the hyperbole any time soon — New York Governor Cuomo recently joked that he’d change his name to “Amazon Cuomo” if it guaranteed a headquarters in the state.

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Chrome will soon ad-block an entire website if it shows abusive ads

With Chrome 71, Google is stepping up its fight against the internet’s abusive ads problem by blocking every ad on a site that persistently shows them.

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