Game streamer Ninja will have his own toy line

Game streamer Ninja will have his own toy line


Wicked Cool Toys

You can’t usually show support for a game streamer in the real world outside of t-shirt and stickers, but Wicked Cool Toys is kicking things up a notch. It’s introducing a line of toys themed around streamers, starting with Twitch superstar Tyler “Ninja” Blevins. You’ll find two-inch collectibles in blind packs ($5 each, above) and four-inch dancing figures ($10) themed around his characters and emotes, as well as head wear ($20) that gives you that blue hair and headband. All of those should ship in the fall, and there are plans for plush toys, games and other goodies.

Other streamers will get nods as well. WCT is launching an augmented reality-enhanced set of four-inch vinyl figurines ($10 each) that will use a QR code to unlock a virtual experience based on top streamers. Ninja is unsurprisingly part of the mix, but he’ll also be joined by well-known streamers like Lirik, Summit1G and Tim the Tat Man. There’s no release date for these collectibles, but WCT stressed that they’ll be “owned by and made for” the streamers.

Whether or not these toys succeed is up in the air. Their existence says a lot about how much game streaming has grown, at least. While it’s been a regular part of the gaming scene for years, it’s now large enough that it attracts the interests of celebrities (see: Drake) and regularly draws tens of thousands of viewers on the best-known channels. Simply speaking, there’s a significant potential audience for these toys — it’s just a question of whether it’s significant enough to support a toy line.

Gallery: Tyler “Ninja” Blevins toys from Wicked Cool | 10 Photos

Check out the rest of our coverage from Toy Fair 2019 here.

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Japanese “Amazon” Rakuten May Soon Accept Cryptocurrency – Ethereum World News

Japanese “Amazon” Rakuten May Soon Accept Cryptocurrency – Ethereum World News

Bitcoin (BTC), Cryptocurrency–A new update pushed by e-commerce giant Rakuten, who has been compared to as the Japanese “Amazon,” looks to offer Bitcoin and cryptocurrency integration in the near future. According to an earnings report published on Feb. 12,  the company announced a major update for its mobile app platform Rakuten Pay, which is set to release later next month with the potential inclusion of cryptocurrency payments in conjunction with fiat.

The updated version of the app will purportedly include “all payment solutions embedded into one platform,” leaving many to wonder if this is an indirect course of announcing support for Bitcoin and other top market cryptocurrencies. While its U.S. based counterpart Amazon has been quiet on the front of cryptocurrency integration, despite the belief of Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao that the company will be forced to issue their own currency, Rakuten has been more open to the idea of digital assets. In January, Rakuten was reported to have shifted its corporate structure to make the firm’s cryptocurrency exchange Everybody’s Bitcoin into a new payments subsidiary. Everybody’s Bitcoin was acquired in August 2018 for $2.4 million and was hailed at the time as an initial stepping stone for crypto payments on the e-commerce site. The restructure of Rakuten, which was confirmed in the most recent earnings report, is further proof that the e-commerce giant is looking to accept digital assets for payment.

In addition, the report contains information about updates to the company’s prepaid card service Rakuten Edy, which includes implementation of QR code scanning for payments–another indication that cryptocurrency integration may be coming in the near future. The earnings report also proved bullish for cryptocurrency investors curious about the impact of Rakuten in the event of accepting Bitcoin for payment. According to the report Rakuten’s net income rose by 28.4 percent in 2018, to a total of $1.3 billion.

Despite cryptocurrency continuing to trade sideways after a bout of losses in January, 2019 has already started as a good year for Bitcoin and the adoption of major currencies. With the United States Securities & Exchange Commission looking all but set to approve Bitcoin ETFs at some point, the question of institutional investment into cryptocurrency is no longer “if” but “when.” With growing acceptance through commerce sites such as Rakuten–assuming that March’s payment platform update does indeed include cryptocurrency–the organic approach to growth that many industry veterans have clamored for appears to finally be coming into fruition.

Prices may continue to languish as market forces sway in the direction of Bitcoin growth, but adoption for top cryptos appears to be trending towards an all time high. Last week EWN reported on the TRON (TRX) Foundation partnering with the ALS Association to improve donation tracking via blockchain. In addition, an xRapid backed product, using XRP directly for liquidity, saw investments from major financial players Mastercard and Barclays–giving some indication of the shifting landscape of cryptocurrency. In addition, the industry is still reeling from the announcement of the JPM Coin, which appears to be a complete 180 from the message the bank and its CEO Jamie Dimon were pushing just a year ago.

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How to feed the world by 2050? Recent breakthrough boosts plant growth by 40 percent

How to feed the world by 2050? Recent breakthrough boosts plant growth by 40 percent

One of the most significant challenges of the 21st Century is how to sustainably feed a growing and more affluent global population with less water and fertilizers on shrinking acreage, despite stagnating yields, threats of pests and disease, and a changing climate.

“The meeting this year is about ‘Science Transcending Boundaries’ — the idea for the session is to highlight research that is transcending scientific and knowledge boundaries, with the ultimate goal to transcend geographic boundaries and reach smallholder farmers in Africa,” said Lisa Ainsworth, a scientist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) and an adjunct professor of plant biology at the University of Illinois. Recently, Ainsworth was awarded the 2019 National Academy of Sciences Prize in Food and Agriculture Sciences.

Session speaker Donald Ort, the Robert Emerson Professor of Plant Biology and Crop Sciences at Illinois’ Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, will discuss the global food security challenge and a recent breakthrough in Science (see original news release) that boosted crop growth by 40 percent by creating a shortcut for a glitch that plagues most food crops.

“Plants have to do three key things to produce the food we eat: capture sunlight, use that energy to manufacture plant biomass, and divert as much of the biomass as possible into yields like corn kernels or starchy potatoes,” Ort said. “In the last century, crop breeders maximized the first and third of these, leaving us with the challenge to improve the process where sunlight and carbon dioxide are fixed — called photosynthesis — to boost crop growth to meet the demands of the 21st Century.”

This landmark work is part of Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE), an international research project that is engineering crops to photosynthesize more efficiently to sustainably increase worldwide food productivity with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), and the U.K. Government’s Department for International Development (DFID).

“Land plants evolved with a biochemical glitch whereby a photosynthetic enzyme frequently captures oxygen instead of carbon dioxide, necessitating a convoluted and energy-expensive process called photorespiration to mitigate this glitch,” said Ort, who is also the deputy director of the RIPE project. “Crops like soybean and wheat waste more than 30 percent of the energy they generate from photosynthesis dealing with this glitch, but modeling suggested that photorespiratory shortcuts could be engineered to help the plant conserve its energy and reinvest it into growth.”

Borrowing genes from algae and pumpkins, the team engineered three alternate routes to replace the circuitous native photorespiration pathway in tobacco, a model plant used to show proof of concept before scientists move technologies to food crops that are much more difficult and time-consuming to engineer and test. Now, the team is translating this work to boost the yields of other crops including soybean, cowpea, rice, potato, tomato, and eggplant.

“It is incredible to imagine the calories lost to photorespiration each year around the globe,” Ort said. “To reclaim even a portion of these calories would be a huge success in our race to feed 9.7 billion people by 2050.”

Of course, Ort cautions, it will take 15 years or more for these technologies to be translated into food crops and achieve regulatory approval for distribution to farmers. When that day comes, RIPE and its sponsors are committed to ensuring that smallholder farmers, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, will have royalty-free access to this technology.

Other talks in this session will include “Discoveries to Improve Nitrogen Fixation in Cereals” by Jean-Michel Ane’, a professor of agronomy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and “Genome Editing for Sustainable Crop Improvement” for the staple food crop cassava by Rebecca Bart, an assistant member at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, whose work is also supported by the Gates Foundation. The session will conclude with a panel discussion of how agricultural science is crossing traditional disciplines.

In addition, two leading plant scientists from the IGB will be inducted as Fellows of the AAAS: Andrew Leakey is a professor of plant biology and crop sciences at Illinois who studies plant responses to climate change as well as the development of crops that are more drought tolerant. Ray Ming is a professor of plant biology and an expert on plant genomics and sex chromosome evolution, which could help improve papaya production.

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New molecular blueprint advances our understanding of photosynthesis

New molecular blueprint advances our understanding of photosynthesis

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have used one of the most advanced microscopes in the world to reveal the structure of a large protein complex crucial to photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert sunlight into cellular energy.

The finding, published in the journal Nature, will allow scientists to explore for the first time how the complex functions and could have implications for the production of a variety of bioproducts, including plastic alternatives and biofuels.

“This work will lead to a better understanding of how photosynthesis occurs, which could allow us to improve the efficiency of photosynthesis in plants and other green organisms — potentially boosting the amount of food, and thus biomass, they produce,” said lead researcher Karen Davies, a biophysicist at Berkeley Lab. “This is particularly important if you want to produce renewable bioproducts that are cost-effective alternatives to current petroleum-based products.”

Discovered decades ago, the protein complex targeted by the researchers, called NADH dehydrogenase-like complex (NDH), is known to help regulate the phase of photosynthesis where the energy of sunlight is captured and stored in two types of cellular energy molecules, which are later utilized to power the conversion of carbon dioxide into sugar. Past investigations revealed that NDH reshuffles the energized electrons moving among other protein complexes in the chloroplast in a way that ensures the correct ratio of each energy molecule is produced. Furthermore, NDH of cyanobacteria performs several additional roles including increasing the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) available for sugar production by linking CO2 uptake with electron transfer.

In order for scientists to truly comprehend how NDH executes these important functions, they needed a molecular blueprint indicating the location and connectivity of all the atoms in the complex. This is something that even highly powerful transmission electron microscopy (TEM) technology simply could not provide until very recently.

“Research on this enzyme has been difficult and experimental results confounding for the last 20 years or so because we have lacked complete information about the enzyme’s structure,” said Davies. “Knowing the structure is important for generating and testing out hypotheses of how the enzyme functions. The resolution we obtained for our structure of NDH has only really been achievable since the commercialization of the direct electron counting camera, developed in collaboration with Berkeley Lab.”

Prior to this invention, explained Davies, a staff scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Biophysics and Integrative Bioimaging Division (MBIB), determining the structure of a single molecule could take several years because cryo-TEM imaging relied on film, meaning that each exposure had to be developed and scanned before it could be analyzed. The main limitation, however, was that most images turned out blurry. When you directed a beam of electrons at a molecule, the charged, high-energy particles excited the atoms in the molecule, often making them move at the moment of exposure. This meant that researchers needed to take and process hundreds, if not thousands, of film images in order to get an accurate glimpse of an entire molecule.

The new electron counting camera solves this problem by taking digital movies with an extremely high frame rate, so individual frames can be aligned to eliminate blurring caused by beam-induced particle motion.

In the current study, first author Thomas Laughlin, a UC Berkeley graduate student with a joint appointment at MBIB, isolated NDH complexes from membranes of a photosynthetic cyanobacterium provided by the Junko Yano and Vittal Yachandra Lab in MBIB and imaged them using a state-of-the-art cryo-TEM instrument fitted with the latest direct electron detector. Located on the UC Berkeley campus, the cryo-TEM facility is managed by the Bay Area CryoEM consortium, which is partly funded by Berkeley Lab.

The resulting atom density map was then used to build a model of NDH that shows the arrangement of all the protein subunits of NDH and the most likely position of all the atoms in the complex. By examining this model, Davies’ team will be able to formulate and then test hypotheses of how NDH facilitates sugar production by balancing the ratio of the two cellular energy molecules.

“While the structure of NDH alone certainly addresses many questions, I think it has raised several more that we had not even thought to consider before,” said Laughlin.

Among the many Berkeley Lab scientists focused on advancing knowledge of fundamental biochemical and biophysical processes, Davies and her staff also use direct electron camera cryo-EM to investigate how variations in the organization of photosynthetic complexes, caused by changes in growth and light conditions, affect the efficiency of photosynthesis. Her project on electron flow in photosynthesis is supported by a five-year DOE Office of Science Early Career Research Program grant that was awarded in 2018.

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Watch the ‘Anthem’ prequel from the director of ‘District 9’

Watch the ‘Anthem’ prequel from the director of ‘District 9’


Neill Blomkamp/Twitter

A short film set in the world of BioWare’s online shooter Anthem, which highlights some of the universe’s lore, dropped on Thursday morning. Conviction is directed by Neill Blomkamp, a name you might recognize from District 9, Chappie, the ill-fated Halo movie or an upcoming RoboCop reboot.

Conviction takes us back decades before the events of Anthem, and Blomkamp uses his typical style of blending realistic CGI with live-action footage to bring the Fort Tarsis player hub to life. The three-and-a-half minute short is styled more like a movie trailer than a narrative-driven film of its own.

It’s fairly light on story, though it depicts a mysterious young woman who some freelancers (the player-controlled characters in the game) find in the jungle and bring back to Fort Tarsis. The woman seems to later become a freelancer herself, and an imposing being, perhaps a member of the villainous Dominion society, appears to interrogate someone on her whereabouts. Conviction is also packed with dazzling, rich visuals that give a taste of some of the game’s mechanics, such as the customizable Javelin exosuits and a few of the abilities you might be able to use to your advantage, such as an earth-shattering punch.

You’ll be able to explore more of the Anthem universe for yourself when the game arrives February 22nd on PC, PS4 and Xbox One. Origin Access Premier members will get early access to the full game on Friday.

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Just got some Bitcoin: how to choose your first cryptocurrency wallet

Just got some Bitcoin: how to choose your first cryptocurrency wallet

So you’ve entered the world of crypto, have bought your first Bitcoin BTC and want to know how you should choose your first cryptocurrency wallet.

For seasoned cryptocurrency investors this may seem obvious, but for a newbie who’s keen to get involved, it can seem like a daunting task. With so many options available, what’s the best answer? There is no hard and fast rule. At the end of the day it simply comes down to personal preference, but here are some tips to bear in mind.

A cryptocurrency wallet is, essentially, a software program that stores private and public keys, enabling users to send and receive cryptocurrency at the press of a button. It can be considered a misnomer as the coins aren’t stored in the wallet, but permit a person to interact with the blockchain when transactions are being made.

The first thing to understand is that there are three ways a person can store their cryptocurrency: hardware wallets, software wallets, and custodial wallets.

There’s also storage to think about, which can either be hot or cold. Hot storage is when a user’s coins are stored online and may be susceptible to hacking, whereas cold storage is taking a person’s coins and maintaining the security of them offline.

So let’s take a look at the three different types of wallets available.

Custodial wallets

These types of wallets store the private keys of its users through a third party. If someone is first starting out in crypto they are likely to use a custodial wallet.

San Francisco-based crypto exchange Coinbase and Hong Kong-based Bitfinex, a crypto trading platform, are examples of custodial wallets. If you buy crypto on these platforms they also provide users with a wallet in which to store your funds.

A few advantages to custodial wallets is that a user doesn’t need to worry about remembering their private key; all they have to do is remember their login details to the platform. Another benefit is that a person can manage their funds quickly and simply.

However, while they may be easy to use, a person doesn’t have full control over their funds, as the exchange manages them. Custodial wallets are also typically hot wallets.

Yet, while these wallets don’t give full control to users, they can offer a high level of security compared to others. That being said, if a large amount of crypto is stored in these wallets they can be a magnet to hackers. If such a hack takes place and your funds are stolen then there’s no way to retrieve them.

Software wallets

Based on computer software, software wallets are largely accessible anywhere. Available in three formats: desktop, mobile, and online, they are simple to use and provide an array of options depending on the device you use the most.

Let’s break software wallets down even further.

Desktop wallets: These are, essentially, wallets that are solely stored on a person’s laptop or PC. One of the main benefits to desktop wallets is that they don’t rely on a third party and a user has complete control of their funds.

However, on the flip side, security is down to each individual person. So, if the device doesn’t have the latest security procedures in place or isn’t protected against viruses or hacking then the computer may be hacked or compromised, resulting in the loss of a person’s coins forever.

Similar to custodial wallets, desktop wallets are a type of hot wallet.

Examples of software wallets include ArcBit, BitGo, Electrum, and Exodus.

Mobile wallets: These function through an app on your phone, and deliver quick and easy access when needed.

A person’s private keys are stored on the app, enabling purchases to be made through the phone. With more people using their smartphones for day-to-day expenses, the use of mobile wallets may see a steady increase.

For some, smartphones provide the best security for cryptocurrency. However, if a person’s phone is stolen and access is gained then their funds may be at risk of theft. Similar to a desktop wallet, they are only secure as long as steps have been taken to ensure this is the case.

One example of a mobile wallet is eToro’s crypto wallet. Rolled out last November for Android and iOS, it initially provides support for Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, and Litecoin. It’s planning to support more in the near future.

Other examples of mobile wallets include Airbitz, Breadwallet, eToro, Jaxx, and Mycelium.

Online: As these are web-based wallets, they can be accessed anywhere and on any device.

These are another convenient source to use; however, one disadvantage to these is that a person’s private keys are stored by a third party rather than on the device used. As such, a level of trust is required in the owners as well as their level of security. This, in turn, could make them vulnerable to hacking.

Examples of online wallets include BTC Wallet, Coinbase, OpenLedger, and Xapo.

Hardware wallets

With a person’s cryptocurrency stored offline, hardware wallets provide the most secure way to store funds.

A hardware wallet is a physical device with the sole purpose of storing a person’s private and public keys. This is similar to a USB device. As it’s never connected to the internet (unless a transfer needs to be made) there’s no way that it will become vulnerable to potential hackers.

In order to use a hardware wallet, a user simply plugs it into their computer, enters a pin, sends the required currency, and confirms the amount they want to transfer. By entering a person’s private key into the device they never have to reveal it on their computer.

What’s more, if the hardware is broken or lost, a person can upload their funds to a new device with the use of seed words received with the hardware wallet that restores their funds.

Examples of hardware wallets include KeepKey, Ledger Blue, Ledger Nano S, and Trezor.

When it comes to choosing your first cryptocurrency wallet there is no clear answer. At the end of the day, it will come down to what you require the most: security, convenience or ease of use.

Depending on how you use your cryptocurrency, how much you own, and how you plan on storing it will play a major role. If you think you’ll eventually own a significant amount then a hardware wallet may be the ideal choice, but if you want something to spend as and when needed then maybe a mobile wallet is the answer.

Before choosing one, though, make sure to conduct your own research to make sure the one you pick is the right choice.

This post is brought to you by eToroeToro is a multi-asset platform which offers both investing in stocks and cryptocurrencies, as well as trading CFD assets.

Please note that CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. 76% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider. You should consider whether you understand how CFDs work, and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.

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In the squirrel world, prime real estate is determined by previous owner, study reveals

In the squirrel world, prime real estate is determined by previous owner, study reveals

A young squirrel lucky enough to take over territory from an adult male squirrel is like a teenager falling into a big inheritance, according to a new University of Guelph study.

Researchers found male squirrels store more food than females, and if a young squirrel leaving the nest nabs a storage spot previously owned by a male squirrel, they will increase their lifetime pup production by 50 per cent.

“It’s like buying a home and finding a big pile of money buried in the walls,” said integrative biology professor Andrew McAdam, who worked on the study with lead author David Fisher, a former U of G post doc. “The previous owner of where you live can significantly impact how well off you are, at least in the squirrel world.”

Published in the journal Ecology Letters, the study involved hundreds of North American red squirrels.

It is part of the Kluane Red Squirrel Project, a long-term study in the Yukon investigating the ecology and evolution of red squirrels. Started by the University of Alberta in 1987, the project brings together scientists from several universities, including the University of Guelph, University of Michigan, and University of Saskatchewan to monitor behaviour and reproduction of hundreds of individually marked squirrels.

For this study, Fisher and colleagues measured the food stores and reproductive outcome of young squirrels that took over real estate previously owned by either males or females who disappeared.

Squirrels collect spruce cones in the fall and store them in the ground in a “midden” for winter. A hoard can contain more than 20,000 cones, and they can remain edible for several years, said Fisher

“Good thing too, because spruce trees produce cones in boom-bust patterns. There are more bust than boom years, so if squirrels don’t store enough in the boom years they won’t have enough food to survive the bust years.”

It’s common for squirrels to take over the territories of other squirrels after they die and in taking over another squirrel’s territory, they also inherit their food stores, added Fisher.

“We have seen a food store last as long as 31 years — as long as we have been studying these squirrels — and owned by 13 different squirrels over that time period,” said McAdam.

In this study, researchers found that if a squirrel inherits its territory from a male rather than a female, it will have around 1,300 more cones on average in its midden. This stored energy will keep the squirrel alive for an extra 17 days.

The study also revealed that squirrels at their prime, which is three to four years old, have more cones than younger and older squirrels. This difference means squirrels that inherit their territory from a squirrel that died in mid-age inherit a larger cone store than those that inherit from a young or old squirrel.

“If a female squirrel is lucky enough to take over this prime real estate, then she will have lots of food, which allows her to breed earlier,” said McAdam. “This means her offspring will leave the nest early and they will have improved survival rates. Essentially, it will improve this squirrel’s genetic contribution to the next generation.”

These finding show how the behavior of one squirrel can impact the genetic contribution to the population of another squirrel they have never met, said Fisher.

“Ultimately, the food hoarding behaviour of a squirrel you have never met, and that may have even died before you were born, can impact your chances of survival.”

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The physical forces of cells in action: Swiss scientists have developed probes designed to reveal the physical forces inside living cells; a world first

The physical forces of cells in action: Swiss scientists have developed probes designed to reveal the physical forces inside living cells; a world first

The detection of physical forces is one of the most complex challenges facing science. Although Newton’s apple has long solved the problem of gravity, imaging the physical forces that act in living cells remains one of the main mysteries of current biology. Considered to play a decisive role in many biological processes, the chemical tools to visualize the physical forces in action do not exist. But today, researchers from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and the National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) in Chemical Biology, Switzerland, have developed probes inspired by lobster cooking, they enable to enter into cells. For the first time, physical forces can be imaged live inside the cells. These results, a turning point in the study of life sciences, can be found in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Since its creation in 2010, one of the central objectives of the NCCR Chemical Biology has been to solve the problem of detecting cellular physical forces. “Our approach to creating tension probes was inspired by the color change of shrimp, crabs or lobsters during cooking,” says Stefan Matile, Professor in the Department of Organic Chemistry at the Faculty of Science of the UNIGE and member of the NCCR. In live shrimp, the physical forces of the surrounding proteins flatten and polarize the carotenoid pigment, called astaxanthin, until it turns blue. “During cooking, these proteins are unfolded and the lobster pigment can regain its natural dark orange color,” continues the Geneva chemist. Intrigued by these crustaceans, the development of fluorescent probes operating on the same principle of planarization and polarization required about eight years of research.

External force probes have proven their worth

Last year, the NCCR teams finally produced the first fluorescent probe capable of imaging the forces acting on the outer membrane, called the plasma membrane, of living cells. Requests for samples from more than 50 laboratories around the world came in immediate response to the release of these results, demonstrating the importance of this breakthrough for life sciences. To meet this demand, UNIGE’s force probes were launched under the Flipper-TR® brand at the end of last year.

What about the internal forces of the cells?

The study of forces that apply outside the cells is not limited to chemical tools for fluorescence imaging. Cellular surfaces are accessible to physical tools like micropipettes, optical clamps, cantilevers of atomic force microscopes, etc. “But these physical tools are obviously not applicable to the study of forces within cells,” says Aurélien Roux, a professor in the Department of Biochemistry at the Faculty of Science of the UNIGE and a member of the NCCR. “Organelles such as mitochondria, responsible for energy production; endoplasmic reticulum, responsible for protein synthesis; endosomes, responsible for trafficking material to and within cells; or the nucleus, which stores genetic information, are simply beyond the reach of physical tools from outside.” Until today visualization of the forces that operate and control these organelles inside the cells was still impossible, although essential to understand their function!

This fundamental challenge in the life sciences is now being met. The NCCR team, led by Stefan Matile, Aurélien Roux and Suliana Manley, professor at the EPFL Institute of Physics, also member of the NCCR, succeeded in getting their force probes into the cells and selectively marking the various organelles. They are now able to show, for example, how tension rises in the mitochondria that are beginning to divide. “For the very first time, physical forces can be imaged live inside the cells,” enthuses Aurélien Roux. This new chemistry tool finally allows scientists to achieve what they have wanted to do for a very long time. “These new probes now offer us the opportunity to tackle mechanobiology and revolutionize the study of life sciences,” concludes Stefan Matile.

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Ice volume calculated anew

Ice volume calculated anew

Climate change is causing glaciers to shrink around the world. Reduced meltwaters from these glaciers also have downstream effects, particularly on freshwater availability. A lack of meltwater can greatly restrict the water supply to many rivers, especially in arid regions such as the Andes or central Asia, that depend on this water source for agriculture. Up-to-date information on the worldwide ice volume is needed to assess how glaciers — and the freshwater reserves they supply — will develop, and how sea levels are set to change.

Ice thickness calculated for 215,000 glaciers

Led by ETH Zurich and the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL, an international team of glaciologists used a combination of different numerical models to calculate the ice thickness distribution and the ice volume of some 215,000 glaciers around the world. The researchers excluded sea ice and glaciers that are connected to the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets from their calculations.

According to the study, the combined ice volume of all considered glaciers currently amounts to some 158,000 cubic kilometres (km3). The last available estimate — dating a few years ago — was around 18 percent higher. The largest glacier ice masses (some 75,000 km3) are found in the Arctic and account for almost half of the global glacier ice volume. They include glaciers in both the Canadian and the Russian Arctic — such as those found on Baffin Island and the Novaya Zemlya archipelago — as well as glaciers along the Greenland coast and the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen.

Glaciers might retreat faster than thought

Together with Alaska, High Mountain Asia (that is the region including the Himalaya, the Tibetan Plateau and the mountains in central Asia) is home to the largest ice masses outside the Arctic, accounting for a volume of 7,000 km3 in total. The study indicates that previous calculations overestimated this volume by almost a quarter.

“In light of these new calculations, we have to assume that glaciers in High Mountain Asia might disappear more quickly than we thought so far,” says Daniel Farinotti, Professor of Glaciology at the Laboratory of Hydraulics, Hydrology and Glaciology (VAW) at ETH Zurich and at the WSL.

Previously, researchers had estimated that the area covered by glaciers in this region would halve by the 2070s.This is now expected to happen in the 2060s — with perceptible consequences for local water supplies. The glaciers of High Asia, in fact, feed into large rivers, including the Indus, the Tarim and rivers feeding into the Aral Sea. Hundreds of millions of people depend on them.

Meltwater volumes set to diminish by up to a quarter

For the above regions and depending on the model, researchers expect summer meltwater volumes to be as much as 24 percent lower by the end of the century as they are today. “This difference is unsettling. To get a more accurate estimation of the full extent, we would need better measurements of the regional glacier volumes,” Farinotti says. As things stand, only few measurements are available for the glacier ice thickness in the region, which hampers better model calibration.

Based on their calculations, the researchers also deduced that if they were to melt away completely, the glaciers — or rather their meltwater — could cause global sea levels to rise by up to 30 centimetres. Between 1990 and 2010, glacier melt contributed to rise sea levels by about 1.5 centimetres.

For their analysis, the researchers used a combination of up to five independent numerical models. In these models, several sources of information — including the glacier outlines derived from satellite images and digital elevation models of the glacier surface — were combined with data about the glaciers’ flow behaviour. “This allows to infer the spatial distribution of the ice thickness,” the ETH professor explains. To calibrate the models, the team also used glacier ice thickness measurements. But to date, such measurements are accessible for about 1,000 glaciers only, Farinotti says.

During the study, researchers from ETH and the WSL worked in collaboration with scientists from the Universities of Zurich, Fribourg, Erlangen-Nuernberg and Innsbruck, and partners at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay.

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The physical forces of cells in action: Swiss scientists have developed probes designed to reveal the physical forces inside living cells; a world first

The physical forces of cells in action: Swiss scientists have developed probes designed to reveal the physical forces inside living cells; a world first

The detection of physical forces is one of the most complex challenges facing science. Although Newton’s apple has long solved the problem of gravity, imaging the physical forces that act in living cells remains one of the main mysteries of current biology. Considered to play a decisive role in many biological processes, the chemical tools to visualize the physical forces in action do not exist. But today, researchers from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and the National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) in Chemical Biology, Switzerland, have developed probes inspired by lobster cooking, they enable to enter into cells. For the first time, physical forces can be imaged live inside the cells. These results, a turning point in the study of life sciences, can be found in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Since its creation in 2010, one of the central objectives of the NCCR Chemical Biology has been to solve the problem of detecting cellular physical forces. “Our approach to creating tension probes was inspired by the color change of shrimp, crabs or lobsters during cooking,” says Stefan Matile, Professor in the Department of Organic Chemistry at the Faculty of Science of the UNIGE and member of the NCCR. In live shrimp, the physical forces of the surrounding proteins flatten and polarize the carotenoid pigment, called astaxanthin, until it turns blue. “During cooking, these proteins are unfolded and the lobster pigment can regain its natural dark orange color,” continues the Geneva chemist. Intrigued by these crustaceans, the development of fluorescent probes operating on the same principle of planarization and polarization required about eight years of research.

External force probes have proven their worth

Last year, the NCCR teams finally produced the first fluorescent probe capable of imaging the forces acting on the outer membrane, called the plasma membrane, of living cells. Requests for samples from more than 50 laboratories around the world came in immediate response to the release of these results, demonstrating the importance of this breakthrough for life sciences. To meet this demand, UNIGE’s force probes were launched under the Flipper-TR® brand at the end of last year.

What about the internal forces of the cells?

The study of forces that apply outside the cells is not limited to chemical tools for fluorescence imaging. Cellular surfaces are accessible to physical tools like micropipettes, optical clamps, cantilevers of atomic force microscopes, etc. “But these physical tools are obviously not applicable to the study of forces within cells,” says Aurélien Roux, a professor in the Department of Biochemistry at the Faculty of Science of the UNIGE and a member of the NCCR. “Organelles such as mitochondria, responsible for energy production; endoplasmic reticulum, responsible for protein synthesis; endosomes, responsible for trafficking material to and within cells; or the nucleus, which stores genetic information, are simply beyond the reach of physical tools from outside.” Until today visualization of the forces that operate and control these organelles inside the cells was still impossible, although essential to understand their function!

This fundamental challenge in the life sciences is now being met. The NCCR team, led by Stefan Matile, Aurélien Roux and Suliana Manley, professor at the EPFL Institute of Physics, also member of the NCCR, succeeded in getting their force probes into the cells and selectively marking the various organelles. They are now able to show, for example, how tension rises in the mitochondria that are beginning to divide. “For the very first time, physical forces can be imaged live inside the cells,” enthuses Aurélien Roux. This new chemistry tool finally allows scientists to achieve what they have wanted to do for a very long time. “These new probes now offer us the opportunity to tackle mechanobiology and revolutionize the study of life sciences,” concludes Stefan Matile.

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Cryptocurrency in the developing world needs a fresh approach

Cryptocurrency in the developing world needs a fresh approach

It’s a common narrative that cryptocurrencies will provide a platform for the millions of unbanked individuals in the world to obtain financial freedom.

In the developing world, around 50 percent of people over the age of 25 have a bank account. This is nearly half what is seen in the likes of North America.

unbanked, bitcoin, cryptocurrency
Credit: Diar

If anywhere in the world needs access to more cost effective financial systems its those in developing nations, where the cost of sending money without a bank account can be prohibitively expensive.

Cryptocurrency in developing nations

According to World Bank figures compiled by Diar, sending money from Angola to Namibia, for example, can be subject to a 20 percent fee. It’s quite common for transfer fees to be over 15 percent. Where as in places like the US, Switzerland, and Germany, fees are well below 10 percent.

If you have to make regular payments to family abroad, this can add up quite quickly. Chances are if you’re using these kind of systems, like MoneyGram or Western Union, it’s because you have no other options. In many places in Africa, Money Transfer Operators (MTOs) have exclusivity clauses meaning there is no competition to help drive prices down.

Unfortunatley, most of the cryptocurrecy pushed into developing parts of the world (where people face financial exclusion), have been less than savory.

In countries like Venezuela, President Maduro has used his own imaginings of what cryptocurrency should be to push his agenda on a country that really doesn’t need it. And places like Argentina are being sold the dream through potentially costly and exploitative Bitcoin ATMs that seem never to materialised, despite repeat promises.

So what will it take to crack the developing world?

In a recent interview with Diar, Coinbase’s Vice President, Dan Romero explained how dealing with the developing world is a different kettle of fish to what we’re used to. It seems we can’t simply take the Bitcoin blueprints for the developed world and apply them. They will need some modification.

“Use cases in developed markets will be different to those in emerging markets as the US and Europe have a fairly well-developed financial system,” Dan Romero told Diar. “Our mission is to build out the ecosystem so that we can move away from the narrative of [cryptocurrency] only being a speculative investment. We need to move the technology into the Utility Phase.”

Indeed, taking cryptocurrency to a developing world when we still cannoy be sure of its long-term volatility, is not just potentially exploitative, it’s irresponsible. It’s all fun and games investing in cryptocurrency, until you lose your life’s savings.

Coinbase is branching out

Romero went on to tell Diar, “[w]hat you’ll see in 2019 and beyond is a big push to dramatically expand the number of countries offering an easy on-ramp into crypto. We are actively exploring countries in Latin America, Africa and South East Asia.”

In the case of the Petro, it was very much forced on Venezuelans, and most other places rely on Bitcoin ATMs to purchase cryptocurrency, which charge high fees, and don’t always give the best exchange rates. The on-ramps are, for the most part, exploitative when targeted at individuals who aren’t well versed in the world of cryptocurrency.

According to Romero, Coinbase makes a careful judgement when looking into new markets. The country’s regulatory stance, currency volatility, banking infrastructure, age, demographics, and smartphone use are all taken into consideration before pursuing the opportunity.

Going into a country with a wildly inflationary economy, unsupportive regulations, and questionable banking infrastructure is no doubt a warning sign the country might not be ready for digital currencies.

“Our first priority for us is to educate people about crypto[currency]. We’ll have to tailor our approach to address the specific questions and needs that are unique to each region that we operate in,” Romero further told Diar.

Taking those measures into consideration, along with an education-first strategy, makes Coinbase’s approach for entering developing markets seem logical, rational, and ethical.

Though, as a well-established company, entering these unknown markets poses a risk, which might go some way to explaining the exchange’s caution.

Whatever happens, 2019 looks to be the year cryptocurrency companies go their best to break into markets once deemed too risky.

Published February 12, 2019 — 16:20 UTC

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Exclusive Part 2: Zebpay CEO talks about cryptocurrency adoption in India and the future of the field

Exclusive Part 2: Zebpay CEO talks about cryptocurrency adoption in India and the future of the field

The world of cryptocurrencies has come under multiple scanners as well as regulations, forcing the field to pull it back a bit. Despite the setbacks, many proponents have come forward to support crypto and have spoken about the advantages of digital assets.

In an exclusive with AMBCrypto, Ajeet Khurana, the Chief Executive Officer of Zebpay gave his views on India’s cryptocurrency stance as well as the future use cases of cryptocurrencies. He was asked about the possibility of a clean sweep of the cryptocurrency market in India with the upcoming general elections to which he replied that a proper forecast is difficult and would be similar to “predicting Bitcoin’s price tomorrow’.

He added that on one level everything is possible while on the other hand, the different oars have to come together and synchronize, which is extremely difficult. Khurana added:

“In the long term, things will work out and India will adopt cryptocurrencies but like cloud computing, we will enter the market but a bit late.”

Khurana further touched upon the challenges in the long term as well as a possible “10-year challenge” for the cryptocurrency market. He said:

“I don’t think a 10-year challenge is feasible but rather a 3-5 year challenge would be more plausible. Back when it started there would have been like 1000 people in the field and now the number has multiplied manifold. I want to see the increase of people as an effect and not as a periodic rise and fall. Another positive development is that the number of people forecasting the demise of Bitcoin has gone down.”

Ajeet Khurana was also of the opinion that earlier the question was always about the value whereas now even the naysayers have toned it down. According to him, more people entering the space and the belief to co-exist has been the biggest clincher over the past few years. The Zebpay CEO also admitted that the fundamental problem with the space is that solutions take time to be implemented. In his words:

“The Lightning network, for example, will still take some time to come into fore, maybe in a year or so. But a lot of things have improved since 2012. Back then buying BTC was not the easiest thing to do whereas now it has become much easier.”


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Akash Anand

Engineering graduate,crypto head and Arsenal fan. Is fascinated by technology and all its marvels. Strictly against pineapple on pizza.

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Recommended Reading: Building a life in ‘World of Warcraft’

Recommended Reading: Building a life in ‘World of Warcraft’


Blizzard

My disabled son’s amazing gaming life in the ‘World of Warcraft’
,
BBC News

This is an amazing story from parents about their son who suffered from a rare degenerative muscular disorder. After his passing, they discovered that Mats had lived a full life through video games. He made friends all over Europe in the process, rather than being confined to an isolated existence due to his medical condition.

One way ‘The Social Network’ got Facebook right
Megan Garber,
The Atlantic

Facebook recently celebrated its 15th birthday, so The Atlantic took a look at back at the film that chronicled the company’s origins. While the movie has its flaws, it did foreshadow the trials Zuckerberg & Co. are currently facing.

The challenge of America’s first online census
Issie Lapowsky,
Wired

The 2020 census is going digital in the US, and to say there are challenges to making it happen is a massive understatement.

The anger inside Gary Clark, Jr.
Patrick Doyle,
Rolling Stone

Gary Clark, Jr. is one of the most talented musicians in the game right now, and the current political climate is fueling a fire inside of him.

The rise of the iPhone auteur
Ben Lindbergh,
The Ringer

Steven Soderbergh’s High Flying Bird is the latest in a library of movies that were filmed entirely on an iPhone. The Ringer examines how this still rarely-used technique has benefits and how it could eventually become the norm.

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Microsoft’s Build developer conference starts May 6th

Microsoft’s Build developer conference starts May 6th


AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

Early May is going to be particularly busy in the tech world. Microsoft has announced that the 2019 edition of its Build developer conference will take place in Seattle between May 6th and May 8th. In other words, it starts just one day before Google I/O — you’re going to get a lot of news in a very short space of time.

It’s too soon to know exactly what will appear at Build 2019, but the gatherings tend to be sprawling affairs that cover just about everything in Microsoft’s universe. Windows, AI platforms like Cortana and Azure cloud technology are likely to show up, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see news on HoloLens, Office, Xbox and other familiar subjects. The one certainty: we’ll be there to cover all the juicy details.

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Prehistoric food globalization spanned three millennia: Peasant farmers began transforming diets across the Old World 7,000 years ago, study finds

Prehistoric food globalization spanned three millennia: Peasant farmers began transforming diets across the Old World 7,000 years ago, study finds

Since the beginning of archaeology, researchers have combed the globe searching for evidence of the first domesticated crops. Painstakingly extracting charred bits of barley, wheat, millet and rice from the remains of ancient hearths and campfires, they’ve published studies contending that a particular region or country was among the first to bring some ancient grain into cultivation.

Now, an international team of scientists, led by Xinyi Liu of Washington University in St. Louis, has consolidated findings from hundreds of these studies to plot a detailed map of how ancient cereal crops spread from isolated pockets of first cultivation to become dietary staples in civilizations across the Old World.

“The very fact that the ‘food globalization’ in prehistory spanned more than three thousand years indicates perhaps a major driver of the process was the perpetual needs of the poor rather than more ephemeral cultural choices of the powerful in the Neolithic and Bronze Age,” said Liu, assistant professor of anthropology in Arts & Sciences.

Forthcoming Feb. 15 in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews, the study illustrates the current scientific consensus on the prehistoric food globalization process that transformed diets across Eurasia and Northern Africa between 7,000 and 3,500 years ago.

Co-authors include researchers from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom; Zheijiang University in China; the Lithuanian Institute of History; the Smithsonian Institution; and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing.

The study suggests that food globalization in prehistoric times was driven not by exotic appetities of ruling elites, but by the relentless, season-to-season ingenuity of poor peasant farmers looking for new ways to put just a little more food on their tables.

“Recent research developments shift the focus from chronology and routes to the drivers of the ‘food globalization’ process and considers the context in which agricultural and dietary innovations arose and what agents were involved,” Liu said. “These studies emphasize the role played by the primary agents of agricultural production, the ordinary farmers in the past.”

By trying new types of seed, plowing fields a little further up or down the mountain or shifting planting and harvest times, peasant farmers used a trial-and-error approach to overcome climatic challenges and expand the geographic boundaries of where certain grains could be planted. Gradually, this experimentation led to vastly improved yields as farmers learned to extend the growing season by planting both spring and fall crops in the same fields.

While many people are familiar with the global spread of food crops following the exploration of the New World — a process known as the Columbian Exchange — Liu contends that the prehistoric food globalization process had an equally dramatic impact on food cultivation in the Old World.

Wheat and barley moved from southwest Asia to Europe, India and China, while broom and foxtail millet moved in the other direction: from China to the West. Rice traveled across East, South and Southeast Asia; African millets and sorghum moved across sub-Saharan Africa and across the Indian Ocean, Liu said.

“While much of the exotic foods we enjoy today are the results of modern trade networks, the food globalization process clearly has its roots in prehistory,” Liu said. “Food globalization was well underway before the Columbia Exchange and the Islamic Agricultural Revolution. It predates even the earliest material evidence of trans-Eurasian contact, such as the Silk Route, by millennia.”

Liu’s study traces the farm-to-table journeys of mainstay cereal crops as they criss-crossed continents of the Old World in three distinct waves:

Before 5000 B.C., early farming communities sprang up in isolated pockets of fertile foothills and stream drainage basins where conditions were optimal for cultivating wild grains that originated nearby. Crop dispersals are generally limited to neighboring regions that are broadly compatible in terms of climate and seasonality.

Between 5000 and 2500 B.C., farmers found ways to push cultivation of various grains across wide regions where crop-compatible weather systems were contained within and separated by major mountain systems, such as those associated with the Tibetan Plateau and the Tianshan Mountains.

Between 2500 and 1500 B.C., farmers found ways to move beyond natural and climatic barriers that had long separated east and west, north and south — mastering the cultivation of grains that had evolved to flourish in the extreme elevations of the Tibetan Plateau or the drenching rains of Asian monsoons. Previously isolated agricultural systems were brought together, ushering in a new kind of agriculture in which the planting of both local and exotic crops enables multiple cropping and extended growing seasons.

“The whole process is not only about adoption but also about ‘rejection,’ reflect a range of choices that different communities made, sometimes driven by ecological expediency in novel environments, sometimes by culinary conservatism,” Liu said. “As the old Chinese saying goes: For what has been long united, it will fall apart, and for what has been long divided, it will come together eventually.”

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