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Pixels Is A Bad Movie. Like, Really Bad: LANGUAGE HEAVY

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“Scott Pilgrim, but for assholes”. That’s a line extracted from a review of Adam Sandler’s Pixels. It’s also one of the angriest internet tirades I’ve ever heard in my life.
We knew Pixels looked like a bad movie from the get-go, but the finished product seems so much worse than we could have possibly imagined.
Watch this review, don’t watch this movie.

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Pentagon Confirms That A Grey Eagle Drone Has Been Lost In Iraq

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Yesterday, images of a supposed US military drone crash in Iraq began to circulate online. Now, the Pentagon has confirmed that it has indeed lost an MQ-1 Grey Eagle drone in the country.

In an email statement made to BuzzFeed, a spokesperson from the Pentagon wrote that “an MQ-1 crashed on its way to its recovery base in Iraq” after “technical complications caused a loss of communication.” The incident actually occurred on July 16th but has only now come to light. The images made their way online when they were supplied to Iraqi freelance journalist Steve Ishak by the villagers who found the aircraft.

The Grey Eagle drones, which cost somewhere in the region of $US21 million each and are built by General Atomics, can operate up to 29,000 feet and are capable of carrying 488kg of payload — including Hellfire and Stinger missiles. The Pentagon also told Buzzfeed, however, that there “were no weapons on board the aircraft.”

The US military is now apparently working with Iraqi authorities to regain control of the drone.

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NASA's Incredible Expedition To Explore The Arctic Ice Sheets

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Every spring, the scientists and flight crew of Operation Ice Bridge fly low over the Arctic, studying the Greenland ice sheet and nearby sea ice with high-resolution digital and thermal imaging cameras, a sophisticated radar suite, a laser altimeter and other instruments.
The team just returned from its seventh Arctic mission: 10 weeks in Greenland and a total of 33 eight-hour flights over the ice in a modified C-130 cargo plane. The sea ice around the North Pole is critical to regulating global temperature, ocean currents, and atmospheric circulation, and it’s melting away faster every year. That’s because Arctic sea ice is also more sensitive to rising temperatures than any other part of the planet, so it’s no wonder that NASA sent an airborne science mission to monitor the situation.
Back in 2003, NASA launched its Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite, aptly named ICESat, which kept an eye on the ice, along with other environmental concerns, from near-polar orbit until its instruments stopped working in late 2009. Its successor, the cleverly named ICESat-2, won’t launch until 2017. To fill that gap, NASA created Operation Ice Bridge.
Welcome to the Poles
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As the National Snow and Ice Data Center — which hosts the publicly available data from Operation Ice Bridge — puts it, “Antarctica is a continent surrounded by water, while the Arctic is an ocean surrounded by land,” and they’re reacting differently to climate change. Antarctica is actually gaining sea ice, while sea ice is vanishing rapidly from around the Arctic.

Sea ice forms in the ocean, unlike glaciers and ice shelves that form on land and may end up floating on the oceans. Although Arctic land ice, like the Greenland ice sheet, is thinning too, sea ice in the Arctic is vanishing much more quickly and may have a bigger impact on global climate.

Because it’s so light in colour, ice reflects about 80 per cent of the sunlight that hits it back into space, so its high albedo, or reflectivity, actually helps the ice cool. Open ocean, on the other hand, is dark enough to absorb about 90 per cent of the sunlight that reaches it, so it warms much more easily. Warmer ocean water melts sea ice from below. A warmer ocean also warms the air above it, which also speeds the melting of the ice. Melting ice means more open water to absorb heat from the Sun, creating what scientists call a positive feedback loop.

If the poles get too warm, it will alter global patterns of ocean and atmosphere circulation, creating a bigger positive feedback loop that accelerates the whole process of global warming.

Vanishing Sea Ice

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Of course, there’s always some seasonal variation in the ice; every summer, the ice melts until it reaches what scientists call the “sea ice minimum” at the end of the season. As winter sets in, the ice grows again until it reaches the “sea ice maximum.” The problem is that over the last few decades, the summer melting season has lasted longer, and the ice has recovered less during the winter.
Even in the middle of the polar summers, there’s always some sea ice left. Some of it, known as multi-year ice, sticks around for season after season. But that may not always be true, unless global warming slows dramatically — which isn’t looking too likely at the moment. “A lot of this depends on what we, as a society, do in the future, but all the models really point to what’s called an ice-free summer in terms of the sea ice loss,” said Operation Ice Bridge’s chief scientist, Nathan Kurtz. Climate models vary, but most agree that within the next century, the Arctic sea ice cover will largely be completely gone during the summer. The average prediction, Kurtz said, is about 30 years.
That’s bad news for polar wildlife. Near Alaska, where there’s already much less sea ice around in the summer than there used to be, the polar bears who live and hunt on the multi-year sea ice have had to swim longer and longer distances to reach the ice. Seals may also suffer in the years to come; Kurtz explained, “Because the ice isn’t around all year, it doesn’t collect as much snow as it used to, and seals, in particular, need a certain amount of snow cover because they use the snow to build their dens.”
So how quickly is the Arctic sea ice thinning? The ice around Greenland tends to be the thickest in the region, and it’s thinned from about seven meters to between three and four meters since the first submarine measurements in the 1950s.
An Arsenal of Instruments
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But it’s not a process that’s visible to the naked eye from one year to the next. “When you actually look at the data, as an example, there are places in Greenland that are thinning at meters per year. This is a huge signal, when you look at the actual data itself, but maybe not necessarily something you can see with your eyes,” said Kurtz.
Operation Ice Bridge relies on a suite of instruments to see how the ice changes from year to year. A laser altimeter is the main instrument in Ice Bridge’s arsenal. The team fires a laser pulse at the ground and measures how long it takes the pulse to reflect off the surface and return to the plane. With a very precise knowledge of the plane’s position and altitude, scientists can use the laser to measure how high the ice is above mean sea level and therefore how thick it is.
A shallow radar reveals how deep the snow on top of the sea is. A new layer of snow accumulates each year, and scientists can use the shallow radar to see those layers and understand how much snow accumulated on the ice sheet every year. It’s a bit like reading the rings on a tree.

With another type of radar, Ice Bridge’s scientists can look much deeper, all the way down to the bedrock beneath the Greenland ice sheet. Understanding how thick the ice is over the bedrock, and how the bedrock itself is structured, is important in building models that predict how the ice might change in the future.
And on past missions, Ice Bridge has carried an instrument called a gravimeter, which measures the gravity field in an area. “This is important for essentially determining when you’re flying over floating ice,” said Kurtz. “The gravimeter taking these gravity measurements allows us to determine, essentially, how deep the ocean is underneath these ice shelves, which helps determine how the ocean is circulating, how much heat is being put into the ice, and things like that.”
Bridging the Gap
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Ground crews set up a survey field on an ice floe for Ice Bridge
In a way, Ice Bridge is also bridging the gap between large-scale satellite data and local ground observations. The European Space Agency has its own satellite, called CryoSat, in low Earth orbit, where it studies changes in ice thickness at the poles using a radar altimeter. Meanwhile, on the ground and at sea, researchers from several countries brave the Artic’s cold and rugged terrain to survey changes in ice. And 1500 feet above the ice, the airborne scientists of Ice Bridge are in the middle of it all, helping to bring together a bigger, multi-layered picture of what’s happening to the ice.
“We underflew an ESA satellite, overflew a Norweigan ship, overflew multiple ground experiments, and even did some things in the field such as assisting other scientists selecting targets. We had overflown their targets and gave them data so that they could then better prep for their own field campaigns,” said Kurtz.

Ground measurements are much more detailed but much more limited in scope than an aerial survey like Ice Bridge, so combining Ice Bridge’s aerial data with the “ground truth” from a few locations also makes it possible to extrapolate those details to what’s happening in other areas. Of course, satellites like the ICESats and CryoSat can cover much more territory than aerial surveys. On the other hand, aerial surveys can still cover a lot of ground — or ice — and they can capture more detail than satellite views of the same area.

Aerial missions like Ice Bridge can also usually carry a greater variety of instruments than satellites. You can load an awful lot of gear onto a C-130 (they call it Hercules for a reason), or onto the P-3 Orion and DC-8 that have flown the Ice Bridge mission in previous seasons. When it comes to carrying lots of instruments and equipment, satellites are more limited, because it’s usually more expensive to fuel a rocket for launch — about $US10,000 per pound to get something into orbit, unless you can split the cost with other payloads — than it is to fuel a plane for a season’s worth of flights. “But on Ice Bridge, we can really tailor the instruments that we want, to get this comprehensive look at the ice that we can’t get, necessarily, from a satellite,” said Kurtz.

Ice Bridge was originally meant to be a six year mission, but it’s currently funded through 2019, two years after ICESat-2 is scheduled to launch. During those two years, Ice Bridge will help confirm measurements from the new satellite.

Challenging Work Environment

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The Arctic doesn’t give up its secrets easily; scientists still have to contend with the formidable polar weather. During part of each year’s campaign, Operation Ice Bridge flies out of a base at Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, where there’s sometimes not even a heated hangar for the aircraft. Flight crews have to warm up the engines before every flight. “It definitely can be a challenge,” said Kurtz.
At Thule Air Force Base in northern Greenland, where the Ice Bridge team spends the rest of each campaign, there are at least heated hangars to park the plane in overnight, but Arctic weather can still be rough. “Sometimes there’s these major wind events that happen in Thule, and they just kick up a lot of blowing snow,” said Kurtz. “Depending on the storm conditions forecast, we might not even be able to take off. If the storm conditions are bad enough, we’re actually not even allowed to leave our living quarters. This has happened on several occasions, where we’re stuck in our living quarters while the storm has to blow over.”
Even on days without storms, flights have to be planned to avoid cloud cover that the instruments on the plane can’t penetrate. “We have to know where we can fly based on are there clouds, are our instruments going to see through it, and is it dangerous to fly here,” explained Kurtz, “but once we look at the weather, we decide where it is that we want to fly, based on science priorities that have been identified beforehand.”
The scientists start gathering data as soon as the plane is in the air, and most are busy with their instruments. But as the project scientist, Kurtz said, he’s responsible for keeping an eye on factors that might impact the mission and its data collection — a role which allows him plenty of time to look out the window and appreciate the barren beauty of the ice.
“There’s some very, very beautiful scenery when we fly over the Arctic. It’s just such a very barren place, but it’s just not a typical scene that I would ever really see — I live in Maryland, so there’s nothing like it that I’ve ever seen,” said Kurtz. “When we’re flying over Greenland, just mountains, snow, and ice mixed with ocean. Sometimes we fly over very chaotic areas where the ice is moving quickly and it gets very crevassed and just very damaged and things like that, and we fly over at very low altitudes, less than 1500 feet, so we get a very close look at the surface. It’s sort of this mixture between a close look at the surface but we’re high enough up that we can see that this stuff just extends so far.”

Free Environmental Data

“This is all publicly available, so when people are interested in the science or if they want to question it, everything the scientists are working with — and a lot of very big results have come from the Ice Bridge project, you know — anyone can look at this data where these results came from,” said Kurtz.

The first thing to be published every season is called, appropriately enough, the Quick Look data. Kurtz processes the Quick Look data himself as soon as he returns from Greenland, while most of the instrument teams are still in the field. “This is done to help seasonal forecasts,” he said. “This is sort of the immediate results and immediate use of the data.”

And later, once the project’s scientists have had time to process the data, a more detailed data product is also available to the public on the National Snow and Ice Data Center website.

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Pixels Is A Bad Movie. Like, Really Bad: LANGUAGE HEAVY

“Scott Pilgrim, but for assholes”. That’s a line extracted from a review of Adam Sandler’s Pixels. It’s also one of the angriest internet tirades I’ve ever heard in my life.

We knew Pixels looked like a bad movie from the get-go, but the finished product seems so much worse than we could have possibly imagined.
Watch this review, don’t watch this movie.

Wow! That review is the pure definition of vitriol. Is he always like that or is this movie really just that bad?

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Wow! That review is the pure definition of vitriol. Is he always like that or is this movie really just that bad?

I have no idea about the reviewer.

For me, I watch it make up my own mind though in saying this, Adam Sandler movies haven't been the best of late IMO except the Cobbler, was pretty good. My kids loved it.

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The Plan To Reuse Earthquake Rubble For Emergency Homes In Nepal

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The earthquake that killed thousands of people in Nepal and destroyed priceless heritage sites also flattened hundreds of thousands of normal homes and buildings. Now, the rubble from those structures is being put to use by an architect who is designing permanent shelters for those who lost their homes.

The Japanese architect Shigeru Ban sprang into action just after the earthquake, asking for donations and help designing and delivering disaster shelters in the country. Ban spends a significant chunk of his practice on disaster- and aid-related projects, designing and building homes in disaster areas from New Zealand to Haiti to Japan itself. Ban’s expertise lies in inexpensive, lightweight shelters made from paper — he’s developed a building technique that uses cardboard tubes as structural supports that last for years or even decades.

This week, Ban announced he had finished the process of designing the shelters for Nepal. It may seem late in the game — after all, the earthquake was months ago — but in reality, after aid workers leave and emergency relief ends, finding reliable, safe, permanent housing in the months after a disaster can be the most difficult part for a family that has lost their home. Ban’s goal is to help those survivors who need a real roof over their heads, possibly for several years, until villages and cities begin to rebuild.

So what did he design? A post on his website describes a cheap, lightweight wooden frame that’s modular, making it very easy to transport and assemble. Each frame is made from a simple three-by-seven-foot rectangle of wooden beams, which can be stacked and connected by builders to customise the building footprint, big or small:

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The roof is “a truss made out of local paper tubes,” not unusual for a Ban project.

But the real genius of Ban’s plan is how these frames will evolve over time. The prefab modules can be put up very quickly, and covered with a plastic tarp to make the skeleton frame liveable immediately. But the modules are also designed to be filled with bricks and rubble, so over time, the house frame can become a permanent structure, built from the millions of bricks that came crashing down in April. “Afterwards, people can stack the rubble bricks inside the wooden frames and slowly complete the construction themselves,” the team explains.

Though there’s no word yet on what will be used for mortar — presumably there will be a system for supplying it — the wooden structural frame and roof will make these shelters much safer than their all-brick or cement predecessors. While steel can fail suddenly and cement and brick collapses catastrophically, wooden frames are more flexible, and the shelters’ papers roofs will cause less damage if they do fail.

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Ban says in the short statement that the first construction in Nepal will take place in August. Not a moment too soon, in parts of the country where fall — and cold weather — is fast approaching. Here’s how to donate.

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Man Wins French Scrabble Champs, Doesn't Speak French

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Nigel Richards, a God amongst mortals on the Scrabble tournament scene, has outdone himself this time: he’s won the French version of the Scrabble world champs without speaking a word of French.

Richards, who dominates Scrabble tournaments in the US and UK, won the French tournament the same way he’s able to exert his dominance in other languages: he has a terrifying memory.

“He doesn’t speak French at all, he just learnt the words” Liz Fagerlund, a close friend of Richards, told the New Zealand Herald, saying it’s been only eight weeks since he began studying the French dictionary. “He won’t know what they mean, wouldn’t be able to carry out a conversation in French I wouldn’t think.”

The French are apparently, for what it’s worth, “gobsmacked”.

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That's really going to speed up postage times...

This crap just passed through...what a nightmare

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15 "WHAT THE F**K?" MOMENTS YOU CAN EXPECT ON PUBLIC TRANSPORT

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Public transport an affordable way of getting around, a necessary evil and the incubator for the weird, wonderful and random from all walks of life.

The majority of the working week spent commuting, is largely unmemorable – but there’s always those odd occasions where you find yourself confronted with some the most unusual situations.
You know those days where the Universe points at you and boldly declares “Prepare for a giant serve of WTF!”
It's on those days, that your hum-drum daily commute suddenly gets turnED upside down into a whirlwind of awesome mixture with a tinge of terror – all kindly brought to you by these following 16 individuals.
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Maybe walk or just use the car next time... lookaround.giflol3.gif
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Steve McQueen’s Last Porsche Is Going up for Auction

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It seems like a ride owned by the late Captain of Cool seems to go up for auction on a weekly basis. And while all of them are special and interesting, this one is a little more important—it’s the last car Steve McQueen ever ordered.

The 1976 Porsche Turbo 930 ordered by McQueen will be up for auction from August 13-15 in Monterey at the Mecum Daytime Auction. Custom done with in a Slate Gray, the little rocket even comes with a dashboard switch to turn off the taillights in case of some hot pursuit. The spiffied-up Porsche boasts an interesting turbocharged 3.0-liter flat six that helps crank out 234 horsepower. It’s McQueen’s last special-order car, and it’s going to cost you a pretty penny.

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ENCUENTRO GUADALUPE

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The rooms at Encuentro Guadalupe may be small, but once you get an eyeful of the views they provide, their size simply won't matter. Set on a hill overlooking the Valle de Guadalupe wine region, this unique luxury hotel features 20 cabins, each of which provides unobstructed views of the valley.

The hotel is somewhat remote, but thanks to an on-site pool, restaurant, and winery/bar, there's little reason to leave — and since it's just 90 minutes from San Diego, you won't have far to go when you do decide to venture back to civilization.

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GOFISH UNDERWATER FISHING CAMERA

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Fishing cameras are nothing new.

The GoFish Underwater Fishing Camera just updates the category for modern times. This cylindrical shooter attaches to your line and captures your angling adventures in 1080p, with built-in infrared lights to make sure you don't miss a shot due to darkness. The camera is stabilized, and has a 170° wide-angle lens, built-in microphone, and a rugged body that's waterproof down to 150m. All your footage is saved to a microSD card, and when it's time to head to shore, there's built-in Wi-Fi so you can easily offload and share your best clips.

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This crap just passed through...what a nightmare

What was passed was just to do with digital online content like iTunes and Netflix

GST on imported packages is still (hopefully) a little while away yet

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This James Bond Aston Martin DB-5 Replica Is A $50,000 Toy Car

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If you’ve ever wanted to own James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 but could never afford it, try this on for size: a cheaper*, smaller*, Aston Martin DB5* from the prop-masters at Pinewood Studios.
(*compared to a real DB5, of course).
Yep, this is a one-third scale model of 007’s Aston Martin DB5, complete with Bond gadgets. You get replica remote-controlled model machine guns, bullet-proof shields, revolving numberplates and even the ejector button on the gear stick.
It’s freaking gorgeous, and it’ll cost you £28,000 because limited edition. That’s $58,000 at the time of writing.
Phew.
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Converse Redesigned Its Iconic Chucks For The First Time In 98 Years

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Some would consider it as sacrilegious as when Coke dabbled with its classic formula back in the ’80s, but after 98 years Converse has updated its iconic Chuck Taylor All-Stars. On the outside they look nearly identical, but on the inside the Chuck II is actually far more comfy for your feet.

Before you feel outraged about Nike’s shoe technology invading your classic Chucks, it’s important to remember that Nike actually bought Converse back in 2003 after it went bankrupt. So without the swoosh, Chucks wouldn’t actually still exist. Thankfully, Nike hasn’t really messed with Converse offerings since the takeover. And the new Chuck II actually sounds like the best of both worlds. Classic Converse styling, with advanced Nike technology.

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The biggest update to the Chuck II, as it’s officially called, is the inclusion of a material called Lunarlon. Developed by Nike, it’s a lightweight and bouncy foam that the company uses in its running and basketball shoes, but Lunarlon will now be incorporated into the Chuck II’s rubber sole. You probably still don’t want to run a race or shoot hoops while wearing them, but the Chuck IIs should still feel comfy after a long day’s wear.

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There are a few minor aesthetic changes with the Chuck II, including a non-slip tongue and the perforated suede liner — visible in the shot above — which helps improve breathability. (Translation: your feet won’t sweat and stink as much.) But overall it will be very difficult for most people to spot the differences between the original version and the upgrade — except the price tag. The high and low-top versions of the Chuck II will sell for $US15 more than the originals at $US75 and $US70, respectively. The times, they are a-changin’.

MIKA: I wear my black leather Chucks almost every day, love them.

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This Is The Most Earth-Like Planet Ever Discovered

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NASA’s Kepler Space telescope science team has just announced the discovery of the most Earth-like planet ever. Meet Kepler 452-b, the very first apparently rocky planet that definitively orbits a sun-like star in the habitable zone.

“Today, we’re pleased to announce the discovery of Kepler 452b: the first small planet in the habitable zone of a G type star like our sun,” said Jon Jenkins, Kepler data analyst and lead author on the new discovery. “The Earth is a little less lonely, because there’s a new kid on the block who moved in right next door.”
Kepler 452-b circles its star — which is the same surface temperature as the sun, 10 per cent brighter and 20 per cent larger — at an orbital radius 5 per cent larger than that of the Earth, and a period of 385 Earth days. With a planetary radius only 50 per cent larger than Earth’s, there’s a very good chance this world is rocky. If it is a rocky world, it’d weigh in at about five Earth masses, giving this ‘super-Earth’ a surface gravity of roughly 2g.
It could have a thick, cloudy atmosphere, and surface volcanic activity.

Even more exciting than Kepler 452-b’s Earth-like characteristics is the fact that this world has spent six billion years, give or take two, in the habitable zone of its star. As Jenkins pointed out today, “that’s considerable time for life to arise somewhere on its surface or in its oceans should the conditions for life exist.”
Kepler 452-b is about 1.5 billion years older than the Earth. If it were Earth sized, the planet and its ageing, brightening star might be at a point in their evolution where liquid water would be rapidly evaporating from the surface. But because of its higher mass, astronomers believe Kepler 452-b is protected from losing water for the next 500 million years or so.
The discovery of 452-b dethrones Kepler-438b and Kepler-442b, which, as of January, were the two most Earth-like planets to date. But despite being smaller than 452-b, 438-b and 442-b orbit dimmer, M and K stars respectively.
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Since Kepler launched in 2009, 12 planets less than twice the size of Earth have been discovered in the habitable zones of their stars. These planets are plotted relative to the temperature of their star and with respect to the amount of energy received from their star in their orbit in Earth units. The light and dark shaded regions indicate the conservative and optimistic habitable zone. The sizes of the blue disks indicate the sizes of these exoplanets relative to one another and to the image of Earth, Venus and Mars, placed on this diagram for reference.
Kepler 452-b was discovered while mining the trove of Kepler transit data collected between 2009 and 2013. So far, it’s the only known world in its system, which lies some 1,400 light years from Earth. We’re not going to get there anytime soon, but it’s fascinating to think that, off in the distant reaches of space, a world very much like our own might really exist.
Two Decades of Discovery
Two decades ago, astrophysicist Didier Queloz of Cambridge University, a PhD candidate at the time, shook the astronomy world with the accidental discovery of a planet twice the mass of Jupiter orbiting blisteringly close to the star 51 Pegasi. It was the first exoplanet discovered orbiting a Sun-like star (and only the second exoplanet, period), and became the prototype for a class of planets known today as hot Jupiters. Over the next decade, extrasolar planet discoveries continued to trickle in as astronomers used a variety of detection tools to capture the faint footprint of large planets orbiting close to their parent stars. None of these worlds were good candidates for habitability, but their discovery nonetheless helped to rewrite our understanding of the cosmic landscape.
Then, in 2009, NASA’s exoplanet hunting Kepler mission was launched into heliocentric orbit (orbit around our sun). The mission, designed to take a cosmic ‘census’ of the Cygnus Arm of our Milky Way several hundred light years distant, identifies planets by transit photometry. This entails measuring a faint dip in starlight as an orbiting planet crosses its path in Kepler’s line of sight. Transit events are both rare and incredibly difficult to detect, as the change in starlight caused by a planet is utterly minuscule. But with a photometer a thousand times more precise than anything built before, and outside the cloud of our atmosphere, Kepler was up to the challenge.
And the discoveries began to pour in. Literally, our cosmic veil was lifted as Kepler began to discover dozens, then hundreds of worlds — some of them, rocky and super-Earth-sized worlds in the not-too-hot, not-too-cold habitable zone of their star. The first Kepler mission, which ran from 2009 to 2013, confirmed over 1,000 worlds, including 11 planets less than twice the size of Earth in the habitable zone of a Sun-like star. Worlds that could, just maybe, harbour liquid water and life.

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Extrapolating from Kepler’s small cosmic census, astronomers now believe there are probably a hundred billion world in our galaxy — at least one for every star. That’s an amazing find, given that 50 years ago, the notion of any extrasolar planets was considered radical.

After four years of monitoring, Kepler had lost two of its critical spacecraft reaction wheels, destabilising the scope and rendering it unable to continue staring at its fixed, distant target. But all other spacecraft hardware remained intact, and so NASA decided that Kepler would continue its mission, after a fashion, on two wheels instead of four.

In June 2014, the K2 mission became fully operational, regaining a photometric precision similar to that of the original mission. Since 2014, Kepler has pointed itself near the ecliptic plane, sequentially observing fields across a wide range of latitudes in both the northern and southern skies. Until today’s announcement, K2 had confirmed 22 extrasolar planets. This had included the two most Earth-like planets to date, Kepler-438b and Kepler-442b.

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Here’s the updated ‘Hall of Fame’, with Kepler 452-b now stealing the show:

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Learn more about the latest Kepler discoveries here.

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ONE FAN TAKES HIS LOVE OF DARTH VADER TO SOARING NEW HEIGHTS

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Darth Vader just got a swanky new ride. And no, he didn't get the Death Star repaired. This time he seems to be going for something more "low profile" and eco friendly. What better way to ride in stylish luxury than to commission the building of a giant hot air balloon in the shape of your head!

Ok, so Darth Vader didn't actually commission this massive floating monument to himself. But it's still pretty hilarious!
The Darth Vader replica hot air balloon was approved by LucasFilm back in 2006. After the planning process was complete, the blueprints were sent to the world's largest hot-air balloon manufacturer to be realized.
What started out as a complete joke turned into a pretty impressive masterpiece which has been actually been approved by LucasFilm! This is some extremely serious fan art.
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I guess this is another example of how Darth Vader is inspiring people to let their imaginations soar!
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Some Guy Just Found a Case of Prohibition-Era Whiskey

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Finding an old whiskey bottle label in a museum dedicated to Prohibition-era America wouldn’t be unexpected; finding an entire box of perfectly intact bottles from the time certainly would. Yesterday, we came across a post on reddit from a user named hanshound who came into possession of an entire case of Old Overholt Whiskey made in 1921 and bottled in 1933. Since it was Prohibition, the hooch was labeled for medicinal purposes only. Unfortunately, hanshound has not plans on selling any of the bottles, so you won’t get to find out what 82-year-old whiskey tastes like.

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BEER GROWLER CO2 REGULATOR

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It's never tough to drink fresh beer, but it can be tough to keep it fresh after opening a growler. This Mini CO2 Regulator promises to keep things fresh, utilizing an easy to replace food grade CO2 cartridge that slides easily into the tap handle to keep the contents of the growler carbonated and ready to consume. It comes with a 64oz stainless steel growler, with choices ranging from wood and leather carrying handles, to a charcoal colored carbon fiber cover plate. And if you're not a beer drinker, it's perfect for Kombucha and coffee too.

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Converse Redesigned Its Iconic Chucks For The First Time In 98 Years

Some would consider it as sacrilegious as when Coke dabbled with its classic formula back in the ’80s, but after 98 years Converse has updated its iconic Chuck Taylor All-Stars. On the outside they look nearly identical, but on the inside the Chuck II is actually far more comfy for your feet.

Before you feel outraged about Nike’s shoe technology invading your classic Chucks, it’s important to remember that Nike actually bought Converse back in 2003 after it went bankrupt. So without the swoosh, Chucks wouldn’t actually still exist. Thankfully, Nike hasn’t really messed with Converse offerings since the takeover. And the new Chuck II actually sounds like the best of both worlds. Classic Converse styling, with advanced Nike technology.

The biggest update to the Chuck II, as it’s officially called, is the inclusion of a material called Lunarlon. Developed by Nike, it’s a lightweight and bouncy foam that the company uses in its running and basketball shoes, but Lunarlon will now be incorporated into the Chuck II’s rubber sole. You probably still don’t want to run a race or shoot hoops while wearing them, but the Chuck IIs should still feel comfy after a long day’s wear.

There are a few minor aesthetic changes with the Chuck II, including a non-slip tongue and the perforated suede liner — visible in the shot above — which helps improve breathability. (Translation: your feet won’t sweat and stink as much.) But overall it will be very difficult for most people to spot the differences between the original version and the upgrade — except the price tag. The high and low-top versions of the Chuck II will sell for $US15 more than the originals at $US75 and $US70, respectively. The times, they are a-changin’.

MIKA: I wear my black leather Chucks almost every day, love them.

Man, had my first pair in like 1968. Probably cost the folks $5.....they'll never be the same

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How The Best Restaurants Open Old Bottles Of Wine

Here’s how one of the best restaurants in the world, Eleven Madison Park, opens a bottle of wine when the wine is especially old and the cork is possibly all crumbly: they use burning hot metal tongs to heat up bottle so it can be ‘magically’ opened from the neck, avoiding the cork.

Business Insider made the video where Jonathan Ross, a sommelier at Eleven Madison Park, shows (and explains!) how (and why) it’s done this way.

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Elon Musk And Stephen Hawking Call For Ban On Autonomous Military Robots

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There’s no question that the age of autonomous killing machines is upon us. But some very smart and very influential people would like to turn back the clock.

Over 1,000 people from the worlds of tech, space travel, computing, and mathematics have signed an open letter calling for an end to the autonomous weapons arms race. The letter will be presented tomorrow in Buenos Aires at the International Join Conference on Artificial Intelligence.

The list of signatories includes everyone from your average grad student in mathematics to Noam Chomsky and Steve Wozniak. Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk, who have both warned about the potential dangers of autonomous killing machines in the past few months, have also signed their names to the letter.

Their concern seems to be centered on the idea that humans will be out of the loop on the battlefields of tomorrow. Cruise missiles and human-operated drones? Those are ok, according to the letter. But anything beyond that? Not ok.

The full letter appears below:

Autonomous weapons select and engage targets without human intervention. They might include, for example, armed quadcopters that can search for and eliminate people meeting certain pre-defined criteria, but do not include cruise missiles or remotely piloted drones for which humans make all targeting decisions. Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology has reached a point where the deployment of such systems is — practically if not legally — feasible within years, not decades, and the stakes are high: autonomous weapons have been described as the third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms.
Many arguments have been made for and against autonomous weapons, for example that replacing human soldiers by machines is good by reducing casualties for the owner but bad by thereby lowering the threshold for going to battle. The key question for humanity today is whether to start a global AI arms race or to prevent it from starting. If any major military power pushes ahead with AI weapon development, a global arms race is virtually inevitable, and the endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow. Unlike nuclear weapons, they require no costly or hard-to-obtain raw materials, so they will become ubiquitous and cheap for all significant military powers to mass-produce. It will only be a matter of time until they appear on the black market and in the hands of terrorists, dictators wishing to better control their populace, warlords wishing to perpetrate ethnic cleansing, etc. Autonomous weapons are ideal for tasks such as assassinations, destabilizing nations, subduing populations and selectively killing a particular ethnic group. We therefore believe that a military AI arms race would not be beneficial for humanity. There are many ways in which AI can make battlefields safer for humans, especially civilians, without creating new tools for killing people.
Just as most chemists and biologists have no interest in building chemical or biological weapons, most AI researchers have no interest in building AI weapons — and do not want others to tarnish their field by doing so, potentially creating a major public backlash against AI that curtails its future societal benefits. Indeed, chemists and biologists have broadly supported international agreements that have successfully prohibited chemical and biological weapons, just as most physicists supported the treaties banning space-based nuclear weapons and blinding laser weapons.
In summary, we believe that AI has great potential to benefit humanity in many ways, and that the goal of the field should be to do so. Starting a military AI arms race is a bad idea, and should be prevented by a ban on offensive autonomous weapons beyond meaningful human control.
The letter was coordinated through the Future of Life Institute, whose mission is explicitly described as “developing optimistic visions of the future.”
The part that might be confusing after reading the letter? We already have military autonomous killing machines, depending on your definition of “in the loop.” And there are surely autonomous technologies currently being used by the military that the public has no idea about.
The signatories clearly would like to draw a line in the sand. But the question becomes whether that line has already been crossed. Guys like Musk and Wozniak might need to invent a time machine if they want to put that genie back in the bottle.
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New Zealander's Self-Built 'Skysphere' Is The Retreat Of Your Dreams

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Being able to escape to your own personal haven, complete with beautiful views and peaceful seclusion, is one of many dreams many of us have. Enterprising Kiwi Jono Williams decided to make his perfect retreat a reality and three years and $NZ75,000 later, he’s ended up with the above creation, dubbed the “Skysphere”.
According to Stuff.co.nz’s Rachel Clun, originally all Williams wanted was a treehouse, however, he came to the conclusion a simple wooden hideaway just wouldn’t do. He felt the need for something more “robust”, with the 10m-tall Skysphere the result.
If you’re wondering, yes, it has all the trimmings you could want in a remote place of comfort:
“My favourite feature by far is my refrigerated, in-couch beer dispenser that can hold 12 beers in the dispenser and cool an additional 36 beers,” says Williams.
“I can set the optimal temperature of the fridge on my phone, press a button for a beer, and get alerted when the dispenser is getting low.”
Other high-tech specs include voice-controlled coloured LED lighting, fingerprint locks, motorised doors and a wireless sound system.
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It’s also solar-powered, so keeping all those gadgets going isn’t an issue and when it gets dark, well, there are plenty of lights to go around.
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If you’d like to find out more about the Skysphere, Williams has a website up with photos of the construction process and other details.

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Watch Planes Cut Straight Through Paris By Flying On Top Of A Street

Watch as aeroplanes cut straight through Paris as they fly right on top of Champ-Elysses and hit all the landmarks of Paris, from La Defense to the Arc de Triomphe to the Louvre and everything in between. The footage gets a little jittery at times and almost looks fake, but it’s so cool to rip through an entire city like this in one straightaway flight.

What a wonderful flyby of the city of light.

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NASA's Windbot Drone Would Sail Forever Around Jupiter

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As part of NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts program, the Jet Propulsion Lab at NASA is looking into using a ‘windbot’ to harness the power of Jupiter’s turbulent winds, and stay airborne without needing fuel.
The windbot idea was given $US100,000 in funding back in May, so that the team at JPL can explore the idea further. The basic model for the windbot is something like a dandelion seed — a probe that harnesses the power of turbulence to drift around Jupiter (or potentially Earth, for that matter).
Why turbulence? Well, according to NASA, it’s all about the energy gradient — a constant high wind velocity is useless, whereas the constant ups and downs of turbulence provide a variation in energy that can be harnessed.
The windbot idea isn’t the first to try and keep an aircraft in the sky for a long time — you’ve probably heard of Solar Impulse, the solar-powered plane trying to fly around the world right now. But solar power means you need some kind of energy-storage system to survive the nights. Batteries are heavy, and also surprisingly fragile — Solar Impulse is grounded until next year thanks to battery problems. [NASA]

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