10 must-read articles for 16 November (Wired UK)

Facebook Safety Check


Your WIRED.co.uk daily briefing. Today, Facebook will be expanding Safety Check to cover more human disasters, Apple has no intention of merging its tablet and laptop ranges, Google offers 1TB of storage in exchange for Maps reviews and more.

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1. Facebook to expand Safety Check to cover more human disasters

Facebook has committed to providing its Safety Check feature for more human disasters after the social media giant was criticised for enabling it for people in the vicinity of terrorist attacks in Paris, but not in Beirut (TechCrunch). Safety Check allows people in an area affected by a disaster to confirm that they are safe and has previously been used for earthquakes and typhoons, but Paris was the first human disaster to receive the check-in feature. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote that “we will work hard to help people suffering in as many of these situations as we can”.

2. Tim Cook: Apple will never merge the MacBook and iPad

Apple CEO Tim Cook has said that the company doesn’t plan on creating a combined tablet and laptop in the style of Microsoft’s recently announced Surface Book (Engadget). In an interview with the Irish Independent he said that although there are increasing architectural similarities between Apple’s tablet and computer platforms, “we feel strongly that customers are not really looking for a converged Mac and iPad”.

3. Google offers 1TB of free storage to top Maps reviewers 

Google Maps has updated its Local Guides program with new rewards for top contributors (The Verge). Top-tier rewards include visits to Google’s campus and a free 1TB Google Drive upgrade, while lower-level incentives include exclusive contents to win Google hardware and early access to new products and features. Once signed up, Local Guides can earn points by “writing reviews, uploading photos, adding new places, fixing outdated information, and answering simple questions”.

4. Apathetic people have less efficient brain connections

A team from Oxford University has found that people who were more apathetic, based on a questionnaire, showed more activity than motivated people in their pre-motor cortex when deciding whether it was worth carrying out a task in exchange for a reward (Gizmodo). Further investigation found that the apathetic group had less efficient connections between the anterior cingulate cortex, a part of the brain which anticipates rewards and makes decisions, and the supplementary motor area, which controls movement. Prof Masud Husain said that “if it takes more energy to plan an action, it becomes more costly for apathetic people to make actions. Their brains have to make more effort”.

5. Exoplanet has 7200kph winds

Astrophysicists from the University of Warwick have discovered a belt of wind circling the equator of exoplanet HD 189733b at speeds of 2km per second (ScienceDaily). That’s twenty times faster than any wind recorded on Earth, where it would be seven times the speed of sound. The winds were measured by using high resolution spectroscopy to study the planet’s atmospheric sodium absorption. As parts of the planet’s atmosphere move towards or away from Earth, the Doppler effect changes the wavelength of the absorption phenomenon, making it possible to measure wind speed.

6. Pi found in hydrogen atoms

A study published in the Journal of Mathematical Physics has shown that Pi can be derived from the behaviour of the electron in a hydrogen atom (Science). While working with a technique to calculate the approximate the upper energy limit of the orbital route of a hydrogen atom’s electron, Taymar Friedmann and Carl Hagen found that, when an orbital path has a great deal of “angular momentum”, the approximate value grew closer to the exact value, which can be expressed as a ratio of gamma functions, one of which gives a value of pi. However, as Bruno Nachtergaele, editor of the journal in which the paper was published notes: “You are entitled to be delighted by this, but one shouldn’t look too deep for meaning”.

7. To survive mass extinction events, be a small creature

A University of Pennsylvania team has shown that mass extinction events kill off larger animals but leave smaller creatures standing (Motherboard). The team, led by paleobotanist Lauren Sallan, compared the body sizes of 1,120 fish fossils from before and after the Devonian extinction event and found that “large-bodied, slow-breeding survivors failed to diversify, facing extinction despite earlier evolutionary success”. The results may be an indicator for future biodiversity — as Sallan points out, “it doesn’t matter what is eliminating the large fish or what is making ecosystems unstable. These disturbances are shifting natural selection so that smaller, faster-reproducing fish are more likely to keep going, and it could take a really long time to get those bigger fish back in any sizable way”.

8. Steam OS doesn’t perform as well as Windows 10

Tests by Ars Technica have revealed that, on a system with a dual-core Pentium G3220 processor and a 2GB Nvidia Geforce GTX660 graphics card, the same games performed up to 58% better under Windows 10 than they did under Steam OS. Of the six games tested by the publication, only Left 4 Dead 2 showed comparable frame rates under both the Windows and Linux-based operating systems. While it’s still early days for Valve’s gaming system, developers may have quite some way to go when it comes to optimising games for OpenGL and Linux, rather than DirectX and Windows.

9. Watch the Koenigsegg Regera open without a touch

Koenigsegg’s spectacular Regera hybrid hypercar can open its every door, window and compartment remotely, using lightweight hydraulic systems (GT Spirit). Dubbed ‘Autoskin’, the self-opening system includes proximity sensors to prevent it from hitting anything when it opens its doors.

10. Learn Morse code and win WW1 in this free game

Morse is a free web-based game that calls on you to use Morse code to direct your troops on land, air, and sea battlefields (Rock, Paper, Shotgun). As in a game of Battleships, you have to enter the coordinates of your desired target to fire on it, but those coordinates have to be entered in Morse code. Also unlike Battleships, you can get reconnaissance information, so you’re not firing blind, and events on the three battlefields interact with each other.

Popular on WIRED.co.uk

First-person view drone racing is taking off

On an abandoned farm on the outskirts of Brighton, the UK’s top drone racers are duking it out — but they’re not looking up at the sky.  This is the fast-growing sport of first-person view (FPV) racing, which combines nimble quadcopters, cameras and video goggles to give pilots a drone’s-eye view. “It’s a mix between flying a plane and a Star Wars podracer,” says Dan Waring, 19, the reigning UK drone freestyle champion. 

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16 November 2015 | 7:40 am – Source: wired.co.uk


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