10 must-read articles for 28 September (Wired UK)

Influenza virus
Influenza virusMedia for Medical / Getty

Your WIRED.co.uk daily briefing. Today, Blackberry announces its first Android phone, Facebook will provide internet access to refugee camps, heat is rising from the depths of the Arctic Ocean and more.

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Blackberry announces its first Android phone

Blackberry is to launch its first Android phone later this year, CEO John Chen has announced (Ars Technica). The Priv phone will have a slide-out keyboard and promises to combine “the best of BlackBerry security and productivity with the expansive mobile application ecosystem available on the Android platform.” The announcement follows Blackberry’s acquisition of mobile device management firm Good Technology, giving the company access to Good’s sophisticated Android device management interface.

Facebook to provide internet access to refugee camps

Mark Zuckerberg has announced that Facebook will be helping to bring internet access to refugee camps (BBC). “Connectivity will help refugees better access support from the aid community and maintain links to family and loved ones,” he said. The company says it will be working with the UNHCR and has also announced that it is joining a new campaign to make the internet available to everyone on the planet within the next five years.

Oceanographers detect heat rising from the Arctic Ocean’s depths

Currents of warm water are rising from the depths of the Arctic Ocean and could contribute to polar melt, say oceanographers from the ArcticMix research mission (BBC). The warm water is coming from a deep layer of denser, saltier water that has acted as a heat reservoir beneath the Arctic and is now being drawn up by currents of turbulence. Chief scientist Jennifer MacKinnon says that “the strength of heat coming up from below the surface has been as strong as the heat coming down from the Sun.”

Viruses are living organisms related to other cells

New research indicates that viruses are living organisms, rather than rogue packets of genetic material, as previously thought (Gizmodo). Evolutionary biologists compared the protein folds of viruses with those of normal cells to show that the two are related and that viruses show clear signs of their own evolutionary path. “Viruses should be considered ‘living’ organisms that simply survive by means of an atypical reproduction method that requires infecting a cell,” wrote Gustavo Caetano-Anollés and Arshan Nasir.

NASA Mars mystery announcement

NASA will be unveiling a “major science finding” about Mars later today, but they’re not dropping many clues as to what it might be (The Register). Scientists participating in the press conference include planetary science and volcanology expert Lujendra Ojha and planetary geology professor Alfred McEwen. Their areas of expertise, along with the discovery of wet ground by Mars rover Curiosity, have led to speculation that the announcement could involve the presence of water – and perhaps life – on the red planet.

YouTube set to launch US subscription services in October

YouTube is getting ready to launch its US subscription service in October, going by a contract update sent to the platform’s content owners (Re/Code). The subscription service will allow users to watch YouTube ad-free for just $10 (£6.60) a month – the same price that the company was originally going to charge for its music-only ad-free service. Unfortunately, it remains unclear when UK users are likely to have access to ad-free viewing.

Breeding better soil microbes can make plants healthier

Soil microbes have a major impact on how well and how large plants grow, biologists  have found (Gizmodo). The researchers found that genetically identical plants in their lab were were growing to different sizes depending on the microbial content of the soil around their roots. By transplanting microbes from the largest plants, they were able to select for the most beneficial soil microbes over several generations.

GCHQ’s operation “Karma Police” tracks online activity en masse

The Intercept has released leaked documents which detail a GCHQ operation to monitor global internet traffic on a vast scale. Disclosed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the files show that GCHQ has been tapping the “25 percent of all Internet traffic” that passes through the UK in order to monitor it for “suspicious” activity. In 2012, the intelligence agency was storing about 50 billion metadata records a day, with plans to increase capacity to 100 billion by the end of the year.

Cancelled Silent Hills was to have featured the art of Junji Ito

Director Guillermo del Toro has revealed that Silent Hills was to have involved the collaboration of legendary manga artist Junji Ito (The Verge). Ito’s characteristically horrific illustration work is best known from manga series such as Gyo and Uzumaki. Silent Hills, a reboot of survival horror classic Silent Hill, was to have been directed by del Toro along with Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima until it was cancelled by Konami earlier this year.

The Warriors come out to play for one last ride home

The original cast of cult 1979 film, The Warriors, got back together to recreate the film’s violent subway journey home to Coney Island in a video produced by Rolling Stone magazine (Game Informer). While the original film has the Warriors battling rival gangs across hostile territory, today’s older, wiser stars take a rather more sedate journey across New York.

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This lab makes phone batteries that charge in 30 seconds

Welcome to the lab where scientists are building smartphone batteries that fully charge your phone in 30 seconds — and electric-car batteries designed to go from zero to full in a mere five minutes.  StoreDot, a groundbreaking Israeli materials-science startup, opened its doors to WIRED to show how it’s using $66m (£43.43m) in investment funding to solve fundamental technology problems in new ways.

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28 September 2015 | 6:40 am – Source: wired.co.uk


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