Killzone: Shadow Fall is one of the launch titles for the PlayStation 4. I’m not really super interested in the game, but Richard Leadbetter wrote a pretty cool look into the audio and visual technologies of the game for Eurogamer. The piece is a little fluffy, with a lot of oohing and ahhing about what Guerrilla Games has done, but if you can look past that there’s actually a lot of pretty technical details about visual rendering, audio reflections, and other neat things.
"Everywhere in the game you have materials - walls, rocks, different things - that for geometry purposes are tagged with what material they are," says lead sound designer, Lewis James. "Now in the real world, when you fire a gun, the sound is just a byproduct of what what’s happening inside the gun. That’s the only part of the actual event that games tend to care about normally - the sound of the shot.
"But there’s all sorts of things happening - a pressure wave that comes out of the gun interacts with the surfaces it touches when it has sufficient force. So that’s what we do. It’s a system called MADDER - Material Dependent Early Reflections. We bounce the shockwaves of the gun off every surface in the game, all the time. That defines the sound. The point is that there should be no illusion that it’s reverb - because it isn’t. It’s real-time reflections based on geometry."
The idea that organisms can stably inherit characteristics they acquire during their lifetimes was discarded a long time ago; the fact that it doesn’t seem to happen was a big strike against the pre-Darwinian idea about evolution. But over the last few decades, that idea has been making a bit of a comeback. We’ve identified a few forms of epigenetic inheritance—primarily chemical modifications of DNA—that can be changed during the life of an organism but can still be passed down to its progeny. There’s clear evidence that this sort of inheritance is used in plants, and there are a few hints that it could influence significant traits in animals.
Yesterday, Nature Neuroscience published a paper that provides the strongest evidence yet that an acquired trait can be passed down for several generations in mice. Animals that were trained to associate a specific smell with pain produced progeny that also were sensitive to the smell—even when their entire role in producing the next generation was limited to being a sperm donor.
The paper itself inadvertently indicates just how radical this idea is. Early in its introduction, the authors (Brian Dias and Kerry Ressler) write, “An important, but often ignored, factor that influences adult nervous systems is exposure of parents to salient environmental stimuli before the conception of their offspring.” Well, yes, it has been ignored. But that’s largely because nobody had any evidence that it actually happens.
If you’ve heard of the Burning Man art/alternative lifestyle festival, what you might not know is that the organizers have been feuding with the county it’s hosted in, Pershing County in Nevada, for about a year. The county has been trying to get more money from the festival for security and so forth, and Burning Man pushed back against the additional fees and sued them.
Burning Man and Pershing County reached an agreement and tried to get the federal judge overseeing the case, Robert C. Jones, to dismiss the lawsuit. However, Jones objected to the settlement on the grounds of… well, no one is exactly sure what his reasons are. But he’s mad about something. Whether he’ll clarify what he’s mad about is an open question.
I cracked up reading Scott Sonner’s article for the AP on this because of how he had to write around the vagueness of Jones’s objections. A few choice quotes:
"It’s absurd and it’s illegal,” said Jones, though it wasn’t clear what would be illegal about the agreement.
With the county and Burning Man organizers saying they considered their dispute resolved, it wasn’t clear what impact his ruling would have on the agreement.
Colin: HE’S MAD ABOUT WE’RE NOT SURE WHAT. EFFECTS OF THIS UNKNOWN.
"Los Alamos’ RAPTOR telescopes in New Mexico and Hawaii received a very bright cosmic birth announcement for a black hole on April 27," said astrophysicist Tom Vestrand, lead author of a paper appearing today in the journal Science that highlights the unusual event.
"This was the burst of the century," said Los Alamos co-author James Wren. "It’s the biggest, brightest one to happen in at least 20 years, and maybe even longer than that."
The fact that this was the largest such event in a while and the huge amount of monitoring equipment we have these days mean that we got an enormous amount of data, so apparently scientists are pretty excited about analyzing this one.
RAPTOR stands for RAPid Telescopes for Optical Response, by the way. It’s not science without silly acronyms.
Oh boy, I sure am excited to share this Gallup poll with you. Writeup by Lydia Saad on Gallup’s site from November 8:
In light of the importance that child rearing has on gender roles in society and, ultimately, on families, workplaces, and the economy, Gallup recently asked Americans what they think is the ideal age for men and women to start having children. The majority, 58%, say 25 or younger is ideal for women, whereas the majority think men should start having children at 26 or older.
Darius Kazemi has put together a couple of interactive web demonstrations of how the random level generation in Derek Yu’s Spelunky works. There are two parts currently up, and he says there’s going to be at least a third but it’s not complete yet. What’s there now is a pretty cool look into procedural level generation.
Chrome is the only browser the demonstrations will work in; if you use something else, you’ll be able to view the page text but not be able to play with the sample. Colin says the pages also crash the Chrome beta, so watch out for that if you’re on the Chrome beta channel.
So, unfortunately, this “knockout game" thing is making the rounds again. Just like several years ago, there doesn’t actually appear to be any sort of increasing trend in this rare type of assault; the only rise is in news and social media’s caring about and sensationalization of it. But hey, racists gotta keep us in constant fear of the endemic violence of black culture or whatever dog whistle they’re trying this week.
I’m going to take this opportunity to link John H. Tucker’s award-winning article for St. Louis’s Riverfront Times in 2011 on the subject:
Mike Males, a research fellow at the nonprofit Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice and who runs the website YouthFacts.org, says the media have made habit of cherry-picking isolated instances of “knockout games” in order to gin up sensational stories that demonize youth. “This knockout-game legend is a fake trend,” Males contends.
Given that 4.3 million violent attacks were reported by U.S. citizens in 2009, according to the National Crime Victimization Survey, Males says reporters should know better than to highlight a handful of random attacks by kids and call it journalism. It’s the same thing as plucking a few instances of attackers with Jewish surnames who beat up non-Jews and declaring it a “troubling new trend,” he argues.
Still, over the years a handful of reports of “knockout” have emerged from cities in Missouri, Illinois, Massachusetts and New Jersey. And most criminologists and youth experts agree that unprovoked attacks by teenagers on strangers are a real, if extremely rare, phenomenon. “Knockout King” might be a new name, but it fits right into the timeworn litany of drifting, aimless kids who travel in packs and accost the vulnerable. The infamous Central Park Jogger case of 1989 popularized the term “wilding.”
This shit is literally just the “wilding” of the 2010s, and thanks to YouTube and CNN we’re going through another cycle of outrage.
I don’t want to make it sound like these assaults never ever happen, though, so please do read the article. It was written shortly after the murder of Hoang Nguyen from the knockout game in St. Louis, and Tucker devotes a lot of time to it.
The Time Lord has conquered the box office.
A special nationwide 3D screening of the Doctor Who 50th anniversary TV special “Day of the Doctor” grossed a stunning $4.8 million at the U.S. box office.
What makes this particularly impressive: That’s from one night. The 75-minute “Day of the Doctor” screened in 660 theaters as a one-night-only special event Monday and averaged $7,155 per location, with 320,000 tickets sold. Granted, the tix were $15 a pop, so that certainly helped.
Will people go to movie theaters? Yes. Will they go to movie theaters staffed by pimply-faced teens slinging popcorn to see what will be on Netflix in a couple months? Increasingly, looks like no. Should theaters start moving away from a commodity experience to a luxury experience? In my view, yes. Is this a panacea? No, of course not. Will it be challenging in the same way that introducing any new, original offering is? Duh. Will anyone in Hollywood listen to me? We’ll see.
AP reports on chain restaurants opening up in Alaska:
When Olive Garden opened, people stood in line in the bitter winter to get a table. Buffalo Wild Wings is in the city. Next year, Anchorage will get its first Texas Roadhouse, a Hard Rock Cafe and Krispy Kreme doughnut shops.
"We are foodies in Anchorage, and we are significant consumers," said Bill Popp, president of the Anchorage Economic Development Corp, adding that one reason for the influx is the relative health of the local economy and people having money to spend.
I really like how the author put Popp’s quote declaring Anchorage as a city of foodies right next to the opening of a Krispy Kreme.
Architecture critic Rowan Moore writing in The Guardian:
Sometimes, when flying over a landscape, you see a seam of unexpected fecundity – lush trees, richer green – that indicates the presence of water or a change to a more fertile soil. Something similar is happening across London. If property values could be made visible (and often they are, by increases in new construction), you would already see a long strip of intensification, in a city that already is hardly a desert, running from east to west. Over the next few years, it will become more and more apparent.
This is the effect of the underground Nile called Crossrail and it will show what happens when £14.8bn of public money is streamed underground in order to irrigate a city and its development opportunities above. Its current signs include diversions, closed roads, trucks of dirt scaring cyclists, references in estate agents’ particulars, fluorescent-suited workers, hoardings that give no clue to the chasms behind them, informative graphics and the saturated light that shines in computer-generated images of future buildings. Also such things as a once-ramshackle city farm in Stepney, east London, now spruce and confident, various redecorated community centres and support for a literary festival in Islington. This is due to a programme which obliges Crossrail’s contractors to make donations to the communities in which they are working.
This is incredibly cool. I can’t imagine something like this happening where I live.
T. Edward Nickens writing in the latest issue of Audubon magazine:
The reintroduction of the wild turkey to North America is frequently touted as the greatest wildlife conservation success story of the last century. Heavily hunted since the earliest days of European occupation, pushed out of huge swaths of its range by logging and land clearing, wild turkey populations reached a nadir in the early 1930s, with a continental population of about 30,000 birds. Today, after a massive trap-and-transfer effort that has spanned a quarter-century, about 7 million wild turkeys strut, gobble, and yelp from every state where they are native, and then some. “This was a monumental, continent-wide effort,” says Tom Hughes, assistant vice president of conservation programs for the National Wild Turkey Federation. “There aren’t many stories as inspiring in the history of wildlife conservation.”
Like the legend of that plump-breasted turkey at the Pilgrims’ feast, there’s a twist to this tale as well. Wild turkey numbers are stable and even increasing across parts of the bird’s range, but biologists in many southeastern states, considered a turkey stronghold, are concerned that populations in the region have tumbled during the past 10 years. In some places numbers may have shrunk by more than half. Even where outright population numbers haven’t dipped, biologists note a steep drop in the quantity of chicks, called poults, that accompany hens in the summer.
Check the piece to learn more about wild turkey conservation than you ever thought you’d know in your life.
A volcanic eruption has raised a new island, according to earthquake experts and the Japanese coast guard.
Advisories from the coast guard and the Japan Meteorological Agency said the islet is about 660 feet in diameter. It is just off the coast of Nishinoshima, a small, uninhabited island in the Ogasawara chain, which is also known as the Bonin Islands.
The approximately 30 islands are 620 miles south of Tokyo, and along with the rest of Japan are part of the seismically active Pacific “Ring of Fire.”
Photographer Shaul Schwarz has a documentary called Narco Cultura coming out in a few cities on Friday. It’s about narcocorridos, Mexican songs that glorify drug cartels, and has two main subjects: Riccardo Soto, a crime scene investigator, and Edgar Quintero, a narcocorrido songwriter.
NBC News’s Sophia Rosenbaum interviewed Schwarz:
Q: How did you get your subjects to trust you?
I did pay the dues with the CSI unit and Richie. They really appreciated that we spent the time. There were hits on people in the unit. We were in situations together. It’s kind of like a brother-soldier bond. If you stick with people through it, it’s more than words could do. And at the end of the day, when Richie drives home and he’s scared for his life and I’m in his car, I’m taking equal risks.
With Edgar’s side of life, it was a different process. The initial ‘let me have the camera on you for an artist’ is obvious. He wants to promote his music. But we’re very different than the one-hour interview with a Latino media outlet that just wants to have fun with him. It took him a while, but the trust grew so much.
The interview has some photos, the film’s trailer, and an exclusive clip. The film looks intriguing, so check ‘em out.
Yesterday was the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Hillel Italie wrote a piece for the Associated Press on how we’re not actually sure of the exact words Lincoln said:
Memories of Gettysburg only sharpened in hindsight. Accounts differ on everything from the day’s weather to how long the crowd applauded, if at all. Original transcriptions differ, and scholars still debate the speech’s exact length, usually ranging from 268 to 272 words.
The Telegraph printed an obituary for Mavis Batey, an awesome woman I’d never heard of until now:
… the Abwehr Enigma was so complex that Hut 6 had been unable to break it. It had four rotors instead of the standard three, and unlike other machines they rotated randomly with no predictable pattern.
[Dilly] Knox took over the task of breaking it, using Mavis Batey and Margaret Rock as his assistants, to test out every possibility. On December 8 1941 Mavis Batey broke a message on the link between Belgrade and Berlin, allowing the reconstruction of one of the rotors.
Within days Knox and his team had broken into the Abwehr Enigma, and shortly afterwards Mavis broke a second Abwehr machine, the GGG, adding to the British ability to read the high-level Abwehr messages…
After World War II, she got into the conservation of historical gardens in Britain too. Pretty cool.
Great piece by Ian Williams for Jacobin magazine on labor exploitation in the video game industry:
Here, then, is how the entire clanking machine of the video game industry works, from student to worker. More people are trying to get into the industry than there are positions available. With traditional universities and community colleges only recently beginning to offer serious, robust programs in interactive media, anything to get a leg up is tried. For-profits prey on this ruthlessly and without oversight.
Management is only too happy to keep this revolving door of for-profit graduates and dreamers going. It depresses wages, giving breathing room for the beancounters who are, almost without exception, allowing management compensation, marketing costs, and non-worker compensation costs generally to skyrocket. It forces employees to give in to management demands because there is always, no matter what position you hold, someone who is enough of a dreamer, with enough passion, to do it cheaper.
There isn’t much in the way of labor statistics available for the industry, but Williams quotes some info we do have from a survey from 2012 and the numbers are not good.
Some of the problems Williams identifies aren’t unique to the game industry, but inherited from the overall software development industry. His very first suggestion in his proposed solution is that game development staff should unionize, because there’s no strong organization for the industry — the same is true for software houses as a whole.
Spinetti also has several chunks of concrete believed to have come from the foundation of the New Frontier, which was demolished in 2007. The chunks are riddled with poker chips from the Sands and metal tokens from resorts as far away as Laughlin.
"When chips became not current, casinos didn’t know what to do with them," Spinetti said. "I have no idea who started it, but they’d go into the concrete."
Las Vegas casinos eventually switch the chips they use and expire the old ones, and before 1987 when regulations went into effect in Nevada, they used to dispose of them in hilarious ways.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced in Atlanta that the administration would later on Friday post the long-awaited rule establishing parity for mental health and substance use disorders, a key feature already implemented in the 2010 Affordable Care Act.
The rule guarantees that health plans’ co-payments, limits on visits to providers and deductibles for mental health benefits match those for medical and surgical benefits. It also ensures equal treatment for residential and outpatient care, a long-sought benefit in the mental health community.
Experts are cautious about how good this will actually be and how much insurers will try to weasel out of the new rules, but this is pretty excellent news.
For the last four years, orthopedic surgeons Dr. Steven Claes and Dr. Johan Bellemans have been conducting research into serious ACL injuries in an effort to find out why knees continue to give out, even following a successful repair surgery on that ligament. Their starting point was an 1879 article by a French surgeon that theorized the existence of an additional ligament located on the anterior of the human knee. That postulation, it turns out, is exactly correct, and the two Belgian doctors have provided a full anatomical description of the ligament from their study of cadavers using macroscopic dissection techniques.
Yep, it’s the year 2013 and we’re still discovering new body parts. Science is great, we should keep doing it.
Richard Greenwald on The Atlantic Cities back in May:
Ever try to get from Brooklyn to Queens, two of the most populated boroughs of New York City? Without a car, it’s nearly impossible, as most subway lines require one to go through Manhattan first.
I was recently at an event and speaking to a Brooklyn business leader who grew up in Queens. He told me he remembered going to Brooklyn frequently as a child, for shopping and even for high school. Every time I meet someone who grew up in Queens of a certain age, they will tell me that they remember going to Brooklyn all the time. For them, going “downtown” meant going to Brooklyn. So what happened? How did the two neighboring boroughs become disconnected?
Like everything in American history, the answer turns out to be capitalism.
Evan Amos is the guy who took all those photographs of video game consoles on Wikipedia:
At first I took photos of food items, candy bars and electronics, but I began narrowing my focus on video game systems. I started making lists of every console ever released. Before the video game crash of 1983, there were numerous systems, many now barely remembered, with little information available. Message boards and fansites had few details, with the same poor, low-resolution pictures. I realized that relatively recent history was being lost to time, all because the internet did not have good information and media about these game systems.
It makes complete sense in retrospect that the photos were taken by an editor, but until reading this, the possibility never crossed my mind. I think I just assumed that they were press kit photos.
The city of Ann Arbor, Michigan is holding elections this Tuesday for its city council. Ryan Stanton writes for Michigan news site MLive on the write-in campaign of one candidate:
A 20-pound carp pulled from a pond in West Park and released into the Huron River last November is waging a quixotic write-in campaign.
The self-described bottom feeder is making his platform known via social media, tweeting about plans to “bring back the tanneries,” launch “high-rise developer reeducation camps,” and, of course, add more bike lanes.
New Yorker profile by Simon Parkin of Tomohiro Nishikado, the man who created the hardware, software, graphics, and sound of the arcade classic Space Invaders:
Nishikado grew up near the neon glow of Osaka, but he describes his immediate childhood environment as “slow-paced.” He spent his free time playing Shogi, a Japanese variation of chess, fishing, and conducting explosive science experiments. “Often, I’d invite my friends over to my house to show off new experiments,” he said. “On more than one occasion, I caused a chlorine gas leak, and the neighbors complained.”
That seems like a very reasonable thing to complain about.
It’s a good profile. There’s a lot of info about the game’s development and the immediate reaction in Japan and abroad.
Tom Simonite with a long piece for the MIT Technology Review:
The volunteer workforce that built the project’s flagship, the English-language Wikipedia—and must defend it against vandalism, hoaxes, and manipulation—has shrunk by more than a third since 2007 and is still shrinking. Those participants left seem incapable of fixing the flaws that keep Wikipedia from becoming a high-quality encyclopedia by any standard, including the project’s own. Among the significant problems that aren’t getting resolved is the site’s skewed coverage: its entries on Pokemon and female porn stars are comprehensive, but its pages on female novelists or places in sub-Saharan Africa are sketchy.
He talks about the development of Wikipedia’s bureaucracy and automated editing tools and quotes some people who have researched Wikipedia who think those developments have had a negative impact on retaining editors.
From an Associated Press report on how the hole in the ozone layer over the South Pole has shrunk slightly since last year:
NASA chief atmospheric scientist Paul A. Newman says the main reason for this year’s result is local weather. The upper air has been almost 2 degrees warmer than normal in the globe’s southernmost region. That has led to fewer polar stratospheric clouds. These clouds are where chlorine and bromine, which come from man-made products, nibble away at ozone.
"It’s just like watching the Pac-Man eating cookies, where cookies are ozone. The chlorine atoms are the Pac-Man," Newman said.
I’m sure this is 100% exactly how atmospheric gasses work. Waka waka waka waka waka waka waka waka waka waka waka
Guest post on Esquire magazine’s politics blog by Lt. Col. Robert Bateman:
When you read a news account which cites, “unnamed sources” and “a senior defense official” and “a senior military leader” and other such anonymous sources, you are often (though not always) being fed a line. A polite lie on the journalist’s part, but the problem is, you have not been let in on the lie. It is a well defined pirouette between journalists, political public affairs officers in all of the federal agencies, and the professional civil servants and military officers who serve at the direction of our political leaders.
… more often than not, at least in the DoD/State/White House stories that you read, the anonymous sources you are seeing are not really anonymous at all. All of the reporters know who they are, and they all got the same briefing. Only you have been kept in the dark.
Reuters report from last month on why it’s become extremely difficult to purchase plane tickets in Venezuela to foreign countries:
After a decade of currency controls set up by late socialist leader Hugo Chavez in 2003, the disparity between the official and black-market rates for the local bolivar currency is higher than ever. Greenbacks now sell on the illegal market at about seven times the government price of 6.3 to the dollar.
There are strict limits on the availability of dollars at the 6.3 rate, but Venezuelans are cashing in on a special currency provision for travelers. With a valid airline ticket, Venezuelans may exchange up to $3,000 at the government rate.
Some are not even flying, leaving many planes half empty.
So it’s possible to buy a plane ticket, use that as permission to exchange local currency to U.S. dollars, and then immediately flip those dollars on the black market, turning a profit large enough to pay for the plane ticket and then some.
The disappearance, considered a theft by Sheriff Pat Melton of Franklin County, was reported Tuesday, the sheriff said. He suspects an inside job that took place in the past month or two, after the white-oak barrels, aging on the cooler lower floor of a warehouse, were debunged and the amber bourbon bottled and labeled before the annual deliveries. […]
Sheriff Melton said the culprit stole 195 bottles in three-bottle cases of Pappy Van Winkle 20 Year, which has a suggested retail price of $130 a bottle, and nine cases of 13-year-old Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye, with a suggested price of $69. The thief had an obvious motive: the secondary market for the scarce whiskey is hot. A single bottle of 20-year-old Pappy, as aficionados know it, sold at Bonham’s auction in New York on Sunday for $1,190.