Megapixels: Behold this giant spinning ice disk

The image above might suggest someone dropped a small planet in the middle of the Presumpscot River in Westbrook, Maine, but (shocker) that’s not the case. It’s actually a big disk made of ice that’s slowly rotating in place.

It would be reasonable to think the river’s current is propelling that rotation, but research suggests the object may be spinning all on its own. Giant disks like this form not infrequently during the cold winter months, and in 2016 some physicists decided to get to the bottom of the phenomenon. The group created a miniature ice disk and floated it in a tank, where they determined that the rotational force was generated by a vortex that formed beneath the disk. Water, you see, is at its most dense at 4°C (that’s 39.2°F). As the ice of the disk cools down the fluid surrounding it, that water reaches the four-degree mark and sinks. It flows down and horizontally, creating a swirling vortex. And the larger the temperature gradient—meaning the warmer the river water is compared to the frozen disk—the faster the cooling water will sink. That means the disk spins faster, too. it’ll spin because the cooling water will sink faster.

That also means spinning disks like this wouldn’t necessarily happen in any body of water. Some lakes may already be at 39.2°F or colder when water starts freezing, which means the cooled water next to the ice wouldn’t sink at all, and thus there wouldn’t be a vortex to rotate the disk.

The same phenomenon also happens you place an ice disk on a solid surface, such as a plate of aluminum. If the plate is warmer than the ice, it melts and creates a miniature vortex inside the pooled water beneath.

We can all agree that the science behind this photo is the coolest thing about it, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy watching this drone footage of the disk set to almost-over-the-top dramatic music:

via Popular Science – New Technology, Science News, The Future Now

January 15, 2019 at 02:47PM

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GeForce RTX 20 Series DXR Ray Tracing Performance on Battlefield V

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Nathan Kirsch |

Tue, Jan 15, 2019 – 10:47 AM

Real-time ray tracing on Battlefield V was pretty impressive when it came out in November 2018, but GeForce RTX series cards took a pretty big performance hit when turning on this new feature. The good news is that in December 2018 a patch for Battlefield V along with the latest GeForce drivers were able to improve DXR performance by up to 50% in some instances. This massive performance improvement was achieved when NVIDIA worked alongside EA and DICE to optimize DXR Ray Tracing in Battlefield V. No changes were done to the DXR quality levels, but rather the number of rays that are included in each scene as the ray tracing levels are increased. Variable rate ray tracing was also enabled, so surfaces that usually get reflections can be better targeted.

“GeForce RTX 2080 Ti users will now be able to play at over 60 FPS at 2560×1440 with DXR Raytraced Reflections set to Ultra. GeForce RTX 2080 users will be able to play at over 60 FPS at 2560×1440 with Medium DXR Raytraced Reflections. And GeForce RTX 2070 users will be able to play at over 60 FPS at 1920×1080 with Medium DXR Raytraced Reflections.” – NVIDIA PR

According to NVIDIA, you’ll be able to play at over 60 FPS on most RTX series cards at 1080P with DXR enabled. This is great news and something we experienced back in November 2018 when we used the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti to look at performance in BFV. We wanted to re-test the GeForce RTX series back in December 2018, but we got busy with the holidays and then the RTX 2060 arrived and took priority. Now that Legit Reviews made it back from CES 2019 we were able to re-test Battlefield V on the GeForce RTX 2060, 2070, 2080 and 2080 Ti at various DXR settings.

NVIDIA GeForce RTX Graphics Cards

The exact cards that we will be using today:

  • NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition ($1199)
  • NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Founders Edition ($799)
  • EVGA GeForce RTX 2070 XC Gaming ($579)
  • NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 Founders Edition ($349)

NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 Test System

To try out DXR in Battlefield V we turned to our GPU test system that is comprised of an Intel Core i7-8086K processor running on a Gigbyte Z370 Aorus Gaming 7 motherboard with 32GB of G.Skill DDR4-3200 RGB memory. All testing was done on a fresh install of Windows 10 Pro v1809 with GeForce 417.54  video card drivers. All testing was done over January 12-13th, 2019 and all Battlefield V and Windows updates were applied.

Our test system has an Acer Predator X27 27-inch 4K UHD IPS monitor with NVIDIA G-Sync HDR and a 144Hz refresh rate ($1799.99 shipped), so we enabled High Dynamic Range (HDR) as well as DXR and set the graphics quality to Ultra. The frame rate limiter to 200 and Vertical Sync was disabled.

We then went down to the DXR Raytrace Reflections Quality setting and tested out the cards at low, medium, high and ultra DXR settings.

DXR GeForce RTX Testing

When we started doing out testing we noticed that the difference in performance between low/medium and high/ultra was minimal. Therefore, we will be focusing on low and ultra DXR settings for the rest of the article to keep things simple. Low is important to talk about as that is the starting point for real-time ray tracing and ultra should most certainly be looked at as that is as good as DXR gets.

BFV DXR Testing on GeForce RTX at 1080p

Battlefield V at 1920 x 1080 is fairly forgiving to the latest GeForce RTX 20 series cards. With DXR disabled and the image quality set to ultra, we were able to average over 110 FPS on the four current cards. With DXR enabled and set to ‘low’ we found once again that we were able to average over 60 FPS on all of the models. The NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 6GB GDDR6 Founders Edition model was able to average 68.9 FPS. With the DXR cranked up to ‘Ultra’ all of the cards took a decent performance hit and the RTX 2060 dipped below 60 FPS on average, but it was still averaging a respectable 56.6 FPS.

Back in November 2018 we were getting 87.7 FPS on the RTX 2080 Ti with DXR set to ‘low’ and now we are getting 94.7 FPS. So, we are seeing an 8% performance improvement with NVIDIA’s flagship RTX series card with the changes.

BFV DXR Testing on GeForce RTX at 1440p

With the display resolution cranked up to 2560 x 1440 we found Battlefield V to be more than playable on the entire GeForce RTX series. Even the new entry-level RTX card, the RTX 2060, was able to average almost 80 FPS with Ultra IQ settings and DXR turned off. Once you enable DXR ‘Low’ we found the GeForce RTX 2060 FE dropped down to 45 FPS on average and the gaming experience wasn’t great. You’ll need a GeForce RTX 2070 or better to have an enjoyable real-time ray tracing gaming experience at 1440P. With the DXR set to ‘Ultra’ only the mighty RTX 2080 Ti could average over 60 FPS and deliver a good gaming experience with everything cranked up in Battlefield V.

Back in November 2018 we were getting 70.7 FPS on the RTX 2080 Ti with DXR set to ‘low’ and now we are getting 79.8 FPS. So, we are seeing a nice 13% performance improvement with the optimizations.

Final Thoughts and Conclusions: 

The performance optimizations in Battlefield V are much welcomed and we saw an 8-13% performance improvement on the GeForec RTX 2080 Ti FE with ‘low’ ray-tracing settings. This is the first time that we have looked at all of the RTX 20 series cards in Battlefield V and we are pretty impressed with the performance.  The new GeForce RTX 2060 Founders Edition card with 6GB of GDDR6 was able to average at nearly 70 FPS (1080p) with DXR enabled at its base setting. The game looked great and it just goes to show that a $349 graphics card can utilize the latest features.

via Legit Reviews Hardware Articles

January 15, 2019 at 10:50AM

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Microsoft and Walgreens join forces to ‘transform healthcare’


Microsoft and Walgreens announced today that they will be teaming up to help improve health care. The companies have entered into a seven-year agreement during which Walgreens plans to migrate most of its IT infrastructure over to Microsoft’s Azure cloud services. Microsoft is also providing Microsoft 365, a package of Windows 10 and Microsoft Office, to the 380,000 employees working at Walgreens stores around the world.

The two companies have set a vague goal to “transform health care delivery,” though the details on how they will achieve it are mostly vague. It mostly boils down to making data more accessible. The companies believe they can make information more readily available, it will enable more solutions that don’t require going to the doctor. That may take the form of virtual care or may be as simple as using a connected device to remind a person to take their medication each day. Essentially, it’s the simple stuff that can reduce emergency room visits and decrease instances of readmissions at hospitals.

Microsoft and Walgreens also have committed to a multi-year research and development investment to “build health care solutions, improve health outcomes and lower the cost of care.” They also plan on exploring the possibility of creating innovation centers, though didn’t go into detail on what those centers will do.

Microsoft’s move into health care follows Amazon’s major push into the field. Last year, the retail giant a partnered up with JPMorgan and Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway to work toward tackling growing expenses associated with health care. Amazon also reportedly launched new software tools for medical centers that can mine for medical records to help cut costs.

via Engadget

January 15, 2019 at 12:03PM

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Netflix Is About to Cost You More Money

CEO Reed Hastings
Photo: Paul Sakuma (AP)

Netflix, the video streaming service no one can seem to quit despite its increasingly poor collection of titles, is about to hike up its prices.

Customers can expect a $1 to $2-per-month rise, depending on their plan of choice. Basic plans will go from $8 to $9; the next highest tier, which includes high-def streaming and multiple devices, will jump from $11 to $13; and the one absolutely no one pays for will cost $16 each month instead of $14—making it even more costly than HBO Now.

CNBC reports the changes will hit current subscribers within the next three months, while new subscribers get to cough up the extra buck or two immediately.

This is another reason to consider if it’s worth over $100 a year to half-heartedly leave Zumbo’s Just Desserts on for hours at a time.

via Kotaku

January 15, 2019 at 09:43AM

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CES’s Flying Taxis, and More of This Week’s Car News

The Consumer Electronics Show, the annual moot of the tech gadget industry, is always on the trippy side. But zoom in on CES’s transportation options and it gets downright hallucinatory. Cars with legs, flying taxis, sensors that watch your face while you drive, robot deaths, an Uber for … cabs. While we recover from Vegas, please be advised that what happened there last week has not stayed there. We’ve got you covered.

Also this week: Ford nixes Chariot, its app-based shuttle service; the largest electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft yet takes flight; and we talk to Seattle’s Department of Transportation about why it buried a ramp and then dug it back up again, six years later. Let’s get you caught up.


Stories you might have missed from WIRED this week

  • A Russian robotics company says its product was hit by a Tesla Model S on Autopilot at CES. The whole thing was probably a hoax, but it demonstrates that the public still has a lot to learn about how automated car tech works.

  • Nightmarish, or fun? CES is all the excuse Hyundai needs to introduce its legged car concept. It can roll on roads or extend its appendages and clawed feet to climb stairs or trek over difficult terrain.

  • In Vegas, the Israeli company Guardian Optical Technologies rolled out its new “Optical Cabin Control” feature. The sensor-enabled tech is for spying—but hopefully for good. It promises to monitor drivers’ eyes, head, and, yes, butt movements to ensure they’re paying attention while using new, semiautonomous car tech. (The butt sensors are for ensuring airbags are properly armed while there are passengers in the car.)

  • Electric Harley-Davidson motorcycles? 😍 Their $29,799 price tag? 😒

  • Mapping and location data company HERE unveils SoMo, an app platform for all the cab companies that have been pummeled by ride-hail. It will launch in 15 global cities, including London, Amsterdam, New Orleans, and LA.

  • Meet the Ava XC, “what Tony Stark would build if he had an Edward Scissorhands phase.” Looks aside, it’s the largest known electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft to fly yet, and its makers wouldn’t be mad if it were deployed in an honest-to-Jove flying taxi service.

  • The experienced helicopter-smiths at Bell would like you to say hello to its own vertical-takeoff aircraft, the 6,000-pound Nexus, which uses six tilting, ducted fans to reach a top speed of 150 mph, with a 150-mile range. The hybrid-electric craft might one day be the backbone of Uber’s much-touted air taxi program.

  • VW’s Electrify America initiative (which it was forced to launch as part of its Dieselgate settlement) announces a fun innovation: chargers that will recognize your electric car and bill you automatically for your charge-up.

  • Ford says toodle-oo to Chariot, its app-based shuttle service, which it acquired just two years ago for more than $60 million. Its collapse is further proof, I write, that making money off transportation is hard.

  • Some good news for Uber and Lyft, according to a new Pew Research survey: 36 percent of Americans now say they’ve used ride-hail services, compared to 15 percent three years ago. Less good news: Just 8 percent say they use it weekly. The companies would like to see more users turning to their services—be them ride-hail, scooters, or bikes—more regularly.

CES Lidar Display of the Week

We are not always narcissists, but we were tickled by lidar company AEye’s CES display. Inspired by a WIRED video that asked whether a competitor’s company could “see” Nerf gun bullets, the AEye’s foam- and bull’s-eye-filled display sought to prove that its product could.

The lidar company AEye’s CES display came with Nerf guns.

Jack Stewart

Stat of the Week


The increase in diesel and jet fuel use last year, according to the research firm Rhodium Group. That jump, due mostly to the booming trucking and aviation sectors, contributed to a 3.4 percent bump in carbon dioxide emissions in 2018, the most significant increase in eight years.

Required Reading

News from elsewhere on the internet

In the Rearview

Essential stories from WIRED’s canon

Travel back with me to CES 2008, as two gadget blogs, Engadget and Gizmodo, battle it out for tech scoop—and page view—supremacy.

via Wired Top Stories

January 13, 2019 at 08:06AM

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China On the Moon! A History of Chinese Lunar Missions in Pictures

What a difference a decade makes. Only 10 years after China sent its first lunar spacecraft on an orbital mission, the nation accomplished something nobody has managed to do before: plunk a lander, Chang’e 4, on the far side of the moon.


January 14, 2019 at 06:42AM

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When you’re the only company at CES from your country

There are more than 1,700 American companies at CES, 1,200 official exhibitors from China, and several hundred from France and South Korea. Many of them are veterans of the trade show circuit, one-upping each other’s booths with elaborate curved OLED TV installations and Disney-fied cart rides. There are entire government-sponsored showcases to feature the best of their country’s tech scene.

Then there are first-timers like Ekid Studio, a Vietnamese company that makes educational flashcards with augmented reality functions for kids, for whom CES was the start of a monthlong US trip to seek investors. There is Flyser from Belarus, the startup behind an exercise frame that coordinates with VR experiences to give the impression of flying or swimming. The company came to CES after seeing last year’s success of Black Box VR.

It costs only $1,000 for a standard booth in CES’ startup section, though that ignores the multi-leg flights to a country they may have never visited, preparing their public information as well as room and board costs. For these companies, what’s it like to be one of the only representatives of your country? How do you stand out among the thousands of other exhibitors in Las Vegas? What do you even get for your money and effort?

Muhammad Hussain of MMH Labs at CES

MMH Labs

“You won’t find it anywhere, I can challenge, in the whole of CES,” Muhammad Hussain tells me. He’s a professor of electrical engineering at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, which was the first mixed-gender university in Saudi Arabia. He’s also “principal innovator” at MMH Lab, an experimental hardware unit within the university, which is here to showcase its prototypes.

Hussain is showing off Bluefin, which is basically a wafer-thin, 2.4 gram, sub-$20 wearable that sticks to fish and can measure water pressure, depth and pH levels in parts of the ocean humans can’t reach. The ethos of his lab is to create devices with (literally) flexible and nature-inspired form factors that are easy to understand and, in his words, “democratized.”

“If you look at even CES, most of the technologies are very much focused on the people who can afford it right now. But the reality is most people in the world, they cannot afford it,” he said.

Along with several current and former grad students, he’s trying to meet potential commercial partners and get immediate feedback on early-stage products.

“If you go to movies versus if you go to Broadway, Broadway is where the audience provides you feedback right away,” he said. “These kinds of conferences, or CES, they provide us with that opportunity to have direct feedback [on] how people are perceiving what we’re doing.”

Indeed, I had yet to see a wearable for fish at this year’s trade show. “Next year,” Hussain said. “We’re bringing wearables for plants.”

Tooyn at CES 2019


Tooyn is not the only company from Armenia with US offices at CES, says representative Armen Mardirossian, but they’re the only ones who registered under their home country’s name. “We’re proud Armenians,” he said.

He and another spokesperson Lilit Grigoryan travelled from the capital Yerevan to test the reception for their product: an all-in-one Macbook charger that also has ports for USB, HDMI, SD cards and includes a wireless charger. They plan to start crowdfunding on Indiegogo this spring.

“Actually, Amazon came and they wanted to sell it on their marketplace so we got really excited, that was the start of our day today,” Mardirossian said.

His grandparents are from Armenia but he was born and raised in LA, part of an Armenian diaspora that is larger than the country of three million. As a 24 year-old, he visited Armenia for an internship, then ended up staying to work in the tech sector.

The country is nestled between local powers like Russia and Iran. “Kind of weird neighbors to be around you know?” Mardirossian said. “The tech industry’s booming because it’s landlocked, it’s hard to get our products out, so our minds make the products.”

Still, his route to working in Armenia is seen by natives as an unusual path, according to Mardirossian.

“They assume I’m a tourist cause it’s shocking to them people wanting to repatriate,” he said. The 20th century saw Armenia suffer through the genocide, collapse of the Soviet Union and Spitak earthquake. “A lot of people are shocked people are returning now”.

Orbus Pay at CES

Orbus Pay

Daniel Sarr travelled the 6,000 miles from Dakar, Senegal to Las Vegas, Nevada to meet other Africans.

He’s here representing Orbus Pay, which allows businesses to process payments from cash, smartphones and bank cards all in one platform. In Senegal, he explains, only a minority of people use cards, while the majority use their phones and cash, essentially skipping one Western stage of payment method. Orbus Pay wants to sell its API to other African businesses who face similar issues, like those from Kenya, Ivory Coast and Nigeria.

“It’s kind of strange but [you can] be more known by African people, if you come to showcase at CES with the press release and all this buzz,” said Sarr, partnership and promotions director at Gainde 2000, the parent company of Orbus Pay.

As an African tech company, “one of our most important challenges is credibility,” Sarr said. “In the tech business, it’s easier to use Japanese technology or technology from Europe or the US.”

At an austere booth — no adornments, just a small stack of business cards — Sarr says that they’re also trying to meet global investors and show that innovation is taking place in Africa generally. There was in fact another Senegalese booth next to Sarr’s, but it was empty as the owner had gone to roam the floor.

Amber Connect at CES

Amber Connect

Amber Connect is not just the only Jamaican company at CES, it’s the only one from the entire Caribbean. It may also be one of the few whose profits go primarily to a guru.

Having first shown at the show’s Eureka Park startup section in 2016, this is now the vehicle technology company’s third CES and it’s graduated to the main floor. For founder and CEO Dushyant Savadia, CES is something like an auto show — he’s here to meet car manufacturers, parts distributors and dealerships.

Based in Jamaica, Savadia has to travel a lot to get the word out about his company. “If we were based out of the US, perhaps I could have done way more in half the time. But coming out of Jamaica we have to make tremendous amounts of effort to showcase what we’ve got across the globe by going there ourselves, and of course platforms like CES bring the world to one place.”

He wants to make Jamaica the center of gravity for the Caribbean’s tech scene, he says. “My vision always has been, why does everybody have to go to Silicon Valley and make one country or one location the hub of tech for all over the world? My vision is that every country that we operate into, we make Silicon Valleys out there ourselves.”

If Savadia is full of optimism, his background might go some way to explaining it. Born in India, he’s been affiliated with the Art of Living Foundation — the non-profit organization led by spiritual guru Ravi Shankar — for nearly two decades. Formerly an alcoholic, Savadia says, the organization “changed his life” after his boss at Xerox mandated the workshop for all employees.

Savadia holds all the shares in Amber Group, the umbrella company owning Amber Connect as well as Amber Fuels (a gas payment platform), Kuya Technologies (a software and data analytics firm) and Amber Pay (a QR code-based payment system). He sends about 80 percent of the group’s profits to the Art of Living Foundation.

With his flowing hair, the CEO strikes an unusual figure among the glitz and gambling of Vegas. When I point this out, he says diplomatically: “I think people find different ways to get some happiness.”

Follow all the latest news from CES 2019 here!

via Engadget

January 12, 2019 at 11:36AM

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