Colleges Are Already Ditching Income-Share Agreements

In 2016 Purdue University announced an income-share agreement program as a guinea pig experiment in which students could get money for college in exchange for a cut of their future earnings. “Back a Boiler,” it was called, in a nod to the school’s Boilermaker nickname. University president Mitch Daniels talked up the idea in testimony to Congress. 

Intrigued, other university leaders wanted in. “We’re looking at what Purdue University is doing now, and we are thinking about it,” said Sheila Bair, then president of Washington College. In subsequent years, Purdue’s program won a think tank’s award for most innovative public policy proposal, and at least 14 other colleges or universities launched similar initiatives.

So Purdue’s announcement in June that it was suspending the Back a Boiler program came as a thunderclap in the world of income-share agreements, or ISAs, and could signal the beginning of the end of experiments involving college students splitting their future paychecks with investors. 

The number of schools offering ISAs is sliding down the far side of the bell curve as several other accredited colleges or universities have ended or paused their programs. It’s a sign of fraught times for these schools and for the training boot camps that offer ISAs, with lawsuits mounting, federal and state governments imposing restrictions, and students reporting mixed satisfaction.

Purdue’s pause points to bigger problems in the ISA industry. One reason Back a Boiler has been suspended is that program servicer Vemo Education went out of business, says Brian Edelman, president of the Purdue Research Foundation. (Two other Vemo clients—Messiah University and Colorado Mountain College—also reported that the company has shut down, though the company doesn’t appear to have made a formal announcement. It did not respond to inquiries asking for confirmation.) 

A year ago, Vemo was sued by 47 former students of a for-profit coding academy called Make School; the students alleged that Vemo and Make School colluded to run a high-cost ISA program that violated state and federal laws forbidding unfair or deceptive business practices and false advertising. The students had agreed to repay 20 to 25 percent of their pre-tax income each month for three and a half years or more, with monthly payments as high as $2,500; some students signed contracts under which they would owe as much as $270,000. 

There’s another reason for Back a Boiler’s pause: clampdowns by the federal government on certain schools that offer ISAs. In a consent order last September issued by the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau against several private ISA providers, the bureau concluded that the schools had violated federal law by falsely telling users that ISAs weren’t loans and don’t create debt. A sample contract on the Back a Boiler website, for example, notes that “This is not a loan or credit.” 

In March, the Department of Education told accredited colleges and universities that, following on that order, they also must treat ISAs as loans, which have stricter rules requiring that students be allowed to pay them off early to save money. The protection bureau’s order interrupted the Purdue Research Foundation’s conversations with investors about an additional round of ISA funding, and Purdue decided to pause the program, Edelman said. 

It’s not just Purdue: Seven other accredited colleges or universities that once offered ISAs told The Hechinger Report that they’ve either paused or ended their programs. Only four of the fifteen schools contacted said they’re continuing; three schools didn’t respond to inquiries.

via Wired Top Stories

August 12, 2022 at 05:15AM

Engineers Have Created Durable Concrete Made From Ground-Up Rubber Tires

The strength and durability of cement has made it a staple building material around the world, but engineers from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia have finally come up with a way to manufacture it at a lower cost by swapping in some recycled materials.

Making concrete uses a fairly simple recipe. A binding agent, which is usually a paste-like material called portland cement, is mixed with water and aggregates: a combination of sand, rocks, and gravel. Adjusting the amount of the various ingredients can alter the properties of the concrete, making it stronger or lighter as needed, but some of the items on the ingredient list, like larger stones and gravel, can increase the price, particularly in parts of the world where those materials aren’t always readily available.

One way to help reduce the cost of making concrete is to replace the aggregate with other materials, including used rubber tires that have been ground up into small particles. The idea kills two birds with one stone, as it’s also a smart way to recycle the millions of worn down rubber tires removed from vehicles every year. But to date, engineers have only managed to create concrete that meets required strength standards using a combination of rocks and rubber.

The problem, as the engineers at RMIT University hypothesized in a recently published research paper, is that the rubber alternate has too many pores. During the initial mixing process, the water fills the pores in the rubber particles, but when it eventually dries and that water evaporates, what’s left is countless voids and gaps between the rubber and the cement around it, weakening the bond and reducing the strength and quality of the concrete.

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The solution to replacing all of the aggregate material in concrete with recycled tire rubber was to place the wet ingredients into steel molds that compress the mixture with pressure to eliminate all of the rubber’s pores. After drying, the resulting concrete exhibited a much stronger bond between the hardened cement and the rubber particles, giving it a 97% increase in compressive strength, and a 20% boost in tensile strength.

That’s a big increase, but still not quite enough for the rubber tire concrete to be used as a reliable structural element, so the researchers are looking into other ways to reinforce and strengthen it even further. And while the new approach may increase manufacturing costs, in the long run, it should still prove to be a more cost effective alternative to traditional concrete. That’s because, in addition to using cheaper source materials, it results in a lighter material that’s easier and cheaper to ship.

via Gizmodo

August 15, 2022 at 09:33AM

Cancer Cells Most Active During Sleep, Study Finds

In 2017, actor-singer Olivia Newton-John announced she had breast cancer for the third time. Two years later, she began suffering back pain and had to cancel her tour dates. Her physicians initially thought sciatica was the culprit, then they realized her cancer had spread to her bones. The famed Grease singer died at her home in Southern California in August 2022 at the age of 73.

Scientists are learning more about how and where cancer spreads. Metastatic breast cancer (MBC), the kind Newton-John had, typically spreads to the bones, brain, liver or lungs. MBC is a deadly disease and half of all women do not live three years past their diagnosis. Less than 26 percent of women survive five years past their diagnosis.

For most patients, there is no cure for MBC. Scientists are trying to learn more about how cancer-spreading cells function to stop MBC before it starts. A new study, published in Nature, found when cancer-spreading cells are at their worst, which could help researchers work towards a cure.

Sleeper Cells

There are several ways cancer spreads to other organs. For many patients with MBC, circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are to blame. These cells break away from the breast tumor, get into the bloodstream, make their way to other organs and wreak havoc.

The study found these cells are most active when a person is sleeping. The researchers took blood samples from 30 Swiss women who were hospitalized with breast cancer. Nine of the women had stage IV MBC and were off treatment. The rest had early, non-metastatic breast cancer and were pre-operative.

Researchers collected one sample at 4 a.m. and a second sample at 10 a.m. The team then analyzed the blood to see if CTCs were more prevalent in the overnight or morning sample.

The difference in the CTC count found in the blood samples were “night and day.” Almost 80 percent of the CTCs came from the 4 a.m. sample when the patients were at rest.

The research team then repeated the experiment with mice. First, they grafted breast cancer tumors into the mice. Later, they collected day and night blood samples. Because mice are nocturnal and prefer to rest during the day and then handle their mouse-business after dark, the researchers were looking to see whether the CTCs were more present in the blood taken while the mice were at “rest” or “active.”

Almost all (more than 90 percent) of the CTCs in the mice blood samples came from the rest period. But were these sleeper cells more capable of spreading cancer?

Skilled Spreaders

To find out which CTC type was more skilled at spreading cancer, the scientists added fluorescent tags to distinguish the rest from the active CTCs. They injected both cell types back into the mice.

Most of the CTCs that contributed to new tumors indeed came from the rest sample — meaning these cells weren’t just more plentiful, they were also more powerful.

The research team also analyzed each cell type’s gene expression, and it appeared the CTCs released during rest were consistent with the genes engaged with cell mutation and mitosis.

Why this happens is still one of the questions scientists are pondering. They believe the rest CTCs respond to the cycle of hormones released each day in relation to our sleeping and waking patterns. Meaning, these cancer-spreading cells know when a body is sleeping and when it is awake.

Knowing when the body releases these problematic cells may one day help researchers identify treatments that target rest-released CTCs at the exact time they cause the most damage. And because breast cancer isn’t the only type of cancer that metastasizes, there is hope that scientists can use this as a guide when studying the spread of other cancers.

Until then, cancer patients are advised to not skimp on sleep. There is no research that suggests less sleep means less time for the sleeper cells to spread.

via Discover Main Feed

August 15, 2022 at 02:18PM

Huh, Netflix Has Mobile Games, and They’re Actually Good

If you read the headline and thought to yourself, “Netflix has games?” You’re not alone. Reportedly, less than 1% of Netflix subscribers are playing these games, which likely means many subscribers aren’t aware they even exist. In fact, if you exclusively watch Netflix on your TV, you likely haven’t even seen these games come across your feeds. They’re real, they’re free to subscribers, and they’re generally really good!

Netflix began dipping its toes into the mobile gaming scene in November, launching five original titles. Since then, it has added 21 new games to the list, with plans to grow its library to around 50 by the end of the year. To date, the games have been downloaded roughly 23 million times, and have about 1.7 million daily active players, representing 0.77% of Netflix’s 221 million subscriber base.

The company is focused on mobile gaming to start, meaning these games are available on smartphones and tablets only right now. You won’t find them on your game consoles, computers, or smart TVs. That also poses a challenge when it comes to advertising, since many of us watch Netflix on devices incomparable with its games. I rarely watch Netflix on a phone or tablet, so I never encountered any mention of them before a report in Polygon this week.

While over 1.5 million Netflix subscribers playing these games every day, I sure don’t know any of them. If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering what games Netflix offers, and how to play them.

All the games Netflix currently offers for free

Here is a complete list of titles you can jump into today. Netflix does warn not all games are available on all devices, but does not specify beyond that generalization. Just be aware when choosing a game that you won’t necessarily be able to play it on your preferred device:

While you might assume—as I initially did—that Netflix’s games are shovelware popped out by the company to justify inflating subscription costs, it turns out the library is really solid. In fact, there are some excellent, well-regarded indie titles on this list, including Into the Breach, Moonlighter, and This is a True Story. Netflix does have some native IP in the list, notably Stranger Things: 1984 and Stranger Things 3: The Game, with an upcoming Queen’s Gambit chess title in the works.

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Not each and every game is a winner. Dungeon Dwarves, for example, has 2.1 stars on the iOS App Store with 71 ratings as of this writing. However, you have a chance to see each game’s store page before downloading, so you’ll get a chance to peruse reviews and see if the title is worth your time. And since they’re all free, provided you have an active Netflix account, there’s no harm in downloading a dud or two.

How to play Netflix’s games

If at least one of these titles piques your interest, you can pick up and play it right now. To start, you’ll need an Android phone or tablet running Android 8.0 or later, or an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 15 or iPadOS 15 or later.

There are two ways to find Netflix games to download to your device. You can either open your Netflix app and scroll down on the Home page until you see the “Games” section. Tap a game, then tap “Get Game,” which will open the game’s page in your device’s respective app store.

You can also open the App Store or Play Store and search “Netflix games.” The results will return Netflix games, of course, but if you open Netflix’s developer page on the app store in question, you’ll also see a complete list of all the games (and additional apps) the company offers for download.

When you open a Netflix game for the first time, it may ask you to log in to your Netflix account. I didn’t have to, but then, I was already logged into the Netflix app on my iPhone; it’s possible the game will authenticate with the app so you don’t need to log in again. Beyond that, you simply tell the game which account is playing, just as you do when opening the regular Netflix app.  

Whatever your opinion of Netflix is in 2022, this offering is tough to criticize. It comes at no additional cost to all Netflix subscribers of any tier, and includes some great games (reviews suggest Bowling Ballers is a favorite). Time will tell if more Netflix subscribers end up playing—and more games keep being added—but until then, there’s plenty to keep you busy.


via Lifehacker

August 9, 2022 at 04:03PM

What Are Some of Lego’s Greatest Hits?

It’s gotten to that point where most of us either had a few Lego sets as kids or played with them at our friends’ houses. Besides the classic blocks there’s been a lot of interesting takes on the building series. Remember Bionicle? There was a whole animated television series dedicated to those weird lil guys.

Lego were first produced as wooden blocks in 1932, and in 1947 Lego started to manufacture the toys in plastic. It began making set themes like space, Vikings, and the Wild West in the ‘50s, and expanded into franchises later on. Some of the most beloved Lego sets are massive Star Wars builds, but everyone’s got their own personal favorite.

So here’s the question: what’s your favorite thing about Lego? Do you have a memory of building them with your parents? Destroying your sibling’s creations? Maybe there’s one particular build that holds a special place in your heart. Or, perhaps, you have a very excellent minifig collection that you’re just dying to show off.

Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel and Star Wars releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about House of the Dragon and Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.

via Gizmodo

August 10, 2022 at 12:51PM

Northrop Grumman Partners With Firefly to Replace Russian Rocket Engines

The Antares 330 will be able to carry larger payload.
Photo: Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman and Firefly Aerospace are teaming up to build a new first stage for Northrop’s Antares rocket, as well as a new medium lift booster. The newly announced partnership means that Northrop will no longer have to rely on Russia and Ukraine for Antares, and will instead turn to building an all-American version for future launches.

“Through our collaboration, we will first develop a fully domestic version of our Antares rocket, the Antares 330, for Cygnus space station commercial resupply services,” Scott Lehr, vice president and general manager of launch and missile defense systems at Northrop Grumman, said in a statement on Monday.

The Antares 330 will be equipped with Firefly’s Miranda engines, as well as Firefly’s composites for the first stage’s structures and fuel tanks. As for Northrop, the company will provide upper-stage structures and the Castor 30XL motor, in addition to software, vehicle integration, and launch pad operations. The rocket’s new design is meant to enhance its payload capacity, according to the company.

Northrop’s Antares rocket, used for launching cargo missions to the International Space Station, was previously constructed in Ukraine and is equipped with Russian RD-181 engines. The fate of Antares had been in question since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February and the subsequent sanctions imposed on Russia by Western countries. In March, Russia halted its rocket engine supply to the U.S. in retaliation to the sanctions. “Let them fly on something else, their broomsticks,” former head of Russia’s Roscosmos space agency Dmitry Rogozin was quoted as saying at the time.

Despite the Russian cutoff, Virginia-based Northrop Grumman possesses two engines it can use for its Antares rocket, the first of which is scheduled to launch in October and the second next year. To fill the gap between the last available engine and the new Antares model being built, Northrop has booked three SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches for its Cygnus spacecraft, Kurt Eberly, director of space launch programs at Northrop Grumman, told SpaceNews.

Aside from providing new engines for Antares, the new partnership also aims to build a new medium-lift launch vehicle, the details of which aren’t yet known. Texas-based Firefly Aerospace has yet to complete a successful launch of its own medium-lift vehicle, called Alpha. One of the rocket’s engines unexpectedly shut down shortly after its inaugural liftoff in September 2021, and Alpha ended up in flames.

That said, the company is understandably hopeful about its new relationship with Northrop. “Firefly prides itself on being a disrupter in the new space industry and collaborating with a proven space pioneer like Northrop Grumman will help us continue that disruption,” Peter Schumacher, interim CEO for Firefly, said in a statement.

More: NASA Reportedly Has ‘Contingencies’ Should Russia Suddenly Abandon the ISS

via Gizmodo

August 10, 2022 at 04:51PM

Amazon’s palm payments arrive in more than 65 Whole Foods stores in California

Amazon’s palm-reading payment technology will soon be available in many more Whole Foods stores. The company is rolling out Amazon One to more than 65 Whole Foods shops in California, starting with Malibu, Montana Avenue and Santa Monica locations in Los Angeles. More stores in LA, Orange County, Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay Area and Santa Cruz will come online in the "coming weeks."

Before, palm-based payments were only available in a handful of Whole Foods stores in Austin, LA, New York City and Seattle. In California, you could also try Amazon One at the company’s Style fashion store in Glendale and certain Fresh and Go locations.

As usual, One is meant to streamline retail shopping. So long as you link your palm and payment card to the service, you just have to hover your hand over a scanner to complete a purchase. While you still have to stop at a checkout terminal, you don’t have to pull out a phone like you do with Amazon’s camera-based Just Walk Out system.

Third-party adoption may be trickier. While Amazon has touted plans to use One at concert venues and sport stadiums, there’s been a mounting backlash over worries palm data could be misused or stolen. Amazon has maintained that it holds info in secure, One-exclusive cloud storage, but politicians have still been concerned enough to grill company leadership over its practices. There’s a reluctance to trust biometric tech like this, and the Whole Foods expansion isn’t guaranteed to assuage people’s fears.

via Engadget

August 9, 2022 at 03:06PM