Amazon Is Looking To Buy Electronic Arts, Report Says

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Amazon Is Looking To Buy Electronic Arts, Report Says

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Amazon Is Looking To Buy Electronic Arts, Report Says

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An anonymous reader shares a report: According to GLHF sources, Amazon will announce today that it has put in a formal offer to acquire Electronic Arts (EA), the publisher behind Apex Legends, FIFA, Madden, and more. Rumors have been circling online for a few weeks about a potential EA buyout, with Apple, Disney, and Amazon listed as potential buyers. As per our sources, Amazon has finally made an offer. It's a smart business move from Amazon, which is also making big moves in television. After the success of The Witcher and Arcane on Netflix -- both shows built around big video games -- Amazon could potentially use EA's franchises as settings for new shows. Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Dead Space -- there's plenty of potential in EA's library for transmedia opportunities.

Ethanol Helps Plants Survive Drought

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Bruce66423 shares a report from The Telegraph: Academics from Japan have found that ethanol helps make plants more drought-resistant (Warning: source paywalled; alternative source) and better able to survive an extended bout of dry weather. Experiments found that getting plants drunk helps crops flourish while sober plants become shrunken and disheveled. Plants lose water through their leaves when pores called stomata open to allow it to escape, but ethanol helps keep these closed, the scientists found, thus improving water retention. Genetic analysis of the plant also showed that plants switch on drought-fighting genes when ethanol is picked up by the roots. This not only stopped the loss of water through the vent-like stomata but also saw the plant activate a process where it actually uses the alcohol for fuel.

Photosynthesis, the vital process that plants use to make energy from sunlight, needs water, but in the study, published in the journal Plant and Cell Physiology, the team found the plant can do this with ethanol instead in times of drought to further conserve dwindling supplies while also still making energy. This metabolizing of alcohol also means that shops would not be stocked with alcohol-infused foods if an alcohol-aided plant was harvested as it would have long ago been turned into energy by the plant. "There are some interesting questions to ask about WHY this pathway exists in plants," adds Slashdot reader Bruce66423. "The article doesn't talk about the concentration needed."

SpaceX and T-Mobile Plan To Connect Mobile Phones To Satellites, Boost Cell Coverage

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U.S wireless carrier T-Mobile will use Elon Musk-owned SpaceX's Starlink satellites to provide mobile users with network access in parts of the United States, the companies announced on Thursday, outlining plans to connect users' mobile phones directly to satellites in orbit. From a report: The new plans, which would exist alongside T-mobile's existing cellular services, would cut out the need for cell towers and offer service for sending texts and images where cell coverage does not currently exist, key for emergency situations in remote areas, Musk said at a flashy event on Thursday at his company's south Texas rocket facility. Starlink's satellites will use T-Mobile's mid-band spectrum to create a new network. Most phones used by the company's customers will be compatible with the new service, which will start with texting services in a beta phase beginning by the end of next year.

Carbon Dioxide Detected Around Alien World For First Time

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sciencehabit quotes a report from Science Magazine: Astronomers have found carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere of a Saturn-size planet 700 light-years away -- the first unambiguous detection of the gas in a planet beyond the Solar System. The discovery, made by the James Webb Space Telescope, provides clues to how the planet formed. The result also shows just how quickly Webb may identify a spate of other gases, such as methane and ammonia, which could hint at a planet's potential habitability for life. [...] For its first exoplanet observations, astronomers targeted the hot gas giant WASP-39b, which orbits its star every 4 days in an orbit much tighter than Mercury's. The first data were taken on 10 July and the team started work on them a few days later. Even in raw data based on a single transit across the star, the spectral dip of CO2 "sticks out like a sore thumb," says Webb team member Jacob Bean of the University of Chicago. There have been some tentative detections of the gas before, he says, but none of them held up under scrutiny. Webb's spectrum was "the right size, the right shape, and in the right position," Bean says. "CO2 just popped out."

Finding CO2 is valuable because it is a clue to a planet's "metallicity" -- the proportion of elements heavier than helium in its makeup. Hydrogen and helium produced in the big bang are the starting materials for all the visible matter in the universe, but anything heavier was forged later in stars. Researchers believe a good supply of heavy elements is crucial for creating giant planets. When planets form out of a disk of material around a new star, heavier elements form solid grains and pebbles that glom together into a solid core that eventually is massive enough to pull in gases with its own gravity and grow into a gas giant. With Webb, finding "important chemicals will be the norm rather than the exception," says one expert. He predicts that when Webb starts to study cooler planets closer in size to Earth, there will be some real surprises -- perhaps some gases that could indicate whether the planets are amenable to life. "It's anyone's guess," he says. "A whole zoo of chemicals is possible." The findings first appeared on the preprint server arXiv yesterday and they will appear in Nature in the near future.

Scientists Grew a Synthetic Mouse Embryo With a Brain and a Beating Heart

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An anonymous reader quotes a report from ScienceAlert: In a monumental leap in stem cell research, an experiment led by researchers from the University of Cambridge in the UK has developed a living model of a mouse embryo complete with fluttering heart tissues and the beginnings of a brain. The research advances the recent success of a team comprised of some of the same scientists who pushed the limits on mimicking the embryonic development of mice using stem cells that had never seen the inside of a mouse womb. In the past, researchers in embryology have focused largely on plucking choice stem cells from parts of an embryo that would grow into an animal and encouraging them to proliferate in glassware full of specially selected nutrients. Over the years, this method has resulted in clumps of cells containing the basic starting structures of a gut and a fold of tissues called the neural tube. What the so-called 'gastruloid' model contains in form, however, it lacks in function. Many features expected to develop alongside these tissues aren't present, making it harder to draw parallels between the model and an authentic growing embryo. There are ways to encourage brain-like structures to appear, as well as functioning heart tissue and a more complex gut tube. Yet workarounds based on comparatively simple hormonal soups can only go so far.

Mixing stem cells representative from these three major tissue groups and improving on previous methods for their development in vitro (that means in a dish) into an embryoid, the team found their model could progress under its own steam to develop a nervous system equivalent to a natural mouse embryo at 8.5 days post-conception. The step is a small one, equivalent to just a single day of development for an unborn mouse. But a lot can happen in that 24 hours of gestation. The synthetic embryoid also contained foundational heart tissue that twitched out a beat and the beginnings of a gut, as well as the start of structures that in an actual embryo could build parts of the skeleton, muscles, and other tissues beneath the skin. On its own, the model wouldn't continue to develop into anything like a thriving baby mouse. Science is far from able to produce anything so advanced as a functional organ from stem cells alone, let alone an entire animal. While the resemblance is quite significant in research, it is -- so to speak -- only skin deep, lacking the signals that would see it transform into the fully-formed organism it models. Having a collection of tissues that authentically reflects development outside of a body provides researchers with the opportunity to not only observe, but ethically test genetic changes that could help improve our understanding of how our bodies grow. The findings appear in a study published in the journal Nature.

World's Largest Japanese Anime Database 'Anime Taizen' Opens To the Public

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The world's largest comprehensive database on Japanese anime, Anime Taizen, was opened to the public today, August 25, at 13:00 (JST). Taizen means "A book that collects all things related to the matter" in Japanese. Crunchyroll reports: Since 2015, The Association of Japanese Animations (AJA) has been promoting the "Anime NEXT_100" project to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Japanese animation. As a major initiative of the project, this database was first released on a trial basis on October 22, 2021, and after confirming functionality and operation, and making improvements and updates, it has now been released to the public. As of the end of July 2022, Anime Taizen has approximately 15,000 registered titles, mainly Japanese commercial anime works released from 1917 to the present. In addition to title name searches, the database has search functions for chronology, Japanese syllabary, keywords, etc. As a result of the research to date, the number of episodes amounts to approximately 180,000.

MyFitnessPal Paywalls Barcode Scanner That Made Counting Calories Easy

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The popular nutrition and weight loss app MyFitnessPal is moving its free barcode scanning feature behind the paywall. The Verge reports: For years, users with free accounts have been able to use this tool to scan food barcodes for easy logging and tracking of daily calorie intake, but the company recently announced that beginning October 1st, a premium account will be required. MyFitnessPal's daily calorie counting is a key component of the app, with the barcode scanner offering a shortcut to finding nutritional value for a specific food item in the app's vast database of food. Much of that database is user-generated, with both free and premium users able to add any food by entering the nutrition facts and barcode off a label. Once October 1st rolls around, free users will still be able to search the database for their food entries, but the barcode scanner will cost $19.99 per month or $79.99 for an annual plan, along with other premium features. And any new users that create a free account on or after September 1st will be shut out from scanning barcodes even earlier unless they pay. "By losing the barcode scanner, MyFitnessPal is doing its users an egregious disservice," writes The Verge's Antonio G. Di Benedetto. "Losing weight and being cognizant of what you eat is hard enough."

"MyFitnessPal is obviously looking to maximize profits, but if the popular r/loseit subreddit is any indication, many users may consider switching to competing apps like Cronometer, Loseit, or Macros over this loss."

Google Tracks 39 Types of Personal Data, Apple Tracks 12

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New research claims that of five major Big Tech firms, Google tracks more private data about users than any other -- and Apple tracks the least. AppleInsider reports: Apple has previously introduced App Tracking Transparency specifically to protect the privacy of users from other companies. However, a new report says that Apple is also avoiding doing any more tracking itself than is needed to run its services. According to, Apple "is the most privacy-conscious firm out there." "Apple only stores the information that is necessary to maintain users' accounts," it continues. "This is because their website is not as reliant on advertising revenue as are Google, Twitter, and Facebook."

The report does not list what it describes as the "data points" that Big Tech firms collect for every user. However, it says they include location details, browser history, activity on third-party websites, and in Google's case, also emails in Gmail. It also doesn't detail its methodology, but does say that it used marketing firm digitalinformationworld to investigate Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Twitter. Of these five, Google reportedly tracks 39 separate data points per user, while Apple tracks only 12. Unexpectedly, Facebook is stated as tracking only 14 data points, while Amazon tracks 23, and Twitter tracks 24.

Chinese Behemoth Pinduoduo To Take On Amazon In US

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An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Americans addicted to Amazon could soon be wooed by a Chinese tech giant most of them have never heard of. Pinduoduo is planning to expand its reach to the US next month, according to reports in Bloomberg and Reuters. The company is known for delivering goods at rock-bottom prices -- while putting its employees through conditions that a prominent labor activist says should horrify Americans. Described by its founder, the former Google employee Colin Huang, as a cross between "Costco and Disneyland," Pinduoduo has ridden a wave of meteoric Chinese tech growth to become one of the largest e-commerce companies in the world since its founding in 2015.

Pinduoduo targeted China's smaller cities and more rural areas, where consumers tend to be less wealthy and more cost-conscious, says JS Tan, an MIT graduate student who researches the Chinese tech industry. Its signature feature is "group buying," which allows users to organize people to make mass purchases directly from manufacturers at a steep discount. Because Pinduoduo is heavily integrated with WeChat, China's top social media platform, it's a snap for users to gather up friends, family and internet strangers to order big batches of everything from electronics to baby formula to groceries -- something that became a lifeline during China's strict Covid lockdowns.

"Pinduoduo is known for its extreme overtime," said Li Qiang, a veteran labor activist and founder of the non-profit China Labor Watch. "The competition is extremely intense, and the conditions are much crueler than in America." Two Pinduoduo employees died within a two-week period from December 2020 to January 2021, igniting a national scandal. The first worker, 22-year-old Zhang Fei, died on 29 December, when she was heading home around 1.30am after a series of extremely long shifts. The second worker, an engineer in his 20s, jumped to his death on 9 January after abruptly asking for leave from the company and traveling home the same day. The controversy grew when days later, a Pinduoduo employee who called himself Wang Taixu said he had been fired by the company after posting a photo of a colleague being taken into an ambulance after collapsing. Wang subsequently published a lengthy video on the video-sharing site Bilibili detailing labor abuses he had witnessed at the company; he alleged that some workers were made to work as many as 380 hours a month, which the company denied. "I think that for American tech workers, this definitely isn't a good thing," said Li. "In terms of manufacturing costs, American companies have no way to compete with Pinduoduo. If Pinduoduo succeeds, it could take Chinese-style labor practices and bring them to America."

China's Baidu Reveals Its First Quantum Computer, 'Qianshi'

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Chinese search engine giant Baidu revealed its first quantum computer on Thursday and is ready to make it available to external users, joining the global race to apply the technology to practical uses. Reuters reports: The Baidu-developed quantum computer, dubbed "Qianshi," has a 10-quantum-bit (qubit) processor, Baidu said in a statement. The Beijing-based company has also developed a 36-qubit quantum chip, it said. Governments and companies around the world for years have touted the potential of quantum computing, a form of high-speed calculation at extraordinarily cold temperatures that will bring computers to unprecedented processing speeds. However, current real-world applications in the field are still very basic and limited to a small group of early clients.

Report: 97% of Software Testing Pros Are Using Automation

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It turns out, software testers are relying more on automation than ever before, driven by a desire to lower testing costs and improve software quality and user experience. VentureBeat shares the findings from a new report by Kobiton: Kobiton asked 150 testers in companies with at least 50 employees across a range of industries. [...] For context, there are two kinds of software testing: manual and automated. Manual is still common but it's not ideal for repetitive tests, leading many testers to choose automation, which can expedite development and app performance. To wit, 40% of testers responding to Kobiton's study said their primary motivation for using automation is improving user experience. "In a study we conducted two years ago, half the testers we asked said their automation programs were relatively new, and 76% said they were automating fewer than 50% of all tests," said Kevin Lee, CEO of Kobiton. "Nearly 100% of testers participating in this year's study are using automation, which speaks to how far the industry has come."

Testing managers are prioritizing new hires with automation experience, too. Kobiton's study found that automation experience is one of the three skills managers are most interested in. And how is automation being used? A plurality (34%) of respondents to Kobiton's survey said they are using automation for an equal mix of regression and new feature testing. And it's made them more efficient. Almost half (47%) of survey respondents said it takes 3-5 days for manual testing before a release, whereas automated tests can have it done in 3-6 hours.

The World's First Hydrogen-Powered Passenger Trains Are Here

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An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNN Travel: The future of environmentally friendly travel might just be here -- and it's Germany that's leading the charge, with the first ever rail line to be entirely run on hydrogen-powered trains, starting from Wednesday. Fourteen hydrogen trains powered by fuel cell propulsion will exclusively run on the route in Bremervorde, Lower Saxony. The 93 million euro ($92.3 million) deal has been struck by state subsidiary Landesnahverkehrsgesellschaft Niedersachsen (LVNG), the owners of the railway, and Alstom, builders of the Coradia iLint trains. The Elbe-Weser Railways and Transport Company (EVB), which will operate the trains, and gas and engineering company Linde, are also part of the project.

The trains, five of which which debut Wednesday, will gradually replace the 15 diesel trains that currently run on the route, with all 14 running exclusively by the end of the year. Just 1 kilo of hydrogen fuel can do the same as around 4.5 kilos of diesel. The trains are emissions-free and low-noise, with only steam and condensed water issuing from the exhaust. They have a range of 1,000 kilometers (621 miles), meaning they can run for an entire day on the network on a single tank of hydrogen. A hydrogen filling station has already been established on the route. The trains can go at a maximum of 140 kph, or 87mph, though regular speeds on the line are much less, between 80-120 kph.

DuckDuckGo Opens Up Its Free Email Privacy Service To Everyone

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Last year, DuckDuckGo announced a free service designed to fend off email trackers and help people protect their privacy. The Email Protection beta was initially available through a waitlist. Now, it's now in open beta, meaning everyone can try it without having to wait for access. From a report: Email Protection is a forwarding service that removes trackers from messages. DuckDuckGo will tell you which trackers it scrubs as well. During the waitlist beta, DuckDuckGo says it found trackers in 85 percent of testers' emails. Anyone can now sign up for an email address, which will work across desktop, iOS and Android. DuckDuckGo says you can create unlimited private email addresses, including a throwaway one for every website, if you prefer. You can also deactivate an address at any time.

Google's Fuchsia OS is Taking Over Smart Displays, Now on Its Second Device

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The kingdom of Google's third major operating system, Fuchsia, is growing a little wider today. ArsTechnica: 9to5Google reports Google completed the rollout of Fuchsia to the Google Nest Hub Max. Along with the original Nest Hub/Google Home Hub, that puts two of Google's three smart displays on the new OS, with the one holdout being the 2nd Gen Nest Hub. The Nest Hub Max is the first device running Fuchsia that Google is currently selling -- the Home Hub only got Fuchsia after it had been discontinued. The Google smart display user interface is written in Flutter, a Google programming language designed for portability, which runs on Android, iOS, Fuchsia, and the weird cast platform Nest Hubs typically use. So it's not right to describe the user interface as "similar" after the OS swap -- it's the exact same code because Flutter runs on nearly everything.

You are getting a slightly newer code version, though, and it comes with a Bluetooth menu. If you dive into the settings and hit "about device," you'll see a "Fuchsia Version" field that will say something like "6.20211109.1.3166243." It's a bit weird to do an entire OS switch to the futuristic, secretive Fuchsia project and then have basically nothing to show (or say) for it in terms of obvious improvements in performance or security. You can dive into the minutia of the Fuchsia source code, but it continues to be a mystery in terms of what practical benefits it offers consumers. Google never talks about Fuchsia, so not much is known about what, exactly, Google is accomplishing here.

Thai Lender SCBX Scraps $500 Million Acquisition of Crypto Exchange Bitkub

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Thailand's oldest lender, SCBX, said on Thursday it was pulling out of a $500 million deal to buy crypto exchange Bitkub, saying the start-up needed time to fix regulatory issues. From a report: "Bitkub is currently in the process of resolving various issues as per the recommendations and orders of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Thailand, which are uncertain in terms of timeframe in resolving those issues," SCBX said in a statement. "As a result, the buyer and the seller have agreed to terminate the transaction," it said. SCBX said it had been conducting due diligence on the company and did not find any abnormal issues. The announcement comes after the Thai Securities and Exchange Commission last month ordered the crypto platform to review the listing process of KUB coin on its exchange.
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