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Updated: 13 min 46 sec ago

A Rare Look Inside an Apple Data Center

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 12:12

Yet more proof that Apple is not quite as secretive as it once was, when it thinks openness is in its own interest: The company showed off one of its data centers, in Sparks, Nevada, to Wired’s Stephen Levy for a good piece on its renewable-energy efforts. They’re led by Lisa Jackson, a former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Ninety-four percent of the power at Apple’s corporate campus and server farms is now renewable, provided by sources such as solar, wind and hydroelectric energy. One hundred percent of the power at Apple’s own data centers — it also uses co-location facilities owned by others — is renewable.

Both Google and Facebook are also aiming for 100% renewable data centers, but have a long way left to go. However, since Apple, unlike those companies, is primarily a producer of physical objects, being environmentally correct involves a different set of challenges and a lot more than data:

Aluminum is huge for Apple—it’s the main material in laptops, phones and iPads. Thus the impact of mining and processing that metal makes up for a substantial part of Apple’s carbon footprint. That’s why Jackson took notice last year when an engineer told her that he felt something wasn’t right with the way Apple measured that impact. Later, a second engineer reported similar suspicions. In her telling, Jackson could have dismissed this disquiet by noting that Apple was simply conforming to the standard methods of measuring the damage in a given process. But she encouraged efforts at Apple to revisit those standards. Indeed, Apple’s reexamination discovered that using the conventional yardstick, it was dramatically underestimating the emissions its aluminum use was dumping into the atmosphere—by a factor of four. Apple had to adjust its figures to reflect this. As a result, the company did not fulfill its expectation that its carbon footprint would be ten percent smaller in 2013 than previous years—it was nine percent larger. Apple would have to work harder to make its goals.

Levy’s story is full of intriguing nuggets, but one item a lot of people are probably wondering about goes unmentioned. He says that the only thing about his data-center visit Apple told him he couldn’t share with the world was the name of the manufacturer of the servers that power it. All he can disclose is that “they are not Mac Mini’s or anything else that you’d buy in an Apple store.”

Categories: Magazines

Even Advanced Biofuels May Not Be So Green

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 12:11
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Back in 2008, TIME published a controversial cover story with a simple line: The Clean Energy Myth. TIME’s Michael Grunwald made a damning case against the ethanol industry, arguing that the massive subsidies for biofuels intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by cutting demand for oil actually had the opposite environmental effect:

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“The basic problem with most biofuels is amazingly simple, given that researchers have ignored it until now: using land to grow fuel leads to the destruction of forests, wetlands and grasslands that store enormous amounts of carbon.”

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The years since have seen rounds of opposing studies on the environmental effects of bioenergy, even as the amount of biofuel produced has continued to rise. The U.S. is expected to use almost 5 billion bushels of corn to produce over 13 billion gallons of ethanol this year, thanks chiefly to government mandates. But research has also linked the use of crops like corn and soybeans as fuel to the rise in global food prices in recent years. (In 2013, four of every ten bushels of corn producing in the U.S. went to ethanol, almost as much as was used to feed livestock.) And improving gas mileage and rising production of domestic oil—thanks to the recent shale boom—have undercut the argument that biofuels are needed for energy independence.

Still, biofuel advocates have always pointed to the development of second-generation biofuels that will get around some of those environmental drawbacks by using the waste products of crops like corn or by tapping non-food plants like switchgrass or wood chips. Though those next-generation cellulosic fuels have proven difficult to develop on a commercial scale—it’s been chemically challenging to tap the energy locked in cellulose—there has been some progress recently, with major cellulosic ethanol plants from companies like DuPont and Abengoa Bioenergy.

But now it turns out that even next-generation biofuels may be worse for the climate than the fossil fuel-based sources they’re meant to replace. A new federally-funded study published in Nature Climate Change has found that biofuels made from corn waste release 7% more greenhouse gases over the short term than gasoline. That’s because by using corn waste like stalks and cobs as a fuel source, farmers aren’t letting the plant residue remain in their fields, when over time it would enrich the soil with carbon. The carbon gained by swapping out gasoline with next-generation ethanol made from corn waste doesn’t make up for the additional carbon lost by the soil. While next-generation biofuels are better for the climate over the long term, the study concludes they’re not green enough to meet federal standards for subsidies, which require cellulosic ethanol to produce at least 60% less carbon than gasoline. And without those subsidies—which amount to $1 per gallon—the nascent advanced biofuel industry could be smothered in the crib.

That should be extremely worrying to the biofuel industry, which has been counting on the growth of advanced biofuels as subsidies for corn ethanol are phased out. The Renewable Fuels Association—an ethanol trade group—was quick to criticize the Nature Climate Change study, noting that earlier research concluded that corn residue could be removed for fuel without reducing the amount of carbon in soil. And Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) spokesperson Liz Purchia said in a statement that the study “does not provide useful information to the life-cycle greenhouse gas emission from corn stover ethanol.” University of Nebraska Professor Adam Liska, who led the Nature Climate Change study, noted that using some of the corn residue to produce electricity—where it could help replace far dirtier coal—could make next-generation biofuels greener. So could the adoption of other cellulosic sources, or even algae. But most of the next-generation biofuel plants that are close to completion will be using corn residue as an early fuel source.

The reality is that the biofuel industry is in trouble. For the first time ever, the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change explicitly warned about the environmental risks of uncontrolled biofuel development in its most recent report on global warming. Given the political power of the farmers who directly benefit from ethanol subsidies—and the paucity of other immediate options to reduce the climate impact of transportation—biofuels aren’t going away. But the industry has a long way to go before it can prove that biofuels—even next-generation options—aren’t a clean energy myth.

Categories: Magazines

Kenya’s Rita Jeptoo Wins Boston Marathon Again

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 12:04

(BOSTON) — Rita Jeptoo of Kenya successfully defended the Boston Marathon title she said she could not enjoy a year ago after the fatal bombings.

Jeptoo finished Monday’s race in a course-record 2 hours, 18 minutes, 57 seconds. She becomes the seventh three-time Boston Marathon champion.

Jeptoo broke away from a group of five runners at the 23-mile mark. Buzunesh Deba finished second with an unofficial time of 2:19:59.

American Shalane Flanagan finished fifth after leading for more than half the race. She took a gamble by setting the early pace. She ran her first mile in 5 minutes, 11 seconds, but fell back on the Newton Hills about 21 miles into the race.

Categories: Magazines

Kentucky Inmate Starves To Death

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 12:02

(LOUISVILLE, Ky.) — One doctor has been fired and another is being dismissed from the Kentucky State Penitentiary after an inmate went on a hunger strike and committed suicide by starving himself to death.

According to documents obtained by The Associated Press, the Department of Corrections terminated physician Steve Hiland and will soon cut loose psychologist Jean Hinkebein. The firings stem from the Jan. 13 death of 57-year-old James Kenneth Embry, who was serving a nine-year sentence for drug offenses.

An internal investigation done by the Corrections Department concluded that the doctors missed multiple signs that Embry was slowly committing suicide by refusing food and that Hiland signed off on nurses’ notes without seeing patients.

Hiland has denied wrongdoing. Hinkebein declined to comment.

The Kentucky Attorney General’s Office is conducting a criminal review of Embry’s death.

Categories: Magazines

Women Named Jennifer Are Gold Diggers According to Dubious Survey

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 11:59
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If you’re bachelor with cash to spare, you should stay away from women names Jennifer, according to a sexist and highly suspect new survey. DirtSearch.org, a background check service, skimmed through their data to find the most-searched female names on their site that had petty crime records. Then the good people at Dirt Search decided that women who’d had trouble with the law must surely be gold diggers and took it upon themselves to warn wealthy men to be on the look out for Jennifers, Jessicas and other suspiciously named women.

The Daily Mail published the list of most common “gold digger” names as follows:

1. Jennifer

2. Jessica

3. Michelle

4. Lisa

5. Ashley

6. Amanda

7. Melissa

8. Stephanie

9. Nicole

10. Angela

Sorry, J-Law, J Woww and Jennifer Aniston. Looks like you’re not going to be able to fulfill your dreams of marrying rich. Husbands of Jennifer Lopez, Jennifer Garner and Jennifer Connelly: I hope you got a prenup. All other Jennifers: don’t even try to get on Millionaire Matchmaker this season.

One more note: the DirtSearch list is pretty close to the most popular women’s names from 1985. (I chose that year randomly—women born that year would be 29 now. I’m fairly certain if you cross reference this list with other years around the age, you would find a similar overlap.) I’ve bolded the names that are on both lists. Turns out the most-searched names on a background check website also were the most popular girl baby names in the mid-1980s.

1. Jessica

2. Ashley

3. Jennifer

4. Amanda

5. Sarah

6. Stephanie

7. Nicole

8. Heather

9. Elizabeth

10. Megan

So maybe don’t breakup with your girlfriend named Jennifer quite yet, men.

Categories: Magazines

Washington Mudslide Death Toll Rises to 41

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 11:58

The death toll from a March mudslide in Washington state has risen to 41, officials said Monday.

The Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office has identified and released the names of 39 victims so far, and it’s working on identifying the remaining bodies.

“We are working closely with the families of the remaining missing and extend our most heartfelt sympathies to the family and friends during this difficult time,” the office said in a statement on its website.

The mudslide destroyed more than two dozen homes when it occurred on the outskirts of Oso, a small town about 50 miles northeast of Seattle, on March 22.

Categories: Magazines

Couple Asks Internet to Name Their Baby, Somehow Doesn’t End Up With Child Called “Kids’R’Gross”

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 11:46

A few months back, a couple decided to turn to the Internet to name their baby. Their reasoning was never really clear, but their motivation probably fell somewhere on the spectrum between “Why the hell not?” and “Yeah, we’re bored so let’s just do this.”

So they set up NameMyDaughter.com and then casually placed the link on Reddit, inviting the online community to submit their ideas and ultimately vote for the winning moniker. Naturally, things escalated quickly. Sure, names like Leslie and Renee were thrown into the mix, but Megatron, Not Zelda, Salad and Streetlamp also topped the list. (Does that surprise anyone? Please raise your hand if that surprises you at all.)

The baby was born this month and the results are in. Her name is Amelia Savannah Joy McLaughlin, which is a real name, fit for a real human! This part is surprising.

To be fair, the father clarified that he and his wife would make the final decision, so it’s possible that Amelia wasn’t the true winner in the poll and they simply chose it over “Salad” because they’re not monsters.

(h/t Betabeat)

Categories: Magazines

Incredibly Amicable Meerkat Becomes Best Friends With a Husky

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 11:30

Animal friendships are a wonderfully perplexing part of life. So intriguing, in fact, that TIME did a whole cover story about them in 2012. Anyway, here’s an exciting new development in the realm of surprising animal camaraderie: a meerkat befriended a Siberian Husky at the Rostock Ritz Desert Lodge in Namibia.

The dog doesn’t seem super into it at first, but the persistent little meerkat chips away at him until he gives in to the inevitable best friendship, and it’s a beautiful thing.

Categories: Magazines

Country Singer Kevin Sharp Dies at 43

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 11:21

Kevin Sharp, the country singer known for his ‘90s hit “Nobody Knows,” died Saturday due to “complications from past stomach surgeries and digestive issues,” according to his website. He was 43.

Sharp was diagnosed with cancer as teenager, CNN reports. He was also a motivational speaker and involved with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, through which he was able to jump start his musical career after the organization facilitated his meeting with producer David Foster.

Categories: Magazines

Boy Scouts of America Shuts Down Seattle Troop Over Gay Scoutmaster

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 11:20

The Boy Scouts of America has shut down a Seattle troop for its refusal to remove an openly gay Scoutmaster.

The BSA has revoked the charters of the Rainier Beach United Methodist Church and its two scouting units, Troop 98 and Pack 98, for standing by Geoffrey McGrath after the BSA ousted him as a Scoutmaster in March, according to Scouts for Equality, a group that lobbies against discrimination in the scouting movement.

The church’s Rev. Dr. Monica Corsaro has refused to remove McGrath from his leadership position. “Based on our religious principles, we will continue to act as an autonomous church that does not discriminate,” she said in a statement to Scouts for Equality. “We will continue to have our troop meetings here, every Thursday night, with business as usual.”

The BSA’s director of communications, Deron Smith, confirmed the news in a statement to TIME.

“Because the church no longer agrees to the terms of the BSA chartered organization agreement, which includes following BSA policies, it is no longer authorized to offer the Scouting program,” the statement read. “We are saddened by this development, but remain committed to providing all youth with the best possible Scouting experience where the Scouting program is the main focus. We are contacting the parents and leaders of the units to inform them of the chartered organization change.”

The BSA permits gay people to become scouts, but not to take adult leadership positions. McGrath is believed to be the first openly gay adult to have his leadership status revoked by the BSA. He acknowledged his sexuality to the BSA in March after an NBC story about the troop’s inclusiveness prompted the scouting movement to inquire about his orientation.

“The Boy Scouts’ decisions only serve to hurt a group of boys who need the values and leadership of someone like Scoutmaster McGrath,” Zach Wahls, the executive director of Scouts for Equality, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the BSA’s decision calls into question its commitment to leadership and values by perpetuating an outmoded policy rooted in fear and discrimination. History will show that today’s announcement is a self-inflicted wound.”

 

 

Categories: Magazines

USDA Establishes Rural Business Investment Program

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 11:14

(DES MOINES, Iowa) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Monday a new $150 million program designed to provide investment capital to help small agriculture-related business in rural areas with cash needed to expand.

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Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced in Cedar Rapids the formation of the first Rural Business Investment Company, a for-profit firm licensed by the USDA to invest in businesses that otherwise might not have the capital to increase business opportunities.

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The USDA traditionally has offered guaranteed loans or direct loans for rural businesses. The creation of the Rural Business Investment Company is a new way for USDA to establish a licensing procedure that makes Farm Credit bank funds available as investment capital. The banks cannot directly hold ownership stakes in companies through capital investment.

Under the new program the government has created a new business entity, the Rural Business Investment Company, to receive money from Farm Credit banks and set up an investment capital fund. The money will be managed by Advantage Capital Partners, a New-Orleans-based firm with experience in investing in small rural businesses. Advantage Capital will choose the companies in which the new funds will be invested.

The money comes from eight Farm Credit banks. Three in Minnesota include AgStar Financial Services in Mankato, AgriBank of St. Paul, and United Farm Credit Service in Willmar. Two in Texas are Capital Farm Credit in Bryan and Farm Credit Bank of Texas in Austin. Others are CoBank in Denver, Colorado; Farm Credit Services of America in Omaha, Neb.; and Farm Credit Services of Mid-America in Louisville, Kentucky.

In addition to the creation of the first Rural Business Investment Company announced Monday, the USDA is seeking applications for more. The businesses must be newly formed for-profit venture capital companies seeking to be licensed as an RBIC and intending to raise a minimum of $10 million in private equity capital.

Vilsack said a second RBIC application is already under review. The USDA intends to accept RBIC applications through 2016.

Vilsack said examples of the types of businesses that could receive money include biotechnology companies, regional food hubs, or companies making ag-related products seeking to expand into the export market.

“This new partnership will allow us to facilitate private investment in businesses working in bio-manufacturing, advanced energy production, local and regional food systems, improved farming technologies and other cutting-edge fields,” he said.

The program is aimed toward established companies that have received enough money to get off the ground but are now in position to increase the business but need additional capital to grow but are not interested in more debt.

“It’s designed to fill a very narrow but important piece that’s been missing from assistance and help available in rural areas,” Vilsack said.

Small agriculture related business in rural areas have often encountered difficulty getting investors interested in putting up money, Vilsack said. The program is designed to help fill that void.

He said it’s the first step in several activities planned this year he hopes will “create a buzz” about business activity in the nation’s rural areas.

Other steps include the formation of a nonprofit Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research funded by Congress in the Farm Bill passed earlier this year. It makes available $200 million in USDA money to create the foundation that is designed to attract another $200 million in private sector money to continue research in various agriculture-related fields.

Additionally, the White House Rural Council’s Investing In Rural America conference is set for July. The goal is to attract additional investments to rural America by connecting major investors with rural business leaders, government officials, economic development experts and other partners. The conference will promote opportunities to invest in rural America by highlighting successful projects in energy, biofuels and bio-products, infrastructure, transportation, local and regional food systems, and other areas.

Categories: Magazines

This Fast Food Company Is Finally Making A 9-Minute Long, Italian Short Film

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 11:08


Rather than stick a breakfast taco in a waffle or create a prom corsage out of fried chicken, Wendy’s strategy to go viral isn’t by creating a strange food hybrid but rather creating a 9-minute long, black and white, Italian short film for a relatively traditional Tuscan Chicken on Ciabatta sandwich.

That’s probably not what the internet was expecting.

The fast food chain’s CMO promised “to explode digital” when he joined Wendy’s two years ago, and he’s doing that by having foreign film loving millennials submit subtitles that can be written into the short film — which will be split into three acts.

Now we just have to wait, with bated breath, for a Fellini-esque take on a fried chicken sandwich. There might have been a reason why he never dedicated a short to fast food…

Categories: Magazines

The Best and Worst States for Infertility

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 11:04

If you’re struggling to get pregnant, the best states to live in are Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey.

That’s according to a “fertility report card” from RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, which assessed each state based on whether they offer insurance coverage for in vitro fertilization (IVF), the number of fertility specialists in each state, and the prevalence of infertility support groups.

So what are the worst states for couples struggling to get pregnant? RESOLVE says it’s Alaska, New Hampshire, and Wyoming, which all were graded an “F.”

“For the second year in a row, we are working to highlight state-by-state disparities between access to support resources and fertility treatment, in an effort to motivate people to take action to improve their state’s fertility friendliness,” said Barbara Collura, President/CEO of RESOLVE. Insurance coverage is one of the biggest hurdles for IVF, with some states not providing insurance due to IVF not being a life or death issue, and for ethical reasons.

See a snapshot below, or view the full interactive here:

Categories: Magazines

Beyond Earth Interview: ‘No Civilization Game Would Be Made Without Sid. He’s the Guy.’

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 10:57

Turn-based science fiction games are scarce in gaming’s history, much less ones with insight into the history of the genre. There’s Julian Gollop’s X-COM (or Jake Solomon’s XCOM, the recent reboot), Brad Wardell’s Galactic Civilizations, Steve Barcia’s Master of Orion and the odd Civilization mod, but the one I’d wager most remember the fondest is Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri from 1999.

Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth is a spiritual sequel to the latter, a 4x (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate) game that trades its namesake’s traditional obsession with things that’ve already happened for things that have yet to. It’s a game whose design team sounds as intrigued by the ramifications of our post-human future as they are obsessed with folding such heady concepts into a compulsive piece-pusher — something worthy both of the “one more turn” cliche and sci-fi’s legacy of stirring, often subversive fiction.

Firaxis unveiled the game at PAX East on April 12 — it’s due later this year. You can watch the PAX East panel’s announcement here:

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This is the second part of a two-part interview, here with the game’s lead designer David McDonough and lead producer Lena Brenk. The first part — with gameplay designer Anton Strenger, Sid Meier’s Civilization series senior producer Dennis Shirk and associate producer Pete Murray — is here.

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In Beyond Earth, you lead different factions with contrasting cultures. One of the critiques of Civilization V‘s take on culture was that it felt like a second tech tree instead of a feature unto itself. How does culture work in Beyond Earth?

David McDonough: There’s a system called virtues, which is an expression of what your civilization cares about, so who they grow up to be, what their priorities are and so forth. It’s been totally redesigned for this game, meaning it’s different from any previous Civilization. Culture drives the acquisition of items within a virtue table, and those items have a lot of cross-linking benefits in and out of other systems in the game — everything from city progression to tile improvement to military strategies to territorial acquisition and diplomacy and so on.

Lena Brenk: The way Anton designed it, the trees are a lot deeper, so you have a tree that you can follow down, the whole column through, and the more points you spend in one tree, you get kickers — additional bonuses that you rack up. If you go very wide and select virtues from different branches of different trees, you get kickers as well, but they’re different in that they give you bonuses for going in very different directions and not focusing on one tree. So the system is quite different from prior Civilization games.

Firaxis

Recognizing that realism’s subordinate to gameplay, how hard-science-minded have you been able to keep Beyond Earth, for those who relished that aspect of Reynolds’ Alpha Centauri?

DM: We care deeply about exactly that thing. When we set out to design the game, we were already huge fans of not just science fiction, but actual science, and one of the first things we did, and you can find this on Wikipedia, is that we pulled together the original reading list that the designers of Alpha Centauri assembled. I think between us on the Beyond Earth team, we’d read about half of that list before we got started, so we read the other half, and then some.

Every part of the game’s been designed with a very careful eye toward achieving the sweet spot Alpha Centauri did, with finding a plausible link between science that everybody knows and that’s real, and science fiction that makes sense and comes from it. I think one of the best expressions of this in the game is the technology web. The future is treading technological ground that we don’t know yet, and we get to invent it. So we start you in the center of a web surrounded by technologies that are more or less recognizable, that are based on present-day Earth technologies plus a few hundred years. But then it radiates outward to any of a dozen very different technological places, and they all end up in a very interesting sci-fi place that is definitely sci-fi, but also definitely plausible, and you can see the thread all the way through from today to then and how humankind could have gotten to that technology, and why they would have, and what they’d do with it.

So as you play the game, you get to make these really interesting choices along the way, like what kind of technology is important to me, what fits my needs on the ground, what’s going to help me achieve victory, what do I just find the most attractive, and by the time the game is over, you have a collection that represents your priorities as the human race. Your neighbors on the planet will have made a different set of choices, of course, and you’ll clash because your technologies don’t line up.

LB: I can attest to the enthusiasm with which the design team went at it, and the art team as well. We love history here at Firaxis, we love Civilization of course, but going into the future — far into the future — was really cool. It was a challenge, but such an opportunity for the art team to stretch their legs. The designers came up with the technologies and said this is what we’re going for, and then the art team came in and had to imagine what that would mean for units and leaders and the alien environment, how that would look and be represented in the game. The enthusiasm was incredible, and still is incredible, since we’re only pre-alpha at this point.

What’s the timeframe in the game? How many years are we talking, from launching your colony ship to an average game’s conclusion?

DM: That’s a good question, because we don’t say specifically in the game. And we do that on purpose so the player can enjoy imagining the answers to the questions they’re asking. We hypothesize that it’s roughly 200 to 300 years from today, that that’s when the seeding occurs, and once you land on the planet, you play forward by somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 years.

Firaxis

The reason I ask is that Alpha Centauri managed to sneak in some pretty out-there futurist notions, and if you follow guys like Ray Kurzweil today, you know he thinks this notion that Star Trek‘s going to happen in another century or two misses the point — that we’re going to be clouds of foglets or whatever long before we’d ever get to Roddenberry’s naval-metaphor view of humans sailing through space and yet somehow remain human as we define human today.

DM: Yeah, that was really the first kernel of the design, the first question we asked: What is the human race going to look like in 500 years, let alone 1,500 years? What kind of post-human weirdness is going to happen? There’s no shortage of interesting ideas in sci-fi, ideas that range from plausible to at the same time sort of terrifying.

We sculpted the game around three impressions of that, which we call affinity, and each one represents a concept somewhere between an ideology and a religion — it’s more just a philosophy of what humankind is going to be like by the time you reach the next great turning point in our history.

One of them, supremacy, is very focused on technology as the savior of humanity, that by embracing the machines and eventually integrating them to the point of replacing yourself, the future of humanity is forever assured — that these machines can survive any environment, we will never be displaced from our home again and we’re saved by the machines. Living as a nano-cloud is reflected in the ultimate extent of those technologies in the web and in some of the things you’re able to build, some of the wonders and so on. We go right up to that threshold and hint at it, then suggest to the player, “Look at this crazy place humanity’s arrived at, and just imagine what’ll happen next.”

Firaxis

It sounds like you’re hoping to use the new quest system as your primary storytelling mechanism.

LB: That’s right. In Civilization we’ve generally been able to assume that players know what the history of humanity has been, more or less, to date. You don’t need to be a historian to know who Genghis Khan was, or the Maya. That lets players tell their own story because they have a historical framework to do so.

When we’re going into the future, that framework’s obviously unclear. We still want the player to tell their own story, but giving them that framework was important, and so one of the ways we found to do this was the quest system. We use it to give snippets of information, little insights into the alien planet and the wildlife there, to give the player a feel for where they’ve landed.

Firaxis

You’ve also added a second strategic angle that’s an actual layer physically superimposed above the traditional one. How does the new orbital system relate to the planetary one?

DM: The core experience still transpires on the planet, so think of the orbital layer which exists above it as an augmentation: It’s a different way to play with the same pieces. You build orbital units in your cities, then launch them into orbit, which exists on a camera level above the planet’s surface. All of the orbital units are designed based on their effects on things on the ground (or water, as the case may be). And so everything from terraforming the ground, augmenting your improvements in your cities, buffing your military units or making military tactics possible to the point of outright bombarding holdings on the ground. And then the other way around, with things on the ground being able to shoot down orbital units. That’s how orbital play is done. Whatever your aims and ambitions and problems are on the surface of the planet, the orbital layer is an extension and complication of them.

Firaxis

Sid Meier was one of the lead designers on Alpha Centauri, and Beyond Earth carries his name in the full title. To what extent is that branding? Or put another way, how hands-on is he with Beyond Earth?

DM: Sid is really the benevolent uncle-godfather of all the designers at the studio. Every Civilization game bears his imprint and has his involvement in it. This is no exception. We never questioned that the game would be called Sid Meier’s Civilization. It belongs in the Civilization franchise and we want it to stand along with that incredible legacy.

That said, it’s a brand new experience, and it takes place literally beyond Earth. The title expresses exactly what the game is — that it belongs in the Civilization legacy, but that it’s a new idea within it. And as a designer I can tell you that Sid’s influence, his insight and his participation are extremely important. He’s always present, always willing to play the game and lend his thoughts and perspectives. I think no Civilization game would be made without Sid. He’s the guy.

MORE: The History of Video Game Consoles – Full

Categories: Magazines

Now You Can Explore the Star Trek: Voyager Deck With the Oculus Rift

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 10:45

The virtual reality headset Oculus Rift already allows users to enter far-flung lands such as Tuscany, Game of ThronesWesteros and Jerry Seinfeld’s apartment. Now Oculus owners can beam up to the famous spaceship from Star Trek: Voyager as well.

The new demo, created by independent developer Thomas Kadlec, features an incredibly detailed recreation of the Voyager’s bridge, complete with computer monitors lit up with buttons and windows that offer a view out to the stars. The demo was made using Unreal Engine 4, a new game development engine that should allow more complex worlds to be built for the Rift.

Oculus VR, the company behind the Rift, has released multiple iterations of its headset to developers, who have tinkered with the technology in fascinating ways. The company, which was bought for $2 billion by Facebook in March, has yet to announce when the Rift will see a release as a consumer product.

[The Verge]

Categories: Magazines

New York Knicks Fire Coach Mike Woodson

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 10:39

The New York Knicks organization fired its entire coaching staff, the team announced Monday, after failing to make the playoffs despite competing in a weak Eastern Conference.

Phil Jackson, the newly-minted Knicks president, said in a release that coach Mike Woodson and his staff would not be returning next season. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for Mike Woodson and his entire staff,” Jackson said. “The coaches and players on this team had an extremely difficult 2013-14 season, and blame should not be put on one individual. But the time has come for change throughout the franchise as we start the journey to assess and build this team for next season and beyond.”

Woodson had one year remaining on a three-year contract. Under Woodson, the Knicks won a playoff series for the first time in 13 seasons in the 2012-2013 season.

But the team fell short of being a title contender this year, as owner James Dolan had hoped. The Knicks began the season 3-13. They recovered in March, winning 12 of 15 games, but still missed out on a playoff spot.

Jackson, a 13-time NBA champion, said that the search for a coach would begin immediately, according to ESPN.

[ESPN]

Categories: Magazines

Parents: 234 Girls Kidnapped from Nigeria School

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 10:38

(CHIBOK, Nigeria) — Some 234 girls are missing from the northeast Nigerian school attacked last week by Islamic extremists, significantly more than the 85 reported by education officials, parents told the state governor Monday.

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The higher figure came out a week after the kidnappings when the Borno state governor insisted a military escort take him to the town. Parents told the governor that officials would not listen to them when they drew up their list of names of missing children and the total reached 234.

The discrepancy in the figures could not immediately be resolved.

Security officials had warned Gov. Kashim Shettima that it was too dangerous for him to drive to Chibok, 130 kilometers (80 miles) from Maiduguri, the Borno state capital and birthplace of the Boko Haram terrorist network blamed for the abductions.

Borno state education commission Musa Inuwo Kubo and the principal of the Chibok Government Girls Secondary School had initially said that 129 science students were at the school to write a physics exam when the abductors struck, after midnight on April 14. Twenty-eight pupils escaped from their captors between Tuesday and Friday. Then another 16 were found to be day scholars who had returned to their homes in Chibok before the attack. That left 85 missing students, according to school officials.

This latest confusion comes after the military had reported last week that all but eight of those abducted had been rescued — but then retracted the claim the following day.

Security sources have said they are in “hot pursuit” of the abductors, but so far they have not rescued any of the girls and young women, aged between 16 and 18.

Parents and other town residents have joined the search for the students in the Sambisa Forest which borders Chibok town and is a known hideout for the militants.

The kidnappings are believed to have been carried out by Nigeria’s Islamic extremist rebels, known as Boko Haram. Boko Haram — the nickname means “Western education is sinful” — is violently campaigning to establish an Islamic Shariah state in Nigeria, whose 170 million people are about half Muslim and half Christian. Boko Haram has been abducting some girls and young women in attacks on schools, villages and towns but last week’s mass kidnapping is unprecedented. The extremists use the young women as porters, cooks and sex slaves, according to Nigerian officials.

Boko Haram was on a rampage last week, staging four attacks in three days that began with a massive explosion during rush hour at a busy bus station Monday morning in Abuja, the capital in the center of the country, which killed at least 75 people and wounded 141.

Nigeria’s military and government had claimed to have the militants on the run and contained in a remote northeast corner on the border with Cameroon.

But extremist attacks have increased in frequency and become ever deadlier this year with more than 1,500 people killed so far, compared to an estimated 3,600 between 2010 and 2013.

Categories: Magazines

Bear Gets Head Stuck in Plastic Jar, Becomes IRL Winnie the Pooh

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 10:37

A bear was rescued after getting a jar stuck on its head near Sudbury. cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/WeirdNew… // http://t.co/WFOt88NVsK


  (@Canoe) April 21, 2014

A bear with a plastic jar stuck on its head was bumbling around a Canadian city early morning Easter Sunday — a scenario that the CBC joked is reminiscent of the iconic illustrations of Winnie the Pooh scarfing down honey in a pot face first.

Police found the black bear wandering around Lively (a part of Greater Sudbury, Ontario), unable to remove a plastic jar intended for birdseed from its head and “walking into a variety of objects including a police cruiser,” according to a statement from the Greater Sudbury Police. The bear was tranquilized and removed from the area.

Fortunately, residents have little to fear; black bear attacks are generally rare.

Categories: Magazines

John Lennon’s Doodles Up for Auction

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 10:33

I am he as you are he as you are me and we can buy the drawings from the Walrus himself.

Sotheby’s New York on June 4 will be auctioning off John Lennon’s drawings, poetry, and stories he created while touring with the Beatles. The doodles fall on the surrealist side with potbellied men walking other humanoid creatures, a giant Sherlock Holmes inspecting a tiny suspect, and a very hairy Snow White ready to bite into her apple.

The drawings and manuscripts haven’t seen the light of day for decades after spending almost the past 50 years in the personal archive of Lennon’s London publisher, but now you can catch a glimpse into the mind of the eggman. Goo goo g’joob.

Categories: Magazines

Boston Marathon Sees Smooth Start a Year After Bombings

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 10:28

The Boston Marathon started without incident Monday morning amid heightened security measures after bombings near the finish line of last year’s marathon killed three people and wounded 264 others.

Marathon officials have gone to great lengths to prevent another incident, forbidding backpacks and rucksacks, containers with more than one liter of liquid, and costumes that cover the face, CNN reports. Large signs are also banned, and unregistered runners and cyclists are no longer allowed to join the race.

On the one-year anniversary of the marathon attack last Tuesday, police arrested a performance artist who wore a veil and screamed as he carried two rice cookers in backpacks to the site of the original explosion last year. Kevin Edson, who has a history of hospitalization and mental health issues, was arrested and held on $100,000 bail before he was sent to a mental hospital.

Authorities accused brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev of the bombings. Tamerlan was killed days later after a shootout with police ended with Dzhokhar running over his brother with his car. Dzhokhar is awaiting trial.

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