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Data-mined photos document 100 years of (forced) smiling

Here's an odd fact: Turn-of-the-century photographers used to tell subjects to say "prunes" rather than "cheese," so that they would smile less. By studying nearly 38,000 high-school yearbook photos taken since 1905, UC Berkeley researchers have shown just how much smiling, fashion and hairstyles have changed over the years. The goal was not just to track trends, but figure out how to apply modern data-mining techniques and machine learning to a much older medium: photographs. Their research could advance deep-learning algorithms for dating historical photos and help historians study how social norms change over time.

DJI's MG-1 drone is water-resistant, dustproof.. and made for farming

DJI's newest drone isn't its sexiest: it's a specialized, toughened agricultural drone. Yep, hard to get excited about unless you're a farmer perhaps, but the Agras MG-1 is dust-proof, water resistant and constructed from anti-corrosive materials. Smart decisions for an agriculture drone, but also ones we wouldn't mind some extra peace of mind in the consumer drones we pilot in the suburbs and cities. (Rain is a real danger, okay?) The MG-1 can even be rinsed clean after a day on ranch. When it comes to crop-spraying, the drone can carry over 10kgs of product -- and DJI pegs it at over 40 times more efficient than manual spraying -- although it uses a watering can to illustrate the comparison...

This crowdfunded router updates its own security

It's really, really, really hard to make a router sound exciting, but the folks behind the Turris Omnia are betting the device's focus on keeping your sensitive data secure might grab you. The manufacturer's IndieGogo campaign still has 45 days to go, but it's already proved incredibly popular: over a thousand backers have pledged some $274,598 as of this writing. That's 275 percent higher than the threshold for funding the project. The router itself runs Turris' open source operating system (based on the OpenWRT project) which auto updates as soon as any type of vulnerability is discovered by its cadre of developers.

Must Reads

  • DARPA wants to protect critical infrastructures from cyber attacks

    Hackers have been breaking through a lot of government agency's defenses these past years, and DARPA thinks it's high time to do something about it. Pentagon's mad science division has launched a new program called Rapid Attack Detection, Isolation and Characterization (RADICS), which aims to develop...

  • FCC hires a privacy guru to help lead its telecom investigations

    If you want proof that the Federal Communications Commission is getting serious about privacy, you only need to look at its latest recruit. The agency has hired Jonathan Mayer, one of the masterminds behind Do Not Track browsing, as the chief technologist for its Enforcement Bureau. He'll help lead investigations...

Well that was quick. It's only been a couple of days since someone came up with an unofficial app to stream PlayStation 4 gaming to PC, but earlier today, Sony's awesome Shuhei Yoshida confirmed on Twitter that his company is "indeed working on an official [Remote Play] application for PC/Mac." Yes, it will support both Windows and Mac OS X, which is already more than what the Xbox One offers, though Yoshida has yet to provide a date. Regardless, this is bad news for the unofficial app's developer, who has apparently been working on this project on and off for over a year and planned on charging $10 for the hard work, but at least we can give him or her some credit for getting Sony to up the game for its consoles.

LG's spending billions to make more OLED things

LG's OLED 4K TVs are jaw-droppingly gorgeous, but the price still isn't anywhere near the level it needs to be for mass consumer adoption. Hopefully the company's new manufacturing plant can help that a bit thanks to economies of scale. A Reuters report says that the South Korean firm is spending some $8.71 billion (around 10 trillion Korean won) on a new manufacturing facility for the display panels in Paju, South Korea. Perhaps this can make up for some of the losses the tech giant suffered by halting production at one of its TV plants due to a gas leak earlier this year.

Scientists create gold nuggets that are 98 percent air

Researchers at ETH Zurich have accomplished a bit of modern-day alchemy, transforming 20 carat gold into a lightweight foam. Well, technically it's an aerogel: an exceedingly light and porous matrix of material. It's so porous, in fact, that the foam doesn't conduct electricity because, at atmospheric pressure, the gold atoms within the structure don't actually touch. "The so-called aerogel is a thousand times lighter than conventional gold alloys. It is lighter than water and almost as light as air," Raffaele Mezzenga, Professor of Food and Soft Materials at ETHZ, said in a statement.

'Spencer' the robot is here to help guide lost airline passengers

Meet Spencer. This armless automaton will begin a test run in Schiphol Amsterdam Airport at the end of the month, greeting and guiding harried travellers through the transport hub's famously confusing terminal system. Navigating it is so challenging, in fact, that KLM airlines donated a large part of the project's funding because so many of its customers were getting lost and missing flights. To ensure that doesn't happen anymore, Spencer is equipped with laser range-finding eyes and detailed maps of the airport's interior.

NASA to test sugary bacteria as space-based power source

Following its successful harvest of red leaf lettuce, NASA has announced plans to launch genetically engineered bacteria into orbit to see if they can be harnessed by future astronauts as potent survival resource. The experiment is scheduled to take place in 2017 and will study the genus Anabaena. The sugars that these cyanobacterium photosynthesize can be fed to other genetically-modified bacteria in a system the agency calls PowerCell. These second-stage bacteria would, in turn, generate chemicals, food, fuel and even medicine for far-flung astronauts. "The first pilgrims who came to the Americas didn't bring all their food for the rest of their lives," Lynn Rothschild of NASA's Ames Research Center, said in a statement. "You need to live off the land."

Mozilla says it doesn't need Google's cash to survive

For many years, Firefox's survival was tied into how generous the folks over at Google were feeling, since the company effectively bankrolled the browser. Times have changed, and in an interview with CNET, Mozilla's Denelle Dixon-Thayer said that its financial future is looking better than ever. Back in the day, Google paid to be the search engine of choice within Firefox, but Mozilla now prefers not to put all of its cash-based eggs in a single basket. That's why it's signed separate deals with Yahoo, Baidu and Yandex so that each one gets prominence in the US, China and Russia, respectively.

The biggest data center in Russia will be nuclear powered

According to the news agency Telecom Daily, the Rosenergoatom power company is building what will be the largest data center in Russia -- and they're plopping it right on top of the Kalinin power station. Located about 120 miles northwest of Moscow, the station will provide the 80 MW that engineers estimate will be needed to power the data center's 10,000 or so server racks. The construction is projected to cost $975 million, not including the IT buildout.

Tarantino explains why he thinks 70mm is better than digital

Famed film director Quentin Tarantino is well-known for his purist cinematic tastes and revelry of antique movie production techniques. His fondness for old-school cinema is on full display in his upcoming release, The Hateful Eight, which is being captured only in 70mm and shown as glamorous "roadshows". While the rest of the industry films almost exclusively in digital these days (not to mention that movie houses have long since mothballed their 70mm projectors) Tarantino has been dead set to make this movie on film. In the Fandango featurette below, he explains his reasoning for this insistence and why it's good for the fans.

Scientists use 'spooky action' to mail electron messages a mile

Researchers at Stanford University announced Tuesday that they had successfully leveraged the "spooky" interaction of entangled electrons to send a message between them over a span of 1.2 miles. This is by far the longest distance that scientists have managed to send entangled particles and provides the strongest evidence to date that quantum computing can have practical applications.

Stretchable square of rubber doubles as a keyboard

There's a whole branch of science that's dedicated to turning flexible surfaces into sensors that can be used as an artificial substitute for skin. These materials could then be used to give robots a sense of touch, or even to restore feeling for people with artificial prostheses. Researchers at the University of Auckland have taken the concept in a slightly different direction after building a square of soft, stretchable rubber that pulls double-duty as a keyboard. It's hoped that the technology can be used to create foldable, rollable input devices, which reminds us of Nokia's twisty-stretchy phone concept from way back when.

By Cat DiStasio

Fuel efficiency is one rating that can really set a car apart from the pack. Although you can't yet walk into just any dealership and drive away in a vehicle that gets more than 100 miles a gallon, there are some sweet rides out there that demonstrate just how incredibly efficient a car can be. To get a better idea of what the uber-efficient car of tomorrow looks like, we've compiled some of the most efficient vehicles on the planet, all of which exceed that 100-mpg marker. In fact, most of the cars featured here leave that rating in the dust, and several break into the quadruple digits.

Watch ESA explain how it plans to find gravitational waves

In just under a week the European Space Agency (ESA) will launch its LISA Pathfinder spacecraft on a Vega rocket. Buried within the vessel are two cubes made of gold-platinum which, scientists hope, can lay the groundwork for measuring gravitational waves in space. The theories and testing procedures can be tricky to wrap your head around, but thankfully the ESA has made some explainer videos (below) to help you out.


Lenovo's Yoga laptops hardly need an introduction at this point: The company's iconic 2-in-1s are so popular that its competitors have been copying them right and left. Last year's edition, the Yoga 3 Pro, was especially notable for how thin and light it was: just 2.6 pounds and half an inch thick, and that was with a folding touchscreen, too. The problem, we found, was that as easy as it was to hold, that compact design came with significant compromises, including lackluster performance and mediocre battery life. Enter this year's model, the new Yoga 900 ($1,199 and up). Like its predecessor, it has a 13-inch, 3,200 x 1,800 screen and a slim build, but this time it claims faster performance, longer battery life and a sturdier hinge. It is, essentially, an improvement in almost every way.

OnePlus won't replace the 2's flawed USB Type-C cable

Google engineer Benson Leung recently tested the OnePlus 2's USB Type-C cable and said it "may cause damage to your charger, hub or PC USB port" if used on a fast-charging device. OnePlus has now admitted that it doesn't conform to the USB Type-C 1.1 spec, and has agreed to give refunds to its customers. There's one large caveat, however. Since the cable can't cause problems with the OnePlus 2 itself (it's not a fast-charging phone), the company won't give refunds or replacement cables to buyers of the handset. Instead, it will only refund customers who purchased the cable separately.

Translogic host Jonathon Buckely gets all the details on BMW's 330e plug-in hybrid, Honda's latest FCX Clarity hydrogen fuel cell car, the Elio Motors updated, three-wheel P5 concept, and Volvo's Concept 26.The LA Auto Show has become known for its green cars and concepts, and 2015 was no exception. Tranlsogic host Jonathon Buckely gets all the details on BMW's 330e plug-in hybrid straight from BMW President of North America Ludwig Willisch. Then we get up-to-date on Honda's latest FCX Clarity hydrogen fuel cell car. We round out our tour with a stop at the Elio Motors booth for a look at their updated, three-wheel P5 concept and a chat with CEO Paul Elio. But first, we jump in a time machine at the Volvo booth to discuss Concept 26, an interpretation of how car interiors might evolve in the era of self-driving cars.

Pepper robots are getting fashionable makeovers

Pepper, Softbank's adorable emotion-sensing robot, is rapidly becoming the victim of its own cuteness after owners began dressing it up in wacky costumes. The Wall Street Journal has found that buyers of the device got together to form an intricate craft circle, making outfits for the device that won't interfere with its sensors. Head on over to Rierie and you'll find a wide variety of dresses, t-shirts and wigs that'll turn the appliance into a cross between a surrogate child and a cat you put in suits for Halloween. Interestingly, users can also buy makeup stickers and earrings to make the androgynous robot appear more masculine or feminine than when sold. It's become enough of a phenomenon that the store accepts global orders, so if you're looking for an attractive kimono for your droid, it'll cost you 20,000 yen ($163).

Today on In Case You Missed It: Scientists managed to turn taste on and off in mice by activating and silencing brain cells, putting to bed the notion that taste is determined by the tongue. University of Toronto cancer researchers used a patient's genetic material to craft a cancerous mass on a long strip of collagen, then wound it up and gave it the same radiation and chemo drugs a patient would get for that type of illness. They can then stretch the roll out to see whether the treatment killed the cancer cells. The team hopes to eventually tailor people's cancer treatments to their own genetics. And the first battle in the private company space race may have gone to Blue Origin over Space X, for landing its reusable rocket first.