Amid growing ransomware attacks, New York City is the first major metro region in the US to launch a cyberdefense center, one that is, in this case, located in a Manhattan skyscraper. A mix of private and government entities are working together to help prevent similar future cyberattacks, including everything from Amazon to the NYPD.
The new cyberdefense center represents an evolution of the fully virtual New York City Cyber Critical Services and Infrastructure initiative, according to the Wall Street Journal. The new cyberdefense center has 282 partners that will work together to illuminate possible cybersecurity threats, helping protect the city and its critical infrastructure.
The new center is the result of years of talks and effort, according to the report — an effort that first led to the aforementioned online project launched in 2019. The growing number of ransomware attacks prompted the evolution in this initiative, better positioning the major metropolitan region to prevent and address cyberattacks that may threaten major businesses, financial hubs, and city infrastructure.
The report reveals that the cyberdefense center has already conducted their own version of “war games” at an IBM cyber range for practice using various systems to address cyberattacks. Likewise, the collective shares data amongst themselves whenever a cyberattack, such as ransomware, occurs anywhere in the US in order to ensure it doesn’t spread into the city.
The announcement comes only weeks after the Colonial pipeline ransomware attack, which resulted in gas shortages in parts of the US. Though the cyberattack was eventually resolved, it required the company to pay a substantial ransom, only part of which was later recovered by the federal government.
Hospitals have likewise been hit with ransomware attacks that lock down their systems — in one particularly large case in Southern California, hospital officials were forced to switch to paper-based records and communication, severely limiting their ability to treat patients. Such attacks have the potential to shutdown large sectors of the US, representing a major threat to the nation.
If there’s one thing that makes Python incredibly successful, that would be its readability. Everything else hinges on that: if code is unreadable, it’s hard to maintain. It’s also not beginner-friendly then — a novice getting boggled by unreadable code won’t attempt writing its own one day.
Python was already readable and beginner-friendly before decorators came around. But as the language started getting used for more and more things, Python developers felt the need for more and more features, without cluttering the landscape and making code unreadable.
Decorators area prime-time example of a perfectly implemented feature. It does take a while to wrap your head around, but it’s worth it. As you start using them, you’ll notice how they don’t overcomplicate things and make your code neat and snazzy.
Before anything else: higher-order functions
In a nutshell, decorators are a neat way to handle higher-order functions. So let’s look at those first!
Functions returning functions
Say you have one function,greet()— it greets whatever object you pass it. And let’s say you have another function,simon()— it inserts “Simon” wherever appropriate. How can we combine the two? Think about it a minute before you look below.
The output is'Hello, Simon!'. Hope that makes sense to ya!
Of course, we could have just calledgreet("Simon"). However, the whole point is that we might want to put “Simon” into many different functions. And if we don’t use “Simon” but something more complicated, we can save a whole lot of lines of code by packing it into a function likesimon().
Functions inside other functions
We can also define functions inside other functions. That’s important because decorators will do that, too! Without decorators it looks like this:
The function respect()returns a function;respect("yes")returns the congrats function,respect("brother")(or some other argument instead of"brother") returns the insult function. To call the functions, enterrespect("yes")()andrespect("brother")(), just like a normal function.
Got it? Then you’re all set for decorators!
The ABC of Python decorators
Functions with an @ symbol
Let’s try a combination of the two previous concepts: a function that takes another function and defines a function. Sounds mind-boggling? Consider this:
The last line ensures that we don’t need to callstartstop(roll)()anymore;roll()will suffice. Do you know what the output of that call is? Try it yourself if you’re unsure!
Now, as a very good alternative, we could insert this right after definingstartstop():
This does the same, but gluesroll()tostartstop()at the onset.
Why is that useful? Doesn’t that consume exactly as many lines of code as before?
In this case, yes. But once you’re dealing with slightly more complicated stuff, it gets really useful. For once, you can move all decorators (i.e. thedef startstop()part above) into its own module. That is, you write them into a file calleddecorators.pyand write something like this into your main file:
In principle, you can do that without using decorators. But this way it makes life easier because you don’t have to deal with nested functions and endless bracket-counting anymore.
You can also nest decorators:
Note that we haven’t definedexectime()yet, but you’ll see it in the next section. It’s a function that can measure how long a process takes in Python.
This nesting would be equivalent to a line like this:
Bracket counting is starting! Imagine you had five or six of those functions nested inside each other. Wouldn’t the decorator notation be much easier to read than this nested mess?
You can even use decorators on functions thataccept arguments. Now imagine a few arguments in the line above and your chaos would be complete. Decorators make it neat and tidy.
Finally, you can even add arguments to your decorators— like@mydecorator(argument). Yeah, you can do all of this without decorators. But then I wish you a lot of fun understanding your decorator-free code when you re-read it in three weeks…
Applications: where decorators cut the cream
Now that I’ve hopefully convinced you that decorators make your life three times easier, let’s look at some classic examples where decorators are basically indispensable.
Measuring execution time
Let’s say we have a function calledwaste time() and we want to know how long it takes. Well, just use a decorator!
A dozen lines of code and we’re done! Plus, you can usemeasuretime()on as many functions as you want.
Sometimes you don’t want to execute code immediately but wait a while. That’s where a slow-down decorator comes in handy:
Callingwakeup()makes lets you take a 5-minute break, after which your console reminds you to get back to work.
Testing and debugging
Say you have a whole lot of different functions that you call at different stages, and you’re losing the overview over what’s being called when. With a simple decorator for every function definition, you can bring more clarity. Like so:
There is a more elaborate examplehere. Note, though, that to understand that example, you’ll have to checkhow todecorate functions with arguments. Still, it’s worth the read!
This kinda goes without saying. If you’ve defined a function decorator(), you can just sprinkle@decoratoreverywhere in your code. To be honest, I don’t think it gets any simpler than that!
If you have functionalities that should only be accessed if a user is logged in, that’s also fairly easy with decorators. I’ll refer you to thefull examplefor reference, but the principle is quite simple: first, you define a function likelogin_required(). Before any function definition that needs logging in, you pop@login_required. Simple enough, I’d say.
Syntactic sugar — or why Python is so sweet
It’s not like I’m notcritical of Pythonor not usingalternative languageswhere it’s appropriate. But there’s a big allure to Python: it’s so easy to digest, even when you’re not a computer scientist by training and just want to make things work.
If C++ is an orange, then Python is a pineapple: similarly nutritious, but three times sweeter. Decorators are just one factor in the mix.
But I hope you’ve come to see why it’s such a big sweet-factor. Syntactic sugar to add some pleasure to your life! Without health risks, except for having your eyes glued on a screen.
A new Starlink teardown has revealed fresh details about SpaceX’s satellite internet dish, including how the company prevents its development hardware from being misused. Launched last year, Starlink relies upon both a growing constellation of satellites in orbit around Earth and an auto-positioning dish on the ground that communicates with them.
The satellite network has been a work-in-progress for SpaceX, with multiple launches of its Falcon 9 rockets adding to the mesh. As that happens, gaps in Starlink coverage have been filled, and more users added to the system.
On the ground, Starlink uses a custom satellite dish that links with a special router. Configured using the Starlink app, it’s designed to automatically move so as to keep the constellation overhead at the optimal angle. However, it has also proved to be a source of fascination among those curious to see what Elon Musk’s company have squeezed inside.
One such group is the Computer Security and Industrial Cryptography (COSIC) research team at KU Leuven, which acquired a Starlink system when it launched in Belgium at the end of May. Researchers there wasted no time in opening up the dish for a teardown, and then extracting the software for further analysis.
They came across some interesting tidbits along the way, not least the fact that SpaceX has clearly been iterating on its core dish design already. The COSIC Starlink hardware differs from what has been seen in prior teardowns, and there are some differences in connectors. Elon Musk recently said that the company is working on halving the cost of building each Starlink dish, since right now SpaceX is losing money on them.
What’s particularly curious is how SpaceX keeps those development systems from getting out into the wild. “Development hardware is geofenced to only work in certain predefined areas, most of which are clearly SpaceX locations,” COSIC’s Lennert Wouters explains. “SpaceX is likely notified if development hardware is used outside these predefined geofences.”
It’s not the only control on getting too much access to the underlying systems. The software exploration also revealed that SpaceX has prevented users from logging in to the live system, by including a check during boot to see whether the hardware has been fused or not. Consumer dishes are fused before they’re shipped, and so the login prompt is disabled.
While hacking a Starlink dish is probably a bad idea – almost as much as mounting one on the hood of your car, in fact – it’s interesting to see the amount of work that has gone into building the system. It’s certainly cost SpaceX no small amount, with Musk suggesting that it could be $5-10 billion in investment before Starlink is fully cash flow positive. As well as the improvements in the pipeline for the Starlink dishes, currently SpaceX is working on the v1.5 satellites – with laser-based links in-between each satellite – and then the v2.0 update sometime in 2022.
Early on the evening of Monday, 12 July, a thin crescent Moon will be seen low on the horizon, just after sunset. Just half a degree below and to the right of our planetary companion, Venus and Mars — the two closest planets to Earth, will shine in the twilight.
This is a perfect time for families to venture outside, viewing the wonders of the night sky.
“I’m NOT a Star” — Venus
Venus is often called the morning star, or evening star (depending on when the planet rises and sets), due to the fact it is seen near the Sun — in the east at dawn, and west at sunset.
The evening of 12 July is a perfect example of Venus as the evening star.
This planet, roughly the size and mass of the Earth, is home to a hellish landscape of scorching temperatures, a poisonous atmosphere, and sulfuric acid rain. “In June, NASA announced that two new space missions would be heading to Venus beginning later in the decade. VERITAS and DAVINCI+ will investigate the planet’s surface and atmosphere, returning incredible images, maps, and other data, likely rewriting our understanding of how Earth’s sister planet became so inhospitable, along with how it might still be active today. They’ll be joined by the European spacecraft EnVision, for what’s sure to be an exciting new chapter in solar system exploration,” NASA describes.
“Better Red than Dead — Eat THAT, Pluto!” — Mars
Shining bright red near the Moon andVenus, Mars completes the evening’s cosmic triangle.
Mars is now a planet of robots, as orbiters, landers, and rovers explore the Red Planet. Robotic explorers built by NASA, the ESA are now joined by intrepid robotic explorers from China and the UAE.
Mars will, almost certainly, be the first world after the Earth on which humans lead out their lives. If we are smart enough, brave enough, and far-sighted enough toovercome the anti-science paradigmperpetuated far too often on social media, Mars provides us our best chance to become a multi-planetary species.
As seen from Mars, the Earth will be an “evening star” or “morning star” to future Martian colonists.
How long will it be until people living on Mars will look toEarth, hanging out as a bright light in the Martian sky? Will they see the Martian moons — Phobos and Deimos — as they appear to huddle together with Earth?
A Neighborhood Get-Together
“Counting stars by candlelight, all are dim but one is bright; The spiral light of Venus, rising first and shining best, On, from the northwest corner, of a brand new crescent moon, While crickets and cicadas sing, a rare and different tune, Terrapin Station” — The Grateful Dead,Terrapin Station
Anyone can view this event without any special equipment — The Moon,Mars, and Venus are all easily visible using just the naked eye. This event will be seen by most people around the globe, provided the skies above them are clear.
Ideally, skygazers will want to head outside just a little after sunset, to a dark location, with a clear view to the west. This event will be visible for around 30 minutes before Mars and Venus set, so bring chairs, drinks, and snacks if you’ve got them! If you have a pair of binoculars, bring them along!
The thin two-day oldMoonwill be the first of the objects seen — a slender crescent will appear, staking its claim on the darkening sky. Look for the first signs of this young Moon about 20 degrees above the western horizon.
Minutes later, the shining light of Venus will make itself known, just about 3.5 degrees to the right and a little over six degrees below, the Moon.
One handy trick for observing the night sky is to hold an index finger out at arm’s length. This will cover about half a degree side-to-side, around the size of the Moon or theSunas seen from Earth. a clenched fist held at arm’s length covers about 10 degrees from thumb to pinkie finger.
Following the arrival of Venus, a red light — first dim, then growing progressively brighter as the sky darkens, will be seen just one-sixth of a degree below and half a degree west of the Moon. This is, of course, the planet Mars.
Make sure to see Moon,Mars, and Venus together in the sky on 12 July, low on the western horizon, just after sunset.
This article was originally published onThe Cosmic Companionby James Maynard, the founder and publisher of The Cosmic Companion. He is a New England native turned desert rat in Tucson, where he lives with his lovely wife, Nicole, andMax the Cat. You can read the original article here.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has activated a powerful new system that’ll enable it to track rocket launches in near-real-time, as well as spacecraft when they reenter Earth’s airspace on their way to the ground. The new program is intended to increase the safety of the US’s National Airspace System, according to the agency, joining the FAA’s existing air traffic management efforts.
The new capability is called the Space Data Integrator (SDI), which is a prototype now in operation intended to receive data about rocket launches and spacecraft reentry. The data includes important details like the rocket or spacecraft’s altitude and position that are used to track a launch’s actual trajectory in addition to its planned trajectory.
The SDI launch data is sent to the FAA’s Traffic Flow Management System (TFMS), which also receives Aircraft Hazard Areas (AHAs) and current status updates on mission events. From there, the TFMS displays the data on its Traffic Situation Display located at the FAA’s Air Traffic Control System Command Center for the agency’s Air Traffic Organization Space Operations team.
The FAA describes its SDI launch as opening the door to “more dynamically” managing the nation’s airspace. This will, among other things, help reduce the amount of time other entities are required to wait for closed airspace to reopen amid rocket launches and spacecraft reentries.
According to the agency, SDI operations kicked off on June 30 with the launch of SpaceX’s Transponder 2 mission from Cape Canaveral. The agency plans to likewise use it for the upcoming SpaceX CRS-22 Dragon cargo launch to the ISS. Ultimately, the agency considers this a “critical tool” to managing an increasingly busy national airspace, particularly as the private space industry grows.
I came into the office completely drained after a difficult meeting. But when I looked up I stopped awestruck: someone had hung a painting on the wall. Suddenly the boring hallway had been turned into a room with personality and mood.
My business partner had decided to hang up an abstract painting by modern Ukrainian artist Anton Popernyak he owned. The painting undeniably brightened up the space, but its real value was the course it put us on — turning our office into an art gallery.
Putting on an art exhibition in your office might sound like an indulgent thing to do for a startup, but we discovered that it actually led to a lower turnover rate and increased offer acceptance among candidates we interviewed.
So here’s how we came up with this idea and what results we got from it. Hopefully, it inspires you to do the same!
Why we did it
My business partner is an experienced patron of the greatly underappreciated Ukrainian art scene. He’s always been keen on bringing art closer to people and wanted to help introduce the team to their local culture. I wasn’t as involved in art as he was, but I’ve always cared about making our workplace an inspiring creative space where people would want to come back, not be obliged to come in.
So when we saw our business would be expanding, we decided to combine our interests when designing a new office.
We invited ten muralists, graphic designers, and calligraphists and gave them carte blanche — a censorship-free opportunity to use our office walls as a canvas. Five months later, our 350-person office space had turned into a modern art gallery.
Now what did our team think? They loved it.
Of course, we had hoped for the project to be a morale boost for the team and maybe increase people’s interest in their local art scene. But in the end, what we got was so much more.
Decreased turnover rate
We work in the customer support industry which has one of the highest employee turnover rates of any field. While the average rate for companies in general is 15 percent, for customer service centers it can reach 30-45 percent.
This is a big problem for businesses as the cost to replace a person varies between $10,000 to $15,000 and can add up to a lot of money for big call centers.
But since we gave our office an art makeover, our turnover rate dropped by 16 percent. All of a sudden our fun art initiative had a real measurable impact on our bottom line.
Increased number of job applications
As a customer support company, our recruiting process is continuous and requires a huge pool of specialists who speak foreign languages. Just last year, during the challenging 2020, we hired 658 people.
Most of our candidates come from job searching sites or are referred by current team members. But after we introduced art to the office, the word got out and the number of organic job applications increased 1.5 times.
When asked, people said that they’ve seen the photos of our office on the job sites, on their friends’ social media, or in the press, and it made them want to apply. To them, our company seemed interesting and innovative and stood out among other offers.
Judging by the incredibly positive results we’ve gotten, I believe that our investment into the space paid off with increased interest among potential candidates.
Increased offer acceptance rate
We have three-stages job interviews and in the case of a local hire, the last stage is an in-person conversation in the office. We noticed that an average acceptance rate is 50 percent higher among the candidates interviewed in our new ‘art office’ in comparison to the old one.
And it’s clear why from the feedback we’ve gotten from newcomers: “The minute I saw this, I knew I wanted to work here.”
To give you a bit of perspective on why this has been so successful, I think it’s good to note that 42 percent of our applicants are millennials.
Since 78 percent of them consider the quality of the workspace important when choosing an employer, it’s not surprising that a creative workplace attracts candidates’ attention.
However, they are not the only ones who care about it: 81 percent of all applicants would reject a job offer if they didn’t like the workplace. That’s why I consider resources put in the office a long-term investment into our recruiting efforts.
Increased brand awareness
Introducing an art project like this also drew the attention of local media and put us on a map of global office spaces. It helped us reach a new audience outside our traditional channels and cement a reputation as a responsible employer.
A lot of factors contributed to getting us there. Team members shared photos of the office on social media and brought their relatives to our corporate Family Days. I also found employees were also more willing to promote the company among their friends.
And because of all this interest, we introduced tours of the office for the public so more people could come to see the murals. All of this combined increased interest among potential candidates and, subsequently, clients.
Since we’re in a competitive sector of the B2B industry, relationships and reputation are crucial for us.
Before signing a contract, clients sometimes go on a tour checking out different service providers. Before COVID-19, we hosted on average four client visits per month. Having a unique office makes a memorable impression and lets us stand out among the competitors.
The contact center industry is stereotypically perceived as a toxic work environment with gray open-space and no air conditioning. We bust that myth and make our clients see how their money is spent: on happy representatives which means happy customers.
Clients, who value commitment to the team’s wellness, appreciate our efforts and tend to choose us as a partner.
Of course, we can’t credit all the above-mentioned achievements solely to art in the office. You can’t just hang a painting on the wall and expect the turnover rate to go down — that’s not how it works. It has to be a part of and supported by other strategic efforts to improve the overall employee experience.
However, the massive introduction of art into our space definitely played a key role in how our team perceives its workplace and the company. Still, one of the less visible yet priceless benefits I love the most is when I overhear two people chatting in the kitchen… about which mural they liked more — the one by Manzhos or by Kondakov.
TAG Heuer plans to release a limit-edition Super Mario-themed watch later this month, the company revealed in a new teaser. The company is best known for its timepieces, though it also produces smartwatches and select other accessories. TAG Heuer is now accepting registrations from interested consumers who want to get the Super Mario watch for themselves.
TAG Heuer teased the upcoming product with a blisteringly bright, colorful video that doesn’t actually show the watch, though you can enjoy the looping Super Mario audio track if that’s something you enjoy. The companion website for the product includes a look at the watch case, however, which is bright red with the iconic Mario “M” logo.
The tweet states that consumers will be able to “power up” on July 13, but the product’s registration website lists the watch’s launch as July 15. A countdown timer on the same website indicates that July 15 is the correct date for the launch, though maybe TAG Heuer plans to provide a proper look at the watch model earlier in the week on July 13.
The registration website says that consumers who register will get an “early drop” related to the product, though it’s unclear what that means. Regardless, those who register are told they’ll be “the first to know,” so presumeably you can expect to get alerts when the watch becomes available if you sign up with your phone number or email address.
This limited-edition watch will be available on the TAG Heuer website and likely through boutique stores, though the company hasn’t revealed how many units will be up for grabs. Given the nature of the company, consumers can likely expect a luxury product that comes with a similarly high price tag, putting the watch into the realm of collectors and timepiece enthusiasts with a fondness for classic Nintendo IP.
Sun Haven is a farming-based life sim from Pixel Sprout Studios. It’s currently available in Steam‘s Early Access program and will release later on Switch.
The game’s been called Stardew Valley meets Dungeons and Dragons, but it seems like that’s more of a shorthand way of saying it’s a farming-based life sim with fantasy elements.
Quick and dirty version: This game is good; one day it’ll be great; some of you will want to buy it today and others should wait.
If you’re a seasoned veteran when it comes to games such as Harvest Moon, Stardew Valley, My Time At Portia, and Graveyard Keeper, you’ll find yourself right at home with Sun Haven.
Pixel Sprout’s painstakingly captured the essence of these games and it’s quite obvious the company isn’t trying to shy away from comparison. When you fire up Sun Haven you’re treated to an extremely familiar opening scene (unless this is your first genre title, in which case: enjoy the trope) and then you’re dropped off in a town that has a nearly identical layout to the ones in Stardew and Keeper.
This is a good thing. The familiarity not only helped me acclimate to some problems we’ll get into later, but it made the differences between Sun Haven and similar titles even more startling.
In Sun Haven you’ll go through the same farm and village-building routine as you always have, but you’ll also experience roleplaying elements typically not present in those other games.
Experience points are used in a branching tree of unlockable abilities providing a layer of player progression I don’t think we’ve seen executed as well in the genre before.
What’s more, the developers also differentiate Sun Haven from similar titles by catering purely to the player. This game is dripping with quality of life tweaks on the decades-old formula.
These include the removal of arbitrary “stamina meters” whose purposes are better served by utilizing the in-game clock and day/night cycle, introducing ranged and magic combat options that actually make killing things easier, and absolutely filling the world with methods by which the players can permanently and endlessly upgrade their character’s abilities.
In some respects, the game can feel a bit too nice, but this is countered by its immensity.
The game has a lot going for it in sheer terms of scope, scale, and size. There are more than a dozen romanceable characters, the map is relatively large, and I felt as though I barely scratched the surface after 16 hours of gameplay. There’s a lot to do.
The not so good
Unfortunately, the game’s in Early Access because it’s not ready for a full release yet. And when I say it’s not ready, I mean it.
I’ll call it playable in its current state because I never experienced a crash while playing and, so far, I haven’t experienced anything that made it impossible for me to move forward in-game.
But that’s where the laurels end when it comes to the game’s level of polish.
First off, the controls are abysmal. The only way the game was playable for me or my review partner/fiancée was to utilize an uncomfortable controller-mouse combo where you do actions and selections with the mouse in one hand and use the left stick on a gamepad to control movement.
You can certainly just use keyboard and mouse, but the movement felt much better with a controller (note: we had to set the controller up in the Steam menu, the game itself doesn’t offer any apparent native controller support).
It gets worse. You can’t map any controls in game. This was pretty close to a deal-breaker for me. Nearly every game Sun Haven competes with makes controller support seamless while simultaneously nailing keyboard and mouse controls. This game feels like it was made by people who’d never used either, and that doesn’t make any sense.
This absolutely needs to be fixed, and fixed well before anyone can justify the $25.99 price tag this Early Access game ships with.
Moving on, there are other problems with the current game state that make it difficult to understand its developmer’s priorities. One of the best things about the game is discovering new gear options that change game mechanics or offer new features. Unfortunately, getting or using a fancy new treasure would often inexplicably result in a previously gained treasure or item disappearing.
It’s great that I found a magical book, but why did my hard-earned, badass, super sword disappear the moment I switched to it in my hotbar? These kinds of issues happen far too frequently.
And there were scores of instances where I simply didn’t know what was going on and couldn’t be sure whether the game was buggy or I was just being dense. I spent 15 full minutes trying to figure out how the hell to plant seeds – literally the first quest in the game. And I still don’t understand.
Check out this screen shot:
I was supposed to till 10 patches of grass, plant 10 wheat seeds, and water them. Simple right? If you’ll notice above, it looks like I mangled the lawn and haphazardly planted seeds in no discernible pattern. Am I a wild man who spits in the face of symmetry?
No, no I’m not. There just didn’t appear to be any actual rhyme or reason as to why I could plant seeds in one tilled tile versus another. All the brownish spaces there in the green grass area where you don’t see little speckles of plant growth (those are the seeds) are places I tilled and inexplicably couldn’t plant seeds.
This might seem like a silly complaint, but these games are literally about building your ideal little farm. But instead of realizing my gardening dreams, I was stuck playing a game of reverse-Minesweeper trying to figure where the hell I could and couldn’t plant seeds.
Stuff like this happens far too often for me to spend as much on this game as I would for Stardew Valley and Graveyard Keeper together.
But, I love it
All that being said: this isn’t a bad or broken game. It’s a good Early Access game that almost surely will become a great finished product some day. The developers lovingly took this game from a successful Kickstarter to a well-reviewed Steam Early Access title and they’re still pushing constant updates.
Some of the things that pissed me off about Sun Haven last week are no longer issues today. And I expect most, if not all of my above gripes to be handled at some point.
I really enjoy playing this game and it has a lot going for it. But I honestly don’t think it’s worth $25 yet. It’s missing far too much polish.
Right now, I can’t recommend purchasing it unless you’re in it for the long haul. If you’re the type of person who puts 100 hours in a farming-based life sim, Sun Haven may very well be the itch-scratching mega title you’ve been looking for. There is plenty to enjoy right now, in its current stable build.
But if this title isn’t at the top of your Steam wishlist, you may want to wait until some more kinks are worked out. We’ll revisit Sun Haven once it sees a full release with a review that touches on the story and multiplayer aspects of the game.
Until then, if you remain undaunted, you can purchase Sun Haven on Steam here.
Amazon has finally expanded Watch Party support to its Fire TV devices, enabling people who are located in different places to watch the same content together. Though Watch Party isn’t a new tool, it launched with limited usefulness: you could only use it when streaming Prime Video on desktop. Watch Party is also now available on mobile, but with restrictions.
As first spied by XDA, Amazon has updated its Watch Party website with the new support details. In addition to desktop browsers, the website now says that Fire TV devices are also supported, as are mobile devices with the Prime Video app. However, Watch Party on mobile is limited to the chat functionality.
The feature still requires all users, including those who want to join a party, to have a Prime membership assuming you want to watch Prime-exclusive content. Otherwise, you have the option of renting or purchasing digital content to watch with friends and family. In the latter case, every participant must have rented or purchased the same content to participate.
Assuming you’re in the Prime Video app, you can start a Watch Party by looking for the Watch Party button on the content screen. The host can enter the name they want others to see, then send links to the people they want to invite to the party. Up to 100 people are allowed to participate in the same Watch Party. Only the host is able to control the content playback.
Watch Party features spiked in popularity last year as many people were forced to stay home and, as a result, started streaming much more often than previously. Many popular platforms now support their own watch party features, though each varies a bit in terms of how they work and who can participate in them.
Welcome to Neural’s series on speculative science. Here, we throw caution to the wind and see how far we can push the limits of possibility and imagination as we explore the future of technology.
“When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.” – Arthur C Clarke.
An exciting new study conducted by a huge, international team of researchers indicates some species of bird have a special protein in their eye that exploits quantum mechanics to allow their brains to perceive the Earth’s magnetism.
It’s understandable if you’re not falling out of your chair right now. On the surface, this feels like “duh” news. It’s fairly common knowledge that migratory birds navigate using the Earth’s magnetic field.
But, if you think about it, it’s difficult to imagine how they do it. Try as hard as we may, we simply cannot feel magnetism in the same way birds can.
So the researchers set out to study a specific species of migratory robin with an uncanny ability to navigate in hopes of figuring out how it works.
Magnetic field effects on the coherent spin dynamics of light-induced radical pairs in cryptochromes are manifested as changes in the quantum yields of stabilized states of the protein that could initiate magnetic signaling, most probably through a change in the conformation of the C-terminal tail.
Translation: these birds have proteins in their eyes that utilize quantum superposition to convert the Earth’s magnetism into a sensory signal.
Quantum superposition is the uncertainty inherent when a particle exists in multiple physical states simultaneously. Physicists like to describe this concept using a spinning coin.
Until the coin’s spin slows and we can observe the results, we cannot state equivocally whether it’s in a state of heads or tails. Our observed reality, at the time it’s spinning, makes it appear as though the coin is in a state of neither heads nor tails.
But quantum mechanics are a bit more complex than that. Essentially, when we’re dealing with quantum particles, the coin in this metaphor is actually in a state of both heads and tails at the same time until it collapses into one state or another upon observation.
It sounds nerdy, but it’s actually really cool in actuality.
When blue light hits the aforementioned robins’ eyes, a pair of entangled electrons inside the special protein in them sets off a series of reactions. This allows the bird to measure how much magnetism it’s feeling. The strength of this measurement tells the bird exactly where it’s at and, theoretically, serves as a mechanism to drive it towards its destination.
The reason this works is because of superposition and entanglement. Those two electrons are entangled, which means that even though they’re not next to each other, they can be in a state of uncertainty – superposition – together.
As the bird senses more or less magnetism the state of the electrons change and it’s more or less drawn in a specific direction – at least, that’s what the study appears to indicate.
Think about it like your sense of smell. Despite the fact the birds use a protein in their eye, they don’t really “see” the magnetism. Their brains perceive the signal.
If you smell something amazing, like your favorite fresh-baked treat, coming from a very specific part of your home, those with a typical sense of smell could likely follow their nose and locate the source.
So imagine there’s a special sensor in your nose that’s only looking for a specific scent. One that’s pretty much always there.
Instead of developing an olfactory system to discern different smells, evolution would almost certainly gift us with a nose that specializes in detecting extremely exact measurements of how much of that one scent we perceive at any given time or location.
The robins’ ability to sense magnetism likely works in a similar fashion. They may very well have a ground-truth tether to the motion of the planet itself.
Their magnetic sense gives them a physical sensation based on their literal geolocation.
And that’s pretty amazing! It means these bird’s brains have built-in GPS. What if humans could gain access to this incredible quantum sensory mechanism?
Never, ever ask for directions
Imagine always knowing exactly where you are, in the physical sense. If we could take the emotional feeling you get when you return home from a long trip and turn it into a physical one that waxed or waned depending on how far away from the Earth’s magnetic poles you were, it could absolutely change the way our brains perceive the planet and our place in it.
But, it’s not something we can just unlock through meditation or pharmaceuticals. Clearly, birds evolved the ability to sense the Earth’s magnetism. And not every bird can do it.
Chickens, for example, have a relatively minuscule reaction to magnetism when compared to the robins the scientists studied.
We apparently lack the necessary chemical and neural components for natural magnetic sensory development.
But we also lack talons and wings. And that hasn’t stopped us from killing things or flying. In other words, there are potential technological solutions to our lack of magnetic perception.
From a speculative science point of view, the problem can be reduced to two fairly simple concepts. We have to figure out how to get a quantum-capable protein in our eye that filters blue light to perceive magnetism and then sort out how to connect it to the proper regions of our brain.
Luckily we’ve already got all the conceptual technology we need to make this work.
We know how to entangle things on command, we can synthesize or manipulate proteins to jaw-dropping effect, and brain computer interfaces (BCIs) could facilitate a networking solution that functions as an intermediary between quantum and binary signals.
We can even fantasize about a future where miniaturized quantum computers are inserted into our brains to facilitate even smoother translation.
It feels romantic to imagine a future paradigm where we might network our quantum BCIs in order to establish a shared ground-truth – one that literally allows us to feel the people we care about, even when we’re apart.
I’m not saying this could happen in our lifetimes. But I’m not saying it couldn’t.
I can think of worse reasons to shove a chip in my head.