Shared posts

15 Nov 22:24

MIT solved a century-old differential equation to break 'liquid' AI's computational bottleneck

by Andrew Tarantola

Last year, MIT developed an AI/ML algorithm capable of learning and adapting to new information while on the job, not just during its initial training phase. These “liquid” neural networks (in the Bruce Lee sense) literally play 4D chess — their models requiring time-series data to operate — which makes them ideal for use in time-sensitive tasks like pacemaker monitoring, weather forecasting, investment forecasting, or autonomous vehicle navigation. But, the problem is that data throughput has become a bottleneck, and scaling these systems has become prohibitively expensive, computationally speaking.

On Tuesday, MIT researchers announced that they have devised a solution to that restriction, not by widening the data pipeline but by solving a differential equation that has stumped mathematicians since 1907. Specifically, the team solved, “the differential equation behind the interaction of two neurons through synapses… to unlock a new type of fast and efficient artificial intelligence algorithms.”

“The new machine learning models we call ‘CfC’s’ [closed-form Continuous-time] replace the differential equation defining the computation of the neuron with a closed form approximation, preserving the beautiful properties of liquid networks without the need for numerical integration,” MIT professor and CSAIL Director Daniela Rus said in a Tuesday press statement. “CfC models are causal, compact, explainable, and efficient to train and predict. They open the way to trustworthy machine learning for safety-critical applications.”

So, for those of us without a doctorate in Really Hard Math, differential equations are formulas that can describe the state of a system at various discrete points or steps throughout the process. For example, if you have a robot arm moving from point A to B, you can use a differential equation to know where it is in between the two points in space at any given step within the process. However, solving these equations for every step quickly gets computationally expensive as well. MIT’s “closed form” solution end-arounds that issue by functionally modeling the entire description of a system in a single computational step. AS the MIT team explains:

Imagine if you have an end-to-end neural network that receives driving input from a camera mounted on a car. The network is trained to generate outputs, like the car's steering angle. In 2020, the team solved this by using liquid neural networks with 19 nodes, so 19 neurons plus a small perception module could drive a car. A differential equation describes each node of that system. With the closed-form solution, if you replace it inside this network, it would give you the exact behavior, as it’s a good approximation of the actual dynamics of the system. They can thus solve the problem with an even lower number of neurons, which means it would be faster and less computationally expensive.

By solving this equation at the neuron-level, the team is hopeful that they’ll be able to construct models of the human brain that measure in the millions of neural connections, something not possible today. The team also notes that this CfC model might be able to take the visual training it learned in one environment and apply it to a wholly new situation without additional work, what’s known as out-of-distribution generalization. That’s not something current-gen models can really do and would prove to be a significant step towards the generalized AI systems of tomorrow.

12 Nov 00:02

Kevin Conroy, the Beloved Voice of Batman, Has Died. Let's Honor Him and the Best Batmobile Ever

by José Rodríguez Jr.

Actor Kevin Conroy, who voiced the eponymous hero in Batman: The Animated Series, died on November 10 at the age of 66. The beloved actor was diagnosed with cancer not long ago, but despite the diagnosis, Conroy was there for fans and continued attending conventions, according to IGN.


08 Nov 16:01

Diabolical New VR Headset is Designed to Kill its User IRL if Killed In-game

by btarunr
Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey designed a new VR headset that adds the ultimate layer of realism to VR—mortality. Thought to be relegated to dystopian cyberpunk fiction, this new headset comes with the ability to literally kill its user if killed in-game. Its design involves an Oculus Quest Pro, with explosive charges strapped to the forehead, which activate when the headset receives a specific pattern of red color flashes from the game's display-head, to a photo receiver (typically the "Game Over" screen). There's already a concept for a game designed for this.

Mortality replaces visual fidelity and photorealism (or other forms of sensory realism); as the most powerful stimulus. You play the game like your life depends on it—which it literally does. You're in an MMO playing against another human in an unpausable PvP game, where the consequence of losing the duel is losing your head in real life. But first, the good news—the cursed thing isn't in mass-production, and while the US-FDA has approved for certain kinds of pain-stimulating gaming peripherals, it didn't approve killing the user. The product will have to pass through a long line of political, legislative, legal, and philosophical hurdles before it's released to market as something you can buy. Please don't.
13 Oct 16:59

Scientists got lab-grown human brain cells to play 'Pong'

by Kris Holt

Researchers who grew a brain cell culture in a lab claim that they taught the cells to play a version of Pong. Scientists from a biotech startup called Cortical Labs say it's the first demonstrated example of a so-called "mini-brain" being taught to carry out goal-directed tasks. ''It is able to take in information from an external source, process it and then respond to it in real time," Dr. Brett Kagan, lead author of a paper on the research that was published in Neuron, told the BBC.

The culture of 800,000 brain cells is known as DishBrain. The scientists placed mouse cells (derived from embryonic brains) and human cells taken from stem cells on top of an electrode array that was hooked up to Pong, as The Age notes. Electrical pulses sent to the neurons indicated the position of the ball in the game. The array then moved the paddle up and down based on signals from the neurons. DishBrain received a strong and consistent feedback signal (effectively a form of stimulus) when the paddle hit the ball and a short, random pulse when it missed.

The researchers, who believe the culture is too primitive to be conscious, noted that DishBrain showed signs of "apparent learning within five minutes of real-time gameplay not observed in control conditions." After playing Pong for 20 minutes, the culture got better at the game. The scientists say that indicates the cells were reorganizing, developing networks and learning.

“They changed their activity in a way that is very consistent with them actually behaving as a dynamic system,” Kagan said. “For example, the neurons’ ability to change and adapt their activity as a result of experience increases over time, consistent with what we see with the cells’ learning rate.”

Future research into DishBrain will involve looking at how medicines and alcohol affect the culture's ability to play Pong, to test whether it can effectively be treated as a stand-in for a human brain. Kagan expressed hope that DishBrain (or perhaps future versions of it) can be used to test treatments for diseases like Alzheimer's.

Meanwhile, researchers at Stanford University cultivated stem cells into human brain tissue, which they transplanted into newborn rats. These so-called brain organoids integrated with the rodents' own brains. After a few months, the scientists found that the organoids accounted for around a third of the rats' brain hemispheres and that they were engaging with the rodents' brain circuits. As Wired notes, these organoids could be used to study neurodegenerative disorders or to test drugs designed to treat neuropsychiatric diseases. Scientists may also look at how genetic defects in organoids can affect animal behavior.

07 Oct 11:11

Someone made an operating system for the NES

by Jon Fingas

You probably never saw the NES as a productivity machine, but some clever developers beg to differ. Hackaday and Ars Technica note Inkbox Software has released a graphical operating system, NESOS, for Nintendo's console. The mid-'80s technology restricts the OS to two apps (a word processor and settings) and eight 832-byte files, but you have an honest-to-goodness pointer, movable icons and customizable interface colors.

Inkbox primarily had to overcome the NES' very limited memory and storage. NESOS fits into just 48K, and the files have to sit inside the 2K of NVRAM that retains data when the console turns off. Graphics memory was a particularly large hurdle. Nintendo's system only has two sprite memory grids (one each for the foreground and background), and it can only display 64 sprites at any time — that's why many NES games flicker at busy moments. The creator had to combine sprites into larger shapes.

The project is available in a ROM that you'll likely use through an emulator (unless you make your own cartridge). You won't be writing a novel in NESOS. The memory prevents any kind of substantial content creation, and typing with the NES controller involves very slowly cycling through characters. This is more about defying expectations, and it's significant that Inkbox didn't have to modify the console to achieve its feat.

04 Oct 15:51

'The Onion' filed a real brief with the Supreme Court supporting man jailed for making fun of cops

by Mariella Moon

When was the last time you've read an amicus brief? If you're not involved in the legal profession, chances are you may have never actually spent precious time reading one. This amicus brief (PDF) could change that. It was submitted by The Onion, which describes itself in the brief as "the world’s leading news publication" with "4.3 trillion" readers that maintains "a towering standard of excellence to which the rest of the industry aspires." In addition to running a highly successful news publication, The Onion said it "owns and operates the majority of the world’s transoceanic shipping lanes, stands on the nation’s leading edge on matters of deforestation and strip mining, and proudly conducts tests on millions of animals daily." Oh, and its motto is "Tu stultus es." That's "you are dumb" in Latin. 

The Onion, of course, is the popular parody website that once named Kim Jong-un as the sexiest man alive. Its team has filed a very real amicus brief with the Supreme Court in support of Anthony Novak, who was arrested and jailed for four days after briefly running a Facebook page parodying the police department of Parma, Ohio back in 2016.

According to The Washington Times, Novak had suggested that the cops were racist and lacked compassion in about half a dozen posts within 12 hours that the page was up. Parma's police department claimed back then that people were confusing its posts with real information from law enforcement. Novak filed a civil suit against the officers that arrested him and the city of Parma, arguing that his constitutional rights were violated. After a federal appeals ruled that the officers were protected by what's known as "qualified immunity" for law enforcement, he took the battle to the Supreme Court. 

Despite writing the brief in the same voice its publication uses, and despite filling it with outlandish claims and hilarious quips, The Onion made a very real argument defending the use of parody and explaining how it works:

"Put simply, for parody to work, it has to plausibly mimic the original. The Sixth Circuit’s decision in this case would condition the First Amendment’s protection for parody upon a requirement that parodists explicitly say, up-front, that their work is nothing more than an elaborate fiction. But that would strip parody of the very thing that makes it function.

The Onion cannot stand idly by in the face of a ruling that threatens to disembowel a form of rhetoric that has existed for millennia, that is particularly potent in the realm of political debate, and that, purely incidentally, forms the basis of The Onion’s writers’ paychecks."

As Bloomberg notes, Supreme Court Justices have yet to decide whether to hear the case.

09 Aug 21:10

The End of Manual Transmission

by Ian Bogost

This article was featured in One Story to Read Today, a newsletter in which our editors recommend a single must-read from The Atlantic, Monday through Friday. Sign up for it here.      

I drive a stick shift. It’s a pain, sometimes. Clutching and shifting in bumper-to-bumper traffic wears you out. My wife can’t drive my car, which limits our transit options. And when I’m at the wheel, I can’t hold a cold, delicious slushie in one hand, at least not safely. But despite the inconvenience, I love a manual transmission. I love the feeling that I am operating my car, not just driving it. That’s why I’ve driven stick shifts for the past 20 years.

That streak may soon be over. When it comes time to replace my current car, I probably won’t be able to get another like it. In 2000, more than 15 percent of new and used cars sold by the auto retailer CarMax came with stick shifts; by 2020, that figure had dropped to 2.4 percent. Among the hundreds of new car models for sale in the United States this year, only about 30 can be purchased with a manual transmission. Electric cars, which now account for more than 5 percent of car sales, don’t even have gearboxes. There are rumors that Mercedes-Benz plans to retire manuals entirely by the end of next year, all around the world, in a decision driven partly by electrification; Volkswagen is said to be dropping its own by 2030, and other brands are sure to follow. Stick shifts have long been a niche market in the U.S. Soon they’ll be extinct.

We can’t say we weren’t warned. For years, the stick’s decline has been publicly lamented. Car and Driver ran a “Save the Manuals” campaign in 2010, insisting that drivers who “learned to operate the entire car” would enjoy driving more and do it better. A #SaveTheManual hashtag followed. Shifting gears yourself isn’t just a source of pleasure, its advocates have said, or a way to hone your driving. A manual car is also less likely to be stolen if fewer people know how to drive it. It’s cheaper to buy (or at least it used to be), and it once had lower operation and maintenance costs. You can push-start a manual if the battery dies, so you’re less likely to get stuck somewhere; and you can use the stick more easily for engine braking, which can reduce wear and make descending hills easier and safer.

But the manual transmission’s chief appeal derives from the feeling it imparts to the driver: a sense, whether real or imagined, that he or she is in control. According to the business consultant turned motorcycle repairman turned best-selling author Matthew Crawford, attending to that sense is not just an affectation. Humans develop tools that assist in locomotion, such as domesticated horses and carriages and bicycles and cars—and then extend their awareness to those tools. The driver “becomes one” with the machine, as we say. In his 2020 book, Why We Drive, Crawford argues that a device becomes a prosthetic. The rider fuses with the horse. To move the tool is to move the self.

Crawford argues that this cognitive enhancement is possible only when you can interpret the components of the tool you’re operating. As a rider must sense the horse’s gait, so must a driver grok the engine’s torque. But modern automotive technology tends to inhibit that sensation. Power steering, electronic fuel injection, anti-lock braking systems, and, yes, automatic transmissions obstruct the “natural bonds between action and perception,” Crawford writes. They inhibit the operator’s ability to interpret the car’s state and capacities through a healthy feedback loop of action and information. To illustrate the point, he tells a story about test-driving a 400-horsepower Audi RS3 with all the options, including a paddle-shifting automatic transmission. It was powerful and capable, he says, but “I could not connect with the car.” That description is a common one among gearheads, a way of expressing that the human operator and the machine are out of sync.

The stick shift has become a proxy object for that loss. When manual transmissions were the norm, drivers had to touch and manipulate the shifter, in tandem with the clutch, constantly while operating a vehicle. Passengers saw this action taking place, and shifting gears became imbued with meaning. It represented the allure of the road, for all its good and ill, and stood in for the human control of a big, hot, dangerous machine screaming down the pavement. The manual transmission’s impending disappearance feels foreboding not (just) because shifting a car is fun and sensual, but also because the gearshift is—or was—a powerful cultural symbol of the human body working in unison with the engineered world.

Crawford admits that he might connect with the Audi if he put in enough hours at the wheel. But even knowing this, “the car left me cold,” he writes. In part, that’s because the coarse feedback that one gets while driving an all-electronic vehicle might be—or feel—too subtle for a brute human mind. Cars have, in a way, become too good. Human understanding slips off their surface, like ice off a hot hood.

The decoupling of humans from their driving machines will accelerate in years to come. If the automatic transmission made the stick shift a monument to lost control, the autonomous (self-driving) vehicle aims to do the same for steering wheels. At that point, the loss will be so complete that it may not feel so alienating. Any pretense that the automobile is a prosthetic will be eliminated, so car passengers can move on to other things. Like people on a train, they might settle into a book or take a nap or open up an Excel spreadsheet.

But fully autonomous cars might never be in widespread use, and even mostly autonomous cars could be a long way off. In the meantime, the automotive industry will take away drivers’ control in slow, lumbering steps, just as other industries have for other appliances, apparatuses, and services. You can now flush a toilet or operate a sink not with the force of your hands, but by means of sensors. Web and product searches yield the results some third party wants you to see, rather than the best matches to your requests. Maps, now digital, show points of interest in place of raw information; travelers let the apps that host those maps tell them where to go and how to get there. Customer-service agents follow scripts to solve your problems, your doctors follow automatic diagnostic templates, and the streaming platforms on your television calculate which shows you should watch next.

People rued the decline of the stick shift for years before the “Save the Manuals” campaign (and hashtag, and merch) spun up. But it may be no accident that the formal crusade arose just as computation overtook culture, steering human lives in the direction of technology companies’ and data aggregators’ needs. Around that time, all the apps and services just mentioned (and many more) became widespread.

[Read: I’ll shift for myself]

The manual transmission, however marginal it has become during the smartphone age, remains a vestige of direct, mechanical control. When a driver changes speeds, their intention can be fruitfully realized in gratifying action, meshing literal gears. Even when your hand slips and the gears grind, the device still speaks in a way you can understand.

To lament the end of the manual transmission is to eulogize much more than shifting gears. When the manual dies, little about driving will fall away that hasn’t already been lost. But we’ll lose something bigger and more important: the comfort of knowing that there is one essential, everyday device still out there that you can actually feel operating. Even if you don’t own a stick, or if you don’t know how to drive one, its mere existence signals that a more embodied technology is possible—that it once was common, even—and that humans and machines really can commune. The stick shift is a form of hope, but it’s one we’ll soon have left behind.

07 Aug 17:29

Physicist trolls James Webb Space Telescope fans with a photo of a chorizo sausage

by Igor Bonifacic

With its captivating images of far-flung galaxies, it’s safe to say the James Webb Space Telescope has captured the imagination of the world over. It was also recently the subject of a not-so-charming prank. On July 31st, Étienne Klein, the director of France’s Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, shared an image he claimed the JWST captured of Proxima Centauri, the nearest-known star to the sun.

"It was taken by the James Webb Space Telescope,” Klein told his more than 91,000 Twitter followers. “This level of detail... A new world is unveiled every day." Thousands of people took the post at face value and retweeted it without comment. 

A few days later, Klein admitted that what he shared was actually a photo of a slice of chorizo against a black background. "In view of certain comments, I feel obliged to specify that this tweet showing an alleged picture of Proxima Centauri was a joke,” Klein said. “Let's learn to be wary of the arguments from positions of authority as much as the spontaneous eloquence of certain images."

Klein subsequently apologized for the prank and told French news outlet Le Point (via Vice) he posted the image to educate the public about the threat of fake news. “I also think that if I hadn’t said it was a James Webb photo, it wouldn’t have been so successful,” he noted. After everything was said and done, Klein shared the recent image the JWST captured of the Cartwheel galaxy. This time he was quick to assure his followers that the photo was authentic.    

24 Jul 16:20

Don’t Blame Dostoyevsky

by Mikhail Shishkin

This article was featured in One Story to Read Today, a newsletter in which our editors recommend a single must-read from The Atlantic, Monday through Friday. Sign up for it here.     

Culture, too, is a casualty of war. After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, some Ukrainian writers called for a boycott of Russian music, films, and books. Others have all but accused Russian literature of complicity in the atrocities committed by Russian soldiers. The entire culture, they say, is imperialist, and this military aggression reveals the moral bankruptcy of Russia’s so-called civilization. The road to Bucha, they argue, runs through Russian literature.

Terrible crimes, I agree, are being committed in the name of my people, in the name of my country, in my name. I can see how this war has turned the language of Pushkin and Tolstoy into the language of war criminals and murderers. What does the world see of “Russian culture” today but bombs falling on maternity hospitals and mutilated corpses on the streets of Kyiv’s suburbs?

It hurts to be Russian right now. What can I say when I hear that a Pushkin monument is being dismantled in Ukraine? I just keep quiet and feel penitent. And hope that perhaps a Ukrainian poet will speak up for Pushkin.

The Putin regime has dealt Russian culture a crushing blow, just as the Russian state has done to its artists, musicians, and writers so many times before. People in the arts are forced to sing patriotic songs or emigrate. The regime has in effect “canceled” culture in my country. Recently a young protester faced arrest for holding a placard that bore a quote from Tolstoy.

[Read: European politicians are suddenly quoting Dostoyevsky]

Russian culture has always had reason to fear the Russian state. In the saying commonly attributed to the great 19th-century thinker and writer Alexander Herzen, who was sent into internal exile for his anti-czarist sentiments—and reading “forbidden books,” as he put it—“The state in Russia has set itself up like an occupying army.” The Russian system of political power has remained unchanged and unchanging down the centuries—a pyramid of slaves worshipping the supreme khan. That’s how it was during the Golden Horde, that’s how it was in Stalin’s time, that’s how it is today under Vladimir Putin.

The world is surprised at the quiescence of the Russian people, the lack of opposition to the war. But this has been their survival strategy for generations—as the last line of Pushkin’s Boris Godunov puts it, “The people are silent.” Silence is safer. Whoever is in power is always right, and you have to obey whatever order comes. And whoever disagrees ends up in jail or worse. And as Russians know only too well from bitter historical experience, never say, This is the worst. As the popular adage has it: “One should not wish death on a bad czar.” For who knows what the next one will be like?

Only words can undo this silence. This is why poetry was always more than poetry in Russia. Former Soviet prisoners are said to have attested that Russian classics saved their lives in the labor camps when they retold the novels of Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Dostoyevsky to other inmates. Russian literature could not prevent the Gulags, but it did help prisoners survive them.

The Russian state has no use for Russian culture unless it can be made to serve the state. Soviet power wanted to give itself an air of humanity and righteousness, so it built monuments to Russian writers. “Pushkin, our be-all and end-all!” rang out from stages in 1937, during the Great Purge, when even the executioners trembled with fear. The regime needs culture as a human mask—or as combat camouflage. That’s why Stalin needed Dmitri Shostakovich and Putin needs Valery Gergiev.

[Read: Cold, ashamed, relieved: on leaving Russia]

When the critics say Russian culture is imperialist, they are thinking of Russia’s colonial wars, and they mean that its artists justified the state’s expansionist aims. But what they do not account for is Russia’s internal imperialism: Before anything else, it was a slave empire where the Russian people were forced to endure and suffer the most. The Russian empire exists not for Russia’s people but for itself. The Russian state’s only purpose is to stay in power, and the state has been hammering the Russkiy mir (“Russian world”) view into people’s brains for centuries: the holy fatherland as an island surrounded by an ocean of enemies, which only the czar in the Kremlin can save by ruling its people and preserving order with an iron hand.

For Russia’s small educated class, the eternal questions—the “cursed questions,” as the 19th-century intelligentsiya knew them—were those framed by two great novels of the period: Herzen’s Who Is to Blame? and Nikolai Chernyshevsky’s What Is to Be Done? But for millions of illiterate peasants, the only question that mattered was, “Is the czar a real one or an impostor?” If the czar was true, then all was well with the world. But if the czar proved false, then Russia must have another, true one. In the minds of the people, only victories over Russia’s enemies could resolve whether the czar was real and true.

Nicholas II was defeated by Japan in 1905 and in the First World War. A false czar, he lost all popularity. Stalin led his people to victory in the Great Patriotic War (World War II), so he was a real czar—and is revered by many Russians to this day. Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, lost the war in Afghanistan and the Cold War against the West, and he is still despised.

Through his triumph in 2014, easily annexing Crimea, Putin achieved the popular legitimacy of a true czar. But he may lose all that if he cannot win this war against Ukraine. Then another will come forward—first to exorcise the false Putin and then to prove his legitimacy through victory over Russia’s enemies.

Slaves give birth to a dictatorship and a dictatorship gives birth to slaves. There is only one way out of this vicious circle, and that is through culture. Literature is an antidote to the poison of the Russian imperialist way of thinking. The civilizational gap that still exists in Russia between the humanist tradition of the intelligentsiya and a Russian population stuck in a mentality from the Middle Ages can be bridged only by culture—and the regime today will do everything it can to prevent that.

[Dina Khapaeva: Putin is just following the manual]

The road to the Bucha massacre leads not through Russian literature, but through its suppression—the denunciations or book bans against Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Mikhail Bulgakov, Vladimir Nabokov and Joseph Brodsky, Anna Akhmatova and Andrei Platonov; the executions of Nikolai Gumilev, Isaac Babel, and Perez Markish; the driving of Marina Tsvetaeva to suicide; the persecution of Osip Mandelstam and Daniil Kharms; the hounding of Boris Pasternak and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. The history of Russian culture is one of desperate resistance, despite crushing defeats, against a criminal state power.

Russian literature owes the world another great novel. I sometimes imagine a young man who is now in a trench and has no idea that he is a writer, but who asks himself: “What am I doing here? Why has my government lied to me and betrayed me? Why should we kill and die here? Why are we, Russians, fascists and murderers?”

That is the task of Russian literature, to keep asking those eternal, cursed questions: “Who is to blame?” and “What is to be done?”

14 Jul 20:58

Air Canada "Begged" 25 Passengers to Get Off a Plane That Was Too Heavy to Take Off

by Lawrence Hodge

Seems like it was just yesterday that I was writing about how bad air travel has gotten. Oh wait, it was yesterday. Multiple incidents in the span of a few days tells you just how bad things are for travelers. Business Insider brings us the story of a passenger trying to get to Europe from Denver, whose flight was…


12 Jul 21:31

You can now play 'Doom' inside 'Doom II'

by Kris Holt

Doom is playable on just about anything, from a DJ controller and Canon printer to an ATM and Minecraft. YouTuber kgsws took the Inception route, though. They put a playable version of Doom inside Doom II.

They used an exploit in the DOS version of Doom II, as Gizmodo notes. The modder, who explains the process in a 15-minute YouTube video, was able to get a modern port of Doom (Chocolate Doom, which uses the original source code) running inside Doom II as an animated texture. The original game is projected on a virtual display in a custom Doom II map that kgsws created.

They built more maps that showcase the pioneering first-person shooter, including having the same instance of Doom running on four walls surrounding the player and a cinema screen that's projecting the game. Additionally, kgsws showed off Heretic running inside of Doom.

You can try the hack for yourself, as kgsws shared the code on GitHub. You can snap up a DOS version of Doom II from Steam. You might need a reasonably beefy gaming PC to run Doom inside Doom II, though. "Both games are running independently of each other," kgsws explains. "That means you need double the memory. I would recommend you to get at least 16MB of RAM."

11 Apr 20:54

Turtle-Into-Windshield Collision Gives Stark Reminder Of The Grim Reality Of Mario Kart

by Jason Torchinsky

You know how when you’re playing Mario Kart and you just gleefully whip a turtle shell at an opponent with the careless abandon of a waterfall? Did you ever stop to think about what the reality of that would be like, especially if that shell contained a living turtle? I suspect not, because, hell, why would you…


11 Mar 22:35

If You Stole A Box Of Human Heads From A Truck In Denver, Police Would Like To Have A Word

by Erin Marquis

A box of human heads was stolen from a freight truck in Denver, Colorado last week. A whole box of human heads. Plural. Just sitting on a truck and then, poof, not there anymore. The box full of heads, I mean. The truck is still there, with less heads than before.


15 Feb 22:16

Netflix is making a 'BioShock' movie

by Kris Holt

It looks like Netflix is headed to Rapture. The company says it's teaming up with 2K and Take-Two Interactive for a film adaptation of the BioShock series. No other details are available as yet, but based on the image Netflix shared in its announcement, it wouldn't be a surprise to see it tackling the first game.

There's a good chance that BioShock will translate well to the big screen (if Netflix does, in fact, opt for a theatrical release). The original 2007 game has a striking Art Deco/underwater setting and an unforgettable story. That's not to mention great characters — though it remains to be seen whether the filmmakers can truly capture the terror of a Big Daddy charging toward you.

The movie isn't the only BioShock project in the works. Cloud Chamber is working on the next installment, which will be the first full game in the series since 2013's BioShock Infinite.

10 Feb 21:25

'Futurama' is being revived again, by the grace of Hulu

by Igor Bonifacic

Disney’s Hulu is bringing Futurama back. According to Variety, the streamer has ordered 20 new episodes of the animated series. Series creator Matt Groening will return to lead the project alongside writer and producer David X. Cohen. The entire voice cast outside of one critical player has agreed to reprise their roles. John DiMaggio hasn’t signed on to voice Bender again. The good news on that front is that Hulu is reportedly finalizing his deal, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

As you might imagine, Futurama’s creators are excited to return to the series. “It’s a true honor to announce the triumphant return of Futurama one more time before we get canceled abruptly again,” Groening said.

For those counting, this latest revival will mark the fourth time the series has come back after supposedly ending. After it was canceled in 2003 following an initial four-season run on Fox, Comedy Central ordered four direct-to-DVD Futurama films. In 2008, the network re-edited those movies into what’s now considered the show’s fifth season. It then went on to fund two additional seasons that aired between 2010 and 2013. The fact it will continue on Hulu is fitting given that you’ve been able to watch all 140 episodes and four films of Futurama on the platform since 2017.

Production on the new episodes is expected to start this month. They're currently scheduled to debut sometime in 2023. 

08 Jan 12:22

Feds Are Suing An Auto Shop For Paying An Employee's Final Paycheck In 100,003 Pennies, 750 Dimes, 2 Quarters And A Nickel

by Lawrence Hodge

A Georgia auto shop allegedly retaliated against a former employee by dumping over 100,000 pennies, and other assorted change, in the man’s driveway as payment. Now the government is suing the shop, as Business Insider reports.


14 Oct 20:40

Ghost Robotics strapped a gun to its robot dog

by Kris Holt

Boston Dynamics, the company most commonly associated with robot dogs, prohibits the weaponization of its Spot devices. That's not the case for all robot dog manufacturers, however. One of them, Ghost Robotics, showed off a version of its Q-UGV device that many will have been dreading. It's a robot dog with a gun attached to it.

Ghost Robotics has made robot dogs for the military, and it displayed this deadly model at the Association of the United States Army’s 2021 annual conference in Washington DC this week. A company called Sword International built the "special purpose unmanned rifle" (or SPUR) module. According to The Verge, it has a thermal camera for nighttime operation, an effective range of 1.2km (just under three quarters of a mile) and a 30x optical zoom.

"Due to its highly capable sensors the SPUR can operate in a magnitude of conditions, both day and night," a blurb on Sword's website reads. "The Sword Defense Systems SPUR is the future of unmanned weapon systems, and that future is now."

It's unclear how autonomous a SPUR-equipped Q-UGV will be in the field, as Popular Science notes. It remains to be seen whether a human operator will guide the robot to an otherwise hard-to-reach position and manually aim and take shots (which seems more likely), or if the robot will handle entirely things by itself. Either way, it's an unsettling prospect, and that's before we get to the possibility of enemy hackers taking control of these machines.

As if a robot dog with a gun attached wasn't dystopian enough, Ghost Robotics tweeted about a Q-UGV with a different kind of payload: a Lockheed Martin drone and a Digital Force Technologies recon sensor. Sniper robot dogs. Flying robot spy dogs. The future's looking just peachy, isn't it?

13 Oct 22:18

Netflix to start streaming 'Cowboy Bebop' anime on October 21st

by Mariella Moon

If you want to re-watch the original Cowboy Bebop show before Netflix's live adaptation drops, you don't have to go to another streaming service. Netflix has acquired the global streaming rights for all 26 episodes of the anime, and they'll be available for streaming starting on October 21st, just a few weeks before the November 19th debut of the live series' first season. The Cowboy Bebop anime first premiered in Japan in 1998 before making its way to the US via Adult Swim three years later. While it won't be available on Netflix until the 21st, it's currently streamable on Hulu. 

One might say that adding the anime to its catalogue before the live adaptation's debut is bold on Netflix's part, as it would make it easier to compare the two — especially since live anime adaptations haven't been typically well received. There's a way to merge the two shows if you think you'd enjoy it that way a lot more, though. 

According to Entertainment Weekly, the anime's original voice actors are reprising their roles for the Japanese dub of the live action series. They include Koichi Yamadera as Spike, Taiten Kusunoki as Jet and Megumi Hayashibara as Faye. It's also worth noting that original composer Yoko Kanno and original director Shinichirō Watanabe are both involved in the Netflix show. The live action adaptation stars John Cho as Spike, Mustafa Shakir as Jet Black and Daniella Pineda as Faye Valentine. And, of course, an adorable corgi as Ein.

07 Oct 21:19

The Internet Archive's 'Wayforward Machine' paints a grim future for the web

by Kris Holt

The Internet Archive is marking its 25th anniversary by peering into the future to predict what the web might look like a quarter of a century from now. The non-profit took the opportunity to rail against internet regulation by offering a grim vision of what lies ahead.

Punch a URL into the Wayforward Machine and you'll see a version of that page covered in pop-ups. The messages include one reading "Classified content. The website you are trying to access features information that the owner(s) have opted to restrict to users that have not shared their personal information." Another reads "This site contains information that is currently classified as Thought Crime in your region."

The way things are going, the Internet Archive suggests, free and open access to knowledge on the web may become far more limited. A Wayforward subsite includes a timeline of things that might go awry in the coming years, starting with the repeal of section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects websites and internet platforms from being liable for things that users post. A repeal could have enormous consequences for the web, though some, such as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, have proposed that the provision should be reformed.

The timeline includes some other wild-but-not-inconceivable suggestions, such as a law allowing corporations to copyright facts, forcing Wikipedia to move to the Dark Web, and more countries introducing their own versions of China's Great Firewall. The Internet Archive teamed up with several digital rights organizations for this project, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future and the Wikimedia Foundation. The subsite includes resources on how to help protect freely available information.

The Wayforward Machine is, of course, a satirical version of the Wayback Machine, which has archived hundreds of billions of web pages over the last two and a half decades. It's an important resource for helping preserve the history of the internet, including things like Flash games and animations, so it's probably worth paying attention to the Internet Archive's vision of the future.

20 Sep 20:38

Woman With Bag On Her Head Drives Motorized Shopping Cart Onto Highway

by Jason Torchinsky

First off, I should say that, incredibly, nobody was hurt in this whole mess, so that’s a relief. It’s also probably worth noting that while we really don’t have many details on what went on here yet on this Minnesota highway, it really does seem like the main person involved here, the one who appears to be wearing a…


08 Sep 22:27

GOG's store adds six classic 'Star Trek' games

by Steve Dent

If you're a fan of classic Star Trek games, GOG has some new offerings that may grab your attention. The site now offers no less than six new titles in its store: Star Trek: Voyager - Elite Force (2000), Star Trek: Elite Force II (2003), Star Trek: Bridge Commander (2002), Star Trek: Starfleet command III (2002), Star Trek: Hidden Evil (1999) and Star Trek: Away Team (2001). On top of that, GOG will soon add another two games, Star Trek: Armada and Star Trek: Armada II.

The additions help mark the 55th anniversary of the original show, along with the 100th birthday of the late Gene Roddenberry, GOG wrote. As it noted, the first text-based Star Trek computer games first appeared in 1971, "with many official and even more unofficial releases appearing in arcades, on Apple I and II computers, various models of Atari, the Commodore 64 and all the way to DOS and Windows PCs" — a testament to the staying power of the franchise. 

So how do these games rank in the Star Trek pantheon? Games like Star Trek: 25th Anniversary and Star Trek: Online are perhaps better known, to be sure. But as GOG writes, "an absolute golden era of Star Trek games began at the end of the ’90s and the beginning of the 2000s with new games landing every few months."

Particularly, Star Trek: Voyager - Elite Force and Star Trek: Bridge Commander are considered to be some of the best Star Trek titles out there, as Screen Rant notes. Many of those titles have become unavailable and are unplayable on modern machines, as well. "This changes now with [these games] releasing for the first time in digital distribution," GOG said. All the games are now available in the US (and elsewhere) for $10. 

04 Jun 11:04

Are We The Bad Guys?

by Erin Marquis

Normally, when a new Major General is sworn in it is a solemn, dignified affair. When Maj. Gen. DeAnna Burt was sworn in to the U.S. Space Force last month at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, it involved folks dressed as Stormtroopers. I thought what many of you are probably thinking: Wait a minute,…


12 Apr 11:21

Don't Mind Me, I'm Just Moving My Entire House In My Pickup

by Elizabeth Blackstock

I have seen some truly impressive furniture stacks tied to the back of pickup trucks before, but nothing will ever top this overloaded Ford F-Series transporting what appears to be the contents of an entire house all at once.


09 Apr 11:49

Neuralink's brain-computer interface demo shows a monkey playing Pong

Elon Musk's Neuralink is building brain-computer interfaces, like the one that allows this monkey to control a game of Pong with its thoughts.
24 Mar 20:56

That Mega Cargo Ship Stuck In The Suez Canal Drew A Huge Penis In The Ocean Before Blocking Major Trade Route [UPDATED]

by Erin Marquis

One of the most important waterways in the world, responsible for 10 percent of global trade, is currently blocked by a mega container ship that ran aground as a result of intense weather. Naturally, the ship plotted a course before it went sideways that was unfortunate, to say the least.


19 Feb 13:08

The 'Mortal Kombat' reboot trailer is as gory as it should be

by Kris Holt
The first trailers have dropped for the upcoming Mortal Kombat movie and one thing's clear: this film won't hold back on the violence. Just like the games, the restricted red band clip is full of gore and dismemberments. It's not for the...
06 Feb 20:18

'Resident Evil' movie reboot will premiere on Labor Day weekend

by Mariella Moon
The next Resident Evil film is set to open on September 3rd or this year’s Labor Day weekend, according to Deadline. While it’s still from Constantin Film, the German production company behind Paul W. S. Anderson’s adaptations, it’s not going to foll...
04 Feb 14:32

Get These Completely Cursed, Buff Pokémon Statues for $30, Coward

by Giovanni Colantonio on Kinja Deals, shared by Ignacia to Jalopnik
09 Jan 21:12

'Dracula' and six other horror classics will stream for free on YouTube

by Jon Fingas
You’ll soon have another good reason to fire up YouTube if you’re a movie buff revisiting some old favorites. NME and Android Police report that Universal Pictures is making seven classic horror movies available for free on its “Fear: The Home of Hor...
28 Dec 10:38

James 'Scotty' Doohan's ashes may have been smuggled aboard the ISS

by Steve Dent
With his (fake) Scottish lilt, James Doohan’s “Scotty” is one of the most quoted characters from Star Trek. It now appears that the Canadian actor got in one last word, as his dying wish to have his ashes aboard the International Space Station may ha...