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Most common cells in the brain help us anticipate rewards
6950393391_b871328f53_o.jpgA rodent. (credit: Carlos de Paz) Cerebellar granule cells, which make up the cerebellum, are the smallest and most abundant of all neuron types in the brain. These cells are known to contribute to motor function, attention, language, and fear. A recent study published in Nature demonstrates that these cells may also contribute to our expectations of whether a given action will result in a positive reward. It's a discovery that departs from our previous understanding of how these types of cells function. To examine the function of these cerebellar granule cells, the authors used a mouse model of reward and reward anticipation. In this model, mice are trained to push a lever to receive a small treat of sugar-water. When the authors looked directly at the electrical activity in the brains of these mice, they saw that some of these cerebellar granule neurons were activated throughout the lever-pushing task. The peak of neuronal activity coincided with the peak of physical activity for up to 20 percent of the cells. However, not all populations of cells fired during the same part of the lever-pushing task, so the researchers wanted to learn more about the neuronal differences among these subpopulations of cells. Read 6 ... read more
Published on 03-26-2017
4 hours ago
StarCraft remaster unveiled, and original SD version becomes free-as-in-beer
Screenshot-102-800x300.pngEnlarge / It finally exists. (credit: Blizzard Entertainment) A long-rumored StarCraft remaster for computers was finally unveiled on Saturday by Blizzard Entertainment, set for launch in "summer 2017." No pricing info was announced, but Blizzard has confirmed quite a few other details about the 4K-friendly release. For one, it will be preceded by a patch to the 19-year-old StarCraft: Brood War client, and this new 1.18a client will reportedly not change the mechanics of the game. To prove that out, this patched version will still be able to connect to players using the existing 1.16 patch (which came out all the way back in 2009). Among other tweaks, like better compatibility with newer versions of Windows, the new patch will include two important updates: the ability to connect to and play against owners of the upcoming remastered version, and the change to a wholly free product. Once the patch goes live, the original StarCraft Anthology will be free-as-in-beer to download and play in both single- and multiplayer modes. CarrierHD.jpgRead 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments ... read more
Published on 03-26-2017
9 hours ago
This blue-sky image of Pluto is absolutely stunning
BlueSkyFinal-800x450.pngEnlarge / New Horizons' high-resolution farewell to Pluto. (credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University APL/Southwest Research Institute) Even though all of the New Horizons spacecraft data taken during its 2015 flyby of Pluto has been downloaded to Earth for months, scientists are still piecing it all together. Now two scientists, Tod Lauer and Alex Parker, have processed some of the New Horizons data to produce a stunning look back at the dwarf planet. This departure shot was constructed from a mosaic of six black-and-white images captured by New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager as the spacecraft moved away from Pluto. Color has been added from a lower resolution Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera. At the time the pictures were taken, New Horizons was only about 200,000km away from Pluto, or about 3.5 hours after the closest approach on July 14, 2015. The resolution of the images stitched together is about 1km per pixel. In this composite photo, Pluto is illuminated from behind by the Sun, almost as if the world is producing an annular eclipse for New Horizons. The image showcases a beautiful blue "haze" which, according to planetary scientists, is smog produced by sunlight interacting with methane and other molecules in Pluto's ... read more
Published on 03-25-2017
23 hours ago
The North Atlantic may get is first-ever named storm in March next week
ecm_mslp_uv850_east_5-800x600.pngEnlarge / The European model shows the formation of a subtropical cyclone next Tuesday in the Atlantic Ocean. (credit: Weather Bell) Just one hurricane has ever formed in the northern Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, or the Gulf of Mexico in the month of March—a time when the oceans are still cold from the winter months in the northern hemisphere. This occurred in 1908 with an unnamed hurricane that, according to the Atlantic Hurricane database, reached sustained winds of 100mph and caused damage in the Caribbean islands. As the 1908 storm formed long before the National Hurricane Center existed, there has never been a "named" storm in March. That could change next week, as an area of low pressure may develop several hundred miles to the east of Florida, in the Atlantic Ocean. This storm system is unlikely to be a major threat to landmasses, with the possible exception of Bermuda. Due to the rarity of March cyclones, however, it would garner significant attention. Any cyclone that forms next week would almost certainly be classified as a subtropical storm (the Miami-based National Hurricane Center began naming subtropical storms, in addition to tropical storms, in 2002). It would originate from ... read more
Published on 03-25-2017
1 day ago
Mythos Tales: Probe Arkham’s darkest doings in this Lovecraft deduction game
Vertical-Box-Cover-1-1-800x1025.jpgEnlarge (credit: 8th Summit) Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our weekend look at tabletop games! Check out our complete board gaming coverage at cardboard.arstechnica.com—and let us know what you think. You're just an ordinary 1930s inhabitant of the ordinary town of Arkham, Massachusetts—a plain New England place where nothing unusual ever happens. Well, except for that one infestation of hood-wearing cultists hoping to usher an angry Elder God into our world. Or that little problem with the Dark Young of Shub-Niggurath. Or those 17th-century witches who don't seem to be quite dead yet. Or that matter of the snake god Yig. When occult trouble threatens, Miskatonic University's aging librarian, Professor Henry Armitage—the kind of man who runs a "restricted section" featuring books like the human-skin-covered Necromomicon—beckons you to his office. In his kindly way, he asks if you would be so good as to poke around Arkham, ask some questions, visit a few locations—in other words, clear this whole mystery up. Of course, it's probably nothing... Read 24 remaining paragraphs | Comments ... read more
Published on 03-25-2017
1 day ago
Roam free: A history of open-world gaming
Open-world video games bear the impossible promise—offering compelling, enjoyable open-endedness and freedom within the constraints of what is, by necessity of the medium, an extremely limited set of possible actions. These games provide a list of (predominantly violent) verbs that's minuscule in comparison to the options you would face in identical real-life situations. Yet, we can't get enough of them. In spite of their many obvious failings or limitations, we've been losing ourselves within open worlds for some 30-odd years. Today, nearly every big release is set in an open world. We delight in their unspoken possibility and shrug at their quirks. Those quirks, by the way, are not merely a consequence of current technology. The oddities of modern open-world games have origins in the games that came before. We're not talking about just the earlier Grand Theft Autos—even the first GTA built on the foundations set by more than a decade of prior open-world games. Read 85 remaining paragraphs | Comments ... read more
Published on 03-25-2017
1 day ago
German coal mine may be prime for pumped storage
800px-Prosper_haniel-800x600.jpgEnlarge (credit: Goseteufel ) In the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, a coal mine will close in 2018. Aging coal infrastructure, low wholesale power prices, and a move away from the highly polluting power source all make renewable energy the political darling of the day. But that doesn’t mean the Prosper-Haniel coal mine will be shutting down completely. According to Bloomberg, North Rhine-Westphalia State Governor Hannelore Kraft recently confirmed that a project to turn the coal mine into pumped storage will move forward after mining activities have stopped. Pumped storage has been used for decades, but placing a pumped storage scheme at a retired mine is somewhat new. Here’s how it works: when electricity is plentiful and cheap—say, on a windy day when the Sun is shining and solar panels and wind turbines are working at their maximum—a pumped storage facility pumps water from a lower reservoir up to an upper reservoir. When electricity is scarce, the facility can release the water back down to the lower reservoir through a turbine, creating renewable hydroelectric power. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments ... read more
Published on 03-25-2017
1 day ago
Why AI will rule all UIs
"AI is the new UI" may be a cliché now. But back in 2011 when Apple first released Siri, the capability to control a mobile device by talking to it through an intelligent assistant was revolutionary. Granted, Siri wasn't as smart as HAL in the movie "2001: A Space Odyssey" or Eddy, the shipboard computer in "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," but it made enough of an impact on consumer technology to spawn a stream of similar intelligent assistants.Siri was soon followed by Amazon's Alexa, Microsoft's Cortana, and Google's Assistant. And these will likely be joined soon by many others, including Samsung's Bixby, which is based on technology Samsung acquired when it bought Viv, a company founded by the people behind Siri.To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here ... read more
Published on 03-25-2017
1 day ago
Facebook will test GIFs in comments because who needs words anymore?
Who needs words when you can express yourself in GIF form?Facebook has apparently clued into everyone's favorite means of expression, at least on social media, and plans to test reaction GIFs in comments starting next week, TechCrunch reports.The small test will show some users a GIF button with which they can select an animated image to post in comments. The GIFs will be sourced from places like Giphy and other animated image services.Facebook confirmed its GIF experiment in a statement to the site, noting that while "Everyone loves a good GIF", this is still only a test and not a full-blown feature for all users.Much the same as finding and sharing GIFs in Facebook Messenger, testers will be able to search for reaction GIFs (like "excited" or "what") or pick one that's trending. Then, they can comment on a post with the GIF instead of text or a static image.Facebook currently only allows users to share GIFs using links, however as TechCrunch suggests, if their presence in comments gains traction, it could lead to not only everyone posting GIFs in response to friends' statuses, but also perhaps one day a proliferation of animated images in the News Feed itself.In other ... read more
Published on 03-24-2017
2 days ago
What to do about those ‘government-backed attack’ warnings from Google
 TOTALLY PANIC. Just kidding; please don’t do that. Google regularly issues warnings to people whose accounts are or have been targeted by state-sponsored attackers, and every time it does, users get really nervous that their emails are going to wind up on Wikileaks. Don’t freak out if you get one of these notices — it doesn’t necessarily mean that your account has… Read More ... read more
Published on 03-24-2017
2 days ago
Nintendo Switch “vertical” mode found in Neo-Geo games—are more coming?
IMAG2499-980x1307.jpg Sam Machkovech The Nintendo Switch may not have a full-blown Virtual Console collection yet, but its eShop has a few emulated classics already. This week, fans finally noticed that its current, small slate of '80s and '90s games had a surprise tucked inside ever since the system's launch: a vertical orientation option. The only classic games available for purchase on the Switch's eShop come from the Neo-Geo system, and this week's launch of Neo Turf Masters should have gone by as a minor blip. This title wasn't a major Neo-Geo hit, nor a rare curio. But for whatever reason, this game, as opposed to the other Neo-Geo games launched thus far, got someone to post video of the emulator's "display settings menu." Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments ... read more
Published on 03-24-2017
2 days ago
BrandPost: Intel’s Student Ambassador Program: Artificial Intelligence for College Students
Are you a college student interested in machine learning, deep learning, and artificial intelligence? If yes, you have an opportunity to engage with Intel via its Student Ambassador Program (and get some cool stuff). There are also opportunities for student clubs to benefit from Intel’s interest in supporting work in these areas.For students interested in the program, Intel asks you to tell them a bit about your work by posting information about your studies and/or research to the Student Group on Intel’s Developer Mesh website. Posting to this site gives Intel a glimpse of your work and demonstrates your willingness and aptitude for sharing your experiences with the community. After posting a project to Developer Mesh, students can complete and submit an online candidate form.To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here ... read more
Published on 03-24-2017
2 days ago
BrandPost: Teaching Parallel Programming: Teach Early and Often, and Try These Resources
Recently, I had the good fortune to present a class at the ACM Conference for Computer Science Educators (SIGCSE). While I definitely shared my enthusiasm for parallel programming, I had two key goals for those who attended:1.     Advocate for “Think Parallel”: Explain why parallelism should be taught from day one when teaching programming. It’s a disservice to students to teach sequential programming without discussing concurrency.2.     Share useful resources for instructors seeking to teach parallel programming (course notes, sample problems, etc.) Think ParallelParallel programming isn’t just about supercomputers and high performance. It’s also about dealing with a concurrent world. Concurrency is all around us.To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here ... read more
Published on 03-24-2017
2 days ago
BrandPost: Let’s Make ‘Adaptive’ a Programming Technique
Let’s think about making programs themselves adapt. This has been called adaptive computing by some. And no, I’m not talking about agile programming or adaptive programming.Thinking adaptively can let us:Get better results faster (e.g., adaptive mesh)Meet deadlines (e.g., adaptive rendering) Adjust dynamically to use newer hardware as it becomes available (e.g., adaptive mesh or adaptive rendering)  For me, a favorite example is adaptive mesh. You may find the uses of adaptive rendering to maintain 90 frames per second (fps) for games more compelling, so I’ll talk about both. I find that both adaptive mesh and adaptive rendering are cool to know because they’re inspirational for adaptive methods in general.To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here ... read more
Published on 03-24-2017
2 days ago
IDG Contributor Network: Puerto Rico is becoming the onshore destination of choice for software engineering
Did you know that Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory? Surprisingly, in a recent poll, fewer than half of Americans knew that Puerto Rico is part of the U.S. So as part of the U.S., service providers in Puerto Rico are technically onshorers, companies that provide outsourced services in their own country (although the term nearshore is becoming a universally-accepted term for outsourcing services closer to home). Semantics aside, Puerto Rico is fast becoming the onshore provider of choice for software development services because it’s able to provide the same benefits (and more) that its U.S. counterparts offer, with many of the perks of offshoring.To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here ... read more
Published on 03-24-2017
2 days ago
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