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This Warehouse Full Of PS4s Was A FIFA Ultimate Bot Farm

Wait… what? Initially reported as a cryptocurrency farm, an area full of PlayStation 4 consoles that was shut down by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) was actually a FIFA Ultimate bot farm. Sparked by the scepticism of the official claim, as well as game discs being spotted in the official photos, business newspaper Delo launched an investigation into the matter: 

Delo said the Security Service of Ukraine has so far refused to comment on the revelation, citing the secrecy of the investigation. But the suggestion is these PS4 Slims, all controlled by PCs running bots, farmed Ultimate Team for profit.
Ultimate Team is the perfect game for this kind of operation, given how it's structured. You can spend real-world money on loot boxes in the hope of obtaining high-value cards, but the odds of getting one of the best players is soul-destroyingly slim. Or, you can play the game for months on end in a bid to save up enough of the in-game currency to splash out on the auction house. Or, you can buy FUT coins on the black market (expect 40,000 FUT coins to cost you a couple of quid). To put that into context, Lionel Messi's 99-rated Summer Stars card currently costs around 1.5m FUT coins on the PlayStation auction house.

Image credit: The Security Service of Ukraine.

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Can Evolution Explain Near Death Experiences?

Science is a means to explain the reasoning behind different phenomena. Surprisingly, scientists are now trying to explain even the most unprompted occurrences in our daily lives! Researchers have tried to explain the science behind near-death experiences, believing that these scary experiences are a biological mechanism called thanatosis. Daneil Kondziella explained that this mechanism is ‘the acquisition of language enabled humans to transform these events from relatively stereotyped death-feigning under predatory attacks into the rich perceptions that form near-death experiences and extend to non-predatory situations.’ While this explanation seems sound, Mind Matters raises two problems: 

➤ Implausibility: Most of the people who have survived to tell of near-death experiences are not “death-feigning.” They are clinically — and, in most cases, involuntarily — dead.
Modern medicine can bring people back from actual states of death or even induce such states, for surgical purposes. That’s why we hear so many reports of near-death experiences these days. There is no physiological basis for the belief that, in general, humans can just “play dead” when it suits us, as can marsupials like opossums. Many might wish we could but we can’t.
➤ What does “the acquisition of language” mean? Human language, as opposed to animal signal systems, is only possible due to the ability to reason abstractly. There is no plausible evolutionary explanation for that at present. It appears to come from something that is not part of the animal world at all. It is not directly related to survival chances because all other life forms thrive without it. It may be part of a non-animal world in which near-death experiences are possible.

Image credit: Evgeny Tchebotarev (Unsplash)

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McDonald’s Most Expensive Flop

Does anyone remember the Arch Deluxe? It was a fancy hamburger offered at McDonalds beginning in 1996. The company spent $200 million to promote it, and expected to rake in a billion dollars in return. Only they didn't.

It wasn’t entirely unreasonable to expect miracles because on paper, the Arch Deluxe is one hell of a burger: crisp lettuce, mustard-mayo sauce, peppered bacon, tomato, and beef on a bakery-style potato roll. It was the creation of Andrew Selvaggio, a fine dining chef from Chicago’s legendary Pump Room. With all the talent and bona fides a McDonald’s head chef required and then some, Selvaggio spent months coming up with what he now describes as “something unique and different [to] set us apart from everybody. The Arch Deluxe was supposed to be the first entry into a better burger — premium burger — experience for McDonald’s.”

When I read the name of the burger, I confused it with the McDLT, which launched in 1984. So you might be forgiven if you've forgotten the Arch Deluxe, but you can read about it at Eater.  -via Digg

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What the Medieval Olympics Looked Like

We learned that the ancient Olympics were a big deal in Greece, then were adopted by the Romans, and died out as the Roman Empire turned to Christianity. While it's true that the name fell out of use, sporting competitions inspired by the Olympics became a part of life throughout Western civilization.   

In the West, chariot racing died out rather quickly, but beginning in the second half of the 11th century, knightly tournaments were the spectacle of medieval Europe. At their height, beginning in the 12th century and continuing through at least the 16th, participants would, like their ancient Olympic forebears, travel a circuit of competitions across Europe, pitting their skills against other professionals. (The depiction in the 2001 Heath Ledger film A Knight’s Tale was not far from reality.) In these competitions, armored, mounted men would try to unseat their opponents using lance and shield, or battle on foot with blunted (but still dangerous) weapons to determine who was the best warrior, all for an enthusiastic crowd.

And indeed, these were performances. Lionized in contemporary fiction, and discussed repeatedly in historical chronicles from the period, one scholar has suggested that these were often accompanied—much like the modern Olympics—with theatrical opening and closing ceremonies. An autobiographical set of poems from the 13th century, for example, had the knight Ulrich von Liechtenstein perform a chaste quest for a wealthy (married) noblewoman. Dressed as a woman, specifically the goddess Venus, Ulrich travels across Italy and the Holy Roman Empire defeating all challengers in jousts and hand-to-hand combat.

The legacy of such tournaments continues today, with sports offering nations and individuals an opportunity for fame, glory, and one-upmanship without killing or colonizing each other. Read about the medieval tournaments that grew out of the Olympics at Smithsonian. -via Strange Company

(Image credit: Thomas Wriothesley)

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Lemurs Have a Popsicle Party

It's been pretty hot in Oregon this summer, so the staff at the Oregon Zoo go out of their way to help cool things down for the animals. Watch as a group of ring-tailed lemurs and red ruffed lemurs enjoy some frozen fruit treats! -via Laughing Squid

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Switzerland's Gravity-defying Solution for Irrigation

This terrifying structure is part of an irrigation system used in the Valais region of Switzerland since the 15th century. Some bisses are still in use, while others are designated as historic landmarks. It's a way to get water from the Alpine mountaintops to the dry valley farms that need it.   

Despite being surrounded by some of Switzerland's wettest mountains, the sun-scorched, glacier-carved region receives just 500mm of rainfall a year, presenting a unique engineering challenge for irrigation. Cue gravity-defying bisses, designed to divert glacial meltwater from mountain streams to parched pastures and vineyards at lower elevations. To this day, 200 of them totalling 1,800km in length supply water to 80% of the Valais' irrigated land.

Measuring between 0.5m to 2m in breadth, the most primitive of Valais bisses were hewn out of rock. Others, like the 500-year-old Bisse des Sarrasins in the district of Sierre in central Valais, were hollowed from tree trunks. But the true marvels of bisse engineering were the "hanging channels", designed to guide water from far-off glaciers around gorges and overhangs in the region's wildest corners.

Now imagine the labor and the danger involved in building these in the 15th century. Read about the Swiss bisses at BBC Travel.  -via Damn Interesting

(Image credit: Rilaak)

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Now Hiring: Director of Taco Relations

Yes, it's the ultimate dream job because it's all about nature's perfect food: the taco. Food & Wine magazine reports that the spice company McCormick is seeking applicants for its open position of Director of Taco Relations. It's fairly demanding and, sadly, requires more than just eating tacos:

In the role's official description, McCormick explains that applicants will be expected to work up to 20 hours a week for up to four months including attending virtual meetings and occasionally traveling to both the McCormick headquarters and "other taco locations in the U.S." Responsibilities include things like keeping tabs on taco trends by scouring social media and talking with chefs, developing content for McCormick's social channels, and consulting "on inspirational and approachable taco recipes incorporating McCormick's Taco Seasoning" by working with the McCormick Kitchens team.

-via Marginal Revolution | Photo: MaxPixel

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Movie About A Woman Who Gets Impregnated By A Car Wins Cannes Film Festival’s Top Prize

I’ll leave the judging to you. Art, to some extent, is subjective. Julia Ducournau’s Titane won the Palme d’Or (the Cannes Film Festival’s top prize). The film follows a young woman who survives a car crash when she was a kid, and that instance changes her perspective on cars until adulthood. Then she gets impregnated by a car. Personally, watching the trailer lets me know this film is artsy, yes, but at this point I’m just confused. She was even lactating black oil at one point! Thankfully, I’m not the only one. Hell, even the most educated art critics are divided about the film.  

image screenshot: UniFrance / Julia Ducourneau

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What Happens If You Drop A Ball On Different Celestial Bodies?

If only we could actually attempt this experiment, right? It’d be fun, I believe. Dr. James O’Donoghue created an animation showing how fast an object can fall on different planets. The planetary scientist demonstrated what would happen if an object fell on the Sun, Earth, Ceres, Jupiter, the Moon, and Pluto: 

The animation shows a ball dropping from 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) to the surface of each object, assuming no air resistance. You can compare, for example, that it takes 2.7 seconds for a ball to drop that distance on the Sun, while it takes 14.3 seconds Earth.
"This should give an idea for the pull you would feel on each object," O'Donoghue said.
But what about the pull of gravity on the big planets vs. Earth? Interestingly enough, it takes and 13.8 seconds for the ball to drop on Saturn, and 15 seconds on Uranus.
"It might be surprising to see large planets have a pull comparable to smaller ones at the surface," O'Donoghue explains on YouTube.
"For example Uranus pulls the ball down slower than at Earth! Why? Because the low average density of Uranus puts the surface far away from the majority of the mass. Similarly, Mars is nearly twice the mass of Mercury, but you can see the surface gravity is actually the same… this indicates that Mercury is much denser than Mars."
Ceres comes in at the pokiest place to play ball, with a ball dropping 1 km (0.6 miles) in 84.3 seconds.

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From A Lifelong Passion To A Career!

Local origami artist Joseph Wu has been commissioned to decorate different projects with his paper creations. From installations and advertisement campaigns, Wu is also known on the international origami scene. The Vancouver-based artist initially made origami when he was three years old, and continued his passion even while completing his studies at the University of British Columbia. When he lost his job during the early 2000s, he turned to his lifelong passion as the new source of income: 

His original designs vary from quaint and seemingly simplistic objects, like a feather or a ball, to the incredibly complex—a white rhinoceros, a life-sized tree, or the 44-foot-long Japanese dragon he created for a theatre project last year. To explain his creative process, Wu references Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink which delves into the idea of subconscious cognition. “Gladwell explains how we can very, very quickly process things that might take a long time if we were to sit down and think about it,” Wu says. It is in this way he processes his origami. “I do the research I need, come up with the parameters I want for my design, and then in the span of about a minute, the design just appears in my head.” At that point, he knows that he can take a flat piece of paper sitting in front of him and form it into the finished object. Typically, it takes between 10 and 20 revisions before he’s fully happy with the piece.
These days, commissioned work such as installations and advertisement campaigns keep him busy. A recurring job with Canadian Business magazine has him creating origami out of money for each issue (“When I’m done a piece, I just unfold it and spend it,” he says). Thus far, his favourite ad campaign was for Stolichnaya vodka, for which he made a series of origami animals and butterflies. When he travelled to New York one summer to attend an origami convention, the ads were all over the city. “Telephone booths, billboards, subway entrances, all with my origami on it—it was totally unexpected.”

Image credit: Joseph Wu.

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When Americans Dreamed of Kitchen Computers

The kitchen may be the heart of the home, but it has always represented a lot of work. The last century or so has given us a continuous race to make that work easier with modern gadgets designed to cook and clean. Since the dawn of the computer age, the idea of a kitchen computer has been tried over and over, with little success. The first one was offered in 1969.

As depicted in this colorful advertisement, the sleek, enormous Honeywell Kitchen Computer would have commanded attention in any kitchen. But it did not actually cook dinner. Rather, its functions included storing recipes, meal planning, and balancing the family checkbook. Though marketed towards housewives, it was very impractical. The advertising campaign’s tagline “If she can only cook as well as Honeywell can compute!” sought to hide that the Honeywell Kitchen Computer was merely a complicated digital recipe-card box and a calculator.

The department store Neiman Marcus sold the Honeywell Kitchen Computer as a luxury item, pricing it at a kingly $10,600 (around $78,000 today). Buying the computer made little economic sense for the target audience, and required a 2-week coding course on how to properly use the 16 buttons on the front panel. There’s no evidence that anybody actually purchased one.

That was only the first of a series of ideas to get computers into the modern kitchen. But what could a computer actually do in the kitchen that wouldn't take up valuable room and cost more than it's worth? In the end, the solution turned out to be pretty simple. We have a few computerized systems that run through the whole house, for things like energy consumption and security, but getting a computer to help in the kitchen is as easy as making that computer small and portable. My daughter cooks with a recipe displayed on a computer screen while music plays ...on her iPhone. Read a short history of kitchen computers at Atlas Obscura.

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20 Epic Fails From the History of Pop Culture

"It seemed like a good idea at the time..." could be the beginning of every one of the 20 stories in this list. If you think back, you can probably recall a few huge mistakes in movies, TV, advertising, music, video games, and the like, when someone's great idea was actually executed before the target audience turned it down in spectacular fashion. And there are some that may have flown under your radar, like the time that Stephen King's horror story Carrie was turned into a Broadway musical.

Murder stories have a pretty good track record on Broadway—Sweeney Todd, Little Shop of Horrors, etc.—but the 1988 musical adaptation of Stephen King’s Carrie bucked the trend. The creative team did include some musical theater heavyweights: Michael Gore, composer of 1980’s Fame, and Debbie Allen, choreographer of the Fame TV series (Allen also appeared in both the film and the show). Alas, their razzle-dazzle ’80s style clashed with all the carnage, and critics’ reviews were their own kind of bloodbath—The New York Times went so far as to compare the production to the Hindenburg disaster. Carrie closed after just five performances.

Almost thirty years after it closed on Broadway, the musical Carrie found a kind of revival in high school theater productions, where you might still be able to catch a glimpse of the carnage. Hear a song from the musical, and read 19 other stories of pop culture gone wrong at Mental Floss.  

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Look What Washed Up on the Beach

This looks like the kind of tropical fish you'd see in someone's salt water aquarium, except this fish is 3.5 feet long and weighs 100 pounds! It is an opah, found washed up on the beach in Seaside, Oregon. The fish was already dead, but was found before the birds could help themselves to it.

Keith Chandler, the general manager of Seaside Aquarium, told CNN that an opah on the Oregon coast is "uncommon to find" and he also added that the fish was "in such great shape."

"They're pretty cool fish, and we don't normally see them on the shore," said Chandler. "It was pretty exciting for locals."

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), little is known about the species since they live deep in the ocean. The species is usually found in temperate and tropical waters.

The Seaside Aquarium took the opah and plan to dissect it to learn more about the species. -via Fark

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Five Ways Humans Evolved to be Athletes

With the 2020 Olympics beginning this weekend in Tokyo, all eyes are on the elite athletes of the world. From gymnastics to weightlifting, from the 100-meter dash to equestrian events, the eyes of the world will be on the amazing feats of the human body. How in the world did we ever develop such abilities? You might say, practice and more practice, but looking back into the evolution of human abilities, we find that such skills came along before we were ever Homo sapiens. Archaeologist Anna Goldfield explains what we know about how those abilities came about. Walking upright made us into runners, but it's hardly the only athletic skill we have that differs from other animals.

While the bottom half of our body has evolved away from an arboreal lifestyle, our upper body still retains traits that we inherited from tree-dwellers. Our glenohumeral joint, the ball-and-socket connection between our upper arm and scapula, allows us to swing our arms around in a full rotation. This is a very different type of mobility from that of quadruped animals that don’t swing in trees—a dog or cat’s front legs, for example, primarily swing back and forth and couldn’t perform a butterfly swim stroke. We, on the other hand, can.

Our rotatable shoulder joint also allows us to throw overhand. The ability to throw accurately and forcefully appears to have originated at least 2 million years ago, with our ancestors Homo erectus. Recent research has also shown that Neanderthals might have thrown spears to hunt at a distance. The few known examples of Neanderthal spears were long thought to be used only for thrusting and close-in killing of prey, in part because when researchers tried to throw replicas, they didn’t go far.

Recently, however, researchers put replicas into the hands of trained javelin throwers and were stunned to see the spears fly much farther and faster—more than 65 feet.

Read how evolution got us running, jumping, grasping, and playing ball at Sapiens magazine. -via Digg

(Image credit: Flickr user Naoki Nakashima)

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Why Do We Call a Software Glitch a ‘Bug’?

Why do we call a software glitch a "bug"? You've got to call it something, and you may as well ask where the word "glitch" came from. Still, language origin stories are often interesting, and the idea of an insect causing problems in our computers makes sense. Insects love small, protected places to hide, and they reap all kinds of destruction from our point of view. It's also a handy excuse for human error.

According to the most often-repeated origin story, in 1947 technicians working on the Harvard Mk II or Aiken Relay Calculator – an early computer built by the US Navy – encountered an electrical fault, and upon opening the mechanism discovered that a moth had had flown into the computer and shorted out one of its electrical relays. Thus the first computer bug was quite literally a bug, and the name stuck.

But while this incident does indeed seemed to have occured, it is almost certainly not the origin of the term, as the use of “bug” to mean an error or glitch predates the event by nearly a century.

The first recorded use of “bug” in this context comes from American inventor Thomas Edison, who in a March 3, 1878 letter to Western Union President William Orton wrote: “You were partly correct. I did find a “bug” in my apparatus, but it was not in the telephone proper. It was of the genus “callbellum”. The insect appears to find conditions for its existence in all call apparatus of telephones.”

The genus "callbellum" does not exist, and turned out to be Edison telling a joke. But don't take that as Edison coining "bug" for a technology glitch. Edison was in the habit of taking other people's ideas. Read the story of how we came to see "bugs" in the system at Today I Found Out. 

(Image credit: Naval Surface Warfare Center)

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