Game|Life Podcast: Videogames Are Too Damn Long

Bravely Default  had a long, immersive demo—but was it too long? Image: Nintendo

Bravely Default had a long, immersive demo—but was it too long? Image: Nintendo

On the docket? Game demos—specifically, the length thereof and how Laura feels a burned by sinking six hours into the Bravely Default demo, then having none of her progress carry over to the full game. I chime in, she chimes back, then we all head down the street for a tasty Big Mac. (That last part isn’t true. Just the chiming part.)

GameLife’s podcast is posted on Fridays, is available on iTunes, can be downloaded directly and is embedded below.

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The Sun’s Magnetic Field Is About To Flip

sflarThe sun regularly goes through an 11 year solar cycle, and we are reaching the end of another one. At the end of each cycle, a complete magnetic flip happens that has a ripple effect throughout the entire solar system and beyond.  The sun’s magnetic field changes polarity. (4)

Scientists are predicting that it could happen any day now.

“A reversal of the sun’s magnetic field is, literally, a big event. The domain of the sun’s magnetic influence (also known as the “heliosphere”) extends billions of kilometers beyond Pluto. Changes to the field’s polarity ripple all the way out to the voyager probes, on the doorstep of interstellar space. – Phil Scherrer, Solar Physicist”(4)

Scientists have been studying the sun’s weather and the effect it has on the weather here on Earth for a number of years. As a result, one thing that seems to be certain is the fact that solar activity is in fact directly correlated with the weather here on Earth. (1)

Weather isn’t the only thing that the sun has an effect on. Not many studies have been done on solar activity and its effect on human consciousness, however, the fact that human biological systems are intertwined to solar and lunar related rhythms (chronobiology) does serve as some validation to the idea that somehow the sun plays more roles in our biology than what we are currently aware of.

Solar cycles and flares change human DNA. Studies show how solar cycle activity influences genetic change, many of which probably remain undiscovered. Some have already been discovered. (2)

What can happen?

Could the recent tragedy in the Philippines be a result of what is happening? It Certainly could, it’s not the first time record-breaking weather activity has occurred at the same time as extreme solar activity. Earth has experienced dozens of solar flares in short periods of time throughout the past few months.(5) Geomagnetic storms could also wipe out the electronic grid. It has happened before. Apart from that, I’m not sure, but I truly feel that it is nothing to fear.

The Most Amazing Images NASA Took of Earth From Space This Year

The Most Amazing Images NASA Took of Earth From Space This Year

A cluster of small images in the far northern reaches of Lake Michigan. Captured on May 24, 2013 by the NASA/USGS Landsat 8 satellite. (Image: USGS/NASA). [High resolution version]
This image of Princess Charlotte Bay in Australia was captured by the NASA/USGS satellite Landsat 8 on April 20, 2013. (USGS/NASA). [High resolution version]
An astronaut on the International Space Station took this photo on Jan. 10, 2013 of an eruption on Sakurajima, one of Japan’s most active volcanoes. (NASA). [High resolution version]
Isla Socorro creates von Karman vortices in the clouds above the Pacific ocean in this image captured by NASA’s Aqua satellite on May 22, 2013. (NASA). [High resolution version]

Sweden Deploys The First ‘Operational’ Stealth Warships

Visby_corvettes

The country that gave us Volvos, Saabs and ABBA has developed what it claims is the world’s first fully operational stealth warship that is essentially invisible to radar.

The two Visby-class corvettes will enter service by the end of the year. They are made from composite materials and use Rolls-Royce water jets to make them electronically undetectable at more than eight miles in rough seas and more than 14 in calm waters. The ship’s acoustic and optical signatures are lowered by its non-magnetic hull that, like the F-117 Nighthawk, features large, flat surfaces and sharp angles. The water jets are 10 to 15 decibels quieter than propellers.

“It’s very hard for a submarine to detect a water jet vessel,” Patric Hjorth, technical manager of the Swedish Defense Materiel Administration, told Naval-Technology.com. “It has a very different signature from a propeller-driven craft as it fades into the background.”

Sweden has maintained military neutrality since the end of the Napoleonic Wars, but it saw foreign submarines make a spate of incursions into its territorial waters during the 1980s. That led the government to call for the development of a anti-submarine and mine-hunting vessel that could patrol coastal areas. The Swedish defense firmKockums got the job and decided invisibility would be better than invincibility.

“A warship’s survivability can be built on one of two premises: invincibility or invisibility,’” the company says in a statement (pdf). “For nations with deep pockets and imposing military budgets, invincibility is the chosen high-ticket objective. For countries with more limited material resources, the more affordable choice must be invisibility, to which stealth is the obvious path.”

That’s not to say the Visby corvettes lack muscle. Each is armed with eight anti-ship missiles, three torpedo tubes, multiple grenade launchers, depth charges, submarine homing torpedoes and a fully automatic 57mm “general purpose” gun.

They’re nimble, too. The plastic and carbon fiber hull displaces 600 tons of water, about half that of  conventional, steel-hulled ships of a similar size. “The need for agility and a high top speed meant that a light weight was an essential factor,” Hjorth says. “You actually need waterjets for these vessels, as they’re more efficient than propellers at high speeds.”

The vessels are capable of speeds exceeding 35 knots. Propulsion comes from two diesel engines and four gas turbines that power a pair of water jets. Water jets are about 10 to 15 decibels quieter than props, and to further minimize noise the Visbys use impellers with seven blades instead of five. Some of the components are made of bronze instead of stainless steel to further reduce their magnetic signature.

The original plan called for six Visbys in two classes — one for surface combat and the others for submarine hunting and mine detection — but cutbacks in the early 1990s by the Swedish government cut the fleet to five vessels. The first was launched in 2000; the vessels are being readied for active duty. The first two will be formally commissioned into active duty later this year. The U.S. Navy reportedly has expressed interest in them as well.

UPDATE 9:30 p.m. Eastern – several readers  have noted that Lockheed built the Sea Shadow for the U.S. Navy in 1985 to test stealth technology. The U.S. Navy says the ship was for research purposes only, “was never intended to be mission-capable” and did was not designated as a “USS” vessel. It is listed in the Navy’s inventory as a “miscelaneous craft.” We’ve corrected the headline.

Photos: Kockums.

Visby_corvette_03

Vicsby_corvette_02

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST – Official Trailer (2014)

The ultimate X-Men ensemble fights a war for the survival of the species across two time periods in X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST. The beloved characters from the original “X-Men” film trilogy join forces with their younger selves from “X-Men: First Class,” in an epic battle that must change the past — to save our future.

Palestine Envoy Killed in Prague Blast

Explosion Occurred When Diplomat Was Moving Safe

Died: Jamal Al Jamale 56, died this afternoon following the blast

The Palestinian ambassador to the Czech Republic has died after an explosion at his apartment in Prague.

Ambassador Jamel al-Jamal was taken to hospital with serious injuries from the blast this morning and put in a medically induced coma, but died this afternoon.

The 56-year-old diplomat was in the flat with his family at the time of the explosion.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said the explosion occurred when the ambassador was moving an old office safe box.

It was not immediately clear how the explosives ended up in the safe box, but the ministry said the blast was being investigated.

A 52-year old woman was also taken to the hospital after suffering from shock.

The ambassador’s flat is in Prague’s Suchdol neighbourhood.

‘There has been a detonation of a so-far unidentified explosive mixture,’ spokeswoman Andrea Zoulova said.

‘At the moment it is impossible to specify what kind of explosive it was. A search … is under way at the moment,’ she said.

Uruguay Just Became The First Country To Legalize The Marijuana Trade

MONTEVIDEO (Reuters) – Uruguay became the first country to legalize the growing, sale and smoking of marijuana on Tuesday, a pioneering social experiment that will be closely watched by other nations debating drug liberalization.

Uruguay Marijuana

A government-sponsored bill approved by 16-13 votes in the Senate provides for regulation of the cultivation, distribution and consumption of marijuana and is aimed at wresting the business from criminals in the small South American nation.

Backers of the law, some smoking joints, gathered near Congress holding green balloons, Jamaican flags in homage to Bob Marley and a sign saying: “Cultivating freedom, Uruguay grows.”

Cannabis consumers will be able to buy a maximum of 40 grams (1.4 ounces) each month from licensed pharmacies as long as they are Uruguayan residents over the age of 18 and registered on a government database that will monitor their monthly purchases.

When the law is implemented in 120 days, Uruguayans will be able to grow six marijuana plants in their homes a year, or as much as 480 grams (about 17 ounces), and form smoking clubs of 15 to 45 members that can grow up to 99 plants per year.

Registered drug users should be able to start buying marijuana over the counter from licensed pharmacies in April.

“We begin a new experience in April. It involves a big cultural change that focuses on public health and the fight against drug trafficking,” Uruguay’s first lady, Senator Lucía Topolansky, told Reuters.

Uruguay’s attempt to quell drug trafficking is being followed closely in Latin America where the legalization of some narcotics is being increasingly seen by regional leaders as a possible way to end the violence spawned by the cocaine trade.

Rich countries debating legalization of pot are also watching the bill, which philanthropist George Soros has supported as an “experiment” that could provide an alternative to the failed U.S.-led policies of the long “war on drugs.”

The bill gives authorities 120 days to set up a drug control board that will regulate cultivation standards, fix the price and monitor consumption.

The use of marijuana is legal in Uruguay, a country of 3.3 million that is one of the most liberal in Latin America, but cultivation and sale of the drug are not.

Other countries have decriminalized marijuana possession and the Netherlands allows its sale in coffee shops, but Uruguay will be the first nation to legalize the whole chain from growing the plant to buying and selling its leaves.

Several countries such as Canada, the Netherlands and Israel have legal programs for growing medical cannabis but do not allow cultivation of marijuana for recreational use.

Last year, the U.S. states of Colorado and Washington passed ballot initiatives that legalize and regulate the recreational use of marijuana.

Uruguay’s leftist president, Jose Mujica, defends his initiative as a bid to regulate and tax a market that already exists but is run by criminals.

“We’ve given this market as a gift to the drug traffickers and that is more destructive socially than the drug itself, because it rots the whole of society,” the 78-year-old former guerrilla fighter told Argentine news agency Telam.

NOT ALL CONVINCED

Uruguay is one of the safest Latin American countries with little of the drug violence or other violence seen in countries such as Colombia and Mexico.

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