Human use energy in brains, muscles differently than chimps do

Based on weight, humans use energy in their muscles differently than chimps do, a new study shows.


The way human brains and muscles use energy is strikingly distinct from chimpanzees’ metabolism in these tissues, a finding that may explain the major differences between the two species. An analysis of glucose and other metabolic compounds in brain and muscle tissue from humans, chimpanzees, macaque monkeys and mice shows that levels of metabolic compounds are similar in each tissue type across closely related species, with two exceptions — humans’ frontal cortex in the brain and human muscle tissue, researchers report May 27 in PLOS Biology. The team also found that based on weight, humans, including university basketball players, were weaker than chimpanzees and monkeys. The results suggest that early humans may have traded brute strength for endurance to fuel the growth of bigger brains.


Minecraft Stakes Next-Gen Claim

Mojang on Thursday announced that its popular game Minecraft soon will be available to users of the Xbox One, Playstation 4 and Playstation Vita consoles.

“Apologies for the delay, but putting Minecraft on new consoles is a serious business,” explained Owen Hill, Mojang’s chief word officer.

All three editions are due to arrive in August.


Minecraft is unique amongst most other games,” Ted Pollak, a senior analyst for the gaming industry with Jon Peddie Research, told TechNewsWorld.

“People are choosing to play it over titles with incredible graphics because of the creative aspects and game play,” Pollak explained. “This highlights the importance of these characteristics and consumers’ desire for nonlinear experiences. It’s such a phenomenon that it’s almost a required title for any serious platform.”


A $4.99 Upgrade

Priced at US$19.99, the Xbox One Edition of Minecraft will bring “significantly bigger worlds and a greater draw distance” than the Xbox 360 Edition offers, Hill noted.

It also will include all the features from the most recent Xbox 360 title update.

For at least a year after the game’s release, users who have bought Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition from Xbox Live Marketplace or played online with the disc version will be able to upgrade to Xbox One Edition for $4.99, Hill said.

“Players with Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition saves will be able to import their worlds to Xbox One,” he noted. “Unfortunately, you won’t be able to transfer saves from Xbox One to Xbox 360. We can make worlds bigger without too much stress, but shrinking them causes all kinds of problems.”

Cross-platform play will not be possible between Xbox 360 and Xbox One. However, “many, but not all, of the DLC skins and texture packs you’ve purchased for Xbox 360 Edition will be available for use in Xbox One Edition,” Hill said.

‘Significantly Bigger Worlds’

As for the $19.99 Minecraft: Playstation 3 + Vita Edition, it will include all the features from the most recent Playstation 3 version, including online play on Vita.

“This means everyone who has bought Minecraft: Playstation 3 Edition from PSN will get it on Vita for free,” Hill said.

Mojang is working with Sony Computer Entertainment to enable upgrades from the Blu-ray disc version of Minecraft: Playstation 3 Edition to Minecraft: Playstation 3 and Vita, he added.

Finally, Minecraft: Playstation 4 Edition also will be priced at $19.99 and will bring “significantly bigger worlds and a greater draw distance than Playstation 3 + Vita Edition,” Hill said. It will include all features from the most recent Playstation 3 version.

Those who have bought Playstation 3 Edition from the Playstation Network will be able to upgrade for $4.99. An upgrade from the Blu-ray disc version of Minecraft: Playstation 3 Edition to Minecraft: Playstation 4 Edition is in the works.

‘One of the Clear Runaway Hits’

Minecraft has been a huge success on Xbox Live and the Xbox platform,” Lewis Ward, IDC’s research director for gaming, told TechNewsWorld.

“It did phenomenally well as a digital download,” he added. “In some quarters, it was the top-selling game on Xbox Live.”

So successful was it, in fact, that the game eventually was offered on disk. “That doesn’t happen very happen,” Ward said.


The game was “one of the clear runaway hits on the indie side on consoles in the last three years,” he concluded. “It was effectively inevitable that it was going to come. I’m not surprised, and would assume it’s going to be a popular game on eighth-generation consoles as well.”

‘A Canvas for the Imagination’

Minecraft is “a genuine phenomenon in gaming, to the extent that it’s become a platform in itself — not just to established gamers but as far as achieving a sizable following among kids and families and even among schools, as a tool for self-expression and problem-solving, or simply a canvas for the imagination,” Steve Bailey, senior analyst for games with IHS Technology, told TechNewsWorld.

It makes sense for Mojang to make it cheaper for existing PS3/Xbox 360 owners to upgrade to the PS4/Xbox One versions, he added.

“In essence, it’s not going to be a greatly different game, apart from providing slightly bigger worlds with slightly greater fidelity,” Bailey explained. “For most games, this would sound like poor value for the money, but that’s exactly the point: Minecraft is the kind of user-defined experience that you’ll be dipping in and out of for years, potentially, and so you’ll want to be able to access it across all the gaming-capable devices in your life.”

Offering existing owners the chance to pay a smaller upgrade fee to access Minecraft on next-generation hardware also stands to benefit Sony and Microsoft, he added, as it encourages migration to the newest consoles.

“We’ve seen this tactic used before with Call of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4 late last year,” Bailey concluded, “so it’s fair to say that users are coming to expect this lack of friction.”

Google+ adds new Stories albums and new photo options

Google+ users might notice several new changes to the social network today, including a number of changes for the way Google treats photos and videos in Android and on the web. Today, Google launched Google+ Stories, a new way of browsing photo albums auto-generated by the Google+ Auto Awesome feature. Stories work by taking all of the images backed-up to Photos and then grouping them according to an event. Rather than have all the images from one day in Paris, it will group the images from a trip to Paris and then create an album that reflects the trip. Stories pulls out photos that might be out of focus or duplicates, and then presents a chronological view of the trip. That includes a few photos from the airport, videos from the hotel, pictures by the pool, trips to landmarks, and the return trip home. You can see an example of Stories here.

Several other media changes were introduced into the new Google+ app. Auto Awesome Movies, which groups multiple video clips into one edited clip with filters, is now available to show highlights on Android, iOS, and the web. Users can combine a series of photos to create an animated GIFs through Motion or Mix, a pencil icon makes it easier to share, large libraries can be accessed in less time, and entire photo libraries and highlights are browsable by date.

The update is rolling out for download in the Google Play Store now and should be available to everyone shortly. An iOS version of the new Stories feature will arrive at a later date.


Top 10 things everybody should know about science

In the opening chapter of his famous Lectures on Physics, Richard Feynman pondered the nature of science, the laws of physics, and the best way to teach it all. He emphasized that much of the vast accumulation of scientific knowledge could be condensed into some essential principles that allowed all sorts of sophisticated deductions.

Suppose some cataclysm destroyed the world’s scientific knowledge, and it was possible to pass only one sentence about it down to future generations. What statement would transmit the most information in the fewest words, Feynman asked. He chose what he called the atomic hypothesis: “All things are made of atoms — little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another.”

Today, of course, you couldn’t compose just any sentence. It would have to be a tweet, and Feynman’s sentence wouldn’t fit. You’d need to say something like this:

All things are made of atoms—tiny particles in constant motion, attracting each other when nearby, repelling when squeezed into each other.

Feynman went on to demonstrate just how much about the workings of nature could be explained from the idea expressed in that tweet.

Back in 1988, I wrote a newspaper column expanding on Feynman’s example, identifying a set of similar principles and ideas that educated people ought to know about science. Some of these points were about the process of science, some about the substance of scientific understanding. Most of them would not fit in tweets. So for the sake of future generations, I’ll now repeat my original list (with some editing, additions and embellishments), now with Twitter versions.

We’ll call Feynman’s sentence about atoms the zeroth item on the Top 10 list so I’ll have room for all the others.

  1. Science successfully explains natural phenomena through rational investigation and logical reasoning rather than by recourse to superstition and mysticism.

    Tweet: Science explains nature rationally and logically, eschewing superstition and mysticism.

  2.  When scientific disputes arise, the ultimate arbiter is not expert authority or common sense but experimental evidence, guided by theory.

    Tweet: Fits as is!

  3. Scientific theories are not “guesses” but are logi­cally rigorous attempts to explain the observed facts of nature and to predict the results of new observations.

    Tweet: Theories aren’t guesses; they are logically rigorous explanations of observed phenomena that predict new results.

  4. When a theory’s predictions are confirmed, it becomes an essential tool in the further practice of science, but even good theories may someday be superseded by theories more comprehensive or more accurate.

    Tweet: Good theories may be superseded by better theories.

  5. The universe is vast and old, with our sun one of bil­lions of stars in a local galaxy, joined by billions of similar galaxies occupying the depths of space beyond.

    Tweet: There are billions and billions of stars.

  6. Life has changed over the eons, with complex creatures evolving from simpler precursors, and human beings therefore occupy one branch of an immense fam­ily tree of living organisms — all sharing a common molecular machinery driving basic life processes.

    Tweet: All life is related.

  7. As Einstein demonstrated, conceptions of time and space based on everyday life don’t apply accurately to all speeds and all realms of space.

    Tweet: Fits!

  8. The microworld of the atom, and realms even smaller, obey “quantum” laws completely at odds with common sense, and notions of cause and effect and the very nature of reality are inherently blurred on that scale.

    Tweet: The subatomic realm is weird.

  9. The way a thing works is often influenced by its connections to other things and the ways that they work, a principle that applies to everything from the networks of cells in the brain and the body’s other organs, to ecological and economic systems, to human interactions and social institutions.

    Tweet: Networks Are Us.

  10. Little is certain in science but much is highly probable, and the proper quantification of probabilities is essential for inferring facts, drawing conclusions and formulating sound judgments.

    Tweet: Learn some damn statistics.

This list omits my original concluding point, so I’ll append it separately as a metaprinciple:

As Hamlet told Horatio, there is more to the world than we have dreamed of in our philosophies. There is more to be discovered, and principles today unknown will someday yield their secrets to continued inquiry, if the culture of the future remains educated enough to permit science to survive. And allows more substance than tweeting can accommodate.

Apple steals away one of Nokia’s camera experts

Nokia struggled mightily to attract new customers once it made the switch to Windows Phone, but one area the company never had trouble gaining praise or attention was smartphone photography. One of the men responsible for that solid track record will be leaving the company to join Apple.

Ari Partinen has announced that today is his last day at Nokia. The senior Lumia Engineer tweeted that he will “start a new chapter in Cupertino” and then confirmed that he will begin working at Apple in June. Partinen has worked at Nokia for several years and was part of the team that developed the well-received PureView oversampling technology. Rather than join Microsoft after the sale of Nokia’s handset division, Partinen has chosen to move to Apple.

Apple already receives praise for its camera technology but like any smart business, it welcomes new talent whenever possible. The impact of Partinen’s involvement won’t be felt any time soon, but his years of experience could help further enhance the photographic capabilities of future Apple iPhones and iPads.

Verizon Sony Xperia Z2 appears on Sony’s social media pages

Sony has a problem getting phones into the United States and has continuously released its flagship device several months after it was already available in Europe and Asia. That trend is set to continue into 2014 with the release of the Xperia Z2, but the one change is the carrier set to offer the Z2. Though Xperia phones have typically launched on the GSM/HSPA+ networks of AT&T and T-Mobile, the next Sony flagship appears to be Verizon-bound.

A promotional photo of the Sony Xperia Z2 appeared on the Sony Google+ earlier this morning. Though the image was meant to highlight the water-resistant body, the top of the phone showcased what’s clearly a large Verizon logo. The image was soon taken down because Sony has not confirmed any launch plans for the US. The image is still up on Sony’s Polish Facebook page, so you can still see the photo there.

Sony has so far remained mum on its launch plans for the US. It seemed more plausible to expect the Xperia Z2 to be sold unlocked like it has done in previous years. Though this photo is no guarantee, we can probably expect to at some point see Verizon release the Z2