Category: News Posts

How To Increase Your Virtual Desktop Space

Feeling overwhelmed by all the windows you need open for various jobs or tasks? Virtual desktops can help, by letting you sort your windows and reduce clutter.

But what are virtual desktops, and how do you set them up in Windows?

It’s hard to explain just how useful virtual desktops are, but once you start using them you’ll wonder how you ever functioned without.

There’s something about sorting the many things you need to do throughout the day – communication, research, productivity – to different spaces. Not seeing everything at once makes getting started on your tasks simpler.




If you need lots of windows open to do your job, but feel stressed by all the clutter, virtual desktops are for you.

Mac and Linux users can set up virtual desktops out-of-the-box, but Windows computers prior to Windows 10 don’t come with this feature.

Don’t worry, though, because there are plenty of great apps out there that set up desktops for you. Let’s go over a few, and explore which work best.

Desktops (Free) from Sysinternals: Basic and Stable

Windows does come, built-in, with support for multiple desktops – there’s just no way to turn it on within Windows itself. Free app Desktops gives you a quick way to use this built-in process.

It’s no-frills, to say the least, but coming from Microsoft-owned Sysinternals you can expect stability.

Switching desktops is done with keyboard shortcuts.

Note that this app, last updated in 2012, doesn’t work perfectly with Windows 8. In my tests, the Start Menu would only load on the first desktop.

It’s also impossible to move a window from one desktop to another, meaning you can only easily launch applications you’ve pinned to the taskbar.

Still, it’s fast and stable – and perfect for Windows 7 users.

Pros:

  • Lightweight and fast.
  • Uses keyboard shortcuts.
  • Very stable: built on functionality already built into Windows.
  • Quick-look view of all desktops from the system tray.

Cons:

  • Windows 8 users can only use the Start button on the first desktop.
  • There’s no way to move applications from one desktop to another.
  • Not much here for mouse-heavy users.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

Nike’s Vaporfly Elite FlyPrint Leans Hard Into Computational Design

Computational design is the hottest phrase in manufacturing and 3D printing at the moment.

It’s changing the way people make all kinds of goods, and Nike used it to design and manufacture its new Vaporfly Elite FlyPrint shoe, which it’s announcing today.

The shoe is a specialized edition of its Zoom Vaporfly Elite 4%, which was used by elite runner Eliud Kipchoge during Nike’s Breaking2 event, which resulted in the fastest marathon ever run.

The special sauce in this edition is the FlyPrint upper, which is printed on the fly by a specially customized 3D printer out of a proprietary Nike polymer.

The material is printed out in a pattern specifically designed for a given athlete’s needs and attached to the much hyped Zoom X foam midsole from the 4% model.

The process, which Nike is calling FlyPrint, has some similarities to Nike’s other famous ‘fly’ process, FlyKnit, hence the name. The printing process, says Chen, is a lot like painting the material.

The uppers look a lot like a regular butterfly upper, with the same kind of flexibility you’re used to seeing from fabric or other polymer-based upper materials. This is not a hard-shell 3D-printed material, it’s a fabric of sorts.




This is reinforced by the fact that several components of the shoe are still made of FlyKnit including the tongue and collar. Those parts are so similar in chemical composition that there is no glue needed to attach them.

Instead, the FlyPrint material is bonded seamlessly with the FlyKnit, making for a one-piece design that is stronger and lighter.

The process of computer aided design in consumer products has a long history — but computational design is an evolution of this concept and has begun to gain steam lately with production-ready 3D-printing processes like Carbon’s

Carbon’s M-series digital light synthesis printers and Desktop Metal’s Production System.

The guiding force behind computational design is that you feed parameters and physical properties into a model — basically limitations and desired outcomes — and get designs that would either be impossible or incredibly time consuming for humans to produce.

In the case of the new FlyPrint upper, the constraints are the properties of the material and the forces that Kipchoge’s feet were exerting on that material.

With that data, along with the chemical composition of the polymer, a computational model allowed Nike to tweak the design for support, flexibility, reinforcement or relaxation on a much more granular level than they could ever accomplish with FlyKnit.

Nike is using an established 3D printing process called fused deposition modeling, basically painting shapes onto a surface with production-ready TPU materials.

Neither will say what printers Nike is using but note the company’s history in ‘hacking’ manufacturing tools to get the job done. As an industry note, Stratasys is one of the more established players in FDM printing.

Computational design and production ready 3D printing are changing footwear as we speak. Adidas and Carbon are focusing on the midsole in fashion and basketball, Nike is reinventing the upper for elite runners.

But the real gem here might not be the speed or customization — both important advancements.

The Vaporfly Elite FlyPrint is a product for elite runners only, and a small amount of them will be available at an event in London soon, as well as on the feet of Kipchoge and other Nike runners.

But there is an epochal shift in the way shoes (and other products) are made coming, and this is one of the harbingers of that shift. Pay attention.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

How To Find Out Everything Facebook Knows About You

If you use Facebook, then you know the deal.

Facebook is free to use and fun, and sometimes necessary if you belong to groups that use it to communicate with their members.

But in exchange for that service, you have allowed it to track your activity so that advertisers can find you, hopefully to show you stuff you’ll want to buy.

In other words: you can’t opt out of ads on Facebook without opting out of Facebook itself.

But there’s still a lot you can do to control the ads you see.




And there’s also stuff you can do to stop Facebook from watching what you do on the rest of the internet in service of its advertisers.

Besides all the usual arguments about privacy, there is another good reason to figure out what Facebook knows about you and participate in that.

It shows you ads based on what it thinks you like. The better it does this, the more likely you are going to see ads on things that truly interest you.

Facebook has three ways to figure you out.

1. What you tell it directly (name, age, marital status, parental status, where you live, work, went to school, etc.).

2. What you do while you are on Facebook, including stuff you’ve “liked,” groups you joined, photos and links you’ve shared, things you click on.

3. What you do on the rest of the internet outside of Facebook such as websites you visit.

Many sites track this information via cookies and Facebook reads those cookies and uses that information to serve up ads both on its site and on other websites, it says.

It’s easy to see the things you’ve directly shared with Facebook on your Timeline profile page. But to see a fully tally of what Facebook thinks you like, you need to find a tool called Ad Preferences.

This tool is not easy to find. Locate it by using the controls Facebook has embedded into the ads themselves.

Head to your Facebook news feed.

Hover your mouse over any ad you see in the right-hand column and look for the little “x” to appear in the corner of the add. Click on it.

You can make Facebook stop tracking you on the internet.

Facebook does watch what you do outside of Facebook to show you ads.

For example, if you visit travel websites, you might then see ads on Facebook for hotel deals. We call this online interest-based advertising,” it explains.

You can tell it to stop showing you ads based on you do on the internet. Click on the lock icon in the blue bar. Then click on “Ads” in the left column, then choose “Off.”

This will not stop Facebook from showing you just as many ads, but it won’t be using your web activity for them.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

 

Can Fasting Help You Lose Weight And Live For Longer?

New research suggests that fasting could slow down ageing and extend people’s lives. What fasting diets are there – are are they a good idea?

Intermitent Fasting is in fashion.

There are all sorts of ratios and variants on core idea of dramatically restricting calories for a few days each week while eating normally on other days.

And while this approach seems totally at odds with the traditional health advice we’ve always been given about eating balanced, regular meals, a growing number of scientists are saying IF diets can reduce our chances of developing some chronic diseases and may even add years our lives.




The most recent evidence comes from the University of South California, where researchers found that 34 people on a low-calorie, low-protein diet had a decrease in risk factors associated with chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

This builds on a number of earlier findings that suggest fasting reduces blood pressure, increases cellular repair and metabolic rate, and protects against conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.

And while it is not be a step towards eternal life, a 2015 study at the University of Florida revealed that fasting on alternate days increased the gene related to anti-ageing in human cells.

Short periods of starvation effectively mimic the eating habits of our ancestors, who did not have access to grocery stores or food around the clock.

It’s not without its risks and downsides, though. Dieticians warn that skipping meals can cause dizziness, difficulties sleeping, dehydration and headaches.

Others are concerned it reinforces poor eating habits. “These diets can encourage a ‘scrimp and splurge’ approach to eating,” says British nutritionist Julia Harding.

“They don’t necessarily promote a good understanding of food. People need to make sure they’re eating nutritious, balanced meals on their ‘off days’ and think beyond calories.”

As fasting continues to win new fans, the array of variations is about as dizzying as a day on zero calories.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Scientist

5 Creativity Apps To Inspire Kids

Unleash your child’s creativity and imagination with these inspiring apps.

From arranging fruit to make faces to blowing an ink spot into a whimsical monster, this list is full of apps that will spark your kids’ creativity.

These apps will tickle your kids’ imaginations and encourage them to think outside the box.




1. Faces iMake – Right Brain Creativity

A fanciful and fun tool for creating faces out of everyday objects including food, toys, tools, and more.

Kids create faces using unusual collage materials, such as candy, toys, fruit, musical instruments, and more to make fanciful art.

2. MoMA Art Lab

Kids learn about modern art by playing with this unique set of art tools.

They can create their own artwork or follow step-by-step projects based on famous pieces of modern art during which they can add their own unique flair.

3. The DAILY MONSTER Monster Maker

Splat! An ink spot jiggles, hoping your creativity will turn it into a world-class monster.

This app provides inspiration to draw monsters by starting with a ink splat on the page. From there, kids add whimsical body parts by selecting and dragging them from a file labeled “Parts.”

4. Toontastic

Ready, Set, Action! With this set of intuitive digital tools, your kids will be creating and directing their own cartoons.

This app provides kids with a set of digital tools to create their own cartoons.

They choose their setting, add characters, move those characters around in the setting to create animation as they provide the voices, add music, and — Voila! they’re done!

5. Petting Zoo – Animal Animations

21 animals await your touching. Their responses to your touch, tap, or swipe are magical, endearing, and hilarious.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

Incredible Gold Metallic Colors Of Ancient Butterfly Ancestors That Lived Alongside Dinosaurs Are Revealed For The First Time

The beautiful gold metallic colors of the earliest known ancestors of moths and butterflies have been revealed for the first time.

Some of these creatures – now preserved in amber – inhabited the planet alongside dinosaurs as long as 200 million years ago.

Researchers found the structural colors of the fossils resulted from intricate light scattering, or photonic, microstructures.

This finding pushes back evidence for such light-scattering structures in the insect fossil record by more than 130 million years.

An international team of researchers, including Dr Tim Starkey from the University of Exeter, discovered the new evidence for color in Mesozoic fossils.

His team used powerful electron microscopes to detect tiny ridges and grooves in the insect’s wing scales, similar to those seen in today’s moths.




Optical models revealed these tiny features are photonic structures that would have produced metallic bronze to golden color appearances in the insects’ wings.

Dr Starkey, part of Exeter’s physics and astronomy department, said: “The structural colours exhibited by butterflies and moths have been a longstanding research interest in Exeter.

They have helped us develop biologically-inspired optical technologies for the present day.

However, in this study we’ve looked millions of years back in time to early origins of such colours in nature, to understand how and when the evolution of colours in these insects took place.”

The fossils studied are among the oldest known representatives of butterflies and moths.

Some specimens that originate from England’s Jurassic Coast date back 195 million years.

Insects have evolved an amazing range of photonic structures, experts say.

They can produce iridescence, metallic colours, and other flashy effects that are important for behaviour and ecological functions.

The fossils studied are among the oldest known representatives of butterflies and moths.

Some specimens that originate from England’s Jurassic Coast date back 195 million years.

Insects have evolved an amazing range of photonic structures, experts say.

They can produce iridescence, metallic colours, and other flashy effects that are important for behaviour and ecological functions.

However, researchers say they were surprised to find wing scales preserved, let alone microscopic structures that produce color.

They say this tells us color was an important driving force in shaping the evolution of wings even in the earliest ancestors of butterflies and moths.

Luke McDonald from University College Cork added: “Uniquely in this study, we show that impression fossils are equally as capable as compression fossils at preserving the structure of scales in sufficient detail to elucidate the moths’ 180 million‑year‑old colours.

The full findings of the study were published in the journal Science Advances.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

New Telescope In Chile Unveils Stunning First Images

The first released VST image shows the spectacular star-forming region Messier 17, also known as the Omega Nebula or the Swan Nebula, as it has never been seen before. This vast region of gas, dust and hot young stars lies in the heart of the Milky Way in the constellation of Sagittarius (The Archer)

A new state-of-the-art telescope has snapped its first impressive images of the southern sky over the Paranal Observatory in Chile.

The VLT Survey Telescope (VST) is the latest addition to the European Southern Observatory’s network of telescopes at Paranal in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile.

The first image released from the VST shows the spectacular star-forming region Messier 17, also known as the Omega nebula or the Swan nebula, as it has never been seen before.

This nebula, full of gas, dust and hot young stars, lies in the heart of our Milky Way galaxy, in the constellation of Sagittarius.

The VST’s field of view is so large that is able to observe the entire nebula, including its fainter outer parts.

The second of the newly released images is a portrait of the star cluster Omega Centauri in unprecedented detail. Omega Centauri is the largest globular cluster in the sky and the VST’s view includes about 300,000 stars.

ESO’s new telescope

The VST is a 2.6-meter telescope with a 268-megapixel camera, called OmegaCAM, at its core. The visible-light telescope is designed to map the sky both quickly and with precise image quality.

The VST is a wide-field survey telescope with a field of view twice as broad as the full moon. It is the largest telescope in the world designed to exclusively survey the sky in visible light.

ESO officials oversee many telescopes based at three observing sites in Chile’s high Atacama Desert. In addition to the telescopes atop the summit of Cerro Paranal, the observatory has sites at La Silla and Chajnantor.




Mapping the cosmos

Over the next five years, the VST and its OmegaCAM will make three detailed surveys of the southern sky, and the data will be made public for astronomers around the world to analyze.

The KIDS survey will image several regions of the sky away from the Milky Way. The study aims to further astronomers’ understanding of dark matter, dark energy and galaxy evolution, and find many new galaxy clusters.

The VST ATLAS survey will cover a larger area of sky and focus on understanding dark energy and supporting more detailed studies using the VLT and other telescopes.

The third survey, VPHAS+, will image the central plane of the Milky Way to map the structure of the galactic disc and its star formation history.

VPHAS+ will yield a catalogue of around 500 million objects and is expected to discover many new examples of unusual stars at all stages of their evolution.

The VST project is a joint venture between ESO and the National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) in Naples, Italy.

Watch NASA Dummies Crash Test Flying And Falling Vehicles

This week, NASA’s Langley Research Center published a video of the crash-test-dummies whose horrifying accidents make air and space travel safer for their human counterparts.

The dummies keep humans safer by giving scientists key data about whether bodies bend or break under different crash conditions.

So they’re outfitted with sensors and instruments, and can vary in size from 105 to 220 pounds to simulate a range adult human bodies.

Then, the dummies are strapped into the seats of both aircraft and spacecraft and dropped. In March 2017, for example, 10 dummies and a whole lot of luggage from an unclaimed baggage center in Alabama were loaded into an airplane’s fuselage, which was dropped 14 feet onto hard dirt.

The bags damaged the plane’s floor in some spots, but the dummies suffered no major injuries. That information will be key for setting safety standards for new planes.




NASA researchers also used dummies in a series of crash tests in 2016 for the Orion crew capsule, which is intended to one day carry astronauts to deep space and back again.

When it returns, the plan is for it to splashdown in the Pacific ocean, slowed by three main parachutes.

NASA used a pair of dummies — one large and one small — in a mockup of the Orion capsule and tested them by dropping it into a 20-foot-deep pool, called the Hydro Impact Basin.

The researchers crash tested both naked and clothed dummies to get a better sense for how a spacesuit and helmet would change the way the body moves.

The truth is that in the end, as valuable as these dummies are, they don’t get a lot of dignity.

So, to the brave dummies at NASA enduring helicopter crashes, fuselage drops, and water landings in mockup spacecraft, we salute you. The safety of air travelers and NASA astronauts alike rests on your battered shoulders.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

All By Itself, The Humble Sweet Potato Colonized The World

A chromolithograph of Christopher Columbus arriving at the Caribbean.

Of all the plants that humanity has turned into crops, none is more puzzling than the sweet potato.

Indigenous people of Central and South America grew it on farms for generations, and Europeans discovered it when Christopher Columbus arrived in the Caribbean.

In the 18th century, however, Captain Cook stumbled across sweet potatoes again — over 4,000 miles away, on remote Polynesian islands. European explorers later found them elsewhere in the Pacific, from Hawaii to New Guinea.

The distribution of the plant baffled scientists. How could sweet potatoes arise from a wild ancestor and then wind up scattered across such a wide range?

Was it possible that unknown explorers carried it from South America to countless Pacific islands?

An extensive analysis of sweet potato DNA, published on Thursday in Current Biology, comes to a controversial conclusion: Humans had nothing to do with it.




The bulky sweet potato spread across the globe long before humans could have played a part — it’s a natural traveler.

Some agricultural experts are skeptical.

This paper does not settle the matter,” said Logan J. Kistler, the curator of archaeogenomics and archaeobotany at the Smithsonian Institution.

Alternative explanations remain on the table, because the new study didn’t provide enough evidence for exactly where sweet potatoes were first domesticated and when they arrived in the Pacific.

We still don’t have a smoking gun,” Dr. Kistler said.

The sweet potato, Ipomoea batatas, is one of the most valuable crops in the world, providing more nutrients per farmed acre than any other staple.  It has sustained human communities for centuries.

A sweet potato farmer in in Papua New Guinea. The plant arrived there long before humans, scientists reported.

 

Scientists have offered a number of theories to explain the wide distribution of I. batatas.

Some scholars proposed that all sweet potatoes originated in the Americas, and that after Columbus’s voyage, they were spread by Europeans to colonies such as the Philippines. Pacific Islanders acquired the crops from there.

As it turned out, though, Pacific Islanders had been growing the crop for generations by the time Europeans showed up. On one Polynesian island, archaeologists have found sweet potato remains dating back over 700 years.

A radically different hypothesis emerged: Pacific Islanders, masters of open-ocean navigation, picked up sweet potatoes by voyaging to the Americas, long before Columbus’s arrival there.

The evidence included a suggestive coincidence: In Peru, some indigenous people call the sweet potato cumara. In New Zealand, it’s kumara.

A potential link between South America and the Pacific was the inspiration for Thor Heyerdahl’s famous 1947 voyage aboard the Kon-Tiki. He built a raft, which he then successfully sailed from Peru to the Easter Islands.

Genetic evidence only complicated the picture. Examining the plant’s DNA, some researchers concluded that sweet potatoes arose only once from a wild ancestor, while other studies indicated that it happened at two different points in history.

According to the latter studies, South Americans domesticated sweet potatoes, which were then acquired by Polynesians. Central Americans domesticated a second variety that later was picked up by Europeans.

Hoping to shed light on the mystery, a team of researchers recently undertook a new study — the biggest survey of sweet potato DNA yet. And they came to a very different conclusion.

Their research pointed to only one wild plant as the ancestor of all sweet potatoes. The closest wild relative is a weedy flower called Ipomoea trifida that grows around the Caribbean.

Its pale purple flowers look a lot like those of the sweet potato.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

NASA’s Planet-Hunting TESS Telescope Launches Today Aboard A SpaceX Rocket

Some of the most exciting space news of the past few years has been about Earth-like exoplanets that could one day (or perhaps already do) support life. TESS, a space telescope set to launch today aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

It will scan the sky for exoplanets faster and better than any existing platforms, expanding our knowledge of the universe and perhaps finding a friendly neighborhood to move to.

The Transit Exoplanet Survey Satellite has been in the works for years and in a way could be considered a sort of direct successor to the Kepler, the incredibly fruitful mission that has located thousands of exoplanets over nearly a decade.

But if Kepler was a telephoto aimed at dim targets far in the distance, TESS is an ultra-wide-angle lens that will watch nearly the entire visible sky.

They both work on the same principle, which is really quite simple: when a planet (or anything else) passes between us and a star (a “transit”), the brightness of that star temporarily dims.

By tracking how much dimmer and for how long over multiple transits, scientists can determine the size, speed, and other characteristics of the body that passed by.




It may seem like looking for a needle in a haystack, watching the sky hoping a planet will pass by at just the right moment.

But when you think about the sheer number of stars in the sky — and by the way, planets outnumber them — it’s not so crazy.

As evidence of this fact, in 2016 Kepler confirmed the presence of 1,284 new planets just in the tiny patch of sky it was looking at.

TESS will watch for the same thing with a much, much broader perspective.

Its camera array has four 16.4-megapixel imaging units, each covering a square of sky 24 degrees across, making for a tall “segment” of the sky like a long Tetris block.

The satellite will spend full 13.7-day orbits observing a segment, then move on to the next one.

There are 13 such segments in the sky’s Northern hemisphere and 13 in the southern; by the time TESS has focused on them all, it will have checked 85 percent of the visible sky.

It will be focusing on the brightest stars in our neighborhood: less than 300 light-years away and 30 to 100 times as bright as the ones Kepler was looking at.

The more light, the more data, and often the less noise — researchers will be able to tell more about stars that are observed, and if necessary dedicate other ground or space resources towards observing them.

Of course, with such close and continuous scrutiny of hundreds of thousands of stars, other interesting behaviors may be observed and passed on to the right mission or observatory.

Stars flaring or going supernova, bursts of interesting radiation, and other events could very well occur.

In fact, an overlapping area of observation above each of Earth’s poles will be seen for a whole year straight, increasing the likelihood of catching some rare phenomenon.

SpaceX is the launch partner, and the Falcon 9 rocket on which it will ride into orbit has already been test fired. TESS is packaged up and ready to go, as you see at right.

Currently the launch is planned for a 30-second window at 6:32 Florida time; if for some reason they miss that window, they’ll have to wait until the moon comes round again — a March 20 launch was already canceled.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science