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Exclusive: SpaceX, Boeing design risks threaten new delays for US space program

Google Science Feeds - Thu, 02/21/2019 - 06:09
SEATTLE (Reuters) - NASA has warned SpaceX and Boeing Co of design and safety concerns for their competing astronaut launch systems, according to industry sources and a new government report, threatening the U.S.

Qld Museum's new exhibition is out of this world

Google Science Feeds - Thu, 02/21/2019 - 05:50
The Queensland Museum will christen it's newly refurbished exhibition space next month with a blockbuster show celebrating space exploration.

Earth's atmosphere stretches out to the Moon - and beyond

Google Science Feeds - Thu, 02/21/2019 - 05:00
The outermost part of our planet's atmosphere extends well beyond the lunar orbit - almost twice the distance to the Moon. A recent discovery based on observations by the ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, SOHO, shows that the gaseous layer ...

SpaceX Will Launch Its 1st Crew Dragon for NASA Soon! How to Watch It All Live.

Google Science Feeds - Thu, 02/21/2019 - 04:41
Next week, SpaceX is poised to make history with the first-ever test flight of a private spaceship built to carry astronauts into orbit.

Death of NASA's Mars rover Opportunity goes viral

Google Science Feeds - Thu, 02/21/2019 - 04:36
By OLIVIA LEHMAN. Staff Writer. The last image transmitted by NASA's Mars rover Opportunity looks to be a grainy, streaked photo of the night sky.

Researchers unlock the secret behind reproduction of fish called 'Mary'

Google Science Feeds - Thu, 02/21/2019 - 03:32
A female stickleback fish, nick-named 'Mary', has produced offspring from eggs that appear to have been fertilized while they were still inside her, according to scientists at the University of Nottingham.

After Oppy, an opportunity for NASA to work with SpaceX [Opinion]

Google Science Feeds - Thu, 02/21/2019 - 02:03
Last week, NASA officially said goodbye to the Opportunity rover after 15 years on Mars. Contact was lost last June after the strongest dust storm ever observed on the Red Planet engulfed the rover, blocking sunlight from reaching her solar panels ...

The toxic legacy of the Vietnam War

Health News BBC - Thu, 02/21/2019 - 00:58
How millions suffered from exposure to toxic chemicals sprayed by US forces during the Vietnam war

Anthem Review - No I In Team

Game Spot Reviews - Wed, 02/20/2019 - 23:51

Launching upward off a jungle floor and bursting through a thick canopy of trees, bobbing and weaving your way under a waterfall as you take in the lush landscape below you, is one of the highlights of Anthem. Flight, in these moments, is freeing, serene and exhilarating all at once. But you will eventually have to come back down to earth. When you don't have a means to cool down in the air, you have to interrupt your flight to cool off on the ground--or else your suit will overheat and send you careening downward much more violently. This is what Anthem is like as a whole: a game where promising moments are bookended by frustration, where good ideas are undone before they can be fully realized.

It can take a while to warm up to Anthem in the first place. In its intro mission, you are a rookie Freelancer--a hero type who battles threats to humanity in mechanized combat suits called javelins. But that brief mission ends in failure, and after a two-year time skip, you're now an experienced Freelancer. As a result, everyone talks to you as if you know everything about the world, even though much of the game's space-fantasy jargon is explained only in codex entries. "Shapers," "Arcanists," to "silence" this or that "relic"--all the dialogue is structured as if you already know what all these things are, so there's not even an element of mystery to it. It's just hard to follow.

The story and overall worldbuilding do a great disservice to the characters, which have elements of what you might think of as BioWare's pedigree. The main cast is well-acted and genuine, with complicated emotions and motivations that might have been interesting had they been given time to grow. Two characters are mad at you for the events of the tutorial, even though it's never quite clear why; that bad blood spills over into your relationship with your current partner-in-Freelancing, Owen, and there's enough believable awkwardness there to make you almost feel bad for him. But because the narrative is so poorly set up, the drama feels unearned, the "emotional" reveals robbed of their impact, and any connection you might have had to the characters just out of reach.

Exacerbating all of this is Anthem's loot game core, which is simple on paper. After every mission, you return to your base of operations, Fort Tarsis, to talk to people, get new missions, and tinker with your javelins using the loot you picked up from the previous mission. Missions themselves almost universally involve some quick narrative setup followed by flying, completing routine tasks, and plenty of combat (with more brief plot-related stuff thrown in via radio chatter).

But this general structure doesn't work well in practice. You're told up front that playing Anthem with others is the best way to play and that you'll get better rewards in a group, but this means asking your friends to be quiet every few minutes so you can hear a bit of dialogue or to wait patiently while you tweak your loadout. Playing solo is better if you want to take your time and talk to different characters, but doing so can make missions more difficult or tedious. Matchmaking with random people is the best option, since you'll have people with you for grindy parts but will leave you alone for the story--but even then, it's easy to lose track of what's going on, especially if someone in your team is ahead of you and triggering dialogue early.

And no matter what, you'll have to return to Fort Tarsis after each expedition, which makes for choppy pacing in both the story and the gameplay. There's no way to change your loadout on the go and no way to just continue on to another mission right away, and there are currently a number of loading screens in between leaving and returning to Fort Tarsis. It's hard to really get into any kind of flow.

When I finally took the time to talk to NPCs in between missions, I found endearing characters and brief but interesting bits of story spread between them. There's one girl who just loves animals no matter how dangerous, and she'll happily tell you all about them; there's the oldest man in Fort Tarsis, who admits to doing some shady things to earn that title; there's an old woman whose daughter has been missing for years and might just need some kindness. Though it took some patience to do it, I was glad I stopped to listen to them.

Throughout all of this, combat is the main thing keeping Anthem afloat. There are four types of javelins--Ranger, Storm, Interceptor, and Colossus--that are essentially a soldier, mage, assassin, and tank, respectively. Each plays differently, with a different pool of abilities, and you aren't locked into the one you start with; you unlock them as you level up. That, combined with a handful of new weapons and abilities after each mission, means that you're almost always experimenting with new loadouts and playstyles.

I initially picked the Ranger, thinking it would be a good all-around class while I was learning the basics. But the guns alone aren't enough to make Anthem combat's exciting; I found a lot of the weapons, especially shotguns, to feel ineffectual. The Ranger's abilities are pretty straightforward, too--you get grenades and missiles and the like--which left me largely unimpressed with combat in the beginning. But then I unlocked the speedy Interceptor, whose gymnastic jumps and swift melee strikes are incredibly satisfying, and I started to get excited about trying new things in each successive mission.

The Storm javelin became my favorite, though, because it both has interesting elemental abilities and can hover for minutes, not seconds, at a time before overheating. Its assortment of powers lends itself well to getting combos, which result in a satisfying explosion of sorts and a more chaotic battlefield. But more importantly, it's the only javelin that doesn't require frequent stops on the ground, and as a result it provides the most dynamic combat--you can go from shooting basic enemies in a hallway to floating above the battlefield, raining down lightning to wipe out five at once while scoping out the area for your team.

Generally, all of the javelins can easily jet out of sticky situations in a pinch or briefly hover in the air to gain the upper hand, and combining movement with your abilities is consistently a good time. But when fighting titans and certain other bosses, there's a catch; a lot of them use fire attacks that overheat your suit and ground you instantly, robbing the fight of much of what makes combat interesting. You can still use your abilities, but they don't do much in these fights, and they fall flat compared to the often bombastic impact they have on regular enemies. This extends to the final fight, which is especially underwhelming.

The endgame thus far is to complete high numbers of the various mission types, which amounts to repeating many individual missions. The draw is better gear, but without compelling high-level fights, you don't have anything to build toward with all that grinding. A post-credits cutscene has the most intriguing plot point in the game and serves as a preview of what might come later on--but right now it's just a promise, rather than a true incentive to keep going.

It's worth noting that the early access period saw a number of technical hiccups. Dropped audio, server issues, long loading times, missions not registering as complete--I didn't have a single session without some sort of problem. A day-one patch aims to iron much of this out, but overall, the poor structure and pacing are a more frustrating problem.

Anthem has good ideas, but it struggles significantly with the execution. It's a co-op game that works best with no one talking; it buries genuinely interesting character moments and puts its most incomprehensible story bits at the forefront; its combat is exciting until you get to the boss fights and find your wings have been clipped. Even the simple, exhilarating act of flying is frequently interrupted by the limitations of your javelin, and you never quite shake that feeling of disappointment--of knowing, throughout the good parts of Anthem, that you'll inevitably come crashing back down.

Wallace Broecker, who helped popularize term 'global warming,' dies at 87

Google Science Feeds - Wed, 02/20/2019 - 23:41
WASHINGTON - Wallace Broecker, a geochemist who issued early warnings on global warming - a term he helped popularize in the 1970s - and later developed a sweeping, widely accepted model for how the oceans circulate heat and affect the Earth's ...

Scientists just mapped the great white shark's genome, revealing clues that may help us heal wounds and fight cancer

Google Science Feeds - Wed, 02/20/2019 - 21:33
Scientists have successfully sequenced the entire genome of the great white shark. Sharks have swum in the planet's oceans for the last 400 million years.

We're Just 140 Years Away from the Climate That Caused a Planet-Wide Extinction

Google Science Feeds - Wed, 02/20/2019 - 21:16
Humans have pushed atmospheric carbon dioxide to heights unseen in our short (geologically speaking) existence. But give us another few generations, and our geologic impact on the planet will be clear.

Opportunity shattered: NASA Opportunity rover goes silent

Google Science Feeds - Wed, 02/20/2019 - 21:03
The Mars Opportunity rover has lasted for some 15 years, providing us with some amazing images and date from the red planet! It arrived on the surface of Mars back on Jan. 25, 2004, with a near perfect roll into a small crater known as “Eagle ...

Study examines how developmental changes modified the reptiles' snouts

Google Science Feeds - Wed, 02/20/2019 - 20:27
The story that's often told about crocodiles is that they're among the most perfectly adapted creatures on the planet - living fossils that have remained virtually unchanged for millions of years.

Why do zebras have stripes? They make bad landing strips for flies

Google Science Feeds - Wed, 02/20/2019 - 20:27
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Scientists are providing new evidence to answer the longstanding question about why zebras have stripes. It appears stripes make terrible landing strips, bamboozling the fierce blood-sucking flies that try to feast on zebras and ...

Why Do Zebras Have Stripes? Scientists Camouflaged Horses to Find Out

Google Science Feeds - Wed, 02/20/2019 - 19:00
What's black, white and striped all over - except for its head? Horses wearing zebra coats on a farm in Britain. The animals weren't attending a masquerade.

Tetris 99 Review - I've Got 99 Problems And You're One Of Them

Game Spot Reviews - Wed, 02/20/2019 - 18:47

What can be said about Tetris that hasn't been said already? Well, that depends on the type of Tetris game in question. Tetris Effect changed the conversation around the classic puzzle concept last year by directly tying your actions and the flow of stages to the fluctuating rhythm of an eclectic (and all-around amazing) soundtrack. In the case of the Switch-exclusive Tetris 99, the moment-to-moment gameplay is more immediately recognizable, but a new twist helps it stand out from Tetris games of old: a 99-player last-player-standing competition. It's chaotic, which can work in your favor or lead to moments that feel practically unfair. Thankfully, with the solid gameplay at its foundation and a quick means of getting into a new match, no game of Tetris 99 feels like time wasted.

The competitive aspect of Tetris 99 is something most people are familiar with, albeit based on less ambitious setups. Clear some lines, and a batch of junk lines will appear in a queue next to your opponent's puzzle space. If they can clear lines of their own, the junk-in-waiting can be negated; if no new lines are completed, the weight of your success will bear down on their board and reduce the free space for mid-drop tetrimino trickery.

This straightforward setup has, in the past, been utilized in two-player scenarios. With 99 players competing at once here, all visible next to your puzzle space with lines appearing and disappearing between players every few seconds, your early matches will feel a little confusing.

Somewhat frustratingly, Tetris 99 offers no explanation of its inner workings nor the function of various attack modes you can pick from during a match. You can get really far by simply playing Tetris the way you always have, but an uninformed player will always be at a severe disadvantage. Even though all the info is a quick internet search away, it's disappointing that Tetris 99 is bereft of these details or explanations.

So here it goes: You can influence automated attack patterns using the right analog stick, determining whether your offensive lines get sent to randoms, players attacking you, people near death, or players who have done the most killing in the match. Playing handheld, you can also use the Switch touchscreen to target players manually. Less intuitively, when playing docked, the left analog stick can be used to cycle through the phalanx of players on either side of your screen.

The control given to you by most of these options can be used in strategic ways, but none more so than by attacking killers, AKA the "badges" option. It's named thusly because killing a player nets you a portion of a badge and, better yet, any belonging to the defeated player. These badges enhance the output of your attacks, throwing more lines per combo and making the final moments of a match a living hell for your opponents. With the increasing speed of a Tetris 99 match, manually picking your targets based on small icons is an expert's game, so these automated attack profiles are ultimately to your benefit, even if they aren't explained well and could potentially be a source of confusion for new players.

The beauty of Tetris 99 is the tried-and-true game at the center of it all. Tetris is a god among games, and competitive Tetris only enhances the rising tension of a match. Tetris 99, being a game with so many competitors and a default "random" attack pattern, means that you will inevitably enter matches where the odds feel stacked against you from the beginning with no rhyme or reason. And when that happens, you may find that you have no recourse with a screen full of junk lines.

Even though each loss isn't always a lesson learned, it's also just a small roadblock, as a new match is generally seconds, rather than minutes, away. Simply hold down a button to start a search for new players, and watch the screen fill up with opponents in the blink of an eye. There may come a time when the countdown clock expires and matches have less than 99 players, but at launch, that is a very rare occurrence.

Tetris 99 may not be a proper battle royale game, but it taps into the same emotional well, where a large number of players vying for supremacy creates an ever-present intensity that's difficult to shake. Add that layer to a game that's plenty capable of instilling tension on its own, and you've got a riveting experience that even at its worst is still a game very much worth playing. There's obvious room for improvement, but that's the last thing on your mind when the pieces start falling and the players start dropping.

To the Moon! SpaceX to Launch Israeli Lunar Lander (and More) on Thursday

Google Science Feeds - Wed, 02/20/2019 - 18:45
SpaceX will launch an Israeli robotic lunar lander during the company's Falcon 9 rocket launch tomorrow (Feb. 21). If the lander succeeds, this will be the first privately funded moonshot to reach the lunar surface.

Meet Hippocamp! Neptune's Smallest Moon Has a Name (and a Violent Past)

Google Science Feeds - Wed, 02/20/2019 - 18:25
A faint and frigid little moon doesn't have to go by "Neptune XIV" anymore. Astronomers have given a name - "Hippocamp" - to the most recently discovered moon of Neptune, which also formerly went by S/2004 N1.

Recycled tires may help concrete take the heat

Google Science Feeds - Wed, 02/20/2019 - 17:50
Although concrete doesn't burn, it can "spall" when subjected to extreme heat - this means that surface layers of the material explosively break off, potentially causing structures made from it to collapse.

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