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Get set for 'super snow moon,' the biggest supermoon of the year

Google Science Feeds - Fri, 02/15/2019 - 21:32
Skygazers will be treated to the “super snow moon,” on Feb. 19, the largest supermoon of 2019. February's full moon is known as the “snow moon” as a result of the heavy snowfall that often occurs at that time of year, according to the Old Farmer's Almanac.

Here's how NASA is searching for all the missing mass in the Universe

Google Science Feeds - Fri, 02/15/2019 - 21:24
Centuries of astronomical observation and technological advances have revealed a lot about the Universe we all call home, but it's also raised plenty of new questions.

The US is keeping an eye on China's lunar rover

Google Science Feeds - Fri, 02/15/2019 - 20:28
China's latest robotic expedition to the lunar surface is being watched by an American spacecraft orbiting the moon. NASA has just released the image, from Feb. 1. It was created while its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter was 82 kilometers (50 miles) above ...

China's Landing Site on the Far Side of the Moon Now Has a Name

Google Science Feeds - Fri, 02/15/2019 - 20:15
The lunar home of China's Chang'e-4 lander, which landed on the far side of the moon Jan. 3, now has a name: Statio Tianhe.

The Enduring Mystery of the Martian 'Blueberries' Discovered by Opportunity Rover

Google Science Feeds - Fri, 02/15/2019 - 20:03
NASA has officially called an end to the historic Opportunity rover mission, ending a spectacular, 14-year adventure on the Red Planet.

Yo-kai Watch 3 Review - Tokyo To Texas

Game Spot Reviews - Fri, 02/15/2019 - 19:02

If you had to explain Yo-kai Watch in a nutshell to someone who's never heard of or played it, you might boil it down to "Pokemon but with Japanese ghosts" or "Baby's first Shin Megami Tensei." Anything grim or distressing about a kid who can talk to ghosts goes by the wayside when the ghosts are comical entities like a missing left sock or a possessed police car. In this third expansive and quirky outing for the Yo-kai Watch series, our hero Nate has to take on a quest far more daunting than anything he’s faced so far: moving to America.

Specifically, Nate's family ends up moving to BBQ, an over-the-top caricature of Texas, for his dad's job, and finds that the U.S. has supernatural problems all its own that he and his best yokai buddies, a cat named Jibanyan and an uber-effete ghost butler named Whisper, have to handle. Meanwhile, back in Nate's hometown of Springdale (which is located in Japan), a bubbly ball of nerdy energy named Hailey-Anne is enticed into buying a Yo-kai Watch of her own, which ties her to Usapyon, a ghost astronaut rabbit. Stuck with each other, they form a detective agency.

That's really over-the-top as far as a game aimed squarely at a younger audience goes, and that's largely a result of how it's been localized. Yo-kai Watch 3 was originally two games in Japan, with Nate and Hailey-Anne's stories comprising a game each. The version released in the West has combined the two, allowing players to switch to the other campaign at will, before the two stories converge in the later hours. It's a daring choice that allows you a ton of control over how you experience the sprawling narrative, but it also highlights just how much the narrative didn't need to sprawl to begin with. The first major plot points of both stories--Nate meeting a boy in BBQ who can see yokai as well, and Hailey-Anne starting the detective agency--are a good five or six hours in. Having both stories in the same package is a positive, but having to manually thread together two stories that could already stand to be a little more concise is less so.

On the plus side, that does give you ample reason to slow down and really take in your surroundings, which is really one of the greater joys in this game. Despite the aesthetic, the interpretations of Japan and Texas are surprisingly intricate places full of people worth speaking to and places to wander off to. As the game went on, one of my favorite things to do in it was to ride the trains in Springdale, missing stops just to look around. In addition, Nate's story has the compelling element of him trying to get accustomed to American culture, and on occasion, work you do in one of the towns--unlocking an app, or asking someone for a favor--affects the story in the other. But by and large, much of the first half of the game has both Nate and Hailey-Anne doing random fetch quests or being distracted with the game's numerous side missions, which are fun but wholly tangential from the main game. That creates a major problem with pacing early on.

Yo-kai Watch has always been an accessible series, and this third entry is no different. The cycle of gameplay usually boils down to Nate finding a possessed human doing something unusual, using the watch to reveal the yokai controlling them, and getting into a simple showdown with it. After these battles, there's a strong chance it joins your menagerie of friendly yokai who can be used to fight other yokai--of which there are a whopping 600-plus. There are very few of what seasoned RPG veterans might consider a dungeon, and when there are, as long as you've found at least six yokai you like, you can blow through nearly all of them in mere minutes, with no real pressing need to collect more except for the sheer joy of collecting them.

Combat does ostensibly have some measure of depth compared to the series' predecessors, with the addition of a 3x3 grid system that allows you to move yokai around to dodge attacks and pick up special items. There's also plenty of information about each yokai which you can put to good use, such as elemental weaknesses and their preferred food. That's all alongside familiar mechanics like quirky mini-games used to heal yokai that have been afflicted with status effects or to charge up ultimate (or more accurately, Soultimate) attacks. But with the exception of the occasional boss fight and the rather welcome difficulty spike of the final third of the game, it's rare that you actually have to utilize any of these mechanics. So much of the game's combat is a passive experience, but neglecting to have a full grasp of it when the game finally expects you to be proactive in battle will eventually get you in serious trouble.

These are the things that make Yo-kai Watch excellent as an introductory RPG for beginners. For everyone else, however, the game has to endear itself in between major plot points on sheer charm which, thankfully, it's more than capable of delivering. On the Hailey-Anne side, what comes off as grating over-enthusiasm at the start settles down over time to become unflappable optimism and curiosity. The girl fears absolutely nothing, even when giant demons start showing up that send her running through the streets. Her alliance with Usapyon evolves from one of convenience to a genuinely sweet elementary school partnership over time, especially as the details of Usapyon's origins become clearer.

Having both stories in the same package is a positive, but having to manually thread together two stories that could already stand to be a little more concise is less so.

As mentioned, Nate's side has an even more intriguing angle. For some reason, the localization obscures the fact that Nate's hometown of Springdale is in Japan, but the touchstones of a kid dealing with severe culture shock are still here. Even when American culture is as hilariously exaggerated as it is, there's something subtly poignant about an ostensibly Japanese kid exploring an all-American city for the first time. And as his circle of friends expands to include Buck, a wild-haired kid with a deep southern drawl, so too does his experience with American yokai and all the loud and proud aspects of such.

It's still a game aimed at a young crowd, though, and the game's poignancy is undercut a bit by wild reactions, non-sequitur humor, and impromptu j-pop musicals. Most of the scarier aspects of the game dealing with the existence and management of the afterlife have been softened to the absolute extreme. The game was only ever going to get so serious, and the winking nods to more adult fare like The Godfather, Fist of the North Star, The X-Files, and Twin Peaks are indeed just that: playful winks. It's less the competitive Growlithe-eat-Growlithe world of Pokemon than a cheerful, wacky playground where Pokemon-like creatures happen to live.

There's not much to Yo-kai Watch 3, but there’s still a lot of charm to be found. The towns of Springdale and BBQ are both bright, pleasant places to be; the people in it are even more so. Visiting the world of Yo-kai Watch for the third time is a fun time, even though you’ll end up staying a lot longer than perhaps necessary.

NASA twin astronauts study finds no flashing red lights for long spaceflight

Google Science Feeds - Fri, 02/15/2019 - 18:38
Long-duration spaceflight does weird things to the human body, even at the molecular level, but so far there's no reason to think humans couldn't survive a two-and-a-half-year round-trip journey to Mars.

NASA moves to buy more Soyuz seats for late 2019, early 2020

Google Science Feeds - Fri, 02/15/2019 - 17:16
While NASA's commercial crew program continues to demonstrate progress—the first test flight of SpaceX's Crew Dragon may occur as soon as March 2—there are no guarantees the vehicles will be ready for operational flights to the International Space ...

Elon Musk celebrates SpaceX hardware on Valentine's Day

Google Science Feeds - Fri, 02/15/2019 - 17:08
Even SpaceX hardware felt the love from Elon Musk on Valentine's Day. In a tweet posted late Thursday, Musk shared an image of a Falcon 9 rocket booster landing on the Of Course I Still Love You drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.

This Is NASA's Plan to Land Astronauts on the Moon in 2028 with Commercial Vehicles

Google Science Feeds - Fri, 02/15/2019 - 16:41
WASHINGTON - NASA really wants to land astronauts on the moon in 2028. But to do that, the agency is looking to commercial space companies to build the landers, space tugs and refueling stations required to make a moon exploration effort that lasts.

Watch a satellite spear space debris with a harpoon

Google Science Feeds - Fri, 02/15/2019 - 15:31
A British satellite in orbit around Earth has successfully tested out a particularly pointed method for cleaning up space debris: piercing objects with a harpoon.

Next month's SpaceX launch could help end America's reliance on Russian rockets

Google Science Feeds - Fri, 02/15/2019 - 13:04
It's been nearly eight years since American astronauts last launched into space from American soil. When NASA shuttered the Space Shuttle Program in 2011, it did so under the hopes that the private industry would be willing and able to take a huge step ...

Supermoon? Snow Moon? Full moon? Whatever you call it, a lunar spectacle is coming soon

Google Science Feeds - Fri, 02/15/2019 - 13:00
Whether you call it super, snow or full, the biggest, brightest moon of the year is coming to a sky near you Tuesday, Feb. 19. A supermoon occurs when the moon is as close as it ever gets to Earth.

Tilly Lockey: 'I can paint with my bionic arms'

Health News BBC - Fri, 02/15/2019 - 12:24
Tilly Lockey, 13, has bionic arms that are so sophisticated she can now use a paintbrush and apply make-up.

Help us sniff out 50 neutron star collisions so we can calculate universe expansion, cosmoboffins plead

Google Science Feeds - Fri, 02/15/2019 - 05:08
Cosmologists need gravitational wave measurements from 50 binary neutron star mergers to work out just how fast our universe is really expanding, according to new research.

NASA releases images of California snowpack seen from space

Google Science Feeds - Fri, 02/15/2019 - 04:23
NASA released satellite images of the immense amounts of snow California has received from the winter storms this year. One photo shows the snowpack at the beginning of the year.

Mars Liquid Water Mystery: Underground Volcanoes May Be Responsible, Scientists Say

Google Science Feeds - Fri, 02/15/2019 - 04:16
Mars may have underground volcanoes that could be responsible for the liquid water believed to flow underneath the polar ice cap, according to a new study.

Australia's iconic Great Barrier Reef hit by polluted floodwaters

Google Science Feeds - Fri, 02/15/2019 - 04:10
CANBERRA (XINHUA) - Leading scientists have expressed concern after polluted floodwaters hit an "extraordinarily large area" of the Australia's iconic Great Barrier Reef.

Eastshade Review - Brushing Up

Game Spot Reviews - Fri, 02/15/2019 - 04:00

There's a blacksmith, toiling away in the markets of the capital of Nava, who thinks making swords is boring. Why create something, she argues, when death is its only use? She'd rather make a kettle any day of the week. So I bought her kettle, and now I can brew all kinds of delicious, and at times mysterious, tea whenever I hole up and camp in the wilderness. And I still haven't found a sword.

Eastshade is a non-violent, first-person adventure game set in a rolling open world full of quests. Imagine an Elder Scrolls game was an old boot, and you picked it up, turned it upside down and shook it until all the combat and magic and loot, every orc and dragon and bandit fell out. Then you took a shoehorn and eased a walking simulator inside the wrinkled leather before setting off on a delightful stroll across the countryside. Eastshade is just about the loveliest, prettiest, and just bloody nicest game I've played in years.

You play an artist, recently shipwrecked in Eastshade near the small coastal village of Lyndor. After a kind chap finds you on the beach and lets you rest in his cozy cave until you recover, you resume your journey to visit and then paint your just-passed mother's favorite places in Eastshade. It's a simple setup, paying tribute to a lost loved one, and it's indicative of the kind of sincere, touching gestures you'll carry out over the course of the game.

The flow of Eastshade will be familiar to anyone who has played an open-world RPG in recent years. You speak to NPCs, at first enquiring about the local history and points of interest before delving into something more personal and finally unlocking a unique quest. A child and aspiring painter asks you to help her acquire some art supplies. A smitten merchant wants some advice on how she should pursue her romantic interest. A park ranger needs your assistance in catching and caring for an injured waterfox. Not everyone has a story to tell--there are plenty of mute, generic NPCs filling the streets--but the ones you do meet almost always open up to you in the sweetest of ways.

Most quests involve tracking down the next person in the quest chain or venturing afar to find a particular item. Some, however, require your talents as an artist. Indeed, it seems that once an Eastshadian discovers you can paint, they're quick to realize how much they'd really like some oil on canvas hanging over the fireplace. One keen art-lover asked me to paint him a picture of a chicken, so I made my way over the markets where I'd earlier spied some chickens nestling among the hay, set down my easel and painted the perfect poultry portrait.

The act of painting itself isn't simulated in any way. You simply use the mouse to drag a frame across the screen. Anything within that frame is then captured, rendered in a painterly style, and reproduced on the canvas. In essence, you're taking screenshots. As such there's much pleasure to be had in framing your subject, as anyone who has unearthed the joys of a game's photo mode can attest. I was asked by a particularly pompous villager to paint his portrait, and fully capture all his self-described nobility and heroism. He was sitting in a tavern at the time, next to a huge fireplace whose chimney stretched to the double-story ceiling, so I framed him as this tiny figure dwarfed by the imposing stone furnace. He was grateful, of course--I'm sure the game logic merely checks if the required subject is in the frame--but I found it extremely satisfying.

At a certain point you will also gain the ability to register with another local artist and begin taking commissions to earn glowstones, the local currency. It functions much like a job board: you check in, accept the gig, then return later with the finished painting and collect your cash. Each commission gives you a description of the type of painting desired and it's up to you to figure out where you need to go and what you need to include in the frame. Some are easy to identify, like a specific request for a windmill, but you may have no idea where to find it. Others are more vague, like a “starry cavern” or a “natural arch.” Either way, it's enjoyable to have your memory of the landscape tested as you struggle to recall elements of the terrain.

Sometimes you won't have a spare canvas to paint on, meaning you'll have to obtain the materials necessary to craft a new canvas. Fortunately, there are wooden boards and piles of cloth lying around the various towns and villages, and NPCs don't seem to mind at all if you walk into their homes and grab some. It's a good idea to thoroughly explore every area and collect any such craftable materials as there doesn't seem to be any limit on how much you can carry. I found I typically had enough canvases to complete quest-critical paintings, but if I'd wanted to paint for fun, as it were, I would have had to tediously wait for previously collected materials to respawn or spend my hard-earned glowstones to buy them.

Money's tight, you see, and there are other things worth purchasing. This isn't an RPG, so you won't be selling loot to finance your endeavors--though there is a sort of joke merchant who will buy anything off you for the princely sum of one glowstone. However, there are items you will need in order to access new areas of the world. A coat, for example, lets you continue to explore the countryside during the cold nights, while a tent lets you camp outdoors overnight or simply rest for a while if you need to meet someone at a certain time of day.

You'll find yourself walking a fine line between securing what you need to complete your current tasks and saving up to afford what you need to unlock new quest possibilities. I remember standing in the markets and agonizing over whether to spend what little money I had on a fishing rod (because one quest wanted me to catch a particular type of fish) or a kettle (because my pockets were already bursting with all different kinds of plants and herbs). It was a genuinely stressful moment in a game otherwise conducted entirely in serene contemplation.

Eastshade is a slow game. There's an awful lot of walking, or running once you realize there's the option, and you'll spend almost all your time trekking back and forth between villages or strolling across town from one shop to the next, ferrying this item to that person and hoping to speak to so-and-so about this-and-that. It would quickly grow tiresome were it not for the dinky penny-farthing bicycle you can buy and the presence of craftable fast travel items, and more importantly, the immense natural beauty found in every corner, along every path, and over every crest of the world.

Indeed, Eastshade is a slow game that moves at just the right pace. From the warm, golden sunlight filtering through the dense canopy of the Great Tree to the pools of water on the terrace farms that skirt the city glittering in the morning light, you'll constantly find yourself stopping to catch your breath. Even after treading the same cobbled road a dozen or more times, hours later I would still find myself admiring the scenery, expansive vistas and minute details alike.

The pace perfectly complements your actions, too. This is a game about taking your time and paying attention to the environment through which you're moving. You have a quest log and a map of the land, but there are no quest markers or waypoints telling you where to go. You have to read the lay of the land and remember details of where you've been. As you travel, the geographical contours of the world gradually become imprinted in your mind until you could paint them almost from memory alone. Almost.

By giving you a paintbrush (and a kettle) instead of a sword, Eastshade is a rare first-person open world game that's not about killing but rather about doing good deeds, helping people see the error of their ways, and bringing communities together all through the power of art. It's a breath of fresh Eastshadian air and a genuine, unironic feel-good game. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to put the kettle on.

New NASA Mission Will Look Back At Billions Of Years Of Cosmic History

Google Science Feeds - Fri, 02/15/2019 - 03:47
A newly approved NASA mission, called SPHEREx, will use a space-based observatory to study the early conditions of the Universe and hunt for the celestial ingredients required for life.

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