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I played God with The Odin’s DIY CRISPR Kit

The Odin offers a number of experimental kits, including advanced sets that leverage CRISPR gene editing breed bioluminescent bacteria or search for new antibiotic compounds. The set I tried, however, was far more rudimentary: I was to modify the genes of a harmless E. coli strain so that it can survive in a hostile environment that it would otherwise perish in.

Specifically, these E. coli bacteria (like all eukaryotic cells) produce proteins, tiny biological machines that perform all sorts of critical functions within the cell, in order to stay alive. Proteins are made by a structure called the ribosome. Under normal conditions aboard an agar-filled petri dish, the bacteria have no problem generating these molecules and will thrive. But if you try to use them to colonize an agar plate that also contains the molecule streptomycin, they'll quickly die. This is because streptomycin binds with the E. coli ribosome and prevents it from operating. However, using CRISPR technology, you can knock out the gene that streptomycin binds with, thereby enabling the bacteria to live in this otherwise deadly environment.

The Odin's kit is a tabletop laboratory and contains all the hardware and biological materials that you'll need to run this experiment five times. It includes a pipette and tips, 14 petri dishes, powdered agar and agar-strep medium, plus all the chemicals and enzymes you'll need to reprogram bacterial DNA. You'll also have access to a continually-evolving online protocol guide that walks you through the various steps of the CRISPR process.

I should note that the protocol guide is fairly barebones at the moment, given that The Odin only just began shipping products after its successful Indiegogo campaign. The team is constantly updating the instructions for clarity and context. As it stands, you're kind of left on your own to determine exactly how to perform the experiment. That is, the specific step-by-step instructions are clear enough but you'll have to figure the most effective way to perform them for yourself. Honestly, I absolutely love that. Sitting there having to really ponder how each piece of this biological puzzle fits together rather than being spoonfed information, I found, was a welcome change of pace and immensely enjoyable mental challenge.

Actually proceeding through the experiment was easy enough -- really not that far off from following baking instructions. You do the steps the right way, in the right order, and you should be successful. This experiment took me basically a weekend to finish, though most of that time was spent waiting for the bacteria to culture, incubate after being genetically modified and then recultured on the streptomycin-infused plates. There was maybe four to five hours of actual "work" required -- I'd venture to guess even middle school-aged kids could run this experiment with a bit of guidance. Once you get past the mind-bending terminology and high-level theory, actually doing the steps is surprisingly straightforward. Heck, if you want to skip the theory altogether and just bang through the steps to try and get a result, that's totally doable as well.

That said, I was unable to start my bacterial colonies into growing on the strep plates the first time around. Turns out that successful biohacking is hard. I'll admit, spending a weekend running through the steps only to have the results turn out negative was a bit frustrating. But, I realized, that's half the fun of being a scientist (even one without a biology degree doing genetic engineering on his kitchen table). I mean Einstein didn't just pull the Theory of Relativity out of his ass to impress a dinner party, Watson and Crick didn't discover DNA over a long weekend and John Hammond sure as heck spent more than five hours whipping up dinosaurs from petrified mosquito bellies. Now that something had gone awry, I had to go to back, figure out what went wrong, make adjustments and try again. It's a whole new set of puzzles.

Best of all, I'm not stuck figuring this out entirely on my own. If I hit a figurative wall and just can't get the experiment to work, all I have to do is email the guys from The Odin and they'll help troubleshoot. That's a level of customer service you don't often see in crowdfunded campaigns. In fact, when I repeated the experiment after consulting with The Odin's staff, I did eventually manage to successfully colonize the strep-infused plates.

Overall, this was blast. I learned technical skills, such as how to make agar plates and how to properly handle a pipette as well as the scientific theory behind what was happening in the tubes. The DIY bacteria kit will run you $140, the yeast edition is $20 more, plus almost all of the included hardware can be reused for future experiments. And if you want to go all mad-scientist, The Odin also sells a number of a la carte ingredients and precursors so you can experiment to your heart's content.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2016/06/30/i-played-god-with-the-odins-diy-crispr-kit/

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Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross made a song for NASA’s Juno mission

If you're familiar with the film scores from the pair of musicians, you know what to expect here. Airy atmospheric sounds with "chains of glassy melody" and "haunting textures." Not to be outdone, Weezer released the song "I Love the USA" to commemorate the occasion as well. According to the band's website, it was asked by Apple and NASA to create music for the July 4th event. That explains why Trent Reznor is also contributing.

In fact, there are eight songs total, including tracks from Brad Paisley, GZA and Corine Bailey Rae alongside a short film. We'll give you two guesses as to who provided the score for it. As you might expect, it's all exclusive iTunes and Apple Music, but you can preview both the Weezer and the Reznor/Ross tracks down below.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2016/06/30/trent-reznor-atticus-ross-juno/

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‘Wreck-It Ralph 2’ is officially set to wreck the internet in 2018

Disney broke the news during a special livestream on Facebook today, announcing that it's working on Wreck-It Ralph 2, which will go beyond the confines of the arcade seen in the first movie and into the internet. There weren't many additional details divulged to go on, but this could mean some interesting changes for both the film's format and the type of game references we might see.

It's a bit of a wait for the sequel to hit theaters, but it's just one in a long line of video game-focused films coming down the pipeline. For instance, the Minecraft film is arriving n 2019, and the Tetris film (now a trilogy) is planned to begin shooting next year. The future is rife with video game movies, but will they be any good?

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2016/06/30/wreck-it-ralph2-announced/

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The game that makes Kinect worthwhile: ‘Fru’

But Through Games didn't give up on Fru. They continued working with the Kinect and tweaking the game until it transformed into a stylish, otherworldly platformer starring a young girl in a fox mask. Standing in front of the Kinect, players contort their bodies and their silhouettes are displayed in real-time on the screen, at times uncovering hidden platforms and entirely new, mystical worlds for the protagonist to explore. After more than two years of development, the full game is set to hit the Xbox One on July 13th.

"Ultimately we really thought this concept was cool and could be expanded quite well, so we did not want to leave the game unfinished," Traverso says. "We thought it was a good example of how Kinect is not inherently good or bad, but rather a tool for a creator to use."

Fru is an incredible Kinect game. It's perfectly responsive, mirroring players' bodies in ways that Microsoft always promised its motion-tracking software would work. Pick up a book or a small dog (yes, I tried both of these things) and the game instantly recognizes it, adding rectangles to the end of your hands or revealing puppy-shaped platforms. Essentially, Fru is the game that should have launched with the Kinect nearly three years ago -- it makes throwing down an extra $100 for a console bundle worthwhile.

Players can navigate through Fru's levels on their own, contorting their bodies and maneuvering the controller at the same time, allowing the fox-mask girl to leap among floating platforms and swim through the water within their silhouettes. Or, Fru can be a two-player game, with one person controlling the girl and another acting as the silhouette. Either way, it's a wonderful, yoga-inspired experience.

As they built Fru, Traverso and his team assumed there was still a market for Kinect experiences. Microsoft had shipped (not sold) 5 million Xbox One consoles by April 2014, just before Kinect was removed from the bundle. Traverso estimates roughly 3 million people have a Kinect, at least.

"That's a sizable and viable audience," Traverso says. "We saw quite a lot of people who were pleased to see that Fru was releasing because they had nothing else to play."

Three million is not a terrible install base, but two years after Microsoft's unbundling, it could have been larger. Recent estimates place Xbox One sales numbers at 21 million and Kinect sales numbers, now that the hardware is sold as a separate $100 peripheral, are a gaping black hole. Traverso doesn't even have official numbers. All he has is an amazing Kinect game.

Fru took a while to develop because it's built on a tricky, Kinect-based premise. Players' bodies and accessories uncover hidden platforms and hallways for the protagonist to navigate; this means that the game is different for every player in a way not seen in traditional games. Body shape and size matter here, as do real-world physics.

"There's so many different body shapes, moves, poses, physical constraints that a person might have or do, that a level might be super easy to someone and could be as hard as Super Meat Boy for another one," Traverso says. "The solution was to playtest again and again and again, with a diverse set of testers: tall, short, thin, big, athletic, lazy, with short and long arms, legs, etc."

After years of playtesting and development work, Traverso and the rest of Through Games aren't sure if Fru will be the success they need it to be. Between unknown Kinect sales and usage numbers, it's a huge gamble. But, they still have hope.

"Yes, developing a game that did not require Kinect would have been way safer," Traverso says. "No, we have no guarantee that we will be able to reach out to our potential audience. But yes, I'd do it again."

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2016/06/30/fru-kinect-through-games/

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Nest seems to be working on a ‘smart crib’ loaded with sensors

The hyper-connected home of the future will come with an equally connected nursery. Nest, the company widely known for its WiFi enabled energy-saving thermostat and smart smoke alarm system, has filed a patent for a baby crib that could be "embedded with smart sensors". According to the patent application, Nest's potential crib would do away with some of the paraphernalia that comes with a baby's bed. So instead of buying separate monitors, the crib would be loaded with cameras, microphones, a communication device and sensors to track the baby's movements and even detect "a deviation from the pattern of behavior."

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2016/06/30/nest-patent-smart-crib-sensors/

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The Das Keyboard 5Q is for working smarter, not harder

The TQ is a cloud-connected, open API RGB mechanic keyboard and it's up on Kickstarter now seeking $100,000 in funding. Not only can you customize each key to be color-controlled via the Internet, but it's capable of allowing you to stream information directly to your keyboard. For instance, communicate important statistics to yourself by coding your numerical keys as a bar graph that represents productivity at your company, or allot special colors to keys to show whether or not a test you were waiting on passed or not.

The keyboard will also feature special Gamma Zulu switches by Omron that can withstand 100 million actuations. There are 104 of them on each TQ model, and they offer 1.5 mm actuation for speed. Beneath each key is an LED pipe with RGBs that are several times brighter than others on the market. In short, they're meant to be colorful and attention-grabbing.

Das Keyboard is all about helping you work smarter with this infinitely more intelligent keyboard, and it seems like a pretty good investment if you're looking to get things done a lot faster. If you're interested in backing it, you can head over to its Kickstarter page here.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2016/06/30/the-das-keyboard-5q-is-for-working-smarter-not-harder/

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Spotify: Apple is holding up app approval to squash competition

Like other apps, Spotify had been getting customers to foot the bill for Apple's App Store billing fees by charging an extra $3 a month. It recently launched a promotion for the second time that gave new users three months of service for a dollar, if they signed up on the web. As you can imagine, that didn't make Apple too happy, and the company reportedly threatened to pull the app entirely unless Spotify stopped pushing the deal for iPhone owners. It complied with the request, but it also nixed the iTunes billing option in the iOS version which lead to the current dispute.

Sure, Spotify users can still sign up through its website to avoid paying the extra money every month. However, charging extra to pay through iTunes puts the streaming service at a disadvantage when it comes to competing with Apple Music. Spotify still has double the paying customers as Apple, but with exclusives and things like Beats1, the iPhone maker continues to gain ground. We've reached out to both Apple and Spotify on the matter and we'll update this post when and if we hear back.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2016/06/30/spotify-claims-apple-blocking-app-approval/

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Facebook and the folly of self-regulation

See, Facebook doesn't actively police its site for offending content. There's no team of staffers or automated algorithm scouring for infractions. Instead, Facebook relies entirely on the user community to report banned content. Once a post, image or group is flagged by other users, a Facebook team will review the content and take the appropriate action either removing the content, temporarily suspending the user's ability to post, shutting down the group wholesale or any combination of the three. In all, Facebook receives roughly one million reports each day, according to Forbes, though there's no word on how many of those are gun-related.

"Facebook relies on the community of 1.6 billion people on Facebook to report anything – posts, photos, videos - that violate our terms, including our policies on firearms," a Facebook rep told me during a recent phone call. "Given the volume of content shared each day, we believe this is an efficient way to identify content for review. Closed and secret groups are subject to the same policies, and we receive reports for content in these groups as well." Of course, content within closed and secret groups are only visible to their existing members -- not the larger FB community -- so they're basically expected to regulate themselves.

This method of enforcement does not sit well with a number of Facebook users -- especially Mike Monteiro, Design Director at Mule Design. For the past few weeks Monteiro has advocated that users seek out and report groups and users that continue to flaunt the Community Standards and engage in peer-to-peer firearm sales. "We're not trying to get anybody to change their stance on anything," Monteiro told me. "We're trying to get Facebook to do what they said they were going to do."

To date, he estimates that more than 1000 groups have been shut down for gun sale violations -- in no small part due to the efforts of John Sibley. "I have no idea how he's doing this and I never met him before this," Monteiro said. "The amount of pages that he's managed to get shut down is amazing."

Not everybody is happy with Monteiro's efforts, mind you. "I've got an inbox full of death threats," he said. "None of it surprised me, I'm not going to lose any sleep over it. Most of these guys -- and it's always guys -- are coming in with their 'Good Guy with a gun' arguments and immediately issuing death threats."

Of greater concern to Monteiro are the actions of Facebook's director of engineering, Chuck Rossi. As a recent Forbes article illustrates, Rossi has used his position and influence within the company to actively undermine the new gun sale rules and help to get a number of banned gun sale groups reinstated.

"I am 100 percent laser focused on getting your groups back to you so you have a chance to get them to comply with the new policy. It is my sole freaking purpose in life until it is done. I'm dumping extra work on my managers and my teams to cover for me while I take on this new role," Rossi wrote in a February post to Admin Contact, a private assembly of FB administrators working on behalf gun-themed groups. "I know this new policy sucks. I personally don't agree with it and everyone in Facebook is pissed about how it was rolled out."

Rossi has reportedly managed to reinstate as many as 80 percent of gun-related pages removed in the past three months, an Admin Contact administrator told Forbes. "I'm not sure how somebody gets to keep their job" when they go against their employers publicly-stated policies, Monteiro said. "He's not just disagreeing with it, he's saying 'I'm going to make sure the policy doesn't work.'"

Whether this method of community-based policing will actually be effective in the long term remains to be seen. It could well become a game of Whack-A-Mole with pages and groups being shut down for violating the Community Standards only to immediately resurrect themselves and continue on as if nothing happened. Either way, the battle over guns on Facebook -- like the larger issue of gun control in America -- doesn't look like it will be settled anytime soon.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2016/06/30/dnp-facebook-and-the-folly-of-self-regulation/

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Over 100 Nobel winners urge Greenpeace to support GMOs

From the letter:

"We urge Greenpeace and its supporters to re-examine the experience of farmers and consumers worldwide with crops and foods improved through biotechnology, recognize the findings of authoritative scientific bodies and regulatory agencies, and abandon their campaign against 'GMOs' in general and Golden Rice in particular."

Golden Rice was first announced back in 2000, garnering a major Time cover story in the process. Since then, though, it hasn't made much progress. Partially that's due to Greenpeace and other environmental activists fighting against it. That opposition escalated to violence in 2013, when over 400 protestors destroyed a Golden Rice field in the Philippines. But scientists have also struggled to grow Golden Rice effectively, and it may not be the best method of distributing vitamin A, as this Mother Jones report explains.

While it's easy to understand Greenpeace's skepticism against GMOs, it also flies in the face of scientific evidence. The National Academy of Sciences deemed them safe last month, saying that there's no evidence they hurt people or the environment. They also published their source data so anyone can take a closer look. It's also worth noting that most of our agriculture and livestock have been genetically manipulated at some point via traditional breeding methods.

In a response sent to The Washington Post, Greenpeace campaigner Wilhelmina Pelegrina notes:

"Accusations that anyone is blocking genetically engineered 'Golden' rice are false. 'Golden' rice has failed as a solution and isn't currently available for sale, even after more than 20 years of research. As admitted by the International Rice Research Institute, it has not been proven to actually address Vitamin A Deficiency. So to be clear, we are talking about something that doesn't even exist."

"Corporations are overhyping 'Golden' Rice to pave the way for global approval of other more profitable genetically engineered crops. This costly experiment has failed to produce results for the last 20 years and diverted attention from methods that already work. Rather than invest in this overpriced public relations exercise, we need to address malnutrition through a more diverse diet, equitable access to food and eco-agriculture."

Of course, her response doesn't address the scientific consensus around GMO safety. Greenpeace's campaign against genetic modification at this point resembles its stance on nuclear energy, which ultimately cooled nuclear research and development in the US. That led us to rely even more on coal power plants, which isn't exactly great for the environment.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2016/06/30/over-100-nobel-winners-urge-greenpeace-to-support-gmos/

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Wirecutter’s best deals: Get a UE Roll Bluetooth speaker for $50

Monoprice 9723 Subwoofer

Street price: $108; MSRP: $108; deal price: $86 with code CRAZY

Make sure to use the code CRAZY to get this discount, it takes 20% off of any Monoprice branded items. This subwoofer rarely goes on sale, and the last time we posted a deal on it, the street price was $116 so the sale dropped it to $96. Now that the street price has dropped, you're getting an even better price. This coupon is only valid today.

The Monoprice 9723 is the top pick in our guide on the best budget subwoofer. Brent Butterworth said, "Unlike some of the smaller subwoofers we tested, the 9723 sounds like a "real" subwoofer. Its addition to a stereo system is not subtle; it adds a lot more bass, enough to shake my listening chair when playing the deep bass line on Olive's "Falling" or the explosions of depth charges in U-571."

He added, "For a subwoofer, the 9723 even looks sort of nice, with curved sides and a detachable fabric grille covering the woofer. At 17 by 17.25 by 17.5 inches, it's not small, but it's also not so huge that it's hard to fit into an ordinary living room."

UE ROLL Wireless Bluetooth Speaker

Street price: $85; MSRP: $100; deal price: $50

This matches the best price we've seen on this speaker, which we've seen twice before. However, despite their being a new version of this speaker, we've seen the street price of the original push upwards the past few months. This particular deal is part of Best Buy's Deal of the Day, so it'll only be available today, and it's available on all 4 colors they have listed.

The UE ROLL Wireless Bluetooth Speaker is our pick for the best portable Bluetooth speaker. Brent Butterworth wrote, "The ROLL offers an irresistible combination of sound quality, ruggedness, water resistance, portability, cool features, and a modest price."

He wrote more detail about the interesting design of the speaker, "The ROLL's design might be the most radical of any Bluetooth speaker (except maybe that one that floats in the air), but the radical aspects of it enhance its functionality. Its flat saucer shape makes it easier to slip into a laptop bag or suitcase, and also creates an omnidirectional sound pattern that fills a room better than most conventional Bluetooth speakers do."

Kelty Cosmic Down 20 Sleeping Bag

Street price: $160; MSRP: $160; deal price: $128 with code SAVE20

Kelty is holding a site-wide sale that gives you 20% off of any items, as well as free shipping. Make sure to use the code SAVE20 to get this discount. We're focusing on the Cosmic 20 sleeping bag, normally $160 for the regular size, which drops to $128 with the code. You can also drop the Woobie 30 sleeping bag down to $52. We don't tend to see sales from Kelty that often, so this would be a great time to stock up on camping supplies.

The Kelty Cosmic Down 20 is our budget pick for the best sleeping bag. Tim Neville said, "The bag is pretty much your standard mummy bag when it comes to shape, hood, and draft collar, but a few nice features deserve applause. For one, it comes packed with 21 ounces of 600-fill DriDown, the same as the Mobile Mummy, which has just 0.2 ounces more of it. The Cosmic actually weighs 2 ounces less than our top pick, too, though it doesn't compress quite as easily. The shell is a beefy 50-denier polyester ripstop; the liner is a 50-denier taffeta. The footbox features a "natural fit," but our testers really didn't notice much of a difference there. The no-snag strip along the zipper is nice and wider than in previous models (but not totally snag-proof)."

LG Electronics 34UM95C-P 34-Inch Ultrawide LED Monitor

Street price: $600; MSRP: $900; deal price: $509

The best price we've seen to date on this monitor. While we did see a couple good sales around this price around the holiday season, none made it quite this low. Afterwards, prices stayed pretty consistently around $600. This is the model without Thunderbolt.

The LG 34UM95 is the ultrawide pick in our guide on the best 27-inch monitor. David Murphy said, "If you need a lot more space than our 27-inch 1440p pick provides, it's either this, a 4K monitor, or an ugly multi-monitor setup. LG's ultrawide monitor is the best option, because it makes more sense to get the equivalent of a seamless two-monitor setup than a single, ultra-high-res panel right now."

Deals change all the time, and some of these may have expired. To see an updated list of current deals, please go to The Wirecutter.com.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2016/06/30/wirecutters-best-deals-get-a-ue-roll-bluetooth-speaker-for-50/

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