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    How many turkey feathers does it take to make an ancient blanket? 11,500

    news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Yesterday - 18:48 · 1 minute

A fluffy gray blanket next to a coil of cord.

Enlarge / A segment of fiber cord that has been wrapped with turkey feathers, along with a single downy feather. (credit: Washington State University )

Indigenous Pueblo populations in the American Southwest—ancestors of today's Hopi, Zuni, and Rio Grande Pueblo tribes—typically wove blankets, cloaks, and funeral wrappings out of animal hides, furs, and turkey feathers. Anthropologists at Washington State University (WSU) have examined one such ancient turkey-feather blanket and determined it took thousands of those feathers, wrapped around nearly 200 yards to yucca fiber, to make, according to a new paper published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.

"Blankets or robes made with turkey feathers as the insulating medium were widely used by Ancestral Pueblo people in what is now the Upland Southwest, but little is known about how they were made because so few such textiles have survived due to their perishable nature," said co-author Bill Lipe , emeritus professor of anthropology at WSU. "The goal of this study was to shed new light on the production of turkey feather blankets and explore the economic and cultural aspects of raising turkeys to supply the feathers."

For their study, Lipe and his WSU colleague and co-author, Shannon Tushingham, studied a blanket framework on display at the Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum in Blanding, Utah. Although insects had devoured the original feather vanes and barbs, the shafts were still visible, wrapped around yucca fiber cords. They were also able to look at a second, smaller blanket which still had most of its feathers intact. Both blankets roughly date to the early 1200s CE.

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    A mildly insane idea for disabling the coronavirus

    news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Yesterday - 17:06 · 1 minute

Colorful blobs cluster together like a bunch of grapes.

Enlarge / Diagram of the structure of the virus' spike protein. (credit: McLellan Lab, University of Texas at Austin )

When the COVID-19 pandemic was first recognized for the threat that it is, researchers scrambled to find anything that might block the virus' spread. While vaccines have grabbed much of the attention lately, there was also the hope that we could develop a therapy that would block the worst effects of the virus. Most of these have been extremely practical: identify enzymes that are essential for the virus to replicate, and test drugs that block similar enzymes from other viruses. These drugs are designed to be relatively easy to store and administer and, in some cases, have already been tested for safety in humans, making them reasonable choices for getting something ready for use quickly.

But the tools we've developed in biotechnology allow us to do some far less practical things, and a paper released today describes how they can be put to use to inactivate SARS-CoV-2. This is in no way a route to a practical therapy, but it does provide a fantastic window into what we can accomplish by manipulating biology.

Throw it in the trash

The whole effort described in the new paper is focused on a simple idea: if you figure out how to wreck one of the virus' key proteins, it won't be able to infect anything. And, conveniently, our cells have a system for destroying proteins, since that's often a useful thing to do. In some cases, the proteins that are destroyed are damaged; in others, the proteins are made and destroyed at elevated paces to allow the cell to respond to changing conditions rapidly. In a few cases, changes in the environment or the activation of signaling pathways can trigger widespread protein destruction, allowing the cell to quickly alter its behavior.

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    That time Roger Ebert said games will never be as worthy as movies

    news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Yesterday - 15:33 · 1 minute

Film critics Roger Ebert (center) and Gene Siskel appear on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson on December 12, 1986.

Enlarge / Film critics Roger Ebert (center) and Gene Siskel appear on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson on December 12, 1986. (credit: Gary Null/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images)

Update: Fifteen years ago around Thanksgiving, legendary film critic Roger Ebert set off a mini-storm in video game journalism circles by taking to his column and poo-pooing the medium. And with Ars staff off for the holiday weekend, we thought it'd be interesting to resurface this analysis of Ebert's critiques from Ars contributor Jeremy Reimer. While there have definitely been a few game-to-film duds in the intervening years (ahem, Assassin's Creed ), there's been no shortage of breathtaking video game storytelling ( Her Story> ) or Hollywood looking to new titles ( Last of Us on HBO , either. This piece originally ran on November 30, 2005 and appears unchanged below.

Roger Ebert, the famed movie critic for the Chicago Sun-Times and co-host of the syndicated TV show Ebert and Roper at the Movies has thrown down the gauntlet on his website by stating that video games will never be as artistically worthy as movies and literature. Ebert does not believe that this quality gap can ever be crossed, as he feels it is a fundamental limitation of the medium itself:

There is a structural reason for that: Video games by their nature require player choices, which is the opposite of the strategy of serious film and literature, which requires authorial control.

Whether or not interactive art can still be art is an interesting question. Modern artists such as Chin Chih Yang , who design interactive multimedia projects as well as creating "traditional" art, would probably tell you that whether something is "art" depends on only the artist and the audience, and not the medium itself. However, there are undoubtedly more conservative artists who would dismiss "interactive multimedia projects" as not being worthy of the term art. Of course this debate is not a new one, nor has it been confined to video games. Movies and comic books both struggled (and still struggle) to receive the same level of respect as traditional media, such as literature and dramatic plays.

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    Linus Torvalds doubts Linux will get ported to Apple M1 hardware

    news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Yesterday - 14:15

It would be great to see Linux running and fully operational on Apple M1 hardware like this Mac Mini—but it seems unlikely to happen.

Enlarge / It would be great to see Linux running and fully operational on Apple M1 hardware like this Mac Mini—but it seems unlikely to happen. (credit: Produnis / Jim Salter )

In a recent post on the Real World Technologies forum—one of the few public internet venues Linux founder Linus Torvalds is known to regularly visit—a user named Paul asked Torvalds, "What do you think of the new Apple laptop?"

"I'd absolutely love to have one, if it just ran Linux," Torvalds replied. "I've been waiting for an ARM laptop that can run Linux for a long time. The new [Macbook] Air would be almost perfect, except for the OS."

Torvalds, of course, can already have an ARM based Linux laptop if he wants one—for example, the Pinebook Pro . The unspoken part here is that he'd like a high-performance ARM based laptop, rather than a budget-friendly but extremely performance constrained design such as one finds in the Pinebook Pro, the Raspberry Pi, or a legion of other inexpensive gadgets.

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    Apple’s M1 MacBook Air has that Apple Silicon magic

    news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Yesterday - 13:15

Hey, my macro lens still works!

Enlarge / Hey, my macro lens still works! (credit: Lee Hutchinson)

The new M1-powered MacBook Air is hilariously fast, and the battery lasts a long-ass time.

If you stop reading this review immediately after this, then know that unless Windows virtualization is a requirement of your workflow, you should probably just go ahead and sell your old MacBook Air immediately and get this thing instead.

Assuming you've got a grand or so lying around that you weren't going to spend on something else. But hey, if you do, then I can confidently tell you that in spite of what a legion of Doubting Thomases (including me!) might have said about Apple's freshman effort at its own PC silicon, it is now my studied opinion that there are far, far stupider ways to part with your cash.

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    Nikola stock soars after confused investors think GM deal has closed

    news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 19 November - 16:30

GM CEO Mary Barra.

Enlarge / GM CEO Mary Barra. (credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Nikola stock rose 15 percent on Wednesday after confused investors apparently mistook a month-old GM website for a brand-new announcement about the companies' pending agreement. The stock is up another 7 percent as I write this on Thursday morning.

Shortly before 10am ET on Wednesday, people began sharing links to this GM page on social media.

"We signed an agreement with Nikola to engineer and manufacture the Nikola Badger," the GM page said. Nikola's stock price soared from $22.23 at 9:30am to $24.94 at 10am—a 12-percent jump in 30 minutes.

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    Mac mini and Apple Silicon M1 review: Not so crazy after all

    news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 19 November - 14:03

Apple is crazy, right? The Mac just had its best year of sales ever, and Cupertino is hitting the platform with a shock like it hasn’t had in nearly 15 years—back in a time when the Mac was not having such a good year. Apple is beginning the process of replacing industry-standard Intel chips with its own, custom-designed silicon.

In a way, we're not just reviewing the new Mac mini—a Mac mini is always a Mac mini, right? We're reviewing an ARM-based Mac for the first time. And this is not exactly the same story as all the other ARM machines we've looked at before, like Windows 10 on ARM—a respectable option with some serious tradeoffs.

Sure, longer battery life and quick waking from sleep are already out there on other ARM computers. But as you may have seen in our hands-on earlier this week , what we're encountering here is also a performance leap—and as you'll also see in this review, a remarkable success at making this new architecture compatible with a large library of what could now, suddenly, be called legacy Mac software.

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    Nvidia used neural networks to improve video calling bandwidth by 10x

    news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 19 November - 12:57 · 1 minute

Instead of transmitting an image for every frame, Maxine sends keypoint data that allows the receiving computer to re-create the face using a neural network.

Enlarge / Instead of transmitting an image for every frame, Maxine sends keypoint data that allows the receiving computer to re-create the face using a neural network. (credit: Nvidia)

Last month, Nvidia announced a new platform called Maxine that uses AI to enhance the performance and functionality of video conferencing software. The software uses a neural network to create a compact representation of a person's face. This compact representation can then be sent across the network, where a second neural network reconstructs the original image—possibly with helpful modifications.

Nvidia says that its technique can reduce the bandwidth needs of video conferencing software by a factor of 10 compared to conventional compression techniques. It can also change how a person's face is displayed. For example, if someone appears to be facing off-center due to the position of her camera, the software can rotate her face to look straight instead. Software can also replace someone's real face with an animated avatar.

Maxine is a software development kit, not a consumer product. Nvidia is hoping third-party software developers will use Maxine to improve their own video conferencing software. And the software comes with an important limitation: the device receiving a video stream needs an Nvidia GPU with tensor core technology. To support devices without an appropriate graphics card, Nvidia recommends that video frames be generated in the cloud—an approach that may or may not work well in practice.

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