New Dinosaur Was Built Like an Airplane

Pictured is an illustration of a newly discovered feathered dinosaur, Changyuraptor yangi.

A new non-avian dinosaur not only looked like a jet but also was an expert flier.

The 125-million-year-old dinosaur, Changyuraptor yangi, strengthens the evidence that flight preceded the origin of birds. The dino, named after researcher Yang Yandong and the Chinese words for “long-feathered raptor,” is described in a study published in the latest issue of Nature Communications.

It’s clear that this dinosaur, which sported big wings and a streamlined, aerodynamic body, could fly. The question remains: How did the 4-foot-long animal get off the ground?

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“It is difficult to say, and controversial, whether an animal like Changyuraptor was able to take off from the ground or launch from a perch,” project leader Luis Chiappe told Discovery News. “We do know that they were very maneuverable animals and our study shows that they used their tail to slow down while they landed.”

“At a foot in length, the amazing tail feathers of Changyuraptor are by far the longest of any feathered dinosaur,” added Chiappe, a paleontologist at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

Chiappe and an international team found the dinosaur in the Liaoning Province of northeastern China. Based on multiple recent discoveries there, this site was a hotbed of dino activity back in the Cretaceous, and many of the dinosaurs had feathers.

Changyuraptor looks as if it had four wings instead of the usual two, due to long feathers that jutted out from its legs. Such “four-winged” dinosaurs belonged to a group known as “microraptorine,” or tiny raptors.

Before non-avian dinosaurs went extinct, some of them hunted birds. They also likely ate fish, swooping over bodies of water to catch their dinner. Such moves would have been all the more impressive considering that Changyuraptor weighed 9 pounds. (By comparison, seagulls typically weigh only about 1.5 pounds.)

Apple Unveils Cheapest iPod Touch Yet

Apple has decided to give some major love to its flagship media player.

The iPhone may have largely replaced the once-iconic iPod for those enjoying tunes and apps on the go, but Apple has decided to give some major love to its flagship media player.

The company just launched a refreshed version of its 16GB iPod touch, which starts at $199 and features the rear iSight camera of its more expensive 32GB and 64GB big brothers.

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Available now at Apple’s retail and online stores, the $199 iPod touch is the cheapest version yet of Apple’s music player. Like the rest of Apple’s iPod touch lineup, the new 16GB model packs a 4-inch 1136 x 640 Retina display, an Apple A5 processor, a 1.2-MP FaceTime front camera and a rear-facing 5-MP camera. MORE: 15 Best iPhone Apps You’re Not Using

Apple debuted the fifth-generation 16GB iPod Touch last year for $229, but that version lacked a rear camera and only shipped in silver. You can now nab the device in a wealth of vibrant colors, including pink, yellow, blue, space gray, silver and “product”-branded red, the latter of which helps aid charities.

The new iPod touch ships with iOS 7, and you’ll be able to upgrade it to iOS 8 this fall to take advantage of features like Healthkit and Homekit.

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The 32GB and 64GB versions of the iPod touch have also gone down in price, now selling for $249 and $299, respectively. If want to enjoy most of the iPhone’s features without the contract — or you’re not ready to hand your child a phone — the new iPod touch looks like a pretty good deal.

 

Bitcoin to Get a TV Network

Broadcasts will be provided by a centralized authority, through the joint efforts of Kryptoradio and the Digita DVB-T provider.

This September, if all goes according to plan, the Bitcoin blockchain — a transaction database shared by all nodes in the Bitcoin protocol — will take to the radio waves in Finland.

The project is called Kryptoradio. It’s the result of a partnership between Koodilehto, a Finnish co-op specializing in open technology development, and another group that was responsible for developing and encouraging the adoption of the alternative digital currency known as FIMKrypto.

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Together they have secured the rights to transmit updates to the Bitcoin blockchain across digital terrestrial television in Finland. To do so, they will use Digita, a Finnish network that provides coverage for approximately five million people — 95 percent of the population, according to their estimates.

The transmissions are scheduled to continue for two months as part of a pilot program, and longer if they can find the funding for it.

In addition to broadcasting transactional data from the Bitcoin blockchain, Kryptoradio plans to provide updates from the major Bitcoin currency exchanges. The service will also transmit updates to the blockchain of the FIMKrypto currency.

Today, the blockchain (which tracks the creation and transfer of all bitcoins) lives primarily on a peer-to-peer network, and in order to access it, you need an Internet connection. But with the recent dramatic increases in Bitcoin’s market value, there has been a push to diversify the way that this information is propagated. Finding new ways to broadcast the blockchain will increase the redundancy of the network, making it more resilient to attacks.

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Jeff Garzik, one of the core Bitcoin developers, is already well on his way to sending Bitcoins to space on a cubesat. (Garzik tells us that the launch contract has been negotiated; it’s likely to be signed next month, and there could be a blockchain in space by August 2015.)

The idea is to use Kryptoradio for new applications that need an easy way to know whether a payment is made. A parking meter, for example, needs only to know whether the payment has been done. It does not need to send anything.

 

iPhone 6 Could Arrive with Apple Wallet

Apple is prepping its own mobile payments system.

 

The iPhone 6 is expected to offer bigger screen sizes and a super-strong display, and it also might replace your wallet. According to a new report, Apple is prepping its own mobile payments system that could launch this fall alongside iOS 8 and the company’s long-awaited new iPhone.

According to The Information, Apple is looking to partner with major credit card companies like Visa to create a method for paying for goods in-store with nothing more than your iPhone. Visa itself just debuted its PayPal-like Visa Checkout service, but Apple’s solution would likely aggregate multiple banks and credit cards. MORE: iPhone 6 Rumors: Specs, Sizes, Camera and More

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The iPhone 6 has been rumored to ship with near field communication (NFC) technology for several months now, which would make mobile payments a no-brainer for the upcoming smartphone. There’s also Apple’s payment patent published earlier this year, one that would allow Apple devices to interact with point-of-sale interfaces over a “secure link” to ensure user data isn’t compromised.

The Information’s report says that Apple may decide to skip NFC altogether and instead opt for Bluetooth or Wi-Fi for transferring payment information. In this scenario, your credit card info would be stored on the Web.

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The closest thing Apple currently has to a mobile payment solution is its Passbook app, which lets you store things like boarding passes and giftcards in a single location. Turning the iPhone into a wallet replacement could be as simple as making your credit card yet another item that can be saved to Passbook, complete with Touch ID verification to ensure no one else runs around spending your money.

Apps like Google Wallet and PayPal allow users to pay for products with their phones alone, so long as a store has a compatible point-of-sale system. There’s no official word yet on an Apple e-wallet, but we expect to learn more soon as the iPhone 6’s rumored September release window draws closer.

Most Precise Measurement of an Alien World Achieved

 

NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

The problem with measuring the physical size of extrasolar planets is that they orbit stars many light-years distant. But now, through a joint effort between NASA’s Kepler and Spitzer space telescopes, the vital statistics of one alien planet has been gauged through the most precise interstellar measurement made to date.

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The “Super-Earth,” called Kepler-93b, orbits a star 300 light-years from Earth and was already known — from observations of the star’s ‘wobble’ by the Keck observatory in Hawaii — to have a mass 3.8 times that of Earth. Although it may be called a “super-Earth”, there is very little similarity between Kepler-93b and our planet, however; it orbits its star at one-sixth the orbital distance at which Mercury orbits the sun — it is therefore a roasted world. But with the help of this most recent measurement, astronomers have deduced that it is likely of a similar composition as our planet, albeit a little more molten.

“With Kepler and Spitzer, we’ve captured the most precise measurement to date of an alien planet’s size, which is critical for understanding these far-off worlds,” said Sarah Ballard, a NASA Carl Sagan Fellow at the University of Washington in Seattle. A paper detailing Ballard’s team’s findings has been published in the Astrophysical Journal.

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Over seven orbits that Kepler-93b completed between 2010 and 2011, the researchers were able to use transit data from Kepler and corroborate those measurements with Spitzer’s infrared data. By combining both instruments’ data, a very precise measurement of the star’s girth could be made. From this, a precise measurement of the planet’s diameter could be made.

And the precision acquired is jaw-dropping. Kepler-93b is 11,700 miles (18,800 kilometers) wide with an error margin of only plus or minus 150 miles (240 kilometers). In other words, we now know Kepler-93b’s diameter to a precision of more than 98.7 percent.

“The measurement is so precise that it’s literally like being able to measure the height of a six-foot tall person to within three quarters of an inch — if that person were standing on Jupiter,” said Ballard in a NASA/JPL news release.

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With information about the exoplanet’s mass and diameter in hand, it was a relatively simple matter to gain a hint as to its composition. Kepler-93b is likely a rocky world with an iron core, much like Earth’s interior.

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Underwater Drone to Hunt Down Enemy Subs

The three-hulled ship will use sensors to track quiet, diesel-electric submarines.

The military’s ambitious plan to build an anti-submarine drone is taking shape.

Defense contractor Leidos has begun construction on the ACTUV (Autonomous Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel), which is designed to track enemy submarines across vast oceans for months at a time.

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Commissioned by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) project, ACTUV will perform a host of missions, from reconnaissance to surveillance. The trimaran, or three-hulled ship, will use sensors to track quiet diesel electric submarines. It will also be equipped with long and short range radar.

Situational sensors will ensure that the ACTUV avoids other shipping, according to Leidos, which says that the vessel will require minimum human input.

DARPA is keen to build an unmanned vessel for submarine hunting, removing the need for crew quarters and many other features of a traditional ship. A human is not intended to step aboard the ACTUV at any point during its operating cycle.

“It would help keep our troops out of harm’s way and provide capability in more harsh environmental conditions for a longer period of time,” said Leidos Group President John Fratamico, in a statement.

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DARPA even used crowdsourcing in the early stages of the project, offering ‘Dangerous Waters,’ an ACTUV Tactics Simulator, to gamers via for free download. The agency then reviewed gamers’ strategies in an attempt to improve the drone’s tactical capabilities.

Construction will last 15 months. The vessel is expected to set sail for testing on the Columbia River in 2015.

Drone Finds Missing Elderly Man in 20 Minutes

A Wisconsin man who suffers from dementia and had been missing three days was found in 20 minutes with the help of a drone.

It all started when, on July 16, 82-year-old Guillermo “Gill” DeVenecia went missing near Fitchburg, Wisc. The police issued a notice asking local residents to aid in the search and be on the lookout for a man, 5’9″ tall, 148 lbs with gray hair, wearing tan pants, a blue or brown shirt and leather sandals.

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After three days, DeVenecia had still not been located, even after the authorities used a helicopter, search dogs and hundreds of volunteers to look for the man.

When Colorado resident David Lesh, who was in town visiting his girlfriend’s parents, heard the news, he decided to enlist his drone. Normally, Lesh uses the drone and its remote-control camera to film aerial ski and snowboard videos. This time, he took the drone to a large bean field and began crisscrossing the space from 200 feet in the air.

In about 20 minutes, he had nearly finished scanning the field and need to make one last check in the field’s corner. As the drone approached, Lesh noticed a man stumbling about, looking a disoriented.

Sure enough, it was DeVenecia. Lesh, his girlfriend Katie Gorman and her father, Gary Gorman, tore through the bean field toward DeVenecia, and were able to help him to their car.

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The 82-year-old was found in good spirits and wasn’t sure why everyone had been looking for him. He didn’t realize he’d been gone three days. Even though he was dehydrated and tired, he cracked jokes and seemed fine.

“To be honest, when David was flying the drone over the bean fields, we thought we were looking for a body,” said Gary, who was surprised at DeVenecia’s condition.

Luckily, this story has a happy ending.

Smart Cat Feeder Uses Facial Recognition

At the risk of upsetting my cat Murphy — who I’m convinced can not only read, but speed-read — here’s the latest bulletin from the world of cat feeder facial recognition technology.

The Bistro smart cat feeder, designed by a team called 42ARK out of Taiwan, is the sort of crazy idea that Just Might Work. Currently in crowdfunding stage, the device combines several different technologies to ensure your cat is eating properly.

That’s “properly” as defined by humans, not by cats, which is why I just let Murphy outside and am typing this in the closet. Like other automated cat feeders, the Bistro lets owners dispense measured amounts of food when kitty is home alone.

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But that’s just the beginning. Weight sensors beneath both the food bowl and the platform in front calculate precisely how much food gets eaten. Information is sent wirelessly to the Bistro smartphone app, which logs all dietary data so you monitor or restrict your cat’s intake.

(What was that creaking? Did the front door just open?)

Here’s the ingenious part: For families with multiple cats, the Bistro incorporates a camera and a facial recognition system to identify which cat is eating what, and when. So if your alpha cat is bullying the others and stealing food, you can bust the furry little devil — with photographic evidence.