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08.05.16 | 8:02 am

Researchers might have found a way to protect our brains from hackers

"Wait, what?" is probably your first thought, but in actuality brain-computer interfaces are closer than we think, perhaps arriving as early as the next decade, reports TheNextWeb. And though this new interaction could do wonders for computing—allowing people to easily manipulate connected devices by just using their thoughts—it also means our brains could literally be susceptible to hackers since, for now at least, brain-computer interfaces access all the brain waves originating from your head, not just the ones they need. University of Washington Biorobotics Lab engineer Tamara Bonaci explains:

"Broadly speaking, the problem with brain-computer interfaces is that, with most of the devices these days, when you're picking up electric signals to control an application… the application is not only getting access to the useful piece of EEG needed to control that app; it's also getting access to the whole EEG. And that whole EEG signal contains rich information about us as persons."

This means hackers or governments could potentially easily access a person's thoughts when they operate, say, a bionic limb. But the Biorobotics Lab team may have a solution: it's testing a "BCI Anonymizer" tool that would allow computers and other brain connected devices to receive only the limited amount of a person's thoughts it would need to operate, restricting access to the rest of the person's thoughts. Biorobotics likens this process to someone accessing an app but not the operating system the app runs on. The "BCI Anonymizer" tool is still in development—and it's yet to see if it will work—but we're running out of time. Brain-computer interfaces could be with us by 2025.

05.26.17 | 2:23 pm

Walt Disney World’s new Avatar-inspired park opens this weekend

Eight years after the film Avatar hit the big screen, Walt Disney World is bringing the movie to life in the form of a new expansion to Disney's Animal Kingdom.

"Pandora- The World of Avatar" officially opens on Saturday. First announced in 2012, the newest expansion of the park includes exciting new rides, interactive scenery, and unique Avatar-inspired food options.

05.26.17 | 1:22 pm

Sprig is the latest casualty among meal-delivery services

Once upon a time, a bunch of startups came up with the same idea: preparing and delivering meals which consumers could order with a few taps on a smartphone. Then SpoonRocket shut down. Earlier this month, so did Maple.

And now Sprig has ceased operations, just a few months after it revamped its service to offer more variety. In a blog post, cofounder Gagan Biyani said that scaling up the business had proven challenging. And he obliquely acknowledged the competition from services such as Postmates and DoorDash  that simply deliver from existing eateries rather than making their own meals: "Today, there are thousands of restaurants delivering amazing food to you; we're hopeful for the future."

Back in January 2016, I wrote about Sprig's meal R&D operation—and visited its San Francisco kitchen, located in a former Chevy's Mexican restaurant.

05.26.17 | 12:34 pm

Tidal CEO Jeff Toig is out–who will save the struggling music service?

Tidal just lost its CEO, according to Billboard. Jeff Toig, who was hired to run the service in early 2016 (as its third CEO in one year), reportedly left the music service in March. The Jay-Z-owned music service has relied heavily on star power and album exclusives, but has failed to grow beyond 1 million subscribers (as Spotify blew past the 100 million listener mark). In January, the company sold a 33% stake to Sprint for $200 million

No word yet on who will be replacing Toig, but they'll certainly have their work cut out for them.

05.26.17 | 12:32 pm

On this day 22 years ago, Bill Gates wrote his legendary “Internet Tidal Wave” memo

In the spring of 1995, thanks to the rapid commercialization of the world wide web, the world was on the cusp of the internet era—a shift with profound implications for Microsoft, the company that dominated PC software. Its cofounder and CEO Bill Gates responded with a five-alarm internal memo, "The Internet Tidal Wave," that gave "the highest level of importance" to responding to this challenge in the most sweeping, ambitious manner possible..

Gates was far from the only person who had figured out that the internet would change everything and might displace titans such as Microsoft. But his memo is still an impressively crisp, comprehensive analysis of what might happen, and how Microsoft might respond. (The company's aggressive tactics against Netscape would eventually leave it in trouble with the U.S. Department of Justice.)

The whole memo is available for your perusal at Letters of Note.

05.26.17 | 12:14 pm

Hillary Clinton implicitly compares Trump to Nixon: a presidency ending in “disgrace” and “impeachment”

In her commencement speech at Wellesley College, her alma mater, Hillary Clinton implicitly compared President Trump to Richard Nixon, by discussing that earlier era and describing "a man whose presidency would eventually end in disgrace with his impeachment" after he fired the man investigating him. It was a clear reference to Nixon's firing of special prosecutor Archibald Cox in 1973, and pegged to Trump's recent firing of FBI Director James Comey. Clinton's remarks were greeted with applause.

She also joked about how she coped with losing the election in November: "Long walks in the woods, organizing my closets. I won't lie: Chardonnay helped too."

05.26.17 | 12:09 pm

NASA went to Jupiter and all we got were these amazing photos

NASA has just released photos from their Juno mission and for the first time scientists are getting a good look at Jupiter. And, much like the first time you see a Tinder date in real life, they are stunned by the difference between idea and reality.

According to the space experts, Jupiter is "a complex, gigantic, turbulent world, with Earth-sized polar cyclones, plunging storm systems that travel deep into the heart of the gas giant, and a mammoth, lumpy magnetic field." (Note to NASA scientists: referring to something as "lumpy" is never ideal.) NASA researchers apparently thought Jupiter would be "boring" and have been pleasantly surprised by the photos that Juno has been sending back. "We knew, going in, that Jupiter would throw us some curves," said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. "There is so much going on here that we didn't expect that we have had to take a step back and begin to rethink of this as a whole new Jupiter."

Check out NASA's photos and bask in the glory of it all. 


[Photos: NASA]

05.26.17 | 12:00 pm

Listen to a new album inspired by the sound of DNA 

If you're looking for the happy nexus between Bonnaroo and the World Science Festival, crank up a new EP and the accompanying music video inspired by the sound of your genetic material as it moves through cells.  

The five-song The Chromos EP—available to download here—is a collaboration between musician and sound producer Max Cooper, visual artist Andy Lomas, and researchers from the Babraham Institute in Cambridge. It captures the elegant movement of genetic organization in cells accompanied by Cooper's evocative soundscapes. It looks like a cross between water ballet and a laser light show, all performed by DNA. It was partially inspired by the work of Dr. Csilla Varnai, who uses computer models to recreate how genetic information is recorded on DNA. Read more about the project here.

05.26.17 | 11:53 am

You can now stream the new Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper” remix on Spotify and Apple Music

The sonically overhauled reissue of The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is now available to stream on Spotify, Apple Music, and other subscription services. This deluxe edition features a fully remixed version of the transformative album, plus a slew of bonus tracks and outtakes. It sounds great.

"The feedback we got back is that you can suddenly hear everything," says Giles Martin, son of late Beatles producer George Martin, who led the project to retool the sound of the album. You can read our deep dive with Martin about the whole process here.

05.26.17 | 11:10 am

Silicon Valley’s congressman is angry that Trump’s budget would starve “coal-mining-to-coding” project

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) is upset that the proposed budget would close the Appalachian Regional Commission, which helps fund the retraining project in eastern Kentucky. As Fast Company reported a few months ago, Khanna traveled to "Silicon Holler" to find out ways to bridge the gap between Silicon Valley and Appalachia, especially when it comes to jobs in the digital economy.

"Is there a way that we could have the president visit there, or you visit there and see firsthand the jobs that are being created for coal miners' kids and others?" Khanna asked White House budget director Mick Mulvaney during hearings this week, reports Politico. Mulvaney didn't budge: "Certainly there are anecdotes of success within that program," he said. "It's just that when we sat down to look at it, we had a very difficult time confirming it was regularly as successful as you mention." 

05.26.17 | 11:00 am

Target gets in bed with Casper, the internet’s favorite mattress 

Target wanted to buy online mattress Casper outright (they probably got the idea after they hearing about it on every single Cpodcast) and offered a whopping $1 billion to the mattress upstart. However, according to ReCode, they couldn't work out a deal. Instead, Target is now reportedly taking a minority stake in the company—yes, they are getting in bed with the mattress makers—to the tune of $75 million. As TechCrunch reports, that may be just the first installment of a $100 million deal. 

The news comes after Target announced that Casper mattresses and bedding would be available online and in 35 Target stores near college campuses. It's a similar move to the once-online only Bevel razor subscription service that is now on Target shelves. It should also be noted that Casper already sells its pop-up mattresses on Amazon as well as at WestElm.com and in some West Elm stores, so Casper is probably more excited about the investment than the brick-and-mortar expansion. The only question remains whether if you buy a Casper mattress in a Target store, if you still get the giant boxes that have delighted the children of so many podcasters who feel compelled to recount the fact during the ad portions of their shows. 

[Photo: Casper]

05.26.17 | 10:56 am

Bulletproof 360 raises $19M so that more people can put butter in their coffee

Bulletproof 360, the company behind the Bulletproof Coffee fad that has people putting oil and butter in their coffee, has raised $19 million in funding, reports TechCrunch. The company claims its coffee product is an ideal breakfast substitute, as well as free of bad "myotoxins," which the startup claims are included in most other coffees (this theory has been called into question many times over). 

All the same, people seem to love Bulletproof Coffee–the company plans to open more stores soon. A few years ago, Fast Company's Chris Gayomali tried the drink for two weeks. Read all about his saga with the faddy drink here

05.26.17 | 9:37 am

A bill that makes it easier for gig economy workers to get benefits was just introduced in Congress

If you think about it, being a U.S. senator is basically a temp job where you are constantly up for performance review. Hopefully they will keep that in mind as they weigh a bill that would make it easier for gig economy workers to get health insurance, retirement benefits, workers' comp, and more. The new bill, introduced in the Senate by Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and in the House by Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA) on Thursday, would set aside $20 million for a Labor Department grant program to help nonprofits and local governments innovate in their ability to offer employment benefits to Lyft drivers, Task Rabbiters, Etsy sellers, and other gig economy workers, mirroring efforts in states like Washington, New York, and New Jersey. 

"We need to support innovative policies that address the rapidly changing workforce to ensure we have an economy that works for everyone," Congresswoman DelBene said in a statement about the bill. "Whether you make a living through mobile car services or by selling crafts online, workers deserve access to benefits." It's an important move that could help a growing number of American workers. New data by Intuit and Emergent Research shows that 9.2 million Americans are expected to be working in the gig economy by 2021, up from 3.8 million last year.