Engineers Develop Electric Car Battery That Can Heat Itself During Winter

When the weather gets bad, this battery can warm itself up.

Google Downranks 65,000 Pirate Sites in Search Results

With the aim to protect the interests of copyright holders, Google is making ‘pirate’ sites more difficult for its users to find. This week the search engine revealed more information about the scope of this effort. Thus far, Google has downranked 65,000 sites, a measure that led to a 90% reduction in referrals from search results.

The entertainment industries have repeatedly accused Google of not doing enough to limit piracy while demanding tougher action.

Ideally, groups including the MPAA and RIAA want search engines to remove clearly infringing websites from their search results entirely, especially if courts have previously found them to be acting illegally.

While Google doesn’t want to remove whole sites, the critique did prompt the company to make changes.

For example, in 2014 it updated its core algorithms aimed at lowering the visibility of “pirate” sites. Using the number of accurate DMCA requests as an indicator, these sites are demoted in search results for certain key phrases.

“Sites with high numbers of removal notices may appear lower in search results. This ranking change helps users find legitimate, quality sources of content more easily,” Google explained.

While the effects were felt immediately, it’s been unclear how many sites were affected by the algorithmic change. This week, the search engine is filling in some of these blanks.

In a comment to Australian media, Google states that it has demoted 65,000 sites in search results, a list that’s still growing every week. In total, the company received DMCA takedown requests for over 1.8 million domain names, so a little under 4% of these are downranked.

The result of the measures is that people are less likely to see a pirate site when they type “watch movie X” or “download song Y.” This means that these sites see a drop in visitors from Google and a quite significant one too.

“Demotion results in sites losing around 90 percent of their visitors from Google Search,” a Google spokesperson told The Age.

Indeed, soon after the demotion signal was implemented, pirate sites were hit hard. However, pirates wouldn’t be pirates if they didn’t respond with their own countermeasures.

In recent years, many infringing sites have hopped from domain to domain, in part to circumvent the downranking efforts. In addition, Google’s measures also created an opportunity for smaller, less reputable, sites to catch search traffic that would otherwise go to the main players.

Overall, however, it’s probably safe to argue that Google’s demotion efforts lowered the search engine’s referrals to pirate sites.

That said, demands to do more won’t subside. In Australia, Village Roadshow co-chief Graham Burke has been especially vocal. He has accused Google of profiting from piracy-related traffic and wants the search engine to permanently remove infringing sites from search results.

Blaming piracy for declining revenues, Burke noted this week that there are “empty desks everywhere … we can’t compete with stolen goods being sold for free.” And he is not alone.

Google sees things differently of course. The company has repeatedly highlighted that it has taken several measures to address the piracy concerns, while noting that the entertainment industries have a responsibility of their own as well.

What Color Are These Dots? Your Perception May Be Skewed by Context

It’s “the dress” and “yanny versus laurel” all over again. A new studypublished by Science found that the context in which we see colors—and, by extension, judge threats—can change our perception of their prevalence.

Researchers at Harvard University and other institutions showed participants 1000 dots ranging in color from very blue to very purple, and asked them to sort the dots into either category. For the first 200 trials, participants divided up the dots pretty evenly: Roughly half were blue and half were purple.

However, as the trials continued, researchers made sure that fewer and fewer blue dots were shown. Participants’ responses didn’t align with this change, though. They continued to see roughly the same number of blue and purple dots, and dots they previously labeled purple they now perceived as being blue.

This happened even after researchers warned participants that blue dots would become more infrequent, and that they would be given cash rewards for judging the colors correctly. The study wasn’t just about color, either. Similar results were observed when participants were asked to judge whether faces were threatening or non-threatening, and whether research proposals were ethical or unethical.

Even when the rate of “problems” (threatening faces/unethical proposals) went down, participants continued to see them in areas they previously considered benign. Researchers believe this “prevalence-induced concept change” could explain why so many people take a pessimistic view of the world, even if some of our social ills have lessened over the years.

“Social problems may seem intractable in part because reductions in their prevalence lead people to see more of them,” researchers wrote in their abstract. To learn more about this phenomenon, check out Science’s video.

12 surprising things to put in your coffee that will up your caffeine game

Say goodbye to cream and sugar.
John Jones/Flickr

Even if you genuinely enjoy the taste of coffee there are probably times when it does get a bit monotonous and you just need to switch up the flavor.

As it turns out there’s a whole world out there of coffee enhancers that don’t sound that terrible, and the best part is they’ll really amp up your caffeine game.


Plus, it can add a tasty kick.
 Mariana Bazo/Reuters

I can personally attest to the tastiness of this one. If you’re a typical milk and sugar coffee drinker, cinnamon will transform your morning joe. Besides for cutting the calories and adding a punch-y sweetness to your drink, cinnamon will also help boost your immune system and lower blood sugar levels.


It’s a big deal in the paleo community.
 Biz Carson/Business Insider

Butter in coffee has been popular with the paleo crowd for some time now but it is slowly gaining momentum among average coffee drinkers. The idea behind“Bulletproof Coffee” as it’s been called, is that the buttery mix helps burn more fat. Dave Asprey, the founder of the Bulletproof Coffee brand, claims that drinking coffee with butter gives your body fast quick energy that it will in turn use and burn. And once your body’s in fat burning mode, it’ll take on all that stored fat as well. Of course, the type of butter you use matters too, so if you’re going to try this one, grass-fed, antioxidant rich butter is the way to go.

Ice cream

Ice cream
It makes for a perfect dessert.

A scoop of ice cream in your coffee will of course add calories, but if you’re just looking to enhance the taste than this sounds incredible. Coffee and ice cream is not new, of course, the German drink, Eiskaffee, is exactly that — a huge scoop of vanilla with hot coffee poured on top.


Pull a ‘Salt Bae’ on bitter cups of coffee.

Adding salt to your coffee has been known to decrease the bitterness, so if you’re stuck drinking that sour break room coffee, try adding salt and then flavoring as you normally would. You only need a pinch.


It can make for a less bitter, more nutritious coffee.
 Adam Berry/Getty Images

Adding an egg to your coffee may sound like some kind of body builder’s trick to up their protein intake, but it’s actually a Scandinavian thing.

A raw egg is mixed with coffee grounds and little bit of water to create this thick sooty mixture. The mixture is then poured into a pot with more water and boiled for about three minutes. The coffee is then poured through a strainer to catch all the grounds and egg particles. What’s left is a surprisingly mild, amber-toned coffee, that is supposedly less bitter and full of nutrients.


Avoid this if you really want caffeine to have its maximum impact.
 Mario Tama/Getty Images

Just like cinnamon, cardamom is another spice that the average coffee drinker will appreciate. It adds a bit more spiciness than cinnamon but the sweet undertones will make you forget that you ever needed sugar to begin with.


Bottom’s up!

It may not be the ideal ingredient to add to your first cup in the morning, but spiking your coffee is a pretty popular trick. Some people add vodka for a cup of Russian Coffee, while others add Jameson and whip cream for a classic cup of Irish Coffee.

Coconut oil

Coconut oil
It’ll make your coffee more satisfying.

Adding coconut milk will thicken up the drink, which can leave you feeling way more satisfied and not starving half an hour later.

Lemon or lime

Lemon or lime
Lemon or lime peel can cut out bitterness.

Similar to why people add salt to their coffee, adding a lemon or lime peel has been known to neutralize the bitterness of coffee and enhance it’s sweeter nodes. Of course, it will also add a citrus kick to your drink so, if you’re going to add milk or sugar afterward, taste it first.

Condensed milk

Condensed milk
It’ll add the perfect level of sweetness to your coffee.
 Wikimedia Commons

Although it’s not super popular in the States, condensed milk is used often in many countries, especially Southeast Asia. It is much thicker, creamier, and sweeter than milk which is why adding a tablespoon, or so, will give your coffee a very tasty makeover. Condensed milk in coffee is most common in Vietnam.

Tonic water

Tonic water
If you love a little fizz, you’ll enjoy this.
 Marina Nazario/Business Insider

Popular in Sweden, adding tonic water to iced coffee will give your drink a refreshing kick. With summer in full swing, try adding tonic water to your cold brew at your next rooftop brunch. It’s like a creme soda, but with caffeine.


It’ll certainly give you an energy boost.
 Wikimedia Commons

Quadruple your caffeine intake with this sweet trick. Mix a cup of coke into you coffee for a bubbly pick me up. The soda will add a lot of extra sweetness to your drink, so start out with a dark or medium roast coffee in order to ensure the flavor isn’t overly diluted.

You’re probably washing your hands all wrong, study says

Researchers observe unique chiral magnetic phenomenon

June 29, 2018, Forschungszentrum Juelich
Magnetic skyrmions: Not the only ones of their class
Encoding digital data as a sequence of magnetic bobbers (foreground) and skyrmions (further back). Credit: Forschungszentrum Jülich/N. Kiselev

Tiny magnetic vortex structures, so-called skyrmions, have been researched intensively for some time for future energy-efficient space-saving data storage devices. Scientists at Forschungszentrum Jülich have now discovered another class of particle-like magnetic object that could take the development of data storage devices a significant step forward. The newly discovered magnetic particles make it possible to encode digital data directly with two different types of magnetic objects, namely with skyrmions and magnetic bobbers—if skyrmions are used to encode the number one, then the new structures could be used to encode the number zero.

These objects, which are referred to as “chiral magnetic bobbers,” are three-dimensional  that appear near the surfaces of certain alloys.

“For a long time, the unique object for research in the field of chiral magnets was the magnetic skyrmion. We now provide a new  for investigation by researchers—a chiral bobber—which is characterized by a number of unique properties,” says Dr. Nikolai Kiselev from Jülich’s Peter Grünberg Institute (PGI-1). Three years ago, together with the institute’s Director Prof. Stefan Blügel and other collaborators, they predicted the existence of this new class of magnetic structures theoretically. Now, researchers from the Ernst Ruska-Centre for Microscopy and Spectroscopy with Electrons (Director Prof. Rafal E. Dunin-Borkowski and his colleagues) have demonstrated the existence of chiral bobbers in a real material experimentally.

The stability of magnetic structures such as skyrmions is related to a property of the material known as chirality. Just as a right hand cannot be converted into a left hand for reasons of symmetry, right-handed and left-handed magnetic structures cannot be converted into one another. Furthermore, both skyrmions and the newly-discovered chiral bobbers are very small, with diameters of typically only a few tens of nanometers. Therefore, they can in principle be used to pack data very densely on a memory chip. However, their small size makes their observation highly challenging. “The visualization of magnetic texture on such a small scale requires special state-of-the-art techniques that are accessible in only a few laboratories worldwide,” explains Rafal Dunin-Borkowski.

Magnetic skyrmions: Not the only ones of their class
The concept of racetrack memory: magnetic objects move from writing to reading elements. Credit: Forschungszentrum Jülich

There is another important reason why magnetic solitons (another name for particle-like objects in nonlinear physics) such as skyrmions and chiral bobbers are so promising for applications. In contrast to data bits in hard disk drives, skyrmions are movable objects. Their motion along a guiding track in a chip can be induced by a very weak pulse of electrical current. This property provides new opportunities for the development of a completely new concept of magnetic solid-state memory—the so-called  racetrack memory. “The mobility of skyrmions allows data to move from write to read elements without the need for any movable mechanical parts such as read and write heads and spining hard disk itself,” explains Nikolai Kiselev. This capability saves energy because components that move generally require more energy, occupy more space and tend to be sensitive to mechanical vibrations and shocks. A new solid state magnetic memory would be free of such disadvantages.

“Until now, it was assumed that digital data should somehow be represented as a sequence of skyrmions and empty spaces,” says Stefan Blügel. The distance between successive skyrmions then encodes binary information. However, it must then be controlled or quantized, so that no information is lost through spontaneous drift of the skyrmions. Instead, the newly discovered three-dimensional magnetic particles offer opportunities to encode  directly as a sequence of skyrmions and magnetic bobbers, which can each flow freely without needing to maintain precise distances between successive data bit carriers.

Further research is required to develop practical applications. In the iron-germanium alloy studied by Nikolai Kiselev and his colleagues, the structures are only stable up to 200 Kelvin, which corresponds to -73.5 degrees Celsius. However, based on theoretical considerations, it is predicted that magnetic bobbers may also occur in other chiral magnets and, like some recently discovered species of skyrmions, may also exist at room temperature.

 Explore further: Bit data goes anti-skyrmions

More information: Fengshan Zheng et al, Experimental observation of chiral magnetic bobbers in B20-type FeGe, Nature Nanotechnology (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41565-018-0093-3

New SD card specification enables faster speeds, up to 128TB storage

The SD Association (SDA) released new specifications for SD cards at Mobile World Congress this week. The new specifications allow for more storage and faster read and write speeds. The new specification utilizes two popular technologies to accomplish this. The first is PCI Express (PCIe), a high-speed connection port typically used in computers. Often, computer motherboards use PCIe, which allows for connection to integral system parts such as GPUs and some solid-state hard drives. The second technology is Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe). NVMe is a standard for accessing non-volatile memory — memory that retains information after being power cycled. Additionally, the creators of NVMe designed it to be low-latency. It works in conjunction with PCIe.

Using PCIe and NVMe allowed the SDA to accomplish data transfer speeds of 985 megabytes per second. Dubbed SD Express, these new speeds will eventually come to all types of SD cards. Furthermore, the new standard allows for a new SD Ultra Capacity (SDUC) card that is capable of up to 128TB of storage. Manufacturers seldom reach maximum limitations like these. Previously, SDA promised a maximum capacity of 2TB. However SanDisk made the largest SD card to date, a prototype with 1TB of storage. A 2TB SD card would have an astronomical price. SanDisk’s 1TB card originally cost $800 USD but has since dropped to around $300. Since progress towards a 2TB card was slow, it will likely be a long time before we see any 128TB cards. However, the importance of having the capability to make SD cards that size cannot be understated. With new data-heavy formats like 4K video and 360 degree video becoming more popular, massive storage options like this will be necessary.

Discover This Forgotten Region of the Brain, According to a Neuroscientist

You’ve probably never heard of the claustrum, a small region of the brain, because scientists still know little about it. But, in spite of the fact that it’s not the most name-known part of the human mind, it’s still an important part of what makes you tick.

The claustrum is a tiny sheet of neurons that lie around the neocortex, like a crown, with connections to all other parts of the brain. While we aren’t 100 percent sure of all the claustrum’s functions — the brain is loaded with all kinds of mysteries — researchers have figured out that it does have a direct correlation to consciousness.


As an experiment, scientists excited the claustrum of each patient, and when they did, the patients lost consciousness — they were out like a light. When they removed that excitation, though, the patients immediately woke up. But, the craziest part of the experiment is that they weren’t aware they ever lost consciousness in the first place.

In addition to this finding, they were able to observe that the claustrum of rodents who were on anesthesia lost the ability to communicate with other parts of the brain, suggesting that the claustrum and consciousness are closely related.

So, even though we don’t know everything about it, the claustrum, and any other undiscovered regions, will keep doing their jobs while we are none the wiser. That’s the beauty of the brain.

Habitable water world exoplanets

June 29, 2018, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Habitable water world exoplanets
An artist’s conception of a putative water world – an Earth-size exoplanet completely covered in water – based on the example of the binary star system Kepler-35A and B. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

There are currently about fifty known exoplanets whose diameters range from Mars-sized to several times the Earth’s and which also reside within their stars’ habitable zone – the orbital distance within which their surface temperatures permit liquid water. These exoplanets are currently our best candidates for hosting life.

When, however, an exoplanet in the  has tens of percent of its total mass as water, and if it lacks an atmosphere with hydrogen or helium gas, it is called a “water world.” Some scientists have argued that water worlds are unlikely sites for life. They lack the land surface that drives the carbonate-silicate cycle, a process in which  gas, thought to be essential to maintain hospitable , is balanced between the atmosphere and the planet’s interior. CfA astronomer Amit Levi and his colleague have reanalyzed the physical and geological mechanisms in water worlds. They find that when the pressure of  is high enough, sea ice can become enriched in chemicals other than water and sink, driving a planetary current that in effect rebalances the gas pressure in a way roughly analogous to the carbonate-silicate cycle.

These scientists find that for this effect to work, the planet needs to rotate about three times faster than the Earth; this enable a polar ice cap to develop and produce a  in the ocean which helps sustain the mechanism. In addition, this temperature gradient will support freeze-thaw cycles necessary for the evolution of life on water worlds, according to constraints from prebiotic chemistry. They calculate a new “habitable zone” for this process around Sun-like and smaller stars; it generally falls within the boundaries of the usual habitable zone range. In conclusion, they note that for very small stars (smaller than about half the size of the Sun) the mechanism would not work because exoplanets in its habitable zone are probably tidally locked to the star and always have the same face towards the star.

 Explore further: The atmospheres of water worlds

More information: Ramses M Ramirez et al. The Ice Cap Zone: A Unique Habitable Zone for Ocean Worlds, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (2018). DOI: 10.1093/mnras/sty761

Fuchsia Friday: The web and Fuchsia’s first ‘customers’

This week in Fuchsia Friday, we take a look at how Fuchsia will appeal to web developers and an interesting look at Fuchsia possibly being used outside Google.


We’ve long known that Google is trying to bring developers from as many different backgrounds as possible on-board with Fuchsia. Apple developers will find comfort in Swift support. App developers are directed towards Flutter. Server developers should find Go to be more than capable for any task. Systems programmers will be thankful to have a choice of low-level languages with C/C++ and Rust. Scripting and simpler programming is also possible using Dart (the same programming language that Flutter is built around). But where does that leave web developers?

According to Stack Overflow’s 2018 Developer Survey, over 70% of professional developers said they use JavaScript. Google has already recognized the ubiquity of JavaScript by making Node.js available in App Engine’s standard environment. It’s obvious that Fuchsia needs to be accessible to those familiar with the web stack. Their plans are currently two-fold.


The first part is actually very interesting in more ways than one. As spotted by reader Indy, the Fuchsia Team is, as of this week, seeking mainline support for Fuchsia in JavaScriptCore. JavaScriptCore (or JSC) is a way to call JavaScript code in a consistent, cross-platform way, that is typically used for sharing code between your web and native applications. JSC is part of WebKit, which forms the basis of Apple’s Safari browser, and is distinctly an Apple product.

Up to this point, the Fuchsia Team had been using their own internal port of JSC, with no intention of making it publicly available for developers. However, something changed recently, as according to Fuchsia Team member Adam Barth, they’ve “gotten a number of requests from customers who would like to use JavaScriptCore in their Fuchsia applications.”

I find the use of the word “customer” here fascinating. It’s hard to say what exactly this means. The most obvious answer is external companies wanting to make Fuchsia applications, but that may not be the only answer. There’s not many discussions of “customers” in the Fuchsia Gerrit, but there’s one helpful reference where a developer mentions a “customer working on Gauss.” (We believe that Gauss is a smart speaker built by Google for Fuchsia.) This conjures in my mind the idea of it being another team of Googlers working with Fuchsia from the outside.

This all raises another question in my mind though. Why bring JavaScriptCore and not Google’s own V8 JavaScript engine from Chrome? JavaScript developers are likely more familiar with V8’s implementation of JavaScript, as Node.js is also built on V8. And it’s not like V8 isn’t coming to Fuchsia — V8 has had a dependency on the Fuchsia SDK since October. Perhaps whoever the “customers” are have enough sway to advocate for JSC to be separately available. Only time will tell, at this point.

Web Runner

The second part of Fuchsia’s plan is called “Web Runner” and seems targeted at making the web integral to Fuchsia. Currently in Fuchsia all web-related tasks are handled by WebKit’s WebView, but Chrome support is coming. Already, there’s a version of Web Runner in Chromium that confirms it will “run web applications on Fuchsia.” Web Runner will also be able to report some information back to the application that opens it, which means it will be good for times when applications need to open a webpage for whatever reason (usually for authenticating with a third-party service).

Of minor note, all instances of Web Runner are kept independent of each other, which is great from a security and privacy standpoint.

Web Runner is kept next to Fuchsia’s “Flutter Runner” and “Dart Runner,” which speaks to the web’s importance in Fuchsia’s application ecosystem. In particular, Web Runner reminds me greatly of Progressive Web Apps, which allow webpages to be “installed” as apps, with support for native things like push notifications and offline functionality. For a great example of what the Progressive Web App experience can be like, check out how Google Photos does it. It’s very possible that this is the goal for Web Runner, but it’s still too early to tell.

All-in-all, Google is definitely taking the web seriously, and this is an area that is seeing constant development in both the Fuchsia and Chromium repos. Needless to say I’ll be keeping an eye on it going forward, stay tuned for updates.

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