Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Oh, Never Mind: Top 5 Retracted Science Studies of 2013

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In the publish-or-perish world of academia, the pressure can be intense for scientists to get their work out in front of peers and to secure more funding for further research — so much so that, well, let's just say mistakes can happen.

Some mistakes are innocent, such as an accidental mislabeling of data or images that leads the researchers to an erroneous conclusion. Other mistakes reflect a serious lapse in ethics or common sense.

Mistakes often result in a scientific retraction, a public removal of the flawed paper from publication. A private, U.S.-based blog called Retraction Watch keeps track of such retractions, which seem to be on the rise these days. Below are five of the more curious retractions from 2013, culled from more than 100 listed on the Retraction Watch blog. Read more...

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Luke, Leia and MegaMan: 'Star Wars' Reimagined as 1980s Anime

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Though the $4 billion Star Wars franchise includes manga comics and animated TV shows, no official anime adaptation has ever come to fruition

Until Lucasfilm licenses an anime series, then we'll have to rely on the Internet to make our long-ago galactic dreams a reality

YouTube comedy channel Nacho Punch just tried its hand at an anime version of the series, bringing together Luke, Leia and and, unexpectedly, Japanese video game character MegaMan.

Nacho Punch has no affiliation with Lucasfilm, but we're hoping for more of this silly, but impressive nod to the franchise. The animation is strong with this one. Read more...

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The Best iOS And Android Apps Of 2013

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Congratulations, Planet Earth! We made it another 365 days without crashing into the sun. Go team!

It’s the end of the year, and that means three things: booze, ridiculous sunglasses with numbers on them, and lists. Lots and lots of lists. You’ve seen our list of best/worst gadgets of the year. Up next? The Best Mobile Apps Of 2013.

Now, to be clear: there’s not a lot of science here. If we were going by the raw numbers, some Angry Birds spin-off would be the top app every year for the rest of eternity. Instead, these are the favorites picked by a bunch of geeks who write about this stuff all day, every day. We’ve seen the good, the bad, and the terrible — and after some heated debate, these apps emerged as the year’s champs.

We tried to stick with apps that launched in 2013, or, in some cases, the tail end of 2012. While many of the apps are cross-platform and we considered that a massively positive bulletpoint, we didn’t eliminate any of our top picks just because they were only on one platform or the other. Some are iOS only. Some are Android only. That’s just the way it goes.

Think we missed something? Got a favorite? Let us know down in the comments.

In no particular order:

coverCover (Android only):

Cover is the lockscreen we always wanted without even knowing it. It figures out what apps you use most and when, and automatically pushes shortcuts for those apps straight to your phone’s lockscreen at the right time. Use Gmail and LinkedIn a lot at work? It’ll catch on and have those apps at-the-ready as soon as you walk in the office. Driving? It’ll queue up Waze, or Pandora, or whatever it thinks you’ll need most.

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Seene (iOS only):

Poor Lytro! The oddly-shaped camera got its fair share of buzz when it launched back in 2011, with its special sensor that allowed for all sorts of neat tricks (like being able to “shift” the perspective of a photo a bit after you’ve already snapped it.)

Alas, like the landfill’s worth of standalone pocket cameras that fell before it, the Lytro’s functionality has largely been replicated by mobile apps. One of our favorite apps in that group is Seene. Seene lets you take super trippy “3D” photos with just your iPhone. It actually takes a bunch of photos as you move your phone around an object, then intelligently stitches them together using all sorts of computer vision voodoo.

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Newsblur (iOS, Android)

When Google Reader died on July 1st of 2013, a million hopeful replacements sprung up around its grave. While there’s no one-size-fits-all alternative, NewsBlur is a very, very solid option. It’s fast, cross-platform, and super pretty.

 

QuizUp (iOS only):
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Right around the middle of the year, Icelandic games studio Plain Vanilla shifted their focus from one-off, licensed quiz titles to an all-in-one quiz game with topics for everyone — and man, did it pay off. With an ever-growing library of 200,000+ questions, a super-clever multiplayer mode that makes games feel realtime when they’re not, and a gorgeous interface, QuizUp is one of the all-around best mobile games of the year.

Cycloramic (iOS only):

 

Sit your phone down. Push a button. A few seconds later, you’ve got a full 360° panoramic of the room.

How? Magic. And by magic, I mean an insanely clever hack that uses the iPhone 5S’ vibration motor to propel the phone around on a smooth surface. Does it work every time? Nope. But when it does, everyone’s head explodes.

BillGuard (iOS only for now, Android “coming soon”):

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BillGuard’s CEO says they’re building “what Mint should have been“, and they’re already doing a damned good job of it (aided, of course, by Mint having gone pretty stale in the years since its 2009 Intuit acquisition). BillGuard tracks your spending, provides a beautiful analytics interface, and quickly highlights any charges that seem fraudulent or that might be hidden fees in disguise. Oh, and it learns where you shop most and automatically finds coupons for you to use next time you go.

Oyster (iOS only):
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My New Years Resolution for 2014 is to remember what the hell my New Years Resolution for 2013 was. But if your resolution is to read more, Oyster is for you. Think Netflix, but for reading. $10 a month gets you all-you-can-read access to about 100,000 titles.

 

 

HeyDay (iOS only):
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Everyone has that one thing that they’ve always wanted to build, only to find out that someone has already made it really, really well. HeyDay is that thing for me. HeyDay is what the company calls an “effortless journal”, automatically pulling your photos, videos, and GPS locations into individual, timestamped journal entries. At the end of the day, you just go back through and add little notes to fill in the gaps.

TimeHop (iOS only):
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TimeHop scans your myriad social networking accounts to remind you of all the awesome things you were doing on this same day a year (or two) ago. It’s like a personal time capsule, or a “This Day In History” list for your life. Get ready to drown in endless waves of nostalgia.

 

 

Clumsy Ninja (iOS only):
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Clumsy Ninja is kind of like a Tamagotchi, if the Tamagotchi was a lil’ drunk dude in a ninja costume. You play games with your ninja to teach him new skills; where at first he can hardly walk without tripping over his own feet, you’ll quickly have him doing backflips and karate chopping dodgeballs out of the air. Sure, it’s a bit silly — and sure, it’s a classic time-killer/grinding game. But it’s also truly remarkable to see something like this running on a phone. The animation blending/ragdoll system alone is mindblowing.

Agent (Android only):
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Agent is one of those Android apps that could pretty much never exist on iOS, unless Apple either makes some big ol’ policy changes or builds it themselves. Agent makes your smartphone smarter in lots of little ways. Battery dying? It’ll dim the screen and turn off Bluetooth. Sleeping? It’ll silence your phone, but offer up callers/texters a way to ring through in case of an emergency. Driving? It’ll reply to texts to let people know you can’t respond right now, AND remember where you parked.

Tinder (iOS, Android):
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Tinder is dating boiled down to an almost absurd level of simplicity: a single swipe. Like someone? Swipe right. If they’re not quite for you? Swipe left. If they’ve seen your photo and liked what they saw enough to swipe you to the right, Tinder matches you up.

It ain’t my kind of thing (read: my girlfriend would punch me right in the schnoz), but the single folks at TC all swear by it.

Digg (iOS, Android):
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Surprise! After a rebirth under a new owner in 2012, Digg actually started a decent amount of traffic around the web again in 2013. Bigger surprise: they built a mobile app and it’s actually pretty damned good. The editor-curated content provides a quick glance as to what’s popular on the Internet at any given time, while the built-in news reader is another super solid alternative to the late great Google Reader.

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Duolingo (iOS, Android):

You’d be hardpressed to find anyone saying anything bad about Duolingo – it’s this year’s Internet golden child, and rightly so. It’s one of the best tools I’ve ever seen for learning/brushing up on a language… and it’s completely free. As part of your training, you translate bits of real world text from sites like CNN and BuzzFeed (which is how Duolingo makes any money.)

Sunrise (iOS):
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Hate what Apple did with the calendar in iOS 7? Me too! Fortunately, a couple of folks from Foursquare broke away to remind us that calendars can be pretty and easy to use. Looking for another calendar, but not feelin’ Sunrise? Honorable mentions to Fantastical (iOS), Tempo (iOS), and Any.do Cal (Android)

Vine (iOS, Android):
vine
Acquired months before it even launched, Vine is one of the stranger tales of 2013. Focused entirely around sharing 6 second looping video clips, many a pundit predicted Vine’s death upon the launch of Instagram Video — and yet, Vine continues to be where most of the Internet’s funniest short videos end up.




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Security Firm Warns About App That Pays for Unused Text Messages

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Since 1999, millions of people have donated time on their personal computers for the SETI@home project, which analyzes radio signals to look for intelligent life in outer space.

An entrepreneur now wants people to donate time on their mobile phones for a less high-minded pursuit.

Lookout, a San Francisco maker of security software for mobile phones, has published a warning about a free app for Android devices called Bazuc, which pays people $0.001 for each text message they allow partner companies to send from users' mobile phones.

The app, which targets people with unlimited text-messaging plans, comes with a major hitch: Using it violates the terms of service for many mobile providers, and some people's phones have been cut off. One feature of Bazuc's service is it helps companies evade spam filters by sending messages through multiple user accounts. Read more...

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Low-Key New Year's Eve Is the new Raging Party

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For many city-dwellers, the last straw was the surge pricing Uber announced Monday, which could see the cost of cars rise eight-fold at midnight on New Years' Eve. For many more, it was the various other forms of surge pricing associated with the evening: the cost of a babysitter (if you can find one); the cost of drinks (if you can squeeze through the crowd to the bar); the Happy New Year hats and 2014 glasses (worth everything today and nothing tomorrow).

Year after year of noisy, urgent revelry on the last night of the year has left many of us wanting something more fulfilling to mark the passing of 2013 — especially given that it falls in the middle of the week. Yoga studios are reporting increasing numbers for silent midnight meditation. Celebrities such as Billy Crystal are trumpeting their plans for a quiet night in; he'll be talking to the grandkids on Skype Read more...

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Feeling Nervous? Don't Try to Calm Down — Get Excited

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Human beings, being human, get anxious. We all do, except psychopaths. An estimated 40 million Americans suffer from anxiety of some form at any given time. Some of us get really, really anxious, like Scott Stossel, a writer and editor at the Atlantic whose memoir of a lifelong and often paralyzing struggle with the condition is about to be published. For those of us to whom anxiety is a more occasional visitor, the condition can be crippling.

There's a reason for performance anxiety, of course; it focuses the mind, and without it some of us would never complete anything. But there are real costs, as well: Anxiety has been shown to sap our working memory and information processing, the very capacities we need to perform well in any task that requires thinking. "Anxious negotiators make low first offers, exit early, and earn less profit than neutral state negotiators," writes Alison Wood Brooks, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School. "Similarly, anxious individuals seek out and rely more heavily on advice, even when the advice is obviously bad, because they do not feel confident in their own ability to make good judgments." Read more...

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Spider-Man Takes Over Times Square for New Year's Eve

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Sorry, Batman and Superman — you're so last year. 2014 is the year of Spider-Man

Spidey has been dubbed the official superhero of Times Square's New Year's Eve celebrations, the Times Square Alliance and Countdown Entertainment announced Monday

The superhero will help ring in the new year to promote The Amazing Spider-Man 2, slated for release on May 2. An exclusive clip from the upcoming film will debut during the celebrations on the video screens in the middle of Times Square

"There's no celebration like New Year's Eve in Times Square," Marc Webb, director of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 said in a Marvel Entertainment press release. "There's the sense of energy and excitement that you can only get in New York and we certainly felt that energy and excitement as we shot the entire film here. The people of New York City truly embraced our production, and it's a wonderful feeling to be returning to Times Square to ring in the New Year." Read more...

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Dell Looks To Set A New Tone For Its Private Life

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The story of Dell is business legend: How a kid starting in his dorm room, hiding computer parts in the bathroom when his parents visited, managed to build a computing giant that employs over 100,000 people.

The Dell saga added a new chapter this year, when its founder and Silver Lake took it private, borrowing $2 billion of Microsoft’s foreign cash in the process.

The deal that closed on October 30th valued the company at $24.9 billion. Tucked away from the public eye, and released from the quarterly trial of investor expectations, Dell may now have the flexibility to retool its troubled PC business, and invest in new areas that could sport better margins.

Now that Dell has crossed the public-private Rubicon, it appears ready to recultivate its image. The firm has released a new video that compares its history to that of other well-known technology companies, like Dropbox. The clip has a clear point: Dell was started just like the other technology companies that you respect. The implication is that it retains that DNA.

A large company freed from quarterly earnings reports is a company unbound from many of its prior shackles. Dell bought its freedom, and we now get to see what it will do with it.

Top Image Credit: Flickr




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