Dying Light – PC Game Review – Part 3/3

dyinglight14

We have arrived at the conclusion, the third and final part of this lengthy review of the Zombie survival open-world sandbox game: Dying Light!

Let’s see what we got:

Summary, Grading and More

The polish game developer Techland, who’s responsible for the Dead Island franchise, managed to take that formula and give it an accurate kick in the pants. Zombies in this game don’t just waddle around and rely on sheer numbers. There are multiple types of zombies and each got their own strengths and weaknesses – making them a seriously formidable enemy.

The lush graphics mesh well with the gripping (though unoriginal) plot and sub-stories to give you an intense feeling of being a part of the post-apocalyptic game world. No one is safe, and any character might succumb to the virus, zombie attack, or simply be killed by the opposing faction forces. However, the game is quite linear for an open-world game, and that means auto-saves that bring you to the closest safe house and thus having to cover plenty of ground to return to your mission each time.

But in the end, I give this Zombie fest Dead Island young and muscle-y brother a grade of

8/10

Why? You can see many games of different genres these days and most of them show no or little originality just as Dying Light. But Dying Light takes elements we’ve seen in plenty previous games, and bakes them into a well oiled gaming experience that sucks you in.

Dying Light Minimum System Requirements

INTEL CPU

Core i5-2500 3.3GHz

AMD CPU

FX-8320

Nvidia GPU

GeForce GTX 560

AMD GPU

Radeon HD 6870

RAM

4 GB
OS
Win 7 64Bit
Direct X
DX 11
HDD Space
40 GB

Yes, the system requirements are steep, and I wasn’t even sure my aging rig can actually run it, especially as my CPU wasn’t up to snuff, and my GPU is one generation behind the required AMD GPU.

But it seems that the requirements were an indication, not a “set in stone” kind of deal. My PC runs the game pretty decently, although I (naturally) have to set the Nvidia specific settings off, and the other settings to Medium instead of High to get an acceptable frame rate. The most important setting for game performance is view (or draw) distance. By default it will be set to maximum, but the lower you set it, the more responsive your game will get.

Here’s some freebies:

1. A nice juicy collection of Dying Light wallpapers – ranging up to and including the UltraHD level (2160p) – and thanks to Wallpaper Abyss By Alpha Coders!

Wallpaper sample. Be careful of Grandma!

Wallpaper sample. Be careful of Grandma!

2. Destiny style Loot Cave – and thanks to VG247.com for the helpful video:


Lastly, Here’s the official Dying Light Launch Trailer:

Now you can make your own educated decision as to whether you would like to acquire this game, or skip it!

I hope you had fun reading the lengthy review!

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Dying Light – PC Game Review – Part 2/3

So, in the first part of this Review, I wrote about the game’s plot and gameplay, but what about the game’s graphics and sound? I know it’s a bit superficial but it’s what people look for first and see when they play a trailer, or hear about a game from one of their friends.

Let look at:

Graphics and Sound

As I mentioned in the first part, Dying Light is a new-gen (or Next Generation) title, and also a AAA title – which means that millions were poured into the production and it took several years and a big team to accomplish.

Airdrop Flyby

The game uses a proprietary 3d game engine called “Chrome Engine 6″ which is tuned especially for Nvidia geforce graphic cards. That’s not to say it does work with the competition (AMD/ATI) but it does mean you won’t get the full effect with them. There have been some reports that the game suffers from a few noticeable bugs that hinder the game’s performance, but aside from the high requirements that are quite understandable, I haven’t encountered these issues myself. Previous versions of the game engine were used in games like:

Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood (2009), Sniper: Ghost Warrior (2010), Nail’d (2010), Mad Riders (2012)

and more recently in:

Call of Juarez: The Cartel (2011)[1], Dead Island (2011) [2],  Dead Island: Riptide (2013) and Call of Juarez: Gunslinger (2013)

The graphics are on par or even better than recent titles like “Far Cry 4″, “Alien Isolation” and “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare”.

Sound is nothing to knock off either, with many scary sound effects and good use of audio spatial location to make the sounds seem to come from all around you as you roam around the streets, buildings, open areas and tunnels. The Music by the polish composer Pawel Blaszczak does a good job of both pulling you in as well as changing the tempo to match your changing circumstances.

Harran from above

One beef I have with the graphics is that the general look is a little grey and dull in its whole. I believe it was done to accentuate the dire situation of a zombie infected city but it makes for a bit of a drab surroundings. Also, I would have loved to have more interaction with the environment – the ability to push, pull, and destroy objects as well as doors and windows in the style of Red Faction destructible environments. There is some measure of possible destruction as some wooden crates and certain objects in the game are allowed to be destroyed, but mostly its a very standard mostly indestructible affair which makes for a poorer game experience.

The gang is all here

With that in mind, the graphics are quite detailed and elaborate, with many objects lying around, dirt and neglect showing at every corner, fog and rain weather effects, flocks of birds from above, and blood & guts spatter affecting both humans and zombies alike, as well as injuries showing after you hit the zombies hard enough and/or often enough.

You can see a lot during the day

You can see a lot during the day

The night visuals are quite on the spot as well, with the dark volatiles showing on the in-game map as they prowl the streets looking for their next live victim, and the darkness making the lighted areas as islands of safety inside a living nightmare.

But at night its a game of shadows and monsters. Keep a flare at the ready!

But at night its a game of shadows and monsters. Keep a flare at the ready!

The game does not really cross the uncanny valley when it comes to the humans in the game. Having the Zombies look like ravaged versions of their former selves is quite acceptable, although they all look kind of plastic-y and too shiny, but having the human be a mere step behind photo-realism and never quite get there, even with the obvious effort put into motion capture (mo-cap) to get the movements right, is a shame. The biggest issue for me was less the almost realistic graphics and more the lack of facial movements that make all the difference.

The bad guy, Kadir "Rais" Suleiman, is a really bad guy

The bad guy, Kadir “Rais” Suleiman, is a really bad guy

However, as I said before, there is always a balance to keep when designing a (any) game. And twice as much when doing an open world/sandbox type of game. If you put too much into the graphics, the gameplay and AI will suffer and your investment is toast. If you put much more into AI and gameplay, the game will look like something out of the beginning of the century and the audience that’s been accustomed to polished graphic marvels will not touch it with a stick – unless its an indie game with an indie price to match.

So, game developers have to walk a fine line between looks and brains. And as they do, they will forever produce imperfect creations – because something got to give.

Multiple zombies inbound!

Multiple zombies inbound!

In Dying light, it’s the plot elasticity that gave – no decision trees, no multiple possible outcomes. Less of a truly physical engine with a match to real world destructibility. But, they invested into the look and graphics of the game – up to a point. Even with the most powerful machines, there is a physical limit to the number of polygons, and number of moving animations on the screen at the same time. You can see that in many games, but the last one in the Hitman Series (2012’s Hitman: Absolution) shows it quite well – the crowed model there allows for tens and sometimes hundreds of people moving at the same time – and as the numbers grow, the game performance takes a hit, and you can really see how the frames per second (FPS) rate goes down in massive crowd scenes.

The live ones are more dangerous than the undead...

The live ones are more dangerous than the undead…

The same happens in Dying light with animation heavy scenes, but I’m also referring to kinematics – the building of the human models from the skeleton out, means that if you want to get a real sense of facial animations, you’ll need to build a face with moving muscles. Each one of those will tax the gaming system considerably, so most games simply skip it and use pre-fabricated animations to pull off facial animations, or do a very limited scope of facial kinematics – meaning the range of impressions is quite short – unless it’s one of the main characters which quite visibly have a higher range of expressions.

To sum things up: As a whole, Dying light is a balancing act of graphic prowess, game mechanics and AI, with some cutting back on the edges to accommodate most of us mortals who don’t have a super-computer at the ready. However, as we seen in the past, you can make a beautiful large scale game and still have some of the elements they missed – my example is Far Cry – the 3rd and 4th installations both looked gorgeous but allowed for more freedom of choice, and multiple endings. However, they also did not allow for truly destructible environments which I suspect take a heavy tall on any game performance and even more so on an open world type of game.

I hope you enjoyed this part of the review, and next, will be the third and final part, with summary, grading, and some freebies!

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Dying Light – PC Game Review – Part 1/3

Dying Light

Dying Light is a brand new, sandbox type, zombie/apocalyptic first person shooter. It came out for Microsoft Windows, Linux, SteamOS, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One platforms on 27 January 2015 in North America and 28 January 2015 in Europe and Australia.

In this 3-part review I will give a good look at the game from different perspectives, but If you want the gist of it, here it is: The game is fun, scary and very entertaining, but it’s very far from original. Aspects of it are “borrowed” from games like Far Cry (the whole franchise and especially from the last one, Far Cry 4), Thief, Assassin’s Creed, Mirror’s Edge and a few others I can’t recall at the moment, as well as popular zombie TV shows such as “The Walking Dead”.

Dying Light is also one of the new-gen games. By that I mean that it is tailored for the new consoles (Xbox 1, PlayStation 4) and for powerful PCs. My own rig (Quad Q6700, 8GB DDR2, Radeon HD5850) can still run it, but definitely shows a strain.

So let’s begin:

Plot & Gameplay

Dying Light game mechanics will be familiar for anyone who ever played any kind of first person shooter. The default ASDW keys are in play, as well as F (for action), Tab (or mouse wheel) for weapon change, I for inventory, and so on.

Kyle Crane

Hanging for dear life is a day to day affair in Dying Light

The game itself revolves around Kyle Crane (played by you), a GRE undercover agent who’s deployed into the infected city of Harran in order to cease classified documents from the hands of a dangerous fugitive, Kadir Suleiman (aka Rais) who made the city his home. The city holds two factions that fight each other for food, medicine and safe locations. One is “The Tower” who are the good guys, and the ones who saves you after almost being mauled by zombies upon landing, and the other is Rais’s gang – a vicious group of outlaws ruling by power and intimidation.

Volatiles

Say hello to mister Volatile!

Time is quite important in Dying light as there’s a day/night cycle where the day is relatively safe with slow “normal” zombies roaming the streets alleys and buildings. However, the night is a whole new ballgame, with Volatiles roaming the streets. Volatiles are “Super Zombies”, they are smarter, faster, and when they find you they will converge in a pack to hunt you down. However, they only come out at night, so if you want to play it safe (er) you can duck into a safe house and spend your night there.

But safe is not a word you can use regarding the gameplay. You will die many times over. If not for zombies, than for unfortunate accidents – such as falling from building and towers, or failing to correctly estimate the distance required for a jump from one spot to the next.

A look at Harran

Another day at Harran

The game is very much Parkour friendly. That’s the part that was borrowed from games like Assassin’s Creed in which you leap from building to building, jumping while running and perform acrobatics on the go.

As in games like Far Cry 4, Dying light offers towers to activate (quite more difficult than FC4 to my taste), safe houses to clear from zombies and make usable, and a vast area with different environments (although mostly urban) to explore.

Degradation is another aspect of the gameplay. Your weapons are degraded with each and every use (makes sense since they’re mostly makeshift pieces of metal and wood), and the number of times you are allowed to fix them is limited, so you must keep your eye on your current weapon usability and cycle between them so as not the remain virtually defenseless against the hordes of living dead. You can also use your environment to some degree – spiked fences to kill zombies fast by pushing them onto it is one good option, while another is to electrocute a pool of water and let zombies step inside it.

Aside from the Main plot of accomplishing your task and helping the good guys (not always the same thing), you will find plenty of side quests to enjoy, and those will bring you to new areas of the city, with new terrors and plenty of zombies to go around.

Fun on the Tower

Towers are not always safer than the ground

The protagonist (AKA you, Kyle Crane) battles with orders from his superiors as well as tasks he is made to do by the evil Rais in order to keep the Tower people alive. He’s a good man in an impossible situation, but the game does not allow for decision making as the choices are made for you, unlike games like Far Cry 4, and others with decision trees that allow the plot to be changed by the player’s decisions. My guess is that using decision trees would have made a heavy game even heavier and the developers chose to pay the price of a more linear game for a bigger player target audience.

The game also allows you to tinker with crafting. You start the game with pretty much nothing, and collect makeshift weapons off the street and from shops and traders as you gather funds from bodies, boxes and containers. But it will take a long time till you get an actual gun. However, till then, you can combine different artifacts to give your makeshift sticks and knifes a little more oomph – such as fire, electricity, and even throwing stars that can freeze, burn or explode upon contact.

To sum up (this part): Gameplay is a standard funfare of first person shooters, with some twists taken from other games – like parkour, crafting, and day/night cycle to name a few. It doesn’t subtract from the game experience, and the visuals are quite impressive, but it does feel like the developers sacrificed a bit much of the gameplay to achieve the graphic fidelity of the game.

See you in the next part of the review!

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Mind helping drugs

Brain on Ritalin

Most people have already heard about Ritalin. For those who haven’t, here’s a recap from Wikipedia:

Methylphenidate (trade names Concerta, Methylin, Ritalin, Equasym XL, Quillivant XR) is a substituted phenethylamine and psychostimulant drug used for the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome and narcolepsy. Methylphenidate has been studied and researched for over 50 years and has a very good efficacy and safety record for the treatment of ADHD.[3] The original patent was owned by CIBA, now Novartis Corporation. It was first licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1955 for treating what was then known as hyperactivity. Prescribed to patients beginning in 1960, the drug became heavily prescribed in the 1990s, when the diagnosis of ADHD itself became more widely accepted.

The noise surrounding Ritalin, which has been around since the 1957, mostly pertains to the use of it as a sort of “magic-cure” for children who are diagnosed as being hyperactive. The effects are mostly undeniable and allow those kids to be able to sit down, experience better concentration and perform better socially and academically.

However, the possible side effects as well as behavioral changes detected in some of these kids worry many parents. The usage of a powerful psychiatric drug on undeveloped brains is sometimes worrisome.

Personally, as an adult who had experience in using this medicine for my own ADD (attention deficit disorder), I can say for myself that the benefits vastly outweigh the issues. Those mostly manifest themselves as side-effects – in my case dehydration, reduced appetite and sometimes headaches.

I only use the medicine selectively and when I feel it is needed – not too frequently. It may be that the daily usage with ADHD kids makes a significant difference that may do more harm than good.

However, for adults I believe that this is a powerful tool that should be used. I sometimes think back and wish I had the knowledge and access to it back in my school day. My life may have turned out quite differently.

What is your take on Ritalin? Do you support its use, or see it as the “Big Bad Wolf” in children medication?

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[Updated] Review: Minix Neo X8-H 4K Media streamer/TV Box

Minix Neo X8-H

[Update at end of article]

Tech Specs:

  • Minix Neo X8-H Android TV Box
  • CPU: Amlogic S802-H Quad Core 2.0Ghz (Cortex-A9)
  • GPU: Mali-450
  • RAM: 2 GigaByte DDR3
  • Storage: 16 GigaByte Nand Flash
  • Expansion: SD Card Slot, support max 64 GigaByte (reported to support up to 128 GigaByte)
  • Wireless Communication: 802.11n Dual Band Wi-Fi (2.4GHz/5.8GHz), Bluetooth 4.0
  • Dimensions: 135*125*25mm
  • Weight: 292 Grams

Packaging & Content

  • 1 x TV Box
  • 1 x OTG Cable
  • 1 x Power Adapter
  • 1 x USB Cable
  • 1 x HDMI Cable
  • 1 x IR-Remote Control
  • 1 x User Manual
  • 1 x Antenna
  • M1 Air Mouse
  • 1 x USB Receiver
  • 1 x User Manual for M1 Gyromouse Remote

Package contents

Setup and impressions

The Minix X8-H comes pre-loaded with Android 4.4 and a few apps, including XBMC media center ver. 13.2 (codename “Gotham”).

At first use, you boot in like any android phone or tablet, and go through the google sign-in/sign-on process, with one main difference – you are required to set-up the minix-specific configuration. It mostly pertains to Audio, Video and network settings – as the device supports wired LAN connections where tablets and smartphones do not.

The main screen can be either the basic google launcher, or a metro (tiles based) launcher. I found that it’s a matter of preference rather than one over the other.

After setting up the device, and adding any wanted apps via the google play store or manually, it’s time to set up XBMC which is the main attraction of the Minix.

The version included is specifically made for Minix devices, and that’s the main reason why the newer “Kodi” (version 14 alpha) is not included, though it is expected to arrive in a future update. It’s a powerful free media player that can handle multimedia of many types including Photos, Music, Video (both film and TV) and also provide access to specific resources via the web, and even Live TV channels through DVB adapters (not a possibility in Minix products as confirmed by Minix support) or IPTV access.

However.. It requires quite a bit of work to set it all up. If you like to access NAS or simply your PC/Mac hard drive via the home network, you’ll need to set up the path to it, and define what kind of content is available and where. Afterwards, the content may be updated on regular intervals automatically, but it doesn’t mean there won’t be mistakes.

The Minix allows for either wireless Wifi connection (2.4GHz or 5GHz) or 100Mbit LAN wired connection and both works very well.

It’s size is quite small and comparable to two average smartphones side by side. The bulky antenna adds some height but it’s still a relatively small device.

The package I got included a Gyromouse remote, which contains a gyroscope and allows to use the said remote as a pointer to control the screen in a similar fashion to that of a touch screen. It’s not quite there as the response time is not as fast or as accurate as that of a touch screen, but it’s a step-up from a standard remote for the same purpose.

Performance

I found that XBMC is less accurate with the identification of films and TV series than the older generation NMTs (popcorn hour devices are a good example in conjunction with a jukebox plugin). If the name of the show or film is not clear enough it might give an incorrect title, poster and description,  or even skip it all together.

Overall however, the device played locally and over the network any content I threw at it, and aside for some hiccups with live channels content (which is to be expected as the sources are unreliable to say the least) it performs admirably.

I still find that file/directory copying and moving between the Minix and my PC is cumbersome to say the least. I cannot access the device via SMB (windows network access) the same way I could with my old NMT streamer, even after performing ROOT on the device. I need to use ftp server program, or the internal file manager program to achieve the same goal. But that might be simply lack of knowledge of the Minix possibilities on my part.

All in all, the device is a very capable media streamer which is future proof for the next 2-3 years.

I recommend it.

[Update]

Just 5 days ago, a new updated version of the player named “Minix NEO X8-H Plus” was released. The changes are significant as the CPU is replaced from S802 to S812 which allows for HEVC (or x265) encoding in hardware – allowing for highly compressed 4K content to be played properly. In the model reviewed it can only be played in software mode up to 720p due to the heavy processing required for the codec. The new CPU also includes a more advanced WiFi communications supporting the AC protocol, and a 1000Mbit instead of the 100Mbit LAN connection.

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Why do games still fail to show realistic graphics?

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’s Kevin Spacey. Courtesy of Forbes.com

It may seem like a strange statement, accompanied by a screenshot from one of the latest and greatest hits on PC and consoles – “Call of duty: Advanced warfare” which features the digitized image of Kevin Spacey in quite a massive amount of detail.

But that comes to show the point: graphics in video games can achieve photo-realism these days, but they don’t. The people in them still seem like moving wax figures, even with perfect hair, dirt, and 12 o’clock shadow. Of course you’ll need a monster gaming PC to see the graphics in the top form they appear in this game’s cut-scenes (or you’ll get a very watered down version that doesn’t come close to the fidelity you see in this or other PR shots from the game).

But it is possible to make people look more… like people with today’s technology. I believe that the answer to why it’s mostly not done lies in the fear of the production companies from the possible connection between real-life violence and violent video games.

I’ll give a clear example: The known 2K’s NBA franchise, with it’s latest reiteration – NBA2K15, as well as Electronic Arts competitor NBA Live (15 being the current version) depicts quite realistic human graphics, as can be seen in the following two videos:

Seeing that these are sport simulation games, without gore blood or violence, they are “allowed” to push the the limits more than the gory games.

The gaming companies line of defense remains that video games are make-believe, exaggerated and comic-book-like creations and as such do not pose a threat to society. But advancing technology as well as demand from gamers does not make life easier for them as they are expected to show a rise in the level of graphics as well as game experience with every passing year.

So they use the technology to their advantage, and I suspect they actually over-do themselves in order to keep the characters just a bit unrealistic. Keeping the skin a bit too glossy, the eyes somewhat deem/overly sparkly or the movement a bit less or a little overly fluid.

They walk a fine line, and I’m sure others notice it as well. But how long can they keep walking between the rain drops? Consumers want what they pay for, and plonking a few thousands of dollars on a monster gaming machine makes no sense when the resulting experience is lackluster.

The possible solution? enforcing a more strict age policy, or adding a specific warning to realistic looking gory games that states “May contain photo-realistic violence, Beware!”. It may seems silly, but technology cannot be stopped, and if they big companies won’t catch up to the level that already exists today, the indie game developers will as soon as the technology becomes cheap enough for them to exploit.

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The Long Dark – PC Game (p)Review

The Long Dark

This game is in alpha stage and was released as a part of the “early access” section of Valve’s Steam service. That means it’s an ongoing game development in its early stages, and may contain bugs and missing features.

To start, and as a clarification, this game is NOT a black porn/adult film – as much as the name may suggest.

What it is, is a survival/exploration first person adventure which is set in a cold/frozen world.

It's cold out there

And when I say “frozen” I mean FROZEN. It is cold out there, and it’s not much warmer, or safe indoors either.

You start off somewhere on the map (random location each time), with nothing much more than the clothes on your back, and a bit of equipment – I.E. matches, flare, and not much more. No knife (good for skinning deer), no good warm clothes, and no food. And you need all these and much more to survive.

This game is unforgiving. The developer tried to make it as realistic as possible, so forget about health packs, health restoring food or sleep, and so on. You can get bandages, antiseptic, antibiotics, painkillers and so on, but they won’t do you much good once your health meter starts dropping to dangerous levels, and if you encounter one of the many wolves roaming around this frozen tundra, well, you are liable to end up as a bloodless popsicle in no time.

The game comes with two game modes: Story, which is not available as yet in this alpha version, and Sandbox – which allows you to choose your avatar sex (meaning the narration of your whining will be husky male or pleasant female), and the map – so far only the first one is included, but another one is in the works.

This is NOT any kind of shooter (first person, or third). This is a “do-your-best-to-stay-alive”. And the “winner” is the one who gets to survive the longest. In steam you get achievement if you manage to stay alive 15, 20 or even 40 days.

Surviving even 12 hours is a big challenge. Sure, you can try and find a hut, and bunk indoors for a while, but unless you have a serious supply of food and kindling (to keep warm) – you’ll end up dead – indoors.

The graphics are nothing to write home about – as can be seen from the screenshots I included. But this game is not about graphics. It’s about exploration, survival, and sound. The sound play a big part in this, because it builds up the atmosphere of despair. You hear the wind blowing, birds above, a wolf howling, and the soft steps of a deer. Your steps on a frozen lake make you worry that you might just crack the ice and fall in, but that doesn’t happen – at least not in this alpha version.

So, did I like it? YES. It’s a very difficult game, there are no saves (at least none yet) and you end up dying surprised every time, but you learn something new every time, and the map is never exactly the same. I recommend it for anyone who enjoys survival games!

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Liquid metal battery, HOT solar cells, and a Space Elevator!

 

Hot Solar CellsHot Solar Cells

Associate professor of electrical engineering Minjoo Larry Lee

Associate professor of electrical engineering Minjoo Larry Lee just got 2.5 Million dollars to develop dual-junction solar cells that can operate efficiently at extreme temperatures above 398.889 Celsius (or 750 degrees Fahrenheit). That’s about as hot as it gets in a brick oven. The idea is that in addition to converting a portion of the sunlight directly into electricity, the solar cells will use the remainder of the light to heat high-temperature fluids that can drive a steam turbine or be stored for later use. This dual approach may raise the efficiency factor from 20-30% of today’s photovoltaic solar cells to new, higher levels as well as allow for energy storage in high-temperature fluids, which will be more efficient than today battery technology.

Liquid Metal Battery

Liquid Metal Battery

Researchers at MIT have improved a proposed liquid battery system that could enable renewable energy sources to compete with conventional power plants.
Donald Sadoway and colleagues have already started a company to produce electrical-grid-scale liquid batteries, The battery uses two layers of molten metal, separated by a layer of molten salt that acts as the battery’s electrolyte (the layer that charged particles pass through as the battery is charged or discharged). Because each of the three materials has a different density, they naturally separate into layers, like oil floating on water. But the new formula—published in the journal Nature by Sadoway, former postdocs Kangli Wang and Kai Jiang, and seven others—substitutes different metals for the molten layers used in a battery previously developed by the team. Extensive testing has shown that even after 10 years of daily charging and discharging, the system should retain about 85 percent of its initial efficiency—a key factor in making such a technology an attractive investment for electric utilities.

Space Elevator

Space elevator by 2050Japanese construction company Obayashi, revealed today its plans to have a fully functional space elevator by the year 2050. As Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports, Obayashi says it is working to build a space elevator that can reach 96,000 kilometers (roughly 60,000 miles) into space, capable of transporting people and cargo at a much lower cost than the rockets traditionally launched from Earth. The trip on Obayashi’s space elevator is said to take a total of seven days one-way, with the destination being a space station that would be built specifically for this scenario. 7 days in a space elevator? and what if it gets stuck? any parachutes onboard? Brrr….

Cool stuff is happening every day! and here at Drops of Wisdom, we’ll keep you in the loop!

 

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Meditation can cure you through altering genes

meditationYeah, it sounds like New Age crap, but there is a actual scientific publication by researchers in Wisconsin, Spain, and France that reports the first evidence of specific molecular changes in the body following a period of mindfulness meditation.

So what does it mean? Well, it’s been a long known fact that experienced yogis (people who practiced Yoga) can control several parameters of their bodies including temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. The leap from that to being able to alter genes in a positive way is not as far as one may think.

After eight hours of mindfulness practice, the meditators showed a range of genetic and molecular differences, including altered levels of gene-regulating machinery and reduced levels of pro-inflammatory genes, which in turn correlated with faster physical recovery from a stressful situation.

Mind over body takes a whole new meaning when you think about this. But committing to the amount of meditation required for a meaningful effect may be more than most people would deem reasonable – the research group did approximately 6 hours of meditation per day for a period of 3 months. That’s A LOT. Never mind the time constraints of most working people, getting the resolve and self discipline to repeat this day in and day out (without visible gain for a while) is more than most people will agree to do.

Will technology be able to help us achieve the same effects but in a shorter time span? Only time will tell.

 

 

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Apple vs. Bitcoin & Android

applevsandroid-bitcoinApple announced yesterday three new devices: Iphone 6, Iphone 6 Plus, and Apple Watch.

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The new phones offer thinner bodies, bigger screens (4.7″ and 5.5″), and snappier (though only dual core) 64 bit processors, but other than that they don’t offer anything new. They include the standard myriad of sensors, and come in 3 different RAM flavours: 16GB, 64GB, and 128GB.

applewatch1

The new-ish comer to the party is the Apple Watch, which is Apple’s new offering to the busy smart watch market.

It offers several colors and a good new form of control via the knob/dial on the side of the watch which allows different actions according to the running app (map zoom-in and out in the map app, and so on).

The watch makes use of a specialized operating system created for it specifically (still unknown if it’s a variation of iOS or an altogether new OS), and include sensors that monitor the user’s health parameters such as Heart rate, caloric expenditure and so on.

It will sport a sapphire display , which is expected to make it quite resistant to cracks and scratches, and a large selection of straps as well as a selection of faces to choose from.

The watch offers a form of wireless charging, but there is still no word as yet as to its battery capacity.

These are nice bells and whistles, but they come at a steep price of 350$, and only towards the beginning of 2015.

Does the apple logo justify this price tag? Will this pretty gadget offer enough of an attraction for people to shell out that much cash for a smart watch in an already crowded market where most of its competitors offer the same or more for a lower price tag? (and still don’t really fly off the shelf..)

The big issue with smart watches, or as the manufacturers like to call them “wearable tech” is it’s battery life, and price point.

They come as an appendage to the always there smartphone and unlike their good old predecessors, the (not-so-smart) regular watches, they requires recharging almost at the same rate as smartphones.

To top that big issue, they carry hefty price tags, and people who got used to simply using their smartphones to tell time think twice and more before buying any kind of watch – let alone an expensive and cumbersome so-called smart watch.

This issue pertains both to the new Apple watch and to the slew of android based smart watches from the likes of LG, Samsung and Motorola. The concept of “standby” doesn’t work that well when it comes to a watch.

We make do with charging our smartphones almost nightly because we actually use them all the time, but a watch is just an accessory – no matter how much they try to upsell it – and one that we’re used to carry without the need to charge or replace the battery more than once every 1-3 years.

The android based watches got the big android developers community behind them, and that gives them some edge over the talented developers at Apple, but it doesn’t change the inherent issues that come with today’s smart watches.

Apple also introduced Apple Pay, a system for using the phone to make credit card payments at retail stores. It’s an elegant method of making use of NFC technology with the fingerprint scanner built into iphone (from iphone 5 and up) to make secure credit/debit card payments on the go.

It shows that Apple is eyeing the potentially gigantic market of electronic payments, using ever present smartphones. So far, many have tried to get consumers to use their phones for this purpose – Visa did a valiant effort with its “Paywave” initiative – but consumers don’t trust their little electronic helpers to keep their credit card information, for fear it will get lost somewhere on its way to the cloud.

Apple tries to calm those fears but insisting the information will not be kept on the phone, and furthermore – even on the cloud servers it will be kept anonymously so even if stolen cannot be used. Not very re-assuring I’d say.

What does it remind us? oh yes… Bitcoin! the digital currency/wallet that allows us to transfer funds within minutes to any point on the globe with little or no fees at all! But that won’t do for a conglomerate such as Apple, or Visa, or Mastercard – since they cannot cut their fat fees from those transactions. By the way, it’s only recently that apple allowed a bitcoin wallet to be entered into its app store, after the bigheads over there finally understood that the Bitcoin revolution is advancing with, or without them.

So, what do you think? want to buy what Apple’s selling these days?

 

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