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In an encouraging development for consumers worried about antibiotics in their milk, a new Food and Drug Administration study showed little evidence of drug contamination after surveying almost 2,000 dairy farms.

In response to concerns, the agency in 2012 took samples of raw milk from the farms and tested them for 31 drugs, almost all of them antibiotics. Results released by the agency Thursday show that less than 1 percent of the total samples showed illegal drug residue.

Antibiotics and other drugs can end up in milk when they are used on dairy cows to keep them healthy. Small levels of some drugs are allowed in milk, but residues that go beyond certain thresholds are illegal.

"Overall this is very encouraging and reinforces the idea that the milk supply is safe," said the FDA's William Flynn, who led the study. He said the agency will use the findings to try and reduce the drug contamination even more.

Public health groups are concerned about the levels of animal antibiotics that make it into food because consuming the drugs could potentially be harmful to humans. Repeated exposure to antibiotics can lead germs to become resistant to the drugs so that they are no longer effective. Drug residues can also be harmful if they prompt allergies or other reactions.

The industry does regular testing for some of the drugs the FDA tested, but public health advocates had expressed particular concern about milk that had come from dairy farms that had repeatedly tried to sell older cows for slaughter with illegal levels of antibiotic residue in their tissue. So the FDA study focused on those farms with previous violations, with about half of the samples coming from them and half from a control group.

FDA said 11 of the samples from the group with previous violations showed illegal levels of...

Ignore anyone who tells you snow is free. Every work day lost during New England's historic winter has meant millions of dollars taken out of the regional economy.

IHS Global Insight, an economic analysis firm, estimates Massachusetts alone suffered roughly $1 billion in lost wages and profits, as storm after storm pummeled the region, delivering over eight feet of snow in roughly a month.

Retailers and restaurants were among the hardest hit, as customers held off on big purchases or chose to stay at home rather than enjoy a night on the town.

A survey released this week by Massachusetts business groups representing those and other industries reported sales dropped an average of 24 percent and payroll dropped about 7 percent among their small businesses members.

Car dealers and real estate agents complained the poorly-timed storms -- many of which hit on or around weekends -- were disastrous to business. And with the exception of the region's famed ski resorts, many New England hotels, transportation companies and other businesses in the travel and tourism trade say they've struggled too.

"January and February are always tough months for us because people just don't want to travel," said Christopher Crean, a vice president at Peter Pan, a Springfield-based long distance bus company. "But when you add in all the snow and cold and highway closures, that just compounds the injury. It's hard to make a profit."

Manufacturers, meanwhile, report they're just starting to catch up on nearly a month of lost productivity.

During the worst of the storms, assembly lines shut down, work orders were delayed or cancelled outright and treacherous roads and iced-over rail lines hindered transport of finished products.

"Not only were we losing sales on the front end of the storms, now we're paying a lot more on the back end to get product out," says Michael...

A geologist who took part in the excavation of the ancient burial mound in Amphipolis in northern Greece says the ancient tomb found together with a series of vaulted rooms wasn't built at the same time, but somewhat later than the rooms themselves.

Geologist Evangelos Kambouroglou also said Saturday that the mound inside which the rooms and the tomb were found is not man-made, as archaeologists had assumed, but a natural hill.

He also said that the Lion of Amphipolis, a huge sculpture of a lion on a pedestal , which is more than 25 feet (7.5 meters) tall, was too heavy to have stood at the top of the tomb, as archaeologists had claimed.

"The walls (of the tomb structure) can barely withstand half a ton, not 1,500 tons that the Lion sculpture is estimated to weigh," Kambouroglou said.

As for the box-like tomb that contained the remnants of five bodies, possibly more, "it is posterior to the main burial monument ... the main tomb has been destroyed by looters, who left nothing," said Kambouroglou. "The marble doors (of the monument) contain signs of heavy use, which means many visitors came and went."

The vaulted rooms had been dated to between 325 B.C. -- two years before the death of ancient Greek warrior-king Alexander the Great -- and 300 B.C., although some archaeologists had claimed a later date.

Katerina Peristeri, the chief archaeologist in the recent excavation, had advanced the theory that a member of Alexander's family, or one of his generals, could be buried in the tomb. But the discovery of the boxy grave and the five bodies cast doubt on that theory and Kambouroglou's announcement appears to disprove it entirely. Some archaeologists present during Saturday's announcement criticized Peristeri's absence and her methods.

Alexander, who built an empire stretching from modern Greece to India, died...


SUNDAY 8. MARCH 2015


A sleek glass and metal body, no removable battery or waterproof capabilities, fixed storage space, and a new mobile payment service.

No, not the iPhone. It's the newest Samsung smartphone.

The South Korean electronics giant introduced its redesigned smartphones, the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge, at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, over the weekend with an emphasis on design first -- and in the process, stripped the flagship series of many fan-favorite features.

The phones are "carefully crafted" with "purposeful design" and "premium device aesthetics," the company said. The Edge, with its double curved screen, "shows unique and outstanding beauty."

Even if it's better looking, the loss of functionality was a tough blow to longtime Galaxy users such as Michael Lambie, 33, who said he was disappointed to lose the water-resistance feature, microSD card and removable battery.

"Those were some of the differentiating factors I loved about S5," said Lambie, the head of product at a Culver City marketing platform. "They really have to make up for lost ground if I'm going to upgrade in the Samsung Galaxy family."

Revamping the phones was a bold and necessary move for Samsung, which struggled last year as rival Apple and fast-rising Chinese upstarts including Xiaomi and Huawei emerged as viable competitors in the smartphone space.

Samsung remained the world's No. 1 smartphone brand by unit sales in the third quarter, with 24.4% market share, according to research firm Gartner. But among the top four smartphone brands -- Apple was No. 2, followed by Huawei and then Xiaomi -- Samsung was the only one to lose market share and see year-over-year unit sales decrease.

"The success of this new phone is extremely important," said Shoneel Kolhatkar, Samsung's senior director of product marketing. "What we did with the GS6 and the GS Edge is basically say, 'Let's start...

No, it's not always a room filled with wires and glowing blue lights. It's probably not even the size of your furnace. The personal email server used by Hillary Rodham Clinton during her time as secretary of state was probably about the size of your office desktop computer and could have been tucked quietly in a corner somewhere.

She's come a long way since 1997, when Clinton's staff bought the then-first lady a copy of the book "E-Mail for Dummies."

Setting up your own email server is something only the geekiest of tech geeks do because of the serious hassles involved, including spending every waking hour fending off spam. Like brewing your own beer, it's typically done just for fun -- a way to challenge your smarts and fill the time. It also appeals to those who fear the government is sniffing around and could compel companies like Google or Yahoo to release customer data.

"It's not trivial to do it, but if you understand how all this works, you can certainly do it yourself," said Carole Fennelly, a New York City-area information security consultant who once operated her own mail server and has set them up for clients.

Setting up your own email server might only cost a few hundred dollars. A common and inexpensive solution might be to take an old computer running Windows; replace the guts of the machine with a free Linux operating system like Ubuntu; and install mail server software that lets you send and receive emails without the help of companies like Google or Yahoo.

Before you get any ideas, Fennelly and other tech experts say there are so many headaches involved with "homebrew" email servers that it's almost never worth it. The cable companies that provide most people their Internet connections don't like them and will often block...

An exploding star goes supernova only once -- but if you're really, really lucky, you might just get to see it happen four times. An international team has discovered four separate images of the same distant supernova arranged in the shape of a cross -- and this unusual trick of the light could help scientists test the structure of the cosmos.

The formation of the four supernova images, in the shape of the Einstein Cross, had been predicted half a century ago by Sjur Refsdal, the late Norwegian astrophysicist and a pioneer in gravitational lensing, and the new supernova is named in his honor.

While Refsdal did not live to see the discovery of this Einstein Cross, "he'd be delighted," said Caltech astronomer Richard Ellis, who was not involved in the paper and who met Refsdal years ago. "It's just beautiful imaging. It's almost like a piece of art; you look at the image and there's no question what's going on."

SN Refsdal sits some 9.3 billion light-years away, and at that distance it should be very difficult for our telescopes to make out. Luckily, the supernova is about 20 times brighter than it should be, thanks to a phenomenon known as gravitational lensing.

About halfway between SN Refsdal and Earth lies a huge galaxy cluster, some 5 billion light years from us. This cluster is so massive that its gravity actually bends the light from the supernova rather like a magnifying glass does, amplifying it. The cluster acts like a lens, allowing scientists to pick out this distant exploding star.

"Basically what we've been doing is try to use 10 very massive galaxy clusters as natural magnifying glasses to study very distant faint galaxies that are ... otherwise inaccessible with today's telescopes and instruments" said lead author Patrick Kelly, an astronomer at UC Berkeley....


SATURDAY 7. MARCH 2015


Does Homer Simpson deserve a share of the 2013 Nobel Prize in physics? Did the European Organization for Nuclear Research and its scientific partners waste $10 billion constructing the Large Hadron Collider?

In short, could particle physicists have saved themselves a lot of trouble and simply watched a 1998 episode of "The Simpsons" to figure out the mass of the Higgs boson?

In the episode, titled "The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace," a mid-life crisis inspires Homer to become an inventor in the mold of Thomas Edison. One scene features him at a blackboard working on an equation to calculate the mass of a Higgs boson, the elusive subatomic particle that is key to understanding why objects in the universe have mass in the first place.

Simon Singh, a science writer with a doctorate in particle physics, crunched Homer's numbers and declared that the usually hapless Homer got his math pretty much right.

"That equation predicts the mass of the Higgs boson" Singh told the Independent. "If you work it out, you get the mass of a Higgs boson that's only a bit larger than the nano-mass of a Higgs boson actually is. It's kind of amazing as Homer makes this prediction 14 years before it was discovered."

Well, not exactly.

According to David Kaplan, a bona fide particle physicist at Johns Hopkins University, Homer's equation yields a value of 777 gigaelectronvolts, or GeV. The actual value measured at the Large Hadron Collider is more like 125 GeV, plus or minus a GeV.

"It is a bit off, but not insanely so," Kaplan said.

And it was almost a whole lot closer to the truth. The final term in Homer's equation is the square root of "hc" divided by "G." Presumably, "G" is the universal gravitational constant, "c" is the speed of light, and "h" is Planck's constant. If...

Virtual reality enthusiasts can expect a full consumer version of the Samsung/Oculus Gear VR later this year, according to Oculus Chief Technology Officer John Carmack. Speaking at the Game Developers Conference that ran March 2-6 in San Francisco, Carmack announced that a market-ready edition of the mobile virtual reality headset would roll out with Samsung's next major product release.

Earlier this week, Samsung announced its new Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge smartphones, as well as an updated version of the Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition, which is powered by the platform developed by Oculus. The Gear VR Innovator Edition, essentially a developer kit version of the hardware, enables users to experience virtual reality viewing and gaming when a Samsung Galaxy S6 or S6 Edge is attached to the device.

First launched last September, the Gear VR Innovator also works with the Galaxy Note 4. The updated headset announced Wednesday was reduced in size by 15 percent to make it more comfortable to wear, and now features improved imaging and a USB power port for longer usage times.

Response 'Better than Expected'

During his keynote address at the GDC gathering, Carmack said a consumer version of the mobile Gear VR could have come out earlier, but Oculus wanted to proceed more cautiously than Samsung. He noted that the Innovator Edition ("Samsung doesn't do developer kits," he said) "seems to be pretty good (and) Samsung probably could have gone out and blitzed it."

However, by first releasing a more limited version targeted at developers, both Samsung and Oculus were able to gather more data and comments from early adopters that will help in creating an improved and consumer-ready product, Carmack said.

"We don't want horrible experiences and an 80-percent return rate," he said. Since the Innovator Edition first came out, though, "The response has...

No one can argue that many Apple devices have changed the way people live their lives. The company's iTunes, iPhone and iPad have shaken up music, phone and computer markets worldwide. Is the Apple Watch going to be able to do the same?

The stakes are big for Apple CEO Tim Cook: the watch is the first brand-new Apple product to be launched without legendary co-founder Steve Jobs. But the market is awash in smartwatches that have gained little traction. Here are three reasons the Apple Watch will finally move the needle in the smartwatch industry -- and three reasons it might not.

Why It Will Change the Game

More Features Than Rivals: Along with email, texts and phone calls, Apple says its watch will present news, health readings and other notifications in creative ways that can be read at a glance. It will have a heart rate monitor and accelerometer, and an internal motor that can signal the wearer with a subtle "tap" on the wrist. And Siri and Apple Pay will be built in. Apple is working with outside companies to create more apps; Cook has talked about using the watch as an electronic "key" for hotel doors or even cars.

A Powerful Brand: The world's biggest tech company has a reputation for quality and a direct conduit to customers -- it operates more than 400 retail stores around the world. And it has deep pockets to spend on advertising -- it is showcasing the watch this month with a sleek, 12-page insert in Vogue and other fashion magazines.

Apple's Track Record: This wouldn't be the first Apple product that revolutionized a market where rivals had struggled to break through. Other companies made digital music players before the iPod, smartphones before the iPhone and even tablets before the iPad. Most of those products...

Google is helping California drivers shop for car insurance as part of a new service that could foreshadow the Internet company's latest attempt to shake up a long-established industry.

The feature unveiled Thursday compares vehicle insurance quotes from up to 14 carriers that are participating in the comparisons. The policies can then be bought online or through an agent. Google will receive a cut from the insurance sales. The Mountain View, California, company says the size of the commissions won't influence how it ranks the price quotes.

Google Inc. plans to provide car insurance quotes in other states and sign up more carriers, too. The list of initial participants in California includes MetLife, Mercury Insurance and 21st Century Insurance. Some of the largest auto insurance providers, including State Farm, Allstate, Progressive and Geico, haven't joined Google's service.

Progressive and Allstate's esurance.com also provide auto insurance price comparisons.

The major auto insurers may be leery of Google, which has been using the power and profits from its dominant Internet search engine and other popular digital services to challenge the status quo in other industries.

Google already has designed a driverless car that is still being tested on a private track and is financing various projects in medical research. It's also building high-speed Internet access networks in cities scattered across the U.S. and preparing to sell wireless data plans directly to consumers later this year.

Google is probably using its auto insurance comparison service to learn more about how the industry works so it can eventually underwrite and sell policies on its own, said Forrester Research analyst Ellen Carney. "They are getting all the data that they need to do it," Carney said. "I think there is definitely more to come here."

A Google spokesman, however, said the company has no plans to sell or underwrite insurance.

The debut of...

At the Game Developers Conference [which ran March 2-6 in San Francisco], it was easy to imagine what virtual reality will look like when it eventually hits the marketplace. What it will feel like, however, is an entirely different matter.

From wand-shaped controllers to motion-detecting sensors, VR creators are trying out all sorts of input methods on the road to bringing the immersive technology into consumers' homes.

For decades, to interact with virtual worlds depicted on television and computer screens, gamers had to rely on either hand-held controllers with an assortment of buttons, directional pads and analog sticks, or a keyboard coupled with a mouse.

The head-mounted VR displays that intentionally obstruct users' vision are providing new challenges for designers seeking to create a sense of presence on the screen.

While creators agree that boosting frame rates and lowering latency as much as possible are key to achieving realistic imagery that won't leave users feeling queasy, there's no such consensus on just how they should interact with what's displayed inside the goggles.

"For us, it's a choice we want to give the player," said Elisa Di Lorenzo, business development manager at Untold Games, developer of the VR adventure "Loading Human." In the latest demonstration of the game, users can simply look at the direction they want their avatar to move, or more precisely, they can push a joystick on a controller to go there.

During a demo of the latest Project Morpheus VR prototype at this week's annual gathering of game designers, Sony employed a pair of its wand-like PlayStation Move controllers, whose illuminated bulbs are tracked by the PlayStation Camera, to serve as hands in a VR shootout simulation. In another showcase involving toying with tiny robots, a VR rendition of the traditional DualShock 4 controller for the PlayStation 4 could be glimpsed in concert...

A sex discrimination trial against one of Silicon Valley's most prestigious venture capital firms is providing a rare peek into the elite investment companies vying to fund the next Google and Amazon.

Their partnership rosters are stacked with some of the nation's most accomplished graduates -- multiple-degree holders from schools such as Harvard and Stanford universities who are competing aggressively to back the next big technology company. But they are also places where women are grossly underrepresented.

Ellen Pao's lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers goes further, describing the firm as an old-boys club where women allegedly were excluded from parties at former Vice President Al Gore's house, asked to take notes at a meeting like secretaries and subjected to harassment and boorish behavior by their male colleagues such as a conversation about porn stars and a trip to the Playboy Mansion aboard a private jet.

The case has put a spotlight on the gender inequities in the technology sector at a time when it is booming and minting new millionaires, but generating resentment from people who feel left out and victimized by its success, which they blame for higher rents and gentrification. The trial has also brought some of the nation's most accomplished venture capitalists into the courtroom, where they have faced tough questions about sexual harassment and the behavior of men in the workplace.

Pao, who has an MBA and law degree from Harvard, has mostly sat quietly and declined media questions during breaks in the proceedings. She could begin testifying [next].

But the jury has heard hours of testimony from her former colleagues, including one of her mentors at the firm, billionaire investor John Doerr, who was placed in the awkward position of defending his company while acknowledging that the dearth of females in the venture capital industry is "pathetic."

A study...

Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg has enlisted NBA stars LeBron James, Stephen Curry and some of the basketball league's other top players to convince more men to join the fight for women's rights at home and at work.

The players will deliver the message in public service announcements aired during NBA games on major TV networks over the next few months.

Sandberg (shown here) is hoping to persuade men that they will be better off financially and emotionally if they take more responsibility for housework and child care, while also backing equal rights for women at work.

"Gender equality doesn't just benefit women, it benefits men in lots of ways," Sandberg said in an interview with The Associated Press. Among other things, she believes most women are likely to have sex with their husbands or partners more frequently when they get more help at home -- a phenomenon she has branded as "choreplay."

The clips featuring the basketball stars are part of a partnership to be announced Thursday between the NBA and LeanIn.org, a nonprofit group Sandberg started two years ago with the publication of a best-selling book advising women on the steps they should take to ensure they get the same opportunities as men traditionally have.

The book, "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead," also urged men to do more to support the women and girls in their lives.

Sandberg, Facebook's second-highest ranking executive behind CEO Mark Zuckerberg, is counting on the NBA's appeal to connect with millions of sports-loving men who haven't read her book.

LeanIn.org is providing men with tips on how to help in brochures that will be available online as part of the campaign with the NBA.

Facebook is among a long list of major Silicon Valley companies with a dearth of women in engineering and other technical positions, where the...


FRIDAY 6. MARCH 2015


Microsoft on Thursday confirmed that Windows is indeed vulnerable to the dreaded FREAK attacks that were reported earlier this week. Microsoft said it was aware of a security feature bypass vulnerability in Secure Channel, or Schannel, that affects all supported versions of Microsoft Windows.

Information security firm IANS has determined the FREAK flaw, which stands for Factoring RSA-Export Keys, can likely be traced back to the U.S. government restrictions from the 1990s that made it illegal to export highly encrypted products overseas.

According to FreakAttack.com, a site dedicated to tracking the impact of the attack and helping users test whether they're vulnerable, the FREAK attack is possible when a vulnerable browser connects to a susceptible Web server -- a server that accepts "export-grade" encryption.

How Far Does this Spread?

"Our investigation has verified that the vulnerability could allow an attacker to force the downgrading of the cipher suites used in an SSL/TLS connection on a Windows client system," Microsoft reported in a security advisory.

"The vulnerability facilitates exploitation of the publicly disclosed FREAK technique, which is an industry-wide issue that is not specific to Windows operating systems. When this security advisory was originally released, Microsoft had not received any information to indicate that this issue had been publicly used to attack customers."

Public disclosure of the FREAK vulnerability first occurred March 3, when researchers announced they had discovered the SSL/TLS vulnerability. According to FreakAttack.com, it allows an attacker to intercept HTTPS connections between vulnerable clients and servers and force them to use weakened encryption. That sets the stage for the attacker to steal or manipulate sensitive data.

Until Microsoft's announcement Thursday, it was believed the vulnerability only affected the Android and Apple's Safari Web browsers, which rely on OpenSSL to establish secure connections.

Thousands of Web sites are believed affected. FreakAttack.com lists some. A...

Mac users who install Oracle's Java are finding it comes with unwanted baggage: the Ask Search toolbar that many call adware, bloatware or worse. The toolbar has long appeared as a sponsor offering with Java for Windows, but it's recently started appearing in the Mac version as well.

MalwareTips describes the Ask toolbar's search function as a "browser hijacker" that can reset a user's browser homepage and default search engine. The adware also skews search results by displaying ads and sponsored links.

Oracle and other companies earn revenues by bundling such sponsor offerings with their software. In its 2014 Annual Report filed in February, IAC -- Ask.com's parent company -- reported paying $883 million last year in traffic acquisition costs and "payments made to partners who distribute our B2B customized browser-based applications, integrate our paid listings into their Web sites or direct traffic to our Web sites." The company's other brands include Investopedia, OKCupid, The Daily Beast and Tinder.

On the Heels of Superfish

The news that Java for Mac now comes with Ask's adware is riling many users, especially in light of the recent black eye Lenovo received for shipping PCs preloaded with adware. In Lenovo's case, the adware called Superfish not only served up unwanted advertising but left devices vulnerable to "man-in-the-middle" attacks by hackers.

Lenovo responded quickly by issuing an apology and promising to stop preloading unnecessary software onto its PCs. "This should eliminate what our industry calls 'adware' and 'bloatware,'" the company said in a statement.

Windows users have long criticized Oracle for including adware such as Ask's with Java. "The inclusion of adware such as the Ask Toolbar in the Java installer pollutes the user experience for all Java-based programs and delegitimizes Java as a viable programming language for production grade software," wrote one user on...

Alibaba continues to make inroads in the U.S. In a move that directly competes with Amazon.com, the Chinese Internet juggernaut announced Wednesday that Aliyun, its 5-year-old cloud-computing business, will open its first overseas cloud-computing data center in Silicon Valley.

Alibaba did not specify which city would house the center, when the facility would open or how much the company would spend to build it.

"For security reasons, we aren't disclosing the exact location," an Alibaba spokesman said.

The data center will initially serve Chinese enterprises in the United States, the company said, but the plan is to gradually expand its products and services to international clients in the second half of this year. It is to provide a variety of cloud-computing services that are intended to attract Chinese businesses as they develop various kinds of applications.

Although the center is also envisioned as catering to U.S. businesses, its China focus indicates that the company sees Chinese companies as becoming a bigger presence in Silicon Valley.

Aliyun already has data centers in the Chinese cities of Hangzhou, Qingdao, Beijing, Shenzhen and Hong Kong.

"Aliyun hopes to meet the needs of Chinese enterprises in the United States, and the ultimate objective of Aliyun is to bring cost-efficient and cutting-edge cloud computing services to benefit more clients outside China to boost their business development," Ethan Sicheng Yu, Aliyun's vice president, said in a statement.

Shares of Hangzhou-based Alibaba were up nearly 2% in morning trading on Wall Street, but otherwise have been falling since November, losing about $40 off their high of approximately $120.

Microsoft is attempting to break down the walls surrounding console gaming. Phil Spencer, head of the company's video game division, detailed Microsoft's plan for game makers to create universal apps that can run on both Xbox One consoles and PCs with Windows 10, as well as smartphones, tablets and other devices running the forthcoming version of Windows. That includes HoloLens, Microsoft's wearable headset that gives wearers the ability to interact with three-dimensional images.

"Our goal with gaming at Microsoft is to allow people to play games wherever they are," Spencer told game makers Wednesday at the Game Developers Conference. "We know for developers that it's critically important for you to reach those gamers wherever they are."

Spencer said the marriage of Xbox One and Windows 10 would allow creators to make their games easily accessible to consumers, regardless of whether they switch between devices or where they buy apps.

"We know there are billions of people that play games across all devices," Spencer said. "Today, the world is segmented. You don't have linkage really between the places that your customers are playing your games."

Microsoft Corp. first revealed its plans to bring Xbox and Windows closer together at the Jan. 21 unveiling of HoloLens and Windows 10, when Spencer demonstrated the upcoming Xbox One game "Fable Legends" running on a PC.

At the annual gathering of game developers on Wednesday, Spencer demonstrated the cross-play functionality on stage with a pair of players on Xbox One seamlessly facing off against another duo on PC in a match of the competitive multiplayer indie game "#IDARB."

Spencer also teased that Microsoft will release an adapter later this year that will allow PCs to use wireless Xbox One controllers. No price was announced.

In a private demo after Spencer's talk, Xbox director of program management Michael Ybarra showed off other functionality,...

First, we learn that the "love hormone" oxytocin makes men more trusting, nurturing and sociable. Then, we learn that a shot of the stuff makes partnered men less likely to stray or even flirt with other women. Now, we learn that a puff of oxytocin up the nose makes men eat less, and choose foods that are less fatty.

If there were a scientific conspiracy to turn men into cuddly, highly evolved salad-eaters, oxytocin might be a powerful weapon.

A study released Thursday found that 25 healthy men who got a dose of aerosolized oxytocin and then offered a man-sized serving of breakfast consumed fewer calories, decreased their fat intake, and showed improved measures of metabolic function such as insulin sensitivity.

The study, led by Harvard Medical School's Dr. Elizabeth Lawson, is to be presented in San Diego this Sunday at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society, a leading group of hormone experts active in treatment and research.

The men served as their own control group: during one session a subject would receive a puff of ocytocin; at another he would get a placebo.

"Our results are really exciting," Lawson said. Although she said further study would be needed, she suggested oxytocin might be "a promising treatment for obesity and its metabolic complications."

Oxytocin's role in fostering sociability has led to its preliminary use as an aid to teaching those with autism improved social skills. But new research is broadening understanding of the hormone's powers: last week, a study suggested oxytocin, which counteracts the inebriating effects of high alcohol intake, might help in the treatment of alcoholism, and possibly other addictions.

Glaciologist Erin Pettit began a research project to find out what humpback whales heard when a big piece of ice falls from a glacier and crashes into the ocean. But the sound generated by ice drifting in the water turned out to be just as interesting.

Acoustic research in Alaska's Icy Bay and other glacier ice-filled waters found that the fizz created by the release of pressurized air bubbles within glacier ice makes fjords the noisiest places in the ocean.

"The glacier fjord sound on a typical day for Icy Bay is louder than being in the water beneath a torrential downpour, which really surprised me," said Pettit, a researcher at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

In a paper published in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, Pettit and fellow researchers speculate that one reason harbor seals flock to fjords with tidewater glaciers is because noisy icebergs provide acoustic camouflage, protecting seals from transient killer whales that hunt by sound.

In July 2009, the researchers deployed underwater microphones 70 meters deep in Icy Bay, a fjord near the top of the Alaska Panhandle just 4 miles from 18,008-foot Mount St. Elias. They also sampled sound at nearby Yakutat Bay and at Andvord Bay in Antarctica.

Researcher Jeff Nystuen of the University of Washington's Applied Physics Laboratory, who had had used hydrophones to measure the underwater sound of rainfall, quickly realized the significance of the sound collected in the fjords, Pettit said.

"He was kind of blown away when I showed him the results of our data set," she said. "He's like, 'This is really, really loud.'"

Colleagues at the University of Texas at Austin conducted laboratory tests in acoustic tanks with Alaska glacier ice to find out how bubbles make noise. They recorded air bubbles making a bloop, tick or pop sound as...

Archaeologists have uncovered a stone tool at an ancient rock shelter in the high desert of eastern Oregon that could turn out to be older than any known site of human occupation in western North America.

The find was announced Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which controls the land on which the site was found.

University of Oregon archaeologist Patrick O'Grady, who supervises the dig, says the Rimrock Draw Rockshelter outside Riley has not been fully excavated. But the tool, a hand-held scraper chipped from a piece of orange agate not normally found in eastern Oregon, was found about 8 inches below a layer of volcanic ash from an eruption of Mount St. Helens that has been dated to 15,800 years ago. The depth was about 12 feet below the surface.

Bureau of Land Management archaeologist Scott Thomas said that if the age of the site holds up to scrutiny, it would be the oldest west of the Rockies, and another predating the so-called Clovis culture, once generally believed to be the first people to migrate from Asia into North America. The earliest Clovis artifacts, known for distinctive and elegant stone points, are dated to about 13,000 years ago.

O'Grady called the find "tantalizing," but he added that they want to continue digging this summer to see whether the volcanic ash covers the entire area.

Donald K. Grayson, professor of archaeology at the University of Washington, said the scientific community would be skeptical.

"No one is going to believe this until it is shown there was no break in that ash layer, that the artifact could not have worked its way down from higher up, and until it is published in a convincing way," he said. "Until then, extreme skepticism is all they are going to get."

Two pre-Clovis sites are well documented and...

A NASA spacecraft for the first time has arrived at a dwarf planet to begin a 16-month exploration. The space agency on Friday confirmed that the Dawn craft entered orbit around Ceres in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

"It went exactly the way we expected. Dawn gently, elegantly slid into Ceres' gravitational embrace," said mission chief engineer Marc Rayman at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which manages the $473 million mission.

Ceres is the last and final stop for Dawn, which launched in 2007 on a voyage to the main asteroid belt, a zone littered with rocky leftovers from the formation of the sun and planets some 4.5 billion years ago.

Dawn will spend the next 16 months photographing the icy surface. It previously spent a year at Vesta exploring the asteroid and sending back stunning close-ups of the lumpy surface before cruising onto the Texas-sized Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt.

The 3-billion mile trip was made possible by Dawn's ion propulsion engines, which provide gentle yet constant acceleration and are more efficient than conventional thrusters.

As Dawn approached Ceres, it had beamed back puzzling images revealing a pair of shiny patches inside a crater -- signs of possible ice or salt.

Scientists hope to get a better glimpse when the spacecraft spirals closer to the surface to study whether previously spotted plumes of water vapor continue to vent.

Dawn is currently in Ceres' shadows and won't take new pictures until it emerges in April, Rayman said.

"The real drama is exploring this alien, exotic world," he said.

Dwarf planets lately have become the focus of exploration.

This summer, another NASA spacecraft -- New Horizons -- is set to make the first visit to Pluto, which was demoted to dwarf planet.

Dawn almost never made it out to the inner solar system. The mission endured funding-related project...

Apple topped Samsung in smartphone sales for the first time since 2012, selling 74.8 million units in the fourth quarter of last year, surpassing Samsung as the No. 1 smartphone maker globally.

Apple's success was driven by huge demand for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in the U.S. and in China, according to research firm Gartner.

"Samsung's performance in the smartphone market deteriorated further in the fourth quarter of 2014, when it lost nearly 10 percentage points in market share," Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner, wrote in a report released Tuesday.

"Samsung continues to struggle to control its falling smartphone share, which was at its highest in the third quarter of 2013. This downward trend shows that Samsung's share of profitable premium smartphone users has come under significant pressure."

It was, however, also a record quarter for the smartphone industry overall: Worldwide sales of smartphones increased 29.9% year over year to reach 367.5 million units sold.

In 2014, smartphone sales totaled 1.2 billion units, up 28.4% from 2013 and representing two-thirds of global mobile phone sales.

Part of the problem for Samsung: The market is bifurcating. Apple commands the high-end, aspirational customer while a fast-rising crop of Chinese phone makers are snapping up the more price-conscious buyer. Samsung is caught in the middle.

To help combat its market share slide, Samsung on Sunday released overhauled versions of its Galaxy line of smartphones, featuring premium materials and a new emphasis on design.

Samsung, based in Korea, did hang on to the No. 2 spot. Rounding out the top 5 for the fourth quarter were Lenovo, Huawei and Xiaomi, all Chinese companies.

Among operating systems, Google's Android is still dominant, running on 80.7% of the smartphones sold globally last year, up from 78.5% the year before.

BlackBerry, on the other hand, saw its market share by operating system slip...


THURSDAY 5. MARCH 2015


Over a giddy four-year period, from 1997 through 2000, investors in the United States who purchased stocks in Internet-related businesses saw rapid and profound growth in the value of their portfolios. There was tremendous enthusiasm for companies poised to take advantage of the new communication and marketing network, and dot-com fever swept the land.

Things came to a crashing halt almost exactly 15 years ago, when the NASDAQ index peaked at 5,132 and then rapidly declined. The dot-com bubble burst, taking numerous companies and large amounts of capital with it.

Now one of the leading beneficiaries of that bubble, billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban -- who sold the now-defunct Broadcast.com to Yahoo in 1999 for $5.7 billion -- is warning that we are in the midst of a much larger and even more dangerous tech bubble.

Liquidity and Angels

Writing on his Weblog "Blog Maverick," Cuban argues that all bubbles have a similar characteristic: optimism.

"In a bubble there is always someone with a 'great' idea pitching an investor the dream of a billion dollar payout with a comparison to an existing success story," Cuban said. "In the tech bubble it was Broadcast.com, AOL, Netscape, etc. Today it's Uber, Twitter, Facebook, etc."

But, Cuban goes on, there is a big difference between the tech bubble at the turn of the century and the one he sees today: liquidity.

"Back then," he argues, "the companies the general public was investing in were public companies. They may have been horrible companies, but being public meant that investors had liquidity to sell their stocks. The bubble today comes from private investors who are investing in apps and small tech companies."

According to Cuban, since small tech startups and app builders are not publicly traded, these businesses are seeking financial support from the nation's approximately 225,000 "angel" investors and a growing number...


MONDAY 2. MARCH 2015


The next nightstand or coffee table you buy from Ikea could also charge your cell phone and tablet. The Swedish furniture retailer announced Monday that it will be launching a new line of products capable of charging all of your devices wirelessly using the Qi wireless power standard, with the first pieces expected to be made available in Europe and North America in April, to be followed by a global rollout.

The announcement came during the Mobile World Congress (MWC) exhibition, taking place this week in Barcelona. Ikea said it would take advantage of the conference to showcase the new line of products, including the charge pad, shown above, that is designed to work on any surface.

Channeling Your Qi

Ikea chose to go with the Qi wireless standard for its charging protocol. Qi was developed by a consortium of players in the wireless market known as the Wireless Power Consortium, or WPC. The consortium, which was founded in 2008, counts major device manufacturers, including Samsung, LG and Nokia among its ranks. Samsung's latest phone, the S6, is one of the latest devices using the Qi protocol.

According to the company, Qi is the most widely available power standard. It is already being deployed in 3,000 locations, including hotels, restaurants and airports, while there are now more than 80 Qi-enabled smartphones on the market, and 15 automobile models that employ the standard.

"Our belief is that mobile phones are vital parts to people's lives at home and their desire to stay connected, and Qi addresses an unmet need to keep devices powered," said Bjorn Block, range manager for Lighting and Wireless Charging at Ikea, in a statement announcing the new technology. "As a member of WPC, we value the access to the leading and most advanced global standard for wireless charging." ...

Calling its design "entirely redefined," Samsung Electronics has unveiled its latest smartphones: the Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy S6 Edge. Among the phones' most notable features are bodies made of Corning's Gorilla Glass, wireless charging technology and batteries that you can't remove.

Samsung unveiled the new devices in Barcelona on Sunday, one day ahead of the kickoff to the Mobile World Congress. The new phones set "a new standard to drive the global mobile agenda," said Andy Griffiths, President of Samsung Electronics U.K. and Ireland.

Coming out just six months after Apple clocked record-breaking sales for the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge will invariably be judged against Apple's devices. Samsung also invited comparisons to Apple Pay by announcing that its new devices would support Samsung Pay, its own new mobile payment system, starting in the second half of this year.

5.1-Inch HD Display

Built on Samsung's Knox platform for end-to-end security, both new smartphones are thin and lightweight. The 138-gram, 6.8-millimeter-thick Galaxy S6 is a bit thinner, though slightly heftier than the iPhone 6 (6.9 millimeters and 129 grams), while the Galaxy S6 Edge, with its curved display, comes in at 7 millimeters and 132 grams.

Powered by Quad 2.1 GHz and Quad 1.5 GHz processors, each device features a 5.1-inch Quad HD display (2560x1440) with a resolution of 577 pixels per inch. Each also comes with a 16-megapixel rear camera and a 5-megapixel front camera.

The Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge also come with the S Health 4.0 personal wellness app and heart-rate monitor, as well as with an accelerometer, barometer, compass and fingerprint sensor. Both devices will come with three storage options: 32 GB, 64 GB and 128 GB.

Faster Charging than S5

Samsung said the new phones set a new...