It’s Not Surprising Two Harrier Jets Have Crashed in a Month

An AV-8B Harrier jet lands aboard the flight deck of USS Boxer (LHD 4) while at sea, 2007. Photo: Josh Valcarcel/U.S. Navy

An AV-8B Harrier lands aboard the flight deck of USS Boxer (LHD 4) while at sea, 2007. Photo: Josh Valcarcel/U.S. Navy

An AV-8B Harrier jet crashed into a strip of residential homes in Imperial, California this week, destroying three houses. Last month, another Harrier crashed in the desert south of Phoenix. Both pilots ejected safely and no one was injured in either crash.

The Harrier is among the coolest, most ingenious aircraft ever designed, but the downsides of its design and a long history of failures mean these most recent crashes are hardly surprising.

Developed in the 1960s, the Harrier is marvelous for its ability to hover like a helicopter. The jet engine pumps air through four nozzles, two on each side of the fuselage, right under the wings. They rotate to propel the plane forward or straight up, allowing for very short takeoffs and vertical landings, and unchaining the plane from the need for long runways. The Harrier can operate out of clearings in the jungle (think Vietnam), a landing dock designed for helicopters, or downtown Miami (where Arnold Schwarzenegger uses one to win the day in “True Lies”).

The Harrier was developed by the British and acquired by the United States Marine Corps, the only American military branch that operates the plane. After American firm McDonnell Douglas took over production, the Harrier entered service in 1971.

The first Harrier, the AV-8A, had a horrific safety record; more than half of the planes crashed. The second generation AV-8B, produced by Boeing, entered service in 1985. It’s much safer, but still compares poorly to other jets. According to an 2002 LA Times report, the AV-8B Harrier suffered 11.44 accidents per 100,000 flight hours, compared to just 3 for the F/A-18 Hornet. Between 1971 and 2002, 45 Marine pilots were killed in 143 noncombat accidents in Harriers.

The Harriers operated by the Marines haven’t been as useful as their promoters hoped. Taking off vertically limits how much weight the jet can carry, so the crew needs to skimp either on fuel or on weapons payload. Less fuel means less range, which limits usefulness. “It’s not a very good airplane when you consider everything about it,” said Pete Field, an aviation consultant who served as a Marine officer and Navy test pilot.

The Harrier is supposed to be replaced by the F-35, the Lockheed Martin top-of-the-line warplane that promises supersonic speed, radar-evading stealth, and excellent agility. One variant will have the same short takeoff and vertical landing capability as the Harrier. Problem is, the F-35 is massively over budget and behind schedule, and the versions that do eventually take off won’t be nearly as great as early designs indicated. So we’re stuck with the Harrier for the time being.


In cruise mode, the Harrier flies just like a normal jet. At slow speeds, it’s a lot more complicated. Pilots can aim the nozzles downward to generate lift, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to keep the plane stable.

Colonel Bill Lawrence (Ret.), who has flown 130 types of aircraft as a Marine Corp pilot and Navy test pilot, compared controlling the Harrier in hover mode to balancing a model airplane on the point of a pencil. If the plane starts to roll, “it can get very quickly out of control.” Watch an early video of the Harrier in testing, and you see how much trouble the pilots had keeping it parallel to the ground.

On top of everything associated with flying a conventional jet, Harrier pilots have to correctly angle of the nozzles, based on wind and runway conditions. They also have to deal with the reaction control system, a series of nozzles used to keep the plane level. The nozzle in the nose blows air down, the two in the wingtips blow up and down, and the one in the tail blows down and side to side.

In the first generation AV-8A Harrier, all those controls were mechanical—basically a pile of levers. That made for a lot of work, especially for pilots who grew up flying conventional planes and had to adjust to aerodynamics associated with helicopters. The next-generation AV-8B came with digital flight controls that made things much simpler, but the accidents have kept on coming.

Low Speed Woes

The ability to fly slowly, so useful to Arnold, is a major liability if the engine gives out. Less speed, especially at a low altitude, means less ability to maneuver the jet to a safe location before hitting the ground.

The Harrier that crashed in Imperial this week was less than 70 miles from the Marine Corps Base in Yuma when it went down, so the pilot may have been in a landing pattern and flying at reduced speed. “If he was doing that, then his ability to deal with an engine out was restricted,” Lawrence said.

That may explain why the pilot—trained to avoid collateral damage when crashing—hit three houses instead of the surrounding empty fields, the nearby desert, or the airport in the middle of town.

Uber Lands $1.2 Billion So You Can Get Rid of Your Car

Photo: Jon Snyder/WIRED

Uber’s Travis Kalanick. Photo: Jon Snyder/WIRED

Uber just became one of the most valuable tech startups in history.

Co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick announced today that investors are pouring another $1.2 billion into Uber in a funding round that values the five-year-old company at $17 billion. Though nine and 10-figure deals have become common enough in Silicon Valley to seem almost normal, the news may leave many people out in the real world scratching their heads. Does Uber–an app-ified version of the cab business–really need that much money?

Given the scope of Uber’s ambition, it just might.

Kalanick doesn’t just want to give you a ride when you don’t have your car. He wants you to give up your car, period. “Our vision is to offer a way for people to get around cities without having to drive a car,” Kalanick told Bloomberg Businessweek . “If you can make it economical for people to get out of their cars, or sell their cars, and turn transportation into a service, it’s a pretty big deal.”

To get to the point where it can offer enough affordable rides in enough places to make owning a car redundant, Uber needs lots of people on the ground. And that costs lots of money. Unlike most tech startups, which can spread their products around the globe with the tap of a return key, Uber needs teams in every city where it operates to manage all the non-digital aspects of moving people around. To manage everything from recruiting drivers to battling regulators, it needs a very physical human presence across the globe–a concept that sounds almost quaint at a time when other startups like WhatsApp can become hugely valuable without anyone ever really leaving the office.

This is not to say Uber won’t also put some of its cash toward expanding the definition of what it does. Kalanick has taken to calling Uber a “logistics platform,” and when the company received its last big capital injection–a $250 million led by Google Ventures–many wondered whether self-driving cars delivering packages was Uber’s endgame. But the economics of moving stuff are different than the economics of moving people, and Kalanick told WIRED at the time that the company was focused much more on simply expanding what Uber already does and does well.

He sounded much the same note this time around, saying that package delivery was something Uber is playing with, but that growth is really what the billion dollars is all about. “The business as it is, the current growth, that is what was funded,” he told Businessweek. “The logistics, or moving things as well as people, is icing on the cake.”

Right now, Uber operates in more than 120 cities in nearly 40 countries. And that’s only the start, if Kalanick has his way. Uber truly wants to be everywhere, and that won’t come cheap. If, for example, Uber wants to expand into 1,000 more cities, the current round of funding provides just a little more than $1 million per location. If you think of every Uber operation in every city like its own little startup, that’s not so much in the grand scheme of tech funding. If Uber truly wants to convince you to forget your car, it’s still going to need every dollar it can get.

Got $20,000? Then You, Too, Can Die in the Game of Thrones Books

The horrifying deaths on Game of Thrones have provoked a lot of feelings in fans of the medieval fantasy series: anger, sadness, grief… jealousy?

If you’ve ever stared at the severed heads and mutilated bodies of the Westerosi dead and thought “hey, I wish that were me,” then you’re in luck! In order to raise funds for two charities, The Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary and the Food Depot of Santa Fe, Song of Ice and Fire series author George R. R. Martin has come up with a rather creative crowdfunding prize: Two lucky Game of Thrones fans with $20,000 will actually get a character in a future Game of Thrones novel named after them—a character that will, naturally, die a horrible death. As the description for the “Martyr” pledge level explains:

There is one male character and one female character available. You can choose your character’s station in the world (lordling, knight, peasant, whore, lady, maester, septon, anything) and you will certainly meet a grisly death!

We would expect nothing less. Other rewards include having breakfast with Martin (“Hand at the Table,” $15,000), Martin’s well-worn hat (“Crown,” $7,500) and a pair of tickets to the Season 5 premiere (“King,” $7,500).

The benefit hopes to raise $200,000, and anyone who makes a donation will be entered to win another tremendous prize:

You and a friend will be flown out (from wherever you are in the world) to meet me in Santa Fe, where we’ll share a helicopter ride to the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary. In addition to touring the Sanctuary together, we’ll also have plenty of time to discuss the show, A Song of Ice and Fire, direwolves—and if there’s anything you have ever wanted to ask me, here’s your chance!

If you’ve ever wanted to speak to the man himself about the hidden meaning of the prophecies of Quaithe or the true identity of the Knight of the Laughing Tree, now’s your chance! (Just don’t ask him when the next book is coming out. We all know how that ends.)

Gadget Lab Podcast, Post-WWDC Edition: One iThing to Rule Them All

Photo: Josh Valcarcel/WIRED

Photo: Josh Valcarcel/WIRED

Nerd Christmas has come and gone, and we’re left with a bushel of fresh Apple announcements to munch through. Christina Bonnington joins Mat and Mike again this week to talk about WWDC—Christina is WIRED’s resident Apple reporter, and she attended the company’s keynote address at its big yearly developer conference here in San Francisco. Some things, like the new iOS Health app and the debut of OS X Yosemite, we were expecting. Others, like the new cross-platform interactions and extensions in applications, we were surprised by. The biggest surprise, however, was Apple’s strategic play to get all of your connected devices (the ones on your body, in your home, and in your car) all connected to your iPhone. At the very end of the show, the hosts talk for a bit about that weird Amazon teaser video.

Download the show from Pocket Casts or subscribe in iTunes.

Send the hosts feedback on their personal Twitter feeds (Mat Honan is @mat, Michael Calore is @snackfight, and Christina Bonnington is @redgirlsays) or to the main hotline at @GadgetLab.

Game|Life Podcast: The Pre-E3 Predictions Show

Scientists analyzed every photo ever taken at E3 and have determined that this is the most representative image of it.

Scientists analyzed every photo ever taken at E3 and have determined that this is the most representative image of it. Ariel Zambelich/WIRED

Peter Rubin, Bo Moore and I break down what we think will and won’t happen with Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft and Virtual Reality on this week’s Game|Life podcast.

If you read my story on E3 from this morning you know what I think. But what about other people? That is the mystery.

We’ll try to finagle a post-E3 podcast next week, but I can’t guarantee anything. Frankly I can’t guarantee that I’ll be alive after five straight 18-hour work days.

Game|Life’s podcast is posted on Fridays, is available on iTunes, can be downloaded directly and is embedded below.

Game|Life Audio Podcast


We’ve Got Punk Legends and Synths Aplenty in This Weekend’s Playlist

Image: Merge Records

Image: Merge Records

As the days keep getting longer and we edge ever-closer to the summer solstice, it’s paramount to remember that…ah, screw it. There’s a bunch of great new music this week and we made a playlist out of it. That’s the tradition, after all. This week, we’ve got everything from frothy synth-pop (Charlie XCX) to ’90s-fetishizing rappers (Joey Bada$$) to hardcore (Fucked Up) to punk legends (Bob Mould, ladies and gentlemen!). Schizophrenic? Maybe a bit. But that’s music for you!

As usual, we’ve added the tracks to our ongoing Spotify playlist of great new music, and created a standalone YouTube playlist for this week. Keep the recommendations coming.

The tracks:

Jenny Lewis, “Just One Of The Guys”

Hamilton Leithauser, “I Retired”

Lana Del Rey, “Ultraviolence”

Sia, “Chandelier”

Charlie XCX, “Boom Clap”

Shamir, “If It Wasn’t True”

Statik Selektah f/ Joey Bada$$ & Freddie Gibbs, “Carry On”

Drake, “0-100″

Fucked Up, “Sun Glass”

Bob Mould, “Mr. Grey”


Newborns exposed to dirt, dander, germs may have lower allergy, asthma risk

Infants exposed to rodent and pet dander, roach allergens and a wide variety of household bacteria in the first year of life appear less likely to suffer from allergies, wheezing and asthma, according to results of a study conducted by scientists at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center and other institutions.

Previous research has shown that children who grow up on farms have lower allergy and asthma rates, a phenomenon attributed to their regular exposure to microorganisms present in farm soil. Other studies, however, have found increased asthma risk among inner-city dwellers exposed to high levels of roach and mouse allergens and pollutants. The new study confirms that children who live in such homes do have higher overall allergy and asthma rates but adds a surprising twist: Those who encounter such substances before their first birthdays seem to benefit rather than suffer from them. Importantly, the protective effects of both allergen and bacterial exposure were not seen if a child's first encounter with these substances occurred after age 1, the research found.

A report on the study, published on June 6 in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, reveals that early exposure to bacteria and certain allergens may have a protective effect by shaping children's immune responses -- a finding that researchers say may help inform preventive strategies for allergies and wheezing, both precursors to asthma.

"Our study shows that the timing of initial exposure may be critical," says study author Robert Wood, M.D., chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center. "What this tells us is that not only are many of our immune responses shaped in the first year of life, but also that certain bacteria and allergens play an important role in stimulating and training the immune system to behave a certain way."

The study was conducted among 467 inner-city newborns from Baltimore, Boston, New York and St. Louis whose health was tracked over three years. The investigators visited homes to measure the levels and types of allergens present in the infants' surroundings and tested them for allergies and wheezing via periodic blood and skin-prick tests, physical exams and parental surveys. In addition, the researchers collected and analyzed the bacterial content of dust collected from the homes of 104 of the 467 infants in the study.

Infants who grew up in homes with mouse and cat dander and cockroach droppings in the first year of life had lower rates of wheezing at age 3, compared with children not exposed to these allergens soon after birth. The protective effect, moreover, was additive, the researchers found, with infants exposed to all three allergens having lower risk than those exposed to one, two or none of the allergens. Specifically, wheezing was three times as common among children who grew up without exposure to such allergens (51 percent), compared with children who spent their first year of life in houses where all three allergens were present (17 percent).

In addition, infants in homes with a greater variety of bacteria were less likely to develop environmental allergies and wheezing at age 3.

When researchers studied the effects of cumulative exposure to both bacteria and mouse, cockroach and cat allergens, they noticed another striking difference. Children free of wheezing and allergies at age 3 had grown up with the highest levels of household allergens and were the most likely to live in houses with the richest array of bacterial species. Some 41 percent of allergy-free and wheeze-free children had grown up in such allergen and bacteria-rich homes. By contrast, only 8 percent of children who suffered from both allergy and wheezing had been exposed to these substances in their first year of life.

Asthma is one of the most common pediatric illnesses, affecting some 7 million children in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By the time they turn 3, up to half of all children develop wheezing, which in many cases evolves into full-blown asthma.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Johns Hopkins Medicine . Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

New antibiotic proven effective to treat acute bacterial skin infections

A study published in today's New England Journal of Medicine reports that the antibiotic dalbavancin is as effective as vancomycin, the current standard-of-care antibiotic used to treat serious bacterial skin and skin-structure infections. The study results establish dalbavancin as a therapy for Staphylococcus aureus infections, including methicillin-resistant S. aureus, or MRSA. Acute bacterial skin and skin-structure infections are among the most common reasons for the hospitalization of adults in the United States today, and the associated medical costs are substantial.

A team led by Helen Boucher, M.D., Associate Professor of Medicine at Tufts Medical Center, reports the results in an article titled "Once-weekly Dalbavancin versus daily conventional therapy for skin infections."

"Dalbavancin has a great likelihood of changing our practice in caring for patients with severe skin infections. It will now be possible to treat once a week instead of several times a day and will potentially remove the need for hospital admission and long-term intravenous catheters," Boucher said.

The team completed two clinical trials comparing efficacy of dalbavancin with vancomycin followed by linezolid. The Phase 3 studies, called non-inferiority trials, were conducted between 2011-2012. Titled DISCOVER 1 and DISCOVER 2 (Dalbavancin for Infections of the Skin COmpared to Vancomycin at an Early Response), the studies were conducted at 54 and 86 investigative sites, respectively, and were randomized, double-blind, double-dummy trials. (To insure against bias, double-dummy trials include two placebo arms when the study drugs are administered by different methods, for example, orally versus intravenously.)

For the trial, the diagnosis of acute bacterial skin and skin-structure infection required the presence of cellulitis, a major abscess or a wound infection, all with at least 75 square centimeters of surrounding redness. Additional criteria were elevated body temperature and white blood cell count.

For a period of 10-14 days, patients were given either once-weekly intravenous dalbavancin or twice-daily intravenous vancomycin followed by oral linezolid, along with dummy infusions or pills. The primary endpoint was early clinical response, defined as cessation of spread of infection-related reddening and inflammation of the skin and the absence of fever at 48 to 72 hours. Secondary endpoints measured at the conclusion of therapy included clinical status and investigator's assessment of outcome.

Data from the two DISCOVER trials were pooled. Analysis showed that 525 of 659 (79.7 percent) in the dalbavancin group and 521 of 653 (79.8 percent) in the vancomycin-linezolid group had an early clinical response, indicative of treatment success. For patients infected with Staphylococcus aureus, including MRSA, clinical success was seen in 90.6 percent of the dalbavancin-treated patients and 93.8 percent of those treated with vancomycin-linezolid.

Dr. Boucher explained, "The patients in our study were very ill: more than 85 percent had fever at entry and more than half had systemic inflammatory response syndrome. In addition, our patients had large infections with median areas of over 300 square centimeters. Our results establish dalbavancin as an effective therapy and prove non-inferiority of dalbavancin to vancomycin in the treatment of these serious infections."

In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified antimicrobial resistance as a serious United States and global health concern. The DISCOVER trials were conducted with the help of the Generating Antibiotic Incentives Now (GAIN) provision of the 2012 Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act to stimulate development of new antibiotics to treat infections. Under the GAIN provisions, these drugs receive a priority review status and undergo an expedited regulatory approval process with FDA.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Tufts Medical Center . Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Several Governments Have Backdoor Access to Phone Networks, Says Vodafone

Ariel Zambelich/WIRED

An undisclosed number of countries have direct backdoor access to the communications passing through the network of telecommunications giant Vodafone, without needing to obtain a warrant, according to a new transparency report released by the company.

Governments in these countries have direct cables or interception systems connected to the networks of Vodafone and other telecoms, which allow them to silently intercept and record all communications that pass over the networks. This happens at the flick of a switch and without the countries obtaining court permission or notifying the telecoms that they are accessing the data, according to Vodafone.

Vodafone did not identify which countries had direct access, saying only that in “a small number of countries the law dictates that specific agencies and authorities must have direct access to an operator’s network, bypassing any form of operational control over lawful interception on the part of the operator.” In these countries, the company noted, Vodafone “will not receive any form of demand for lawful interception access as the relevant agencies and authorities already have permanent access to customer communications via their own direct link.”

This startling acknowledgement comes in the global company’s first Law Enforcement Disclosure Report, which was released on Friday. The lengthy report covers the period April 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014, and reveals that the company–which operates in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and parts of Asia Pacific–has received thousands of requests from 29 countries to intercept communications or to obtain data about communications or customer accounts.

Vodafone did not provide a breakdown of requests by country, it says, because in some cases producing uniform data across countries proved to be too difficult and in others legal restrictions prevented them from publishing information.

Vodafone notes, for example, that in at least nine countries–Albania, Egypt, Hungary, India, Malta, Qatar, Romania, South Africa, and Turkey–it is illegal for the company to disclose any information about government wiretapping activities or capabilities.

So instead of providing statistics about the requests that it received from governments, Vodafone provided a menu of information published by the countries in which it operates, where the countries disclosed the number of data requests they made for the time period.

Of these, Italy tops the list as the country submitting the most requests for data. Authorities there submitted more than 600,000 requests for metadata to carriers. The Czech Republic submitted about 7,600 requests for lawful intercepts while Tanzania submitted 99,000 requests for communications data.

The most alarming admission relates to the direct access that some countries have to Vodafone networks. Vodafone declined to identify which countries have such access, citing concerns about employee safety.

But the most alarming admission relates to the direct access that some countries have to Vodafone networks, something that has long been suspected. Vodafone declined to identify which countries have such access, citing concerns about employee safety. Governments in these countries could retaliate by imprisoning Vodafone employees or otherwise harming them.

The release of the transparency report follows in the wake of reports released by other companies, such as Google, Facebook, Verizon, and AT&T. But Vodafone’s report is remarkable for its length and the pains it takes to explain the varying legal landscape in the countries in which it operates and the problems this creates for publishing a fully transparent report.

The company did not include information in its report about requests from governments to block or restrict access to content or services for customers–for example, in countries like Iran where the government may attempt to censor information.

It also noted that “it is not possible to draw any meaningful conclusions from a comparison of one country’s statistical information with that disclosed for another” since each country, and agencies within countries, aggregates and discloses information in different ways and forms.

Friday Cephalopod: Love at first sight [Pharyngula]

The Vancouver Aquarium brought two octopuses together, and they didn’t delay at all — within minutes, it was…boom chicka wow wow. Totally not safe for work. Not the video, but if you watch this, you might well end up gnawing on your fist and moaning and whimpering right where you are.

A Spiky Outdoor Speaker That Charges Your Gadgets

Image: Outdoor Tech

Image: Outdoor Tech

It’s pretty hard for a Bluetooth speaker to stand out these days, but Outdoor Tech’s Big Turtle Shell commands attention for a few reasons. It’s summertime antics-proof, it keeps your other devices’ batteries topped off while you listen to music, and it will get loud.

The Big Turtle Shell looks like a geometric approximation of the Batmobile Tumbler. It comes in black. And those sharp angles on the speaker’s surface are designed for more than just looking interesting. When the speaker is laid flat, all that choppy terrain helps it push sound in directions other than straight up in the air.

You don’t have to lay the Big Turtle Shell speaker down, though. There’s a flat surface on one side so you can use it as a front-firing speaker too. In that orientation, the power, volume, and track-navigation buttons are on top of it. You can also hang the Turtle Shell on things and use it to aim Christopher Cross cuts in whatever direction you want thanks to large handles built into its sides. It’s about the size of a pound cake.

Not only does the Big Turtle Shell offer impressive battery life—its 7,800 mAh battery gives you up to 16 hours of playtime per charge, according to Outdoor Tech—but it also lets you sip off that high-capacity cell to charge your other devices. There’s a USB port built into the side of it, and the speaker can charge smartphones as well as iPads and other devices that require 2.1-amp charging.

That makes it a useful multi-purpose tool for camping, beach trips, and other outdoor adventures. The Big Turtle Shell is shock proof, sand- and dust-proof, and water-resistant. So you can dump water on it, but it’s not built for complete submersion.

Feature-wise, it seems built to go toe-to-toe with the Big Jambox. Both of them get as loud as a power saw, with a peak loudness of 110 decibels. You can daisy-chain a couple of Big Turtle Shells together via a 3.5mm audio-out port, and the speaker supports Bluetooth 4.0, NFC pairing, and line-in input through a 3.5mm port.

This versatile speaker comes in at a lower price than the Big Jambox, too. It costs $230, and ships in two weeks. Keep in mind that we tested the Big Turtle Shell’s little brother a few years ago, and the sound quality didn’t exactly blow us away. This version is much bigger though, and the amply-sized passive radiator on the bottom offers at least some hope for better sound quality.

How Porsche Made the Targa’s Iconic Pop-Top Even Better

1 | Shaped Glass

The most complicated piece of the Targa puzzle wasn’t the mechanics; it was the glass. The rear window was judged by most parts manufacturers as too big and curvy to make. But after a two year search, Porsche found a supplier with an oven large and sophisticated enough to bake the enormous pane.

2 | Mechanical Ballet

Press a button and the Targa transforms. As hydraulic cylinders raise the rear glass, two panel covers lift and move inward, allowing the roof’s arms to rise and pivot back. Hydraulics pull the magnesium-coated Teflon top over the roll bar and stow it in a rear compartment just above the engine.

3 | Safety Meets Style

The defining characteristic of the original Targa was its metal hoop concealing a roll bar. In a nod to the car’s heritage, Porsche retained the familiar basket-handle look. But today’s design isn’t as simple: Die-cast aluminum panels hide intricate mechanics and a massive molded steel roll bar.

4 | Open Sesame

It’s hard to sell a $100K car that requires the owner to do manual labor. The original Targa’s roof was a rigid scaffolding covered in vinyl; popping the top meant lifting it off. The new, fully automated system is quicker and easier—the driver only has to lift one finger.

How to Design a Killer Logo With Super Lame Fonts

System fonts are like Top 40 radio: Fine for the masses but easy to snub if you’re of more discerning taste. It’s easy to look down on the default typefaces we find on our PCs and Macs (think Verdana, Comic Sans and Arial), especially if you’re in the business of making fonts look good. “As graphic designers, we tend to spend a lot of time and energy picking out bespoke fonts,” says Natasha Jen, a partner at Pentagram. “My habit was to always think, what will be a new cool font for this, or what’s the most exquisite cut for that?”

It’s funny then, that for her newest project, Jen and her team actually did the exact opposite. When asked to design a graphic identity for the US Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale, Pentagram decided to do it using two of the most common fonts available: Arial and Times New Roman. With these fonts alone, Pentagram designed a sprawling identity system that encompassed a logo, letter templates, infographics, publication layout and maps. And if you ask us, the fonts look pretty damn good.

Deciding to design an entire identity with two of the most widely-used fonts is certainly an unorthodox choice. In fact, asked about the last time she used Times New Roman or Arial in a logo, Jen responds, “Never.” But the biennale identity was born more from practicality.


Less Headaches for Everyone

The U.S. pavilion will be a working office, where six architects will conduct business as usual for the 25 week span of the biennale. Sure, it would look cool if you chose a stylish bespoke font in your letter template, but you’d give everyone headaches because of it. Pentagram wanted the identity’s typefaces to be useful. “Fonts aren’t something people think about until they become a problem,” says Jen. “These fonts are automatically in every computer system, so the staff working in the office will never confront issues.”

Ideally, graphic identities do more than look pretty. And while Pentagram’s vision actually contributes to the efficiency of the work environment, graphic designers will be graphic designers. “The challenge was how do you use these two seemingly mundane fonts to actually create interesting design to create something of beauty,” says Jen.

Jen will be a speaker at WIRED's live magazine, WIRED by Design.

Jen is also a speaker at WIRED by Design. Stanley Chow for WIRED

To be fair, there are things to admire about both fonts. Ariel is a direct decedent of Helvetica (“one of the very few perfect fonts,” says Jen). It shares Helvetica’s weight, cuts of certain angles and the smooth curves of the letters. Times New Roman, explains Jen, is like a perfectly proportioned woman. “It’s not too fat and not too thin,” she says. It has meat in the places it needs it.” Individually, both make for beautiful body copy, and together they strike a perfect balance.

But it turns out, more important than the typeface itself is how you use it. Jen says they spent a year tweaking the nuances of each font, paying particular attention to the spacing, kerning and tracking of each letter. “It has much less to do with the typefaces as an object, and more in how you use them,” she says. “I was relearning all of this, and that was a very beautiful thing.”

Click here for information WIRED by Design, a live magazine.

This Week’s Apple Rumors, Ranked From Dumbest to Most Plausible

The iMac will be getting a Retina upgrade eventually. Photo: Alex Washburn/WIRED

The iMac will be getting a Retina upgrade eventually. Photo: Alex Washburn/WIRED

Each week, there are dozens of rumors, reports, and patent filings that hint at what’s coming out of Cupertino next. Some are legit, but many are totally bogus. With this year’s WWDC behind us, there’s not much in the rumor department, but there are a heck of a lot of hints about what’s coming next in iOS and OS X based on code leaks. Below are some of the biggest expected updates, both in terms of hardware and software, that we’ve seen since developers got access to iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite.

Retina iMacs Are on the Way

The developer preview of OS X Yosemite includes a new file with display scaling resolution options for an iMac that doesn’t yet exist. The resolutions listed range up to a Retina display-level 3,200 x 1,800, and even up to 6,400 x 3,600 pixels. The native resolution of the display would be 5,120 x 2,880, which is twice the pixel count of today’s 27-inch iMac. MacRumors explains that this is similar to what we see in today’s Retina MacBook Pro: “While the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro has a native resolution of 2,880 x 1,800 (giving screen real estate of 1,440 x 900 as Retina), the system is capable of generating a 3,840 x 2,400 desktop that is then scaled down to give the real estate of a 1,920 x 1,200 display.” We’ve been hearing that Apple is working on a Retina display iMac, but it’s probably taken time to hone the manufacturing process for getting satisfactory yields for such a large, high-resolution screen.

Larger-Size iPhones on the Way, Xcode Hints

The latest version of Apple’s Xcode software, Xcode 6, lets developers mock up their iOS designs on simulated screen resolutions of their choice, not just existing ones. That means they could check out how their app would look on a 4.7-inch or 5.5-inch iPhone, for example—the sizes expected to debut at Apple’s next iPhone event in the fall. While it’s not concrete evidence, it’s the most solid indicator Apple can offer that developers might want to check how their interfaces work on devices of various size and resolution.

M7 Processor Is Enabling Indoor Positioning in iOS 8

Using the sensors in your iOS device, like the M7 coprocessor and Wi-Fi chip, iOS 8 enables accurate indoor positioning. Until now, GPS, Wi-Fi, and cellular data could pinpoint your location to within about a block of your actual location. But now, iOS 8 can pick out your exact indoor location—in venues that house iBeacons. While this verges on creepy, it does have a lot of utility: Imagine getting turn-by-turn directions in the mall, or to the hot dog stand at a baseball game, or even to where the health food section is at the grocery store. A couple of Bay Area locations like the San Jose International Airport and California Academy of Sciences actually already have indoor positioning in place, but with iOS 8, it’ll be available on a mass scale. In addition to this, Apple also appears to be promoting apps based on your location, so if you’re near a Starbucks, for example, a Starbucks app icon will appear in the lower left of your homescreen (whether you’ve downloaded the app or not). This is an interesting way to push app discovery and provide greater utility when you’re somewhere that a dedicated app might be able to help you.

Apple Giving Users More Control Over Battery Life

It’s always a bummer when you download or update a bunch of new apps, and one (or more) of them turns out to be a battery hog. When iOS 8 comes out, you’ll have better control over when apps can use your data, and know which apps are taking the biggest toll on your battery life. A new feature called “Visit Monitoring” lets apps ask permission not just for location data, but specifically if they can use location data only when the app is in use. This should improve efficiency for many apps that might otherwise poll your location, or other sensor data, even when you’re not using it. Paired with the ability to individually monitor apps’ battery usage, it’s clear Apple wants to give users greater control over a better iOS experience when it comes to daily battery usage.

YbeY is essential for fitness and virulence of V. cholerae, keeps RNA household in order

YbeY is a conserved protein that is present in most bacteria. A study published on June 5th in PLOS Pathogens examines the function of YbeY in the cholera bacterium and reveals critical roles in RNA metabolism in this and other pathogenic bacteria.

Graham Walker, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, and colleagues previously studied E. coli YbeY and found that it acts as an "RNase" -- a protein that deliberately and specifically cuts RNA molecules and thereby regulates their availability and activity. Turning to Vibrio cholerae to examine the role of YbeY in disease-causing pathogens, they now report that YbeY is essential in this pathogen, critical for cell fitness and general stress tolerance, and involved in the regulation of different classes of RNA targets.

Like in higher organisms, genetic information contained in the DNA of bacteria gets "transcribed" into RNA molecules. Some of these RNAs serve as templates for proteins, others form part of the bacterial protein factories (so-called ribosomes), and yet another group consists of small regulatory RNAs that modulate cellular functions of the bacteria and their hosts. The researchers demonstrate that YbeY is needed in generating the components for functional ribosomes, for their assembly, and for ribosome quality control -- eliminating defective protein factories before they turn out faulty products.

In addition, they find that YbeY targets virulence-associated small regulatory RNAs. Consistent with these functions, reducing the amount of YbeY makes V. cholerae less harmful (or virulent) in a mouse cholera model. The researchers also show that YbeY belongs to a set of conserved RNases that are essential in many different pathogens, including Streptococcus pneumoniae and Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

They conclude that "although functionally associated with a well-established antibiotic target, the ribosome, YbeY is so far unexploited as a drug target and its use . . . might lead to the discovery of completely novel antibiotic scaffolds" and suggest that "considering YbeY's high level of conservation, its essential nature in many pathogens, and its ability to sensitize pathogens by disrupting stress tolerance and virulence, a YbeY-specific antibiotic could have broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity."

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The above story is based on materials provided by PLOS . Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

One and done: New antibiotic could provide single-dose option

In the battle against stubborn skin infections, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a new single-dose antibiotic is as effective as a twice-daily infusion given for up to 10 days, according to a large study led by Duke Medicine researchers.

Researchers said the advantage of the new drug, oritavancin, is its potential to curtail what has been a key driver of antibiotic resistance: a tendency for patients to stop taking antibiotics once they feel better. In such instances, the surviving bacteria may become impervious to the drugs designed to fight them.

"The prolonged activity is what makes oritavancin distinctive," said G. Ralph Corey, M.D., lead author of the study published June 5, 2014, in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). "This drug has a long half-life, which allows for a single-dose treatment."

Corey, a professor of medicine and infectious diseases at Duke University School of Medicine, led a three-year study of oritavancin that encompassed two large clinical trials enrolling nearly 2,000 patients. Findings from the trials will be presented to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as part of the drug's approval application.

Results reported in the NEJM are for the first of the two clinical trials, which included 475 patients randomized to take the investigational drug, and 479 patients following a typical regimen of vancomycin, including two infusions a day, for seven to 10 days.

Researchers found that the single intravenous dose of oritavancin was as effective as vancomycin in shrinking the size of the lesion and reducing fever. Both were also similar in rates of requiring a rescue antibiotic.

The new antibiotic also performed similarly to vancomycin in reducing the area of the wound by 20 percent or more within the first 48-72 hours of treatment, and in curing the patients of infection, including those infected with MRSA.

"Having a single-dose drug could potentially prevent hospitalizations or reduce the amount of time patients would spend in the hospital," Corey said.

In addition to Corey, study authors include Heidi Kabler of Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center in Las Vegas; Purvi Mehra and William O'Riordan of Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center in Chula Vista, Calif.; Sandeep Gupta of MV Hospital and Research Center in Lucknow, India; J. Scott Overcash of Sharp Grossmont Hospital in San Diego; Ashwin Porwal of Inamdar Multispecialty Hospital in Pune, India; Philip Giordano of Orlando Health in Orlando, Fla.; Christopher Lucasti of Somers Point, N.J.; and Antonio Perez, Samantha Good, Hai Jiang and Greg Moeck of The Medicines Company.

The study was funded by The Medicines Company, which owns and is seeking to market oritavancin. Corey was a paid consultant to The Medicines Company and the principle investigator of the SOLO trials, the three-year study of oritavancin.

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The above story is based on materials provided by Duke Medicine . Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

'Clever' DNA may help bacteria survive

Scientists have discovered that bacteria can reshape their DNA to survive dehydration.

The research, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society Interface, shows that bacterial DNA can change from the regular double helix -- known as B-DNA, to the more compact A-DNA form, when faced with hostile conditions such as dehydration.

Crucially, scientists have pinpointed a unique process in DNA, called the B-A-B transition, which allows it to change its structure in response to environmental change. Without impacting on the ability of the bacteria to function and reproduce, this unique structural alteration sees the B-DNA change to A-DNA, and then revert back to its original B-DNA form to ensure the bacteria survive.

Associate Professor Bayden Wood, from Monash University said the study gives vital new information on how bacteria can survive periods of time in arid environments.

"Our findings may be important in understanding how dormant bacteria that are transferred from dry surfaces may become active and reproduce in the human body,' Associate Professor Wood said.

PhD student and first author of the paper, Donna Whelan said the most common form of DNA found in most organisms is B-DNA. However, the A-form has been thought to show protective qualities to allow bacterial spores to survive high UV exposure and other extreme environmental conditions.

"Our research, which utilised infrared light to investigate the structure of DNA inside live bacteria, demonstrates that bacteria can survive by adopting the A-DNA form after the majority of water is removed -- and that really is groundbreaking," Donna Whelan said.

The new findings build on research led by Associate Professor Wood and Donna Whelan in 2011 at the Australian Synchrotron, which indicated the same B-A-B DNA transition occurs in all cell types. Significantly, the team has now discovered this change may have a biological function in bacteria, potentially assisting them to survive dehydration.

Associate Professor Bayden Wood said the ability for DNA to transform and then change back again in human cells had puzzled scientists until now.

"In human cells the DNA is tightly bound by proteins known as histones, so the fact that it can change to a different form and then change back again is fascinating. We have no biological reason for why this DNA transition happens in human cells, but we may now understand its role in bacteria," Associate Professor Wood said.

The interdisciplinary team at Monash investigated four species of bacteria using live cells. By carefully hydrating and dehydrating the bacteria and then analysing the cells using an infrared-based technique, which detects the vibrations of DNA, the team found all four species underwent the same B-A-B transition.

Professor Julian Rood, who coordinated the microbiology aspects of the research, said that because the majority of bacteria remained fully functional after hydration and rehydration the results suggest A-DNA may have a highly evolved protective capacity to ensure survival.

"We discovered A-DNA has an amazing ability to protect and ensure life continues even under extreme stress, in this case dehydration. In our tests, even after the majority of water was removed, A-DNA kicked in and then changed back to B-DNA to help the bacteria survive," Professor Rood said.

The next phase of the research will see the team investigate how bacteria survive other conditions such as temperature, pH levels, oxygen, nutrients and antimicrobials and discover what role the 'clever' DNA plays under these conditions.

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The above story is based on materials provided by Monash University . Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.