Do gut bacteria rule our minds? In an ecosystem within us, microbes evolved to sway food choices

It sounds like science fiction, but it seems that bacteria within us -- which outnumber our own cells about 100-fold -- may very well be affecting both our cravings and moods to get us to eat what they want, and often are driving us toward obesity.

In an article published this week in the journal BioEssays, researchers from UC San Francisco, Arizona State University and University of New Mexico concluded from a review of the recent scientific literature that microbes influence human eating behavior and dietary choices to favor consumption of the particular nutrients they grow best on, rather than simply passively living off whatever nutrients we choose to send their way.

Bacterial species vary in the nutrients they need. Some prefer fat, and others sugar, for instance. But they not only vie with each other for food and to retain a niche within their ecosystem -- our digestive tracts -- they also often have different aims than we do when it comes to our own actions, according to senior author Athena Aktipis, PhD, co-founder of the Center for Evolution and Cancer with the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at UCSF.

While it is unclear exactly how this occurs, the authors believe this diverse community of microbes, collectively known as the gut microbiome, may influence our decisions by releasing signaling molecules into our gut. Because the gut is linked to the immune system, the endocrine system and the nervous system, those signals could influence our physiologic and behavioral responses.

"Bacteria within the gut are manipulative," said Carlo Maley, PhD, director of the UCSF Center for Evolution and Cancer and corresponding author on the paper." "There is a diversity of interests represented in the microbiome, some aligned with our own dietary goals, and others not."

Fortunately, it's a two-way street. We can influence the compatibility of these microscopic, single-celled houseguests by deliberating altering what we ingest, Maley said, with measurable changes in the microbiome within 24 hours of diet change.

"Our diets have a huge impact on microbial populations in the gut," Maley said. "It's a whole ecosystem, and it's evolving on the time scale of minutes."

There are even specialized bacteria that digest seaweed, found in humans in Japan, where seaweed is popular in the diet.

Research suggests that gut bacteria may be affecting our eating decisions in part by acting through the vagus nerve, which connects 100 million nerve cells from the digestive tract to the base of the brain.

"Microbes have the capacity to manipulate behavior and mood through altering the neural signals in the vagus nerve, changing taste receptors, producing toxins to make us feel bad, and releasing chemical rewards to make us feel good," said Aktipis, who is currently in the Arizona State University Department of Psychology.

In mice, certain strains of bacteria increase anxious behavior. In humans, one clinical trial found that drinking a probiotic containing Lactobacillus casei improved mood in those who were feeling the lowest.

Maley, Aktipis and first author Joe Alcock, MD, from the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of New Mexico, proposed further research to test the sway microbes hold over us. For example, would transplantation into the gut of the bacteria requiring a nutrient from seaweed lead the human host to eat more seaweed?

The speed with which the microbiome can change may be encouraging to those who seek to improve health by altering microbial populations. This may be accomplished through food and supplement choices, by ingesting specific bacterial species in the form of probiotics, or by killing targeted species with antibiotics. Optimizing the balance of power among bacterial species in our gut might allow us to lead less obese and healthier lives, according to the authors.

"Because microbiota are easily manipulatable by prebiotics, probiotics, antibiotics, fecal transplants, and dietary changes, altering our microbiota offers a tractable approach to otherwise intractable problems of obesity and unhealthy eating," the authors wrote.

The authors met and first discussed the ideas in the BioEssays paper at a summer school conference on evolutionary medicine two years ago. Aktipis, who is an evolutionary biologist and a psychologist, was drawn to the opportunity to investigate the complex interaction of the different fitness interests of microbes and their hosts and how those play out in our daily lives. Maley, a computer scientist and evolutionary biologist, had established a career studying how tumor cells arise from normal cells and evolve over time through natural selection within the body as cancer progresses.

In fact, the evolution of tumors and of bacterial communities are linked, points out Aktipis, who said some of the bacteria that normally live within us cause stomach cancer and perhaps other cancers.

"Targeting the microbiome could open up possibilities for preventing a variety of disease from obesity and diabetes to cancers of the gastro-intestinal tract. We are only beginning to scratch the surface of the importance of the microbiome for human health," she said.

The co-authors' BioEssays study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the American Cancer Society, the Bonnie D. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation and the Institute for Advanced Study, in Berlin.

Harnessing the power of bacteria's sophisticated immune system

Bacteria's ability to destroy viruses has long puzzled scientists, but researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health say they now have a clear picture of the bacterial immune system and say its unique shape is likely why bacteria can so quickly recognize and destroy their assailants.

The researchers drew what they say is the first-ever picture of the molecular machinery, known as Cascade, which stands guard inside bacterial cells. To their surprise, they found it contains a two-strand, unencumbered structure that resembles a ladder, freeing it to do its work faster than a standard double-helix would allow.

The findings, published online Aug. 14 in the journal Science, may also provide clues about the spread of antibiotic resistance, which occurs when bacteria adapt to the point where antibiotics no longer work in people who need them to treat infections, since similar processes are in play. The World Health Organization (WHO) considers antibiotic resistance a major threat to public health around the world.

"If you understand what something looks like, you can figure out what it does," says study leader Scott Bailey, PhD, an associate professor in the Bloomberg School's Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. "And here we found a structure that nobody's ever seen before, a structure that could explain why Cascade is so good at what it does."

For their study, Bailey and his colleagues used something called X-ray crystallography to draw the picture of Cascade, a key component of bacteria's sophisticated immune system known as CRISPR, an acronym for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. Cascade uses the information housed in sequences of RNA as shorthand to identify foreign invaders and kill them.

Much of the human immune system is well understood, but until recently scientists didn't realize the level of complexity associated with the immune system of single-cell life forms, including bacteria. Scientists first identified CRISPR several years ago when trying to understand why bacterial cultures used to make yogurt succumbed to viral infections. Researchers subsequently discovered they could harness the CRISPR bacterial immune system to edit DNA and repair damaged genes. One group, for example, was able to remove viral DNA from human cells infected with HIV.

Bailey's work is focused on how Cascade is able to help bacteria fight off viruses called bacteriophages. The Cascade system uses short strands of bacterial RNA to scan the bacteriophage DNA to see if it is foreign or self. If foreign, the cell launches an attack that chews up the invading bacteriophage.

To "see" how this happens, Bailey and his team converted Cascade into a crystalized form. Technicians at the National Synchrotron Light Source at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, NY, and the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource then trained high-powered X-rays on the crystals. The X-rays provided computational data to the Bloomberg School scientists allowing them to draw Cascade, an 11-protein machine that only operates if each part is in perfect working order.

What they saw was unexpected. Instead of the RNA and DNA wrapping around each other to form what is known as a double-helix structure, in Cascade the DNA and RNA are more like parallel lines, forming something of a ladder. Bailey says that if RNA had to wrap itself around DNA to recognize an invader -- and then unwrap itself to look at the next strand -- the process would take too much time to ward off infection. With a ladder structure, RNA can quickly scan DNA.

In the new study, Bailey says his team determined that the RNA scans the DNA in a manner similar to how humans scan text for a key word. They break long stretches of characters into smaller bite-sized segments, much like words themselves, so they can be spotted more easily.

Since the CRISPR-Cas system naturally acts as a barrier to the exchange of genetic information between bacteria and bacteriophages, its function can offer clues to how antibiotic resistance develops and ideas for how to keep it from happening.

"We're finding more pieces to the puzzle," Bailey says. "This gives us a better understanding of how these machines find their targets, which may help us harness the CRISPR system as a tool for therapy or manipulation of DNA in a lab setting. And it all started when someone wanted to make yogurt more cheaply."

"Crystal structure of a CRISPR RNA-guided surveillance complex bound to a ssDNA target," was written by Sabin Mulepati, Annie Heroux and Scott Bailey.

Hoopoes' eggs show their true colors

Hoopoe females use cosmetics on their eggs -- and the eggs gradually change color when they are incubated, from bluish-grey to a more saturated greenish-brown. This happens because secretion from the uropygial or preen gland -- a substance birds use to preen and protect their feathers -- is transfered from the female hoopoe's gland to her eggs directly with the bill and by means of belly feathers. This is one of the findings from a study led by Juan J. Soler of the Estación Experimental de Zonas Áridas, CSIC in Spain, published in Springer's journal Naturwissenschaften -- The Science of Nature.

Previous work by Soler´s team has shown that the preen gland secretion of incubating hoopoes is brown in color and holds antimicrobial properties. The color is thanks to a combination of symbiotic bacteria found in the uropygial gland that provides protection against pathogenic bacteria. The symbiotic bacteria help to protect embryos from trans-shell infections, and in vitro are highly effective against Bacillus licheniformis, a well-known feather-degrading bacterium. The darker the color of the secretion, the more of the "good" bacteria are present -- and the better protection there is against the "bad" bacteria to ensure that a bird's embryos or feathers stay healthy.

To find out if indeed it is the gland secretion that causes hoopoes' eggs to change color, Soler's team conducted field studies in southern Spain and experimental work at the University of Granada and in Finca Experimental la Hoya in Almeria. In some cases, the researchers blocked off female hoopoes' uropygial glands found over their tails, to make it impossible for them to spread any preen oil onto their feathers or eggs. In other instances, the researchers smeared eggshells with this preen oil.

Their experimental tests showed that eggs that came into contact with the gland secretion changed color from their initial bluish-grey to greenish-brown. Eggs that were not covered with this so-called preen oil showed no color change.

"The eggshell coloration of hoopoe eggs is the consequence of the female birds' spreading uropygial secretion on the eggshells," says Soler.

The researchers speculate that the egg coloration might be a way through which a female hoopoe signals to the male that she is good breeding material, for future reference. It can inform a male of the presence, abundance, or even particularities of the antimicrobial bacterial community found in a female's glands -- qualities that she will be able to carry over to their offspring should they mate in the future. Males can use this information to adjust their investment in the actual breeding attempt. Although further experimental work is needed to establish the validity of this signaling hypothesis, Soler hopes that the new results will encourage such research in hoopoes and in other birds.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Springer Science+Business Media . Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

A 1996 Plan to Use NASA’s Oldest Orbiter to Make Money on the Moon



Assembly of NASA’s first spaceworthy Space Shuttle Orbiter, OV-102 Columbia, commenced in March 1975. The 111-ton reusable winged spaceship first reached low-Earth orbit on STS-1 (12-14 April 1981), the Space Shuttle Program’s first mission. Named for the first American sailing ship to circle the globe and the Apollo 11 Command and Service Module, Columbia completed 27 successful flights.

NASA’s oldest Orbiter was also its heaviest. Unlike its sisters Atlantis, Discovery, and Endeavor, Columbia had difficulty reaching the 51.6° orbital inclination of the Russian Mir station and the International Space Station (ISS) with a useful payload in its 15-by-60-foot payload bay. It was the only Orbiter that did not visit the Russian Mir station. This performance constraint meant that, in the Shuttle-Mir/ISS era, NASA relegated to Columbia its few remaining low-inclination, non-space station missions, such as Hubble Space Telescope servicing.

Extended-Duration Orbiter modifications would permit Columbia to remain in orbit for more than two weeks to serve as a science research platform. Such missions would, however, become increasingly rare – or end entirely – as research expanded on board ISS.

In an April 1996 paper presented at the 33rd Space Congress in Cocoa Beach, Florida, Carey McCleskey of the Vehicle Engineering Directorate at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center proposed using the oldest Orbiter’s excess mission capacity “to ignite a billion dollar, sustained enterprise on the Moon.” Specifically, he advocated using Columbia as a joint NASA/private sector Earth-orbital launch platform for rocket stages bearing small lunar landers. Columbia would remain in space for only a few hours during each of its lunar lander deployment missions.

The first Space Shuttle launch: Columbia lifts off at the start of STS-1 on 12 April 1981.

The first Space Shuttle launch: Columbia lifts off at the start of STS-1 on 12 April 1981. NASA

The landers would deliver to the moon teleoperated “micro-robots” akin to Mars Pathfinder’s Sojourner minirover. These would serve as proxy lunar explorers for paying visitors at “space theme parks” on Earth.

Confident that his proposal would help to build public support for U.S. astronauts to return to the moon, McCleskey wrote that

use of Columbia only makes sense for the start-up and initial take-off phases of the enterprise. The Shuttle system. . .will reach a limit which will drive the nation toward advanced space delivery systems. The use of the Shuttle for starting a lunar enterprise, therefore, is not the answer for space delivery, but rather our next opportunity.

Columbia lifted off at the start of STS-107, its 28th mission, on 16 January 2003. Eighty-two seconds after launch, a piece of foam insulation about 20 inches long broke free from its External Tank and struck its left wing. Engineers examining high-resolution video images of the impact warned of possible wing damage, but Shuttle management elected to disregard their warnings.

The oldest Orbiter’s seven-person crew conducted wide-ranging science research for 16 days – long enough for the moon to wax from nearly full to full, then wane to last quarter and new. The crew beamed to Earth a breathtaking image of the last quarter moon taken on 26 January (image at top of post).

On 1 February 2003, the day of the new moon, Columbia fired its twin Orbital Maneuvering System engines to slow itself and reenter Earth’s atmosphere. Temperatures on the Orbiter’s belly tiles, nose cap, and wing leading edge panels began to climb as Columbia reentered at an altitude of 400,000 feet. About 40 minutes after the deorbit burn the wing leading edge temperature neared its peak value of about 3000° Fahrenheit.

As Columbia crossed the California coast in predawn darkness en route to its planned landing in Florida, hot plasma began to penetrate its internal structure through a breach in its left wing leading edge. Flight controllers in Mission Control in Houston puzzled over the cause of sensor failures in the Orbiter’s left wing. The failures progressed aftward from the leading edge.

For observers on the ground in California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas, many of whom had observed pre-dawn Shuttle reentries before, Columbia was a fast-moving, brilliant point of light leaving behind a luminous, sky-spanning ionization trail. Veteran observers along Columbia‘s reentry path noted more than 20 unusual flashes around the Orbiter and peculiar bright streaks in the trail.

As Columbia crossed from New Mexico into Texas, it began to shed pieces. Meanwhile, thrusters fired automatically to compensate for increased drag on the left wing. Columbia did not give up without a fight.

Radio contact with Columbia was lost about 10 minutes after hot plasma first entered the left wing. Less than a minute later, the gutted wing folded over the fuselage. The oldest Orbiter tumbled and disintegrated at an altitude of 203,000 feet just west of Dallas, Texas, killing its crew and raining wreckage over parts of eastern Texas and western Louisiana.

Had Columbia not been destroyed, NASA would have launched it to the ISS for the first (and probably only) time in November 2003. The STS-118 mission would have seen NASA’s oldest Orbiter stand in for its younger sister Discovery, which was scheduled for periodic maintenance. As it turned out, Endeavour, the Orbiter built to replace Challenger, carried out STS-118 in August 2007. Columbia was the only Orbiter that never visited a space station.

The STS-107 accident triggered far-reaching changes in the U.S. space program that even now have yet to play out fully. Most obvious of these was President George W. Bush’s January 2004 call to end the Space Shuttle Program when ISS was completed, which at the time was scheduled for 2010. The 135th and last flight of the Shuttle, designated STS-135, concluded on 21 July 2011, with the landing of Atlantis in Florida. On 16 August 2011, Space Shuttle Program Manager John Shannon announced that the Shuttle Program would end officially on 31 August 2011.


“Using the Space Shuttle Columbia to Begin Bringing the Moon to America,” Carey M. McCleskey; paper presented at the 33rd Space Congress in Cocoa Beach, Florida, April 23-26, 1996.

Related Beyond Apollo Posts

Space Station Columbia (1991)

Columbia, Discovery, and Atlantis

Ten Years After Columbia: A List of Shuttle-Station Posts

Game|Life Podcast: Sony, Microsoft Trade Exclusives In Germany

Concept artwork from Rise of the Tomb Raider.

Concept artwork from Rise of the Tomb Raider. Square Enix

We discuss Sony’s and Microsoft’s announcements at Gamescom, Europe’s big gaming trade and consumer show, on this week’s Game|Life Podcast.

Microsoft certainly riled up some fans with the news that Rise of the Tomb Raider, pictured above, would be exclusive to the Xbox One. Apparently, this will only be for a specified period of time, so it’s highly likely that PlayStation 4 will also be graced with Lara Croft’s presence at some point. But if you want to play her latest adventure the day it comes out, you’ll need to own an Xbox One. Console wars are tough things, kids. This is the topic of our discussion on the podcast, and Peter Rubin and Bo Moore join me to chat about exclusives and other announcements.

Bo gives us more thoughts on Firefall , and I talk about my recent piece on the Night Trap Kickstarter, too. Enjoy!

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

Game|Life Audio Podcast


The Internet Is Now Officially More Popular Than Cable in the U.S.


Ariel Zambelich/WIRED

You can’t call them “cable companies” anymore.

For the first time, the number of broadband subscribers with the major US cable companies exceeded the number of cable subscribers, the Leichtman Research Group reported today. Among other things, these figures suggest the industry is now misnamed. Evidently these are broadband companies that offer cable on the side.

To be sure, the difference is minimal: 49,915,000 broadband subscribers versus 49,910,000 cable subscribers. But even assuming a huge overlap in those numbers from customers who have both, the primacy of broadband demonstrates a shift in consumer priorities. Nearly all the major cable companies added broadband subscribers over the past quarter, for a total of nearly 380,000 new signups. Cable subscribers don’t have to worry about TV as they know it going away any time soon. But cable is on its way to becoming secondary, the “nice to have” compared to the necessity of having broadband access.

Not Bad for Business

Such a transition might suit the “cable companies” just fine. I first saw these numbers pointed out by Peter Kafka at Recode, who wrote: “Some smart people suggest that the cable guys would not be unhappy if most of their business moved over to broadband instead of video, since there are much better margins—and almost no competition—for broadband.”

The better margins boil down to the fact that broadband is purely about access, while cable is about content. The crux of the cable side of the cable business is hatching deals with the makers of sports, news, and entertainment so there’s something to send through the box. And the costs can be steep. ESPN, the most pricey by far, tops $5 per subscriber per month.

With broadband, the cable companies don’t have to put anything through those pipes themselves. They just have to be the plumbers. They may not like the way Netflix and its more than 36 million U.S. subscribers are eating into their TV businesses. But Netflix and other streaming services are helping drive demand for broadband—a service cable operators can provide without having to serve up any content themselves at all.

TV’s Broad Future

What this means for the future of TV is still tough to predict. While these figures may suggest the inevitable transition to an internet-dominated future, nearly 50 million cable subscribers don’t appear ready to cut the cord just yet. Even with a plethora of on-demand options, people are still watching TV like they used to, which means a business model still based around ads and subscription fees. But that’s still a loss of millions of cable subscribers over the past half-decade, while the number of broadband subscribers has climbed at a much faster clip.

Meanwhile, traditional TV as a format already is being engulfed by the open-endedness of the internet. From mainstream streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Instant Video to niche sites like Funny or Die to YouTube celebrities—to name just some of the options that fall under entertainment—the kinds of moving pictures available and the ways to consume them have never been greater. Within this broader spectrum, cable as a concept could become just another niche, one channel among many as the insatiable internet swallows everything it encounters.

What to Do in Honolulu if You Hate Surfing

Just 30 minutes from downtown Honolulu, Makapuu beach offers some of the best bodysurfing in the world.

Just 30 minutes from downtown Honolulu, Makapuu beach offers some of the best bodysurfing in the world. Marco Garcia

Every August, Honolulu's premier ocean sports event kicks off on Waikiki Beach. It's Duke's Ocean-Fest, a nine-day tournament with events like tandem surfing, paddleboard racing, and surf polo—water polo on longboards! More than 2,000 athletes from Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and the US compete. Now in its 13th year, the festival honors Duke Kahanamoku, Hawaii's famed Olympic gold medalist and aloha ambassador, who died in 1968. “He helped pioneer and expand surfing to the rest of the world,” says event director Brent Imonen. Which means the Duke also helped fuel a whopping industry: Surfing looks likely to reach $13 billion in global revenue by 2017.

Waikiki Aquarium This 110-year-old aquarium has the only peppermint angelfish on public display in the world—the rare striped critter is worth over $30,000.

Atlantis Premium Sub Tours Board the 64-passenger Atlantis XIV, the world's largest high tech passenger sub, and descend 100 feet to visit shipwrecks and coral reefs.


Oahu Nature Tours A rain forest walkabout takes you to some filming locations of Jurassic Park.

Nocturna Lounge This classed-up bar-cade offers gaming tournaments—from Street Fighter to Marvel vs. Capcom—as well as karaoke.

Hawaii Shark Encounters Dip into shark-infested waters: Only a 1/4-inch-thick Polyglass window separates you from dozens of Galapagos and sandbar sharks.

Honolulu Fish Auction Get up at the crack of dawn to watch top restaurant chefs bid for killer fresh ahi.


Leonard's Bakery For more than 60 years, Leonard's has been serving up Portuguese doughnuts called malasadas. Also try the pão doce.

Pint + Jigger Go for the craft beer but stay for this gastropub's eats, like marlin maque choux and bacon-and-brandy-covered strawberries.

Justin Mezzel

Sharks Want to Bite Google’s Undersea Cables

There are many, many things that can go wrong as you lay thousands of miles of fiber optic cable along the ocean’s floor. Earthquakes can rip things up, as can fishing hooks. But now we know of a new threat: Shark attacks.

According to Network World, Google Product Manager Dan Belcher told folks at a Google marketing event in Boston last week that Google ensures its cable is sheathed in a Kevlar-like protective coating to keep the sharks from chomping through the line. Turns out this is standard operating procedure among undersea cable-layers, who must take a number of steps to keep aquatic life from harming (or being harmed by) data cables.

We asked Google about this, and if they have any idea why sharks would want to eat fiber optic cables, but they had nothing to say. But apparently it’s a thing, as you can see in the video below.

As Google expands its online empire, undersea cables are becoming an increasingly important part of the plan. The company has invested in two major undersea cables connecting the western US to Asia, and a third cable that extends Google’s network within Asia. That’s where the big data bottleneck is these days, and a lack of fiber connectivity can push up market prices for moving data between the two continents. That is unless, like Google, you have access to your very own cables.

We’ve long known squirrels are a major problem to anyone laying cable, but according to a report by the International Cable Protection Committee cable bites—by sharks and other fish—remain a surprisingly persistent problem. In the 1980s, a deep-ocean fiber-optic cable was cut four times. Researchers blame crocodile sharks for those attacks after finding teeth in the cable.

The cable protection folks really have no idea why sharks bite cables either, although some suggest it may be due to “electro magnetic fields from a suspended cable strumming in currents,” they say in their report.

If you had just a piece of plastic out there shaped like a cable, there’s a good chance they’d bite that too.

Sharks, like other animals, can detect magnetic fields — and they have miniature volt sensors in their mouths that they use to detect prey and mates. But there’s a simpler explanation, says says Chris Lowe, the professor who runs California State University, Long Beach’s, Shark Lab. They may simply be curious. “If you had just a piece of plastic out there shaped like a cable, there’s a good chance they’d bite that too.” But even an exploratory nibble is enough to cause some serious trouble. “Just a little bite is enough to get through the jacket, damage the fibers and then your screwed,” Lowe says.

More recently, Level 3 Communications technicians did come across a three foot long shark in a trench near its fiber cable—two miles inland—in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Maybe it was looking for a bite.

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

iPhone 5C. Photo: Josh Valcarcel/WIRED

Josh Valcarcel/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. As we’re nearing the launch of the next iPhone, we’re starting to see lots of parts leaks. As always, we’ve parsed the rumors, ranking them in order from “utterly ridiculous” to “duh, of course.” First up…

ASK AGAIN LATER: Photos of iPhone 6 Backplate, Camera Emerge

Sonny Dickson, another repeat Apple leaker whose photos have proven accurate in the past, posted images of the next iPhone’s backplate. The camera looks like it will be raised from the rest of the rear surface, and otherwise, the design matches what we’ve seen in previous leaks. A separate leak this week spotlights the camera and shows that a dual LED True Tone flash could still fit in the round (as opposed to the currently pill-shaped) flash component in these images. As we’re so close to the iPhone’s reported launch date, it’s more likely that the parts we see could be legit.

ASK AGAIN LATER: Photos of the iPhone 6 Display Panel and Other Parts

But wait, there’s more! Feld & Volk, a luxury iPhone modder, published more photos of what it claims to be iPhone 6 parts. This time we see the front display panel, the front edges (which taper into a curve), and closeups of the mute and power buttons.

ASK AGAIN LATER: Audio System for Thin Devices Could Appear in Next iPhone

Patently Apple uncovered a patent filing Thursday that details an audio system designed specifically for ‘thin’ devices. It uses a rectangular design and a mobile magnetic piston to create more dynamic audio for music and notifications, and also low frequency vibrations for tactile alerts. This could be something Apple might employ on a future iPhone, perhaps even the iPhone 6.

SIGNS POINT TO YES: Apple Details Fraud Detection System That Could Be Used in iTunes, iWallet

An Apple patent for fraud detection for identity management systems surfaced today from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. In it, Apple explains how a centralized system could detect, in real-time or near real-time, fraudulent network events based on things like device and network signatures (like IP address, device IP, device ID, timestamp, or geolocation), account information, and the velocity of requests. Something like this could already be in place in iTunes, and could also be used in Apple’s anticipated mobile wallet service.

SIGNS POINT TO YES: Sapphire May Only Be Used on Higher-End iPhones

We’ve been hearing repeatedly about Apple’s troubles with producing quality sapphire displays at volume, along with conflicting reports that, yes, the next iPhone will still feature a sapphire display. A report from The Wall Street Journal may finally explain the discrepancy: Apple may use super tough sapphire displays only on more expensive iPhone models this time around. The report says that would apply to both the 4.7- and the 5.5-inch models.

SIGNS POINT TO YES: New iPad Production Underway

A new 9.7-inch iPad Air is currently in production, with a new 7.9-inch iPad mini beginning mass production soon, according to Bloomberg. The larger model could be ready as soon as the end of this quarter, while the Mini should be ready by the end of the year. Bloomberg also says the Air model could feature an anti-reflective coating, which would make reading easier. I hope that means we’ll get anti-reflective coatings on future MacBooks and Cinema Displays, too.

WITHOUT A DOUBT: Apple’s Next iPhone Entering Final Stages of Production

First reported on Weibo, a Chinese social media site, the iPhone 6 is now in the final stages of mass production, called the “product validation test.” The report says that yields are at 90 percent, which puts it on track for an early September release. Just as expected.

Here’s How Not to Address Skeptics of Your Kickstarter Game

Still from the Kickstarter video for Night Trap ReVamped.

Still from the Kickstarter video for Night Trap ReVamped. Night Trap, LLC

If you’re going to launch a Kickstarter, especially in gaming, be prepared to respond to skeptics—quickly, thoroughly, and with plenty of evidence.

The developers behind Night Trap ReVamped are learning this the hard way. For their proposed high-definition re-release of the controversial 1992 Sega CD game—controversial, but really just a campy PG rubber-suit horror movie starring Dana Plato—they are asking for $330,000 in crowdfunding.

Immediately, other game developers began questioning the viability of the project. Was it really going to be possible to develop the game and also print thousands of discs for PlayStation and Xbox consoles for just $330,000? Furthermore, what did the developers mean by “PlayStation and Xbox”? PlayStation 4 and Xbox One? PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360?

A Kotaku reporter attempted to get some of these questions answered, and described the ensuing phone conversation with executive producer Tom Zito as “strange” and “terse.” It ended with Zito saying he had to care for his sick 10-year-old son and abruptly hanging up.

The Kotaku interview was practically the only back-and-forth we were seeing between the makers of Night Trap and the public. Although the very first line of the Kickstarter pitch was a link to a Twitter account, said account had only a handful of perfunctory updates. Although the “comments” section of the Kickstarter was alive with activity and questions, Night Trap, LLC only started to actually participate in the comments after a few days of silence.

Exchanges like the following are not likely to inspire confidence.

Kotaku: … I mean, like, for example money. Some people think you’re asking too much, others think it’s too little—people don’t know what to think. Maybe more clarity on how you plan to pull this off would be good.

Zito: That just shows that lots of people have lots of different opinions.

It is entirely possible Night Trap has done its homework and is seeking the right amount to make this game happen. But Kickstarter backers are looking for more than “trust us.” Many gaming Kickstarters have been released, and fans are quite happy with the results. But a few have been cancelled and the money kept, others have dragged on in vaporware status, or been released in a form backers found unacceptable.

At this point, would-be Kickstarter creators should expect, plan for, and vigorously respond to probing questions about the viability of their project.

Still from the Kickstarter video for Night Trap ReVamped.

Still from the Kickstarter video for Night Trap ReVamped. Night Trap, LLC

It’s part of growing up: Kickstarter backers are learning by experience that Kickstarter is not a store. You are taking a risk: Maybe the product isn’t what you wanted, maybe it takes forever, maybe it’s obsolete by the time it comes out, maybe it doesn’t come out.

Faced with this reality, maybe even having been burned yourself once or twice, you either stop backing Kickstarters or try to find ways to mitigate your risk. Number one on that list is asking questions, and either doing some digging to find the answers or posing them to the developers.

Who Are Your Skeptics?

Skeptics aren’t trying to make you look bad or ruin your project. If anything, they are paying attention, and more likely to actually back your project if they get answers they like.

It doesn’t matter if you, project creator, are 100 percent confident that you are up to the task. With the exception of scam artists, everyone is sure that they can finish their Kickstarter project for the amount specified in the time specified. You need to prove it, with as much data as you can muster.

Kickstarter, from a creator’s perspective as well, is not a store; your would-be backers are not your customers but your investors.

Night Trap’s initial confusion over questions about what “PlayStation” and “Xbox” mean was worrying. It betrayed what appeared to be a lack of understanding about the underlying technology of the project. Does that slip-up mean the project is doomed? Certainly not. But if you’re contemplating backing a Kickstarter, due diligence means looking for reasons not to back it. Find all the flaws you can. Question everything. Consider all the downsides. If it still looks like a solid investment once you’ve chipped away at the proposal from every angle, go for it.

When you launch a Kickstarter, be overly prepared, not just with the details on your home page but with the answers to any question someone might ask about where the money is going to go. (If secrecy is a concern, crowdfunding may not be for you.)

On Wednesday, Zito apologized for Night Trap’s reticence and said the company will participate more vigorously in the comments section.

The Night Trap campaign has a long way to go, given that it has a little more than $18,000 in pledges thus far. It may end up being the case that there was no demand to revive Night Trap at this level of funding, and that it wouldn’t have mattered if its makers hadn’t stumbled a bit coming out of the gates.

But there’s something to be said for not stumbling in the first place.

All the Culture We’re Diggin’ This Month, From Comics to Star Trek

Marvel Comics: 75 Years of Comic Art

I'd be a fool to tell you I was a Marvel Comics expert. That being said, I can spend hours idly leafing through art from the Golden and Silver Age—and that's exactly what's been happening with this super-sized art book from DK Publishing. —Peter Rubin Ariel Zambelich/WIRED

Marvel Comics: 75 Years of Comic Art

I'd be a fool to tell you I was a Marvel Comics expert. That being said, I can spend hours idly leafing through art from throughout its history—and that's exactly what's been happening with this super-sized art book from DK Publishing. From the WWII origins of Human Torch and Sub-Mariner to modern-day favorites like Wolverine, from Jim Starlin's cosmic freakouts of the ’70s to John Byrne's 1980s heyday, from "Days of Future Past" to Dave Aja's stellar Hawkeye covers, it's all here in glorious color—no longboxes necessary. ($50, currently $36 on Amazon) —Peter Rubin

Ariel Zambelich/WIRED

Big Blastin' Rocket Raccoon Figure

Relive the magic of Rocket Raccoon's performance in Guardians of the Galaxy with this action figure, which comes complete with big shootin' action and catchphrases. (Groot not included. Sadface.) —Angela Watercutter Ariel Zambelich/WIRED

Big Blastin' Rocket Raccoon Figure

I thoroughly enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy, in no small part because of Bradley Cooper's vocal performance as Rocket Raccoon. Something about his ability to crack wise and hotwire almost anything just spoke to me (I'm trying not to read too much into that, though). While I knew I'd see Guardians a few more times, I was worried I'd miss Rocket in that lull between the theatrical run and the Blu-ray release. Luckily, Big Blastin' Rocket Raccoon was there to save me. Push a button and the little guy (he's an inch or two taller than a venti latte) fires his blaster and/or spouts catchphrases like "the name's Rocket" or "no need to be sassy!" The box says for "ages 4+" but it's cool if I add a couple of decades to that age minimum, right? ($29.99, Hasbro) —Angela Watercutter

Ariel Zambelich/WIRED

Ghostshrimp's Illustrations

Ghostshrimp makes my favorite kind of art: colorful, grotesque, and funny. He was an illustrator on Adventure Time's early seasons and continues to make surreal drawings for a variety of projects, like the upcoming album by NehruvianDOOM. —Eric Steuer Lex Records

Ghostshrimp's Illustrations Ghostshrimp (aka Dan James) makes my favorite kind of art: super colorful, super grotesque, and super funny. James was an illustrator on the early seasons of Adventure Time (he was instrumental in creating the kooky cartoon’s distinct visual style), and continues to make surreal drawings for a wide variety of comics, magazines, and music projects like NehruvianDOOM, the upcoming collaboration album by legendary hip-hop artist DOOM and 17-year-old phenom Bishop Nehru. James is also behind Ghostscout Training Camp, a monthlong artist retreat in a Vermont forest that’s focused on nurturing creativity, productivity, and general silliness. Go to the Ghostshrimp website to see James’ portfolio, check out concept art for the short animation he’s working on for Disney, and buy signed prints of his work for just $50. —Eric Steuer

Lex Records

Radiator Hospital, Torch Songs

The latest from the Philly punk outfit accomplishes the rare feat of achieving excellence both as an entire album and on a song-by-song level. Which is probably just a long-winded way of saying there isn’t a single bad track on the record. —Max Ufberg Ariel Zambelich/WIRED

Radiator Hospital, Torch Songs

I can’t afford nice headphones, which is probably why I like lo-fi music so much; the genre negates any real difference between my free Comcast-promotion earbuds and my peers’ brand new Beats Solo Ultimate 5000 Zero Emission Headphones. But aside from the net-worth neutrality that the genre offers, I just really like the music itself, and Radiator Hospital is no exception; while the music on the Philadelphia foursome’s latest album is admittedly less fuzz-filled than past releases, there’s an underlying vulnerability to the record that would be lost in a more polished studio production. Singer/guitarist Sam Cook-Parrott brings a high-pitched humility to the band’s power chords, giving what might otherwise sound like commonplace indie rock a greater sense of immediacy and importance. A bonus: fellow Philadelphians Allison and Katie Crutchfield (the sisters behind Swearin’ and Waxahatchee, respectively) lend their pipes to a few songs. ($8, or name your price at Bandcamp) —Max Ufberg

Ariel Zambelich/WIRED

Jenny Lewis, The Voyager

Written after her band's dissolution, her father's death, two years of insomnia, and many late-night viewings of Cosmos, the first solo album in six years from ex-Rilo Kiley frontwoman Jenny Lewis is a trip though regret, mortality, and living long enough to finally be comfortable in your own skin. —Samantha Oltman Warner Bros.

Jenny Lewis, The Voyager

I've been playing the first solo album in six years from ex-Rilo Kiley frontwoman Jenny Lewis on repeat. Written after the breakup of her band, her father's death, two years of insomnia, and many late-night viewings of Carl Sagan's Cosmos , The Voyager is the beautiful musical culmination of everywhere Jenny's been since her band's 2001 debut album Take Offs and Landings. Songs like "Slippery Slope" recall Rilo Kiley days; "Late Bloomer" harks back to her folk-tinged record with The Watson Twins; "She's Not Me" and "Just One of the Guys" give us a more confident, Stevie Nicks-channeling Jenny, one who's not afraid to admit her regrets or laugh about her age. Its 10 songs (which should be listened to in order) take me on a journey, back to my teenage years and everything between then and now. It seems Jenny Lewis has been traveling with me the whole time. ($10, Amazon) —Samantha Oltman

Warner Bros.

Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery (Blu-ray)

We've got good news: That gum you like is going to come back in style. Also, the entire Twin Peaks series, including David Lynch's follow-up feature Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, is now on Blu-ray. Treat yourself.—Bryan Gardiner Ariel Zambelich/WIRED

Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery (Blu-ray)

For me, the golden age of television began on April 8, 1990. That's when David Lynch and Mark Frost unleashed their epically weird, occasionally disturbing, and immensely funny serial drama Twin Peaks on the world. Like any other rabid fan, I've re-watched the series multiple times over the years—always secretly pining for my Log Lady introductions and Dream Man dances in 1080p. Well, now I finally have it—on 10 discs and with a 7.1 surround mix to boot. Let's rock! ($135, currently $92 at Amazon) —Bryan Gardiner

Ariel Zambelich/WIRED


There are 12 trade-paperback volumes of this incredible comic about a demilitarized NYC during the next Civil War—I devoured three before I decided I had to save the rest for a beach vacation. Which can't come fast enough. —Joe Brown Ariel Zambelich/WIRED


An awesome comic from the awesomer Brian Wood about a demilitarized New York City during the next American Civil War. Matty Somethingsomething, an intern for a large network, finds himself stranded in the City after his news crew's helicopter is shut down. Instead of leaving, he decides to pick up the baton, and becomes the only embedded journalist in the war zone that used to be the Big Apple. There are 12 trade-paperback volumes of the collected issues—I devoured three before I decided I had to save the rest for a beach vacation. Which can't come fast enough. (~$11 a pop, Amazon) —Joe Brown

Ariel Zambelich/WIRED

A Clockwork Orange Tote Bag

I never used to carry bags, but I couldn't resist the gaze of this cog-eyed droog, taken from David Pelham's 1972 cover art for A Clockwork Orange. Now I'm totes into totes. —Jason Kehe Ariel Zambelich/WIRED

A Clockwork Orange Tote Bag

I never used to carry bags, but I couldn't resist the gaze of this cog-eyed droog, taken from David Pelham's 1972 cover art for A Clockwork Orange. Now I'm totes into totes. This one isn't huge, but the canvas is good and thick, there's a nice inner pocket, and it still fits three books and some comics. And that design: just as eye-popping as ever. (Out of Print, $18.99) —Jason Kehe

Ariel Zambelich/WIRED

Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars

If "the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead of A New Hope" is a phrase that both makes sense and appeals to you, watch this brilliant spoof on Star Wars from the creators of Disney's funniest, smartest animated series. —Chris Kohler Disney

Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars If "the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead of A New Hope" is a phrase that both makes sense and appeals to you, watch this brilliant love letter to Star Wars from the creators of Disney's funniest, smartest animated series. It's not a spoof where Perry the Platypus plays Darth Vader or anything. Instead, it posits what might have happened just offscreen during Episode IV. The in-jokes fly in fast and furious (ever been to a Tusken Raider birthday party?), and a surprisingly high percentage of the show is devoted to big musical numbers, as is standard for the series. As a bonus, parents can use this to attempt to convince their kids why the original trilogy is superior. ($2.99, iTunes) —Chris Kohler


Kenny Dope, The Wild Style Breakbeats

The 1983 classic hip-hop film Wild Style was stacked with great music, most of it unreleased. Now KAY-DEE records has remastered all those breakbeats, packaging the 7-inch vinyl singles inside this book of stills from the movie. Fr-Fr-Fresh! —Michael Calore Ariel Zambelich/WIRED

Kenny Dope, The Wild Style Breakbeats

Listen up B-Boys and all you B-Girls / if your hair is natural, straight, or curled / This here's a book you all can dig / never mind that it's heavy and bulky and big / That's only ’cause it's filled with musical treats / old-school breaks that are extra sweet / You got that WILD STYLE tape still in your boom box? / Can't get enough ’cause the beats plain rock? / The records in this book have those tracks remixed / if they didn't sound hot we would be remiss / Pressed by Kenny Dope straight to 45 / they're louder, bolder, and more alive / So forget Spotify when it's time to groove / just put the needle on the wax and show us how to move! (Kay Dee Records, $70) —Michael Calore

Ariel Zambelich/WIRED

Quasimoto, The Further Adventures of Lord Quas

Warning: This 2005 album isn't for everyone. It's all over the goddamn place. But when it all clicks, it's contagious. The bassline in "Civilization Day" is so very very nice. "Shroom Music" is a beautiful, head-noddy mess. And if you love classic hip hop, "Rappcats Pt. 3" is a must-listen. —Tim Moynihan Stones Throw

Quasimoto, The Further Adventures of Lord Quas Warning: This 2005 album isn't for everyone. It's all over the goddamn place, and its staccato mannerisms can get irritating. Beats start up and dead-end before you get too attached to them, skits and spoken-word samples stretch on way too long, and the layered sounds mixed with Quas/Madlib's sped-up voice can result in cacophony. But all of this is what also makes it fascinating. When it clicks, it's contagious: The bassline in "Civilization Day" is so very very nice; "Shroom Music" is a beautiful, head-noddy mess; "Bartender Say" and "Bus Ride" are built around summer grooves, while “Raw Deal” and “Mr. Two-Faced” catch a ride on funk riffs. And if you love classic hip hop, "Rappcats Pt. 3" is a must-listen. ($8.69, Amazon) —Tim Moynihan

Stones Throw

Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook

The new fifth edition of D&D has finally gone beyond the starter set with the official release of the Player's Handbook: more classes, more detail, and more ways to sink into a campaign. Grab some friends and some dice, roll up an extravagantly-monikered halfling warlock, and get thee to the table. —Peter Rubin Ariel Zambelich/WIRED

Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook

When I but was a wee paladin, I played AD&D—then, for nigh on 25 years, I played no D&D at all. Nary a dungeon or a dragon was imagined by me, unless it was part of a video game. Earlier this year, though, I got a chance to playtest the new edition, aka "D&D Next" (actually called simply Dungeons & Dragons)—and I got enchanted all over again. The endless stat crunching that seemed to dominate the game in recent years was largely gone, replaced by an experience that put the RP back in "tabletop RPG." And now, the basic rules that were released in July are finally being expanded with the official release of the Player's Handbook: more classes, more detail, and more ways to sink into a campaign. Grab some friends and some dice, roll up an extravagantly-monikered halfling warlock, and get thee to the table. ($49.99, currently $29.97 at Amazon) —Peter Rubin

Ariel Zambelich/WIRED

Do Not Sell at Any Price

If you're a collector of anything at all, you'll find a lot of familiar scenes in Amanda Petrusich's tale of 78 RPM record collectors: Digging through filthy bins in the wee hours of the morning at a flea market; internecine squabbles between collectors over the "right" way to do things; dumpster diving. But never shame. —Chris Kohler Scribner

Do Not Sell at Any Price If you're a collector of anything at all, you'll find a lot of familiar scenes in Amanda Petrusich's tale of 78 RPM record collectors: Digging through filthy bins in the wee hours of the morning at a flea market; internecine squabbles between collectors over the "right" way to do things; dumpster diving. But never shame. Many early blues records were recorded by unknown artists who worked for pennies, printed in tiny batches and scattered to the four winds. Petrusich follows the (almost always) men who spend their lives obsessively hunting for and preserving these rare treasures, hoping to obtain them before the brittle shellac shatters and the music is lost forever. Along the way, she catches the bug and begins collecting herself. An entertaining ride that lets you experience the thrill of the hunt without having to get up early on a Sunday. Caution: You might get hooked, too. ($25, Amazon) —Chris Kohler


Carl Kasell Autograph Pillow

The Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me scorekeeper and master of mayhem may have retired, but the most avuncular man since Wilford Brimley can still keep you company anytime thanks to the greatest piece of bedding I've ever owned. —Ariel Zambelich Ariel Zambelich/WIRED

Carl Kasell Autograph Pillow

If you're a public radio nerd like I am, you likely felt that desperate sadness back in May when Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me scorekeeper and master of mayhem Carl Kasell signed off on his last show. If you haven't managed to win a round of the Listener Limerick Challenge yet—he still records the message on your voicemail or home answering machine!—here's a way to fill that void in your life . Carl can keep you company as you make coffee in the morning, ride shotgun during your work commute, and even hang out on that comfy overstuffed chair as you catch up on podcasts. And if you replay old episodes and make sure no one's around, you can imagine the dulcet tones of his voice are meant just for you. That's not just me, right? ($25, NPR) —Ariel Zambelich

Ariel Zambelich/WIRED

The Blighted Eye: The Collection of Glenn Bray

Few of us will ever get to see Glenn Bray's massive comic book art collection in person (it lives in his San Fernando Valley home). You can, however, get a satisfying taste by paging through "The Blighted Eye," a beautifully curated art book that features works from artists you've heard of (Matt Groening) and ones you haven't (Peter Pontiac). —Bryan Gardiner Ariel Zambelich/WIRED

The Blighted Eye: The Collection of Glenn Bray

There are obsessive collectors, and then there's Glenn Bray. What began as a simple love affair with "junk culture" for Bray gradually grew into one of the world's most enviable collections of comic book art. The Blighted Eye represents only a portion of his enormous collection. But for fans of artists like R. Crumb, Harvey Kurtzman, George Herriman, and Chris Ware it's the next best thing to walking through his San Fernando Valley home. ($100, currently $64 at Amazon) —Bryan Gardiner

Ariel Zambelich/WIRED

Star Trek: The Next Generation

Some of the sets and costumes may be dated, but the characters, story, and adventures of the starship Enterprise are just as enjoyable now as 15 years ago. Make it so. —Christina Bonnington Paramount

Star Trek: The Next Generation When TNG debuted in 1987, I was too busy with Sesame Street and, uh, learning to walk to take much notice. Years went by, and while an intense love of sci-fi developed, I never seemed to catch the Star Trek bug. But thanks to Netflix, for the past month I’ve been sucked into the mesmerizing world of Starfleet’s 24th-century senior officers—especially what I call The Tragedy of Data (the android lieutenant is the perfect foil for the show). With no graphic violence or language, it’s perfect for family-friendly viewing, and a fresh alternative to Sharknado, or whatever is on Syfy these days. I’m still on Season Six, so no spoilers! —Christina Bonnington