How Microsoft Plans To Convert The World to Windows

Skip to story Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president, operating systems group at Microsoft, speaks on stage during the 2015 Microsoft Build Conference on April 29, 2015 at Moscone Center in San Francisco, California. Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president, operating systems group at Microsoft, speaks on stage during the 2015 Microsoft Build Conference on April 29, 2015 at Moscone Center in San Francisco, California. Stephen Lam/Getty Images

The best demo on the first day of Microsoft’s Build developer conference, at least of the ones that didn’t involve adorable holographic robots, was of Continuum. It’s one of Windows 10’s most vaunted features, designed to keep all your devices in sync. To show off its full potential, Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore—you’ve seen him before, he’s the guy with the punk-rock hair always in his face—plugged his phone into a monitor and started using it like a laptop. He used a mouse and keyboard, and his apps suddenly looked so much like PC apps that he had to remind the audience everything was powered by his phone.

The demo got people dreaming. What if you only had to buy one device—probably a phone—and just plug it into whatever you need? If you need a big screen and keyboard, drop it in there. If you want to watch a movie, stick it in your VR goggles and watch away. Could that be the future? If Microsoft has its way, it will be.

And then it won’t be. Because the story told by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and the other Build presenters was about something bigger than your phone. It’s bigger than HoloLens, too, bigger than Cortana. It’s a way to make your phone more powerful, but it’s ultimately a blueprint for a future where technology is absolutely everywhere, including a thousand places Microsoft itself can’t even imagine. Forget “a computer on every desk and in every home”—the new Microsoft is about connecting to the computers in our pockets, on our wrists, and everywhere in our lives.

One Windows to Rule Them All

“Universal apps” is the buzzword of Build. Much of the conference is devoted to Microsoft teaching its developers how to make a single app that works in as many places as possible. You can now turn your iPhone game, Android app, browser extension, website, or old-school legacy Windows software into a Windows app without much work. You can develop using Microsoft tools, which are now available for Macs and Linux machines as well. Oh, and when you do build a Windows app, it’ll also work on every single one of the billion-plus Windows 10 devices Microsoft plans to have in the next three years. All the phones, tablets, holographic goggles, and lightbulbs.

Joe Belfiore, Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Operating Systems Group, demonstrates Continuum for phones at the Microsoft Build conference in San Francisco, Wednesday, April 29, 2015. Joe Belfiore, Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Operating Systems Group, demonstrates Continuum for phones at the Microsoft Build conference in San Francisco, Wednesday, April 29, 2015. Jeff Chiu/AP

“We’re talking about one platform,” Windows chief Terry Myerson told the crowd. “A single app, a single binary that can run across all of these devices.” There’s a single store for every kind of app, and a single platform for every kind of user. It lost its cool factor there for a while, but Windows never stopped being huge.

Just as important as that ubiquity is versatility—apps have to look and be different depending on where you use them. Windows 10 seems to nail this too: When you’re on your computer, Photoshop or PowerPoint looks one way. On your phone, they’re different, probably more touch-friendly. From your tiny Raspberry Pi, to your gigantic Surface Hub, to your HoloLens goggles, you’re going to be looking at the same apps and the same data, just optimized for where you are and what you’re doing. The upshot may be that everything feels a little like a phone app, but in demos the switching felt natural and obvious. Universal apps preserve your spot in a book or the status of your presentation, and you can pick up where you left off whenever you pick up a screen next.

Of course, as always, it’s the doing that’s the hard part. BlackBerry tried to run Android apps on its devices, and wound up with a bunch of outdated apps that hardly ever worked. And as for the whole “one platform everywhere” thing, Microsoft’s been trying that for a while. Even this everything-everywhere message has been coming out of Redmond for years.

But now, when lots of new laptops and tablets are launching with what we used to call “mobile” processors, your phone is almost certainly powerful enough to run PowerPoint and Chrome on a big screen. LTE, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth are fast and reliable enough to not kill the experience. And a Windows app won’t just expand or shrink awkwardly to fit your screen—it can be easily and optimally designed for whatever device you’re using. Screens are cheap, and the actual componentry necessary for computers is smaller than ever. Put a computer in your pocket and accessories everywhere, and the world becomes your oyster. Key to all this seamless device switching in Continuum is Azure, Microsoft’s cloud-based computing platform. Azure can power any app, anywhere, can keep everything online and in sync. That’s the real backbone of the new Microsoft, the cloud-based way to enable everything.

Future Shock

And maybe, just maybe, this is only step one. A precursor. A useful stopgap while we wait for computers to get even smaller, even cheaper, even more integrated into the fabric (literally and figuratively) of our lives. If Microsoft’s long-term plan is to make sure that it’s ready for whatever comes after smartphones, after tablets, it makes perfect sense to encourage developers to build for devices as disparate as augmented-reality goggles and gigantic tablet screens. Then, when one of its partners makes something new and industry-changing, developers can get on board well before Microsoft sees the potential.

Maybe in a year, you’ll be able to get away with only owning a phone. And maybe in five years, it’ll be a watch, or glasses, or a button in your pocket, or a chip in your arm. Who knows? If Microsoft is right, here’s what’ll happen: you’ll put on goggles when you need goggles. You’ll use a keyboard when you need to get some work done. You’ll plug into a giant screen when you want to watch a movie or play a game. At every stop, you’ll have access to all your apps and services; they’ll be perfectly suited for whichever mode you’re in. They’ll be personalized to your exact needs. And they’ll be powered by Windows, if Microsoft wins this war. But this war is only just beginning, and it’s going to be vicious.

You Can Embed Playable MS-DOS Games Into Tweets

I don’t know when this became possible, but if you paste the URL to one of the many MS-DOS games that the Internet Archive has preserved on its servers into a tweet, and view said tweet on the web, the embedded game is playable within said tweet:

Yes, that is a game embedded into a tweet embedded into a story. Thank you.

Secret Shuts Down Because Anonymity Makes People Mean

Just 16 months after founding the anonymous message board app Secret, founder David Byttow seems to have realized what the rest of us have known all along: anonymity online turns people into total assholes. Guess some of us just need $35 million in funding to figure that out.

And so, in a brief post on Medium today, Byttow announced he would be shutting down the app, which struck a nerve with the Silicon Valley set when it launched early last year but has struggled to keep pace with fellow anonymity apps like Yik Yak in recent months. The shutdown means Secret will be returning money to investors, which Byttow believes is a more responsible move than attempting to pivot. In the post, Byttow writes that the decision has been the hardest of his life, and while he doesn’t address Secret’s bullying problem explicitly, he does say that what the app eventually became was not what he envisioned when he started it.

“I believe in honest, open communication and creative expression, and anonymity is a great device to achieve it,” Byttow wrote. “But it’s also the ultimate double-edged sword, which must be wielded with great respect and care.”

No Name, No Money

On one hand, you’ve got to give it to the guy. Secret is not the only app that’s had highly publicized problems with bullying and gossip. Whisper and Yik Yak are right there with it. But Byttow is the only one who’s deciding not to be complicit in it anymore by bowing out completely.

On the other hand, you have to wonder if the roles were reversed and Secret had the traction that Yik Yak has, as well as a solid revenue structure to back it up, whether Byttow would be making the same choice. Fast growth and $35 million can go a long way toward settling a worried conscience. That may be one reason Byttow waited until Secret was facing what seemed like an irreversible downturn to admit that anonymity apps actually can be as dangerous as everyone says they are.

Whatever the reason, the decision to shutter Secret seems more admirable than not. The app grew faster than the team’s ability to contain what was happening on it. And while it can be tempting not to mess with success when you’re riding a wave, allowing that kind of behavior to go on unchecked is plain irresponsible. By deciding to shut down, Byttow is sending a strong message to startups that the Zuckerbergian mantra of “move fast and break things” isn’t always justifiable when it means people getting hurt in the process.

Microsoft Shows HoloLens’ Augmented Reality Is No Gimmick

Today, Microsoft demonstrated how far its augmented-reality HoloLens wonderland project has come. In fact, it cemented HoloLens’s place as one of the most exciting new technologies we have—just in ways that you may never actually see.

When HoloLens debuted in January, the use cases Microsoft proffered were largely domestic; you could build (Microsoft-owned) Minecraft worlds in your living room, or have conversations over (Microsoft-owned) Skype with far-flung friends who felt a few feet away. Even WIRED’s behind-the-scenes look back then mostly comprised games and other low-stakes living room interactions. While a broad range of industries and institutions have use for augmented reality, Microsoft spent the bulk of its HoloLens introduction emphasizing the device’s consumer potential.

They weren’t necessarily wrong to do so. Virtual browsers on your walls, a virtual puppy wagging its virtual tail on your floor; turning your home into a holographic playground still has plenty of appeal. It also, though, raises plenty of doubts. How much would something like that even cost? How much of an improvement is HoloLens Netflix over your big-screen television? And that’s not even getting into the social challenges of strapping future-goggles to your face and pinch-zooming in thin air while your roommate and her boyfriend are just trying to watch Broad City.

There was plenty of home-use HoloLens play at Wednesday’s Microsoft BUILD developers conference. But it was joined by demonstrations of where the device’s true promise lies: schools, offices, labs, and all of the other professional settings that need better toys to help improve all of our lives.

Screenshot 2015-04-29 14.19.17 Microsoft

Real Science

You can start with the partners Microsoft already has lined up; for every consumer-focused Disney there’s a NASA, Autodesk, Sketchfab, and more. These are companies that will create uses for HoloLens for which you likely won’t have much direct personal interest. You’ll almost certainly, though, benefit from their existence.

It’s even more telling that Microsoft devoted equal if not more time to professional-grade applications as it did to managing your holographic contact lists.

In the first of these, representatives from Case Western Reserve University demonstrated how medical education could benefit from virtual anatomical lessons instead of—or more likely, in addition to—the traditional piles and piles of cadavers and thick medical tomes.

“The mixed reality of the HoloLens has the potential to revolutionize [medical] education by bringing 3D content into the real world,” said CWRU’s Mark Griswold from the BUILD stage, before demonstrating how, “using holograms we can easily separate and focus in on individual systems.” The result is like having access to every facet of the famed Bodies exhibition at once, directly in front of you, any one aspect of which you can examine more closely before retreating back to surface level.

Griswold also pointed out that while you can’t actually touch a hologram (sorry, sex industry!) its virtual nature does have certain advantages; you can animate blood flow through veins, or increase the size of a fist-sized heart to beach ball proportions to observe fine detail. And that’s just medicine; think of architecture, engineering, design. It’s a stretch to think HoloLens could give you a deeper appreciation of Jane Eyre, but there are more scholarly pursuits it could revolutionize than not.

Even those anatomical wonders were quickly outshone by a clever bit of technological inception. Microsoft also showed off B-15, a robot built from a standard maker kit, powered by a Raspberry Pi 2, blessed with a HoloLens that placed a virtual robot on top of a real one.

It should be first noted that the result is adorable. Super cute! Which is both fun in and of itself and a nod towards HoloLens’s ability, in the right setting, to make technology more accessible, both psychologically and physically. The robot-on-robot was quickly joined by a virtual panel that filled the controller’s field of view with data readouts and controls. That variety and breadth of information would be difficult to see on a tablet screen, and even more so to actually use. When it’s the size of an entire wall, though, making B-15 move, change LED colors, and more was as simple as stabbing at the air.

Screenshot 2015-04-29 15.52.12 Microsoft

Wonderful Minus the Weird

Both of these live demonstrations at BUILD were compelling examples of how HoloLens—and other augmented reality projects like it—won’t necessarily find their most power in our homes. More importantly, they don’t portend a Wall-E-world future in which the closest thing we have to physical interaction is accidentally brushing fingertips on our way to virtual mouse clicks.

That’s the real barrier to consumer adoption of augmented reality. It’s weird. It’s alienating. It’s a flashing neon signpost on your face that alternates between NO EYE CONTACT and I’M NOT QUITE HERE. Until faceputers are indecipherable from an ordinary pair of glasses—or better yet, contact lenses—they’ll continue to communicate an insurmountable sense of other. Until they do more than help you ignore the people you’re with, they’ll always be at least a little bit absurd.

The professional setting has with it few of those social pitfalls. If you’re wearing HoloLens as part of your work, you’re not being rude, you’re simply… doing your work.

There’s also precedent for augmented reality products being more successful in an office than the discount rack at Brookstone, though Microsoft may not welcome it. The original incarnation of Google Glass was by all accounts a commercial failure, but carved out a useful niche in the medical community. HoloLens, more capable, with weightier apps and more serious partners at its disposal, could find plenty more footholds.

What Microsoft showed today was an understanding that the near-future potential of reality-bending compu-googles isn’t games and gimmicks. It’s professional and practical. That’s not as exciting to watch as building a Minecraft castle, but it’s a much more realistic foundation.

In Louisville, Try the Bourbon and Zip Line (Not at Once)

Skip to story A thoroughbred horse competing in the derby can go from 0 to 40 mph in just 3 strides.A thoroughbred horse competing in the derby can go from 0 to 40 mph in just 3 strides.

“LOO-uh-vuhl,” Kentucky’s biggest city, supplies one-third of the world’s bourbon—and barrels of whiskey outnumber people in the state. All that liquid gold gets put to good use every May in mint juleps, the signature cocktail of the Kentucky Derby. This year is the 141st running of Louisville’s incredibly profitable horse race; in 2014 the Derby raked in $186.6 million in wagers. Impressive, but still just a drop in the tumbler compared to Kentucky’s booming bourbon industry, which grossed $3 billion last year, up 67 percent since 2012—or about 937.5 million mint juleps, by our calculation.

90 percent of U.S. disco balls are made in Louisville // "Happy Birthday to You" was created by sisters mildred and patty hill in Louisville in the 19th century // The city of louisville has more than 120 parks // Kentucky Derby attendance is typically 2 times higher than at a Super Bowl90 percent of U.S. disco balls are made in Louisville // “Happy Birthday to You” was created by sisters mildred and patty hill in Louisville in the 19th century // The city of Louisville has more than 120 parks // Kentucky Derby attendance is typically 2 times higher than at a Super Bowl Thomas Porostocky

Inside Amy Schumer GIF and a Graf: Girl, You Need Makeup

Oh, what? You thought Amy Schumer wouldn’t be GIF-worthy this week? Shame on your house! In what we hope is a continuing series of hot “How Men Objectify Women” dance singles, Bridge Building Feminist Warrior Schumer puts cutesy pop songs on blast for their praise of “natural beauty.” Sure, Bruno Mars loves his girl just the way she is, but telling Nathalie Kelley, a legit goddess, that she’s beautiful every day isn’t exactly hero’s work, Mars. And so we have “Girl, You Don’t Need No Makeup,” a catchy little ditty about how women are beautiful no matter what, as long as they look like women you would cast in music videos to play your girlfriend. Schumer does nonplussed better than anyone else in the game right now, and watching her keep up with the demands of four men beseeching her to wash off all that face paint, only to demand that she put it all back on, because … ew, feels so wrong it’s right.

Our Robot Forces Are Coming: A Drone Just Refueled Mid-Air

The pilots of passenger planes aren’t leaving the cockpit for the foreseeable future, but in other applications, aircraft that fly themselves are on the way, and they’re going to be a big deal. For folks like the US military, their potential is nearly limitless. They can fly into nasty areas without endangering a pilot. They don’t bring along space-consuming stuff like a seat and life support systems and a canopy. They can stay aloft for hours or even days at a time, since there’s no human pilot who wastes valuable time by touching down to do things like eat and rest.

Now the US Navy has removed one of the requirements that bring even human-free aircraft back down to Earth: the need for fuel. Last month, it refueled an autonomous plane in midair for the first time.

This is the latest step in a long and laborious series of tests for the Navy’s self-flying X47-B. A few years ago, the sleek stealth aircraft made the first aircraft carrier-based arrested landing and catapult launch on the USS George H.W. Bush.

rlg glowingA ring laser gyroscope Honeywell

In this most recent test, conducted off the coast of Maryland and Virginia, the X-47B autonomously flew up to a standard, human-flown Omega K-707 tanker and maneuvered its refueling probe into the tanker’s basket, at the end of a refueling arm.

“It’s a great testament to aviation,” says Tom Hart, vice president for the defense and space business unit at Honeywell, a contractor on the project. Fueling is “a very difficult thing for a [human] pilot to do.” In-air refueling means flying right next to another, much bigger aircraft, at hundreds of miles per hour. That’s difficult enough without worrying about hundreds of pounds of explosive jet fuel flowing through a straw. A single mistake and millions of dollars worth of hardware (and the pilot’s life) could be at risk.

To help keep the plane in exactly the right spot, Honeywell designed an ultra-accurate inertial guidance system for the plane. It’s the same idea as the gyroscopes and accelerometers in your iPhone, only much more accurate and much more expensive.

It allows the plane to take an initial bearing through GPS, then uses something called a ring-laser gyroscope to determine speed, attitude, and direction without needing an ongoing GPS fix. That’s useful because a GPS can be jammed or blocked by other aircraft (like the refueling tanker).

It’s easy to see why the military wants aircraft that can refuel themselves. The drones could fly into contested areas and operate without any risk to human life, or as a part of a force multiplier with human controlled planes.

“This is the first step of what we’re going to see,” says Hart. “It’ll be a very different Navy and Air Force 20 years from now.”

That Was the Strangest MLB Game Ever

Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez throws to Chicago White Sox's Adam Eaton in the first inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, April 29, 2015, in Baltimore. The game was played in an empty Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez throws to Chicago White Sox's Adam Eaton in the first inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, April 29, 2015, in Baltimore. The game was played in an empty Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Patrick Semansky/AP

This afternoon, an innocuous matchup between the Baltimore Orioles and the Chicago White Sox became the first Major League Baseball game in history to be closed to the public and played in an empty stadium. Monday and Tuesday’s games between the Orioles and White Sox had already been postponed amid the ongoing riots across Baltimore. MLB’s press release cited the same thought process leading to the closed-door game: “After conferring with local officials, it was determined that Wednesday afternoon’s game should be played without fan admittance in order to minimize safety concerns.”

Empty stadium games occur in European soccer often enough not to be seen as unicorns—but those games are most often mandated punishments in response to supporters’ racist acts or fights with other fans. In American professional sports, instances of deliberately empty stadiums are exceedingly rare. The 1989 North Atlantic Conference (now America East Conference) men’s basketball tournament shut out spectators under measles quarantine. In 2002, the Charleston Riverdogs, a Tampa Bay Class A affiliate, played in front of an empty stadium for five innings during “Nobody Night,” a publicity stunt promotion typical of minor league baseball. And in 2008, the Triple-A Iowa Cubs and Nashville Sounds played a game with only scouts and essential employees in attendance due to flooding concerns in Des Moines.

But for professional baseball, the previous record low for paid attendance appears to be six patrons, back in September 1882 for the Worcesters of Worcester, MA. Today’s game was the first time in the history of the four major American professional sports leagues that a game was played to an intentionally empty stadium. “As far as we can tell, that is unprecedented,” says Jacob Pomrenke, Web Editor for SABR, the Society for American Baseball Research. “It’s never happened before in Major League Baseball.”

One member of the Orioles front office has taken an admirable public stance on the civil unrest in Baltimore—before any escalating violence in the streets. COO John Angelos, son of Orioles owner Peter Angelos, responded to a radio broadcaster on Twitter with an eloquent defense of protestors.

But if that’s the case, why even play the game at all? Monday and Tuesday’s games had already been shifted to a late-May doubleheader, and this weekend’s series with the Tampa Bay Rays has been relocated to Tropicana Field in St. Petersberg, Florida. “Part of the appeal of baseball is, as [former] Orioles manager Earl Weaver once said, ‘We do this every day,’” says Pomrenke.

Granted, there is historical precedent for postponing games due to civil unrest. Major League Baseball postponed Opening Day of the 1968 season due to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral—but only after Roberto Clemente and the Pittsburgh Pirates refused to play, a sentiment echoed by the Cardinals’ Bob Gibson and others. And the Los Angeles riots following the Rodney King verdict in 1992 forced the Dodgers to postpone four games in a row, while the Lakers, Clippers, and even the San Francisco Giants all moved or postponed games as well.

That still leaves today’s empty stadium game as unique among the tens of thousands of baseball games in history. The decision to play behind closed doors was made ostensibly to ensure public safety while maintaining the integrity of the schedule. But eerily, the game was still televised and streamed on, which will meant that whatever audience surrounds a mid-afternoon businessman special were gawking and laughing at the peculiar silence of professional American sports with no spectators. It’s also not great optics for the league, according to Bill Savage, a SABR member and Associate Professor at Northwestern University. “If it’s not safe for fans to come to the game, but it’s safe for players,” says Savage, “that reinforces the fact that fans and players live in different universes.”

To Savage, the televised spectacle of an empty stadium sends a message about “the relative importance of urban unrest in relation to economic activity. Everyone else in town might have to shut down, but [they’re] going to bus in 50 ballplayers, 10 coaches, four umpires and some clubhouse guys and play a ballgame in an empty stadium to fulfill contractual obligations to television.”

And that, more than anything, is likely the reason for the ultimate call of “play ball!” Despite John Angelos’ eloquence, he’s also the President of the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN), which is 90 percent owned by the Baltimore Orioles, and which broadcasted today’s game. In fact, in 2013 the Orioles were valued at $1.12 billion, due in large part to MASN.

As a lifelong Cubs fan, Savage doesn’t pass up a chance to joke that “the White Sox are used to playing in front of empty stadiums.” But when that emptiness becomes a symbol of broadcast contracts being prioritized over common sense, the league might wish it didn’t have the spectacle streaming across the Internet, quiet as the Field of Dreams cornfield.

WIRED Binge-Watching Guide: Futurama

One of the best things about animation is that it’s flexible. Whereas characters are typically bounded by actors’ bodies, an animated creation can bend, blur, and break, so long as they’re still recognizable to the viewer, something that allows for a remarkable degree of leeway in the name of expressiveness and control. More than that, animation allows the writers to create the rules of a world as they go along and have the viewer simply accept them in a way that rivals the ability of the written word.

That elasticity is what makes Futurama, which rarely makes an effort to even appear bounded by a semblance of reality, so special. Where that other show by co-creator Matt Groening radiates outward from its focal family, Futurama (also created by David X. Cohen) is, at least in the beginning, about a universe—the New New York of the future. The show’s world frequently gives off the appearance of being unfeeling and cold, forcing the characters and the viewers who follow them to fight tooth and nail for every scrap of warmth. But really, it’s a playground for the inquisitive, nerdy, and surprisingly empathetic writers, who infuse the show with all of their obsessions, from theology to Star Trek to Richard Nixon.

Futurama also gives off the mistaken impression of cynicism in part because its setting is meant to be de-familiarizing. Frozen for a thousand years in cryogenic sleep, pizza delivery boy Philip J. Fry (Billy West) awakens in the brave new world of the year 3000 (well, technically New Year’s Eve 2999) before falling in with his closest living relative—the borderline senile, borderline psychotic Professor Hubert Farnsworth (also Billy West). Farnsworth runs the dysfunctional interstellar delivery service Planet Express, the home of the rest of the main cast, especially Fry’s best friend, the childlike criminal robot Bender (John DiMaggio) and his love interest, the hyper-competent, hyper-violent cyclops Turanga Leela (Katey Sagal).

In one of the first high-profile instances of the now-common practice of televised voodoo, Futurama was canceled by Fox after a few seasons, then resurrected by Comedy Central—first as a series of films, then for another run of episodes. The first few seasons are excellent, but the hit-miss ratio became a little sketchier as the show aged. Still, Futurama, in contrast to many other sitcoms, never quite wore out its welcome, and even at its worst the show’s vision of the future is always a fun place to spend half an hour. Escape to the next millennium with WIRED’s binge-watching guide for Futurama.


Number of Seasons: 10 (140 episodes, give or take. The cancellation, initial airing schedule that contradicts the production order, and the season that’s just composed of the movies, make it difficult to pin down exactly which episodes are included in which season, but Netflix is the prime purveyor of Futurama, so their system it is.)

Time Requirements: Watching at a perfectly reasonable three episodes a day should get you through the show in just under seven weeks, a perfect summer project. But let’s be honest—once you’re under Futurama’s Hypnotoad-infused spell, you won’t be able to go through it that slowly.

Where to Get Your Fix: Netflix, Amazon, iTunes

Best Character to Follow: It makes the most sense for first-time viewers to keep a close eye on Fry, one of the best-executed instances of the cliché of the seemingly normal, doofy character who turns out to be of cosmic importance. Much of the groundwork for Fry’s eventual destiny is laid early in the series (look for Easter eggs on your second, third, or seventh time through the series), but the true genius of Futurama’s treatment of Fry lies in the way that he becomes a figure of prophecy by being, at all times, a kind idiot. He makes bad decisions that allow him to save the world, but he also grows over the course of the series to the point of reasonable competence. One of the treats of the last few seasons is watching him struggle with learning how to be in a relationship with Leela, an adult emotional problem that isn’t handled half as well by most “serious” treatments.

Seasons/Episodes You Can Skip:

Look—there are a lot of great episodes in the Comedy Central seasons, but there are also far more unnecessary ones. As it aged, Futurama became more topical in ways that never really produced biting satire and felt dated quickly. It’s a bit of a cliché that all science fiction is really about the present, but Futurama made this increasingly literal as the seasons progressed. Many of the early episodes use the year 3000 to imaginatively play with present-day familiar faces and question the costs of our choices, but by the time the show got around to episodes about Barack Obama’s birth certificate and the ubiquity of iPhones, it had ceased to be particularly novel.

Most of these episodes are still pleasant to watch if you’ve made it that far in the show—you’ll already be at a point where, like most older sitcoms, you’re happy to just hang out with the characters for half an hour. But there are a few that are particularly rancid, and best avoided until you reach more advanced levels of Futurama obsession.

Season 7: Episode 3, “Attack of the Killer App” An uninteresting, crusty jab at Apple and the supposed inanity of those darned kids and their modern technology, this is the point at which Futurama most closely resembles a later season of South Park—with all the attendant flimsiness. Unnecessary viewing.

Season 9: Episode 11, “31st Century Fox” Though it touches on some of the writers’ long-running environmental themes in its treatment of animal rights, this episode, which features Bender trying to protect robot foxes from British hunters, never escapes the thought that it was written solely for the title.

Season 10: Episode 6, “Saturday Morning Fun Pit” The absolute worst episode of Futurama ever, this one is an attempt at a series of stories based on Saturday morning cartoons. Though the anthology format worked well in other episodes, this one is a bunch of thinly-drawn, lazy Family Guy-style reference gags that don’t have anything to them other than “Hey, remember when this was a thing?”

Seasons/Episodes You Can’t Skip:

Pretty much all of the first five seasons (the Fox years) are excellent—some are just decently funny, but all of them have at least one effective character moment or clever reversal that adds to the overall sense of Futurama’s brilliance. Over the course of these episodes, and the rest of the series, Futurama settled into a few different distinct episode types—including the madcap sci-fi adventure, the spot-on genre parody, and the sad episode where a character reckons with their past—each of which has several installments. Here are the best representatives of several of the types of Futurama episodes, with a few more classics thrown in for good measure.

Season 1: Episode 9, “Hell Is Other Robots” The first truly great episode of the show is also the first episode to fully capture the genius of Bender, a character often pegged as a violent, evil criminal but who is generally more reminiscent of a curious, alcoholic baby. That’s exemplified by how easily Bender is ruled by his appetites in this episode, getting addicted to electricity before falling into the religion of Robotology—putting him within the dastardly musical clutches of the Robot Devil (Dan Castellaneta) and laying the groundwork for several other classic installments.

Season 2: Episode 9, “Why Must I Be a Crustacean in Love?” Doctor John Zoidberg (also Billy West) gets his first great showcase in this episode, which has some of Futurama’s sitcom-lite gender politics (Fry plays Cyrano, tricking the object of Zoidberg’s affection into loving him with just a few non-idiotic words) but all of its weird heart. And it ends with one of the most potent questions ever posed by a sitcom—if your species died in the process of having sex, would you still do it?

Season 3: Episode 8, “The Luck of the Fryish” Fry’s attempt to find his lucky seven-leaf clover and reconcile his relationship with his long-dead brother provides the model for the kind of sentimental Futurama—complete with the standard-issue “twist” emotional ending—that was eventually used for the infamous and heartbreaking “Jurassic Bark” (with his dog) and “Game of Tones” (with his mother).

Season 3: Episode 12, “The Day the Earth Stood Stupid” Futurama’s “mythology” could become a little irritating as the show went on and began to wear its heart more directly on its sleeve, but the introduction of Fry’s greatest enemies—naturally, an army of giant brains—is classic, perfecting the series’ balancing act between empathizing with its gross protagonists and the razor-sharp, over-educated minds of its writers.

Season 3: Episode 15, “Time Keeps on Slipping” Maybe the best episode of the entire series, this one is neatly divided into a few parts. First, there’s a silly story about the alien Harlem Globetrotters challenging Earth to a basketball game. Then there’s Professor Farnsworth creating an army of Space Jam-like basketball monsters to accept that challenge. Then there’s the part where Farnsworth’s meddling causes time to begin to skip forward, with no memory of the interludes. And all of that is followed by an excellent, nuanced Fry-Leela love story. It’s basically one great bit after another, condensed into just a few minutes.

Season 4: Episode 5, “Godfellas” Theologically dense and hilarious in equal measure, it’s hard to beat “Godfellas” for sheer cerebral intensity. The script doesn’t just ask “What if you were God?” but instead asks “What if Bender were God?” It turns out that he’d make a few mistakes but eventually get on the right track, with an assist from the genuine article (maybe).

Season 5: Episode 9, “Sting” Leela’s biggest spotlight outside the episodes that focus on her mutant heritage, “Sting” is also one of the most surreal Futurama episodes, paying off a line from the pilot to delirious, moving effect.

Season 5: Episode 16, “The Devil’s Hands Are Idle Playthings” The last episode to air on Fox, “The Devil’s Hands Are Idle Playthings” is both a perfect episode of the show, and a perfect potential finale. Every ending the show tried is excellent, including the last shot of Into the Wild Green Yonder and the eventual last episode, “Meanwhile,” but “The Devil’s Hands” is still the pinnacle of goodbyes. It includes an extended musical sequence, cameos from many beloved recurring characters, and manages to substantively move the Fry-Leela relationship in a way that still somehow doesn’t feel cloying. (All while finessing a runner on the meaning of the word “irony.”)

Season 7: Episode 7, “The Late Philip J. Fry” The story of Fry trying to make it to Leela’s birthday dinner on time after being trapped in a forwards-only time machine justifies the existence of the rest of the Comedy Central seasons on its own. Taking the premise to its logical conclusion, “The Late Philip J. Fry” marks Futurama as maybe the only television show in history to gleefully depict the heat death of the universe.

Season 8: Episode 13, “Reincarnation” An effective, smart split anthology episode, “Reincarnation” accomplishes everything “Saturday Morning Fun Pit” doesn’t. Each of the vaguely related segments pays homage to a certain style of animation (black-and-white early Disney cartoons, 8-bit videogames, and low-budget anime) by using its formal restrictions to depict something that can’t be seen. Somehow, Futurama was the rare show that could often make telling funnier than showing.

Why You Should Binge:
Futurama is a lot of things to a lot of people—reference-laden comedy, slightly disappointing Simpsons relative, the only show to ever have a character sleep with his own grandmother—but what makes it so special is that can be all of these things at the same time, within one episode (and sometimes one scene). That the series had so many diverse threads and interests and managed to maintain its specificity and voice while pursuing all of them is nothing short of a miracle. And it somehow managed to do the impossible—make science boring, in the most interesting way possible.

Space travel, teleportation, and cryogenic freezing is just run-of-the-mill technology in Futurama’s world, which means everyone just has more time to focus on watching TV or the silly social minutiae that would have fit better in an episode of Seinfeld. Sharing that general penchant for the oddities of small, casual human interaction in conjunction with a desire to explore the cosmos is a powerful combination—for anyone who vibes at the same wavelength as Cohen and the rest of the Futurama team, there’s really nothing quite like it.

Best Scene—’The Devil’s Hands Are Idle Playthings’ Musical Sequence

The extended musical sequence in “The Devil’s Hands Are Idle Playthings” features commentary on good (and bad) writing for TV, a discussion of the meaning of irony, catchy music, and solid characters beats, all within the span of a couple of minutes. Dizzying.

The Takeaway:
Smart, funny, emotional, and caustic in equal measure, but also weird and specific, too—what more could you want?

If You Liked Futurama You’ll Love:
Futurama is flexible enough that it has several possible spiritual descendants, but the closest thing on the air is likely The Venture Bros., which has a similarly chilly, nerdy exterior hiding a heart of gold. Adventure Time has a similarly deep bench of animated oddballs. And, uh, you could maybe check out this other little show called The Simpsons or something.

How to Be a Good Internet Citizen During Breaking News

Skip to story A woman checks her phone while police officers monitor the situation near a CVS pharmacy that was looted and burned by rioters, April 29, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. A woman checks her phone while police officers monitor the situation near a CVS pharmacy that was looted and burned by rioters, April 29, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Andrew Burton/Getty Images

While “24/7 news” television networks covered the White House Correspondents dinner this past Saturday, many turned to Twitter to find out what was happening in Baltimore. I spent the better part of the last several nights watching the unrest there unfold through photos, live streams, video clips and Facebook posts and tweets. The pool of media available from eyewitnesses seems to grow with every major event. Who needs cable news when 64 percent of American adults and 85 percent of young adults now own a reporting device, better known as a smartphone.

But how informed are we really by these glimpses? Is there enough context? Who do we trust when the information is potentially coming from those who have a vested interest in a cause? We have to wrestle with some of these questions when dealing with members of the mainstream media already, but their reputation often precedes them, putting the information shared in perspective. How do you apply that to a random internet handle that just popped into your feed? Most importantly, now that we are all able to engage in citizen journalism, what responsibility do we have to get it right?

WIRED Opinion


Anthony De Rosa is the Editor-In-Chief of Circa. He was formerly the Social Media Editor at Reuters where he won an award for Best Innovation in Storytelling.

As someone who spends a good deal of time trying to sort out the signal through the noise of social media, my main focus is on observing rather than sharing. It’s very alluring to want to take a piece of seemingly newsworthy information and instantly share it. If you’re not a journalist, you’ve got less at stake to toss it back out there without concern for your reputation to take a hit. But sending misinformation out into the world can be harmful no matter how many followers you have. The more people who retweet a false fact, the harder it is to debunk and get to the truth.

The suggestion to never tweet is too pat a solution, and one that eliminates the potential for you to be a productive part of a news event.

Some people suggest a very easy solution to this: never tweet. This is a refrain mostly offered up by journalists sick of seeing Twitter become an instant race to Snarktown the moment any news breaks. It’s not just misinformation that can be harmful, but also tweets and posts that jump straight to humor for want of being quick to the joke. But this is too pat a solution, and one that eliminates the potential for you to be a productive part of a news event. It’s also just unrealistic; it’s the equivalent of abstinence education. You are going to tweet. But you can take steps to do so responsibly.

Much of what journalists do to validate and find news on social media can be useful to even passive Twitter users, so I’m going share some best practices here. If you’re a news hound, these tips will help you maximize the potential of social media to get you the raw facts. But even if you’re a more casual observer you can be a better, more reliable part of a breaking news conversation by keeping in mind three things: time, curiosity and context.


In breaking news situations, the thirst to be first is too strong a temptation for many to resist. Resist that urge! When a story is breaking, you don’t need to tweet about it right away. You don’t need to jump in. You can almost guarantee that a good deal of what you hear and see initially will turn out to be misrepresented or flat out wrong. If you’re willing to wait, you’re far more likely to get to the truth.

If you’re on Twitter to find out what is going on, you’ll need time to gather up enough evidence understand a story clearly. The quickest way to gather is by building, or simply following Twitter Lists. Often in a breaking news situation, there’s someone who has already build a fantastic list for you to follow. If you’re lucky, the list will be sanitized for your protection, with official sources and reliable reporters providing updates. You’ll want that list but you probably also want to go raw too. Grab TweetDeck and set up a breaking news filter column. Filter the search by applying geotags (near:Baltimore) and then turn on the option to only show tweets with photos or video. You’ll now have a raw feed of citizen sourced media. I go into further detail on setting up TweetDeck for gathering breaking news information in the Verification Handbook.

Now that we are all able to engage in citizen journalism we have a responsibility to get it right.

While Twitter tends to be my main window into what’s going on, you can sometimes find useful information elsewhere. Lesser known platforms like YikYak can sometimes surface conversations taking place in a specific locations. Networks like YikYak tend to give more of a temperature, or a sense of how people in the area are reacting to a situation. The anonymous nature can be a both a blessing and a curse. People may be more open about their feelings but the claims can also be totally erroneous. The same goes for Secret and Whisper, which some news organizations have mined for information with varying levels of success.

There’s a popular notion, shared by journalists like Mathew Ingram and Christopher Mims, that Twitter is a ‘self cleaning oven’ where ultimately the truth comes out, despite the potential for misinformation to form and spread. Mims believes that since there are so many witnesses all sharing and responding to what’s being said, the process of having a conversation about it online will ultimately lead to the real story.

One thing that has happened in past crises covered on social media is the rapid spread of misinformation and rumor. But now, owing to the sheer density of people who were actually there, distributing images, video and firsthand accounts through Twitter, Facebook, Vine and Instagram, I saw rumors pop up and just as quickly get smacked down in the comments.

Ingram shares a similar feeling, citing Hurricane Sandy as his example:

Can you believe everything you read during such an event? Clearly not, since there were innumerable false reports and fake photos circulating on Monday night. But what’s interesting isn’t that there was fake news — it’s how quickly those fakes were exposed and debunked, not just by Twitter users themselves but by an emerging ecosystem of blogs and social networks working together.

However a new study from the American Press Institute claims that false information on Twitter beats out the attempts to correct it by a factor of 3 to 1. And important caveat to this report, however, is that social media may have a hand in propagating false information but the supposed trustworthy traditional media is often the source for the wrong information in the first place. Such was the case when many outlets falsely reported that the brother of the killer behind the Newtown massacre was the shooter, or the the false report that an AR-15 was used in the Navy Yard shooting, and when John King falsely reporting that the Boston Marathon bomber had been arrested.


Obviously you have enough curiosity to be looking at the news in the first place. But you’ll need a well of it to stay on the right track. You’ll need to be willing to gather up what you’re seeing, and then keep going to run it through the paces. Photos, in particular, are problematic.

The first thing you’ll want to do with images you’ve gathered is run them through a reverse image search. Tin Eye is a popular method, I also use Veracity when I’m on my phone and can’t easily run images through a web page. The most common thing people tend to do is share old images and try to pass them off as occurring during a breaking news event. It happens almost every time something major occurs. Doing a reverse image search will show you the source of the image and if it’s been posted in the past. If you’re not getting any results for that image, that’s a positive sign that the image is likely new.

When it comes to video, Storyful’s Open Newsroom is where you’ll want to commiserate with other folks who spend a great deal of time looking for clues to detect a fake. Often they’ll be able to quickly spot inconsistencies with the landscape portrayed in the video, such as a building that shouldn’t be there.

If you’re trying to verify content that took place in a conflict area, like Ukraine or the Middle East, Eliot Higgins has you covered with Bellingcat. Drop in and share what you’re seeing, though it’s likely they’re already on the case and have applied some of their CSI-like forensic media investigation skills to sort out fact from fiction.

Be upfront about what you do and do not know and that you’re not a first-hand witness.

Channel your curiosity into wanting to discover as much as you can without feeling the need to toss it back out to the world. Ask questions of the people who are posting it. Try and see if you can elicit how legitimate they are. Be respectful and appreciative of the time they’re willing to give. Try and find out more about what they’re seeing and hearing. There can be a lot of satisfaction derived from the interactions you have with those on the ground. The satisfaction you get from that interaction can help you overcome the temptation to instantly toss that information back out to the world immediately. Keep gathering and gathering until you’ve got enough evidence and corroboration that you feel comfortable enough to show your work.

When you are ready to share, caveats are advisable. Be upfront about what you do and do not know and that you’re not a first-hand witness. Be generous with your links and be prepared to back up what you say with multiple sources of evidence. I prefer to use something like Storify to share what I’ve found. While some folks choose to post their findings directly to Twitter, in the form of retweets, that can sometimes lead to confusion without additional context. Context is essential for understanding the meaning behind these social media updates.


Context is the toughest of the three keys to sorting out what you’re seeing. Context isn’t going to be easy to obtain. Journalists will question eyewitnesses directly, but as a consumer of news you may not want to contribute to the overflow of confusion by trying to tweet directly to people at the scene of an event. Instead, you can search for what they are already saying. Looking for reports to come around that add more information, both from official sources and citizens. The official sources aren’t always telling the whole truth, so their word will need to be tested with evidence.

It can be easy to trick yourself into thinking that you have a strong grasp on what’s happening.

One of the benefits of social media is having a bit more situational awareness than being on the ground. Through social media, you’re given multiple inputs from various witness at the same scene. When you’re on the ground, your point-of-view is limited to what’s right in front of your face.

Andy Carvin, who does a great deal of newsgathering with social media talks about this phenomenon:

I discovered very quickly that when I would be in a place like Tahrir Square in Egypt, I found it really hard to get a big picture of what was going on, simply because when you’re surrounded by tear gas and people throwing rocks, you have a fairly limited field of view. Once I could get away from that scene and get back online, over my phone, I’d immediately have contact with dozens of sources across the field of battle who could help paint this picture for me and give me the type of situational awareness that I actually didn’t have when I was there in person.

It can be easy to trick yourself into thinking that you have a strong grasp on what’s happening. This is not always the case.

A perfect example of lack of context leading to misunderstanding is this particular tweet that showed black effigies of bodies hung from trees. Absent context it can be viewed in an entirely different way than how it was intended, as an art installation.

But even though having various moments through media to determine what occurred can be helpful, the same way a juror has to piece together what happened through testimony, there’s still the potential to be misled by various flaws. The message can be distorted. You could be seeing only part of what occurred, and not what led up to it or what happened afterwards. Or the reverse could happen, like in the case of Mike Brown, where most of the footage was after the shooting, or from a vantage point so far away, it was hard to tell what actually occurred. People tend to want to try and make assumptions based on limited evidence, which turns out to be problematic.

For most folks, the advice I’m giving may seem like more work than it’s worth, and that’s fine. My hope is that platforms like Twitter and the like will move toward providing a more structured editorial layer on top of the the nervous system containing the raw material. In the meantime, it’s up to you and me to make sense of it all. It’s messy and chaotic, and we’ll get things wrong sometimes. More importantly, the hope is that observing these events doesn’t serve as just a cheap thrill, but that some will actually be motivated enough to perform meaningful, positive action in the wake of what they’ve learned.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. GIF and a Graf: Coulson Calls in the Avengers

You gotta hand it to Marvel, they know how to get your butt off the couch and into a theater seat. For most of this season on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) has been acting a little cagey and talking about some secret Theta Protocol. Well, on last night’s episode—just in time for the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron!—we found out that procedure involves calling in Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. In the perfect setup for the movie hitting theaters Friday, Coulson took a call from Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) during which they discussed whether or not Hyrda got their grubby hands on Loki’s scepter and what they should do about it. The final question from Hill: “Theta Protocol, is it ready?” Response: “Yes it is. Time to bring in the Avengers.” See you at the multiplex, everyone!

On the Apple Watch, the Best DJ Is an AI

white-square-large Pacemaker

When the Apple Watch App Store opened, a prominent “Get Started” section featured a line-up of usual suspects. The first app was Twitter. The next was The New York Times. No surprises there. Then came… a DJ app? It was an odd inclusion. How do you DJ on a watch?

You don’t. You let AI do it for you.

Pacemaker, the unlikely recipient of Apple’s coveted recommendation, arrived last year as a groundbreaking DJ app for the iPad. Its thoughtful interface and exclusive pipeline into Spotify’s catalog made mixing music terrifically easy. But according to creator Jonas Norberg, not easy enough. “It’s still too hard for the majority of people to create something that sounds good,” he says.

The Apple Watch offered Norberg and his eight-person team a chance to do something even simpler. Indeed, the Stockholm outfit’s new app scales DJing back to something so basic it you can’t even really call it DJing.

The app relies almost entirely on a pair of algorithmic features. The first, MatchMachine, analyzes your playlists, evaluating factors like beats per minute and key to shuffle songs into the optimal sequence for mixing. Then, a patent-pending artificial intelligence engine orchestrates transitions between songs. Internally, the team refers to the AI DJ as Mållgan, after a character in a popular Swedish children’s book. Officially, it’s called “Autopilot.”

From the watch, you can trigger Autopilot transitions and sprinkle in a handful of effects, including reverb, a whooshing wave of white noise, and a glitchy 8-bit-style filter (The app is free; the effects cost a few bucks each). The AI assists here, too. When you tap an effect from your watch, it isn’t deployed instantly. Instead, the app scrutinizes the waveform of your track and mixes the effect in smoothly. “It’s not good enough just to start the effect when you touch it,” Norberg says. “You need curves—you need someone turning on the knob. Autopilot controls the knob.”
pm_effects Pacemaker
As many have noted, Apple’s new device forces developers to rethink assumptions about what apps should do. “The watch is really interesting because of the constraints. To do something with those limitations is extremely hard,” Norberg says. Algoriddim, maker of another popular mixing app called Djay, took what might be considered a more obvious approach to crafting its Watch app, shrinking the standard two-deck layout and providing features like crossfading and looping. It does you might expect a miniature DJing app to do.

Pacemaker’s creators consciously opted to give users less control. As they see it, the ideal experience for the wrist isn’t being a mix master, but enjoying a straightforward, slightly more active form of music listening. “There’s many people out there that want to do more than passively consume music,” Norberg says. “Mixes are a great because you can mess around with them and make music more personal.” Autopilot’s meant to ensure it sounds good.

Norberg cites Paper, the popular iPad sketching app, as inspiration. One of its great innovations was the “Expressive Ink Engine,” which interprets scrawls and smooths them into beautiful lines on screen. “Autopilot is our Ink Engine,” Norberg says.

These examples point to an interesting trend. On mobile devices, where input is limited, algorithms and AI can serve as powerful mediators, smoothing rough edges both literally and figuratively. But as our devices shrink and input becomes ever tougher, this mediation becomes increasingly important. On the iPad’s large screen, you can let users do, say, 90 percent of the driving and let algorithms fill in the rest. As the new Pacemaker app suggests, the opposite ratio might be best.

It’s an approach we’ll almost certainly continue to see developers experiment with. The smaller our devices become, the more chances there are for apps that act all on their own.

Microsoft Unveils Tools For Moving Android and iOS Apps onto Windows

Microsoft is providing ways for software developers to move applications from both Android and Apple iOS devices onto Windows phones, tablets, and other machines.

Terry Myerson, Microsoft’s vice president of operating system development, announced the new tools during his keynote speech at the company’s annual developer conference in San Francisco. The company was expected to unveil tools for moving Android apps onto Windows, and it went a step further in unveiling a toolkit for moving iOS apps as well, sparking cheers from the hundreds of developers gathered in the keynote hall.

According to Myerson, Microsoft’s software development kit, or SDK, will allow developers to grab Java or C++ code that drives Android apps and then reshape into a Windows app that ties into services only available on the Microsoft OS. And he said that coders could use another SDK to do much the same with Objective-C code that drives apps on Apple iPhones and iPads.

The move is part of a larger effort to significantly expand the number of applications that run on Windows phones and tablets. In recent years, Windows mobile devices have been well reviewed, but compared to iPhones, iPads, and Android devices, they control a tiny slice of the market—2.8 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, according to IDC—and, as a result, offer relatively few applications.

It’s a Catch-22 for Microsoft: people aren’t buying Windows phones in part because they lack the robust app ecosystems of iOS and Android; but app makers don’t want to waste time making apps for phones relatively few people use. Now, Microsoft is hoping to kickstart the development of apps by pulling in not only Android and iOS, but code that drives applications on older Windows devices and on the web.

Microsoft unveiled an early version of Windows 10 this past September, releasing a “technical preview” to a select group of testers. Like previous versions of Windows, the OS is designed for both businesses and consumers. According to the company, the new OS will run across a wide range of machines, from desktops, laptops, phones, and tablets to servers running in the massive data centers that underpin the world’s internet services and even the company’s new Hololens augmented-reality headset. “With Windows 10, we’re targeting the largest device family ever,” Myerson said.

The company is also pushing the idea of “universal apps” that run across all Windows 10 devices. This, like Microsoft’s efforts to pull Android and iOS code onto Windows, could certainly boost the number of apps on its operating system. But it should be said that refashioning existing apps is often easier said than done, even if you’re moving code from one type of Windows device to another. Moving from a disparate OS is even more difficult.

Myers pointed to game maker King as a successful example of a company that has already moved code from iOS to Windows. But he acknowledged the developers will want proof that moving an app from iOS to Windows actually works.

Why We Need a Global Human/Technology Manifesto

It’s not true to say society’s heading for a technological disaster but we must keep our hands firmly on the wheel, says Ian Wood, senior partner at Lippincott.Read more here…

Kilauea’s Summit Lava Lake is Overflowing

Skip to story The surface of the Halema'uma'u lava lake on the morning of April 29, 2015. At least two small lava flows can be seen from the overflowing lava lake.The surface of the Halema'uma'u lava lake on the morning of April 29, 2015. At least two small lava flows can be seen from the overflowing lava lake. USGS/HVO webcam

Kilauea in Hawai’i has been erupting constantly for over 30 years. This doesn’t mean that it has been doing the same thing for that long, although many volcanic features have been persistent, like the lava lakes at the Halema’uma’u and Pu’u O’o craters, along with the lava flows that cover the pali. Kilauea has also seen ups and downs in the eruptive activity, from long periods where only a few flows are active to entirely new fissure eruptions on its flanks. This change in eruptive character can be most readily seen in the levels of the lava lakes in the two craters. Some times, the lakes are deep within their crater so that only the steam and gas plumes and an eerie glow can be seen. Other times the lava lakes can fill so high that they spill out of their craters and generated a lava flow field around the lava lake.

Lava spilling out of the Halema'uma'u lava lake at dawn on April 29, 2015.Lava spilling out of the Halema’uma’u lava lake at dawn on April 29, 2015. USGS/HVO webcam

Right now, the lava lake within the Halema’uma’u crater (which has been active since 2008) has just spilled over its rim (see above), creating some lava flows in the crater. The lake has been slowly filling for the past few months, but now it is only a few meters below the rim of the crater. Now, I’ve seen some articles that suggest that the lava lake reaching this level is something worrisome. It isn’t—the lava lake sits in a crater that itself is in a crater … that itself is within a larger caldera (see below), sort of like Russian stacking dolls. The EO-1 image taken July 30, 2011 of Kilauea’s summit shows this relationship, with the lava lake only a small portion of the greater crater and caldera. The Halema’uma’u crater is a “pit crater” formed by explosions on Kilauea, including the famous 1924 eruption (interestingly, the explosion was likely caused by an especially low lava lake). The current lava lake is the summit vent for the volcano within this pit crater. The whole Kilauea caldera for the volcano was likely formed by collapse during an eruption in 1790, but that is still debated.

NASA EO-1 image of the summit of Kilauea, showing the relationship between the Halema'uma'u lava lake, pit crater and Kilauea caldera.NASA EO-1 image of the summit of Kilauea, showing the relationship between the Halema’uma’u lava lake, pit crater and Kilauea caldera. NASA

Back to the current events! This morning, part of the wall of the crater collapsed and fell into the lava lake, causing an explosion as all that cold, likely damp rock hit the molten surface of the lake—you can see a USGS video of the explosion here. The explosion threw spatter (chuck of molten lava) all over the former observation parking lot that is on a now-closed portion of the caldera road. One of the cool things in the video is watching how the lava lake surface responds to the explosion and collapse, with a long-lived “wave” that keeps much of the surface free of the dark, cooling lava.

This is likely the biggest hazard posed by the filling of the lava lake, where interactions of the cold rock around the lava lake could lead to more explosions. With lava lake were reaching over the top of the small crater in the Halema’uma’u crater, then lava flows would create a new flow field within the pit crater. In the very unlikely event that the pit crater fills, then we’d get lava flows in the caldera. In all, this is business as usual at Kilauea, where lava flows will continue to fill in the pit crater until it reaches the level of the caldera floor, unless a new explosion carves it back out again.

You can watch all of this exciting lava lake action on the USGS Hawaii Volcano Observatory webcams that give you all the great views of the lava lake. These webcams work hard, even getting splattered with lava (below) as they gaze into the crater.

The inteprid HVO webcam looking into the Halema'uma'u lava lake, with some spatter on its cables and case (yet still operating).The inteprid HVO webcam looking into the Halema’uma’u lava lake, with some spatter on its cables and case (yet still operating). USGS/HVO

5 Comics That’ll Get You Ready for Avengers: Age of Ultron

Audiences might already be familiar with the core Avengers from the many Marvel movies to date (not least of which is 2012’s The Avengers), but this week’s Avengers: Age of Ultron is also the movie debut of a number of mainstays from the company’s comic book mythology. Want to know more about Ultron, the Scarlet Witch, or the Vision before Friday but don’t know where to begin? Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered. The list below should offer you the primer you need. Think of it as required reading for your Avengers 102 crash course.

Avengers Vol. 1 #54-58 (1968)

Looking back on them now, it’s impressive how quickly the origins of both Ultron and the Vision got established. Both characters appeared a couple of months apart, in two-part storylines that would take far longer if told today. (Avengers #56, in fact, is an entirely unconnected story altogether.) Sure, there’s the pre-requisite melodrama and lack of subtlety on display in these stories, but in terms of invention and bombast, this is the real thing. The Age of Ultron got its start here.
How to read it: Available digitally and in the Essential Avengers Vol. 3 print collection.

The Vision and Scarlet Witch Vol. 2 #1-12 (1985-1986)

Almost two decades later, a lot had changed in the Marvel Universe—including the fact that the Vision and the Scarlet Witch had fallen in love and gotten married. Yes, in a world as crazy and mixed up as Marvel Earth, it really was possible for two mixed-up kids who happened to be robots and mutants to find true love. And in this year-long series, they also got to create a family of their own, thanks to magic, copied brain patterns, and the return of Ultron himself. It might not be the future of the movie versions of these characters, but we can hope and dream that it is.
How to read it: Available in the Avengers: Vision and Scarlet Witch — A Year In The Life print collection.

Avengers Vol. 3 #19-22 (1999)

A fan-favorite storyline, “Ultron Unlimited” saw the robot go further than he had ever managed before in his attempts to eradicate the human race, and in the process lay a lot of the groundwork for the current movie. (The army of countless robot drones fighting our beleaguered heroes? You have this story to thank for that.) Also included for the price of admission: One of the coolest Thor moments in any Avengers comic, and it all comes down to one line about wanting to talk. You’ll know it when you see it.
How to read it: Available digitally and in the Avengers Assemble Vol. 2 print collection.

Avengers: The Children’s Crusade #1-9 (2010-2012)

Pity poor Wanda Maximoff, aka the Scarlet Witch. The 21st century hasn’t been kind to the character, with her suffering a nervous breakdown and destroying the Avengers (before depowering the majority of the X-Men’s mutant race) as a result. This 10-part series, which focused on the Young Avengers spin-off team in addition to Wanda herself, attempted to rebuild and repair her legacy.
How to read it: Available digitally and in a print collection.

Avengers: Rage of Ultron (2015)

Wondering where Ultron, the Vision, and the Scarlet Witch are in today’s comics? Thankfully, Marvel has released a graphic novel that takes things in a whole new direction. How “whole new”? Well, Ultron starts the story as a planet, and he ends it in a new form that makes a curious amount of sense, despite the potentially horrific concept that underlies it. (No, we’re not offering spoilers; suffice to say, it’s a big change for Ultron.) The future of cybernetic killing machines is here, and fans of The Black Hole might find it oddly familiar.
How to read it: Available digitally and in print.

Debate Settled: Flying Is Way More Efficient Than Driving

When I moved to San Francisco from New York last year to join WIRED, my new boss scolded me for flying instead of enjoying an epic road trip. (“Are you driving cross-country?” he implored. “Please tell me you’re driving cross-country.”) I booked a flight because I don’t own a car, and new research only reaffirms that I was right and my boss was wrong: Here in the US, traveling by car uses more than twice the energy you need to fly.

That’s according to a study by Michael Sivak at the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute. The numbers are based on how many BTUs (British thermal unit, equal to 1,055 joules) are needed to move one person one mile. In 1970, flying was twice as energy intensive as driving, but that has reversed. In 2012, the most recent year counted, driving one person one mile took 4,211 BTUs, while flying required just 2,033.

The numbers for driving are based on the average fuel economy of all light-duty vehicles (that’s passenger cars, SUVs, pickups, and vans, which averaged 21.6 mpg), using data from the US DOT. Sivak counted only cars with internal combustions engines—no plug-in hybrids and EVs, which comprise less than 1 percent of the American fleet. The flight figures count major, large national, and large regional airlines, adjusted to account for freight and mail carried on passenger flights.

While cars have gotten more efficient in recent years, the aviation industry has made tremendous progress on cutting down fuel use. In 1985, it took about more than two gallons of fuel to move one passenger 60 miles, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization. Now that number’s below 1.3 gallons. That’s because airlines are obsessed with cutting their use of expensive jet fuel. They’re operating newer planes with better engines, and taking every opportunity to get more miles out of their aircraft (no matter how miserable it makes us).

If you feel bad about driving when you could be flying, there’s good news: Any car that gets more than 44.7 mpg beats the plane. These days, that opens up some options. There are all the electrics, of course, and the plug-in hybrids, along with the Toyota Prius and hybrid versions of the Volkswagen Jetta and Honda Accord and Civic.

There’s another way to match the efficiency of flying while on the ground: Ride with passengers. Sivak crunched his numbers based on a vehicle load of 1.38 people per car, based on DOT data. In a earlier version of this study he published last year, based on data through 2010, he found that increasing the number of people in a car to 2.3 would make a car as efficient as a plane. Sivak hasn’t done that calculation for the latest data, but says that because flying’s gotten more efficient in the past few years, 2.3 people wouldn’t be quite enough.

Fortunately, all of the hybrids mentioned above seat at least four people.

The Idea That Anyone Would Pay for Hulu on Cable Is Bizarre

Cablevision, provider of cable and internet services, has announced that it will at some point in the near future offer to sell Hulu Plus directly to its subscribers. Wondering how that could possibly make sense? So are we—with one possible exception.

There are few details of the arrangement available yet; Cablevision’s not even saying the price. But at its most basic level, yes, this really is an invitation from a cable company for you to pay for an online service that plays shows that have already appeared on cable in the recent past, complete with commercials. The coaxial cable is eating its own tail.

'It doesn’t make any sense; if I’m a consumer why don’t I subscribe directly to Hulu?' Dan Rayburn

Let’s assume that Cablevision realizes that this deal doesn’t make much sense for existing cable subscribers, given that those customers can already access most Hulu Plus shows via video on demand or their Cablevision-provided DVRs. That’s a safe enough bet; it’s hard to imagine even the most cynical company would expect consumers to buy into such a glaring redundancy. It’s a replacement play, pure and simple.

An edge case might be found in one widely reported development that’s now official: Hulu has acquired the streaming video rights to all 180 episodes of Seinfeld. That estimated $126 million deal certainly increases the overall appeal of Hulu Plus, which unlike HBO Now or Netflix doesn’t offer enough original content to make it an enticing complement to cable. But it doesn’t seem to provide much more incentive to purchase Hulu Plus through Cablevision, which already offers repeated daily viewings of the hit sitcom—the last episode of which aired nearly 17 years ago—on TBS. The kind of superfan who doesn’t mind paying $8 per month for on-demand Seinfeld and doesn’t already own the series in some form could be enticed, but even they would seem more likely to sign up for Hulu Plus directly instead of through their ISP. As far as it applies to Cablevision, it’s a deal about nothing.

A more likely target would be for customers of Cablevision’s recently announced “cord cutter packages,” which are structured to appeal to people interested in paying for high-speed internet only. Those bundles include a digital antenna to receive broadcast television networks and require an upper-tier broadband connection. You can also opt to add HBO Now for an additional $15, the same amount you’d pay ordering directly from HBO. That HBO Now pricing may give a hint that Cablevision won’t be offering Hulu Plus at a discount over ordering directly; besides, as Rayburn points out, suddenly giving certain users a lower price point wouldn’t sit well with the existing Hulu Plus customer base.

Hoping that someone might opt to tack Hulu Plus onto such a bundle might seem reasonable in theory but doesn’t seem very likely in practice, according to streaming media analyst Dan Rayburn. “It doesn’t make any sense; if I’m a consumer why don’t I subscribe directly to Hulu?” Rayburn asks. “Anyone who wants Hulu Plus has it. Or if they find out about it they’re not going to find out through Cablevision. How often do you call your cable company?”

To put it another way: If you’re savvy enough a cord cutter to be aware of and want Hulu Plus, you’re also savvy enough to sign up directly through Hulu or through some other mode of digital distribution like iTunes. In fact, it’s unlikely you haven’t already.

A more likely scenario Rayburn envisions would be using Hulu Plus delivery as part of a customer retention strategy. Cablevision could conceivably offer it as a free bonus to a customer threatening to leave, or as a free limited-time offer to potential new sign-ups. Cablevision wouldn’t offer further comment, but such a move wouldn’t be unprecedented; last fall, Verizon offered a year of free Netflix to enlistees in a stripped-down FIOS package. And with so many cable packages looking so similar, being able to point to any kind of unique offering could make a difference between gaining and losing a customer, even if that offering doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in practice.

We’ll hopefully hear more details about the arrangement soon that make it clear not just why this is a good deal for Cablevision and Hulu Plus, but for either service’s customers. So far it seems less like the next great step toward cord cutting nirvana than it does white noise.

The Mystery of the Female Orgasm, Explained With Science

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The Mystery of the Female Orgasm, Explained With Science

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Chrome Can Now Warn Users Who Type Gmail Passwords in Dumb Places

No matter how much Google does to harden its servers, hire the world’s best security engineers, and root out hackable bugs in its products, it can’t stop dummies like you and me from handing our Gmail passwords over to the first cybercriminal who slaps a Google logo on a fake login page. But now, for users of its Chrome browser at least, it’s trying a new method to protect our passwords from ourselves.

On Wednesday, Google released a new extension for Chrome it calls Password Alert, designed to deal with the stubborn problem of phishing sites that impersonate login pages to steal passwords. Any time you type your Gmail password into a login page that’s not an actual Google login, the new extension shows you an alert and gives you a chance to immediately reset your Gmail password before it can be used to compromise your account. For corporate users, the extension can even be configured to automatically alert a company’s incident response team.

“In the security industry we expect users to know when it’s ok to type their password. That ‘’ is ok, and ‘’ isn’t. That’s an unreasonable demand,” says Google security engineer Drew Hintz. “This helps you make that decision as to whether the place you just typed your password was a fine place to type it or not.”

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 12.47.22 PMThe warning Password Alert shows when the user types his or her password on a login page other than Google’s. Screenshot: WIRED

Password Alert also helps to tackle another problem that internet services have often considered outside their control: Careless users who reuse the same password across many different sites. Sign up for any other service with your Gmail password, and all of Google’s expensive security is reduced to the security of that other service. Hackers learned long ago that passwords and usernames spilled by one security breach often work on other sites, too. But reuse a Gmail password with Password Alert installed, and it triggers the same alert as a phishing attempt, an annoyance that could lead users to give up the bad habit of sharing passwords between sites.

Phishing remains one of the most serious and intractable problems in information security, and is often the initial breach point for hacker schemes ranging from mass credit card harvesting to sophisticated, state-sponsored targeted attacks. Google estimates that as many as 45 percent of some well-crafted phishing emails can successfully trick users, and that 2 percent of all Gmail messages it sees are phishing attempts. A Verizon report published earlier this month found that a phishing campaign launched against a target corporation or agency can find a gullible user and gain an initial point of compromise within as little as 80 seconds.

Google itself has been battling phishing attacks for years, says Hintz. He’s “refereed” Google’s own internal penetration tests, which showed again and again that password phishing was “a vulnerability you can’t patch,” he says. So three years ago, Hintz says Google began implementing a version of the Password Alert Chrome extension internally. It turned out to be effective enough that the company decided to roll out a version to users.

Hintz says that upcoming versions of Password Alert will give users the option to monitor other passwords, too, such as those for their banking or corporate accounts. In the current version, it immediately asks the user to log back into their Google account when it’s installed. Then it records and stores a cryptographically hashed version of the password locally on the user’s machine—a scrambled version of the password that the extension can check for matches but can’t in theory be used by anyone who accesses it. (Although Password Alert requests on installation the rather disturbing permission to “read and change all your data on the websites you visit,” Hintz says the extension never communicates anything back to Google’s servers.)

This is hardly the first step Google has taken to try to protect users from phishing scams. It already offers users two-factor authentication and Chrome include a “Safe Browsing” feature. In its constant crawls of the entire visible Web, Google seeks out sites that seem to be infected with malware or phishing attempts, and Chrome issues a warning if a user visits one. Firefox and Safari also use Google’s Safe Browsing data to flag those malicious sites.

Password Alert adds another layer to those protections, though it doesn’t yet share that safeguard with other browsers as Google does with Safe Browsing. Hintz points out that the extension is open-source and available on Github, ready to easily port to other browsers.

If Google’s approach catches on with other internet services and browsers, it could serve as an broad new form of password hygiene, keeping your most sensitive character combinations off the sketchy websites that have been a scourge of internet security. If only the password post-its stuck to the wall of your cubicle could be so easily eradicated.

How We Can All Be Like Lego Master Builders

IN THE LEGO MOVIE, an epiphany transforms Emmet, the everyman hero, into a master builder. Seeing Lego part numbers superimposed on every brick in his universe, he realizes that, for the first time, he can build incredible designs from his imagination, with no instructions.

This scene triggered my own epiphany. I realized what sets master builders apart: They dive deep. They can name every piece of what they’re building. Suddenly, it seemed inevitable. That database must actually exist. Ninety seconds of web searching later, I found Rebrickable.

Using a list of Lego sets you own, Rebrickable can generate a list of other sets you can build (including brilliant hobbyist designs), with links to instructions. This list is ranked by the percentage of pieces already in your possession—the entire galaxy of Lego creations gets sifted to mirror your brick collection. If you’ve bought Star Wars sets, you can see that you only need 14 additional gray, white, or burgundy bricks to build a Star Wars ARC-170 starfighter, pod racer, or troop transporter.

J.C. Herz


@jcherz is the author of Learning to Breathe Fire.

Then, with one click, you can export that list of missing pieces to several online vendors who will assemble the order and mail it to your house for a few bucks plus postage. Browsing the virtual aisles of BrickOwl, a global aggregator of brick merchants, is a kid-in-a-candy-store experience. A rotor assembly: Add to cart! Robot legs! Yes! Lego minifigure falcon wings? Never knew they existed, awesome! You can easily import these orders back into Rebrickable, so the next time you hit What Can I Build? the list of possible designs is resifted to reflect the addition of those new pieces.

This is when the insanity begins. Because when you have customized project recommendations and a just-in-time sourcing system, you realize you need inventory control. Otherwise, it’ll take 10 minutes to find the piece you need, and that’s no fun.

As a kid, I didn’t spend that much time with Lego. But as a parent, I’m one of those people who can spend ridiculous money at the Container Store. I like to categorize things, then see all the things, in well-organized containers, displayed to reflect a well-thought-out taxonomy of form and function. Neatness isn’t the payoff. The pleasure lies in creating a system of classification: What is the right way to formulate categories? When do categories fork into subcategories? Is there a sequence that makes better sense?

I bought four clear plastic storage boxes with adjustable compartments and went on a brick-sorting bender. An undifferentiated sea of bricks became intuitive inventories—Minifig Pieces, Technic Pieces, Car & Truck Parts, and the Container of Slopes, Headlights, Textured Bricks, and Smooth Tiles. It was a blast.

As it turns out, the dream parent-child combo for Lego isn’t father-son. It’s a little boy who loves to build new things and a mom who loves being able to put her finger on any one of 68 part types in less than 20 seconds.

“I need a 2 by 1 slope,” the little boy says.

“A standard slope or an inverted slope?”


“Got it. Here ya go.”

Watching my 5-year-old download instructions and build cars, trucks, and space vehicles, tweak them, and substitute parts, I’ve realized there’s an important step between just following instructions and being able to improvise. The scaffold to expertise is having lots of instructions but not having all the pieces. If you don’t have a piece that’ll attach to the bottom of a small brick to hold a wheel underneath, you can’t build a motorcycle. When a kid pores over half a dozen downloaded instructions for motor­cycles and makes that determination, he has figured out something about the design process, something that helps him to improvise and later to build without instructions.

This is how people learn to cook. It’s how they learn to code. They start with ingredients, techniques, pieces. When they want to do something different, they find recipes, references, ways of going about it. They learn what is essential and what can be substituted or left out. They develop knowledge about how the pieces combine. They invest themselves in the activity. Lego, for its part, has officially blessed Rebrickable, because Lego appears to grasp this: Kids who download new instructions every day spend more time with their bricks and get excited about Lego robotics camp. Deep inquiry nurtures focus. Intention.

What I’ve learned from Rebrickable is the importance of intention, and how it defines a person’s online experience. Without intention, it’s easy to waste hours on social media and feel empty or leached out. With intention, online media doesn’t keep you in the shallows. It takes you deeper into whatever you want to learn. It brings you closer to the more expert version of yourself. Whatever your intention is, that is the special piece that unlocks all the rest.

I know that sounds like a cat poster. But it’s true.